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Porcelain patios - beautiful, low maintenance and durable


Porcelain tiles have been around for a while now in landscaping and they're a perfect option for the UK climate particularly if you want to create a seamless 'indoor to outdoor' effect from the house into the garden. Porcelain tiles are fired to very high temperatures making them both extremely hard wearing and impermeable. 

Natural Stone can involve a lot of maintenance

Permeability is an important factor in choosing stone for your patio: cheaper natural stone, like sandstone can be very porous, which means that it can soak up water like a sponge during damp weather, an can subsequently develop algae and staining. Water can also get between the layers that form the stone, and freeze thawing effects can cause delamination, where the top layers of stone start flaking away over time and creating more opportunities for algae to establish. 

Sanstone patios can suffer from algae black spots and need annual pressure washing

Porcelain paving is a good option for north facing patios

For north facing patios or to create a seamless transition between an indoor space and outdoor, porcelain comes into it's own. London Stone offers 22 different options for porcelain at the moment and new options are regularly becoming available. As well as tacking the issue of maintenance, porcelain offers colour consistency that is hard to match with natural stone, as well as a impressive choice of colours and textures.

Wood effect porcelain planks create an attractive decking effect without the maintenance




















Wood effect options include Cinder Porcelain and Rovere Porcelain both of which are both attractive and convincing as wood textures, and create decking effect areas of patio with minimal maintenance. 

The beauty of porcelain is how convincingly it recreates the beautiful natural stone paving that we love. Examples like White Quartz Porcelain from London Stone, have a stunning warm beige multi-tonal colour across the tile, as well as the slightly riven texture that you'd associate with natural stone and for a more contemporary look Silver Contro Porcelain offers stunning silver grey tones with a in a slightly speckled texture, giving it an attractive natural look. 

Image result for golden stone porcelain

Golden Stone Porcelain from London Stone - a beautifully natural look


The other advantage of porcelain is the slab sizes are even and consistent which creates a contemporary look that can match in with the colour and texture of indoor porcelain tiles. Although porcelain is more expensive than riven or sawn Indian sandstone, it's low maintenance features are making it increasingly popular as an outdoor paving option.

Porcelain patios need professional design and build 

Porcelain is not laid in the same way as traditional stone, and they do need to be laid by an landscaper experienced in cutting and laying porcelain. It's also important to think about the overall design. Although individual porcelain paving is around 20-30mm thick, copings and step treads generally need to be thicker, which either means natural stone treads and copings with porcelain paving tiles, or having bespoke porcelain copings and treads made for the project.


Increasingly suppliers are creating coping stones and treads which work alongside their range of porcelain tiles, but it's important to plan carefully when designing a patio.


Find out more about having your new patio designed and built by Heartwood Garden Design by contacting us today.






Designing your Hertfordshire garden - why 3-D modelling is so useful

Creating 3-D design models to help explain to customers how a garden design will look when built is an essential service for any good garden designer. Generally a designer will develop a design for a garden as flat plan, rather like the footprint of a house extension design, but seeing how the design works in three dimensions is critical, particularly to convey how changes in level will work or the impact of larger elements like garden rooms, pergolas or even semi-mature trees.


The image above is the modelled version of the image below, which is the 'top plan view' - each gives a completely different perspective of the garden. The 'birds eye' view is useful as it shows the exact layout of the garden and in design terms it can easily be assessed in practical terms, allowing you to see the ratio of hard landscaping to lawn and planted areas very clearly. Both have their place but particularly for this garden, with multiple levels, seeing a model is essential to help a customer appreciate how the level changes proposed for the garden work in practice.

3-D Visualisations are critical to help explain complex level changes or large structures within a garden design

As a tool modelling is also a very good way of helping to make important decisions. Good garden design means making clever and innovative design choices, and modelling allows those choices to be explored in three dimensions. In the flight of steps below, there are two options, either approach the garden at 90 degrees to the house, or at 45 degrees to the house. Each option creates a different space with its own distinct atmosphere and making a choice between which approach to take is made that much easier with modelled options.

