We’ve all heard of landscaping even if we don’t have a thorough understanding of what it entails.  The fact is that landscaping is composed of two distinct and contrasting elements:  softscaping and hardscaping.  In this piece we’ll be focusing on the latter and list some top facts about hardscaping.

What Is Hardscaping?

Hardscaping refers to the non-living, structural components of the landscape.  These are quite often human-made structures such as fences, walls, pathways, decks and fountains, but can also include natural materials such as rocks, gravel and wood.  Hardscaping is in contrast to softscaping which is identified by living components of the landscape, such as plants, trees, flowers, shrubs and grasses.  


Hardscaping offers a counterpoint to softscaping by providing an organized framework around which the more free flowing softscape features exist.  This can be considered as a balance between the relative simplicity of the hardscape features compared with the more complex nature of the softscape elements.  Hardscaping also accentuates the permanent versus the ephemeral.  Ultimately, hardscaping is meant to complement and augment the softscaping in a balanced and even way.


Many hardscape elements are entirely functional.  In the form of fences or walls, they can delineate boundaries and increase privacy.  They can provide shelter in the case of pergolas or gazebos.  And they can level out or stabilize the ground in the form of decks, pathways, driveways, retaining walls and drainage systems.  Hardscaping allows function to continue in and around the softscaped aspects of the landscape.


Hardscaping can also play a meaningful role in decorating the landscape.  One or two hardscape elements are often used as a focal point to draw the eye and provide it with structure and stability in contrast to the natural, and often more complex, elements of the softscaping.  Hardscape elements can also act as useful transition markers from one area of the landscape to another.  The use of a path or a straight line can naturally draw attention to another aspect of the space.  The types of materials used, such as stone, concrete or wood along with their colours and textures will also play a role in the overall ambience of the area.  However, when it comes to decor, hardscaping should be used to complement, rather than overwhelm, the softscaping elements.