Moving on from our previous blog on plant knowledge and expanding our look at landscaping skills, next we have what is often referred to as hard landscaping, hardscape, or landscape construction. What we are referring to is the ‘hard’ or ‘non-living’ materials in a landscape project, as well as being hard work! This usually consists of surfaces and structures, and could be paving, brickwork, concrete, rock, wood or metal to name but a few materials used. Much like plants, there is a broad range of knowledge and skill that sits behind carrying out and constructing this aspect of landscaping well, from the design through to the final build.
Well thought out and positioned hard landscaping can make or break the project, these elements provide the structure and often a link to a building on the site. It’s often the starting point, to which the soft landscaping (the living, ‘soft’ elements of landscaping) is added, to give the overall final effect. This will also often dictate the style of the garden, be that contemporary, informal, or traditional reflected in the materials used, depending on the clients tastes.
Hard landscaping is also functional, serving a purpose, it might be a seating area, marking a boundary, pathways, standing for vehicles, retaining something, providing protection in the form of a gazebo, accenting areas, drainage, lighting and linking to the project’s surroundings. But that’s not to say, just because it its functional, it can’t be aesthetically pleasing. A good landscaper and garden designer will have the knowledge to be able to bring function and form together and make the most of the space.
Sometimes the project will dictate how much hard landscaping is needed to meet the client’s needs, but a well put together landscape project will balance out the hard and soft landscaping to complement each other, making sure that areas and features are correctly proportioned to be both functional and to fit in with their surroundings.
A world of materials
Just like plants, there’s a wealth of choice when it comes to choosing the materials to use, professional landscapers will know the advantages and disadvantages to the different landscape materials available, they will keep up to date with new products and installation methods, as well as recommending materials that will work in the space, serve the desired purpose and complement the overall project and its surroundings.
The tip of the iceberg
The finished hard landscaping as a surface or structure, is only as good as the method by which it has been installed. For example, when laying paving, professional landscapers will consider subbases, and bases, ratio of mixes, gradients, and drainage to make sure the area works and stands the test of time. This applies to all the different elements of hard landscaping, an understanding and ability to correctly construct these areas is an essential part of what a landscaper does.
More than a ‘How to’ video
These skills are developed through experience and training, professional landscapers pride themselves in the work they do and the projects they complete. Many of them spending years training and honing their craft, so if you want to join the industry and make a career of it, you might want to consider an apprenticeship to gain training and experience or take a course in this area of the industry and develop your knowledge of hard landscaping.