Develop a Career or Business in Landscape Construction
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Build a foundation; understand how gardens are constructed, then develop your skills of the trade to become increasingly capable of building solid, functional and durable landscape gardens.
Ground first, Hard Landscape Next and Soft Landscape to Finish
Building a garden is far from a simplistic task; but if you were to simplify the job, most gardens involve three stages:
1. Creating the ground surface
2. Creating the hard landscape components
3. Adding the soft landscape components
The ground surface
The ground surface rarely starts out as you want it. Levels may need to be changed, and soils may need to be improved. If the levels are not proper, the garden may not drain in wet weather, soils may erode, and any structures you build may become unstable. Poor quality soils may not grow plants properly. If you plan to create raised garden beds, steps, walls or paved areas, the earth may need rearranging to do this.
The hard landscape components
The hard landscape refers to fixed non living features, such as wells, fences, buildings, paving, rockeries, ponds, etc.
The soft landscape components
Soft landscaping refers primarily to plants.
Hard Landscaping with Masonry
Masonry is often used to create a wide variety of different types of garden features. The durability of stone, brick or concrete will give permanence to a garden. Soft elements like plants can come and go, and change across the seasons, but hard landscape features made with masonry will remain as the solid bones of any original garden design.
A sunken garden needs to be properly constructed. It is more than a hole in the ground. Without adequate drainage, soil stabilisation and appropriate hard and soft landscaping, a sunken garden can flood, its sides can collapse and it can become an eyesore. Why a sunken garden?
- Sunken gardens can be viewed from one or many high points; as well as in the garden itself. This allows an appreciation of the garden design and plants from a perspective not available in other gardens.
- Being in a depressed position, the sunken garden is protected from wind, creating a microclimate that allows plants to grow with protection otherwise unavailable
- It provides a sense of privacy and intimacy when used for entertaining, as well as a place to escape.
How do you construct a sunken garden?
First, you must choose an appropriate site, where water can be collected at a low point and eliminated from the garden. Two possibilities are obvious:
1. On a slope - excavate into the slope at the top, and extend a drainage pipe from the lower side to extract water from the garden.
2. On relatively flat ground - create a ring of mounds raising the ground above the natural soil level, and embed drainage pipes through the mound to any lower points or drainage pits outside the ring.
Seats and tables can be made from brick, stone or concrete. Niches can be created in stone walls to provide seating. When temperatures drop stone can be a very cold surface to sit on, so a cushion may be required. Cushions and soft furnishings will also help to make it more comfortable. Flat stone such as sheets of slate or cut slabs of granite can make very attractive features in a garden when used as bench seating or table tops.
Pedestals and Plinths
These are structures built to support something, such as a bird feeder, bird bath, sundial, statue, fountain, memorial plaque, or table top. They may be bought in precast concrete typically with a metal rod inside for strength, but also for bolting to a base. If you got creative with making moulds you could attempt to make your own. A pedestal could also be made from brick. You could try sourcing curved bricks if you want to avoid sharp angles.
A wishing well, or even just a regular well are also possibilities with garden masonry. Typical wishing well designs are circular constructions sitting at ground level which containing a pool of water. Usually a small roof is attached like on many water wells. For traditional water wells, you need to excavate the soil until you get down to the water table. The inside wall of the well should be lined. This can be done with concrete blocks or bricks. If the walls are damp you'll probably be best using a hydraulic cement mortar.
A brick or stone letter box makes an attractive feature at the front of a house's driveway. Use materials which match those of the house to tie the two together. An alternative if you're building a wall at the front of the property is to include a metal letterbox.
Follies were created on a grand scale in English gardens throughout the 18th and 19th century; frequently with masonry; and often with primarily an aesthetic purpose, rather than any practical purpose. A folly is placed in a garden to look at and admire, rather than to use. It may be the facade of a building for instance, with little or no real building behind it. It may be a construction created to appear like a ruin (e.g. a crumbling wall or a deteriorating ancient temple). Follies can be created on a small or large scale; and because they may not be intended to use, the criteria for construction may be quite different to what would be expected in a building that was to be inhabited.
Masonry work may be used with water to create many garden features, for example:
- A weir and waterfall in a stream
- A viaduct to carry water at a height
- Edges of a pond or lake
- A pier or jetty
When stone, brick or cement is going to be submersed in water, or splashed by water constantly, it becomes important to choose an appropriate masonry material. Some masonry may degrade when exposed to water, or may be more challenging to maintain (e.g. algae may grow over the surface).