Paradise in July

So much is happening in the July garden that’s it’s difficult to focus on a single plant to report on. So this month I’ll talk about one the foundations of landscape planning: hardscapes. A “hardscape” is a level, two-dimensional hard surface that covers the ground. In other words: driveways, walkways, and patios.

When planning a garden—or renovating an existing one—hardscape is one of the first things we look at. Perhaps the most popular garden hardscape project is a patio, so we’ll consider that example.

Patio design

When planning a patio, you want to determine the best location, size, and shape. Consider these factors:

  • where your garden gets sunlight at various times of the day
  • how you want to use the hardscape space for entertaining or recreation
  • what views you want to enjoy from the patio

Make notes so we can accommodate, or at least prioritize, the most important factors. If you are replacing an existing patio, make note of its appearance (such as wear or damage) and any drainage issues that might have come up during the winter and spring. The more you are aware of possibilities (and problems) the better prepared you are to make design choices.

Stone, pavers, concrete — and more

The next step is to look at materials. Consider your budget, your planting plan, and any structures you plan to add as part of the project. Materials for hardscapes include natural stone, tile, pavers, and aggregate—as well as modern solutions such as concrete. There are many choices, each with benefits and limitations. A qualified garden designer can help you evaluate all your options.

Summer is a great time to start planning for a new patio. Renovation of existing hardscape, or construction of new hardscapes, can be done year ’round (except when the ground is frozen or exceptionally muddy). Plan now, and you could enjoy a more attractive garden next summer.

Call today for a consultation to discuss options for enhancements, renovations and materials for your new hardscape.







Take another look at patio and walkway (“hardscaping”) ideas


Tumbled concrete pavers and natural stone by Greenlake, Seattle WA

NOTE: The term “hardscaping” describes any type of hard surface impressed upon the landscape: patios, driveways, walkways, and more.

Successful hardscaping projects take into consideration both the practical and the aesthetic. A straight walkway might be the quickest route to your front door, but a curved walkway creates a pleasing route through the landscape. A patio at the foot of the back garden is nice, but not if that’s where water drains and pools.

I advise clients to take these factors into consideration when planning patios and walkways: 


Any significant drainage, erosion or moisture problems on your site should be addressed before, or as part of, your landscaping project. You may need to establish a drain field or other solution.

As part of your planning, learn about “permeable paving.” The term refers to a range of sustainable materials and techniques for creating pavements that have a base and sub-base allow storm water to drain through the joints between pavers. In addition to reducing runoff, many paving systems effectively filter pollutants, preventing them from getting into the groundwater. In many cases, building codes dictate the amount of permeable surfaces that must be preserved on your property.

You want at least part of any hardscape area to “perk” in order to control where and how run-off drains into the surrounding areas of your property, adjoining land, or the street. Your best bets for good drainage are pavers or natural stone. Most pavers allow moisture to drain through the spaces between them evenly without creating much run-off. Cement or aggregate are much less permeable. If you anticipate drainage issues, permeable or natural stone may be your best option for patios and walkways.

Design and aesthetics

What fits your space, the exterior design of your home, and the overall setting of your property?

You might be surprised at how creative you can get. A Japanese garden may work with a traditional Tudor house, and professional designers can develop ways to merge themes that might otherwise seem incompatible. Considerations include: colors, the size and shape of the space, and most importantly, how your outdoor space will be used.


Your project costs will depend on several factors. These include the extent of leveling your site requires and the materials selected for the hardscaping. Pavers are often the most cost-effective, followed by some concrete and natural stone treatments. Be sure to get a good idea of budget ranges during the design process.

Next steps

Experienced landscape designers have worked with the issues of drainage, aesthetics, and budget many times. They know what’s out there and can help you make informed choices.

Please contact us if you’d like to find out more about hardscaping and other landscape design projects.