conley6.gif (2529 bytes)


The Art of Hardscaping
Smart yard design adds to home's look, and extends seasonal enjoyment


 June 2014

Photography courtesy of David J. Frank

There’s more to a dazzling garden or a serene patio than a lush lawn and fragrant flowers. Hardscape elements, from stone retaining walls to brick fire pits, are making outdoor spaces more enjoyable and user friendly.

Called the "yin to landscaping’s yang," hardscaping can incorporate many design elements to enhance the appearance of a property, providing continuity from a home’s interior to the exterior.

"Hardscape is generally thought of as something non-plant related, like steps, columns, decks, pergolas or even fountains and fire pits," says landscape architect Jeff Hirschberger of David J. Frank Landscape in Germantown. "And, there’s an endless array of materials that we can use to construct these items — stone, wood and composites, to name a few," he says.

In recent years, the art of hardscaping has taken on new life as homeowners want to spend more time outdoors, but want to bring the comforts of the indoors along with them. A lot goes into designing hardscape, says Kevin Sennes of Hill & Valley Landscaping in Franklin. "Color, texture and natural stone vs. manufactured products are just some of the considerations. We will incorporate things like stone inlays in many of our designs in order to tie all the elements of the project together. Lighting is another key element that allows you to enjoy the outdoors in the evening," he explains.

Hardscaping can help to extend the amount of time that homeowners in colder climates can enjoy the outdoors, as evidenced by the growing popularity of outdoor entertainment areas. "Grilling stations, fireplaces and fire pits have been a popular trend for the past 12 to 15 years. They allow people to spend time in their outdoor areas after dark and when the temperatures are cooler, times they weren’t typically outside," Hirschberger says.

Sennes concurs. "Outdoor living areas really are an extension of the home if they’re property designed. We’re regularly installing paver patios, seating walls and columns with lighting for our clients. With fire pits and fireplaces, you have the option of natural gas or wood burning. The options are becoming limitless, which makes it very exciting to design," he says.

Now, instead of a simple grilling station, you might see a full ensemble of sophisticated cooking equipment that includes not just an assortment of kitchen appliances, but also speakers, television and adjustable lighting, says Hirschberger. "All of the comforts of indoors are moving outside, and that includes pots brimming with colorful annuals or tropicals as well as candles, fans, heaters and cooling units."

Hardscape can be used to complement the design of a home, tying together the style of the house and the backyard. "Matching the brick or stone on a house or including some of the home’s masonry and architectural details pull a project together. We want the overall look and feel to be as if it were part of the original master plan, not an add-on," Hirschberger says.

The homeowner is the director of the project, Sennes says. "We listen to what people want and then try to put those ideas into a design that is functional and realistic," he says. But much more goes into a project than what is on the surface. Landscape designers must consider drainage, soil conditions and local codes and ordinances when they install outdoor spaces.

Concern for the environment has homeowners asking for sustainable or natural products, Hirschberger says. "Stone, bricks, pavers and composites last much longer than cedar or redwood decks, decreasing the amount of maintenance and eliminating the need to replace it after just a decade or two. Some of the composites actually use recycled materials. And, new innovations in integrated LED lighting have not only produced an excellent quality of light, but also significantly reduce energy consumption and maintenance," he says.

Just like plants, the right hardscape materials can give a home unique style through the use of color, texture and pattern. They can help to create an outdoor space that can be used for many years. m



This story ran in the June 2014 issue of: