As garden enthusiasts, we appreciate all the different elements that come together to shape our landscape to make it the outdoor escape we know and love. When it comes to landscape design, there are two essential (and very different) elements to consider: hardscapes and softscapes. A good landscape design features a balance of both types and not too much of either, but finding that balance can be challenging. If you’re in the Quad City Metro Area, our skilled landscape designers here at Meyer would be happy to guide you! For now, here are a few of the basics:
Hardscape Vs. Softscape
So what is the difference between hardscaping and softscaping? While many people don’t know the difference, it’s actually very simple!
Hardscapes refer to the hard features of your yard—elements that use heavy materials, like rock, stone, brick, concrete, wood, etc. Hardscaping includes things like walkways, retaining walls, pools, patios, and furniture.
Softscaping refers to the softer, more fragile features of your yard—the elements that are actually alive! Softscapes include gardens and landscaping with your trees, shrubs, flowers, and other plants.
Hardscaping Your Landscape
Hardscaping is a pretty broad type of landscaping that can include anything from small details, like adding a backyard birdbath, to large projects, like building a patio. Regardless of how big or small, hardscapes are an important part of your landscape design. They’re constant and unchanging, offering reliable interest and providing a contrasting focal point against all the greenery (or snow!). Unlike most of your flowers and shrubs that come and go with the seasons, hardscapes are always there.
- Driveways are hardscapes that, depending on the size and material used, can have an impact on your property value. Paved, concrete, or brick driveways offer a more polished look, upping your home’s curb appeal.
- Walkways make navigating your property easier, while also adding a sense of adventure every time you take a stroll around your garden. Like driveways, there are a variety of materials to choose from.
- Outdoor living spaces also increase your property value, but more importantly, they add value to your life! Hardscapes like patios, decks, gazebos, and sheds encourage you to spend time outdoors, turning your backyard into an enjoyable living space to share with friends and family.
- Fences are both functional and attractive, providing privacy while giving your home a neat and polished aesthetic. They’re perfect for keeping the dogs in and keeping your nosy neighbors out!
- Outdoor lighting illuminates your yard, allowing you to enjoy your favorite spaces even after the sun goes down. Lighting should be done strategically to highlight all the best parts of your garden while also serving a functional purpose. Tall lamp posts are graceful additions that add vertical interest to your landscape.
- Fire pits are one of our favorite things to gather around with family and friends—a prime example of how an inanimate hardscape can still bring life and warmth to your yard!
- Water features, like birdbaths, fountains, and backyard ponds are popular hardscapes in the Quad Cities. They bring the therapeutic sound of trickling water to yards of any size, while also providing a water source for local wildlife—a combination that naturalizes your landscape.
- Swimming pools are an exciting water feature and hardscape that can be enjoyed by the whole family. They’re great for more spacious landscapes and can be designed to fit your yard’s specific layout.
- Rock, stone, and brick features offer neutral colors and different textures that perfectly contrast the rest of your garden. There are lots of ways to work these materials into your landscape! They can be used to create walkways, build retaining walls or stone walls, outline garden beds, and add focal points to the overall design.
Or drop a boulder in to cause a different structure to the current garden
Ultimately, your personal taste is going to dictate which hardscapes will work for your landscape. What features will you and your family enjoy the most? What materials do you find aesthetically pleasing? Because hardscaping often involves heavy materials and sometimes can be hard to reverse, working with an experienced landscape designer is your best bet at making your vision come to life.
Softscaping Your Landscape
If you’re not familiar with the term “softscaping,” you still probably know a thing or two about it! That’s because it’s essentially landscaping with plants—a hobby green thumbs like us like to call “gardening.” Plants bring life to your yard with a variety of different forms, colors, textures, and seasonal interests. A good landscape designer will take all these elements into account to design a beautiful and balanced softscape that looks great all year round.
Include a variety of different plants. A diverse landscape will offer a wide range of beautiful colors and textures, keeping things balanced, but interesting, all the time. Include trees, shrubs, flowers, edibles, vines, and groundcovers of all different types, colors, and sizes. Keep seasonal interest in mind to make sure you always have something impressive going on in your garden.
Include both annual and perennial plants. Perennials—or plants that come back year after year—are backbones of your landscape design, offering reliable charm with minimal maintenance. However, annuals—plants that die and need to be replaced each year—are valuable in their own way. They often offer big, beautiful displays and give you the option to update your landscape from year to year.
Display your plants in different ways. Your softscape doesn’t just refer to those that are planted firmly in the ground. Container gardens, hanging planters, and garden beds are great ways to display your favorite plants.
Maintain a healthy lawn. Grass is of the most consistent elements amongst different landscapes, and yet it’s also one of the most neglected! Maintaining a lush, green lawn will instantly improve your landscape and boost curb appeal. A little mowing, watering, fertilizing, and overseeding can go a long way in your property’s entire presentation.
Keep it balanced. While we love to include eye-catching elements and interesting focal points, it’s equally as important not to over-do it. A balanced and harmonious landscape includes complimentary plants and features with an overall aesthetic that’s pleasing to the eye. Too much contrast will leave you and your guests overwhelmed.
Although we’ve got snow in the forecast for Quad Cities and planting is done for the year, great landscape designs take thoughtful consideration. It’s really never too early to start planning your next landscaping project—talk to our skilled landscape designers today!