Landscape Materials of the Future

Landscape Materials of the Future

Selecting materials for your landscape project can be an exciting experience, a precursor to knowing your fantastic new outdoor space is on the horizon. However material choice can also overwhelm with the plethora of options now available as well as the fact consideration should go beyond just the aesthetic.

Corten effect cladding

Real Corten can cause staining

In today’s landscape design climate, one of high quality expectations, demand for choice and ever-increasing ‘no or low’ maintenance requirements have resulted in materials previously popular in past years such as hardwood decking now face varying levels of criticism with regard to their lifespan and maintenance requirements. These changing attitudes, along with manufacturer ambitions, has driven development of new and improved landscape materials that not only respond to the above concerns but also consider environmental and economic impacts. While it is a challenge to tick all these boxes we, as landscape architects/designers, endeavor to advise on and specify materials that suit site and brief based on these considerations.  There are a number of recently developed materials, such as composite decking and porcelain cladding, we have spent time researching and now consistently specify as more suited alternatives to those materials that previously dominated.

Garden Club used Millboard enhanced grain composite decking for London's first floating park

While it was making an appearance in the late 90’s composite decking is one example that has undergone significant development in recent times as rooftops, outdoor decks and living areas become popular as home features. It’s essentially a light weight, non-wood material that maintains the visual aesthetic of natural timber and won’t splinter, crack, decay, fall victim to insect infestation and never needs sanding, staining or refinishing. Plus, it’s extremely resistant to staining and fading, and the occasional soap-and-water bath is usually enough to maintain a clean aesthetic.

Like any alternative product there are arguments against composite decking. In terms of environmental impact, it’s suggested that timber decking is made from a more sustainable ingredient and that it carries a smaller manufacturing carbon footprint. This is not necessarily the case. Our preferred supplier, Millboard, is UK based on supply/manufacture fronts and has had their carbon footprint independently verified with research indicating each square metre being equivalent to a high street latte or a kilo of bananas. Other critics suggest composite decking can have a plastic-like or synthetic appearance. To overcome this Millboard have paid special attention to sourcing original oak specimens to create moulds that contain a successful balance of grain and knots, providing a very realistic aesthetic. Whilst composite decking is costlier than timber decking its long life and low-maintenance requirements, accompanied with the above, make it an ideal landscape material now and for the future.


Render and tile/stone cladding have been and still are popular landscape materials. However, they can all be costly, easily chipped, scratched, cracked and have a tendency to fade with weather exposure, enter design clad. This new material, described as “a high-performance porcelain wall cladding”, offers a cost efficient, light weight, durable and low-maintenance cladding alternative. For example, cor-ten steel has become a popular cladding material but is expensive, heavy and can leech onto adjacent surfaces. Design Clad ‘steel corten’ provides the desired aesthetic of weathering steel, costs much less than steel and will not leech. If necessary a soap-and-water bath is all it takes to clean it down.

With a thickness of 3, 5 and 10mm its suitable for both interior and exterior installations such as walls, planters, flooring; has a range of finishes which gives the client options for a chic, contemporary or traditional aesthetic that blends/contrasts well with other frequently used materials such as stone paving. Further to this, it is available in sizes as big as 3x1m which makes for a much quicker, cleaner install for the contractor, less wastage and therefore improved cost efficiency when compared to render or other cladding types. Going forward, certainly one to consider.

We are approved installers of Millboard decking and design as well as install only for homes, bars, restaurants and commercial developments. Please contact us to discuss your requirements.