Hardscape in the Landscape

With a wide diversity of styles to choose from, you can achieve exactly the style and look you want in your home

Red Flagstone Walls

Residential Landscape Design can be viewed as a painting; a painting where the painter has relatively few colors in their palette. The colors consist of softscape, hardscape, and amenities. Softscape is the plant beds and turf grass, hardscape elements are the patios, walks, and driveway, and amenities range from shade structures, outdoor kitchens, water features and even pools and spas.

Over the years there has been technical advancement in amenities; different improved varieties of trees, shrubs, and perennials, and even blends of bluegrass and synthetic turf. However, the hardscape options have gained the most momentum and developed the most diversity of options over the last 3 decades.


In the 80’s and early 90’s, most patios and walkways were either concrete, a clay paver brick, or natural stone. Large brick companies like Denver Brick, Lakewood Brick, and Robinson churned out clay pavers both in full size for dry-laid applications, and split size for mortared applications. The stone yards around Lyons supplied two types of flagstone that were, and still are, a red and buff stone. These materials had been used for years, and many of the older residences in Denver still have them in the landscape. Today they are still used in many renovations as well as if the desired ambience is to be traditional, or if the architecture relates to these more natural materials.

Clay Brick Pavers

During this time there were a few companies that made a precast paver, and most tried to replicate a clay brick paver, or a rounded more cobblestone field paver. The casting and coloring techniques resulted in a less expensive option, but the look and feel also reflected this option. In the mid 90’s paver companies began to manufacture and market pavers that were shaped in a stone pattern. Squares and rectangles were installed in a random ashlar pattern to mimic real flagstone. These were again at a lower price point in an effort to compete against the natural stones and also the clay pavers. The early options in this time frame were for the most part not impressive to the higher end landscape consumer.

90s Precast Pavers


About 20 years ago the casting, coloring, and durability of precast pavers started on the progression of what is available today. The pavers that were meant to mimic real stone actually started to. The textures, coloring and surfacing has become very desirable. There are many sizes, colors, patterns to choose from, and they are all great products. The price point of todays’ pavers has increased, and in some cases exceed the natural stone and brick options. In large part this is due to the approach that it is a better product, and they are not trying to necessarily compete in price only. Sealing is not necessary on most pavers, and the compression strength exceeds natural materials.

Belgard Pavers Today

A newer option developed over the last 5 or so years is the introduction of porcelain pavers. These are normally in larger sizes up to 2’x4’, and are installed in more of a tile fashion. They can be mortared onto concrete, or dry-laid over a base and sand. These options are durable, look great, and cater to the more contemporary styles that are popular today.

Porcelain Pavers Today

An increase in shipping has had its effect on natural stone options. Local suppliers carry a buff stone from New Mexico, bluestone is shipped here from the east and different sandstone and granites are readily available. One local supplier has just under 20 varieties for patio/walk options and almost 30 different natural stone veneers for walls.

Bluestone Patio

Natural Buff Stone Wall

Vertical retaining and free standing wall material has developed in a similar progression. The timber/railroad ties of 40 years ago progressed to natural stone, brick and stucco and now to the myriad of cultured stone options available today. All of these have improved to an almost natural stone look and feel and are popular with the mix of architectural building facade treatments, giving homes the natural, yet contemporary style. As these materials get repeated in the landscape they create the harmonious architecture-to-landscape architecture relationship.

Stucco Courtyard Wall

Over the last 30 years landscape architects and clients have substantially increased their ability to specify unique materials. The manufacturers have developed great products and a huge diversity of options to choose from. We also have all the natural stone varieties and the eternal brick clay paver to design into our projects. With the diversity of residential styles staying popular, all of us can capitalize on the opportunity we have to achieve exactly the style and look we want in our homes.

Dave Graham is one of the owners of Phase One Landscapes, a landscape design firm that has designed and built hundreds of landscapes over the last 30 years in the Denver neighborhoods of the Greater Denver Metro area. View their profile or contact Dave at 303.750.6060.

Content for this article provided by Phase One Landscapes.

Categories: Landscaping & Gardening, Native Content