The term “hardscape” refers any non-organic landscape element that is deliberately planned and constructed. It gets its name from the nature of the materials used to build the many forms that constitute this family of landscaping elements. Most construction materials used in these projects are very hard, and create lasting, durable, and resilient fixed that serve special purposes and add beauty and aesthetic impact to the yard.

Hardscape structures are almost always the first forms built when the time comes to actually implement a residential landscaping design project. This is due to the powerful visual impact they carry which lends itself so well to the establishment of order and system throughout the property. Though non-organic themselves, these structures are crucial to the proper showcasing of vibrant colors of garden design and the lush shades of green of a well-manicured lawn.

The types of hardscape structures that can be added to a yard are truly many and varied. Elements such as paved sidewalks, stepping stone pathways, brick walkways, atriums, courtyards, and custom patios are just a few examples. Many people also like to have more elaborate and sophisticated structures built, such as outdoor fireplaces, custom fountains, sports courts, stairways and steps, and garden pergolas.

There are also structures such as retaining walls and masonry planters that serve a vital practical purpose as well as adding vertical impact to the flat Houston landscape.

Any material that provides a firm, durable surface can be used to create a hardscape. Preferably, this material should be decorative as well as functional. Stone is still the most popular material after thousands of years. It looks natural and can be used to compliment any landscape design theme. Another popular material is concrete. It can be colored and stained to mimic stone, or it can be made to stand out as a unique, decorative statement all its own. Wood and brick are two other materials that have been around for centuries and show no sign of going away in the years to come.

In terms of practicality and aesthetics, the benefits that hardscapes add to landscaping are almost too numerous to count. Some of the more notable of these advantages are discussed as follows:

  • Pathways and walkways create transition by providing clear, recognizable transit areas through which traffic moves from one point of interest to another.
  • Paths can also create zones of interest and make a yard look bigger by altering the perspective and depth of the scene.
  • Architectural walls can create borders around vegetation and activity zones, magnifying the impact of the vegetation in the process.
  • Retaining walls can be used to change the grade of the Houston landscape.
  • Courtyard walls create enclosed spaces for privacy and conversation.
  • Garden pergolas, with their lattice walls, can screen the view with such elements as lattice walls or raftered ceilings partly open to the stars
  • Custom patios establish entertainment and seating areas, such as swimming pool patios, luxury spas, and outdoor fireplaces
  • Stairways and steps leading to and from outdoor buildings create drama and a sense of grand entrance.
  • Arbors create shade and comfort in the hot, Houston summer sun.
  • Masonry constructs add vertical impact that lifts the property above the aesthetic norm.
  • Front yard walkways and custom driveways add curb appeal to the edifice of the home.

In all of these examples, we can see how equally important the aesthetic element of hardscape is to its functional element. Ideally, there should always be a purposed served by a structure in a way that also pleases the eye. Some forms, however, are for all intents and purpose pure decoration and nothing more.

An excellent example of such would be outdoor water features such as custom fountains. Very small architectural walls around patios and morning gardens also do little to create enclosure or true privacy per se, but lend themselves very well to the sense of special place that is set apart visually and distinctively from the rest of the yard.

Rock Gardens

You may be torn between a love for nature and a tendency toward minimalism. You are too organically oriented, in one sense, to opt for the stark absolutes and industrial forms of contemporary design. On the other hand, you do not want an overgrown yard with so much vegetation that you are constantly spending all of your free time trimming back the constant growth. A good compromise to consider between

Decorative Stone Gravel

Decorative stone gravel is often used to make gardens and hardscapes stand out. Gravel is a natural drain, so it is one of the best ways to water plants with an all natural medium. At the same time, gravel keeps weeds from springing up, so it is a key element in low maintenance garden and landscape designs. Certain ground covers also hold position much better when they are grown in

Boulder Steps

Boulder steps are large, natural, attractive pieces of rock cut from large boulders. They are sawn into pieces to create flat surfaces that provide solid footing and firm traction. Normally, the larger part of the boulder is embedded in the ground, leaving the sawn portion to function as a step. Due to the diversity of stone types on our planet, these remarkable rock cuttings can be obtained in any color

How to Know When You Need New Hardscape Ideas

The quality of your home is directly reflected in the hardscape ideas that you use to support it. Hardscapes are structures such as walkways, patios, terraces, porches, driveways, masonry, and retaining walls. Since 80 percent of your Houston landscape design can consist of any number of these structures, it is imperative that you keep them clean and attractive at all times. When structures become dirty, damaged, or obsolete, it is time

Natural Stone Stairs

Natural stone stairs will support any style of Houston landscaping. It is true that stone is the most expensive hardscape element, but it is also true that stone offers the greatest return on investment in the form of maximized curb appeal and increased property value. If you have the funds to invest in nature’s one true hardscape, stone staircases built into the landscape elements in your yard will add

Stone Planter Walls can Act as Seat Walls

Why build a wall for seating only when you can also plant a variety of vegetation within its structure? Stone planter walls can act as seat walls around any number of landscape elements. They add vertical impact to the scene, and they act as decorative borders around special points of interest. Stone is used in all types of Houston landscaping designs, so you have the option for one of these

Retaining Wall

Representing both form and function, a retaining wall in your landscape garden design solves problems, adds interest and creates space. A retaining wall addresses drainage issues and, with some of today’s attractive products, can serve in that function while still looking quite beautiful. A retaining wall can also visually divide your landscape into more manageable areas, thus giving the eye a place to rest. It can even do double-time,

Concrete Retaining Walls

Concrete retaining walls provide lateral support for backfills. (A backfill is a vertical slope of earth held back from an adjacent level plain.) These structures offer some very important benefits to homeowners investing in residential landscape design. On a functional level, they ensure that the constantly shifting and crumbling claylike soil of Houston is stabilized as much as possible with advanced surface leveling and drainage techniques. This is particularly true

Stucco Walls

A stucco wall is any wall built from any number of raw materials that is then covered with stucco. Stucco is made by mixing an aggregate, a binder, and water together into a compound that is then applied, while wet, to the surface of the wall. This material then hardens into a dense solid that creates a strong, decorative façade. Stucco is commonly applied to surfaces that lack aesthetic

Retaining Garden Wall

A retaining garden wall is a special kind of retaining wall that is specifically dedicated to garden design. Some of these walls are used to actually contain gardens. Others are built inside the gardens themselves in order to create multiple levels of vegetation. This can add vertical impact to your garden, or it can be used to transform a sloped area in your yard from an eyesore into a premier