How to Select Hardscape

How to Select Hardscape

Think beyond plants; hardscaping adds more style with less maintenance for your lawn and garden

By Glyn Sheridan

Green pencil coloring in landscape layout
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Hardscape, or "hard landscape," is the permanent element of your yard's landscape design. While trees, grass and flowers offer delightful color and texture, pathways, walls, fountains and patios provide the solid design components that complement your yard's theme. The best hardscaping reflects the homeowner's personal tastes and sense of style, so selecting the right material is essential.

  • What You Need to Know
  • You'll need a comprehensive sketch of your yard, drawn to scale, including existing trees and structures.
  • Contact your local utility companies before digging to make sure no buried lines or pipes are in the way.
Designing a Permanent Hardscape

Step 1:

Start with drawings and photographs. In addition to a sketch of your yard's dimensions, get pictures from the front, sides and back of the yard, facing your home. Take additional shots from your home toward the perimeter of your yard.

Step 2:

Identify your main hardscaping objective and build on that foundation. For example, if you want to create a private outdoor entertainment area, your focus will be on selecting fencing or wall materials to screen the area from view and choosing functional design elements such as a brick fire pit around which your guests will gather.

Step 3:

Add complementary paths to lead the way through your landscape. Poured concrete offers long-lasting straight or curved designs, but paths of gravel or hardwood mulch provide a softer feel underfoot. Paths should be comfortable for walking without distracting from your design.

Step 4:

Create interest with one or more textural elements. A flat concrete patio is functional, but rough-cut flagstones or paving bricks add color and variety. Repeating the same texture throughout the landscape ties the design together.

Step 5:

Select one or two focal hardscape elements and build around them. Large boulders, water fountains, rock gardens and garden pools draw the eye, but without complementary design, they can feel out of place. A single boulder in the middle of your backyard is interesting, but nestle that same boulder in a tiny Zen garden at the end of a winding path and you'll have a relaxing getaway.

Step 6:

Select materials that offer sounds that soothe or delight the senses. Trickling water in a fountain eases stress, bamboo chimes lull the listener and even the sound of gravel underfoot can set the mood.

Step 7:

Account for maintenance when choosing hardscape. Irregular-shaped patios draw attention, but mowing around them can be a chore. Painted fences and benches need regular repainting and garden ponds in yards with large trees may require frequent cleaning to remove leaf debris.

  • Tips & Warnings
  • Avoid placing small stepping-stones so far apart that pedestrians focus more upon where they are stepping than on the surrounding landscape.
  • Focus on the future of your yard when choosing hardscape. Leave a little room for growth.
  • Most hardscaping materials are expensive to purchase and to install. Think your ideas through for the most satisfying results.

About the Author

Glyn Sheridan is a regular contributor to DexKnows.

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