DIY: Hardscape Essentials

My Garden Life
April 5, 2017
Table of Contents

What is it?

Hardscape is not a catchy term for overly difficult gardening sites. It simply means the hard, durable parts of the landscape…the non-plant elements. Hardscaping elements are often chosen for function and directly or indirectly add beauty.

Hardscape can be used to:

  • Provide definition of different areas within a landscape
  • Direct views and traffic
  • Frame or screen views
  • Provide shelter
  • Ambiance and ease of access
  • Create containment.


Seating areas can help to control views and define experiences in the landscape. Patios can gain extra function with built-in spaces for grills, speakers or lights. Full-size patios near the house are traditional for entertaining and cookouts, but small areas of private seating quickly prove their worth as well. A bench or two along a path can carry the eye to accent plants or a sculpture and away from unsightly areas. Benches and other seating can also function as decoration, visible destinations, and hidden retreats or rest stops within the landscape.

Garden Seating


Walls of natural stone, textured block or treated wood can define boundaries; retain soil when adding multiple levels to a landscape and aid in the creation of water features. Even without a pond, water simply flowing over retaining walls adds soothing sound and can be easily done with a re-circulating pump. Walls also provide one more place to garden, as plants can be grown in their cracks and crevices. Succulents work well for this, but so do herbs such as creeping thyme – perfect for the wall next to the grill.

Hardscaping with Walls, stone, wood, natural


Pathways direct the feet and the eyes, with their materials and their layout affecting the pace, as well as the overall experience, of those navigating them. Paving bricks and blocks are considered more formal than gravel or stone, with stepping stones and mulch being the least formal. Straight paths, giving a direct route to a set destination, cause users to adopt a quicker pace and focus on the visible lure at the end of the path – such as a sculpture, bench, or ravishing specimen plant. Winding or vanishing paths pull the traveler forward with the mystery of what lies around the bend, but at a more meandering pace.

Hardscaping with Pathways.

Decorative Structures

Arbors, pergolas and gazebos can function merely as attractive, sheltering destinations, or they can define areas of transition. They can also provide vertical interest and support for climbing plants, as do obelisks, trellises and plant pillars. The type of material such structures are created from is a factor in how well they fit into the given landscape and the ambiance they lend to it – Victorian scroll work, wrought iron, unfinished cedar, or rough logs and twigs are a few of the common and distinctively different choices.

Decorative Structures


Fencing is another hardscaping element with multiple possible functions and material choices. It can screen views, provide a backdrop or climbing support for plants and create enclosures for pets or children to play in, or protect plants from animal invaders. Fencing can even be used to designate boundaries and frame views at the same time, by spacing fence sections with gaps between them. This lends definition to the area they border while each gap provides a snapshot of the landscape beyond.

Fences - Tall, simple and white picket

Give it a bit of thought

Hardscaping should be planned for, and some even installed, before the plants are in the landscape. Plan based on space, budget, and foremost, how you will use the finished landscape. Do you just want a pretty view from the house, or do you need spots to entertain and relax, a veggie patch and a bit of lawn for the kids? Don’t forget a retreat area under a shade tree… where hardscaping with a hammock is highly recommended.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts

Holiday Poinsettias and Their Family

Holiday Poinsettias and Their Family

Poinsettias mean Christmas, no doubt about it, but consider the rest of their plant family year-round for low-maintenance houseplants and resilient color for the garden.
6 Best Bulbs for Southern Gardens (Zones 7-10)

6 Best Bulbs for Southern Gardens (Zones 7-10)

These perennial bulbs survive and thrive in the heat and humidity of southern gardens. If you live where the temperature and the heat index aren't as high as the Deep South, then plant these bulbs in containers and enjoy them as annuals.
Care Tips for Holiday Cyclamen

Care Tips for Holiday Cyclamen

Learn how to keep these winter flowers healthy and happy!

Related Posts

10 Shrubs That Smell as Good as They Look

10 Shrubs That Smell as Good as They Look

6 Signs of Potentially Hazardous Trees

6 Signs of Potentially Hazardous Trees

How to Plant a Perennial

How to Plant a Perennial

frost map with dates

Frost Map with Dates

USDA zone finder with zip code search and maps

USDA Zone Finder

plant library

Plant Library

Save plants to your personal library

Join My Garden Club to access more features

Already a member?
Log in now

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This

Share this post with your friends!