5 Tips for Appealing Driveway for Both Cars and Plants

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The design of driveways might increasingly be subject to planning approval/permission, but if we are to avoid the ‘Shopping Mall car park’ look owners need to carefully plan and creatively consider both the car parking construction requirements as well as providing a garden area which incorporates a healthy and attractive environment for plants to thrive.

Professional advice and assistance will most likely be required, but the opportunity is too important not to develop a driveway that is practical for parking cars but also providing an appealing garden that is easy or requires little effort to maintain.

Good driveway design is all about being practical (car) and appealing (garden) which combined probably means improved asset value (pocket), which are all very important returns for the householder but there is also the prospect of some improved residual value even for the local community.

The Layout Of The Driveway

In recent years several factors, many beyond the control of householders, have critically influenced the design of the residential driveway.

These trends ranging from changes in socio-economic demographics, work/lifestyle patterns, significant dependence (increasing in some respects) on the ‘car’ as the preferred or indeed the only practical mode of transport, architectural/town planning developments which are demanding increased population densities, reduced availability of ‘off-street’ parking options, smaller gardens etc.

Meanwhile, car ownership continues to grow but with less space available and many owners with busy ‘time poor’ lifestyles preferring a low/zero maintenance front garden solution, has seen front garden been replaced by nothing more than what is effectively an area for parking cars only.

Consider The Space Available

In the course of determining the allocation of spaces for parking, pedestrian, garden, services, etc, priority will most likely be given to parking. Type, size, and several cars will largely determine the area needs, but as an average rule of thumb, spaces in shopping mall car parks are typically 2.5-3.0m wide and 4.5m – 5.0m long.

Most would agree such spaces tend not to be too generous and bearing in mind that parking in a car park can be easier given the wider access and generally better manoeuvrability options that are available.

In a private residential driveway, the situation is very different, frequently the approach is not straight but can be complicated by nearby junctions, bends, etc. Therefore the space calculations must take wider cognizance of the local geography, site topography (sloping sites need careful attention), turning room, driver skill, age and even obstructions/potential hazards (such as post boxes, street lighting, narrow pedestrian pathways, driver visibility, refuse bins, screening trees/hedges etc all influence the calculations.

Develop APlanting Scheme

Where space is plentiful the calculations are generally straightforward, but frequently there is pressure on available space and compromises must be reached over priorities. Ultimately it is most likely a case whereby most of the space is allocated to the ‘car’ but no matter how small the residual area is, it is possible to develop a planting scheme that is lush, complementary and requiring little maintenance.

In such instances where space is limited, I would advise that owners utilize as much evergreen plant material, and supplement this with bulbs or seasonal flowers for additional color display. It is very important that the planting looks good and lush all year round. There is a wide range of plant styles and sizes to suit practically every site condition.

Add Some Plants

In instances where planting beds are narrow but screening is required, owners might consider using standards/half-standard shrubs, essentially ‘mop head’ style shrubs which are eye-catching, providing visual breaks/screening at eye level but attractive displays.

Popular choices would include Olive, Photinia, Laurus Nobilis, and Camellia to name a few. This is a much more satisfactory solution than expecting a traditional shrub/hedge such as Viburnum or Grisellinia to grow to 6′ 0″ (1800mm) tall in a narrow bed of 2′ 0″ (600mm) wide.

This will involve considerable and continuous effort to maintain and frequently the results are poor despite all the efforts. Smaller narrower beds can be planted up with ornamental bands of Buxus sempervirens, and back planted with dwarf lavenders or indeed spring flowering bulbs which are perhaps up to 3′ 0″ (900mm) tall when in flower.

Choose The Right Surface Material

A critical aspect of driveway design will be the choice of the surface material; again here there is a wide range from which to choose, starting with cobble lock/concrete paviors and at the top end in terms of quality, durability, and maintenance natural stone.

Despite the additional cost natural stone is increasingly a popular choice, not surprising when one sees the quality and diversity of choice. Granite, sandstone, and limestone are popular.

In terms of wear and tear, granite is without question the best choice for some, in my experience sandstone of lighter tones is not ideal. Cars tires tend to mark sandstone and in such instances, regular maintenance/cleaning will be required. If you wish to use sandstone better to use a darker tone such as a grey.

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