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Hardscaping Options for Your Oasis

By Monte Sholz

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When most homeowners think of landscaping, images of flowers, shrubs and trees usually come to mind. While these elements are important, they are only one part of the picture. To be truly complete, most backyards also need an element to complement the softness and beauty of plant life—hardscaping.

In general terms, hardscaping refers to the elements of a landscaping project that do not involve plants. When it comes to home design, hardscaping can include everything from concrete pavers, patio slabs and interlocking stone to retaining walls and precast site furnishings.

When properly implemented, hardscaping works to create interesting contrasts between the stone or concrete structures and the vegetation within your yard. It also serves to elegantly solve certain problems you may have. The following are a few things you should consider when choosing and installing hardscapes into your own backyard oasis.

Striking a Balance

First, it is important to create equilibrium between the inanimate elements of your yard and the plant life (also referred to as softscaping). For example, if you have a large yard with a lot of vegetation, the most visually appealing approach may be to accentuate those pre-existing elements, rather than remove them. In these bigger spaces, a flagstone pathway that winds through the yard goes a long way in creating a sense of elegance, without overwhelming the rest of the area.

If your yard is on the smaller side, keep in mind that any hardscape additions you make will obviously become a visual focal point. Of course, having more hardscape than softscape is fine if that suits your personal tastes, as long as the yard as a whole still maintains a sense of balance.

In general, you should try to avoid picking out too many types of hardscape for a single space. While two complementing textures can work really well, more than two materials tend to clash, creating a confusing visual experience. As with many things in life, simplicity tends to work better than more complex designs. It is also important to ensure the materials you choose match your house as well as the surrounding greenery. This may seem obvious, but it is a mistake that too many homeowners make.

Picking the Right Material—Flagstone

Traditional rock flagstone is quite attractive but can often be difficult to install by yourself because of the differences in thickness between each stone. If you opt for this material, consider seeking the help of a qualified professional. Precast, concrete flagstone is an alternative to traditional flagstone, which is generally easier to install due to its consistent thickness. Well-made concrete flagstone also looks quite natural and can be stained to match your own tastes. Whatever type you choose, flagstone is a great option for patios, decks and entryways.

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