Landscaping has been practiced for thousands and thousands of years, whether the earliest practitioners were aware of today’s term for what they were doing or not.
The Renaissance, Baroque and Victorian styles of landscaping came to define gardening practices in bygone eras. Today, landscaping styles are more diffuse than ever. The modern era has divided landscaping into soft landscaping and hard landscaping respectively, and new techniques have been developed for reasons that aren’t purely aesthetic in nature. Today, we are going to discuss three branches of modern landscaping – soft landscaping, hard landscaping and xeriscaping.
Soft landscaping, the original form of landscaping if you will, relies purely on what you would call the traditional gardening material – vegetation. By planting trees, tending to grass lawns and introducing new plant species to an area, soft landscaping aims to mould the environment to their desired image using only natural, living materials.
Hard landscaping, on the other hand, is solely reliant on non-living materials. Much of today’s landscaping leans heavily on hard landscaping techniques. Paving a driveway, making a pergola, and creating a space for decking are all examples of hard landscaping. If you look at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show, the UK’s premier gardening event no less, the Best in Show winners are a stellar example of the creative licence afforded by hard landscaping. Designed to symbolically replicate the emotional journey a child undertakes when taken under the wing of the NSPCC, The Morgan Stanley Garden for the NSPCC starts with a path with an unclear destination which eventually, after turning the corner, opens into a peaceful and tranquil space replete with vibrant perennials. It combines a gorgeous bespoke cedar wood pavilion with a canal to startling effect.
Xeriscaping, a term that has evolved from the Greek for dry (xeros) strives for minimal use of supplementary water. The landscaping approach has seven foundational tenets: plan and design, soil amendment, efficient irrigation, appropriate plant and zone selection, mulch, limited turf areas (native grasses) and finally – maintenance. Irrigative techniques, if absolutely necessary, have to be exacting and precise. Most pivotal to its success however, is the selection of both materials and plants that consume very little water. By favouring non-living materials – rock gardens, bark chips and even artificial grass suppliers Lawrence Lawns, water demands are kept to a minimum. Living species that do find their way into a xeriscaped space are almost always native to the local environment. By virtue of how accustomed they are to survive in these surroundings, these plants are extremely frugal with their use of resources. This is bolstered by xeriscaping’s insistence on the evaporation-minimising presence of mulch, which helps to retain water.
Xeriscaping is an example of a modern approach to gardening that relies both on soft and hard landscaping techniques. With the environmental pressure we are exerting, it is important to take low-water and low-energy alternatives to gardening seriously – and xeriscaping is a perfect example of that.