Hardscapes—the non-plant material of your landscape design—play a critical part of any garden landscape project. When combined with green, growing plants, they create an outdoor living environment that invites you, your family and friends to come in, to sit and enjoy, to meander and explore.
Types of Hardscapes
- Pool decking. This hardscape runs from the swimming pool to the house, connecting these two major areas. Popular choices are flagstone, brick or wood. Special attention needs to be paid to using non-slippery surfaces since it is part of a wet area.
- Outdoor Fireplace. Both functional and aesthetic, fireplaces provide warmth in the fall and winter, as well as add ambiance to the garden. The look of this particular hardscape can range from a grand to simple.
- Wooden decks and arbors. Although most people attach them to the house, decks can also be freestanding. Other popular hardscape structures made of wood include arbors, pergolas, loggias and gazebos that create a decorative entrance or frame a focal point. They are attractive ways to make a strong statement or point to a sense of something happening on the other side of a fence.
- Gardens pathways. Paths direct the eye and connect different spaces. They can be dressed up or dressed down, depending on the material used.
- Retaining walls. A retaining wall is usually a short wall used to hold the soil in place. A good landscape designer will construct these hardscapes in such a way that they blend in or create visual interest.
- Seat walls. These low walls bring definition to a space—and also double as seating when entertaining large groups.
- Driveways and motor courts. Typically vast expanses of concrete, driveways and motor courts can be constructed in ways that complement the house and landscape design.
For Your Consideration
There are many different types of hardscape materials. They include:
- Concrete. A popular choice, concrete is durable, inexpensive and can be poured into a site-specific shape. It can be colored, stained or textured to create long-lasting beauty.
- Pavers. A man-made brick that recalls old world charm, pavers can be installed to create intricate patterns, including cobblestone. Laid on sand or a concrete base, usually without mortared joints, they are environmentally friendly.
- Wood decking. When choosing wood as your hardscape material, the byword is dutiful and beautiful. Pressure-treated pine is the mainstay of decks, but cedar and a South American wood called ipe (pronounced ee-pay) are also popular. Cedar, which has a natural resistance to decay, is an exceptional choice for arbors because of its dimensional stability. It lies flat, stays straight, retains fasteners and provides a firm base for many types of stains and paints. Wood decking is great for tree preservation because of its very small footprint when combined with proper post-construction techniques.
- Stone. Types of stone used in hardscape construction include cut limestone, sandstone, quartzite and slate. These materials are available in cut pieces, like square, rectangles or irregular pieces. Stone is normally laid on a reinforced concrete slab (usually 4” thick), cemented, and then grouted between the joints.
- Cast stone. A masonry product that provides ornamental or functional features to buildings and other structures, cast stone gives the appearance of natural stones such as limestone, granite, slate, travertine or marble. They are made from fine and coarse aggregates, Portland cement, mineral oxide color pigments, chemical admixtures and water. Shapes include squares for paving, columns, planters, door surrounds and are available in virtually any color.
An important component of any hardscape project, a landscape drainage system should be taken seriously—especially with Houston’s infamous torrential downpours. It makes the difference between having usable hard surfaces or dealing with seasonal small lakes and swamps. A skillful landscape designer can design patio and driveway drains in a way so that they invisible or, at the very least, discrete.
Landscape lighting and water—such as an outdoor water fountain or luxury swimming pool—can bring your hardscape elements to life. If used, lighting and water will, of course, require electrical and plumbing work. However, both elements really ratchet up the impact. Lighting makes your landscape a 24-hour-a-day delight and water provides movement, creating both visual and auditory pleasures. They are the killer apps of the landscape design world.
Call the experts at Exterior Worlds about putting hardscapes into your landscape design—or improving existing ones: 713-827-2255.
For more the 20 years Exterior Worlds has specialized in servicing many of Houston’s fine neighborhoods.