For that rough edge

LANDSCAPING

For that rough edge

It is always delightful to own a patch of grass in front of your house. It fits right into the conventional garden picture, though not by definition. There are many reasons why grass should not be the only choice when you think of outdoor spaces. Maintaining a healthy and inviting lawn entails hard work. A majority of homeowners are so obsessed with the idea of a lawn that to be able to enjoy the outdoors becomes a lesser priority than keeping up the show, i.e, of maintaining a lawn.

Many times, they embark on a lost battle; that of attempting to grow a lawn where natural conditions do not support it. These include low light, hard soil and drainage issues to name a few. The result – a hopeless patch of land which is useless to the family. There is one more thing which happens in intensely vegetated areas – green overdose. Again in such a situation, a lawn does not help in maintaining the balance.  

So what can be done if the preference is a low-maintenance space or a problem patch? You can come up with a solution by thinking differently or by getting rid of the obsession with grass.

There is a whole wide range of creative solutions that can create low-maintenance, user-friendly aesthetic spaces. There is a limit to creativity with grass.

But when you consider hardscape options, you can unleash a creative carnival.  

Mixing media

The range of alternatives includes stone, gravel, brick, concrete slabs, pebble, tiles, pavers, sand, decking, water, rock, ground covers, herbs and local vegetation to choose from. You can create further options by mixing various media. Use of hardscaping always adds an element of interest in the garden and restores balance in many cases. You can play around with design in a variety of ways in terms of the proportion, usage and tempering treatments.

As a material, stone is the most durable of the lot. Various types of this material, local or imported from other regions and a variety of colour and patterns can be used. Stone can be laid loose or can be fixed. It lends itself easily to both urban and relaxed settings. Use stone alone or mix it with pebbles, gravel, water or vegetation. The beauty in stone stands out even more when contrasted with beautiful plants. So for someone who is a collector of forms of plants, stone works as a good background for the display.  

Bricks lend a rustic feel because of the finish. While bricks can blend well in a country setting, a small dose can always be integrated in a refined scheme. Brick as a material is very adaptable, thus a variety of paving patterns can be created by laying it in various ways. To be able to intermix it with loose material, the additional step of securing the pattern in place is a must.

Loose surface treatments like gravel and pebbles always create informal spaces, especially suitable for wet areas or for covering up utility spaces. Available in a range of sizes and colours, they can be set in concrete to make firm slabs. Though labour-intensive, mystical patterns can be created using pebbles. While gravel and Japanese temple gardens go together, Mediterranean herb gardens too are incomplete without gravel. It is good to define the margins of such loose material. It can easily be an element incorporated into any contemporary garden style.

Both sand and gravel are stunning solutions to create aesthetic spaces which are otherwise dead - as in non-navigable corners or courtyards inside or enclosed by buildings. The zen appeal of both the materials is unbeatable. Raking the sand can be a perfect meditative exercise for an urban monk. No more confined to the cold zones, decking is gaining popularity. It lends certain sophistication, and can easily be used to create level changes. Deck slabs can be successfully intermixed with stones and concrete.  

While including hardscape in the garden, keep in mind that too much of it can mean lending your garden a monotonous, harsh and uninviting look. Too little of it may not look good either. You can lend a soft touch to the scenario by using ground cover or flanking the hardscape with plants. Restrict strong patterns for large areas. As always, best results are obtained when various components in a garden are in harmony with the house itself. The clue for choice of material may very well lie in your house. So pick up the clue and extend your living space beyond the walls.  

(The writer is a landscape designer.)

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