Access from the patio to the lawn at 45 degrees to the house and retaining wall - dramatic and contemporary

Access from the patio to the lawn at 90 degrees to the house and retaining wall - a more traditional layout

Modelling is one of the tools that Heartwood Garden Design uses as part of the design process both to make decisions about key three dimensional elements as well as to explain to customers how the garden will look.

And it's not just customers who benefit from the creation of a 3-D model, as part of our design service, landscapers are fully briefed on how to build the garden. This includes a full written specification of hard landscaping materials, construction drawings, drainage plans, setting out plans and bill of quantities. Setting out plans are back to the 'birds eye' view of a garden and give all the dimensions for the how the garden is to be laid out, but giving landscapers the 3-D view of the garden helps to explain key features and level changes particularly well.

Setting out plans explain to landscapers how to build the garden, but a 3-D model is also essential for the landscaping team  if level changes and larger structures form part of the design.

These stages in the design process are key to ensuring a good quality construction of your garden and show how important it is that the design, layout and implementation of your garden is well planned. Going into a landscaping design without this level of detail, thought and careful planning can waste thousands of pounds and leave you with a garden that doesn't look as you expected it to, has been poorly constructed and may not last as long as you'd hoped. Having your garden designed and landscaped should be an exciting and rewarding process that leaves you with a beautiful garden that enhances both your life and your property, and using a professional garden designer gives you the assurance that you will get this with your project.

If you'd like to find out more about having your garden professionally designed, contact us today for a free initial consultation.

Heartwood Garden Design is a registered member of the Society of Garden Designers (SGD) and the British Association of Landscaping Industries (BALI)
Drought Conditions - Helping Your Hertfordshire Garden
It's been a tough few weeks for gardens in Hertfordshire. While hot days may be nice for us, hot weather and almost no rainfall can be spell disaster for a a garden. So here are some handy hints to help you manage your garden watering.

First of all - does the garden need watering?
If plants have been in the ground for 5 years or more, there should be no need to irrigate as plants should be well established and able to source water as the root systems will have settled in well. Check the soil too. Dig into the ground with a trowel, if the soil is damp a few inches below the surface level then there is generally no need to water. If the soil is dry at spade depth then watering is needed.

Handy Hints It sounds silly but many people don't know how to water properly and tend to water the foliage of plants rather than directly onto the soil under the leaf canopy. Directing water right towards the base of the plant is the most efficient way to water. If you have a spray gun, use the 'shower' setting to get the right flow of water rather than eroding the soil with a strong blast of water. Watering is best done either early in the morning or in the evening when less water is lost to evaporation in the heat of the day. Watering in the cooler hours really does save on water wastage. Remove any weeds or unwanted plants that are competing for water and nutrients with the plants you actually want to keep. If you've got lots of pots, if possible, move to a shadier position where transpiration rate of the plant will slow down in the darker conditions.
Mulch and work that soil Add a layer of organic matter to the soil if you can. Adding organic matter improves soil structure and moisture retention. This can be applied at any time of year and is vital if planting in the autumn to improve soil structure before the plants are planted. One of the most efficient ways to conserve water and reduce soil temperature around the roots is to mulch. Can’t say it enough - mulch, mulch, mulch! Mulch is best applied on moist soils after planting and watering to a depth of 5cm. Mulch as well as preserving water around the roots of plants also reduces fungal infection on plants from water stress. Mulch can be applied in beds, borders and containers. Keep any mulch away from the plant stems.

Organic Mulch Organic mulch eventually combines with the soil over time increasing organic matter, improving soil structure and moisture retention. Strulch - A light and easy to use garden mulch with a neutral pH lasting up to 2 years. Available in 150L bags Composted Bark. A fine grade composted bark of 0-8mm. Neutral pH. Available in bulk bags, loose and 50L bags. One of our Rhododendron growers recommends the use of composted bark on Rhododendrons. Border Bark. A larger grade bark 8-25mm mix of conifer bark. Great for use on larger beds. Available in bulk bags, loose and 60L bags Bark Pine Mini Mulch. Small neat pine chips perfect for use on smaller beds and to cover soil surfaces in containers. FSC sourced. Available in bulk bags, loose and 70L bags
Irrigation Systems

