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  • Writer's pictureJo Connolly


As a Garden Designer in Australia since 2006, I have worked in many styles of garden from classical Victorian, Federation & Edwardian properties to contemporary new builds & everything in between. Since returning to live in the UK a few years ago, my work here has also included a wide range of properties including ancient beamy cottages, Victorian terraces & modern renovations.

Continuing to work on both sides of the world, I have found that there are so many similarities between all the gardens I have been involved with even though the climates are vastly different. Whilst it is important to respect & compliment the architecture, setting & overall surroundings, the client’s requirements, desires & tastes are also hugely important. Striking a balance between all of this as well as the functionality & overall practicality of the garden is what makes Garden Design, so rewarding. 

In order to achieve this, the materials for hard landscaping areas such as paving & walling materials, patios, entertaining areas, paths, pergolas & features etc set the overall tone of the space. This part of the garden doesn’t change, whilst the seasons & plants, do & so it is important that it works all year round & has longevity. There are so many materials to choose from depending on the ‘feel’ we want to achieve.

I regularly turn to natural stone as a large part of the overall hard landscaping palette for a number of reasons. 

  • From an aesthetic point of view, it has a natural & beautiful appearance, wether it be in a modern or more traditional finish.

  • The colours & finishes are varied in lovely subtle & natural colours that compliment planting & lawn. As it comes from the earth, it naturally compliments a garden. 

  • It is a natural product & often low carbon footprint to produce, especially if sourced locally.

  • It can act as a contrast or balance & warmth to an otherwise clinical, soulless area.

  • It is long lasting & hardwearing.

Natural stone can be used in many ways.

  • Paving & steps (in many formats & sizes)

  • Walling & facades (solid blocks, veneers & fascias)

  • As support structures (pillars & posts etc)

  • Seating (which functions & adds a sculptural element to the garden e.g. sitting walls)

  • Sculpture & garden features

The colour, finish & format of stone create a certain look & feel. 

  • Paler colours in e.g. Limestone & Sandstone stand out more against a garden backdrop.

  • Darker coloured stone creates a more subtle effect, blending with the natural garden surroundings.

  • Smooth, flat surfaces & finishes give a more modern feel where rugged, rough surfaces are softer & more classic.

  • Honed, sharp edges have more of a contemporary feel than softer, rough, rounded edges. 

  • Size & shape vary enormously. Sharp edged rectangles have a modern look where organic natural shapes and natural edges are again, more classic. A mixed size pattern can often work linking old & new as well as in traditional homes.

Because stone is a natural, beautiful material it can be used to alter & enhance the surroundings, updating the look of garden, whilst still grounding it with a sense of timelessness. I often use a contemporary paver in a modern format in a period garden to create a current feel with timeless elegance. A natural stone wall can soften a very modern area & add more texture & depth.

I try to include some seating in a garden if possible, whether it be a simple seat or a sculptural sitting wall. It draws people into the garden to sit & enjoy, rather than just look at. It does not have to be a large area. A simple slab of natural stone has beauty & simplicity & creates a lovely seat. Put simply, a space for some peace, quiet & reflection tucked into a quiet spot in the garden is often all that is needed & is good for the soul.

Sculpture & garden features draw the eye & add a focal point to a garden. They are useful to highlight an area & when water is added, enhance the experience with sound.

I love the mix of old & new, contemporary & traditional.  Sitting a modern piece of sculpture within a planted garden bed adds excitement & interest.  An old slab of natural stone works so well in either a modern or traditional space in its simplicity amongst planting texture & colours. 

A keyhole in a monolith creates a view through to beyond or something of interest, leading you through the garden. A natural stone plinth contrasts a modern piece of sculpture sitting above it with age & beauty. There are so many ways natural stone enhance a garden.

Here are some examples of lovely locally sourced stone that I have used in gardens, in a number of finishes which create different looks to the these compliment gardens that their owners can enjoy.

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