Opposites Attract:  Balancing Hardscape and Softscape in Your Landscape Design

From on August 26, 2008 in CalFinder News

softscape hardscapeI believe it was Socrates who coined the phrase, “All things in moderation.” Only a statement so true could have lasted these long millennia, losing none of its vitality and permeating all aspects of our culture. Including our horti-culture and, more familiarly, our landscape design.

Just like the Earth, your landscape has two poles: one hard, one soft. Achieving a balance between these two is essential to the success and comfort of your yard and your home.

What is softscape?

Softscape is plantings. This includes flowers, shrubs, bushes, trees, grass, whatever. If it grows out of the ground and is in your yard, call it soft.

What is hardscape?

Hardscape is the one many of us too often ignore. In fact, we often do not even realize its existence. Hardscape is the retaining wall, the fountain, the stone pavers, the patio, and even those things we tend to disregard such as the driveway and the garage.

Where is the balance? Why should I care?

Hardscape and softscape both play an important role in your landscape. Hardscape provides function to the soft beauty of plants. Each is vital. A stone pathway can turn a puddle into a water feature. Yet some well-planted trees, flowers, and other natural accents can turn a shack into a cozy cottage. Basically, you can’t have one without the other. I have driven down a lot of roads and a lot of driveways in my time, as I’m sure you have also. And I can attest to the stunning beauty of a long driveway lined with trees; that feeling of passing through a natural tunnel, especially at the height of autumn. Now contrast that with a drive through an open, unadorned field. The house may be large and amazing, but it is the trees, the flowers, the accents that elevate the experience.

It is the hardscape and softscape, joined together, that give the landscape beauty, vibrancy, and depth.

In order to gain proper balance, you should bear your landscape design in mind throughout the process of designing your home. Remember that your home itself, especially the garage which often stands out against the rest of the house, is part of the hardscape. Think about how you’ll adorn the exterior of your home before you build. Take time to work with your contractor to gain a grasp of the big picture. This holistic outlook will help facilitate satisfaction when all is said and done. A good balance between hardscape and softscape moves the boundaries of your home beyond its own four walls.

For the remodeling landscaper, it is almost as easy. Simply keep the harder edges of your home right up front with the plantings. A patio or deck will provide valuable space for family and community. At the same time, a properly placed tree adds priceless shade and a patio that is comfortable all day.

Photo: Bert Boerma