At London Stone we aim to understand our clients, so we weren’t surprised when Sales Director Chris Durnford decided to redesign and build his front garden himself. But what exactly did he learn about the trials of a landscaper?
First, the project. Practicalities demanded a design that would allow a car to be parked in front of the house. The driveway was already laid with acceptable red and black pavers, but the main area was already suffering from the weight of the car and needed an improved build. “The slabs that were there had been loosely laid on sand and mud and had started to sink,” says Chris, “and they got very muddy in the rain.”
Enthused by the RHS’s Greening Grey Britain campaign aimed at halting the current craze for completely paving over frontages, Chris was inspired by a garden designed by Janine Pattison. “Janine had created a driveway, but incorporated raised areas, pebbles, and trees. It was low maintenance, but included vegetation and was interesting to look at.”
For the main paving, Chris chose Grey Yorkstone; a firm favourite with designers and landscapers alike. “It’s a British stone which I really like,” he says, “and I was able to keep costs down by sourcing offcuts and spares from our factory. The slabs that I have include natural markings and the grey of the stone and the white of the pebbles matched-in with the house and existing driveway.” To create low-maintenance beds, and offset the grey paving, Chris chose to use our aggregate White Sky Pebbles, laid on Weed Blocker.
The Grey Yorkstone was 600mm wide but of random lengths, and Chris decided on a random course pattern, which he worked out using Sketch-Up. “It wasn’t the best drawing, but it looked good!”
Even though Grey Yorkstone is a very dense stone, Chris had it pre-sealed using Dry Treat Stain Proof. This was partly because he opted to use GftK sweep-in mortar, as we recommend pre-sealing when using this on a sawn stone, as this helps avoid staining whilst pointing, as well as aiding the movement of the mortar across the stone’s surface and into the joints. “Some people think GftK is too coarse to use with sawn stone and feel that it does not look good, but I visited a site where it has been used with Sawn Buff Yorkstone and it worked really well.”
We recommend pre-sealing if you’re paving a driveway too, as there’s plenty of dirt brought in on tyres, and Chris has seen the benefits for himself. “When it rains, the water runs-off easily and takes some of the dirt away with it.”
But what did building it teach him? “I got some materials delivered from a Builder’s Merchant one weekend, and had to think about where to store them and how we could still use our driveway. It brought home just how disruptive it could be if a delivery wasn’t made on time.”
The advantages of a digger were soon clear, too, as he dug the foundations out by hand. “That was quite an effort!” says Chris. “I could have hired a digger, but after starting and getting over halfway by hand I had to finish just to prove a point. It took the whole weekend.”
After laying the foundations, Chris spent a day laying 18.5 m2 with the help of his father and landscaper-friend Matt Johnson, who runs Highgrove Landscaping, based in Northants.
“I wanted to lay the stone as per the Recommended Laying Guide we send to our customers at London Stone. We recommend laying on a semi-dry mix, which I found proved easier. Too dry, and the stones are difficult to level and don’t adhere properly, too wet and the paving almost floats.”
With the finishing touch of Mediterranean planting; olive trees, lavender and Mexican daisies — to stand up to the south-facing position, Chris is really pleased with the way it has turned out, and all the more aware of the many issues faced by landscapers on a daily basis.
“I’m really glad I undertook the project. I met three neighbours I hadn’t spoken to before, who were interested in what I was doing, so there was a feeling of community. But I was also able to test-out our London Stone recommendations, and get a real feel of the stages and likely difficulties that our clients face. It’s an experience that I can pass-on to the rest of our Sales Team, and really understand exactly what landscaper's need, and when they need it.”