Last week we looked at paving as one of the essential elements of a new garden but decking is a popular alternative to stone. It came into our homes as the instant garden miracle working element beloved by makeover programmes on television. And rightly so: it is quick and easy to install, flexible enough to take level changes in its stride, is sustainable if purchased from the right suppliers and comfortable to walk on. On the down side, watch out for rats and other animals using the space beneath as a handy hotel. Remember, there is a wide range of materials to choose from, ranging from plastic based wood lookalikes, to very chic and expensive hardwoods.