Landscaping Dos and Don'ts

How to Create a Successful Hardscape

Landscape designers offer tips on creating and installing a successful hardscape design.

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A great hardscaping project leads you through the landscape and provides a sense of timeless beauty. Image courtesy of Salsbury-Schweyer

Hardscaping is an attractive feature and offers many appealing options, from a rustic stacked wall to a fully developed outdoor living room and kitchen. Once you've decided to create an outdoor space, you must plan carefully to meet your hardscaping goals.

"Research really pays off, especially when you consider that a fixed object in the landscape is not going to move easily — and you don't want to put in a lot of effort and then have your materials or design fail within a couple of years," says Samuel Salsbury, a member of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers and partner with Sabrena Schweyer, APLD, in Salsbury-Schweyer, an Akron, Ohio-based landscape design group.

By following these simple tips and avoiding some common mistakes, you can create hardscaping you'll love for years to come.

Consider the Landscaping

As much as you can, consider the entire area available to you for hardscaping before you design an element, even if you're just tackling one space for now.

"At the bare minimum you should plan a design for the whole area, or consult a professional to create a design for you," Samuel says. "If you don't consider the site comprehensively, it's like building one room of a house, and then a year or so later, a second room. You may decide to plop down a patio, and then decide you want a barbecue, pond or walkway and the patio blocks your plan."

Enlarge Photo+Shrink Photo-Image courtesy of Salsbury-Schweyer

Delve Into Draining Issues

Samuel says he's seen more hardscapes messed up by people ignoring drainage requirements than by all the other errors combined.

"You must plan how the drainage will be affected when you place, say, a wall or a patio," Samuel says.

There's also an environmental consideration, says Weston, Wisc. landscape designer Susan Murphy. "You should plan runoff so you can capture the water and use it on site, instead of letting it hit that concrete and go down the drainage pipe."

Develop a Focal Point

"You want the eye to travel toward a destination, and one or two visual elements that make you pause, either visually or literally, like a weeping evergreen with an Oriental lantern," Susan says.

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