At the moment there is no hosepipe ban on the horizon, so hoses can still be used to irrigate newly laid lawns and new plantings. There are many choices of hose, nozzles and spray pistols many of which are adjustable to suit the material you are watering. Strong jets tend to misplace soil and reveal roots to the elements thus making root stress even higher and water uptake harder for the plant in the long run. Use a gentle setting to ensure the best water penetration to the soil.
Lawn sprinklers are great for watering large flat areas such as lawns as the name suggests. There are some excellent options on spikes that can be inserted into the lawn or on tripods where the height can be adjusted. Check for coverage when looking at sprinklers - range can vary from 64m2 to 320m2
Drip Irrigation is a great idea for newly installed planting as irrigation sprinklers can be placed directly at the base of the plant reaching the roots effectively and efficiently. Drip irrigation is surprisingly easy to install or you could try one of the starter kits. These are just the thing for containers.
Dripper tube provides a quick, simple and efficient method of watering plants. Each tube / pipe has integrated drippers long the pipe length to deliver water directly where needed. There is also an option for a self-regulating dripper tube that contains a self-regulating mechanism that ensures irrigation is delivered evenly along the length of the tube.
Drip irrigation is most effective when connected to an irrigation timer which can be programmed to deliver water at certain times of day thus eliminating stress and time.
Provender Nurseries are currently running an offer on certain irrigation products. Have a look on this link - Irrigation Offer.
Planting Trees Trees can still be planted at this time of year even under these conditions. We would recommend using a Root Rain Metro or Piddler Tree Irrigation system to get water right down to the roots where needed.
Plant Choice There is a lot to be said for the old saying’ right plant, right place’. If this weather is to continue over the next few years then it may be time to reconsider some plant choices that may make dealing with this kind of weather less stressful. Plant drought tolerant plants. Think Mediterranean / Think Beth Chatto Gravel Garden/ Think Native. Mediterranean plants are used to dealing with dry, hot conditions and as such will require less water to establish. Plants that are native to the UK are also used to adapting to conditions in the UK climate. There is a huge list of plants that will tolerate this hot dry spell including plants such as Lavandula, Cistus, Perovskia, Rosemarinus, many Herbs, Alpines, Geum, Iris, Nepeta, Stipa, Pittosporum, Buddleja, Buxus, Digitalis, Euphorbia,Trachelospermum, Eryngium, Verbascum, Convallaria, Artemisia, Sedum, Erigeron, Sarcococca, Papaver and Osteopsermum will all thrive in hot dry conditions. There are many other choices to select from too.
Plan Ahead Water butts. It may be a little too late for this season but you can install one now ready for use later in the year / next year.
Why use a garden designer for your Hertfordshire home?

Garden Design Hertfordshire

Many people choose to employ a garden designer because they just don't know where to begin when it comes to designing their garden. Working out how to make the best of an outdoor space, screen unattractive views, install well designed high quality hard landscaping and plants and how to light or even irrigate a garden can be a bit of a puzzle.
Garden Design Hertfordshire
Beautiful sweeping garden paths and an attractive seat

Harpenden resident Chris Berendt faced this problem with her new home: "The garden was very large, but completely empty. It was really just a blank canvas, but I had no idea how to go about turning it into a garden." Chris bought in Judy Shardlow from Heartwood Garden Design who developed a full garden design with lighting, irrigation, pergola arches, new trees and large planted borders with sweeping gravel paths.
Landscape Designer Hertfordshire

Gravel areas add year round interest and are a good habitat for beneficial insects

Judy said: "A good garden designer is like an expert advising friend who will develop a design for you that fits with your personal style as well as your life-style". It begins with a detailed garden survey recording what exists already and allow the future design to be planned. Concept boards, sketches and 3-D visuals are all used to develop the design. 3-D is particularly useful the design involves level changes or large features such as buildings, pergolas or large trees, which can often be difficult for the customer to visualise from a two dimensional plan.

