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Adding hardscape features brings value to the landscape

They’re unmistakable.

Landscapes that have definition and well-designed spaces simply stand out, with a welcoming entrance, easy movement through the property and an orderliness that entices.

To achieve such a distinctive effect for an existing landscape or a new one, start with a plan. Brian Schatz, owner of highly rated Schatz Landscape Design in Tampa, Fla., likes to begin by perusing the property.

“We look at the whole outdoor living experience, how you move around the space, how the interior space of your yard functions and what areas are seen from the home’s windows,” he says. “Next, we plan the hardscaping — walkways, patio space, paths. These go into the design before anything else because you don’t want to move them later.”

Angie’s List member Yvette Cook of Lutz, Fla., had a similar experience when Schatz visited her yard. “He came up with a plan for pavers, planting beds and a circle driveway,” she says. “He came back with suggestions that I hadn’t thought about.”

Hardscaping refers to permanent elements of the landscape — flat paved areas, walkways, paths, retaining walls, edging, fencing, stairs and so on. Each serves a function that makes outdoor space usable and, especially in high-traffic areas, easy to maintain. These features can also define space within a landscape to highlight planted areas while adding color and texture.

High profile areas such as driveways and patios are often hardscaped, comprised of materials such as brick, composite pavers, flagstone, slate and quarry stone. Homeowners often upgrade these areas because the improvements bring immediate gratification, require less maintenance and can enhance property values.

“It’s a wise investment, even with the economy like it is,” says Kenny Estes, owner of highly rated Advanced Landscaping Solutions in Midlothian, Va. “People are spending on their property, for outdoor living.”

Estes says his customers realize the benefit of a patio. “It’s like another room in your house and, installed correctly, can last 100 years.” Estes uses polymeric sand to fill between pavers, which helps provide durability. “It prevents weeds, ants and dirt from settling around your pavers and helps keep your patio clean,” he says.

Managing the flow of stormwater through the landscape can be a challenge and one that hardscaping can solve quite effectively. Water can be channeled into a depression, swale or low spot where it soaks into a buried drainage pipe that carries it out of the area. This technique is often disguised as a dry creek bed, which has become a popular design element complete with river stones and gravel.

These faux creek beds are becoming a popular element for Schatz. “We tell people — we’ll take your problems and turn them into assets,” he says. “If they have drainage problems, we can tie them in with underground piping. The dry creek bed above the pipes is an attractive element to look at and plant around.”

About the author: Ellen Goff is a freelance horticulture writer and photographer. She’s passionate about plants, water quality and protecting the environment. Aside from working with words and pictures, she stays busy with her home landscape and its inhabitants along the shores of Lake Wylie, S.C.


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