Hardscape Bannerhardscape  |  nonplant elements such as walls, berms, and paving in an outdoor area.

Hardscaping creates habitat for plants. Walls and boulders slow the evaporation of moisture from the soil and help keep it cool and damp during hot and windy days, yet radiate warmth to protect plants on cold nights. Groups of stones with soil in the crevices channel moisture to plant roots deep underground, providing pockets that are ideal for many plants in our climate. Flat stones offer a foothold to spreading groundcovers. Berms provide both sunny and shady slopes; swales improve drainage and at the same time provide moister conditions. Paths let us tend and admire our gardens without compacting the soil.

Stones and cinders make good mulch. They stay put on windy days, hold soil in place, distribute the impact of hail and heavy rain, and help prevent erosion. Mixed into the soil, they allow water to pass quickly through upper layers to provide roots with essential moisture. They frustrate gophers.

Hardscaping can also create attractive features in a garden, provide habitat for beneficial insects, birds, and other wildlife, and blend the garden into its natural surroundings.

  • enhance existing features where possible
  • look around the neighborhood for pleasing and successful examples of materials and strategies.
  • hardscape as needed to retain moisture or allow drainage, prevent erosion, and protect your home’s foundation
  • stabilize steep slopes with ledges to provide habitat for rock plants
  • spill gravelly soil between outcrops of rock as is common in nature
  • when grouping rocks, give the impression they’re part of a larger underground formation
  • for vegetables, build raised beds to provide deeper soil
  • use temporary ‘hardscaping’ such as walls-o-water to hold heat overnight, retain moisture, and protect a plant from wind.
Spend some time studying natural rock outcrops in your area,
and draw your inspiration from what nature has done so well.   — Anne Halpin, Rock Gardens.