The Difference Between Hardscapes and Softscapes in LandscapingHardscapes and softscapes are two completely different but essential elements of landscaping, and when they’re appropriately combined, they can create a backyard haven. These two elements of landscaping are the complete opposites of each other but are both necessary to build a functional landscape. A well-designed landscape in Powell, OH, provides a balance between these two landscaping categories and their components.

Hardscapes vs. Softscapes

Hardscapes are the strong, non-horticultural elements incorporated into a landscape. Elements such as walkways, retaining walls, patios, stairs, pools, driveways, and focal points like fire pits, water fountains, and fireplaces are known as hardscapes. On the other hand, the plantings and botanic parts of a yard make up the softscape—those are the elements that bring the landscape space to life. Together, these two essential parts make the yard feel like a mix between a cohesive part of nature and an extension of the indoor space.

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Design Consideration for Hardscapes

Hardscape elements are often built, installed, and completed before the softscape features are finalized in a new property. This is because most hardscape elements are incorporated into the ground, and very often the landscape suffers physical alterations from hardscape installation that includes dirt removal, and cutting and filling soil to prepare the site.

Hardscape elements are usually the focal points of a backyard design. Outdoor fire pits, fireplaces, fountains, and pondless waterfalls are stunning visual additions to the outdoor space that also act as gathering spots for visitors.

When designing a landscape, attention to the drainage of the hardscapes may come first. Hardscape materials are made from various materials, including concrete, brick, natural stone like flagstone, slate, limestone, or granite, so they don’t tend to absorb water. Lack of proper drainage in hardscaping might lead to a number of problems such as flooding, soil erosion, and even collapsing of retaining walls.

Design Considerations for Softscapes

After the main hardscape elements are installed, the softscape elements could be planted, and that’s when the entire landscape design will get its lively appeal. It is not an exception for gorgeous softscape elements—like tropical or particularly elegant trees, extravagant flower beds or vertical gardens—to steal the show and act as the main focal point in the landscape. Softscape elements like trees, shrubs, and perennials are considered permanent parts of the landscape, while annuals become temporary softscape features.

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Seasonal planting is important because it brings a vibrant touch and adds character to hardscape elements such as driveways and walkways. Ground covers like jasmine or ivy are a great addition to the top of a retaining wall, pillar, or seating area, and can thrive in areas of the yard with little to no sun. Climbing vines and wisteria are also a stunning addition to retaining walls and pergolas.

Combining Hardscapes and Softscapes

Proper landscape design incorporates both hardscapes and softscapes into the design plan. The process of planning and installing hardscapes and softscapes is where knowledge and experience of the landscape contractor come into play. Ideally, the relationship between the hardscape and softscape should resemble scenery found in nature to some extent.

Since softscapes evolve with the seasons, some special consideration is required. Plants grow in different heights, which should be taken into account along with sunlight, shade, and the colors of the blooms.