Steel in the contemporary garden

The versatility of steel in a contemporary garden

Few materials do more for a slick, contemporary feel in modern landscape design than steel and concrete. Because they have the same thermal expansion rate, steel is a required component for concrete reinforcement. Now, while this is a good use of the material’s properties as such, it does nothing for the visual thrill of using steel on its own. When allowed to shine, steel can take on a leading role in organizing space, create structural rhythm, define spatial flow, provide intriguing screening, and frame garden views. Its impressive tensile strength also allows it to provide a great, economical and pragmatic substitute to more traditional ways of terracing. It has fabulous malleability, and nearly endless potential applications in contemporary garden design. It can be made into fire pits, arbors, decorative screens – you name it!

Regular A36, (also referred to as “mild steel” or “carbon steel”) is usually sufficient for most contemporary garden applications. In certain instances, it might be advisable to use Cor-Ten (a self-weathering steel alloy), but most often not. You can read more about the differences here. In monetary terms, Cor-Ten is about twice as expensive as mild steel.

Here are a few examples of the way the designers at Drake’s have used steel in the past:

This rectangular steel frame is repeated through this garden. The corrugated wall behind this one, is yet another way of using steel - this time the corrugated, galvanized kind.

This rectangular steel frame is repeated throughout this garden. The corrugated wall behind this one, is yet another way of using steel – this time the corrugated, galvanized kind.

Here is that same frame, anchored in a raised concrete bed, providing a visual rhythm that leads your eye down through the garden. An evergreen Clematis has started to climb up the vertical jamb, and will - in a year or two - provide a stunning display of spring flowers.

Here is that same frame, anchored in a raised concrete bed, providing a visual rhythm that leads your eye on down through the garden. An evergreen Clematis has begun to climb up the vertical jamb, and will – in a year or two – provide a stunning display of spring flowers.

Note how the rusted steel echoes the brown bark of the Pine branches in the background.

Note how beautifully the rusted steel echoes the brown bark of the conifer branches in the background.

This progress shot shows steel used as stair risers, anchored with rebar. Soon, it will take on the same rusty patina as the frames in the previous photos.

This progress shot shows plate steel used as stair risers,  anchored with rebar – a great, simple solution in a contemporary garden. Soon, it will take on the same rusty patina as the frames in the previous photos.

Steel is an excellent material for screening. This screen separates a busy highway from an apartment complex parking lot.

Steel is an excellent material for screening. This screen separates a busy highway from an apartment complex parking lot.

Here is a closeup. Cut slats of plate steel are spot-welded onto square posts. The posts are anchored in concrete footings.

Here is a closeup. Cut slats of plate steel are spot-welded onto square posts. The posts are anchored in concrete footings.

A fantastic design asset when using steel as screening, are the shadow patterns that are created when the screen is properly sited. Aren't they marvelous? This is a closeup of the custom fire pit Steven designed for the 2016 Home and Garden Show.

A fantastic design asset when using steel as screening, is the shadow patterns created when steel screens are properly sited. Isn’t it marvelous? This is a closeup of the custom fire pit Steven designed for the  2016 Home and Garden Show.

Steven won us a gold with this display garden. I imagine you can see why...?

Steven won us a gold with this display garden. I imagine you can see why…right?

 

 

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