Decorative Stone Uses For Landscaping

One of the benefits resulting from the diminishing rainfall now being experienced Australia wide is the growing realisation by the community that there are alternatives to the vast areas of lawn traditionally found around suburban houses.

The new trend toward smaller property sizes has also caused people to look at more practical uses that could be made of the surrounds to their homes.

One of the fastest growth areas experienced over the past 5 years has been the increased usage of decorative pebbles. Landscapers and homeowners basically have two main sources for these pebbles and stones.

Natural coloured stones can be sourced throughout Australia, under licence, from old river and creek beds where their removal does not harm the ecosystem. These stones are quarried, then tumbled to give a smooth rounded edge which adds a touch of class wherever used. Local decorative pebbles are increasingly being used throughout the landscaping of new display homes to provide a low maintenance, low water requirement home environment. Attractive exterior inorganic mulches like pebbles suppress weeds and retain soil moisture when applied over already moist soil. They don’t break down over time and with the wide range of colours available can look great providing a modern stylish garden appearance.

The alternative source of decorative pebbles is the growing range of colours and sizes available in the imported pebbles. Whilst the initial major source of these was from non enviro-friendly areas of beaches and rivers in India and Indonesia, the recent trend had been to the wide range of natural coloured pebbles which are manufactured particularly in China and Italy. The two types of pebbles sourced are either polished and waxed or are manufactured stone that is tumbled from quarried rock to the desired size.

Polished pebbles are sourced from huge mounds of pebbles produced as a by-product to sand mining operations. Stacks up to 4 metres high and covering areas as large as a football field provide the pebbles that are hand picked for the colour required (usually black). These pebbles are then taken to local villages where they are polished by tumbling, then waxed and bagged.
Imported decorative pebbles are increasingly being used in a wide variety of applications including interior and exterior landscaping, roofscaping and the latest trend in decorative concrete – “seeded exposed aggregate”.

One of the many aspects drawing landscape architects and designers to this finish is the complete versatility in design and colour produced by the product. With over 100 different colour oxides available to select from for the concrete colour the wide range of over 40 different colours pebbles available provide a limitless colour combination to work with.

Apart from colour selections, designers can also incorporate exciting features in the project works. Polystyrene cut-outs which are set in the concrete when the initial pour is done can be subsequently removed and replaced with a contrasting feature concrete/pebble combination. Side borders can vary, from the many decorative pavers and bricks available, to hand laid pebble borders using any of the 100+ colours and sizes available.

A particularly popular range of pebbles are sourced from an Italian marble manufacturer who tumbles marble off-cuts to provide a colourful range of smooth edged marble pebbles. These environment friendly pebbles contain all the variations naturally found in marble providing an exceedingly decorative and appealing appearance.

Balance Is the Key to a Happy Landscape

Balance is important in all types of art, architecture, decorating, and especially in landscaping. With balance all things become equal in a particular setting. It is not always as simple as I make it out to be, but I will put it into terms that simplify it a bit for the inexperienced and the do-it-yourself types among us.

To achieve a sense of balance gardens, landscapes, and other environments whether natural or unnatural, need to be equally proportioned, otherwise the natural look and feel of balance will not be obtained. The majority of landscapes lack symmetrical form. They are most often asymmetrical and lack the balance that would make them more inviting and comfortable. To landscape properly can many times depend on other aspects to bring balance and harmonize that particular environment by uniting the available elements.

Often, the shortage of balance is a result of a need for repetition, or patterns. A pattern of like elements whether it be shrubs, flowers, or stones throughout a particular landscape can bring together separate areas. It only takes a single repeated patterned plant type, hue, type of decor, or fence to make this happen.

A balance shortage is commonly made by putting too much or all elements that fail to match in a single landscape. This will lead to a mess by the time the plants are mature and make for an uncomfortable habitat. At the outset of your planning, less is more, put only a few matching plants about the landscape, and make sure any other matching is very little. You will always be able to add int the future as you see fit.

Most problems people have with landscaping choices are those of shape. Shape is different in every landscape and the shapes you decide on should fill your wants and desires. But, many shapes even overflowing with positives are still boring, empty, ugly, messy, and without balance. Balance sometimes depends on shape, but not in every situation. I wouldn’t dwell on trying to achieve balance through shape.

Landscaping is subject to all the influencing elements that all other types of art are influenced by. Pattern, togetherness, and balance are an important part of any landscape and work together to make it beautiful.

