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Steel in the Garden

I went on a great CPD training day this week on the subject of steel and it’s various uses in garden design.

We use steel edging regularly in projects because as well as being aesthetically pleasing, it also lasts much longer than traditional timber edging.

Our preference is for the rusted, weathered look using CorTen or other weathering steel which contains 0.25% copper. When delivered, this looks like normal mild steel with a slightly grey/black coating. It is the process of weathering that eventually creates the orange rusted appearance that acts as a natural seal to the steel.

It’s useful to note that during the weathering process there will be run-off which can stain paving and other surfaces, in particular sandstone and concrete so this issue needs to be considered in the design.

We use larger pieces of steel to create shaped retention and landforms. Steel can be used in many different ways in the garden from stainless steel planters, sub-frames to support structures and pergolas. When we created the landforms for a show home garden, we accelerated the weathering process in order to create the look, overnight.

It was great to have a tour round Outdoor Design steel fabricators who work with designers to develop their ideas. We watched a basic stainless steel planter being constructed from original metal sheet through the laser cutter, folding, welding and finishing. The attention is in the detail, with the planter including feet to raise it off the floor for drainage and internal hooks to attach tree anchors. It is also important to  ensure the lip of the planter is deep enough to allow the addition of insulation to protect the roots from overheating.

It is clear that in the last 10 years or so, the development of laser cutting machines means that designers can consider bespoke steel structures and more complex builds using steel as a framework. This is apparent when visiting the flower shows and seeing what can be achieved in the show gardens. But is also means that the use of metal in the garden is more affordable and should be considered as part of the overall design. Weathered steel, stainless steel, wrought iron, aluminum and even copper can all have their use in a garden design and working with a designer and steel fabricator to create a bespoke solution can be a less expensive option than buying off the shelf products.