How to Create a Perfect Garden Patio
A patio may form part of a larger garden or take up the whole area of a small one as a courtyard. Building a patio as part of an existing garden is a big task so it is important you get it right first time.
- Position the patio correctly. The most practical place may seem near the house, but consider other options – it may be nice to walk down a path and either sit in a totally secluded area or look back at the house. Either way, it needs to be easily accessible and well lit if you are considering sitting out in the evening. Take into account when you will most use the patio and whether you want it to be in the sun or the shade.
- Make the patio as large as possible. You need to be able to fit a table and chairs on it and still allow room to walk around. If you find it is too large, you can always fill it up with some big containers.
- If the patio joins directly to the lawn, make the level slightly lower than the grass as this will make mowing much easier. The level should be higher than surrounding flowerbeds to prevent earth overflowing.
- The edges of the patio can be softened or modified by planting.
- If you want to change the position of an existing patio, wait a few months – the previous owners may have had a logical reason for siting it where they did, such as getting the evening sun, etc.
Courtyards need to be carefully designed because on a small scale every detail is important. In large gardens it is often possible to disguise unattractive features, such as an old shed, while in a small garden any fault will tend to stand out. There are advantages to gardening on a small scale though, and as enclosed courtyards can be very sheltered you may find that you can grow a greater range of plants than on a more exposed site in the same area. Small gardens can be given a greater sense of space by using a few tricks:
- Plant the beds with a mixture of tall and short plants.
- For privacy, trellis with climbers does not take up as much room as a hedge and does not block out as much light as a tall fence or wall. A good combination is to have a fence or wall up to 1.6-1.8 m/5-6 ft and then trellis on top.
- An arbour will provide privacy and a certain amount of shade depending on how thickly you train the plants over it.
- Lighting can be used to create illusions of greater space.
- Formal water features usually work better in small spaces, and the sound of flowing water can enhance the peace of a city courtyard.
- If you want to plant a tree, bear in mind what its roots may do to surrounding buildings and where it will cast shadows.
- Trellis, mirrors or even trompe-l’oeil can create the illusion of a greater area of garden, but these features must be positioned carefully to be effective. Always try to position mirrors so that they reflect part of the garden rather than the people in it. You want to create the impression of more space, rather than more people!