Healthy & Beautiful Gardens – Hardscape in the garden

Hello, fellow gardeners! This week I thought I’d talk about another very important part of your garden and that is not the plants; its everything else, and its called your “hardscape.”

Hardscape consists of items such as your walkways, paths, pool, patio, decks, ornamentation, boulders and more. I consider anything that doesn’t grow hardscape.

This should be the first step in designing a new garden, or re-designing an existing one. Not everybody wants to change their hardscape, and that’s ok, if your existing hardscape fits your garden plan. Take pathways for example.

Typically the builder puts in a standard “L” shaped pathway leading to the front door. It’s pretty boring really, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be! You can remove sections of it and insert bricks or lay tiles in where those sections used to be. You can even get it stained and edged, or rip the whole thing out and put in stamped concrete; the choices are endless!

The only limit is your own imagination, and of course, resources and finances as well. When I meet a client for the first time, I try to learn something about them from how they decorate their house – what kind of tastes do they have?

Are they very neat, or do they have lots of “knick knacks” – do they have hobbies etc. You should do this with yourself, and determine what you like.

Possibly you might enjoy a spa tub? You could have a stepping stone, or gravel pathway leading to the spa in the backyard. Perhaps you might like to have shrubs surrounding the hot tub also.

Think about how you walk around your yard. Where do you naturally want to walk? This is where you need pathways. If you have lawn, you could easily insert large stepping stones recessed right into the lawn and mow right over them. Would you like to have an area outdoors for entertaining? Perhaps a firepit surrounded by a comfortable seating area would work.

Firepits are great, both in winter and summer. They have those that can attach to a gas line from the house, or those that use real wood; its up to you to decide.

I think water in the garden is an extremely important element, in one form or another. There are many beautiful fountains available to suit literally any and every taste, color, or scheme. Ponds are a lovely addition to a backyard; they add an entire dimension with the water.

The water element allows you to get creative and add a number of different features such as a waterfall, beautiful plants, rocks, boulders and aquatic life like fish or turtles to complete the eco system.

There are companies that specialize in installing these, or you can get a good book on the subject and “do it yourself.”

There are many places where you can buy the products you need to complete a pond. However, water in general looks nice in what is basically a desert. It’s so nice to have that water element, whether it’s a pool, spa, fountain, or pond in your landscape.

Retaining walls are great for leveling out sloped property so that you can then utilize that space for gardening. Again, the material is up to you, but I recommend something that goes with the house, or a similar material or color that is in some other part of the hardscape, such as a walkway.

Wood structures such as gazebos, pergolas, patio covers, even archways, all look fantastic in the garden in the right place. Most add welcome shade to an area that might not otherwise have it and welcome people to come and sit awhile, especially if you have some attractive inviting seating provided there as well. Make sure if they are painted that the color goes well with the house.

Another part of “hardscaping” is lighting. Many people don’t think much about it, but in Southern California in the summer, outdoors is a really nice place to be, especially if you entertain, or maybe you’re just cooking on that amazing outdoor kitchen or barbeque grill for the family.

In addition to lighting the areas you “hang out” in you might also consider the beauty of “uplighting” some key focal points in your garden – typically large trees, but boulders, waterfalls, a group of cactus, anything that’s particularly “striking” would look great at night with the benefit of uplighting.

Gates, walls, fencing – these are all hardscape, and although in many areas, we get what the developer put in, we can still often change that. If you have a choice, do something that reflects your tastes.

I like the look of real wood myself, especially redwood or cedar. And there are many variations on fences that you can choose from, depending on your finances and tastes.

With gates you can get a little more creative; you can add shapes and other features into them. Be sure to put some thought into how a gate or similar structure will blend with your garden, which should be a reflection on who and what you are.

I think rocks and boulders are very important in the garden, as they can have a tremendous presence if placed correctly. They also give you a connection with the earth and nature. I recommend utilizing all the same type of rock or boulders. And if you have gravel, I would try to keep that similar as well.

That’s all for this week, folks! If you have questions, feel free to contact me, and as always I am available for consultations and design work.

Linda McDonald

Landscape Designer

(951) 764-4762

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