No good landscape job is complete without some hard, non-living materials to provide contrast. Even simple boulders can make natural elements more vibrant.
Photo: Joseph Hilliard photo; Home: Pioneer Log Homes of British Columbia; See more photos of this home here.
The goal of modern landscaping is to strike a harmonious balance between “soft” and “hard” elements. Hardscaping is the addition of non-living features, such as tile, stone, concrete and metal, to natural elements like trees, flowers, shrubs and other greenery. We spoke with Jerry DiFabrizio, owner of Tampa Tile, for five easy ways to incorporate hardscape into your landscape:
A patio can be the central focus of your yard design. It’s a great place to socialize with friends, enjoy some downtime and have family gatherings. When placed close to the back of your home, it can serve as an extension, which increases your log home’s livable square footage and its value.
As for materials, choices are abundant. According to Jerry, “The key for log homes would be a very natural, rustic look.” On the inexpensive side, gravel is a good choice if you’re looking for something cheap and easy to maintain. You could also opt for any solid stone, such as granite, for a sophisticated and durable look that won’t get slippery in the winter. If you’re living in a hot, dry climate, go with sandstone and limestone instead, as they won’t get too hot in the sun.
Fire pits or fireplaces make excellent use of your home’s hardscape, adding both function and style to your back yard. Build it as a place to relax, a little romantic oasis or a family-friendly hangout spot. Good choices for fire features are durable materials such as brick, flagstone, limestone, concrete and river rock. Depending on the aesthetic you want, there are plenty of options. The best part is that you can build a propane-fueled or a wood-burning fire feature anywhere you want in your yard, so that it provides a dichotomic balance to the greenery.
No landscape design is complete without a water feature: water walls, lakes, ponds, waterfalls, etc. They combine well with plant life and look amazing, providing you with something to rest your eyes upon. Even in a small back yard, the right water feature can provide a soothing respite.
Great for grilling areas, patios and small walkways, tiles have a naturally rustic look that lends authenticity. Smaller sizes are usually preferable, because they blend well throughout an application. Rectangular shaped tiles work well arranged in interlocking, basket weave or staggered joint patterns. For buyers who don’t want a regular old surface, there’s a huge range of options when it comes to tile design and glazing.
One of the most common uses of hardscape is undoubtedly building stone pathways and decorative fencing. They can be quite beneficial for the overall design of your yard, as they can help drain water from certain areas where it’s necessary. You can place planters around it, and sloped pathways will naturally disperse the water to your foliage. If there is any softscaping, such as existing trees that you want to preserve, you can create a path around them and use the surrounding bordered area as flowerbeds. Pathways shape your landscape, so make sure you plan this out thoroughly.
Hardscaping is the “in” thing to do right now, but that doesn’t mean it’s all about looks and not purpose. “All hardscapes are functional,” says Jerry. Ceramic, stone and porcelain products are incredibly durable and have a low absorption rate with very low maintenance; chances are they will outlast your home by hundreds of years — think of the pottery found in dusty archaeological sites thousands of years after the surrounding structures have deteriorated. Jerry emphasized their impressive longevity: “You’ll find a pile of tiles where the house was.”
“My favorite tile is the Mexican Saltillo tile. It ages well, and they are made the same way, by hand, that they were in the 16th century,” explains Jerry. “The best are from Saltillo, Mexico, made with clay from the Saltillo River. They are extremely authentic — a nice change of pace because so many tiles these days are manufactured and churned out through industrial production.” Authenticity suits a log home.