Designing the garden – step 3: you can get it if you really want it

With the garden design completed, all that was left was to implement the design…

It is one thing to see something that you like in a magazine, book or the internet, and another thing to find a place where you can get it (never mind the price). This is probably were the professional garden designers beat us amateurs, because they will only design with materials that they know they can source, and they probably know how to plan to a budget. This is were for us reality kicked in and we found out the hard way what is the done thing in Finland. Quite frequently in books, but also in magazines we found details highlighted that you cannot get from a Finnish retailer. But I also learned that you can get it, if you really want it, and it doesn’t even have to be expensive.

For the decking, I quickly ruled out conifer wood, as I did not want chemically treated material, I had been shown poor longevity of thermo-treated conifer decking by the neighbour of my in-laws and I did not fancy Siberian larch (larix sibirica) that does not need treatment. I also had bad experience with knotholes and splinters in deckings made from conifer wood. This is no easy decision, as Finland is a large producer of conifer decking wood with several companies specialised on thermo-treatment exporting worldwide. In effect this means, that all people I know happily buy Finnish conifer decking wood and look no further. Decking made from imported wood – not the done thing. I also ruled out the plastic-wood mix boards and fully synthetic boards on offer, as I do not like their unnatural look and feel. In the internet I came across thermo-treated hardwood decking board and started to trace down manufacturers. I ended up buying thermo-ash from directly from the factory in Estonia – they delivered to my door (very certainly not the commonly done thing).

Thermo-ash decking after being laid, untreated. 

For the paving, we got slates from Orivesi in Finland, this is actually standard stuff here. For edging we got black granite originating from China and for some ornamental paving we got also white dotted granite from Finland. There are plenty of retailers for standard pavings such as slate and granite cobbles here, we bought from Kivikopla. However, I noticed that the mainstream here must be man-made concrete paving stones, as the usual retailer caters a far larger selection of those than natural stone products. There is one exception,, which back in 2009/10 did have an unbelievable selection of stock in stone and rock of all kind imaginable. Unfortunately, they were forced to close shop in Espoo for what I understand was a local political plot, and they continue only as a tiny outlet much further out from were I live. I have not visited them since close-down sales.

We did not need to order additional earth, as we would reuse the earth from the paved areas and terrace area, I calculated at the time 4-5 cubic meters.

Trees we bought all from our local nursery. We took our time for selecting the apple tree and the tree for the terrace, the other trees we selected in the nursery. Today, with my increased knowledge, I would select all trees prior to visiting a nursery or garden center, researching the candidates thoroughly, but as far as I can tell, no damage was done. We did take care to select slow-growing trees though, and I hope we wan’t be in deep shade twenty years from now.

The old lawn was not of too great quality and I decided to dig it under and get roll-out lawn for the new patch, as there is a producer just down the road.

I tracked down a local lorry company that would deliver gravel for foundations of the path and paved area by the lorry-load. The stone ash to settle the paving into I would buy from the same place where I bought the slate. As I would be doing some height adjustments to the garden, I would also need some small gravel to fill up the drainage next to the walls of the house to meet the new level of the bedding.

Sheet for separating gravel and stone-ash, root-blocking fabric and permeable weed-blocking sheet I got from a DIY store. Also tools, screws and other small metal bits I found in local DIY stores easily.

To find suppliers of specific materials I can recommend the following approaches:

  • Check the local DIY stores, garden centers and nurseries. Also check the gardening and tools sections of large supermarkets.
  • Check yellow pages to find less-known local suppliers of specific materials
  • Talk to friends and neighbours, they might know about unique sources (someone willing to part with an excess stockpile, retired craftsmen, the small shop down the road that does not advertise).
  • Check the classified sections of local newspapers. A lot of business is seasonal, therefore small companies spend their advertising budget in the season, here in Finland that is spring and summer. Sales advertisements for gardening supplies are usually out from late summer to autumn.
  • Gardening and building magazines have references in articles, are full of advertisements and may have a classified section that cater for niche markets, usually in the end of the magazine. Some books have also references, but they are often out of date.
  • Attend gardening and building fairs and exhibitions. There you can discover and meet suppliers and see samples. Small products are also sold there. Take the program booklet with you, it contains a list of exhibitors that is a great source for suppliers, also for stuff you were not looking for when attending the event. The website of the fair might also contain a list of exhibitors.
  • Find the name of the manufacturer and find the website. Some manufacturers sell directly from their website, others have a list of retailers that sell their products. They always will have contact information, I have more then once emailed or called manufacturers and found a way to buy their products that was not published on their website. Particularly if manufacturers are abroad and focused mainly on local markets, creativity is needed to find someone willing to take the trouble of shipping overseas. I also have had need to be very creative to sort out a way for payments, as some small companies do not take credit card payments.
  • Try to find the product on Amazon sells and distributes goods for a network of shops and manufacturers, and ships such goods for free to nordic countries when ordering for £25 or more. However, Amazon also advertises goods from shops that are sold and distributed by the shops themselves. In those circumstances, shipping will not be free. It is possible to filter out products for which shipping is not free. I also noticed that Amazon sells different goods from different countries, also prices are different. That is easily explained: companies try to reach a certain market through Amazon, so they hook up to a certain Amazon country site. Therefore, when looking for example for goods from a German manufacturer, might have a better selection and better prices than the UK site, although shipping is not free to Finland. I have also resorted to having goods shipped to relatives in Germany when they are coming over for a visit. The relatives can bring the goods and I save the shipping costs.
  • Use Google search and price comparison sites to find suppliers. This works well for technical items, but I find it rather tedious to find anything this way for manual items.
  • Use Google image search with the product name. Sometimes the images originate from a web shop or manufacturer.
  • Find forums and blogs specialising in the area. People might be able to advise where to buy or how to build things yourself.

Now it was time to plan each project in detail.


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