From Beth Chatto’s vast and glorious gardens in Essex to an Arts and Crafts-style garden scaled-down for a small suburban setting in Leeds, these are the modern landscaping projects that have managed both to capture the UK’s imagination and passion for our gardens and outdoor spaces and to stand the aesthetic test of time.
No one can say that the British public has not been indulging its own landscaping dreams this year. At even the most humble level, the domestic market for professional garden design and horticultural expertise has never been stronger, boosted undoubtedly by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic which has driven so many of us to stay at home.
The stats are already there to see. After months of remarkably good weather for most of the British Isles, plus lockdown and no real opportunity for any of us to spend that much money on holidays this year, the garden and landscaping sector has been able to absorb a fair amount of any household’s discretionary spend.
According to the 2020 Renovation Nation Report, almost a quarter of adults have used savings intended for a holiday to pay for improvement projects inside and outside the home, at an average spend of just over £4000 per household. The Horticultural Trades Association saw garden centre sales up 34% in June compared to the same month last year.
Suppliers to the trade are reporting a similar boom. The latest Builders Merchants Building Index has reported a surge in sales of structural landscaping products, which saw year on year growth of 50%, driven by garden walling/paving, fencing and gates, and decking.
Into a relatively buoyant market; therefore, comes a perfect opportunity to introduce new types of materials and innovations to satisfy the public demand for improved garden spaces, decking, outdoor kitchens, garden rooms, flexible spaces and furniture.
People want these usable spaces for safe, socially-distanced entertaining, working from home and relaxing, but they do not want those spaces to turn into something that needs a lot of maintenance. Time then for high-tech moulded, composite and advanced wood products to come out to play.
Innovations in decking
Decking is an obvious and immediate way to create a structural feature and very practical space outdoors. If the right decking is selected, it will need very little looking after – it is even possible to find decking sub-frames which can be used directly into the soil and still perform perfectly with a 25-year warranty.
James Latham has recently been appointed as distributor for the award-winning composite decking from Millboard. Millboard decking combines the natural beauty of real wood with the high performance of polyurethane, a material widely recognised for its strength. Polyurethane is used in many industries where durability and strength are required, eliminating the inevitable deterioration of natural wood in projects such as garden structures and outdoor decks.
Millboard is moulded from real oak and is available in a variety of muted tones, which works perfectly for any decorative setting. And as the UK is prone to a spot of rain and landscape gardeners do love a nice water feature or two, it also helps that this surface has a highly slip-resistant finish, is very durable and will resist rotting and splitting. It’s also splinter-free, has lost-head fixings for a seamless finish and once installed it is very low maintenance.
Naturally modified softwood is a fast-growing, sustainable alternative to materials such as plastics, steel or concrete. It’s also often far more sustainable than many slow-growing hardwoods, yet just as durable. With a warranty of up to 50 years, Accoya is treated using a process called acetylation to give it the same durability classification as European Oak, Red Cedar or Teak. Whether it’s furniture, structures, cladding or myriad other timber applications, Accoya really is the perfect environmental answer.
Made using Accoya wood fibres, MEDITE TRICOYA EXTREME is also one of those products promoted by Lathams for use in the most extreme and challenging environments, including the exterior conditions of a British garden and any environment where humidity and weather are usually concerns. This time in the guise of MDF, these engineered wood panels feature the same 50-year ‘above-ground’ or 25-year ‘in-ground’ warranty as Accoya, allowing for a hugely versatile range of uses, from planters, outdoor kitchens, garden rooms and even wet interiors such as wall linings in swimming pools.
For a very different but clean-cut look, why not consider a stone with a twist? Thanks to developments in solid surfaces, natural acrylic stone is now available for use in structural landscape design. It looks and feels just like masonry but is actually made from a combination of technical additives and stone dust, creating moldable and versatile shapes.
For the most imaginative of garden designers, Lathams stocks many of these exciting material innovations to play with. These include thermoformable products such as LG’s HI-MACS and the Aristech Avonite and Studio Collections, each with a wide range of finishes and masonry effects such as concrete, marble and stone.
For design inspiration, a stunning holiday villa in Morocco has recently shown HI-MACS at its best for external applications. From the patio tables and semi-submerged, curved sun loungers located in a shallow area of the pool itself, to the pool edging and drainage gulleys, all the way through to the signature sculptures, use of HI-MACS has helped to achieve high aesthetic standards outdoors as well as in.
For any landscape design professional looking to make the most of the boom in investments in our gardens, there are plenty of innovative products available to create beautiful and unique living spaces. Such moulded, composite and advanced wood products provide a stylish, low-maintenance solution that will stand the test of time. There is always a beautiful, high-tech material ready to take up the challenge and that may, one day, even feature in the listed gardens of the future.