Numa Gardens is a Bay-Area drought tolerant and outdoor living contractor that specializes in creating low-water landscapes and outdoor living spaces. In the following article, KC Carlisle, Principal at Numa Gardens, discusses the best materials for hardscaping in the California climate.
Cold. Disconnected. Uninviting. These are just some of the words Northern California residents use to describe their concrete- or paver-covered backyards. However, achieving a balance of functionality and creating a welcoming feel is still entirely possible.
Yards should functions as a homeowner’s outdoor oasis, where they can escape from the blood-pressure-spiking hubbub of daily life. Despite this, many poorly planned designs don’t allow for this type of sanctuary. Perfect outside designs are deep-rooted in three elements: softscape, ground cover, and hardscape. By striking the aforementioned balance between these elements, homeowners can reap the atmospheric rewards.
Numa Gardens is well-versed in rectifying amateur wrongs and affording garden dwellers their own slice of paradise.
Numa Gardens Discusses Three Essential Elements to Backyard Designs
Despite relative widespread perception, there’s nothing wrong with having concrete or pavers in a backyard. Experts note that the problem begins when there are more hard-scaped materials than anything else. Hardscape is an inherently functional element that can only be effectively aesthetic with suitable material choice, enough complementary ground cover, and a bunch of softscape aspects to break it up.
Softscape: The Star of the Show
Softscape refers to the living factors — trees, flowers, shrubs, plants, and other horticultural elements. Industry participants maintain that it should play the main role in any backyard.
Numa Gardens notes that in a softscape versus hardscape comparison, softscape is far more flexible, interchangeable, and updateable than its typically fixed co-actor. Perennial and annual plants are brilliant ways to refresh and revitalize landscape aesthetics, whereas hardscaping elements require much more planning.
Ground Cover: The Complementary Piece
Ground cover can fall into either the softscape or the hardscape category, depending on the type that is chosen. Either way, the design team at Numa Gardens considers ground cover to be the complementary piece, bringing together the colors and textures showcased throughout the rest of the yard.
Numa Gardens explains that commonly used ground cover materials include pebbles, mulch, clovers, and, of course, grass. While any type is a possibility, experts encourage homeowners not to rush this decision. After all, it will make up the majority of the area, and it must suit the home’s aesthetic to ensure cohesiveness.
Hardscape: The Accent Piece
Contrary to the yards depicted earlier, hardscape is meant to be the accent piece that adds functionality to an otherwise aesthetically driven space. However, as professionals can attest, that doesn’t mean it can’t also be pleasing on the eyes. Numa Gardens says that whether it’s a retain wall, stepping stone footpath, driveway, fountain, outdoor kitchen, fireplace, gazebo, built-in bench, curb for elevated walkways, swimming pool, or shaded patio, the material choice is what determines its attractiveness.
Experts Highlight the Best Hardscape Material Choices for Northern California Landscapes
Since hardscaping makes up the foundation and framework of the yard while accenting the softscape attributes, the choice of its material is especially crucial.
Frustratingly, for those without the keenest eye for design, KC warns that this decision is very subjective — what’s “best” for some Californians may not be “best” for others. And with so many materials to choose from (wood, cut stone, flagstone, brick, concrete, mixed materials, pavers, tiles, etc.), some homeowners express the seemingly impossible nature of this conundrum.
Numa Gardens explains that even with its subjectivity, there are a couple expert-given factors that people should consider to make the perfect selection for their home in Northern California:
Some materials are more informal and relaxed than others. Generally speaking, these are often those that remain closer to their natural state, like wood chip paths, dry-laid stone walls, and flagstone pavers. The more formal side holds hardscapes like pebble-mosaic walls, gravel walkways, and herringbone brick patios.
Numa Gardens notes that there are a couple of shapeshifters to consider as well.
Concrete, for example, can look edgy or err on the side of casual when placed within certain environments. The same can be said for wood and composites, which lean on the more natural side of things while still working wonders in various modern settings.
In the end, not all homes are built with the same aesthetic in mind. Thus, designers approach each build with a unique outlook to prevent disjointed results.
Numa Gardens notes that craftsman-style homes blend beautifully with most natural materials, while midcentury-modern buildings look best with the clean lines and simplicity offered by materials such as bluestone pavers and concrete. Lastly, the hardscape should reflect the overall look of the property in order to create a seamless space throughout.