What Is the Difference Between Hard and Soft Landscaping?
When considering garden landscaping you will hear those working in the trade refer to hard landscaping and soft landscaping; but what does this mean? Hard landscaping relates to all the hard surfaces and materials in a garden, and soft landscaping relates to anything soft, i.e., flowers and shrubbery. Take a closer look at the difference between hard and soft landscaping, and what kind of work you can expect to be included with each.
What is hard landscaping?
Hard landscaping refers to when grounds care professionals work on or renovate an outdoor space, focussing on all hard – generally man-made – materials.
Hard landscape materials
Some examples of common hard landscaping materials are:
Benefits of hard landscaping
Hard landscaping is an essential part of landscaping overall because it provides practical solutions to meet the needs of a space. Not only does hard landscaping create boundaries and a platform but it also assists in the drainage, water diversion, erosion prevention and overall foundations for other features. Other features could be anything from soft landscaping elements to further hard landscaping additions such as statues and fountains.
What is soft landscaping?
The term ‘soft landscaping’ relates to the renovation or upkeep of all the soft materials in an outdoor space, that is, plants.
Soft landscape materials
Frequently seen soft landscaping examples include:
While not flora, ponds are also considered to be a soft landscaping element, although any stone or brick work that’s in place to surround the pond is hard landscaping.
Benefits of soft landscaping
Most would argue that it’s the soft landscaping that truly makes a space. Unless there’s a particularly attractive fountain, or an eye-catching statue, visitors will tend to notice the flowers, trees, or other plants that exist in an outdoor space.
As well as the aesthetic aspect, another benefit of incorporating plenty of soft landscaping elements into an outside space is that it helps to take care of ecological mitigation. The presence of a wide array of trees and other plants is likely to attract a wealth of birds, bees, insects, and other wildlife. By providing such species with a habitat, you help to protect the environment.
There is also plenty of evidence to suggest that being among plants is beneficial for human health. Mental health charity MIND advocates spending time in nature to reduce stress and anger, and enhance feelings of relaxation.
Creating a hard and soft landscaping plan
In general, most environments benefit from a blended hard and soft landscaping plan.
Durable, man-made elements like patios and gravel should be thought of as the bones of the space because it is these that will give a structure that will stand the test of time. Hard landscaping is usually needed to support the presence of soft landscaping, whether that’s through rockeries and flower beds or with brick walls that end up supporting climbers and other plants.
A mixture of well thought-out hard and soft landscaping helps to create an inviting, practical space which can be enjoyed by all those using it. Whether this is a residential garden, hotel grounds, or outside space surrounding offices, it’s important to consider how the area will be used and how it can be beneficial.
Questions to Consider with a Landscape Plan
When putting together a landscaping plan, it’s important to focus on how a space will be used. This will largely depend on the setting – is it residential or commercial? How many people live, work, or visit the space?
Other questions to ask include:
Should there be an area for outdoor seating, and if so, how many people need to be accommodated? Does it need to be covered?
Are there likely to be any domesticated animals visiting the space? If so, consider areas for them to relieve themselves and for them to eat. Dogs may also need a leash point.
Will children be using it? There should be different areas to consider here, such as stimuli development and places for them to play.
Does there need to be wide access to certain areas for those with mobility issues? If people are visiting with wheelchairs, can they safely navigate?
Will the area be used for activities, such as sports, games, or meditation? Here, think about creating flat surfaces or separate areas for those doing sport.
Do you want a low or high-maintenance outdoor space? How much time do you have to invest in it after creation?
When aspects like these have been duly considered, then it will be possible to determine what soft and hard landscaping elements should be included.
Popular hard and soft landscaping plans
Depending on the environment, popular landscaping plans will include:
Bordering. This could be in the form of a wooden fence, brick wall, or even tree barriers
A path or two
A patio area for outdoor furniture
Grass works well for most spaces because it is easy to maintain and soft underfoot, making it suitable for a range of activities
Other popular features include colourful flowers, attractive trees, shrubs and bushes.
How Grounds Care Group Can Help Your Landscaping
At the Grounds Care Group, our talented staff have experience in a wide range of landscaping. This includes specialist soft landscaping in both residential and commercial environments. We know what it means to create the best of both worlds, and how important it is to have both hardscaping and soft-scaping elements that work together harmoniously. From turfing and tree planting, to erecting bespoke fencing, our teams are equipped with the experience and know-how to create the ideal outside space in a wide range of private and commercial sectors.