Hardscaping vs Landscaping: What’s the Difference?

What we typically think of as “landscaping” is more than just plants that must be maintained, watered, and weeded. That part of the equation — also called softscaping — is complemented by hardscaping, which is the use of inorganic materials like stone and pavers for beauty and function. For many in North and South Carolina, the hardscaping services provided by Unit Paving Inc have proven to be equal parts durable, functional, and beautiful.

What is Softscaping?

Softscaping is the organic, living part of landscaping. Grasses, trees, shrubs, and a variety of other annuals and perennials are each an important part of your softscape, and they’re also part of what makes a given space — a yard, a town square, or a country club — inviting.

Softscaping presents maintenance challenges. Because it’s made up of living things, those plants need to be watered, fertilized, trimmed, and fed. Beyond that, many of the things we do to manage our softscape can create environmental issues if they’re not correctly managed. These can include wastewater runoff, soil erosion, and groundwater contamination.

What is Hardscaping?

Hardscaping is every bit as varied as softscaping. A typical hardscape design can include anything from a driveway to a retaining wall, a streetscape, ponds, fountains, or something as simple as a gravel path. The issues pertaining to hardscape maintenance are fewer, and normally arise from improper design or installation; this is a prime reason to opt for an experienced hardscape installer.

A properly designed and built hardscape, on the other hand, can help to mitigate some of the environmental impact of your landscaping. It need not be complex; something as simple as a walkway or drive constructed with permeable pavers can help manage wastewater runoff, combat soil erosion, and help to filter common contaminants out of water before it’s reabsorbed into the water table.

Balancing Hardscaping and Softscaping

We’re proponents of hardscaping, which is hardly surprising given our 25 years in the business. However, we’re also mindful of the fact that there’s such a thing as too much. There are some circumstances in which it’s best to weight your landscaping toward hardscaping products; this is especially true in high-traffic areas, areas that will be traversed by vehicles, or in areas where water conservation is a must.

However, softscaping also has its place. It beautifies, improves air and water quality, increases property value, and makes for public spaces in which people enjoy gathering.

Therefore, whether you’re planning a lawn or a downtown area, this isn’t a question about the primacy of one or the other. One might as well ask whether oxygen or water is “better”; we need both, and in much the same way, hardscaping design is about how well each balances and complements the other. Striking that balance is equal parts art and science, and is something best handled by an experienced hardscape designer working in tandem with a hardscape contractor; with Unit Paving, you get both. For assistance designing and building sustainable hardscapes for your home, commercial paving project, or municipal project, contact us for a consultation.