Landscaping, plantscaping, softscaping, hardscaping….suddenly everywhere you look, new terms and trends are popping up! But what do these words really mean for your yard at home?
Landscaping, of course, is the sum total of every action taken to improve the look and ambiance of a piece of land. Plantscaping takes some of that lovely greenery indoors in the form of strategically-placed potted plants. Softscaping refers to the placement of greenery outdoors. And finally, hardscaping is the underlying permanent or semi-permanent structure that holds the softscaping in place. Clear as mud? Don’t worry – this is our complete guide for everything you need to know about hardscaping your home or business.
What Is Hardscaping?
Hardscaping is the hard materials – bricks, rocks, concrete, planters, and other structures – that form the outline of your landscape design. Hardscaping is essentially the foundation of your landscape. Without hardscaping, all those carefully chosen trees and shrubs and flowers won’t stay in place for very long.
When your greenery is placed firmly into a structure of hardscaping, it stays put. Hardscaping is the opposite of green, living things. It is the inanimate, non-living, durable and long-lasting “home” in which your greenery will live.
Benefits of Hardscaping
Hardscaping comes with a number of benefits, some more visible than others. One of the major benefits is that it keeps all your greenery in place.
Well-designed hardscaping is also able to deter weeds and pests. It can encourage desirable structured growth (up, out or both) and present a seamless curbside appearance. Hardscaping can help to control runoff from watering and storm waters. The choice of non-porous or porous materials can encourage water to soak into the soil or direct it into controlled runoff channels.
One fun new trend in hardscaping is increasing emphasis on hardscape design for small or vertical spaces.“Living walls” incorporate hardscaping and softscaping to bring greenery into small outdoor or indoor spaces to refresh and oxygenate the air while adding ambiance and natural beauty to formerly functional areas.
Hardscaping can also help visitors to your space understand what areas are for parking and walking. They also set apart what areas are designed to be kept clear of foot traffic.
The most effective hardscaping begins with a study of the local climate. Arid climates demand a different hardscaping strategy than do tropical climates. For areas regularly impacted by drought-based water use restrictions, hardscaping can help maximize retention of available water. Careful hardscape design can also compensate for areas that are less hospitable to greenery while still adding visual appeal.
The choice of hardscape materials can also have a surprising level of impact on future maintenance needs. Well-chosen hardscaping can reduce maintenance in all sorts of ways. From guarding against weeds and pests to working with the local climate and seasons to maximize greenery all year round.
Types of Hardscaping
As the landscaping industry becomes more sophisticated, the line between hardscaping and softscaping begins to blur. Today, there is an increased demand for “living” semi-permanent or permanent materials. These are used to create eco-friendly landscapes at home and at work. With this new demand has come a range of new hardscaping materials that are both alive and inert.
Examples of traditional manmade hardscaping materials can include artificial turf, bricks, prefabricated stone, weed barriers made of nylon or poly materials, glass, concrete, and metal. Examples of naturally occurring “living” yet inert hardscaping materials can include sand, pea gravel, decomposed granite rock, finely ground marble stone, river rocks, and mulch.
It is important to understand all your hardscaping options. It’s also smart to use the right terminology to talk with your landscape designer about your wants. Here are three terms you need to know:
Soft-scaping–This term refers to using naturally occurring hardscaping materials along with greenery to craft the design for your space. A good example would be filling in walkways with river rocks and then lining the walkways with moss.
Mixed hardscaping– Combining naturally occurring and man-made hardscaping materials together with greenery for your landscape design. A good example would be filling in walkways with river rocks, lining those walkways with concrete stepping stones and interspersing each stepping stone with moss.
Living hardscaping– Alternating living greenery with non-living natural or manmade hardscape materials. A good example would be alternating concrete stepping stones OR river rocks with moss.
Reducing Hardscaping Maintenance
A well-planned hardscape design can help reduce your ongoing maintenance needs, saving you both time and money. Here is where hardscaping, softscaping, and landscape design meet to create a landscape plan that is durable, lovely and low maintenance.
Three factors can greatly influence the maintenance of landscaping: choice of climate-friendly greenery, hardscaping/softscaping materials and planned drainage. In other words, you don’t want to walk out after the next heavy rainstorm to discover your entire landscape has washed away down the drain! Similarly, you don’t want to spend your winter worrying about what is going on underneath all that snow. Pest control is often best accomplished by carefully choosing weed barriers, fertilizers, mulch and soil that will encourage plant growth and send pests packing.
If all of this sounds intriguing yet overwhelming, remember we are here to help! Here at Hidden Creek Landscaping, we’re here to answer all of your questions and ready to help you take on any project. Give us a call today.