Hardscaping - It seems as if this term was invented yesterday. Once it was a relatively unknown subset of "Landscaping." Now, hardscaping is getting the attention it has long deserved. Although the skills involved between landscaping, softscaping, gardening, and hardscaping are all totally different, they do go hand in hand. So, What exactly is hardscaping, and what do I need to know about undertaking a hardscape project? Those questions and more are what this entire blog are dedicated to. Let us take a small overview so everyone has some perspective on what hardscape is and what it isn't.
First, "Hardscaping" - as its name implies, deals with the hard, semi-permanent to permanent man made structures found in and around an outdoor setting. They can be made of wood, rock, block, stone, brick, steel, glass, ceramics, etc. They are usually made of a mixture of these elements. This is an art and a skill as not only are there stylistic considerations, but there are structural and construction elements that must be addressed.
Classic "hardscaping" fire pit and seat wall.
"Softscaping" is the practice of choosing and adding plants, shrubs, grasses and flowers to a landscape and or hardscape area. This is an art and a science as you must know what living things will thrive together, and when and how they will grow and change. This all has to be done in a way that will match the level of time and care the owner is willing to invest in their living softscape.
"Landscaping" is the physical management of an outdoor property. This includes grading, drainage, water management, erosion, and use. This planting trees and large shrubs usually falls into this category. This is a science and a skill as much has to be known about the climate, the surrounding lands, natural and man made influences, and many other "big picture" stuff.
Gardening. "Gardening" is the care and management of the plants in your landscape. This includes taking care of the soil, pest control, water management, etc. as it relates to the health of plants, fruits, and shrubs, trees, and veggies as they live in the ground.
Many like to lump all the art/science/skills under the moniker of "Landscaping." I try to keep them separate. While it is true than a person can know many things about all of these areas, than are still separate entities. Moreover, people can spend there entire careers devoting themselves to even small facets of any one discipline.
Whew! Now hopefully everybody is on the same page. As noted earlier, Your lawn service may trim the hedges into any shape you ask, and they keep the mulch fresh and the weeds out. That does not NECESSARILY mean they can install a retaining wall, much less, a garden edger, properly. Sure, if you ask them they will say, "Yes." Of course they will, it is more money for them. But you may end up with a sub-par job. On that same note, would you ask the mason building your outdoor fireplace which variety of pansy might thrive next to a loropetalum on the west side of your pool fence? While your at it, ask him about their upkeep and water requirements. Does he know if they attract bees? Exactly. He may know some of these things, but they are definitely out of the scope of knowledge he is expected to know.
There are many facets and skills in the broad umbrella of "Landscaping." Many people are usually highly skilled and knowledgeable about a number of them. Many of these disciplines are inter-related and in the same field. But don't automatically rely on a gardener to build you a pergola. Hardscaping is it's own unique discipline with it's own issues, requirements, and knowledge. It is true that nearly anyone can learn to hardscape properly, it doesn't mean everyone can.
It is always more expensive to pay somebody to fix a mistake and make it right, than it would be to just have it done right the first time. This doesn't even take into account the original money spent to do the job incorrectly.