Source: Enlighten Me
In the landscaping industry, hardscapes refer to paved areas like roads, streets, pathways walkways, and sidewalks. In an expanded definition, any area where the ground has been covered with any type of paving material is considered hardscape. Despite the harsh, industrial image this may bring to mind, hardscaping has evolved as an esoteric exercise, and new planning and technological techniques and advancements are now seamlessly incorporating hardscape motifs with traditional landscape practices.
Using materials associated with hardscaping properly can add to the aesthetic appeal of any environment, particularly in residential and municipal applications. Among the different applications are:
Concrete patios and plazas – These expanses no longer have to be a whiter shade of pale, sitting as an unadorned slab. By incorporating coloring agents, acid stains, texturing, inlays, and stamping, these surfaces can be customized in countless ways, and make a unique statement about the community or the homeowner who has them installed.
Retaining walls – Strategically placed decorative concrete retaining walls can be both functional and fashionable. By keeping these walls to no more than three feet high, they will hold back the hillside while providing a platform for other decorating ideas. If there are areas that need retaining walls of greater height, terracing motifs can provided the necessary protection while creating an exciting look.
Walkways, pathways, and sidewalks – This area, perhaps more than any other, can benefit greatly from advances in decorative concrete. With a limitless combination of additives and decorating techniques, these areas can be installed quickly and require little maintenance. Depending on how the different factors are manipulated, they can replicate brick, or stone; they can be stamped or textured, colored, or patterned.
Revitalizing old facades and flat work – By employing decorative concrete overlays and veneers, older structures can be given new life. For example, in areas of urban reclamation, buildings constructed before aesthetic codes were implemented, can be given a facelift with veneers or decorative concrete, while keeping the building. Veneers and architectural concrete are simple attached to existing structures, keeping costs down while providing visual upgrades.
Hardscapes in garden designs – In addition to retaining walls, walkways, and patios, hardscaping can be integrated in garden construction by adding raised beds using decorative concrete walls, manufactured stone waterfalls and fountains, outdoor cooking areas, and more. The only limit is the imagination of the designer.
In urban areas especially, creative use of hardscapes can bring new beauty and value to tired looking areas, or sections that are in need of rebirth. Properly planned and executed, hardscaping can inject a much needed practical and artistic quality to any area.