Planning a small garden presents it’s own unique set of challenges, and more often or not can be trickier to design than a larger garden.
The first question we always get asked is “where do I start?’
There are 3 main design factors that need to be considered when designing a small space garden – Flooring, Walling and Fillers. Over the coming weeks we thought we’d share our advice for small space garden design in a feature series, starting with Flooring.
STARTING FROM THE GROUND UP – FLOORING
It is important to consider the floor plan of your space and the positioning of other outdoor components that you want included before landscape works begin.
Drainage and levelling issues also need to be considered to eliminate unwanted problems down the track.
It must be noted that before contractors come on site you have a floor plan of your outdoor space. A detailed plan outlining all the materials and positioning of the flooring, walling, lighting, waterfeatures/pool and garden zones are displayed for easy interpretation. It is vital that the communication channels between yourself/designer and construction contractors are left open during the entire process to minimise problems during the construction stage.
Once you have decided on a plan you can get things started. Most, if not all landscapers will agree with me that getting out of the ground is half the battle when constructing an outdoor space. Drainage and services pipes have to be dug in and concrete footings and slabs have to be excavated for new wall and floor areas.
If you have a site that is boggy and does not drain water freely then drainage issues need to be solved first. There are a number of flooring/paving options landscape designers use to tackle drainage problems.
The following examples show how a combination of hard and soft surfaces have been used effectively to deal with drainage.
Image credit: residentialarchitect.com
The first example above, uses hard steppers surrounded by natural garden spaces. Water will filter from these hard surfaces and absorb into the soil feeding the surrounding plants.
Image credit: boxdesign.ca
This open-air balcony area uses a combination of hard paving and timber. The designer has effectively linked the different floor materials with a modern rectangular water feature. The rain would hit the hard surfaces of the paved area and filter through the gaps between the timber decking. Additional pebble at the foot of the timber deck will also distribute unwanted water excess to drainage pipes hidden under the pebble.
Image credit: ashleygilbreath.com
Concrete steppers can also be surrounded by small pebble to distribute the water away. The beauty of using this combination of materials is that you have an unlimited number of paver/pebble shapes, sizes and colours to choose from.
If you have a sloping block of land, retaining walls and stairs are usually incorporated into the outdoor design to make the space more useable.
Image credit: brooklynroofgarden.com
Decking platforms are a great solution for sloping blocks because of their soft look and drainage advantages.
Image credit: desiretoinspire.net
Using a combination of different textural materials for the stairs, retaining wall and deck area helps to soften the look of this small space. These surfaces blend in effortlessly with the surrounding planting scheme.
Image credit: gardenbuilders.co.uk
The above example has a masculine, modern look to tackle this sloping urban outdoor block. The designer has cleverly softened the hard dark surfaces and sharp edges of the retaining walls with border planting. The addition of timber seating and benches adds a soft hue.
When considering flooring options for your outdoor space there are no boundaries when it comes to patterns and textural finishes to liven up your area.
The above examples display how innovative techniques can be used to make your outdoor flooring more bold and exciting!
OUR DESIGNER TIPS FOR OUTDOOR FLOORING
- Make sure you have a floorplan of the outdoor space ready before onsite works begin.
- Assess and solve drainage and level concerns by using appropriate floor materials and drainage systems.
- When considering a new outdoor medium for balconies make sure to utilise, without blocking, existing drainage systems in use.
- To soften floor areas use groundcover borders and materials such as timber and pebbles.
- If choosing timber decking for flooring or platforms make sure appropriate measures are taken to eliminate water pooling under the deck cavity. This will limit the breeding area for insects and mosquitos.
- When choosing pavers/tiles make sure they are slip resistant.
- When paving a large area consider the reflective and heat absorbtion qualities of the paver chosen.
- If you choose a heavily textured surface for your outdoor floor, make sure it is kept clean to hinder leaf and dirt build up.
- If you do not want the floor area to be the ‘hero’ of your outdoor area, keep to neutral colours and shapes for flooring materials.
- If you have children or pets keep away from small loose pebbles. If you like the look of pebbles choose larger sizes children cannot pick or ‘seed’ mortar in loose pebble to stop movement.