Welcome to our Blog. Inspiration, updates and industry trends from the team at Landscaping Solutions.
If you’re thinking of putting gravel down in your front garden or driveway, there’s a good chance that you’re attracted by the idea of low maintenance, ease of installation and economy of materials.
Beth Chatto: The Drought Tolerant Garden. Designed by David Ward. RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival 2019. (Stand no. 200) Copyright © RHS. Credit: RHS/Joanna Kossak. See below why this was the perfect inspiration growing under gravel.
Installed correctly, it’s an ideal material for fulfilling all those criteria, but what’s less recognised is that it can be used to create unique and attractive garden that will, not only incorporate all the practical necessities of a front garden, but will also welcome you home at the end of the day.
Designing a front garden to be both practical and attractive, and maybe look just a little different, can be a challenge. You need enough space for parking, easy access to the road for bins, a surface that works well in all weathers, that’s easy for all types of footwear and wheels to traverse, and that complies with required SUDS regulations, removing the potential need for planning permission. Low maintenance requirements are also usually a priority for this area.
Understandably, the practicalities generally take precedence, even to the extent of the whole frontage being given over to hard landscaping. But there are alternatives.
In this article we’ll look at one of the most unusual and one of the most economical to create - the gravel front garden.
A Gravel Garden, not just a Gravel Driveway
Of course, we’re all used to gravel driveways - plenty of which give gravel a bad name. Badly installed, they leak stones onto the pavement, grow weeds with enthusiasm and settle into ridges under the car wheels while, in a worst-case scenario, being extremely hard work to walk on.
By contrast, a well-designed and expertly installed gravel garden will be low maintenance, solid underfoot where it needs to be, won’t migrate, and will offer a lower-cost option that grows a diversity of planting, therefore giving your house a frontage that has all you need and is welcoming and attractive.
Making Gravel Driveways Work
So, how are the gravel driveway problems listed above solved? By using a stabilisation system in combination with the right type of gravel. Here at Landscaping Solutions, we are registered installers of CEDAdrive, the invisible gravel stabilisation system that creates a surface that is very easy to walk on, even in high heels, and is wheelchair- and pushchair-friendly.
It also solves practical issues relating to SUDS and planning permission.
A Quick Word about SUDS
SUDS - Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems - replicate natural drainage, diverting water away from sewers, with the intention of taking pressure off the sewerage system and reducing surface flooding. The system is a requirement in all front garden developments, with more than five square metres of hard landscaping permitted only where the surface is permeable or there is a permeable area for the water to drain into.
We’ll go into SUDS in more depth in a later article. However, gravel front gardens are completely permeable, allowing rainwater to percolate virtually unimpeded into the soil, and therefore fulfil all the criteria with no need for planning permission.
A Gravel Garden by Design
For an idea of how it could look, this year’s Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival in Surrey provided a perfect example.
The sword-shaped leaves of irises make a bold statement against gravel in the Beth Chatto Garden at Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival 2019. Picture credit: Ben West.
Beth Chatto, who died in 2018, was one of the most influential gardeners of the twentieth century. In homage, the festival named her its 2019 Horticultural Hero and featured a recreation of her Drought-Tolerant Garden by David Ward, Garden Director of the Beth Chatto Gardens in Elmstead, near Colchester, Essex.
“I loved the Beth Chatto garden,” says Landscaping Solutions’ director Ben West. “It was mainly naturalistic, colourful, vibrant, with lots of different textures and shapes.”
It included a huge number of plants which thrive under gravel and provided a huge variety of plants which make ideal choices for a front garden design. Included in the planting were easy-to-grow herbs like fennel, lavender, thyme, rosemary, oregano, sage and catmint; the edible brassica sea kale; plants like lamb’s ears, whose furry leaves beg to be stroked; colourful flowers like red-hot Helianthemums, misty-blue Perovskias, and the sunshine yellow Verbascums, punctuated by the pure white flowers of such plants as perennial stocks. This is just the tip of the iceberg as far as choices are concerned.
