Glasgow landscapers delivers expert advice on cleaning and extending paved areas
A paved eating area is frequently the most used part of the garden, but rather than looking established and venerable it can just seem old and tired. As summer gets into full swing, maybe it’s time for a face-lift.
While rustic paving can look in keeping when weathered, modern slabsneed to look pristine. Traditionally, cleaning was done on hands and knees with warm, soapy water and a scrubbing brush. The old method can be effective but many people buy or hire pressure washers these days (try www.karcherpressurewashers.co.uk). Always try a pressure washer on a less visible corner first, as very high pressure can damage the surface of paving, especially pre-cast concrete slabs.
For the best results set the nozzle so that the water is sprayed in a fan shape rather than a single jet. Also, make sure you use the correct technique, holding the lance at an angle of 45 degrees from the body and washing it across the joints rather than tracking up and down them. Joints made with soft mortar or sand are liable to be blasted out, even when care is taken. New sand can simply be brushed in but repointing is not as easy.
A pressure-washer should clean off surface dirt, but it may not remove 20 years of ingrained algae and lichens. Instead, you may need a chemical cleaner. Ecochem, made by Geocel, will not harm surrounding greenery.
Apply the cleaner and leave it for 10 minutes, before scrubbing if necessary, and then remove it. Algae and Moss Remover, made by thesame company, is more effective on ingrained algal build-up. On my extremely weathered slabs it made a noticeable improvement.
This product can do damage if it comes into contact with plants, so apply it in dry weather when you anticipate at least 12 hours with no rain, then just leave it.
There is a growing band of specialist companies that clean paving. They can do 100 square metres in two hours, and charge from £2.50 per sq m. They use powerful kit which does not leave streaks and if the joints are removed they can repoint.
Andy Barker of Paving Doctor, which operates in the South East (www.pavingdoctor.co.uk, 0845 643 0763), explains that when you renovate a surface you leave a clean slate for algae to recolonise with renewed vigour and they often comes back harder and darker, which makes it necessary to wash it once a year with a disinfectant or paving cleaner such as Ecochem or other proprietary cleaners.
Paving can also be sealed with a matt finish: this will make it look slightly darker and it will also need annual cleaning.
Is there a simpler option?
Surface cleaners based on new technology, that you connect to a pressure washer and push over paving or decking, are now available. Water is spun over a confined area (about 300mm diameter) at around 2,000rpm and this cleans away algae and debris. The top 10mm of sand in joints comes away too.
I called out Brian Hepburn 07482775744, (www.hepburnlandscaping.co.uk) who deals with loads of products in Glasgow he recommended The Nilfish Alto 300 WH (£128)
How to enlarge your paved area
A large, beautiful terrace can frame and elevate the garden as a whole, but enlarging your existing paved area can be difficult. Rather than try to match existing paving slabs, a better solution is to add a different paving unit such as stone setts (Indistone, www.hepburnlandscaping.co.uk or bricks in wide bands around the edge.
Other materials such as gravel or blocks of low-level structural plants such as box can be used to increase the size, impact and interest of the paved space, changing it from a mere few slabs to more of a courtyard.
Add some colour
Try bold pots such as those from Italian Terrace (www.hepburnlandscaping.co.uk) or for a more modern lift Domani (www.domani.be). Most of these make such an impact that they can be left empty, although certain styles such as the Coppa Romana Manici (£155 from Italian Terrace) look fabulous when filled with oversized arrangements of cut garden flowers, which is fun to do on special occasions.
I added two dark pink long cushions on to my benches together with a line of potted succulents down the middle of my long table last summer and they instantly gave it a lift. Awnings, umbrellas and bright furniture also bring colour to a terrace.
How do you make a paved area more distinct?
If you have a few cracked slabs or you want to create a strong centre piece, ammonites are an alternative to an inscribed stone slab, mosaic or area of creeping thymes. Andrew Thomason of Thomason Cudworth (www.thomasoncudworth.com, 01460 57322) makes hand finished, reconstituted stone ammonites. Simple to lay and in various sizes, they can be effectively arranged to form spirals, blocks or margins. Large stone, granite or terracotta balls can be used to form simple sculptures; Grosvenor Stone (www.grosvenorstone.co.uk, 01829 770632) makes reconstituted stone balls in a wide range of sizes and will colour them to your local stone.
A couple of large trophy plants, perhaps umbrella pruned hornbeams or huge, multi-stem cornus, will instantly give the space an extra three-dimensional appeal and can add drama at night as they are fabulous objects to uplight.