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Softening 'concrete' flagstones in a victorian coutryard garden

Discussion in 'Gardening Discussions' started by Clydesdalestu, Feb 10, 2018.

  1. Clydesdalestu

    Clydesdalestu Apprentice Gardener

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    Hi. We moved into a beautiful Victorian townhouse last year and because it had been empty for some time, the garden was an absolute jungle. I spent the summer hacking back, thinning out, weeding, throwing, and just associating myself with the space. I got things clear enough to sit out in, just as summer drew to a close! As winter has driven back a lot of the foliage, I've really had a chance to see what I'm dealing with and the biggest, ugliest issue of them all is the 'standard' 400mm square paving slabs that have been used to pave the entire courtyard. Some of them are 'nicely patina'd' and have some degree of moss and lichen growing on them to detract from their starkness, but there is still no getting away from their brutal ugliness. As it's a rented house, I don't want to replace them, so I wondered if anyone had any ideas on how to soften their impact. They are (mostly) butted up really close to each other and some are mortared between the joints, so I'd struggle to plant Thyme or other herbs between them. I've wondered about brushing some soil & wildflower mix into the gaps and cracks that ARE visible, but didn't know if that would work? I'm looking for quite a wildflower/ cottage garden feel anyway, so any ideas along these lines would be great. I'd also like to break up the monotonous 'grid like' pattern they're laid in, so any suggestions about removing odd slabs and planting in between would also be greatly appreciated.Garden.JPG
     
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    • Doghouse Riley

      Doghouse Riley Head Gardener

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      Quite honestly, I don't think they look bad. They've been well laid. Some have been removed to provide opportunities for planting already. If you scour out the gaps between the slabs and brush in soil, you're as likely to get weeds as well as anything you attempt to grow in such little soil that would be available. If you want more moss you could try brushing some natural yoghurt into the gaps.
      As it's a rented house I'd leave it as it is. You could add more pots. Some owners are a bit touchy about alterations. I've seen far worse gardens presented as a completed project. As it is many of us would suggest that it's an ideal "low maintenance" garden.

      Others with more vision than I, may offer some alternative advice.
       
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      • 2nd_bassoon

        2nd_bassoon Gardener

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        I sympathise @Clydesdalestu - my previous (rented) house was similar, a lovely little fisherman's cottage with very ugly patio paving in the small garden. I would be hesitant to encourage too much growth bettween slabs, as Doghouse says your just as likely to get weeds as anything and they're a nightmare to remove from between/underneath paving. I would go pots, pots and more pots, of all different shapes and sizes - with the added bonus that you can take them with you when you move on!
         
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        • Irmemac

          Irmemac Super Gardener

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          You could also consider taking out some more slabs in the foreground, in order to form a sort of dog leg shaped path. That would give it a less uniform look. Might be an idea to keep the lifted slabs though so they can go back down if the owner prefers when you leave. I also think @2nd_bassoon's idea of lots of pots is a good one. If you create enough alternative interest for the eyes the slabs will be less noticeable.

          It's a lovely garden, with scope for being a real haven of tranquility, and already it looks nice. Hope you have fun with it, you've obviously worked hard already :dbgrtmb:.
           
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          • Sandy Ground

            Sandy Ground Total Gardener

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            I partially agree with the comment @Irmemac made. Make some kind of dog leg path. Rather than do it by removing flags though, use raised beds and/or larger planters. Give it a kind of Victorian Courtyard garden look that is in keeping with the house.

            Possibly some kind of raised pond could be worked into it as well.

            Why the Norwegian flag?:dunno:
             
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            • Selleri

              Selleri Gardener

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              What a lovely garden you have, great trees and a sense of tranquility. :snooze: I agree with everybody, containers could be the answer. Go for very big ones (min. 50cm) with permanent planting as a backbone, and add smaller ones for "seasonal interest" (= impulse purchases :snorky:).

              The garden looks quite shady in places so bold, evergreen ferns might be stunning and Sarococca would also be a lovely evergreen winter flowering option.

              I have been in similar situation for years so a lot of my gardening happens in containers. I have learnt to go big, ignore the usual neat suggestions and just give a try for anything I like. Containers are easy to move if the spot seems too dark or hot.

              It's also possible to have a small pond in a container, and even a solar powered fountain for a sound of moving water. Bird feeders and nesting boxes would bring some fauna in :)

              But please Clydesdalestu, please enlighten us... why the Norwegian flag? :biggrin:
               
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              • Clydesdalestu

                Clydesdalestu Apprentice Gardener

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                Thank you all for your kind suggestions - we did opt for pots at the latter end of last year, so I guess we'll just have to expand on that again this spring. I did play with the idea of 'forcing' a path, so I think I'll give that a go too.