Developing the overall plan is only part of what garden designer does. Detailed planting plans are also needed for each area, which are based on the style of the garden as well as the clients personal tastes and a designer will develop a palette of plants to suit both. Chris explains: "I wanted a garden full of sweeping plant borders that would be full of colour and scent in the summer and winter. Having an expert on hand to specify plants that will provide a succession of colour was one of the reasons that I wanted to employ a garden designer."

A garden designer will also advise on the appointment of a landscape contractor to build the garden and often are familiar with specialists such as willow weavers, specialist joiners and lighting suppliers. Designers also have great relationships with plant and tree nurseries which ensure that the garden is planted with the best quality plants and trees. Designers often 'introduce' clients to a number of reputable landscapers who will build the garden. "This is particularly important" explains Judy, "There is a lot of variation in quality in the landscaping industry and building a garden is an investment, one which it's important to get right. Designers provide a full landscaping brief, materials specification and construction drawings which explain exactly how the garden is to be built. This is part of the reassurance of using a designer on a project.

Chris's garden is now well into its third year, so what does she think?

"The garden is stunning and we were so pleased with how it has turned out that we asked Judy to design a children's play area and to design our large front garden, which is currently being built. We could never have achieved our beautiful back garden without the input of a designer, it has style, intrigue, beautiful features and areas for seating in sun and shade and we spend so much time enjoying it. Employing a garden designer has been an investment in our lives that we enjoy every day."

Interested in getting a quote for your garden? Get in touch here
Gardener Hertfordshire

Gravel areas add year round interest and are a good habitat for beneficial insects
Hertfordshire Garden Design

The garden before - empty and bleak!

Gardener Hertfordshire

Relaxing in the garden
Summer is the time for relaxing in the garden. The weather at this time of year is starting to get too hot and dry for planting or re-organising. So take time to smell the flowers. Peaceful, tranquil seating and dining areas are at the heart of every garden and it’s important to identify areas in your garden for relaxing as well as the perfect pieces of garden furniture.

Every garden needs at least two seating areas, one in the sun and one in full or partial shade. There’s nothing like taking your breakfast in the sunny spot in your garden, but by midday in July and August you’ll be longing for a piece of cool shade.

The other key factor is security and comfort. When we relax we have a primal need to feel safe, which in the garden translates into not feeling overlooked or watched and having the protection of a wall or hedge to your back. Comfort is also key. On long summer days you want the plump cushions, leg room and stretching-out space that you also enjoy indoors.

Finally think about your garden style, contemporary gardens need contemporary furniture, but Mediterranean gardens suit a more rustic style. Find something that fits your style, but above all find furniture that’s so comfortable you’ll nod off while enjoying the peace of your garden.


Placing Garden Furniture

For help organising your garden and placing garden furniture, find out about our Garden Coaching service.
Hertfordshire Life March 2016
This year I’m going to be doing more to support pollinators in my garden. I never use pesticides in my garden. I work on the basis that I can live with the annoyingly industrious ants, which dig up parts of my lawn, because a stunning green woodpecker will turn up regularly to eat them. Equally, I let the aphid population flourish without reaching for the bug spray because it means that the blue tits, and lady birds that I love will also flourish. It’s difficult to prove that pesticides are directly responsible for the decline in our valuable pollinators, but if the risk is there we should avoid using them.

One thing I’ve never done before is to build a solitary bee home. It’s a collection of drilled logs, bamboo cans and pinecones which create a nesting habitat for solitary bees. As the name implies, they don’t belong to a colony or store honey, they’re also harmless. But they do mosey around the garden doing a fantastic job of pollinating our fruit and vegetables. A single red mason bee is equivalent to 120 worker honeybees in the pollination it provides. There are over 200 different species of solitary bee in the UK although many are declining in numbers at a worrying rate. Apparently February is the best month of the year to put a ‘bug hotel’ into your garden in a sheltered south or south-east facing spot about one metre off the ground. Give it a try.

Top Tips for March Gardens

Prune early flowering clematis
Spring clematis (group 1) are lightly pruned after flowering, but only to retain a good general shape.

