Planning your garden? Don't forget to plan for your hardscape as well. Hardscape is the inorganic part of the garden or yard, such as walkways and pergolas. Put a strong emphasis on "part of the garden"; any hardscaping should be carefully planned to integrate with your plantings and your house. Create a flow by combining two or more hardscape features to turn your yard into a truly magical place. Imagine strolling a rustic cobblestone path that leads to the surprise of a charming pergola ... or emerging from your backyard swimming pool just in time to grill supper on the adjacent patio.
Traditionally, hardscape has meant non-living outdoor decor made of masonry and wood. However, these days that definition is expanding. Your home's hardscaping elements might also be concrete, tile, brick, or cobblestone. You can let your imagination go when it comes to the materials you select. Just make sure that your choices blend harmoniously with the landscape, your house, and each other. Keep them in scale -- don't overwhelm a tiny yard with an enormous piece of statuary, for example. Use soft curves as well as straight lines and angles, and vary heights. Two or three coordinating colors and textures in your hardscape will be more appealing than a single one. Include plenty of vegetation for both a natural look and a cooling effect.
Deciding on your goals is an integral step in any well-crafted plan. What purpose(s) do you have in mind for your hardscaping? Perhaps you want to protect your lush green grass from wear and tear or provide easy access to a vegetable garden. An attractive footpath, based on typical foot traffic patterns, is the obvious solution. If you'd like to cut down on lawn care and watering, a patio will be just what you need. Don't forget to plan for a safe play area if you have kids or grandkids. In a mild climate where you are able to enjoy your yard for a large part of the year, an outdoor living room may be a dream come true.
Before getting started on a hardscaping project, make sure you get the necessary approval. Many jobs will require a permit, as well as permission from your HOA (if applicable). You may need to consult with an architect or an engineer -- for instance, if you'd like to put up a retaining wall or change the grade of your land. Plan for adequate drainage of sizable areas like pool surrounds, and make sure that you'll be building properly prepared bases. In addition, consider your property's patterns of sun and shade so that you can take the best advantage. Finally, decide whether you are ready to tackle the project yourself, possibly with the help of one of the DIY kits on the market, or whether you'd prefer to opt for a professional hardscape install.
Keeping all of this information in mind, now you're ready for some fun ... choosing the features to include in your hardscape project. A decorative path is quite likely the first idea that springs to mind. How about using the same material to upgrade your driveway -- especially if it is highly visible by visitors to your home? Next, you'll probably need a place to sit. Build some benches, or incorporate them into a handsome stone wall, whether structural or ornamental. While you're at it, you will want a table or two, plus a fire pit or fireplace for barbecues or warming up on chilly evenings. In fact, if you have the space, why not go for an entire outdoor kitchen? Add to the beauty of your yard with planters to be filled with flowers, or install an attractive trellis or rock garden. Fun and functional hardscape elements comprise water features, arbors, swings, birdbaths, and sundials.