Monthly Archives: November 2017

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Winter Garden Hues: Birds of a ‘Colorful’ Feather

In the Northeast, we love our change in seasons. And around this time each year, as winter is on the horizon, Deck and Patio’s blog has offered ideas on trees and bushes whose bark or berries bring color to winter gardens.

Today, however, we’re focusing on a very special and even more lively source of winter garden beauty: colorful avian visitors that can be enticed with just a little effort on our part.

 

Cardinals

Take the bright red plumage of the Cardinal. The male’s full-bodied red actually gets more striking during winter.

This is when some of their remaining gray-tipped feathers fall off, showing even more vibrant red.

What a picture they make resting on icy branches and snow.

“If you want to attract them, Cardinals love black oil sunflower and safflower seeds,” says Sandra Vultaggio, Horticulture Consultant at the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Riverhead, NY.

It’s helpful to note that Cardinals usually eat early in the morning or late in the evening so make sure feeders are well stocked at these times. Also, being a larger bird, they prefer a larger feeder that won’t sway too much as they eat.

 

Blue Jays

Blue Jays are another colorful bird that stays around in winter.

These gorgeous birds love to congregate in groups come winter. They also will squirrel food away. Some have witnessed Blue Jays hiding nuts in trees.

And as for sound, they have been known to scare off other birds by imitating the call of hawks.

 

 

“They also like nuts and peanuts,” says Vultaggio.

“I use a peanut wreath and fill it with shelled peanuts. This type of feeder attracts a lot of Blue Jays.

They are such fun to watch — not to mention they add a lot of color against the white landscape.”

 

 

 

Chickadees

Chickadees prefer the same type of seeds as the Cardinal: black oil sunflower and safflower. Vultaggio is also delighted by their sounds — ‘they actually say chickadee when they sing.”

Chickadees are vibrant even though, as part of the Titmouse family, they are known for their gray color and lighter bellies.

“They dine primarily on insects, seeds and berries,” adds Vultaggio. “They are active and agile little birds. These little acrobats are a delight to watch when they hang upside down from twigs or at your feeder.

 

 

 

Additional Birds

Vulraggio also puts out suet in winter, which she says attracts other birds including woodpeckers.

“A bird bath is also important. Water is often scarce in the dead of winter.

Of course, you don’t want the water to ice up and there are lots of bird bath heaters, including solar heated bird baths.

Pictured here is a Heated Deck-Mounted Birdbath by Allied Precision.

“You’ll also find that in winter these birds tend to appear in groups since many eyes make it safer to watch out for predators. Birds are such a wonderful way to add color to your winter garden.”

 

 

 

Flora

To achieve color through flora, a previous Deck and Patio blog includes a fairly comprehensive list of flora that will help “lift winter doldrums with outdoor color and texture” — information that we put together also with the help of Sandra Vultaggio.

Winterberry (shown here) is a great example of the color and texture available in winter. This dramatic and colorful bush is from a species of the deciduous holly family and is native to the Northeast.

A slow grower, it loses its leaves each autumn. And, birds love the berries…what more needs to be said.

 

By | 2017-11-16T13:35:00+00:00 November 16th, 2017|Gardening, Landscaping, outdoor maintenance, Seasonal Landscapes|Comments Off on Winter Garden Hues: Birds of a ‘Colorful’ Feather

Backyard Upgrades: 3 ‘Before’ and ‘After’ Projects

When homeowners want to upgrade their properties, sometimes it can be a challenge to imagine all the changes that will be required.

So today we’re showcasing three sets of before and after photos that showcase how a collaboration with a reputable design/build firm like Deck and Patio can end  up in an award-winning landscaping project.

 

 

  1. Centerport, Long Island, NY

These homeowners were both outdoor enthusiasts with a property that had a nice water view. Their wish list included: an attractive modern-looking deck from where they could best appreciate their view; a deck/railing that did not in any way obstruct the view; and a conveniently placed portable spa.

"Before" of Deck and Patio Project in Centerport

“Before” of Deck and Patio Project in Centerport

It was clear a two-story deck was needed. But we realized that the deck also needed to be large enough to allow designated areas for grilling, dining, lounging and hot tubbing. Plus, the railing would need special consideration.

 

"After" of Deck and Patio Project in Centerport

“After” of Deck and Patio Project in Centerport

An important choice for this Trex Deck project was the steel cable railing by Feeney does not obstruct the water views from any place on the deck. Deck and Patio built a custom spa “cradle” as a mount for their new hot tub. This positioned the spa so they could enjoy the views when inside the tub.

 

    2. Dix Hills, Long Island, NY

When this Dix Hills family decided to update their 1980”s backyard pool area they called on  Deck and Patio. They knew their old wood deck and red brick patios were small and unusable for parties and entertaining. But they couldn’t come up with a complete plan themselves to transform the space.

"Before" Deck and Patio Project in Dix Hills

“Before” Deck and Patio Project in Dix Hills

“We introduced a unique concept to deal with the large wall behind the pool, and small patio spaces,” says Dave Stockwell, owner of Deck and Patio. “The idea was to remove the wood retaining wall, re-grade the slope and create a large natural waterfall, stream, and woodland garden.”

 

 

"After" of Deck and Patio Dix Hills Project

“After” of Deck and Patio Dix Hills Project

Once the stream and waterfall was complete, the next step was pressing the boulders into the surrounding slope to continue the natural presence of large boulders. Then the landscape crew installed natural woodland planting to tie in with the tall oaks adding color and evergreen shrubs to ensure year-round color.

