Monthly Archives: July 2017

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Natural Landscaping Design: Why You Need Moss Rock

Ever notice in old classic movies how distracting fake scenery looks outside, say, a car that actors are supposedly traveling in?

Well, that’s true in landscaping as well. Creating a serene outdoor scene that looks natural — like Mother Nature sculpted it — requires knowing what elements will make it appear genuine.

For example, whenever we design and build a new water feature or landscape wall, moss rock is always part of the design.

“Deck and Patio finds that these sandstone or flagstone rocks, with their red and brown undertones, provide the ‘mountain stream-woodsy appeal’ that is key to any natural looking water feature and surrounding landscaped garden,” says owner Dave Stockwell.

Moss grows well in shady areas, Dave adds. And along with ferns, it helps transform any backyard into a natural cool setting. “Of course, choosing the right size rocks and knowing where to position them is also key to creating a natural-looking scene.

About Moss Rock

Moss rocks are harvested from quarries nationwide; later moss is added. While the moss on the rocks do not flower, the initial planting reproduces through its tiny spores, absorbing water and nutrients through their foliage. The only requirement for healthy growth is the moist conditions derived from water features or other sources.

For our first project showcased below, Deck and Patio added tall grasses and evergreens like Juniper Parsoni, to complete the rich, lush, green backdrop to see. Coneflowers and Spirea Anthony Waterers help bring in the bright bursts of color. During winter months, the moss rock boulders themselves form breathtaking ice sculptures that extend enjoyment of the water feature.

 

Backyard Stream with Moss Rock

Backyard Stream with Moss Rock:

We designed and built this natural looking meandering watery trail and lined it with natural moss rock boulders and river stone gravel. Robust plantings along the stream also add to the natural look of it all.

 

Spill Rocks for Backyard Streams:

Spill Rocks for Backyard Streams:

Each spill rock along this second backyard stream was carefully positioned to depict the most natural water movement. The stream flows down and over a 2-foot-by-2-foot-wide moss rock waterfall and cascades into a 10-foot-by-15-foot pond. It looks like it has always been there, part of the natural environment.

 

Natural Retaining Wall with Moss Rock:

Natural Retaining Wall with Moss Rock:

Natural Retaining Wall with Moss Rock: One of our outdoor living experts was called in by the pool company to design a pool surround positioned against a steep hill. Our design plan also included a large retaining wall made of natural elements like moss rock, a stream, a beautiful waterfall, and boulder pool coping — instead of constructing a less attractive wooden retaining wall. Overall, it looks like a natural stream created by Mother Nature meandering down a woodsy hill.(See also 2nd photo below)

 

Moss Rock Creates Attractive Hot Tub Installation:

Moss Rock Creates Attractive Hot Tub Installation:

In addition (see immediate photo above), moss rock steps leading to a small blue stone patio became part of Deck and Patio’s overall design. Plus, a portable hot tub was installed on a flattened area in front of the patio.

 

The Many Uses of Concrete Paving Stones

Paving stones are extremely flexible and adaptable to a large variety of jobs. Be it a simple stepping stone path, expansive driveway, patio, or spa and pool surround, Deck and Patio often recommends concrete pavers as a cost-effective choice.

3 Main Types of Pavers

There are basically three types of pavers: “interlocking,“ “slab,” and “permeable.” These three can frequently be used interchangeably, except when it comes to (1) driveways, where the durability of interlocking pavers is essential, and (2) where water runoff may be a problem and permeable pavers would be a much better choice.

What makes them so versatile is pavers come in many designs, shapes, and colors and are durable against weather, and traffic, so that they can virtually be used anywhere in a variety of ways.

“Plus they are wonderfully suited to the freeze/thaw conditions of the Northeast where we work,” adds Dave Stockwell, owner of Deck and Patio. “One caveat, however. Finished projects made of interlocking concrete pavers will not look quite as random in shade and shape as natural stone. Paving kits installed by experienced professionals, however, can be laid in attractive random designs even if they will have more similarities than natural stone would.”

 

The following Deck and Patio’s projects highlight these different paving stones.

 

We believe that using pavers will not only provide a beautiful pool deck, but they offer a safer surface that prevents slipping.* Here, we created five different patio levels around this pool using only interlocking concrete pavers and stepping stones (slabs).

