Laying a patio can be a rewarding project that’s not going to break the bank – or your back – if you do it properly.
Planning is crucial. First, think about what you want to achieve and where it is going to be. Patios don’t have to be right outside the back door. Decide if you’ll be using it mostly in the mornings or afternoons or evenings, and plan accordingly for maximum sun.
Choose a spot with some shade and shelter – it will be no fun with a constant gale roaring across it. Mark out your space using a hosepipe then move it around until you’re happy. If you’re not sure, stick some chairs and a table and see how roomy it feels. Add another third on to the size if you can. Once you’re happy, mark it out using stakes and string and remove the top soil to around ten inches. Add a good six to eight inches of sand for the paving stones to rest on then use a long piece of wood to level it out.
When it comes to laying slabs, you need a spirit level to make sure they are just right. A rubber mallet will firm them down without marking or cracking them. Don’t go for the traditional rectangular block on the back of the garden. Lay paving stones away from the house, diamond-side on. It will give the illusion of size and elongate the space as the eye naturally follows the pattern.
In general, lighter colours such as golds, silvers and light greys make your garden feel brighter and larger. Darker greys will create a more intimate space. Add interest by leaving lanes unpaved to fill with coloured gravel or herbs. Or leave out slabs to plant trees in. Include a circular pattern in the middle – why not put a tree or fountain at the centre?
Try mixing and matching colours and think about container plants that will enhance your patio experience. Scent is a good idea. Plant honeysuckle, jasmine or a climbing rose up a trellis in a larger container. On my patio, I’m lucky enough to have a night-scented phlox. They are covered in dainty, circular flowers, each about the size of a five pence piece. And it comes to life after dark as its fragrance explodes. Sitting out after a long day’s work, with a beer or glass of wine, is even more of a treat.