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Landscaping Terms You Need to Know

Like every industry, landscaping has its own jargon. It helps to know some of the basics, so you can tell a landscaping company exactly what you want. We left out some terms we think most people are familiar with. We’re going to divide these terms into two categories: softscape and hardscape. These are the two main features of any landscaping project.


First, you should know that softscape means every living thing in your yard or commercial landscape, including grass, plants, shrubs, and trees.


You might have guessed that hardscape is the opposite of softscape, and you’d be right. Hardscape elements are the things in your overall design which are not living, and yes, some of them are quite hard. This can include rocks, retaining walls, patios, decks, and a number of other items which we will discuss further below.

Softscape Landscaping Terms


A plant that flowers and dies in one season, such as pansies or impatiens.


A tree with scale-like or needle-like leaves that are usually evergreen that also bears cones.


These plants (trees and shrubs) lose their leaves in winter.

Drought Tolerant

The ability of a plant to survive without much rain or watering during the summer months.


A shrub or tree that keeps its leaves in the winter, and they stay green.


A plant that is not native. May come from Europe or Asia. May be invasive.


Literally, plants that cover the ground. They grow close to the ground, and are allowed or encouraged to spread over an area.


Closely planted shrubs or trees that form a screen or boundary. This can be formal, as with boxwood, or more natural, with forsythia.


Plants with non-woody stems. This includes most annuals.

Invasive Plants

Invasive plants spread quickly, and can move into habitats where they do damage.

Mass Plantings

This is when we use many plantings of the same variety to fill in an area. Mass plantings of tulips would be one example.

Native Plants

Native plants are ones that were present in a geographic location before people started changing the landscape. They generally do well, and may attract pollinators.

Ornamental grasses

Grasses that are grown in landscapes as perennials.


Plants (usually flowers) that provide seasonal interest, die back in the winter, and come back again in the spring.


Strategically cutting parts off of a plant to control its size, health, and appearance.

Screening Plantings

Trees or shrubs used to provide privacy, or provide a natural boundary.


A specimen plant is usually a focal point, and is chosen for its ornamental effect.

A formal, decorative style of plant growth that is controlled by shaping with pruning or shearing.


A pattern on leaves that contains either white or yellow markings along with green or another color.

Hardscape Terms


Fractured or rounded stone used as a sub-base, or decorative surface. We would use an aggregate under a patio, for instance.


A built garden structure that supports climbing plants or vines.

Composite decking

Deck materials that are manmade, rather than wood.

Decorative rock 

Rocks chosen for their color or texture and used as a walking surface or ground cover. Examples include river rock and pea gravel.


The material used to construct your deck. May be wood or a composite material.

Dry River Bed

A trench lined with stone and made to look natural. Used for an attractive drainage option in periods of heavy rain.


A decorative, open-sided building with a roof used as an outdoor gathering space.


Precast concrete pieces that can be used to create patios and walkways.


An open roofed structure over a patio or garden.

Water Feature

This is a landscape element that features moving water, such as a fountain, pond, or waterfall.

Landscaping Terms that Encompass Both

Some terms apply to both the softscape and hardscape elements. Let’s take a look:


This is the perception of beauty or attractiveness of a landscape design. This is very subjective.


A landscape design concept, where elements in the landscape are in “balance” with one another. This is highly subjective.


Differences in texture, color, size, or tone between landscape design elements. Plant combinations or hardscape elements can lend contrast so each element stands out.


The process of controlling how and where water flows on a property. Proper drainage is essential to a healthy landscape.

Focal Point

This is where you want people to look. It will be prominent in the landscape. It can be a plant, fountain, fire pit or other landscape feature.


Grading is the process of changing a slope, whether to flatten it or build it up.

Landscape Design

This is both the art and science of planning and designing changes to landscaped areas, either for aesthetic or practical purposes.

Privacy Screen

A privacy screen can be a trees, shrubs, a fence, or trellis that block the view of a certain area, or prevents others from seeing into your space.

Retaining Wall

A retaining wall is a structure built to stabilize a slope and prevent excessive erosion. They are usually made of concrete, paving stones, bricks, or other materials.


A setback is a space around your property lines where there are local restrictions on what you can install or build. This can also be referred to as the municipality right if way at the front and back of your property, and possibly at the sides.

This is by no means an all-inclusive list of landscaping terms, but it gives you an idea. If we ever use a term that you’ve never heard, or don’t understand, please ask us to explain what we’re talking about.

LAZO Landscaping Services is Ready to Serve You

We know you have a lot of choices when it comes to hiring a landscaping company in Maryland. We’ve been in business since 2003, and serve the landscaping needs of homeowners and businesses throughout the greater Baltimore area, including parts of southern Pennsylvania.

Our goal is 100% customer satisfaction. To that end, our mission is to be honest, work hard, charge reasonable prices, and provide you with the better outdoor space you deserve.

In addition to our landscaping services and hardscaping services, we provide tree services and inground pool installation! We would welcome the opportunity to provide you with a free estimate.

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