Five feet above the main pool, where the backyard retreat renovation features cascading water into a new spa, even there we surrounded the spa with a patio made from concrete pavers.

In addition, we find that pavers maintain a cooler walking area and can handle moisture better than poured concrete surfaces. And because the pavers we recommend are stronger than regular concrete, they are extremely durable for frequent entertaining (high traffic areas).

 

In this design and build project we added a swim up bar in the main pool that features granite countertops, as well as in-pool bar stools, swim out steps, a slide, and pergola.

The durable and resilient interlocking concrete pavers we chose create a handsome pool surround that stands up to lots of foot traffic. The manufacturer in this case produces kits that ensure an attractive random pattern in lieu of straight lines and flat images, or in a running block pattern. The finished look is natural — a good accomplishment for such an expansive area.

 

 

 

 

Here we recommended to our clients they use one manufacturer’s “Rocka” (slab) steps, along with moss rock boulders and creeping plant material.

This combination handsomely stabilized a hill area without the need of a retaining wall.

The “Rocka” steps have a wide-walking slip-resistant surface* — key to any project that is part of a water feature.

 

 

 

We used interlocking concrete pavers for this pool and spa surround as well. The pavers offer an attractive alternative to asphalt and poured concrete.

These pavers are extremely durable and beautiful and won’t show signs of color loss or fading over time and have blemish-free surfaces.

We used Cambridge Ledgestone pavers (“Toffee Onyx” color, in random pattern) to create the natural rustic appearance seen here.

 

 

 

If you ever pass by Huntington Train Station (Long Island/NY) you will see a great example of the use of permeable pavers. Here Deck and Patio worked in cooperation with the Town of Huntington to beautify the landscape around the train station — all while capturing rainwater for irrigation.

In fact, where once was only a dirt path from the sidewalk to the train parking lot, the landscaped water feature and permeable pavers we added allow easy walking (arrow area pavers) while capturing and filtering rainwater for reuse. The pavers are Techo-Bloc Victorien Permeable Pavers.

Note: Of course, permeable pavers are very useful in private areas such as patios and driveways — wherever controlling or collecting water runoff is a key consideration.

 

If comparing the many different landscaping materials available seems daunting —  indeed, viewing online photos can distort color and texture — Deck and Patio has addressed this by creating an outdoor display at our design center, so visitors can see many of the available materials close-up.

When visiting our outdoor display, those interested can walk-on them, and even touch various patio materials to get a proper sense of how a finished hardscape will look in natural light. Plus, if desired, our staff can explain the different benefits of each one — be it concrete pavers, permeable pavers, bluestone, brick, Travertine, etc.

 

*Note: Some pavers claim to surpass the slip resistance standards established by the American Disabilities Act. However, these manufacturers also say that some sealers on the market can decrease the friction coefficient of pavers under wet conditions. Deck and Patio’s outdoor living expert therefore recommends speaking with a professional when considering sealing pavers where non-slip resistance is desired.

 

By | 2017-07-20T11:35:09+00:00 July 20th, 2017|Backyard Refurbishments, Creative Design, Deck and Patios, Design and Build Experts, Driveways, paving stones, Ponds & Water Features, Pool Surrounds, Steps, Swim Up Bars|Comments Off on The Many Uses of Concrete Paving Stones

Lawn Reduction: Because ‘It’s Not Easy Being Green’

A beautifully manicured green lawn takes a lot of watering and fertilizing, not to mention mowing. It’s truly not easy being green.

In speaking with Sandra Vultaggio, Horticulture Consultant at Suffolk County’s Cornell Cooperative Extension, it turns out, this is something very much on her mind, too.

“I’ve been slowly edging out my own lawn in favor of native plants and flowers,” says Vultaggio. “A lawn is a high-input plant that requires a good deal of water and fertilizer to stay green, so it’s a good idea, say on Long Island, to reduce the amount of lawn we preserve.”

Vultaggio suggests, instead, planting more native perennials and shrubs.“Over time, after the planting stage, these will require much less irrigation. Perennials are pretty self-sufficient in searching for water on their own. Plus, their fertilizer requirements are at a minimum.”

Adding native plants is also a great help to local wildlife, who thrive when they can feed, find cover, and raise their young around familiar flora. “In fact, The National Wildlife Federation has a program (see fact sheet) devoted to reducing lawns and introducing pollinators to the garden through native plants,” says Vultaggio.

