AJ Groundworks

What Is the Difference Between Hard and Soft Landscaping?

Landscaping is all about combining various elements. And as interesting as the topic seems, landscaping itself is quite broad. Under its umbrella, there are two categories: hard landscaping and soft landscaping.

It is crucial to know the difference between the two to fully comprehend how to build and design a space. While both are required to build a lovely, inviting outdoor room space, it is important to note that they are opposite, as their names suggest.

In this article, we have detailed the key differences, elements, and benefits of soft and hard landscaping. Continue reading to know how to design for your landscape.

What is Hard Landscaping?

Hard landscaping involves elements such as stone or concrete walkways, decks, walls, planter boxes, and everything else that uses ‘hard' materials. It is described as a design that is built using natural, man-made, and non-living materials.

Of course, you can landscape an area using only hardscape materials, particularly since the materials themselves come in such a wide range of colours and textures. Combining stone and wood, for example, is an ideal way to build a textured, plain, and beautiful garden that does not require any greenery.

While you can create a hardscape garden without the greenery, the same cannot be said for a soft landscape garden without the hardscape elements. Hard landscaping is usually needed, particularly when it comes to preventing erosion and assisting water runoff.

In a typical landscaping project, people plan and install the hardscape before the soft landscape. This is because the hard landscape is usually the structure where they install the soft landscape in.

One reason why many consider hardscape design over the other is that its outcomes are normally permanent and immediate. It is impossible to wait for anything to evolve. The design is present as soon as you lay the materials out. The architectural side of the garden becomes the hardscape.

By using the distinctive textures of pots, planters, jars, and troughs, you can use hardscape for indoor gardens. When used correctly, these elements can add vibrancy to any room. Also, pebbles and wood shelving may make a significant difference.

What are the 5 Elements of Hard Landscaping?

1. Patios or decks

Decks, whether made of stone or wood, are a lovely addition to any backyard and help to divide the room into two distinct areas. Decks may be an extension of the building, next to the back door, or raised off the ground in a separate part of the garden.

2. Structures

Pergolas, gazebos, and sheds are all examples of outdoor structures. These are all hardscape features that will look fantastic in any landscape. They can also be used to help vines and other climbing plants grow.

3. Driveways

They are often difficult to design and do not always look pretty, but they are necessary components. When it comes to curb appeal, size matters, and the material you select will make a huge difference.

4. Pathways

Paths may be made of a variety of materials, including pebbles, bricks, or pavers, as well as stone or even terrazzo.

5. Fences

Fences do not have to be dull or bland to provide privacy and protection. Picket fences, timber slatting, and even a solid wall can be used creatively to add flair to your yard.

What is Soft Landscaping?

The living elements in your garden, such as trees, plants, grass, vines, and shrubbery, are known as soft landscape architecture. While some elements, such as trees or evergreen shrubs, are permanent, other plants can come and go with the seasons and whether or not you decide to redo the space.

A professional landscaper will consider the soil quality, the natural lay of the land, the amount of sunlight the area receives, and the type of landscaping you want to achieve when determining what to include in the soft landscape elements.

As previously mentioned, soft landscape elements struggle to survive in the absence of hardscape materials. Although hardscape elements provide a container or barrier for some plants, it all boils down to erosion, water run-off, and the physical structure for others.

Soft landscaping is often used simply because greenery is a beautiful aspect of the garden; however, it can also be used to soften hardscape elements. Hedges or plants can make a space pop, and soft landscape elements work well with the physical materials' harder edges.

What are the 5 Elements of Soft Landscaping?

Now that you know the distinction between hard landscaping and soft landscaping, the following elements of soft landscaping will make sense:

1. Trees

When it comes to trees, which are the most permanent soft landscape feature, you do not always have a choice. In any case, they are a fantastic addition to any backyard.

2. Shrubs and Ground Cover

You can use several different forms of ground cover. It does not have to be grass. Shrubs, for example, can create a beautiful lower visual feature.

3. Flower Beds or Gardens

Planter boxes are a perfect way to mix the soft and hard elements if planting directly into the soil is not a choice. Flower beds are also a lovely way to add colour to space and provide variety throughout the year, particularly if you plant flowers that bloom at different times of the year.

4. Mulch

This is ideal for low-maintenance or neglected backyard areas. Mulch is beneficial because it inhibits weed growth and retains moisture in the soil.

5. Screens

Physical fences are not the only source of privacy. Tall hedges or bamboo, for example, are two unusual ways to use soft landscape to build screens or barriers.

Why Is Balanced Landscaping Important?

Balancing hard and soft landscaping is essential for various purposes. When speaking with contractors about balancing, make sure to get an understanding of the following:

Planned Use

The use of your space is one of the most important considerations. A broad green area offers a healthy environment for children and pets in the backyard. If it is an employee-only outdoor area, walkways and benches will help make it more relaxing.

Overall Aesthetic

Extremes include a wild yard and a garden entirely paved in the stonework. Find a place where the structure of hardscaping meets the natural beauty of soft landscaping.