Building designers and interior decorators utilize pattern. They make entrances, colors, molding, overhangs, and such all similar in shape and size. If everything in your home was different it would look rather ugly. It would be a hard place to live and be happy. The same applies to landscapes and gardens.

To make a landscape appealing and inviting we need repeating patterns. Only one matching element in opposing ends of the landscape can bring it together.

The easiest way to achieve it is by using plants, shrubs and grasses. But paths, fences, and walls can also be used to reach the ultimate goal. Which is Balance. Visit http://landscapingideas.houston-forum.com for more great landscaping tips.

Landscape Decorating – Another Great Way to Add an Amazing View From Your Kitchen Window

We have already covered how to create a magnificent floral view from your kitchen garden window with a planter box, trellis, and vines. Here is another very attractive and even simpler way of creating a visually enticing view from inside.

We have all seen or even have in our patios a decorative and very functional pergola patio cover. Decorative for the numerous designs we can consider, and functional from the much needed shade they provide. As we will also sometimes see, miniature sized pergolas are often constructed and mounted directly over one or several windows of a home or garage.

With that in mind, why not mount a mini-pergola over your kitchen garden window to display hanging baskets on both sides? With slim top slats spaced enough to provide sunlight, you can still receive filtered light through the top slanted portion of the window. Note, you never want to mount hanging baskets over the top of the window for one reason. Every time you water, the dirty runoff will cascade down over your window, keeping it from every truly being clean.

The design is simple since the weight of the hanging baskets it will bear is minimal, and you will not be placing anything on the top of the pergola itself. Traditional patio pergolas are supported with 4in. X 4in. or larger posts. Our mini-pergola will not require this, and proportional to its smaller size, will use individually smaller wood framing members than our standard patio pergola.

Here are the supplies you will need:

  • 2 plant hanging corbel style brackets: These must be flat surfaced on two sides for mounting on the surface of the house just off both sides of the garden window, and for securing the wood pergola members on top. Be sure to use exterior brackets, or spray interior type brackets you want to use with a weather resistant finish. They should also have two screw holes on each flat surface. Two for mounting the brackets to the surface of the house, and two for mounting the mini pergola on top of the brackets.
  • Mounting hardware for the brackets appropriate for the surface of your house (e.g. concrete anchors for stucco surfaces)
  • Two smaller round or square hanging baskets
  • Wood slats proportional in size to the dimensions of the garden window: Use your own judgment, but slimmer slats than what you see on larger pergolas do work better and appear more pleasing to the eye.
  • Wood screws

Step 1: Measure the width of your garden window. Then, measure the diameter of your round hanging basket, or the square length of your square basket, whichever you decide to use. The goal here is to leave enough clearance for basket sway in the event of stronger than normal wind conditions. Your best bet is to take the measurements of your hanging basket and add about 8 inches of clearance from the rim of the basket to the edge of the garden window to allow for wind swing. Mark a spot directly above the center point of the basket on the house surface where you will mount the brackets. It should be at a height that allows for clearance of the mini pergola above the top frame of the window. Because the mini pergola needs to be level with the top of the window, make sure your points for mounting the brackets assure that. One suggestion is to have someone help you hold a 2in x 4in. or other long straight piece of wood connecting the points on each side. Use a level to make sure everything is indeed level before going ahead with the next step.

Step 2: Installing your pergola. Whichever size wood members you decide to use, you will need to pre drill two of them at the point where they will be secured to the top of the plant hanging brackets. They can extend beyond the width of the two brackets, but make sure they are centered before marking your place for drilling in to the wood. Prior to installing your wood framing for the pergola, it might be a good idea to seal, paint, or stain the wood to protect it from the elements. You can attach your two wood slats to the top of the brackets using the appropriate sized machine screws with washers and nuts.

Step 3: Now, once you have installed the first two wood slats, you will want to secure two to three shorter crossing slats that will hold the entire framework together to the underside of your first two longer slats that run along the top. Position them evenly where you think they should be attached, and mark your spot on the longer wood slats where you will need to drill to attach them together. Once marked, drill your holes, use a pencil to mark where to drill on the crossing slats by holding them underneath the already drilled longer slats, and attach all together with the appropriate sized machine screws. You can now easily attach any remaining longer slats to fill in the gaps between the first two longer slats that were already installed. Just position them in place, mark the spot on the top of the crossing slats where to drill, and once both connecting pieces are drilled, attach them with machine screws and washers and nuts. As an alternative, you can also attach all of the wood members with the appropriate sized wood screws. Your work is done. Find some nice plants and enjoy your new mini pergola!