Mid-Late Summer Blooming Plants

For those who are eager to save some money, time — all while helping local wildlife — Vultaggio suggests the following native plants:

 

Monarda (Bee Balm)

Monarda (Bee Balm)

1. Monarda (Bee Balm):

Native to North America, this beautiful flowering plant is from the mint family. It’s easy to grow, is deer resistant, and attracts pollinators like butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees.

It’s tubular flowers come in a variety of colors (pink, white, violet, red) and bloom in high summer through early fall. Bee Balm takes to full sun or light shade, and prefers a well-drained fertile soil. It needs some protection from excess moisture in winter.

 

 

 

Liatris Spicata (Gayfeather)

Liatris Spicata (Gayfeather)

2. Violet-colored Liatris Spicata (Gayfeather):

Gayfeather (tall purple plant on the left) is an extremely easy plant to grow.

It blooms in late summer and grows from corms that sprout in spring. Part of the sunflower family, it, too, is native to North America. It likes full sun, well-drained soils; it attract birds and butterflies, and is an ideal perennial.

Because the Gayfeather often grows to a robust 2-4’ feet tall, it may require staking or some other support.

 

 

 

3.  Nectar and pollen-rich Asclepias tuberosa (Milkweed):

Milkweed Photo courtesy of Sandra Vultaggio

Milkweed Photo courtesy of Sandra Vultaggio

Milkweed Photo courtesy of Sandra Vultaggio

Milkweed Photo courtesy of Sandra Vultaggio

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Milkweed is native to eastern North America and blooms in clusters of orange flowers from mid-late summer. It is drought-tolerant and attracts birds and pollinators. It is a particularly good source of nectar for Monarchs; plus Monarch caterpillars feed off its leaves.

This plant thrives in poor dry soils, likes full sun; it is deer resistant, and is nicely fragrant.  These two photos are of Vultaggio’s own garden and are courtesy of Sandra Vultaggio.

 

 

Kniphofia Photo Courtesy of Sandra Vultaggio

Kniphofia Photo Courtesy of Sandra Vultaggio

4.  Kniphofia (Red Hot Poker):

This frequently bi-colored flower makes a dramatic statement in the garden and is an ideal plant for those who are new to gardening. In fact, this plant is so easy to grow it has been described as “tough to kill.” It is fairly drought-resistant, plus hummingbirds and butterflies love it. It is best planted in early spring or late fall.

When in bloom, the blossoms appear a bit like a hot poker or torch and for those feeling a bit of sadness saying good-bye to some of their lawn, note that these plants boast very “grass-like” leaves. This photo is of Vultaggio’s own garden and is courtesy of Sandra Vultaggio.

(Note: the dramatic dark blue/black flowers in the foreground are Salvia ‘Black and Blue’ which bloom from late spring to early autumn.)

 

For those unsure on how Ito remove turfgrass, Dave Stockwell, owner of Deck and Patio, offers the following tips:

 

 


Lawn Reduction: Initial Steps

— Decide where you want to reduce the lawn area

— Use powdered lime, flour, or spray paint to mark the exact section you wish to cut back;

— Water the area ahead of time and then ‘scalp’ the grass (cut it to expose the stems)

— Now you have two options: (1) The physically harder, but quicker, one is: Using a turf cutter or spade, dig out the turf. Add soil and plant right away.  (Note: keep the removed turfgrass. After the sod breaks down, the turf can help make nitrogen-rich soil around the roots of plants).

Or…(2) try an easier, but slower, alternative method: Cover the sod with about 7 layers of newspaper or thin cardboard. Add a minimum of 6 inches of compost or topsoil on top.  The grass underneath will decompose in due course. Planting can then be done without any cultivation of the soil. Of course, if starting this process now, by the time the area is ready, it would be time to put in fall plants. For some ideas on ideal fall plants, visit this earlier blog.

— Dave Stockwell

 

 

By | 2017-07-13T12:26:31+00:00 July 13th, 2017|Ask the Experts, Gardening, Landscaping, Outdoor Living, outdoor maintenance, Seasonal Landscapes, Unique Ideas, Updating Landscape|Comments Off on Lawn Reduction: Because ‘It’s Not Easy Being Green’