Feed and mulch
Give large shrubs and trees a handful of pelleted chicken manure and mulch borders with garden compost or composted bark.

Wake up your Dahlias
Dahlia tubers that were dug up and overwintered indoors can now be potted up in the greenhouse.
Lift snowdrops
Increase groups of snowdrops by lifting, dividing and re-planting after flowering.   

Try something new
New compact white groundcover Clematis ‘Emerald Dream’ is perfect for a bank in sun or partial shade and flowers in April.
The Gardening Coach - January 2016
January can be a bit depressing, which is why it’s important to do at least one ‘life-affirming’ gardening job this month. These types of jobs are basically a prescription for physical and mental well-being. Do these jobs and you’ll soon be boasting about how green fingered you are. 

Start by sowing some delicious pea shoots. Soak dried peas in warm water and sow into a tray of seed compost. Within days fresh, green ready-to-eat pea shoots of goodness will be poking through the soil. Cut and add to salads and risottos and you’ll boost your healthy-eating credentials as well as your gardening ones.

Next, plant a small tree or shrub, like the lovely Pearl Bush (Exochorda × macrantha 'The Bride'), which will burst into stunning arches of white blossom in April.

 Finally, do a bit of mulching, (but avoid emerging bulbs). Start with an area closest  to the house and lay 5-10cm of composted bark over any bare soil, taking care not to cover dormant perennials. Then go indoors and make yourself a nice cup of tea and admire your handiwork from the window.

Top Tips for January

Enjoy some chocolate
You may be on a health drive but you can still indulge in gorgeous the gorgeous new Hellebore ‘Harvington double chocolate’ which flowers from February to April.

Prune grasses
Perennial grasses like Miscanthus can be cut to the ground by the end of January before new green growth begins.

Tackle wisteria
Wisterias are pruned in two stages. In January it’s time to prune whippy stems back to two buds to maximise flowering in July.
Divide winter aconites
Beautiful butter yellow winter aconites can be dig up and divided after flowering, but leave the foliage in place to die back naturally.

Plan ahead
Ordering flower seeds now, such wonderful  Rudbeckia hirta ‘Cherry Brandy’, to sow indoors in March will get your garden off to a great start as spring arrives.
The Gardening Coach - December 2015
I took this picture last winter at Anglesey Abbey Gardens and it made me realise what stunning effects can be achieved with simple garden lighting. In our gardens we tend to think of lighting as having a functional purpose, lighting paths and steps and perhaps illuminating the occasional feature tree. But if we view garden lighting as purely functional we’re really missing out on the colour and drama that can be created by feature lighting, which is particularly important during long dark winter months. I’ve recently designed a garden which included lighting a huge 50ft blue cedar (Cedrus atlantica), using a large blue uplighter sunk into the lawn. The effect was spectacular, with the intricate shape of the cedar branches breathtakingly backlit in blue. But you don’t need a 50ft cedar to achieve incredible lighting effects, small garden trees often have great structure and can look equally impressive when uplit. Warm white or cool white lighting in gardens can look nice, but why not be bold and try purples, blues, greens and even red lighting? It creates a theatrical effect, bringing a whole new dimension to a garden.

Top Tips for December

Plant wallflowers with tulips
Try perennial wallflower Erynsimum ‘Winter Orchid’ with beautiful flame coloured tulip ‘Ballerina’.

Plant a tree
Bare-root or container grown trees can be planted now. Amelanchier  lamarckii is a beautiful tree for smaller garden.

Plant evergreen shrubs
Evergreen shrubs aren’t just green - Variegated shrubs such as the new plant Photinia ‘Pink Crispy’ has stunning ‘marbled’ green and pink foliage!
Plant winter flowering heather
Winter flowering heather such as Erica x darleyensis ‘Kramer’s Rote’, is beautiful and lime tolerant, so ideal for clay soil.

Spike lawns
Now is the best time to aerate compacted lawns with a garden fork or hollow tine aerator. You can also brush in sharp sand to improve drainage.
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