8 Hardscape Ideas for your Garden

 Hardscape includes anything that is in your yard that is non-organic. These are usually permanent, such as cement driveways and walkways or semi-permanent as in a trellis with climbing roses. Not only is the hardscape functional, but it can also be decorative. It should complement or even enhance the beauty of your home and yard. Of course, many of us are living in homes that had a previous owner. Unless you are building your home and are starting with a clean slate, you have probably inherited someone else’s decision on some of the hardscape. Your driveway and walkways are already in place. Probably, the choice of deck or stone patio is made and in place also. It doesn’t mean they can’t be changed, but usually concern over budget will prevail.

When you are ready to change or add to the hardscape, keep in mind the style of your house. If you have a contemporary designed home, it will be complemented by contemporary design in the hardscape. If your home is a Victorian or cottage style home, contemporary accents may look out of place. The following ideas will give you a starting point for addressing the hardscape in your yard.


1. Driveway and walkway 

You may not be able to remove your cement driveway, but you could edge the drive with pavers to give the look you want. Continue the edging along the walk or, if possible, take up the cement walk and replace it with the same pavers. Choose pavers that give the look you want. Use old bricks if you have an older house with a cottage feel or use large bluestone pavers for a contemporary look.

2. Deck or Patio 

This is another part of the hardscape that you may have inherited. Sometimes, the appearance of the deck can change dramatically by just restaining in a different color. Another way to change the appearance of a deck without replacing it is to change the railings. Keep the deck stained, but paint the rail. If the style of the rails and posts are not the style of the house, change them to be more compatible.

If the patio is cement, again, edge with pavers. Choose furniture that will evoke the feel you are looking for. Add outdoor carpet to soften all that cement.

Then, add lots of containers with plants. If you choose pots that match, the look will be more formal and more contemporary. Mix up the shapes and colors of your containers for a more casual cottage look. Add some unexpected containers like a large tin can with the advertising still visible or an old picnic basket and fill it with flowering plants for a farmhouse look. Use the bowl of a birdbath and plant it with grey-green succulents for a cleaner look.

3. Retaining Walls 

While primarily functional, a retaining wall can also become an accent feature in your yard or garden. A rock retaining wall can also become a rock garden with a little planning during construction to leave some pockets in the wall for plants. Your retaining wall can also become seating in your yard. Combine the wall with a fire pit feature for a special area to enjoy with your family and friends in the evening.

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4. Fencing 

If you inherited an existing fence from the previous owner or even the backside of the neighbor’s fence, you may not be able to change it. Hide it instead. Cover your side of the fence with a trellis and some beautiful climbing roses or another vine. Make the fence a feature instead of an eyesore.

Another option is to paint the fence. If you paint the fence a dark color like a charcoal grey or forest green, it will act like a backdrop to the plants you put in front of it and be much less noticeable.

There are also planters available that can be attached to the fence and, when planted, disguise the fence even more with plants that grow vertical or hang over the planter and down the wall.

5. Water features 

If you have a multi-level yard, you have the ideal topography for a water feature that includes a waterfall culminating in a pond at the bottom. A simple recirculating pump will return the water to the top and gravity will do the rest. These are especially effective in a partially wooded area where it is easy to naturalize it with native plants. What a surprise for visitors to your garden who will enjoy the sound of water first and then discover this hidden and unexpected gem in your garden.

6. Arbors

Use an arbor at the entrance to your yard. There are wooden arbors in traditional styles and there are metal arbors that look sleek and modern. Some arbors also have seating. Plant a vine in a color that coordinates with your house or your patio furniture color. The roses on your arbor could also fill the air with a heady scent, depending on the plant variety you choose.


7. Garden D├ęcor 

This can include bird baths, fountains or sculptures. Look for items that reflect your style. Try to find items in different heights for more interest. Most birdbaths are table height, but there are some that are only a foot high. It is fun to find a partially hidden surprise in the garden. Try to find unique garden decor items to add to the garden that are made of unexpected materials. Try colored glass items. If you have ever seen a Chihuly garden exhibit, you know how impactful glass can be in the garden.

8. Benches

Don’t forget to include seating in your hardscape plans. There should always be spots throughout your yard and garden for sitting and enjoying the results of your planning. It can vary from an upright log or stump to a teakwood bench or even a hammock strung between two trees.

With a little creativity, you can modify any part of your garden to give yourself the landscape and hardscape you’re dreaming of. 

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