Garden Glossary: Understanding Landscaping Terms


Landscaping is an important aspect of our environment whether it is for our homes, public parks, or commercial establishments. It plays a crucial role in enhancing the overall aesthetic appeal, functionality, and ecological aspects of an area. To understand landscaping better, it is essential to become familiar with the various terms associated with it. In this article, we will discuss various popular ranking landscaping terms, their pros and cons, compare them, and conclude with an overview of their importance in landscaping projects.

A term referring to the living and horticultural elements in a landscape, such as trees, flowers, and shrubs, that add color, texture, and visual interest. Softscapes are essential in balancing the overall landscape design.

Hardscape refers to non-living elements in a landscape, such as patios, walkways, retaining walls, and outdoor structures like pergolas and gazebos. Hardscape elements are essential for defining spaces, creating functional areas, and adding durable, long-lasting features to the landscape design.

A form of landscaping that aims to reduce or eliminate the need for irrigation by utilizing drought-tolerant plants, efficient irrigation systems, and water-conserving landscaping techniques. Xeriscaping has become popular in regions with water scarcity or strict water usage regulations.

A low-growing plant that is used to cover the ground and provide a pleasing appearance, typically in lieu of conventional grass or turf. Groundcover plants can protect soil from erosion, suppress weed growth, and require less maintenance than traditional lawns.

Plants that are indigenous to a specific region or ecosystem, and are adapted to the local climate, soil, and water conditions. Native plants can promote biodiversity, provide food and shelter for native wildlife, and often require less water and maintenance than non-native species.


  • Natural beauty and visual interest
  • Offers shade and a cooling effect
  • Can improve air and water quality
  • Provides habitat for wildlife


  • May require regular maintenance (pruning, watering, fertilizing)
  • Can be seasonal (may not look as appealing in colder months)


  • Creates functional areas for outdoor living activities
  • Provides structure and definition to landscaping
  • Long-lasting and durable


  • Can be expensive to install and maintain
  • Requires careful planning and installation for proper drainage and aesthetics


  • Reduces water consumption
  • Low maintenance requirements
  • Encourages biodiversity and environmental sustainability


  • Limitations to plant selection (primarily drought-tolerant species)
  • Initial cost of redesign or installation may be high

Softscapes provide a natural, soothing feel to the landscape, while hardscapes deliver a more structured and functional approach. Combining these two elements effectively can create a balanced, harmonious landscape design that caters to both aesthetic and practical needs.

Native plants have a strong advantage in that they are better adapted to local climate and soil conditions, offering higher survival rates and requiring less water and maintenance. Non-native species may offer a wider variety of visual interest but can also be invasive or detrimental to local ecosystems.

Landscape design is focused more on the aesthetic and horticultural aspects of landscaping, while landscape architecture involves a deeper understanding of engineering, ecology, urban planning, and other disciplines. Landscape architects typically hold a professional degree and are licensed to practice in their jurisdiction, while landscape designers may have a range of educational backgrounds.

Depending on the size and scope of your project, permits may be required for certain elements such as building walls, patios, or installing irrigation systems. Always check with your local government or relevant authority before starting any landscaping project to ensure compliance with regulations and permit requirements.

Investing in a landscape design that prioritizes low-maintenance elements can save you time and money in the long run. This can include utilizing native plants, implementing xeriscaping techniques, minimizing large lawn areas, and choosing low-maintenance hardscape materials.

In a case study conducted in Southern California, a homeowner replaced their traditional lawn and high-water consumption plants with drought-tolerant native species and efficient irrigation systems. As a result, they saved thousands of gallons of water and reduced their landscape maintenance requirements, contributing to a significant reduction in their household"s environmental footprint.

A city park in the Midwest underwent a transformation using native plants and ecological restoration techniques to improve its aesthetic appearance, increase biodiversity, and reduce maintenance costs. The project has served as an educational opportunity for local residents while enhancing the park"s ecological function and beauty.

Many homeowners and landscape professionals praise the beauty and life softscape elements bring to landscapes. They adore the soothing visual appeal, graceful movements of the plants, and the wildlife they attract. However, some express concerns about the ongoing costs and effort associated with maintaining softscape elements, particularly those that have specific water and maintenance needs.

Customers have often expressed satisfaction with the functionality, durability, and low maintenance requirements that hardscape elements provide. Hardscape installations, such as outdoor kitchens, seating areas, and walkways, have been praised for enhancing the overall usability of outdoor spaces. However, some reviewers note the higher initial cost of hardscape installations as a potential drawback.

In conclusion, understanding the various landscaping terms and elements is essential for anyone looking to create or maintain a beautiful and functional outdoor space. By considering the pros, cons, and unique characteristics of each element, individuals can make informed decisions about the design and execution of their landscaping projects. From softscapes and hardscapes to xeriscaping and native plants, having knowledge of these terms will ultimately contribute to more successful and satisfying landscaping endeavors.