by Michael John McGarr, chief creative and garden designer at Warnes McGarr & Co
Let’s face it, this stuff is everywhere. There was a time in the garden building trade, namely from the 1960s onwards, that concrete seemed to be used on almost everything, including breakfast cereals.
But does concrete have a place in modern garden design and building? The answer is, of course, both yes and no.
For the majority of garden design and build, the dreaded concrete base panel and post system takes centre stage and somehow unfathomably seems to have been the number one choice for creating boundaries within the garden. And once the concrete posts and boundaries are installed, here they stay.
And our boundaries really do need to be re-defined in modern garden design, as this is something that shouldn’t necessarily be aspired to. The cumulative Berlin Wall effect in urban area causes untold problems for wildlife.
Of course, homeowners need to be able to enclose their gardens and their property but careful thought should be given to allowing access to migrating wildlife. For example, by simply propping a brick under concrete fence bases, it enables hedgehogs to pass from garden to garden.
There some great advice here on this Hedgehog Street website for those that care about helping wildlife. Pictured above is a bespoke garden fencing we designed which included both hedgehog passes and insect hotels within the structure.
Another shit for brains idea is pattern-imprinted concrete – a mainstay of “knock-a-door tradesmen”. Think of it as modern day ‘stone cladding’ and you will be somewhere close to the visual amenity this product offers. This is not only a cheap and vulgar solution to conventional paving , but unreliable to boot.
But there is hope. Concrete can be used to great effect in a contemporary setting when polished for a smooth seamless finish. This can be defined as concrete that has been treated with a chemical densifier and ground with progressively finer grinding tools. The grinding tools are usually progressive grits of diamond grinding cup wheels and diamond polishing pads.
Using this product opens up a world of possibilities when creating high end luxury garden design, and can be formed into pretty much anything (just not concrete base panels).
Porcelain tiles are also a great trend that has entered the domestic garden design scene. From the regular paving companies that are producing 600mm standard sizes, to some companies that are creating tiles up to three metres square.
We are currently experimenting with these tiles and they offer huge versatility in our outdoor kitchen designs. Porcelain is far superior to stone paving in that it doesn’t absorb moisture or dirt for that matter, giving a cleaner, more manageable surface for outdoor use.
Another advantage to porcelain paving is that it doesn’t change colour when wet. So in terms of luxury high end garden design we can create seamless links between the interior and exterior of the property. When it rains outside, it stays the same colour as that on the inside, beautifully blurring the lines between home and garden.
Take look at the stunning range of porcelain tiles at Casa Ceramica.
But is concrete is sustainable? Well, in production definitely not. Cement production is one of the most carbon intensive processes known to man. But the argument to that is… what is more sustainable than than something that will last forever? Surely durability which has to be the overriding factor when specifying anything for landscape design.
And it certainly will last forever installed to the right specification in the right setting.
As the pattern imprint driveways of suburbia have slowly crumbled, the high calibre outdoor living spaces designed to a high level will still be giving enjoyment value to their users tomorrow.