They’ll even multiply without your intervention. Self-seeding is only a problem when it happens in the wrong place. A huge advantage of installing CEDAdrive is the inbuilt geomembrane that separates the gravel from the soil below, preventing deep-rooting plants taking hold. If other plants show their heads, they just lift away from the 40mm depth of gravel.
A complete gravel front garden
Use of CEDAdrive means that those parts of your front garden that need to be walked on, parked on, and offer a pathway to the main road for the bins offer exactly those capabilities.
With a gravel mulch used across the rest of the front garden, these necessary areas will then blend seamlessly into the whole, creating a sense of air and space unrestricted by driveway edging or strictly delineated flower beds. This in itself will make the front garden feel bigger.
Beth Chatto: The Drought Tolerant Garden. Designed by David Ward. RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival 2019. (Stand no. 200) Copyright © RHS. Credit: RHS/Joanna Kossak.
Ben loves the natural feel of a carefully curated gravel garden like this year’s feature garden at Hampton Court. “What I like about the Beth Chatto garden is the informality of the planting,” says Ben. “The plants aren’t hemmed in with a hard edge; there is no well-defined border. Instead the planted area weaves in and out, with scalloped edges. It makes it more fluid and interesting.”
If you’d like to discuss the potential of a well-designed gravel front garden for your property, which will bring pleasure for years to come, contact Ben at Landscaping Solutions on the number above or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, the Surrey Wildlife Trust announced recently that their Hedgerow Heritage project has been awarded £56,600 in development funding by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The initial funding will allow the Surrey Wildlife Trust to further develop their plans for the Hedgerow Heritage project and apply for a full National Lottery grant of nearly half a million pounds in July 2019.
The project itself aims to revive traditional hedge planting and laying skills in the local community. With a focus on young people, ranging from school children to youth groups, the project aims to involve thousands of local people in the restoration of hedgerows, all within the iconic landscape of the North Downs, part of the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
With two thirds of England being continuously hedged for over a thousand years, there is a rich tradition of hedgerow management techniques in Surrey and the project aims to pass on these skills from local hedge laying societies to community volunteers, landowners, farm managers and private sector contractors.
The project will see the planting, restoration and protection of more than 80 kilometres of hedgerows in Surrey and is part of a countywide strategy to reverse the fragmentation of the countryside and encourage stewardship of the landscape in the future.
Andrew Jamieson, project development manager at Surrey Wildlife Trust, said: “We’re delighted to win this funding from the National Lottery players. It is an incredible opportunity to engage with local communities, to keep heritage hedgerow skills alive and pass on expertise from one generation to the next.”
There is no denying, this is a significant project and the importance of well maintained hedgerows should not be underestimated.
Hedgerows are not merely field boundaries, they play a vital role in our delicate ecosystem, providing habitat for flora and fauna and enabling species such as dormice, bats, insects and butterflies to travel safely across the landscape. In addition hedgerows prevent soil erosion and provide a natural barrier to reduce pesticides and fertilisers reaching our streams and rivers.
We certainly wish this project every success and as corporate sponsors of the Surrey Wildlife Trust we will be watching this development with enthusiasm.
If you would like more information regarding the Hedgerow Heritage project or any other Surrey Wildlife Trust project please visit the Surrey Wildlife Trust website for further information.
We’ve covered a number of environmental issues on the Landscaping Solutions blog over recent months. As a subject matter close to our hearts we try to offer practical support wherever possible.
For instance, we have been corporate sponsors of the Surrey Wildlife Trust for several years now and have just renewed our support for 2018.
Formed in 1959 the trust manages 82 sites in total, covering almost 8000ha. They are the only organisation in Surrey that cares for all forms of wildlife and they are doing some incredible work.
On a daily basis the trust works closely with schools, communities and volunteers across Surrey, informing and involving people actively in nature. Over 15,000 children and young people now benefit annually from a wide variety of outdoor learning courses and activities thanks to the work Surrey Wildlife Trust carries out.
