Tag Archive: paths

lal304195When choosing a tree for a garden, take care; a large tree in a small garden will lead to problems in years to come. It will dominate the garden and put it in shade. So, unless you have a large garden, avoid large ornamentals, such as Cedars, the Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) or Prunus ‘Kanzan’, and woodland trees, such as Oak, Beech and Horse Chestnut.

Of course you may ‘inherit’ trees planted some time ago, or as here at Old School Garden, ‘allowed to grow’. We had to have some serious tree surgery done to a huge Black Poplar that was getting too big for its boots a couple of years ago. I have an aerial photo of the house and garden taken in 1965 in which you can see the young tree just starting on its life journey. After having its crown and sides trimmed it must still be 45 feet tall and about as broad. I’m also contemplating some more surgery (possibly completely felling) two Oaks that have grown up on our boundary with our neighbours and throw a lot of shade which is causing a lot of moss growth on one roof slope of the house.

Even when you choose a tree that’s suitable in terms of it’s above ground size, don’t forget the impact that the roots might have.

If tree roots are a potential problem, restrict their growth by using thick polythene or a polypropylene membrane, which can be trenched into the soil to act as a physical barrier (or ‘root barrier’) and will prevent the roots growing where they are not wanted. New pipes and drains can also be wrapped in the material to prevent roots seeking moisture from them.

Trees planted in areas that are paved or covered in another solid surface (e.g. tarmac) can cause the surface to lift with time. To combat this, the same types of thick membrane can be used to line the hole at planting time to encourage the roots to grow down, and not along the surface. There are a number of types of root barrier available which can be installed either at planting or to help control roots down the line; here’s one example.

Old School Gardener

front garden1A front garden is on view to all, so must look good all year and be functional. Here are a few ideas for making your own ‘entrance’:

Focal points-

  • A statue, pot or some other hard landscape feature can be used to provide a focal point; something to draw the eye and give a sense of unity to the front garden.

  • Alternatively, box topiary shapes or other bold ‘architectural’ plants can fulfil this role and can be relatively easy to maintain. Likewise, planting groups of the same plant can be used to create a series of ‘green’ focal points.

  • Another idea is to create a feature such as a rockery that will be seen from the roadside and combines both hard and soft landscaping elements.

Paths and drives-

  • A path to the front door is a central feature of most front gardens. By laying this diagonally across the plot an illusion of depth can be created. If your plot is relatively small and your path from garden entrance to front door has to be primarily fucntional, they should take the shortest route if they are going to be used by casual visitors. However, they can be made to look more attractive by introducing gentle curves or by by using a mixture of path surfacing materials such as brick and stone. But don’t use more than two or three different materials as this can cretae a fussy, disjointed look.

  • If your plot is larger and you can fit in a second path which has a mainly decorative role, this can be routed to meander through the garden and provide easy access to each part of the plot; it could be a continuous ‘snake’ of paving or stepping stones, or a combination of both.

  • Don’t underlay gravel with different coloured or shaped chippings, as over time these will rise to the surface and the result will look ugly.

  • Try to avoid using impermeable materials for vehicle hard standings (there are now regulations in place about this) and if you do have large hard surfaced areas use planting pockets to break these up- a car can easily pass over low growing plants.


  • Drought- tolerant shrubs such as Hebe and Choisya help to squeeze out weeds, so helping to keep the front garden looking tidy.

  • Plant tough plants at the edges of drives such as ornamental grasses, heathers or creeping thymes, which will survive an occasional clipping by a car tyre.

  • Use creeping plants near to the edges of the garden to create a natural look.

Good neighbour-

  • Abide by the law if you are thinking about some more major changes to your front garden e.g. if you are putting up a wall or fence adjoining a public road that is higher than 90cms or hedges in such locations. You need to contact the local authority before putting in solid boundaries and may be asked to cut back hedges that interfere with sight lines.

  • Likewise you need to contact the local authority if you plan to put in a vehicle ‘crossover’ over a public footpath and if you want to cultivate any grass verge outside your house.

front garden2

Source: Short Cuts to Great Gardens- Reader’s Digest

Old School Gardener



Using focal points- including the more unusual- is an effective way of drawing the eye away from the edges of a space
Using focal points- including the more unusual- is an effective way of drawing the eye away from the edges of a space

Sometimes, especially with awkwardly shaped or smaller gardens, it makes sense to try and draw the eye from the outer boundaries and create a more pleasing and, apparently larger space. Here are seven ‘top tips’ for achieving this:

1. Put square and rectangular patios and lawns at 45/30/60 degrees to the side boundaries or use shapes for these and other flat areas which contrast with the outer shape of the garden.

2. Set paths to run at an angle to the garden boundaries in zig zags or dog leg style.

3. Make paths curved, meandering from side to side.

Paths- including grass- and the border edges they create can be meandering to take the eye on a journey..
Paths- including grass- and the border edges they create can be meandering to take the eye on a journey..

4. Fix structures such as trellis, pergolas and arches or plant hedges across the garden to interrupt the view and to create separate compartments.

5. Place groups of tall shrubs or trees at intervals in the line of sight to block views across or down the garden.

6. Use climbers and large shrubs, especially evergreens, to disguise solid formal boundary fences and to break up the straight lines, particularly the horizontal ones of fence/ wall tops.

7. Carefully place focal points to draw the eye in various chosen directions, positioning them so that they can be seen from different places in the garden.

Use climbing plants to cover up and soften hard boundaries

Use climbing plants to cover up and soften hard boundaries

Related article: Arbours and Pergolas in the Garden- 7 Top Tips

Old School Gardener

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