December 10, 2007

Hardscape in the Garden

Aside from gardening with plants, most gardeners are interested in having structure and interest in the garden or landscape.

The fall and winter months provide a great time for building projects such as patios, walks, stepping stones and other “hardscape” projects for the garden. Not only are the bugs and snakes gone, but the temperatures are cooler.

Over the years we have used a professional landscaper for some projects while taking the DIY route with other projects. How did we decide? If the project requires special heavy equipment or if the materials are beyond our ability to handle safely, we hire a professional. We have used the same professional landscaper at our previous home and our current home.

One of our family projects last fall was the building of a dining patio. One son (an archaeologist) dug out and leveled the ground for us. He also helped build the garden beds, including the planting of the shrubs and trees. The other son (a pharmacy student) laid the flagstone and the retaining walls. I designed and drew the plan, calculated and order materials. My husband assisted with the heavy lifting and breaking of the flagstone.

We used polymeric sand in the joints between the flagstone for our walk and one patio. It's made by Techni-seal and is used for dry-laid projects. It's a sand product with polymers that make it harden so that you don't have to keep sweeping sand or screenings between the stones. I did our patio one morning all by myself.

This photo was taken right after the patio was completed. It is already much more lushly planted. Even more, there is now a backyard swimming pool accessible through the arbor.

Vines on the arbor include jasmine and akebia. There is a sweet bay magnolia, ginger, winter daphne and gardenias for additional fragrance during different seasons.

Less difficult projects included laying stepping stones or adding garden benches and accents.

Before beginning any difficult project, we always purchase a book to help us understand the preparations, instructions and tools needed. Sometimes the information can be found online or by asking others. Still, having a book for a reference has been very helpful. If, after reading how to DIY the project, you feel overwhelmed, then perhaps it's time to call in a professional landscaper for help.

This is also a great time to find outdoor garden accessories or accents on sale. We purchased a large market umbrella for half price. We also purchased a teak and stainless outdoor shower to use with our swimming pool. We never would have purchased these items at full price. Planters, benches and other accents are often on sale this time of year.

I've also found that winter is a great time to find gardening books on sale. With the holiday season, there may also be offers of free shipping if you are purchasing online. Sitting by the fire sipping coffee or tea on a cold winter's day is a great way to plan your garden projects for spring and summer.

Happy Gardening!
Freelance travel writer. My current fiction writing projects include a completed manuscript and several works in progress.

By the way, my name is pronounced fred-ah, not freed-ah. Thank you.

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