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Horticulture 1000
HT1081 - Landscaping - Hard landscaping
Soft landscaping Landscaping larger areas
5

Hard landscaping

Hard landscaping includes all the non-living structures used in landscaping. The use of hard landscaping features is almost endless. Here are some examples.

Patios (courtyard)

The tiles and other hard landscaping in this courtyard are in the style of an Italian garden.
The tiles and other hard landscaping in this courtyard are in the style of an Italian garden.

A patio is a paved area. Patios are like outdoor rooms used for relaxing or entertaining. They are often an extension of the house. They may include: outdoor seating, a barbeque, planted pots, and may be combined with a pergola. Fences or screens of plants around the patio provide privacy, shade and shelter.

The paving that is used in a patio determines the look and feel of the space created. Tiles of any type give a more formal feel. Brick and stone generally are more casual. You can also use timber.

Decks and decking

This wooden walkway improves access through a hillside garden.
This wooden walkway improves access through a hillside garden.

A deck is a timber platform in a garden.

Decks create:

  • flat space on steep, rocky or bush-clad gardens
  • outdoor spaces on multi-level buildings
  • an outdoor space to enjoy the sun or view.

Decking is a relatively cheap way of making use of otherwise unusable land.

Children’s play equipment

Examples are:

  • sandpits
  • climbing frames
  • swings
  • paddling pools
  • trampolines, free standing or sunken into the ground
  • playhouses and tree houses.

Place these where you can see small children from the house, in a sheltered part of the garden that gets some shade. These can be bought ready-made or built on site. Often built-in equipment made out of natural materials blends in better with the garden.

As children grow you can remove bought equipment. Adapt built-in equipment, for example: a paddling pool may become a pond or bird bath, a sandpit may become a raised vegetable or flower garden, a swing frame may be able to hang a rocking two-seater.

In small gardens you can design play equipment for adaptation when it’s not in use, for example, a sandpit with a timber lid to sit on. 

Conservatories

Conservatories can provide you with an additional room for relaxing, entertaining and for enjoying plants in the colder months of the year. You can grow plants that otherwise wouldn’t survive outside.

Pergolas (gazebos or summerhouses)

This pergola is the focal feature at the end of a path.
This pergola is the focal feature at the end of a path.

Pergolas are light, open frames supporting climbing plants that shade a terrace or path. Pergolas may be freestanding or attached to a house. They can give a feeling of enclosure and shelter.

Deciduous vine-covered pergolas provide dappled shade in the summer and sunshine in the winter.

Pergolas can visually link two areas of a garden, transform a dull pathway or lead the eye to an attractive feature.

Paths and drives

Two people can walk side by side on this formal pathway.
Two people can walk side by side on this formal pathway.

Paths can be attractive as well as functional. Design them to blend in with existing features and materials of the house and gardens. They can give a formal or casual look depending on the materials used. There is a huge variety of materials that can be used to pave a pathway.

These include:

  • tiles
  • concrete
  • gravel
  • bricks
  • pebbles
  • shells
  • stone
  • wood or bark chips.

Paths break up a garden and make it look smaller. Stepping stones suit a small site. Paths through flower gardens can be a feature in themselves.

If possible paths should wide enough for two people to walk side by side.

Drives can be designed to:

  • make an attractive entry to the house
  • give vehicles easy access to the house
  • provide parking for more than one car if the site is big enough.

Steps

Concrete steps provide walking access in all weathers from a house down to a driveway.
Concrete steps provide walking access in all weathers from a house down to a driveway.

You need steps when the garden is steep and you must walk from one level to another. But even in gardens with only slight changes of level you can use them to add interest and decorative value.

Wide steps look best to go with the feeling of being outside. Steps can:

  • make a statement
  • provide an entrance
  • join one part of the garden to another
  • blend in with their surroundings.

Steps can double as seating if designed correctly. Step-like patios or decking can provide flat levels on a sloping site.

You can use:

  • timber
  • bricks
  • concrete
  • tiles
  • stone
  • railway sleepers.

Walls

An apple tree has been espaliered on this free-standing brick wall in a new garden.
An apple tree has been espaliered on this free-standing brick wall in a new garden.

Walls of stone, brick or concrete are solid and permanent and help keep external noise out of the garden. Walls should be in character with the surroundings and use materials that are easily and locally available to reduce expense.

There are two types of walls:

  1. Freestanding walls, which define boundaries, provide privacy and screen wind and noise.
  2. Retaining walls, which either take the place of a bank or slope, and/or hold up soil from a lower to a higher level. You can also use heavy timber for these.

Fences

An example of a wooden fence that will give shelter by slowing down wind speed. It will also provide privacy.
An example of a wooden fence that will give shelter by slowing down wind speed. It will also provide privacy.

Some of the most common materials to use for fences are timber and metal (corrugated iron),  from which you can create lots of different styles.

Fencing can:

  • define boundaries
  • provide privacy
  • reduce noise
  • provide shelter from wind
  • define spaces within a garden
  • be used for safety, for example around pools or decks
  • be attractive
  • screen an unsightly view
  • support climbing plants.

Outdoor furniture

The built-in table and seats in this park make the most of the sun.
The built-in table and seats in this park make the most of the sun.

Outdoor furniture can be bought or built-in. It should:

  • look good in its setting
  • go with the garden theme
  • be durable
  • be comfortable.

Built-in furniture has advantages. It:

  • is designed as part of the gardens structure
  • saves space in a smaller garden
  • has a relaxing effect if muted or natural tones are used.

Interest features

Birdbaths fit into cottage style garden borders. This one provides interest during the winter months when herbaceous perennial plants are dormant.
Birdbaths fit into cottage style garden borders. This one provides interest during the winter months when herbaceous perennial plants are dormant.

These are used to catch the eye. They can be things such as:

  • sculptures
  • wall plaques
  • patterned paving
  • wind chimes, wind socks, bells
  • birdbaths
  • sundials
  • potted plants
  • rocks
  • statues.

Fit features in with the theme of the garden and make sure they’re the right size so they are easily seen, but don’t overwhelm the garden.

Water features

Ponds can be any size and shape. There are many materials that can be used to create a pond, including compacted soil, plastic liners, concrete, tiles and so on.

Water can reflect vegetation and make smaller gardens seem larger. Evaporation of water into the air lowers the air temperature near a pond in hot dry gardens. The sound of water has a relaxing effect, and water attracts bird life.

Because ponds should blend with the garden theme, formal pools are often edged with brick or stone and are raised, while naturalistic pools are often edged with rocks or plants and set into the ground.

Complete Activity 5A in your workbook

Key points   Key points

  • Hard landscaping includes all the non-living structures
  • Hard surfaces include patios, decks, swimming pools, children’s play equipment, conservatories, pergolas, paths and drives, steps, walls, fences, outdoor furniture, interest features, ponds and fountains.

What's next?

Go to: 6 Landscaping larger areas.

Soft landscaping Landscaping larger areas