Friday, May 12, 2017

And, Finally ... a (Better) Place to Sit

There's always been this nice clear space under the elm to sit in the shade.  We've tried a hammock, a a swing chair, and just putting chairs there, but nothing has ever felt right.  It's the coolest spot in the yard in the afternoons, so too nice to waste.  It was the obvious last step in the new garden plan.
An okay place to sit, but nothing special.
On the plans I drew it as a flagstone patio, but i always knew that I would not be able to do that.  There are two main considerations:  1) it is over a main section of elm roots and has a noticeable slope from right to left, and a hump in the middle; and 2) it is over a main section of elm roots and I don't want to cut off water drainage completely.  I have found roots for this tree 50 feet away, so it has a huge root system, but i still need to respect it.

My solution was to use 15-inch square concrete pavers and half-size pavers set wide apart.  That will allow water run-off from the pavers to migrate down thru the wide sand "joints".  The other advantage of using the large squares set wide apart is that I can adjust to the slopes in small increments, while a solid patio would require putting in a significantly thicker base and blocking out water from the tree. 
First raise the height of the back edge so that I could add
paver base and sand to bring up the grade.

If you hire a hardscaper to do a patio, she would not do it this way.  She would have built a retainer wall all the way around, then installed 4-6 inches of gravel and then paver base to bring the entire area to a flat, level surface, then a couple more inches of sand, and finally the pavers.  This would result in a step up to the patio of 6 - 8 inches or more.  I did not want that.  And, I did not want to risk additional damage to the tree roots. 

Next, a layer of paver base spread out thicker at the back and front
and at the left end to even up the slopes.

Then using sand to set the pavers and fill the spaces in between.
Instead, I cleared the space as much as possible, and leveled as much dirt as I could - moving it from the top of the hump down to the back edge and then installed half-bricks along the back steel edging to provide a higher back edge to support the paver base and sand.  In the front, I used the existing steel edging.   Next came the paver base, which is basically a coursely ground gravel - very fine, but heavier than sand - which will pack down to a nice flat, supportive surface.  And then the sand.  I used it to settle each paver and then in between.  Then a couple more bags of sand to fill the spaces until it looked level.  It is not actually level, but i was able to minimize the changes using sand.
Finally, a little sweeping, two chairs and a table to hold a couple of wine glasses.  Add some pots of coleus for color and voila!  Instant party.  It must be 5:00 somewhere!

The Nuts and Bolts:

For a space that is 7 feet wide and roughly 6 feet deep (curved on the front edge), I used:

7 15-inch square concrete pavers
8 rectangular pavers 7x15 inch
4 bags of paver base
5 bags of sand

About $75 for supplies.
I could have done it in two days is I had had all the supplies.  Instead, I made three trips to the big box store and worked a few hours over several days.


  1. I love your solution: respect the Elm. So lovely to have a place in the shade from where to appreciate the yard.

  2. I adore that elm. Didn't really notice it when we bought the house (March, so it was leafless), but have stood my ground twice when the utility company wanted to "trim" it, and we get it trimmed ourselves by an arborist every three years. It's gorgeous tree, and an ELM! I love sitting under it!