What's the Difference Between Hardscape and Softscape?

hardscape vs. softscape

Hardscape and softscape are the main elements in landscape design. While the two are the complete opposites of each other, a balance of both is necessary to create a well-designed landscape.

What are Hardscape and Softscape?

Inanimate objects such as stones, concrete, bricks and all hard materials in your yard are hardscape. They can be either man-made or natural and are movable. Hardscape is unchanging and solid. Other examples include gazebos, retaining walls, driveways, outdoor kitchen and decks. 

Main hardscaping materials include solid stone, metal, wood, brick, tile, pavers and concrete. Some of the hardscaping elements are mainly for practical purposes such as retaining walls and fences. There are other hardscape elements that can also create focal points such as fireplaces, fountains and wooden arbors. If you have a bigger yard, adding more hardscape features can also improve the design. Some of these include pergolas for providing shelter, patios and gazebos for relaxation, and walkways for landscape navigation.  

Softscape, on the other hand, are the living, soft and growing stuff found in your yard. Succulents, trees, flowers, shrubs are examples of softscape. They evolve and adapt to climate conditions. Unlike hardscape, softscape elements need to be maintained regularly. Softscape maintenance includes mowing, planting, weed removal, pruning, trimming, fertilizing and watering. These two make up the beauty of your landscape. Too much of the other can affect the curb appeal of your home

The Importance of Balance Between Both Components

Hardscaping can add practicality, focal points and access to the design while softscaping adds beauty and color to the landscape. Too much paving, gravel and rocks may remove the paradise-like ambiance in your yard. An overabundance of hardscape may make your yard look like a commercial property. A yard with too many plants, vegetable gardens, grasses and succulents with no paths or separation will look like a jungle. To have a beautiful landscape, there has to be a balance between the hardscape and softscape elements. 

How Landscaping Works

The hardscape elements have to be built and completed first before you can incorporate the softscape elements. This is because walkways, driveways and other hardscape elements are usually installed into the ground. When everything is in place, you can then plant your herbs or trees. When designing, make sure that the drainage is also in place. The hardscape elements do not absorb water so a lack of drainage may lead to flooding. 

For balance, some homeowners may plant grass or place crushed stones in the pavers for drainage. While it’s always better to balance both, less greenery may be better in dryer climates. If you live in a wetter climate, you need to make sure that the softscape elements can handle rainwater. Otherwise, you need to install more drainage. 

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