With water being scarce, many home owners want to step away from expansive lawns and thirsty plants.  One answer is hard landscaping.

Hard landscaping is a water wise way to add interest to a garden and can be used to replace thirsty lawns.

Garden designer and founder of Stone etc., Mimi Rupp, explains the different hard landscaping materials you could use in a garden:


This is still my choice for a hard-wearing surface with character that improves with time. Nothing beats the look and texture of stone, which takes on a softness as it ages.

There is a huge variety available be it a clean, pale finish that works well with more contemporary designs, or something a little more rugged to suit a more relaxed, home. 

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This has had rather a bad press recently, after a certain amount of overexposure, but wood surfaces can be very attractive, and are quick to lay. Versatility is another plus, it’s easy to stain and alter its colour, and if you need a change of level, it is simple to do. 


A stalwart of the television makeover programme, and for good reason: gravel is relatively cheap and goes down in seconds.

For best results, spread a thick layer over a permeable membrane to stop weeds.

Many types are available, including granite, marble and coloured gravels. Pebbles and cobbles are larger alternatives; when set into mortar they can form beautiful and complex paving designs. 

Galvanised metal

Clean, simple and pale in colour, the reflective qualities increase the amount of light in the garden and add texture.


These are relatively new and still considered radical, but plastics have a big future in garden design.

Plastic and rubber, although originally designed for industrial and sports facilities, are great for child-friendly outdoor spaces.

Available in an increasingly wide range of colours, there are also soft plastic chippings which resemble tarmac when laid and are gentle on knees and elbows. 

Related: New gardening trend


Often used as a cost-effective alternative to stone, concrete can be fashioned into the most convincing stone-substitute slabs and brick-effect pavers.

It can be textured in many ways, but as a smooth surface in a modern garden, it is often unbeatable. It can be pre-dyed to any colour to suit the wildest of designs. 


Glass chippings, beads and marbles are the hot thing across the Atlantic.

This is a particularly good in sunny gardens, where the chippings can glisten in the sunlight. Glass chippings can look like gems with several colours, sizes and shapes available.

Glass is an excellent mulch material around plants, but beware: It’s not recommended for gardens frequented by young children.

Another effect using glass that I like are glass bricks, they look lovely set into other surfaces, even in lawns, particularly with a light fixed beneath the brick for a night time feature. 

Related: Plan a garden like a well-planned wardrobe


One of the most ancient and most beautiful decorative floorings is fashionable again!

Modern designs are often vivid, using ceramic tiles, but I prefer the subtlety of tone that can be achieved using natural products, such as semi-precious gems and natural stone.

Once-off mosaics can be expensive to commission and slow work to do yourself, but a little goes a long way, and a mosaic focal point within a large paving design can be incredibly effective.