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Hardscape for the landscape

By Kristi Hendricks - Garden Inspirations | Apr 9, 2021

The effect of an attractive landscape with fetching plants on the perceived value of a home has often been documented at 15 percent or more, even for non-gardening lookie-loos. According to one survey, the preferred landscape includes a sophisticated design with large deciduous, evergreen and annual plants with notable hardscape.

Hardscape is our focus today, and is just as much fun as the horticultural elements of a landscape (the softscape). Hardscape refers to hard materials incorporated into a landscape design. This term often includes natural rock outcroppings or imported decorative stones, patios, driveways, retaining walls, walkways, pergolas and other landscaping made up of hard-wearing materials. The materials may consist of stonework, wood or concrete, just to name a few choices.

There is no better way to accent the softscape than with eye-catching brick, natural and fabricated stone, metal and even locally-made pottery. The hardscape can set the basic groundwork for your landscape, then use alluring plants to draw the eye to those unique hardscape features that reflect the home gardener’s style.

With a little hardscaping, gardeners can add dimension to even the flattest of properties by building in differing levels, defined curved edges and weaving walkways to create an inviting space. Moreover, walls, arbors, fences and stone boundary lines augment privacy from neighbors and passersby in a politely enhancing way.

One of the biggest benefits of incorporating hardscape is lowering the maintenance factor. Once the hardscape is arranged or created, the feature often lasts for years to come. That is, no watering, mowing, pruning or trimming is needed.

Hardscape is also water efficient. Similar to utilizing drought tolerant plants like native cultivars in your softscape, using hard features is an effective way to cut the cost of labor and water. A backyard hardscape such as a patio may allow you to essentially go water free in that area. No watering the fescue lawn and plants, except for those container plants that are easily maintained.

In today’s real estate market, hardscape materials can increase the value of the property by creating an outdoor extension of the home’s indoor space. The homeowner is adding usable square footage that can even be warmed with patio heaters and fire pits. These areas can be personally enjoyed and used to entertain guests outside of the home sanctuary.

Using thoughtful hardscape materials can even help reduce soil erosion. Incorporating a pea gravel driveway can assist with rainwater absorption. Using those ever-present limestone boulders to shore up the banks of culverts and using a French drain in conjunction with down spouts can prevent wash areas in the landscape while adding beauty.

Instead of leaving home to find a place to escape, build a backyard veranda where quick placement of table and chairs for a home-cooked picnic will be appreciated. Look for hardscape inspiration around your neighborhood and launch your own creative plan to increase your property’s attraction.

Kristi Hendricks is a graduate of Shepherd College and West Virginia University and a Master Gardener with the Virginia Cooperative Extension. After living in Virginia for a number of years, she has returned to her native Jefferson County. She can be reached at belowthejames@yahoo.com.