Landscaping falls into two categories; hard and soft. The majority of landscaping contractors carry out both types of work. Hard landscaping products comprise of paving, block paving, and water features. Soft landscaping covers planting, lawned areas and tree planting....more
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Once built the surroundings of any new structure require landscaping to ensure it blends in with the natural surroundings. Most people consider the aesthetics of the external environment of their home, or workplace, to be very important. Poorly landscaped areas, especially within cities, have negative effects on building occupants and may even promote antisocial behaviour. Landscaping principally comprises 'soft' and 'hard' landscaped areas. Soft areas generally include natural features, such as lawns, embankments and planting, where as hard areas generally include driveways, patios and car parking facilities. Many landscaping products are offered by landscaping companies and landscaping specialists to cater for your every need.
The amount of soft landscaping specified for projects is generally governed by the size of the building footprint compared to the total area of the site. Structures are usually built to maximise the usage of the site area, i.e. they are built with minimal landscaped areas to maximise floor space. Landscape designs have to be compiled whilst considering implications such as maintenance, life span and aesthetics. Planning constraints outlined under the planning conditions for the site may also have to be taken in to account and satisfied.
Within a residential environment soft landscaping traditionally comprises a lawn area, at the rear and or at the front of the house. Lawns are aesthetically pleasing and can act as recreational and focal centre points for properties. Once the total area of the lawn has been decided various items can be purchased and used to complement the overall appearance of the landscaped area. Lawns along with other external landscaping features may generally be referred to as a 'garden'.
For new build properties where time constraints may be an issue tuff can be purchased to create an instantaneous grassed lawn area. If time constraints do not apply a cheap alternative is to prepare the ground and sow grass seeds. Where the natural topsoil layer at the site is thin, or of poor quality, topsoil may need to be imported to the site to aid grass and plant growth. Imported topsoil or natural soils present on site could be used to create subtle features such as embankments to further enhance any landscape appearance.
Once the landscape design has been finalised Landscape contractors can be employed to create a wide range of landscaping features. They will provide their own equipment and can cater for both hard and soft landscape requirements. In a residential environment they will usually go by the names of a garden landscaper and can provide a complete landscape gardening service if needed. Many landscape gardeners will offer a maintenance service to keep new or established gardens in tip top condition. Services offered may be small scale tree surgery, lawn mowing, border weeding and seasonal planting services. On a commercial scale large landscape contractors may typically undertake the landscaping of landfill sites or new road embankments with some having access to specialist grass seeding and earthmoving equipment.
Trees are often seen as key features of any well designed and implemented landscaped area, however, depending on their species, they may take many years to reach an appreciative size. To bypass much of this process semi mature trees can be purchased from a number of tree transplantation specialists. Alternatively a transplantation specialist can be employed to move the location of an existing tree at the site. Arboricultural services can be sort from an arboriculturist who will be able to advise on the implications of using different tree types. Hedging and shrubs form the essential part of any landscaping project and can be purchased in bulk from nurseries at competitive prices.
Hard landscaping is also an essential part of any development whether it is residential or industrial. Hard landscaping is generally functional and may take the form of access roads, patios and footpaths. Landscape designers have to balance form with functionality to achieve the best overall landscape solution.
One of most popular hard landscaping features are paving systems. Paving systems can be incorporated into garden areas and many industrial or commercial buildings. They can be used to provide footways and access paths amongst areas of soft landscaping to guide users in and around buildings. Paving systems are generally composed of either concrete paving slabs or bricks, although some may be composed of wooden tiles or timbers for a rustic appearance. Paving slabs, also referred to as paviors, may be manufactured from concrete or natural stone. They are available in a wide range of colours and offer a durable surface if laid correctly. A number of companies produce cast stone paviors, designed to imitate natural stone, and manufactured from concrete with colouring additives which often contain real crushed stone particles. Both natural paving stones and cast stone paving slabs are popular alternatives to the traditional concrete paving slab for residential locations, due to their natural appearance. In recent decades patios, generally constructed from paving slabs or cast concrete, have become important hardstanding features within many residential gardens, with many contractors now specialising in only patio design and installation. A variety of specialist textured composite and rubber pavers can be obtained for applications such as children's play areas.
Landscapers must also consider including hard landscaping solutions to enable car parking at, and car access to, buildings. The most widely used method of doing this is to install a tarmac driveway or access track. Tarmac offers an instant low maintenance solution and is favoured over concrete for its ability to accommodate slight settlements, which would typically produce cracks within concrete. It is conventional to finish drive and access roads with kerb stones to prevent soft landscaping from being damaged. A recent trend is to use block paving to finish residential driveways. Block paving comprises bricks laid on edge and embedded within an underlying layer of sand. The bricks, termed block pavers, are either manufactured from concrete or natural fired clay. Many driveway paving contractors exist and will be able to advise on specific surface finishes and specifications.
A number of ornate cast stone concrete products, such as stepping stones and imitation stone troughs can be used to form cost effective and eye catching features within residential gardens.
Water features, also part of the hard landscaping category, have been used for hundreds of years to provide a strong focal point within country estate gardens and parks. Today their usage continues and their prominence within a landscape can not be overlooked. Water features, or water fountains, can be designed to be as ornate possible or as simple as possible depending on the design brief. Many water features incorporate human statues and animals, whilst some may simply comprise a single water fountain.