This is the eighth in a series of articles on the Ten “Must-Have’s” in your Landscape. Pathways, patios, pergolas, potting sheds, – let’s see, what else starts with “P” – purse. Hardscape items can sometimes empty your purse a little, but often projects can be done easily by homeowners. Even though hardscaping projects require a little money, they do add value to your property and they also add another attractive element to your landscape.
1. Use of Natural Materials
Natural materials such as stone, seem to look better in a landscape. Try to avoid plastic or rubber edging as this can look out of place and your eye is drawn to the edging instead of the plants in the landscape. Also the edging may have started out with straight lines but over time it moves and sometimes can appear uneven.
You can have a lot of fun with pathways. Check out this simple pathway using a combination of mondo grass and ajuga with stepping stones. Mulch, or river rock can also be used in between the stepping stones. Pathways should not only be functional, but they should be another attractive feature in your landscape. A path leads you somewhere so it should be intriguing – where does the path go, what am I going to find at the end of the path? A simple and very natural pathway can be installed just by using pine bark mini nuggets for the base of the path and edge the path with rocks or stone. If it is a path in the woods, use firewood as the edging. This will slowly rot over time, but is a fairly cheap and an easy material to use. Flagstone is a popular choice for more permanent pathways.
4. Patios, Fire Pits, and seating areas
Entertaining has been taken to the outdoors (at least when the weather permits us). Fire pits are definitely enjoyed in the winter months, but the structure is also enjoyed for the rest of the year. Fire pits can be as elaborate or simple as your purse will allow. Fireplaces are very attractive, but don’t tend to give off a lot of heat and it is hard to get a lot of people close to the fireplace. Fire pits on the other hand can have several people seated around it, keeping everyone warm. Make sure you make the entertaining area big enough to accommodate a lot of people because friends will want to join you! Seating walls make a great addition to a patio so that you can fit in more guests. Entertaining areas will be covered in more depth in blog # 9.
5. Decorative Boulders
I love to use the odd boulder in landscapes. Boulders are very natural elements that seem to ground the landscape. Soften the boulder with grasses or ferns. Use a grouping of boulders as a central focal point, or use several smaller groupings throughout the landscape. By using boulders throughout the landscape, it ties the landscape together. In the photo to the right, the boulders have been used as a backdrop to showcase the yucca. The boulders look like they have always been part of the landscape.
6. Water Features and Dry Creek Beds
You have to have the sound of water somewhere in your landscape. Stand-alone fountains are a great addition as there is no digging required, you just need to find a power outlet. If you have the energy to dig, then a disappearing fountain is the way to go. Boulders make great fountains too! Look at this boulder disappearing fountain. The water just flows over the edge and into a catch basin underneath. See how the boulder has been softened with grasses making it a natural landscape element.
Dry creek beds are not really a water feature, but they are used to direct water flow in areas where drainage is an issue. Dry creek beds are a very attractive addition to a landscape if they are done correctly. Try to use a variety of rock sizes and accent the dry creek bed with varying sizes of boulders to make it look as natural as possible. My husband and I added a dry creek bed to our landscape. It took us half a day of digging and another half day to lay the rock. It was a fairly easy process, just required some muscle. We have done many projects in our backyard, but this is by far one of our favorites. We dealt with two issues, water run-off from a drive and grass not growing under large trees, so a dry creek bed and shade garden solved the problem.
Don’t forget about lighting for your landscape. Keep it soft and subdued. No harsh spotlights. Lighting can be a bit tricky to get just right so it pays to hire a professional. I think lighting looks great when you can’t really see the light fixture, but you see the glow, so hide the fixtures behind shrubs and highlight special features of the house or focal points of the landscape.
If you are still not sure where to begin, come in and see us at the Family Tree. We also offer a free Quick Sketch or a full Landscape Design Service that will help you get started.
Be sure to check out the rest of Tracy’s list of the top 10 ‘must-haves’ for your landscape!