Hardscaping products, including segmental retaining wall units (SRWs) and interlocking concrete pavers, are a landscape’s best friend. Landscape professionals know that hardscapes are the backbone of a great design. Homeowners, too, shouldn’t be afraid to explore do-it-yourself landscape features using hardscape materials.

According to the National Association of Landscape Professionals, hardscaping trends for 2020 include geometric patterned designs as well as materials with sleek, modern lines. Luckily, design options abound as hardscapes come in a variety of sizes, shapes, textures and colors that work well with other materials such as natural stone or crushed rock mulch.

Hardscapes are popular because they outlast materials such as timbers for retaining walls or asphalt for driveway surfaces, says Scott Arnold, general manager of Villa Landscapes in St. Paul, Minnesota. “Hardscape surfaces are durable and low maintenance,” Arnold says. “For example, when a client wants to replace a wood deck, we suggest a raised paving stone patio created with retaining wall units and pavers as a solution. In addition to traditional uses, such as fixing grade problems and preventing erosion, retaining wall systems also can be used to build outdoor features such as fireplaces and raised planters. Or they can be employed to solve unique landscaping problems.”

1. Making the grade

Villa Landscapes used the VERSA-LOK retaining wall system to solve an unusual problem for a homeowner who had a historic home on “Cream of Wheat Row” in Minneapolis, an avenue with stately homes built by wheat company executives at the turn of the 19th century. The home had a driveway designed for horse-and-buggy with an embedded limestone step for disembarking passengers. No cars could go around it, so Villa elevated the driveway with a retaining wall system so a new paving stone driveway would be level with the existing step.

2. Play well with others

Made of colors and textures that mimic and complement natural stone, hardscaping products work well with other materials, like crushed stone, flagstone steppers and natural boulders. A Wisconsin homeowner needed retaining walls for slopes and a paving stone patio as well as natural steps and boulders in the surrounding garden. Using retaining wall units, paving stones and natural stone, Villa’s design incorporated elements of both harmony and contrast in shapes, textures and colors.

3. Define outdoor areas

Hardscapes are great for creating multiple, connected outdoor living spaces. By varying the pattern, color and texture, a design can define areas for grilling, dining and relaxing. In addition, retaining wall systems can be used to create columns, freestanding walls, raised planters and other features that give outdoor rooms definition and functionality.

4. Complement any design

A variety of shapes, colors and textures make hardscapes the perfect complement to any architectural design, from an old-world look to minimalist style. Several homes in a residential development in Edina, Minnesota, followed suit when one homeowner selected the new VERSA-LOK CleanCut(TM) retaining wall texture for its clean, contemporary feel to match the modern architectural design of the home.

5. Create outdoor features

Hardscape features such as fireplaces, fire rings, bar/grill islands, raised planters and more can be built easily with retaining wall units. The VERSA-LOK retaining wall system can be used for features such as columns, curves, stairs and corners without the need for special pieces.

The versatility of hardscaping products and materials makes them ideal for a variety of landscaping applications. Hardscaping products, such as segmental retaining walls and concrete pavers, let homeowners shape their yards, while adding color and increasing usable space. Hardscaping materials, such as rock and stone mulch, add the finishing touches that dress up a yard and make it look complete.

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