Not like the difference between software and hardware, hard and soft landscaping are essential parts in the whole landscape creation and execution for the picture perfect garden.
Like hardware that makes up the durable, lasting, never changing, physical machine, the hard components of the landscape which are the large pieces of hard material make up the bulk of the bones of landscaping resources such as the rock, the stone and the masonry. These are typically referred to the hardscape materials. Essential in creating a sense of space and tying in the garden and landscape to the rest of the outside world and to the look and feel of the home, the hardscape is an essential and very important part of landscaping.
Unfortunately, many people see the hard landscaping as an after thought or the underlying current of good landscape design but this is a misconception from a lack of expert knowlegde in landscape gardening. It should be your first consideration and your first design element. The hard landscaping not only gives you something to build on in your garden but it will also solve the bulk of many basic purposes. These can include diverting water and drainage, the basis of your outdoor living spaces, preventing erosion and the very foundation you need to create a long lasting space that also serves to increases the value of your home.
The soft landscaping is the more changeable, living part of your landscaping. The plants, the mulch, the dirt, the lawn, the trees and shrubs all make up softscape materials. So do ponds, created of course in hard landscaping materials such as stone- but the pond itself can be considered part of the soft scape like a planter box (hard) and the plant (soft) come together. The soft landscaping element in the garden seems to be the area where most people become confused, overwhelmed, and frozen in place by when they’re deciding how they want their entire landscape to look. Professional help from a landscape designer or contractor can help, as the choices and possibility in the softscape are almost limitless.
While there is no one single method of how to balance hardscape and soft scape landscaping, harmony based on other outside influences will determine how you approach your weight with each element.
How water plays a part
In places where water is a concern, hard landscaping may play a larger role in making your landscape a dream come true, but soft materials such as water-budget friendly cacti and succulent choices here and there are essential in many applications, for example.
In areas where water isn’t a concern, a better balance of the hard materials that move water safely away from the home, prevent soil movement, and offer a dry place to live and walk and just enjoy, instead of in dirt and mud, are also essential- but the use of soft lush plants that love the moisture should also be considered.
In good landscape design, both soft landscaping and hard landscaping are essential elements and both need consideration. A landscape can appear incomplete, and it can’t perform many of the functions that good landscaping can without both hard and soft materials present. Balance between the hard and soft is needed for the whole. Much like how hardware and software, both are needed to create a computer.