April 21, 2014
When designing a landscape for a home or business, one of the most important choices you’ll have to make is whether to use hardscapes or softscapes as part of the overall design of your space. While a mixture of both is essential in most environments, the amount of each may vary depending on your environment and particular aesthetic tastes.
Before you can compare hardscapes versus softscapes, it’s first important to understand what each medium is comprised of. Hardscapes involve the more hard, non-living and often man-made materials used in landscaping. These materials include stone and brick used for pathways, water features and retaining walls. Softscapes involve the living aspects of your landscape, such as trees, shrubs, flowers and turf.
When determining whether to use more hardscape or softscape features, it’s essential to look at environmental factors like weather. Climates that are warm and dry may make it difficult to maintain softscape items like grass or trees. The same can be said for climates where the weather is too cold to regularly maintain living items. In these different environments a landscape that features more hardscape items like slate, concrete and brick make the landscape easier to maintain, as well as reducing the use of resources like water. Keep in mind that even in harsh weather climates various softscape items can still survive. Utilize local plants, such as cacti in southern climates, one can still mix softscape and hardscape together for maximum impact.
Small yard spaces can impact your options for softscape or hardscape items in your landscape, especially in more urban environments. In these circumstances it’s common to use hardscape for permanent structures, combined with softscape in portable containers. For example, while the yard space may be covered in stone or concrete, planters with trees, shrubs, flowers or even edible plantings like vegetables and fruit can bring in a softer aspect.
Another factor that determines the use of hardscapes versus softscapes is your own personal design tastes or aesthetic. For example, those who prefer a more modern space may choose to use hardscape features like stone or concrete for their clean architectural lines and muted color palette. However, those who are looking for more of a traditional or natural aesthetic may prefer the greenery, color and fullness that softscapes provide.
A final element that plays a role in the materials for your landscape is cost. Hardscapes often are more expensive in the short term as both the material and labor can quickly add up during installation. However, there is still cost involved with softscapes as well. Though softscape items are typically less expensive, the cost to water and replace items like annuals add up, as annuals need replanted each year.
When it comes to choosing hardscapes versus softscapes, much of the decision comes down to your own personal tastes. Most any environment can utilize both forms of landscaping, and finding a way to combine the two harmoniously more often than not the key to creating the perfect atmosphere for outdoor living.
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