By Jason Allison, Landscape Designer
Adding hardscape into a landscape is sometimes viewed as a contradiction of ideals. After all, landscapes are soft and organic while hardscapes are, well, hard and permanent, right? So, how can they work together?
Well, beautifully. You see, when planned properly the hardscape can add great value to the landscape, and vice versa, to create an overall appealing space that is conducive to flowers, scents, green space and high heels.
Hardscape materials can vary from impermeable surfaces like concrete and mortared in flagstone to the permeable such as tumbled pavers and stone with decomposed granite joints. Even more natural materials like wood decks can be considered “hardscape”. These structures offer a permanent surface that can be enjoyed as an entertaining or relaxing space, create defined pathways, or even act as parking for automobiles. The advantages of hardscapes are numerous but in the planning and constructing of the areas a few things need to be kept in mind.
First, consider the type of material you would like to use. Do you want it to be smooth and solid? Then maybe concrete would be an option. With the many stamping, texturing, and staining options today it does not have to be a plain grey slab.
Would you prefer an “Old World” or “Tuscan” feel? Then you might want to consider clay or tumbled concrete pavers. There are countless patterns to choose from and this option does give you the ability to remove a single paver should it ever become damaged. These pavers do have some added texture, which, depending on your preference can be seen as a good thing.
How about a natural feel? Then natural stone materials could be what you are looking for. From rough, natural flagstone to smooth saw-cut limestone the options here are numerous as well. One other important thing to consider with natural materials is what you would like the space between the stones to contain. Several popular options are solid mortared joints, decomposed granite, or even pea gravel. Each has its own pros and cons.
When adding hardscape to your landscaping, always consider your drainage. If this is not addressed properly from the onset, it can cause many problems down the line. It is always important to consider the run-off from the hardscape as well as different options to catch and control the water.
Although many of the material options are considered “permeable”, or will let water drain through, even they cannot completely absorb all of the rainfall that can come down in a hurry from time to time. Proper planning and implementing can alleviate these problems. Often creative solutions, like dry creek beds, can actually add to the landscape as a whole.
[singlepic=26,220,140,,left]Last, and by no means least, it is important to consider how the hardscape will work with the rest of the landscape as a whole. As I said before, they both can compliment each other greatly and a good planting design will only enhance your enjoyment of your hardscape.
Often you can soften the edges with plantings like vines or Rosemary training over walls and edges. Also, a hardscape generally lends itself to boundaries that are ideal for creating planting beds that can be filled with flowers, shrubs and trees that can add colors, scents, textures and shade to the area.
All in all, hardscapes can definitely add value and useable space to any landscape or home in general. Just keep in mind a few things when planning and implementing the project and you will have a permanent structure that you will be able to enjoy for years to come with little maintenance required.