                Ha, ok, the story of the Norwegian Flag........... When we moved in, we were constantly 'bothered' by a massive (and I mean massive) cat, constantly sitting by the back door, trying to get in if you left it open and generally trying to get into the house. Having spoken with the neighbours, nobody seemed to know where he came from, but one of them was letting him sleep in their shed on cold nights. Over the weeks / months, my wife became very attached to him, to the point where she took him to the vets to see if he was chipped, so that we could trace his owners (he was and the vets tried to contact them twice, but with no reply). Fast forward a year and now 'Beef' (as he has been re-christened) is 100% a key member of the family, having been officially adopted by us.

                If you look at the photo closely, you'll note that the flag is actually attached to a strange, wooden, turf filled trolly with 'BEEF' written on the side. As we have no grass for him to lay in, I created the 'Beef-o-sphere', his own little grassy haven which can be towed (thanks to its rope handle) into any sunny spot in the garden. The reason Beef is so big (around 6 kg) is because he's actually a Norwegian Forest Cat, a beautiful, but huge breed that can grow up to around 16lbs (7kg). Hence he has claimed the 'Beef-o-sphere' as Norwegian Territory.........
                 

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                • Sandy Ground

                  Sandy Ground Total Gardener

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                  Have you ever took notice of how he climbs down a tree? Its very typical of cats here in Scandinavia, but rather untypical of some others...:snorky:
                   
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                  • Clydesdalestu

                    Clydesdalestu Apprentice Gardener

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                    Yes! And he uses exactly the same technique to traverse the vertical sides of the shed, when he's finished sunbathing on the roof!
                     
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                    • Selleri

                      Selleri Gardener

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                      Why of course! :doh::heehee:

                      I guess Wikipedia should be updated List of possessions of Norway - Wikipedia
                       
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                      • Irmemac

                        Irmemac Super Gardener

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                        What a fantastic story! Beef is very lucky indeed. The Beef-o-Sphere is ingenious, and he looks completely at home in it.
                         
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                        • noisette47

                          noisette47 Total Gardener

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                          Hello Stu, Lucky, lucky Beef! The first thing that strikes me looking at that courtyard is the grim grey of the slabs. I'd be inclined to pressure-wash them. I know, I know.....you want them to look weathered, but underneath, they might just be a pleasant creamy grey colour! IME pressure-washed concrete soon develops lichens and mosses but the underlying colour would be lighter and would show off the pots better.:)
                           
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                          • Doghouse Riley

                            Doghouse Riley Head Gardener

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                            I think they look similar to corporation type paving slabs. Jet washing them will only make them look more obvious and then no chance of them becoming weathered looking again for quite some time. If you want to try. Jet-wash one that's out of sight from where you took the photo, then "live with it " for a few days, before you decide whether or not to do the rest.
                             
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                            • WeeTam

                              WeeTam Total Gardener

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                              Thats a nice looking patio. I would take some of the low branches off that tree to increase the light. Powerwash the paving and if needed use some chemical on it. The stuff you get from the pool suppliers .

                              Maybe fork out for some nice planters too. A water feature in a corner would give a nice chilled vibe to the place.

                              What about adding some trellis to break up the square layout? Giving more privacy at the table area and you could plant up a couple of bamboos against it...........

                              ???
                               
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                              • "M"

                                "M" Total Gardener

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                                I think it is a charming space and one I would thoroughly enjoy spending time in (didn't even notice the slabs to be honest - I was too taken with how the space works!).

                                To "soften" their impact you could change it without even removing them. IKEA sell decking tiles which you could use to place on top of the slabs (plus, take with you when you move on). I like the idea of the dog-leg path, so taking that idea further, you could use the decking tiles to lay out the path design of your choice and then, harnessing the container ideas (which you could also take with you when you move on) use those to cover the un-tiled areas.

                                These are the decking tiles and here is a review on them .


                                There is a thread - which I find absolutely inspirational - of one of our member's garden, which isn't a huge space but is totally fully formed. I hope you take a look at the whole thread and maybe draw some inspiration from it? Yes, there is even a patch of artificial grass, but you would never guess it! My little piece of tranquillity - it is a.mazing!!! For some reason, *your* garden put me in mind of that one.
                                 
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