Think of your ideal landscape scenario — it probably contains a combination of man made features and natural features. Some landscape designs lean more towards one or the other but all the best ones feature both types of scapes. This is basically the difference between hardscapes versus softscapes and it’s an important distinction to understand. As you begin planning your project, think about the balance of hardscapes versus softscapes that you would like to achieve.
Hardscape makes use of hard materials – stone, concrete, brick, mortar, gravel etc. Anything that is built from these materials is considered a hardscape so that includes stone pathways, concrete patio slabs, driveways, retaining walls, brick flower beds and potentially dozens of other features. Softscape is just the opposite — it makes use of soft or natural materials like flowers, trees, shrubs, ground cover, mulch and any other element that gives your space a true outdoor feel. It does not have to be growing out of the ground to be considered a softscape — natural features planted in pots are also considered part of the softscape.
Hardscapes give the space structure — these features are built to last, require a minimum amount of maintenance and are specifically built to accommodate friends, family, and guests. Without hardscapes, your backyard would just be a patch of grass that got muddy, overgrown, and covered with insects. Softscapes give space character, and are also the most striking design element. When you walk into someone’s backyard, you notice the bright flowers and exotic plants more than you notice the walkway traveling between them. Softscapes take work to maintain, annual renewal and can be unpredictable but they also give the space life.
Find the right balance and interaction between the practical sensibility of hardscapes and beautiful ambience of softscapes and you will elevate the look and feel of your entire home. This outdoor paradise that you have created will be an amazing extension of your current living space that you and your family will love to spend time in. You’ll also have a space to which you can entertain friends and neighbours alike in the form of block parties — depending on the size of your backyard — informal get togethers, a wedding for a close relative or just a simple camping sleepover for the kids. That’s the beauty of a harmonious landscape design between hardscapes and softscapes — there is no limit.