Picking the pallette of garden design materials – What to use where?

garden design

These days there are so many garden design materials available that are suitable for garden construction it can be difficult to choose. Should I use decking or paving? Brick beds or railway sleepers? Which materials work best together? Here we try and break it down.

garden materials


Budget will often set the bar for your choice of flooring material. If you want decking and funds are tight then you will probably end up settling for softwood boards, as most hardwoods will be at least three times the price. Softwood decking can be given a slightly more expensive feel by colouring with a good quality wood stain. Standard concrete paving slabs will be the most cost effective choice for paving but will give your garden a very municipal appearance so should be avoided if possible.

Indian Sandstone is a solid choice for paving. It is relatively cheap in comparison to other natural stone (although you should check that your chosen supplier sources their stock ethically), is readily available and comes in a good range of colours and finishes. Our featured garden uses a combination of hardwood decking and riven sandstone to separate areas. Other choices of flooring material include gravel, cobble setts, self-binding aggregate and decorative tiles. Gravel is a popular choice as it is cheap and very easy to install, although if you have foxes or cats in the area be prepared that your garden may become a giant litter tray. Cobbles and self-binding aggregate (also known as hoggin) require more skill to install but shouldn’t be beyond the skill of a reasonably competent DIYer.

Artificial Lawn

Artificial grass has come a long way since the days of AstroTurf football pitches and greengrocer’s grass. These days advances in materials and weave technology have given rise to a range of products with three or four tone pile and individual blades of varying heights, so that the grass is almost indistinguishable from the real thing. It is durable, mud free, drought proof, extremely low maintenance and is a safe and friendly surface for children to use. Most artificial lawns come with a 25 year guarantee so if it works in your space its a no brainer not to use it.


These are a great way to introduce a new exciting material into a space. In this garden we used stainless steel mesh on a timber frame coupled with translucent Perspex. This is a cost effective trick for injecting personality into a space and a great platform for mixing up mediums. Chain curtain, old mattresses springs, reclaimed timber, anything that can be attached to a post or upended and concreted in the ground can add a real bang for your buck.


These will form the bone structure of your garden to which a whole host of decoration can be applied. Rendered walls, brick walls, cladding, railway sleepers -there is much to choose from and your material selection really depends on individual taste. In this garden textured slate tiles applied to a concrete block wall create an impressive feature. Rendered walls will give your garden a clean, contemporary feel with scope for a wide pallet of paint colours, while brick takes you down a more classical route. Be sympathetic with the architecture of the house and if you are striking a strong juxtaposition with the architecture then do it confidently.