Garden Design

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Hard Landscaping Know-How

It is probably safe to assume that most garden designers join the profession because they love either planting or design and sometimes both. However, it is less likely that they will profess a huge knowledge of construction and yet it is hard landscaping that forms the foundation for most designs.

Today's designers are expected to know in detail how to construct driveways, patios, pergolas, raised beds and so much more. They may not actually have to carry out the construction themselves but they must know how it should be done so that accurate specifications for work can be provided for contractors.

A new designer can find this very daunting especially when working with a contractor who may have been in the business for more years than the designer's been alive! The teaching of construction varies from course to course and therefore designers often need to find easy-to-understand and accurate sources of information. Two of the best are Michael Littlewood's series of books Landscape Detailing and A J McCormack's website

Paving Expert websiteTony McCormack's website 'does exactly what it says on the tin' - the man is a paving expert! The construction company of A J McCormack and Son was begun by Tony's father in 1957 working mainly for Local Authorities and Tony more or less grew up on a building site. In 1990 he branched out on his own into domestic paving at a time when block paving production hugely increased so bringing it's use into the mass market. Unfortunately in 1997 Tony was involved in a serious accident that meant life on a building site came to an end and three years later a heart attack told him it was time to take even more care of himself. The website started in 1997 with a single page created for a friend to explain how to construct a block paved patio and is now a massive site that promotes best practice and best products with a free exchange of information between the three major participants: contractors, manufacturers and general public.

If it comes under the general label of paving, drainage or hard landscaping it is almost certain you will find all the information you could ever wish for here. Information is easy to locate by simply entering key words into the search box. There are easy to understand diagrams and all the technical information is written in layman's terms. If the answer to a very specific question is required there is also a forum where questions can be left that Tony will always answer as quickly as he can.

(Tony has also published Driveways, Paths and Patios for those that would like to add to their library. Read a review of this book.)

This site is invaluable to any designer in so many ways. Not only can it give confidence in knowing specifications are correct but also can be an excellent back-up if a client finds it difficult to accept that a new patio needs quite such a large hole!

Landscape Detailing

Landscape DetailingMichael Littlewoods' Landscape Detailing books come in a series of four: Enclosures, Surfaces, Structures and Water. Each book contains technical guidance notes on design and construction along with scale drawings of the construction detail. These can be traced or scanned for direct incorporation into contract drawings that can save a designer a huge amount of time and are a vital part of any designer's library. Individual books are separated into different sections covering various aspects of the book's topic. For example Enclosures contains information on copings, cappings and bonds; free-standing walls; screen walls; retaining walls; fences; gates and stiles; barriers. Extra information such as British standards, manufacturers and suppliers and graphic symbols are included in the detailed Appendices. Buy this book.

Michael is hugely experienced in horticulture and garden design having qualified as a landscape architect in New Zealand and subsequently working in England, Wales, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Greece and Portugal. His mission is the introduction of ecological design and planning into the mainstream and is founded on his years of working in a wide variety of situations, landscapes and climates all around the world.

Asking a designer to know everything about construction is a tall order but with these sources of information at their finger-tips anyone can be confident they have the required knowledge to produce work of the highest standard.

© Sharon Brown 25th May 2008

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