Surrey is host to some wonderful habitats and the Wildlife Trusts works closely with partners and landowners to advise on land management for conservation, with particular emphasis on woodland, wetlands and heathland. In addition, the trust also regularly runs campaigns in an effort to save precious habitats and vulnerable species.
Unfortunately in the current political climate of government cuts and lack of funding, many of the habitats and species in question are coming under constant pressure from a variety of threats.
This lack of funding can make the difference between a species thriving or becoming locally extinct (one recent example would be the Pearl Bordered Fritillary butterfly which is now extinct in Surrey due to woods becoming overgrown) and for that reason it is more crucial then ever that we support these bodies in the work they do.
Landscaping Solutions company director Ben West has been a member of the Wildlife Trusts since he was a young boy. Initially a member of the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust Ben quickly became a member of the Surrey Wildlife Trust when he moved to the area around 15 years ago.
“Through the years I started to develop a growing awareness of the threats to our native wildlife and landscapes through habitat destruction, pollution and poor land management. I understood the crucial part the wildlife trusts play and started to volunteer with them and other bodies to help manage their reserves”.
A great deal of the work carried out by the Wildlife Trusts and trusts like them is volunteer led and it’s this ongoing support that allows them to continue their vital work.
Along with the Wildlife Trusts Landscaping Solutions also support the RSPB, Butterfly Conservation, Wessex Chalk Streams and Rivers Trust, Bumblebee Conservation and the Denmark Farm Conservation Centre.
Whether its corporate sponsorship, personal membership or looking after the wildlife on your patch, by supporting conservation bodies, together we can make a difference!
Further information regarding the Surrey Wildlife Trust and their work can be found at surreywildlifetrust.org
We know that maintaining a garden hedge can sometimes feel like a never ending battle, it’s one of the reasons we offer a long-term garden maintenance service.
However, a paper published recently in the journal ‘Atmospheric Environment’ suggests it might be worth the battle after all.
Your unassuming garden hedge could in fact be the unsung hero of your garden, trapping toxins and protecting you from harmful pollutants.
Lead author of the paper Prof Prashant Kumar and his international team of researchers have found that the majority of hedges serve as a highly effective natural filter for toxic air pollution, due in part to their short size and tight-knit foliage.
The study has found that while tall trees are good at absorbing pollution in wide open areas, hedges are in fact far more effective at trapping harmful pollutants at exhaust pipe level in our towns and cities.
The research comes after the level of toxic air in London hit an all time high back in January of this year. Only six days into the New Year and a number of boroughs within London had exceeded their EU pollution limit for the entire twelve months. Alarmingly air pollution in these areas hit such high densities that primary schools were forced to restrict the time children spent outdoors. These events culminated in the city being placed on the highest black alert for pollution.
Understandably Professor Prashant Kumar, who led the study, is now urging local councils to consider populating our busy pavements and streets with hedges. He advises that wherever the pavements are wide enough to accommodate, councils should try to plant low hedges between pedestrians and the main road allowing damaging particles to be absorbed before they disperse into the air.
Its interesting to note that previous studies have also gone along way to back up these findings. A study carried out in Guildford, Surrey found that planting hedges along a busy main road cut toxic fumes by more than a third.
Whilst Prof. Kumar’s study focused on hedges it is important to remember that that trees also play a vital part in battling pollution in our ever expanding towns and cities. The paper actually suggests many more trees should also be planted as part of a well planned, targeted planting campaign.
Professor Prashant Kumar admits that there are no hard and fast rules about the best planting for any given area rather that this will depend upon local conditions and circumstances, with each planting campaign tailored to meet a particular areas requirements.
His team are currently carrying out further tests to ascertain which species of hedge proves to be the most pollution absorbent. For the time being he advices authorities should plant hedges with the greatest leaf surface area.
As subject matter close to our hearts, we’ve covered a number of environmental issues over the past months. If you have found this article interesting you may also enjoy some of our previous articles - Urban Forests And Why We Need Them, Bees In Crisis and Front Gardens On The Decline.