Part 2 in our series about Hardscaping from our British expert, Ashley Ford-McAllister.
Once you get into hardscaping, you may well find that you come up with ideas whose execution will require more than the thrift store or natural world has to offer. In short, you'll need to go shopping!
To make sure you have the basics, here are the most basic buys for beginners:
This can be purchased at many garden stores or online, and is usually available in any size you like. Artificial turf is an excellent way to quickly and effectively brighten up a small area, especially one with a concrete base, without having to face mowing the lawn, or staring at dead, wilting grass during a summer heat wave.
Whether you go for the standard woodchip in shades of natural brown, or the brightly coloured rubber variety used in children's play areas depends on your budget (the woodchip is cheaper)...
... and your personality. I keep thinking I'd like some bright bark, but I know I'd hate it once it was down: my personality is simple, basic, and earthy, with a draw towards using natural elements, and keeping the bright and manufactured as single, striking interest elements.
However, I have several friends who work stylistic wonders with bright plastic, ensuring that it never looks tacky, and always transcends its physicality. These friends tend to have bright, outgoing personalities, in contrast to my own quieter, more inwardly focused attitude, and it shows the materials they choose to work with, and what they are able to achieve with those materials.
A simple garden bench, or a striking patio table and chairs, will make your hardscaped space into an extension of your home. On summer evenings, sitting outside with a drink in hand, you can look around and admire the fruits of your labour.
As with everything hardscaping, try and choose a bench that fits your personality and the rest of your garden.
Large, Outdoor-Ready Containers
Whether you're creating pure hardscape scenes that need to be held in place, or require more space than a soda bottle can offer, you'll need large, weatherproofed pots, urns, or other garden-specific planting containers.
That's also true if you want to add some natural elements and biodiversity to your hardscaping by planting bushes (or even small trees) if you don't have an earth base for your outdoor area (I don't – my garden is all-concrete).
The choice of material is nearly limitless, from stone and granite, to terracotta, ceramic, reinforced glass, wood, metal, or plastic. When you're choosing your containers, think not only about the size of the scene you'll be creating in them and the plants they will house, but also your own personal style and the overall look of your outside space.
Container gardening itself can lead on to a separate and distinct form of enjoyable gardening. Through the joys of container gardening, even those living in high rise apartments with no outside space at all can experience the simple pleasures of growing food, enjoying the sight of fresh, natural elements in their home, and benefiting from the natural air purifying qualities of most living plants.
Quite apart from their use in container gardens, large, purpose-designed containers are a simple and effective way to split up scenes in larger hardscaped areas. For smaller spaces, they are best kept for sparing use as planters, as they will easily overwhelm the space, and crowd out hardscape scenes that have already been crafted.
Whether you need to be thrifty, or want to spend as much as possible creating the perfect outdoor space, there will be a suitable range out outdoor planters and containers for you.
While garden centres will have a full range, you can often pick up attractive and quirky objects that will work equally well from thrift stores, rummage sales, or the small ads, and never pass something up just because it looks plain...
Similarly, a simple wooden crate or barrel can be elegantly offset by lush, leafy greens.
Hardscaping – Gardening for All
Whether it's a simple, clean Zen-inspired look, or a riot of bright colours and manufactured materials, a microcosm of your favourite beach or park, or a contained cityscape, hardscaping is the kind of gardening that really does offer something for everyone.
If you're green fingered, a hardscaped space is the perfect setting for striking planting displays. And, if you're not, you can create a stunning, beautiful garden exclusively from things that can't die.
Hardscaping truly does provide a garden for all seasons, in every sense of the word.
There's real lavender and artificial lavender in the photo – because I blend my hardscaping with what landscaping I can manage in a small, concrete yard.
And also to prove that artificial plants can be just as attractive, and add just as much to any garden, whether hardscaped or not, as the living, must-be-watered-regularly thing: