Choose Your Ground Effect

There's more to the ground surfaces of your garden than you may think!


Most of us take the ground surfaces for granted, usually settling for an expanse of lawn, a concrete drive, and maybe a paved entertainment area. And generally this works well, providing functional, durable outdoor surfaces.

But if you want something more interesting, you'll need to think of those outdoor ground surfaces in the same way as the floors inside the house. No doubt you've spent hours carefully choosing carpets, lino, tiles, timber boards and the like to match the furniture, walls and curtains. You look at how the colours, textures and patterns can be combined to create an ambience; a sense that the house and its rooms are your private spaces that express your personality and reflect your tastes and interests.


In the same way, your 'outside floors' can be made into a special feature of the garden, something more than just a surface to walk across. With a little forethought and imagination, you can decorate your garden using paving, gravel, bark, groundcover plants, water, tiling and even stencils to create some very interesting effects.


Most hard surfaces, including gravels, pavers and pebbles are available in an ever-increasing array of colours so it shouldn't be too difficult to find materials to suit your chosen colour scheme.

Look at the exterior texture of your house to inspire the type of products you should use as a complimentary surface.

Monotone or Multi-Tone

Most people tend to think of using only one type of material to surface an area, and in doing so, they create a mass of just one colour. With a little imagination though, you can create much more interesting effects:

  • An area of paving (concrete, asphalt or pavers) can be either edged with lines of a different coloured paving material or interspersed with areas of other coloured materials.
  • Parterre gardens were very popular in 18th century European gardens. These often involved using geometrically arranged sections of coloured gravels, divided by low clipped hedges; in effect creating a coloured pattern on the ground divided by green lines.
  • A patchwork of different but complementary colours (such as two different coloured bricks or pebbles) mixed at random, will create an interesting and informal effect.
  • By using perhaps only two or three contrasting colours on the ground, a lively and stimulating effect will be created.
  • By using less contrast, a more subdued and relaxed effect is created.
It is usually safer to limit your range of colours, and keep patterns on the ground simple. A 'mish-mash' of colours and shapes usually looks busy and intense, can appear messy, and may take attention away from everything else in the garden.

How to Select Coloured Surfaces

  1. Consider the effect of colour on surrounding plants, garden features and buildings.
  2. Decide whether to use hot or cool colours, bright or subdued colours, and one or several different colours, according to the mood you wish to create.
  3. Investigate the materials available, and decide on which ones to use and where to use them.
  4. Decide whether to create patterned effects, or a plainer monotone effect.
Too dark or light?
If an area is too dark, use light coloured surfacing materials. If an area is open and glare is a problem, use darker coloured surfacing materials.

If using a pattern, choose a pattern to suit the style of garden and architecture.

Rough sawn wood biscuits become stepping stones in this pebbled garden, inviting the visitor to experience walking on textured surfaces and discover spots of interest.
Granite can used as paving and sculpture in courtyards, and is available in a large range of colours. Water on the granite brings out the highlights of colour.
Photo courtesy of Ruettinger Design and Landscaping Co.
Phone: 02 9144 6089 (Australia) +61 2 9144 6089 (Outside Australia).
A parterre garden created with stone gravel gives a sense of tradition. Garden designers like to use gravel because it gives interesting visual contrasts to nearby plants and fixtures.
Repainting a wooden archway in a brick red colour accentuates the pavers of this formal garden entrance. Hiring a jet wash for the afternoon will revitalise pavers and bring out their true colour.
Smooth and jagged rocks, a water feature, grasses and vividly coloured gazanias show just how effective different colour groupings can be in the garden.
Created with contrast in mind…the designer of this garden has achieved a bold look with these smooth grey river rocks against a bed of lobelia dotted with the baby Agave plants.
Fantastic use of this naturally toned geometric mosaic in browns, greys and red harmonise with the colour of the ground and leaves in their natural environment.
White pebbles provide a sharp contrast to the green foliage in this garden. They are an excellent groundcover; providing an answer to the lawn mowing dilemma in hard-to-get-at areas.


Book Review

This recently published book inspires garden lovers to have a long hard look at their garden. Inspirational ideas jump from the pages in this beautifully photographed book. click to see in our bookshop






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