Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Easy maintenance front yards with spaces for cars

A car parking space doesn't have to be purely functional: it can also look attractive. The golden rule is that the larger the parking area, the greater the need will be to break up the monotonous appearance of paving. This can be done in several ways: by introducing a variety of textures and colors; by using more than one paving material; by creating a single central bed, either circular or elliptical, which is positioned so that cars can easily drive right round it; or by adding ornamental edging or clusters of containers.

Easy-care driveways

Solid construction is vital for an area regularly driven over by vehicles. You will need at least 15cm of firmly compacted road base for the foundations. The surface material you choose depends on the look you want to achieve and how much time is available for maintenance. Because of its soft appearance and versatility, gravel is good for large areas and those that are curved or have an irregular shape. It is cheap and easy to lay, and its natural color and texture blend well with most building materials, architectural styles and surroundings. The crunching sound made by walking on it also acts as a good burglar deterrent. However, to look smart, gravel needs occasional raking and weed control. It also needs a firm edge to stop stones from 'creeping' into other areas.

A variety of paving materials helps to break up the appearance of this driveway. A curved raised bed filled with evergreens and mulched with gravel keeps the workload to a minimum and makes access straightforward.

Gravel allows water to drain through it naturally, but hard paving materials must be laid with a slight slope for efficient drainage. Pavers are durable, clean and practical. Traditional sets are small, cube-like, usually granite blocks that are very hard-wearing. Concrete is comparatively inexpensive, but may look austere, although companies specializing in pattern imprinting can produce a decorative finish. Other options include asphalt and exposed aggregate.

Planting in driveways

At the edges of the driveway, plant tough plants, such as ground-covering juniper or creeping thymes, which will survive an occasional clipping by a car tire. Many ornamental grasses and sedges are suitable for this position too: bronze-colored Carex comans and white-striped Carex oshimensis 'Variegata' add evergreen foliage that cascades over the edge of the paving. For a shady drive, choose hardy ferns such as Doodia aspera or tough mondo grass. In a central bed choose robust, low-growing plants, such as Ajuga reptans 'Multicolor', gazania or Grevillea 'Poorinda Royal Mantle'.

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