For most landscaping projects, while the plants provide the colour and clothe the finished design, it is the elements of hard landscaping – the structures and surfaces – which provide the framework. Whether it is the privacy afforded by walls and fences, the shelter of trellis-work, or the practical access afforded by a well-crafted path, the hard landscape is every bit as important in creating the overall “feel” – and contributing to the usefulness – of any garden, large or small.
For the new plot, elements such as pergolas or terraces provide the focal point, until your fresh plantings become established and begin to impress their own influence and appeal, while in a mature garden, sympathetic hard landscaping can revitalise and add renewed interest.
As with so much of landscape design, a bit of careful planning at the outset pays dividends and can avoid so many potential pitfalls!
Planning the Hard Landscape
The key to incorporating hard landscaping successfully into the general design is to consider all the elements – hard and soft – in relation to each other and never losing sight of the wider plan or how they all need to fit together. The overall garden design may make some choices simple; the informal look of a picket fence or rustic rose-arch, for instance, is never going to sit happily in an otherwise entirely “formal” environment.
Avoiding clashes of this kind with your selection of hard landscaping structures and materials is one of the most important principles to bear in mind. Get your choice right and it will feel perfect – although almost no one will notice; get it wrong and everyone will, even if they cannot quite put their finger on why.
Linking the Elements
Few aspects of a design can link all of the elements together quite so effectively as good use of the structures and surfaces in the garden. If the materials, size, style and shape are all in keeping with one another – and the house too – then some quite remarkable effects can be achieved, even in the smallest of spaces and the tricks to pulling this off are surprisingly simple.
Building walls or terraces which sit beside your home out of similar kinds of materials, makes the transition from house to garden a gentle one. Be aware of the affect a path can have – a straight one makes a formal sharp division into one side or the other, while a gently meandering and less structured path draws the eye into the garden as much as it encourages you to wander along it. Using the right one makes all the difference to the whole character of the garden – so take your time to decide what sort of space you really want to create.
Whatever you set out to build – from the simplest of walkways to the most intricate area of decking – it is worth remembering that unless you deliberately want to create a contrast between different elements or areas, picking harmonious styles and surfaces works best.
Making an Outdoor Room
The idea of the garden as an extension of the home is one of the most exciting developments in modern landscape design and whether you have a huge rambling space, the smallest of yards or even just a balcony, structures and surfaces really build the outdoor room. To support or set-off planting they are hard to beat, while decking, patios and pergolas can add so much as valuable extensions of your living space.
Aside of their purely functional aspect, hard landscaping elements – if chosen wisely – can be attractive features in their own right and provide a welcome spot of all-year interest, whatever the worst of the weather throws at your plants.
Hard landscaping is vital in setting the tone and providing the structure of a garden design. With the potential to be every bit as ornamental as functional, how you choose to combine the various structures and surfaces is an important part of making sure that you get the best out of your finished garden – so take your time and enjoy the planning!