In terms of landscaping, hardscape versus softscape refers to the types of materials used and differences in exterior lighting. In hardscape landscaping the materials are rock, stone, pagodas and other harder materials, and in softscape landscaping the materials include plants, grass, flowers, shrubs, and soil. Exterior lighting for hardscape elements is usually adjusted less often than softscape elements. Hardscape landscaping involves creating an area with a desired shape and foundation, and the hardscape elements typically stay the same for many years and are less frequently adjusted. Softscape landscaping elements are regularly adjusted and are typically adjusted at least annually and sometimes more often.

 A balance in hardscape and softscape elements is crucial to an effective landscape. Exterior lighting for hardscape elements can set the foundation for the lighting of softscape elements. As softscape elements are more fluid, exterior lighting can be adjusted to reflect the more common changes in softscape layouts. Exterior lighting is available in many different types of fixtures that can complement both the hardscape and softscape elements of a landscape. The exterior lighting can be arranged in various lighting schemes to bring out the best elements of the landscape.

A well designed landscape combines both hardscape and softscape elements in an appealing layout. For example, a patio (a hardscape element) can be surrounded by a beautiful garden and shrubbery (softscape elements). The garden can be adjusted annually to give it new colors and a new appeal. Exterior lighting can also be adjusted to draw attention to the patio or to certain parts of the garden. When exterior lighting is set up properly to highlight the best features of the hardscape and softscape elements, it can be a major eye catcher.

Another example of a landscape that combines both elements is a walkway that is surrounded by bushes. The walkway is the hardscape element and walkways can also have ledges made of stone or other materials. Softscape elements such as bushes and trees can be dotted along a walkway, and exterior lighting can be used to light the walkway with appealing fixtures that fit the overall design. Combining the various elements of a landscape into an attractive layout and then applying exterior lighting to them to highlight their best features is an art. The best landscapers know how to do it perfectly to create a unique design that leaves a lasting impression among guests and onlookers.