Proportion. Balance. These are the magic words, the mantras that good landscape designers live by, but they’re easier to say than to achieve. At Brickworks, hard surfaces are our stock in trade and we love the sense of structure they give to a garden, but a surfeit of built-on space is rather too brutalist for a suburban backyard.
Likewise, lush beds of riotous foliage are a gardener’s delight but, without the contrast of paths and pavers, can appear a weedy wilderness. “You need both in a garden – the soft elements – and built forms, but they should work together to complement each other,” says landscaper Matt
The importance of “hardscaping” shouldn’t be underestimated. Hardscaping adds structure to a foliage-heavy garden scheme, creating order from chaos and turning a lush garden into a space you can walk through and really experience and enjoy. Built structures can be used to create different zones – mini public or private rooms – within a garden, from the timber deck around the barbecue area to a pergola hidden in a secret corner.
Hard materials can also connect different parts of the garden. A well-designed garden path can not only take you from A to B, but can lead you on a journey of discovery through the garden, encouraging you to slow down, breathe deep and experience the beauty around you.
One of the things we pride ourselves on at Brickworks is the range of colour in our bricks and pavers, which can be used to tie together a garden palette. A well-designed garden is rich with colour, whether bold pops of primary-hued blooms or an elegantly understated symphony of green, and hard materials can add another complementary hue (or more than one) to the scheme. Hardscaping can also help to connect the garden to the house, whether by colour or by shape. For example, sharp rectangular planes may echo the angles used on the main structure.
On the flip side, hard structures can feel cold and impersonal – the last thing you want in the backyard, which should be a place where you can feel completely relaxed. To counteract this effect, use plantings to soften hard edges: think delicate fronds frothing over the edges of garden beds, vines trailing up a wall or groundcover plants nudging the edges of stepping stones or patios.
The degree to which you blur the boundaries between hard and soft surfaces depends on how formal or informal a garden you want to create, but even the most structured and manicured garden scheme can benefit from a touch of the wild.
The best way to understand the beauty of balance in the garden is to see it done well. Take a look at Matt Leacy’s project in our Your Outdoor Home video series where Matt has used puffs of shrubbery behind bench seats and bamboo peaking through a breeze-block wall, among other tricks, to bring the hardscaping to life and set off the garden greenery to best advantage.