Once the slope was stabilized, it was time for the pool renovation. After draining the pool and removing the liner, a poorly built concrete block wall was uncovered where we straighten the wall and filled the block in with concrete and steal rebar for strength. New vinyl covered stairs were added, plus new pipes, returns, skimmers, pump, filter and a new liner.

Cambridge Sahara Chestnut pavers were used to create a dramatic pool/patio area.

 

    3. Brookville, Long Island, NY

When Deck and Patio first met with these clients to discuss a pool and patio upgrade — along with new fire pit and outdoor kitchen — we learned they also hankered for a spa to go with their existing gunite pool.

 

"Before" of Deck and Patio Brookville Project

“Before” of Deck and Patio Brookville Project

The project included a complete revamping of the pool’s pipes, interior, finish and the incorporation of new swim outs at the deep, as well as a new Tech-Bloc patio pool surround.

They also initially wanted wanted a custom in-ground gunite spa added to their existing gunite pool. Instead, they opted for Deck and Patio’s suggestion of a custom installation of a portable hot tub.

 

"After" of Deck and Patio Brookville Project

“After” of Deck and Patio Brookville Project

With the portable spa operating separately from the pool, it could be used when the pool was closed down.

“We installed it in a way that allowed them to get a perfect view of what’s going on in and around the pool when using the hot tub,” says Dave.

And the clients didn’t have to sacrifice any drama. “The complete upgrade included an encased portable spa with a waterfall flowing out of it into the existing pool. A privacy wall also faced in stone stands behind it, topped with a fire bowl and second waterfall to create a spectacular setting — day and night.”

The above projects won Deck and Patio awards both domestically and internationally.

 

Fall Maintenance: Preparing Koi Ponds for Winter

With each seasonal change there are things you can do to keep your koi pond heathy and thriving. And fall maintenance is particularly important.

 

Plants and Fallen Leaves

 

Now is the time — before winter sets in — to look over your pond’s plantings and remove any dying plant material.

It’s important to do this before the pond water temperature drops below 50 degrees (F). Above 50 degrees, the fish are still active and are not at risk of being hurt while this is being done.

“Plants can rot out of season and build up poisonous gases that will not be able to escape when ice forms,” says Dave Stockwell, owner of Deck and Patio. “This could cause any koi in the pond to go, from simply hibernating, into a dangerous state of torpor. So prune any dead stems and leaves.”

Dave adds that if you use pond netting before the autumn leaves fall, all you need do after fall foliage season is pull it up and get rid of the collected leaves.

If you didn’t put up netting to collect the leaves, use a fine netting to scoop up the debris.

Also, if you suspect that fallen leaves may have gotten lodged in the pond shelves and edges, you can either drain the pond a little yourself to get at them, or contact a pond designer like Deck and Patio for help completing this task.

 

(Pond designed/built by Deck and Patio)

(Pond designed/built by Deck and Patio)

 

 

If calling a pond expert in to help, this is a good time to ask them to create safety pond cave(s) if you haven’t done that already.

Pond caves provide a safe place where the fish can hide and lie dormant during the winter months.

 

 

 

 

 

Pond designed/built by Deck and Patio

Pond designed/built by Deck and Patio

Hardy water lilies that float on the water’s surface, and have a short blooming period, can withstand the cold winter months nicely.

Lotuses also can withstand the cold because they bloom in summer and go dormant in winter.

Note: Frost kills non-hardy water hyacinths and along with water lettuce, which fights algae, these should be wintered in a warm spot that is well lighted as they will not survive in the pond over winter.

 

 

 

Pond Fish

 

Happy Pond Fish in Winter: (Photo/Aquascape Inc)

Happy Pond Fish in Winter: (Photo/Aquascape Inc)

 

It is a common myth that you can’t leave your pond fish outside once the cold sets in.

Actually, fish do just fine during winter. That said, Dave does caution to be alert. When ice covers the pond, the fish might not be getting enough oxygen.

This can be remedied as long as you give them:

 

 

 

•two feet of water to swim in,

•oxygenate the water,

•and keep a hole in the ice with a heater, bubbler and an aerator.

 

The hole allows the naturally-produced gasses to escape from under the ice.

If the above efforts fail to keep it from freezing, Aquascape Inc. designs manager, Gary Gronwick, suggests using a pond de-icer.

“This will keep a little hole in the ice so gases can escape,” he says. “While some recommend boiling water to create an opening in frozen-over ponds, that should be discouraged. It will only ice up again quickly.“

Gronwick also says to avoid chopping or sawing the ice to open a hole. The noise and vibrations will stress out the hibernating fish to a point they could die.

That done, Mother Nature will do the rest. The fish will spend the entire winter hibernating at the bottom of the pond, or in a cave designed for this, and then will slowly wake up as the water warms in the spring.

The fish do not need to eat during this time. In fact, they shouldn’t be fed at all. 

 

Pond Waterfalls in Winter: (Photo/Aquascapes Inc.)

Pond Waterfalls in Winter: (Photo/Aquascapes Inc.)

 

Keeping any waterfalls running during cold months helps move the water so ice doesn’t form.

But if ice builds up, pond aerators can put bubbles back in the water to add oxygen for the fish.