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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Choose Balanced Elements

Susan's pet peeve? "Boulders that are supposed to be helping to naturalize an area, but instead have been dropped right on top of the ground and are sitting there like dinosaur eggs," she says. "To successfully use boulders in hardscape, you need to make sure they're large enough to fit with the scale of the landscape, and bury them deep enough so they look like a naturally-occurring element."

Too-linear elements can create the same unnatural feel, says Sabrena, a certified landscape designer. "I see way too many people plop in a straight or L-shaped sidewalk, or stick a linear or rectangular patio or deck on the back of the house without giving further thought to the natural lines of the space," she says. "You should try to include curves and shapes in a way that the hardscape elements transition gracefully into the rest of the landscape."

Keep the Greenery

Sure, you see all-stone or concrete areas in the Southwest, says Susan, but there the focus on hardscapes can be a matter of necessity, not a trend to follow. "Southwesterners sometimes have to have a hardscape without greenery due to the strong sun and too little water," she says. Everyone else, she says, should definitely include ample vegetation in relationship to hard surfaces.

Barbara Pleasant, author of Garden Stone: Creative Landscaping with Plants and Stone takes the idea even further. "You can have a beautiful backyard comprised of a hardscape framed by shrub and flowerbeds, but keeping a small swath of lawn is a good idea," she says. "Grass is a safer playing surface for children, and a patch of turf will help cool down the landscape on hot, sunny days."

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

Choose Proper Materials for Your Style

"Hardscapes can be relaxed or formal, but the best ones show a well-defined style," Barbara says. "Think of a two- or three-word phrase that describes your vision and stick with it. An intimate courtyard, for example, has little in common with a Grecian garden when it comes to style."

After selecting your style, choose a few materials that complement your home's interior and exterior. You don't want to have to look at a hardscape with all one color or material, Samuel says.

"The idea is to find two or three materials that are visually creative and coordinate not just with each other but with the interior and exterior of the house," says Susan.

Textural variety is important, too, Barbara says. "In most hardscapes, it's OK to have two textures going, for example flagstone underfoot and landscape blocks for low walls, but more than two textures tends to look messy. If a wood deck is part of the picture, try to stick with a single type of stone or brick for your hardscape," she adds.

Enlarge Photo+Shrink Photo-Image courtesy of Susan Murphy

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