Garden design expert Kate Gould of Kate Gould Gardens discusses her love of decking, and how it can become a true extension of your home.
Kate Gould is a garden designer with twenty years of experience creating award-winning gardens across London and the surrounding counties. Kate has her own design studio based just outside of London, which includes an inhouse design team as well as team of skilled landscapers that build the gardens that are created in the studio.
We spoke to Kate about all things decking related to gain an insight into what a self-builder should consider when looking at this outdoor feature.
How did you get into garden design?
My love of gardening and plants was cultivated by my Mother from a young age and decades later we are still gardening together. I found my way into garden design by way of an evening class after I had become increasingly bored with my admin job, I had always wanted to do something more creative so this seemed like a natural progression. I had a wonderful tutor who I still keep in touch with and she encouraged me to take on a challenge and apply for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. My first experience building a show garden at the world’s most prestigious f lower show taught me a colossal amount and I am forever amazed by how much there still is to learn each time we build a garden at Chelsea. I built my tenth garden at the show this year and am a self-confessed Chelsea addict.
What do you love about decking?
I have always loved wood; it has real life in it. Decking creates a wonderful contrast to stone and other hard landscaping and planting, adding warmth and depth to any scheme. Planting also really stands out next to this lively surface. I love how much variety there is, even some of the composite decking options look fantastic and have excellent longevity.
What should a self-builder consider before they decide on building a decking area?
As with any other landscaping feature, the longevity of decking materials has as much to do with the quality of the product as it does with the installation. Decks are ideal for roof terraces and balconies as well as ground-level town or courtyard gardens. I would be far warier of installing one in a basement space where the water table might be detrimental to its overall lifespan.
Is it important to consider the style of your house when selecting decking?
With all of our extremely busy lives, more and more we want our homes to contain everything we need to relax and entertain, this means utilizing our coveted outdoor space to its full potential year round as an area where you can enjoy spending time, eating, drinking and lounging with family and friends. With this in mind, ideally it is good to try and create a seamless flow from indoor to outdoor with your choice of materials. By considering the style and materials used inside when selecting your decking you will create synergy between your garden and your interior ensuring your outdoor space feels like a true extension of your home.
How difficult is decking to lay, and what are the steps to take?
In all cases, decks are structures built over pedestals or on a wooden framework that creates an air gap between the finished wooden surface and the ground. Long lengths of decking are easy to transport and individually very light to carry. However, be wary of any access issues the property may have, such as tight bends or restricted headroom, as you may need to cut the decking into lengths to fit, which could result in the finished deck not looking as elegant as you might have liked.
How hard is it to maintain a decking area?
All outdoor spaces have to be maintained due to the seasonal changes we experience in the UK. If you choose to lay your decking yourself, your supplier will have provided care instructions. If the decking is being professionally installed, the supplier might offer their own maintenance package which will save you the hassle of worrying about it. If you are after a low maintenance option I will always suggest artificial decking. London Stone have a fantastic range to choose from and we included this in the Greenfingers Charity Garden at the Chelsea Flower Show this year. It worked really well with all the other materials.
Is decking a family-friendly option?
Decking is a great option for families; you don’t have to worry about mud or grass stains and kids are able to scoot and ride bikes on the surface. If laid properly and maintained correctly, decking should also be slip-resistant.
Kate covers some of the top decking options on offer:
Usually milled from pine, softwood decking is the least costly decking surface. However, it should only be used if the budget is tight because it is the most likely to degrade quickly of all the available outdoor wooden flooring surfaces. To prolong its life, apply a protective oil after installation and sweep regularly to maintain a clean, debris-free surface.
Hardwood decks are a very different beast. They should be purchased only from reputable sources that have the relevant certification to provide wood from sustainable sources. The timber used for hardwood decking comes in many different shades, from pale Iroko and Garapa to dark Ipe. All are variable, no two pieces of wood will be the same, even if they are from the same batch.
Yes, there really is such a thing as artificial decking – and it is worth strong consideration. Artificial deck boards are generally made from real wood that has been reconstituted into a resin and then extruded in a variety of natural – and not so natural – colours with either a reeded surface or a naturalistic wood-grain effect. If you are a purist in the wood department, this option won’t be for you. However, artificial decking is a really good alternative to softwood or hardwood decking, particularly in bright sunlight where it will fade less than natural wood. In terms of maintenance, an added benefit of artificial decking is that it can be constructed over a framework made from the same material, which makes it particularly suited to basement gardens where its impermeable nature means it is less susceptible to wet conditions.
Fast-growing and very strong, bamboo is a sustainable alternative to hardwood decking. As with artificial decking, it can be encased in resin to produce strong, colour-safe boards that have little flex or movement in them. Originally only available in a dark colour, there are now many more options available. Do check the length of boards, though, as some are only offered in short lengths below 2 metres (6½ foot) long which can result in a complicated deck surface with a degree of added wastage.
Kate has written her first book called Urban Garden Design, which was published on the 9th May 2019