What’s the Difference Between Hardscapes and Softscapes?

Have you ever seen a yard that looks like a chaotic tangle of plants, grass and trees? Or a beautiful stone fountain that’s dwarfed by tall trees?

A perfectly-landscaped yard is made up of hardscapes and softscapes that balance and complement each other. Too much hardscaping and your yard can look sterile. But too much softscaping and your yard will turn into a jungle.

But what’s the difference between hardscapes and softscapes? And what’s the best way to incorporate both elements in my yard?

What are Hardscapes?

Hardscape design is the very foundation of your yard. It gives your yard shape, structure and privacy. Trees, shrubs and flowers may look beautiful, but you won’t be able to stroll, socialize or relax in your yard without hardscapes.

Hardscapes can be natural, like stone or gravel, or manmade, like wooden planters or fountains.

Examples of hardscapes are:

Hardscaping elements like retaining walls, pathways and benches aren’t just attractive. They fulfill practical and essential functions like stopping water runoff, reducing water absorption and protecting the soil.

What’s Softscapes?

If hardscapes are the more permanent, heavy materials in your yard, softscapes are the living parts that change and evolve over the year.

Examples of softscapes are:

  • Trees
  • Hedges
  • Flowerbeds
  • Grass
  • Mulch

Softscapes are more sensitive and high-maintenance than hardscapes. So, before you buy any softscape you must keep the soil type, shape and location of your yard in mind.

Good hardscaping design can improve the softscapes of your yard. For example, a sloped yard can be transformed by installing retaining walls, which you can then fill with beautiful flowers.

What Comes First — Hardscapes or Softscapes?

The rule of thumb when designing your yard is to start with hardscaping. You might be tempted to run out and buy your softscapes first. But you’ll waste precious time and money if the layout of your yard isn’t practical.

Think of hardscaping as the foundation and the canvas of your yard. Installing hardscapes often requires technical knowledge, hard work and heavy materials, and it’s not easily changed. So, make sure to plan out where you want to sit, eat and walk in your yard before you get started.

But once you’ve installed your patios, pathways and water features, they will last for years with minimal maintenance. And they will allow you easy access to your trees, lawn and flowerbeds that need regular care.

What Should I Consider When Softscaping and Hardscaping My Yard?

There are a few things to keep in mind when designing the softscapes and hardscapes of your yard.

How Do I Want My Garden to Look?

When you’re landscaping your yard, you need to think about balance. You might have your heart set on a vegetable patch and a rose garden. But without shape or structure to your yard, your softscapes will look chaotic.

Some tips to maintain balance in your garden:

  • Plan balanced, functional sections in your yard, separated by retaining walls, pathways and seating areas
  • Take advantage of the vertical, especially in small gardens, by installing wooden fences for climbing plants or tall wooden planters
  • If your yard has many trees and tall shrubbery, a larger patio provides a good counterbalance

What Exactly Am I Working With?

You might be working with a tricky soil type, a steep slope, or a lot of water runoff. Luckily, you can use hardscape materials to mould your yard into the perfect outdoor space for your family.

  • If you have a steep slope in your yard, install stone retaining walls
  • If your soil is hard and difficult to work with, consider raised beds filled with good-quality soil that suit your softscapes
  • If your lawn dies every summer like clockwork, think of drought-resistant solutions in natural materials like a stone patio or colored gravel

How Do I Want to Use My Garden?

It’s never been more popular to use your outdoor space to relax, eat and entertain. The separation between the outdoor and indoor is blurring — for many people, their yard is an extension of their home.

If you love spending time in your yard, it’s essential that you plan your hardscapes carefully to take as much advantage of the outside as possible. For example:

  • If you enjoy alfresco cooking and entertaining, a large patio with an outdoor kitchen means you won’t miss a moment
  • If your yard needs a focal point, consider a stunning gazebo that also provides shade or a pergola over a hot tub
  • If you enjoy relaxing in your garden, think about a second seating area in a quiet part, like a stone bench under the shade of a tree
  • If you want to grow vegetables, install stone or gravel pathways between sections to make sure you have full access

Your yard needs hardscape design to shape it into the perfect outdoor space for you. And if good quality hardscapes are installed correctly, they will last for years and require minimal maintenance. But it does require technical knowledge and hard work to do properly.

So, if you need help with the hardscapes in Asheville, get in touch. We, at Ambrose Landscapes, take care of all your hard-landscaping needs with quality workmanship, attention to detail and to the highest standard.

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