Working Hardscape into Your Landscape Design

Hardscaping is the art of adding in human-made features, like rock formations, fountains, gazebos, or stairs, to a landscaped area. Many landscapers like to add hardscape features to a landscape to help give it some balance and create the general layout of the landscape.

Finding the right balance between hard and soft elements within a landscape can make a significant difference in its final look and feel. Completing some research before you design your landscape will help you understand what elements work the best together to create the atmosphere you want.

Here are a few tips to help you work in hardscape to create the perfect landscape for your outdoor area.

Use Hardscape as the Map for Your Softscape

One of the best ways to make sure your hardscape is not overbearing in your landscape, use some hardscape elements to plan out your landscaped area. Hardscape can help define specific areas, like a patio or walkways. Use stepping stones, concrete, or wood to define spaces and create the overall layout of your outdoor space.

Planning where your hardscape elements go before adding in softscape elements also ensures that you do not go overboard with hardscape. It’s important to create a good balance between hard and soft elements so your outdoor space is well-defined rather than clunky and cluttered.

Hardscape is more difficult to add in at a later time than softscape. Organize your hardscape well first to save you time and money later.

Understand Your Land

Draining can be an issue with hardscaping. When you add in hard elements like rock or pavement, those hard elements can block water drainage if you do not plan them out properly.

Before you create your landscape, understand how your land slopes and where rain tends to drain. Make sure you do not design your hardscaped areas in a way that will block your draining route.

Consider creating a new grading path around your outdoor area for water to drain if it’s affecting your hardscape design. Once you plan a workable route for water, you can then design your hard and soft elements around the route so it is not visible within your design.

Add in Hardscape Elements with a Purpose

One of the most common flaws with hardscape design is adding in too many hard elements without a clear purpose. Several hard elements with no purpose can make an outdoor space look cluttered and tacky.

Create a hardscape design with a purpose. Place a bench toward the middle of your walking path for a relaxing area. Put a bird feeder in a location that you can easily see from your seating areas or windows. Or, create a tranquil fountain or pond near your outdoor gathering area for a calming white noise.

Consider making one or two hardscape focal points within your landscape to help its overall aesthetics. Rock formations or sculptures can help draw attention to specific areas of your landscape.

Think of Hardscape as Highlights for Softscape

The key to successful hardscape elements is to have them blend in with the environment. You can have several hardscape elements, but you should be careful about where and how you place them.

You can use the bulk of your hardscape as seating and walking areas. Try to use the rest strategically throughout your landscape to help highlight specific areas of your outdoor area.

For example, create a small bridge to walk you over your water feature and design beautiful shrubs and flowers along the path to the bridge. Use small stones to outline flower beds or walkways.

Plenty of greenery helps to balance your overall landscape. Think of hard elements as features that break up and highlight the natural elements of your outdoor space.

Consider Hardscape Elements that Aid Nature

The best way to create the perfect balance between hard and soft elements in your landscape is to let your hard elements work hand-in-hand with natural elements.

Pergolas, for example, are useful for providing shade over walkways or seating areas. However, you can design your landscape in a way that plants and vines can grow around a pergola, adding a natural mix of hard and soft elements. Consider using stone to create raised flower beds for visual appeal. Or, use ceramic containers to house plants and small trees along your walkways or around your seating area.


Hardscaping is an important part of an overall landscape. Too many hard elements can make an outdoor space seem cluttered or uninviting. Too many natural elements can make it difficult to define specific spaces in your landscape.

Create your hardscaping plan before moving onto soft element design to avoid the possibility of costly changes in the future. Hardscaping should aid in the atmosphere of your outdoor space. Design hard elements to not interfere with water drainage, outline specific areas of your landscape, highlight soft elements, and aid in the growth and visual appeal of natural elements.