This couple transformed a pile of rubble into a welcoming side garden patio that provides easy access to the backyard.
Patchwork Quilt Patio
Credit: Ralph Anderson

The hardest areas of the garden to design are always those that have an identity crisis. Side yards, the strips of land on either side of the house, fall into this category. These awkward spaces present the most trouble, perhaps, because folks don't know what to do with them. Landscape architect Dexter Adams suggests you begin by identifying how that space can make your life easier.

Following his own advice, Dexter and wife Kelley created a patio from recycled materials to connect the front parking area to the backyard of their Monroe, Georgia, home. The space needed to be durable and wide enough to drive a vehicle through, practical enough for potting plants, but pretty enough for entertaining.

One Man's Trash
Dexter found or salvaged the majority of the materials used for his patio. Just as a quilter artfully sews together fabric pieces, he married stone, brick, and cobble to create a charming space that actually turned out better than he had expected. "Originally, I thought I would lay the bricks and stones and then install my potting benches and compost bins," he explains. "However, the area turned out so well that I decided not to junk it up with my potting supplies but to enjoy it this way for a while."

Do It Right the First Time
To ensure that the patio would be level and not settle, the area was first excavated 10 inches. Next, 4 to 6 inches of crush-and-run gravel (an inexpensive crushed stone) was added. Curb-stock edging (concrete or stone used for road curbs) was installed directly onto the gravel; it was laid flat as a framework to define the size and shape of the space. Then the area was topped with 2 to 4 inches of granite sand.

Devising a plan for installing the rest of the materials was Dexter's next step. Because stones take a lot of effort to move, good planning is critical. He says, "Before I started, I figured out where to place the heavy stuff. After that, the installation process was very enjoyable."

The gravel and sand not only created a solid base but also compensated for the varying thicknesses of materials, allowed for good drainage, and was less expensive than mortaring stones into place. Once the paving materials were set and leveled, the area was sprinkled with white masonry sand and swept to fill in spaces around the bricks and stones.

This article is from the August 2005 issue of Southern Living.