Maintenance and Water Conservation

You can create a low-maintenance, drought-resistant area by combining patios, walkways, and drought-resistant plants.

Water Flow

Much of the hardscape is water-impermeable unless properly installed, which can lead to pooling and flooding. Hardscape water will flow into a soft landscape designed to absorb it with proper design and balance, which is particularly useful for driveways and parking lots.

What Are the Benefits of Landscaping?

Although most people spend the bulk of their time indoors, we are all compelled to go outside and enjoy the sights and sounds of nature. The light, green grass, beautiful flowers, sweet scents, and animals all contribute to a calming experience in the great outdoors.

The question is, do you have a relaxing outdoor space at your home or place of business? If not, it is something to think about. A beautifully landscaped lawn, in reality, will make a huge difference for your family or customers. It will boost curb appeal and positive feelings.

Consider the variety of benefits you can expect from adding diverse landscaping to your home, whether you are looking to add some greenery, flower beds, bubbling water features, or other additions to your yard or commercial property.

Paving Can Help Create a Unified Look

It is possible to build a beautiful and elegant pathway from the front door to the garage or through the front yard. This is where paving comes in handy.

A paved walkway provides a direct path for people to follow from the front of the yard to the front door and around the yard. You can design your walkway to make guests notice many things on your property that they want to see more closely, such as an elegant old oak tree, a stunning view from the top of a hill, or even a lovely front door.

Grass and Trees Provide Cooler Temperatures

Asphalt, cement, and even bare soil are all hotter than a simple grass lawn. You will reduce your air-conditioning needs by having grass radiate cooler temperatures all around your home or company. Wouldn’t it be great to have some extra cash this summer to spend on something fun with your family?

Did you know that tall trees on the building's south and west sides can provide shade during the hottest parts of the day and reduce attic temperatures by up to 40 degrees? They can also help to minimise glare from the windows.

How many of you have experienced walking downtown on a humid summer day? Rolling on the sidewalk or through a parking lot in the middle of the day is like walking on hot coals. The heat from the grounds will make you feel oppressively hot. To reduce the heat, you can plant more grass and trees in these areas. The cooling effects of grass and shade trees reduce the average temperature of cities, making it more fun to spend time outdoors.

Landscapes are Good for the Air and Water

Did you know that every day, grass and trees capture dust and smoke particles, remove carbon dioxide, and produce life-giving oxygen? In reality, a single tree will extract 26 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere per year, equivalent to driving a car 11,000 miles. As a result, planting grass and trees is an easy way for all of us to contribute to environmental protection!

Another fascinating fact about tree-filled ecosystems is that one tree can provide enough oxygen for four people every day. This is a fantastic excuse to plant a tree!

With storm season well underway, lush landscapes can be beneficial. They serve as stormwater runoff barriers, preventing debris and pollution from entering surrounding bodies of water. Plants, in addition, help to filter waste from water on its way to a city's drinking water supply. Along the shoreline, woody plants help to prevent erosion and flooding downstream.

Outdoor Living Areas Improve Quality of Life

Landscape design increases the physical and psychological well-being of city dwellers. Simply looking at plants, for example, has been shown to lower blood pressure. Even in the centre of a city, walking in a natural setting enhances focus and memory. People who live in areas with community green spaces have lower stress levels and spend less money on healthcare.

Landscapes Offer Economic Benefits

Did you know that companies with beautiful environments are more likely to succeed? Yes, that is right! Customers believe that if a commercial building has a high-quality tree canopy, they would spend more money on products and services. Shoppers also claim that they are willing to drive long distances to shop in a district with better landscaping. They also state that if the landscaping is peaceful, they linger longer once they arrive.

As a homeowner, you're always searching for ways to get the most out of your money. If you landscape your yard, you can be certain that your investment will increase the market value of your house. Homebuyers are more likely to pay more for a home with professionally landscaped front and back yards.

Water Features Make Landscaping One-of-a-Kind

Water features that are both aesthetically pleasing and functional will add colour, natural sounds, and new wildlife to your landscape. Finding the ideal backdrop for any outdoor living space will turn a mundane landscape into one that your neighbours and community will remember.

Water features often take very little maintenance, thanks to circulating pumps that do not use a lot of water.

Turfing Prevents Erosion

The grass is an effective and low-cost erosion control option. Turfing intercepts raindrops before they reach the surface. It encourages water percolation. If it weren’t for turf grass's water retention capabilities, our streams and drainage infrastructures would be completely overwhelmed. If turf biomass was not so effective at slowing water, our fertile soil would be lost.

Consult a Landscaping Professional Today!

Professional landscapers play a vital role in balancing your landscape's hard and soft components during the design phase of any project. If you want to make significant improvements to your landscape, it is always a good idea to work with an experienced landscaping contractor to better understand what these changes would entail.

At AJ Groundworks, we offer quality hard landscaping services, including concrete and paving installations. With over 30 years of experience servicing the South of the UK, we believe we can help create the yard of your dreams. Get in touch with us today for consultations and enquiries.


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