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The Healing Benefits of a Garden

“Gardens and chocolate both have mystical qualities.” said Edward Flaherty, author of landscape stories. Certainly studies confirm what this author believes. One study, for example, proved how “natural environments refocus our attention, lessening stress and hastening healing.” 

There’s another study by Paoli Memorial Hospital where they began noticing how patients in certain rooms with attractive outdoor views were recovering more quickly than those without.  

As they looked in to it, they discovered that patients’ charts showed how much more work was required by the nursing staff for those facing, say, a brick wall. Their chart comments included: “needs much encouragement” and “upset and crying.” However, those looking out onto to a natural view had higher spirits and needed fewer pain killers as they progressed than the others. 

“Since I was a young man, I’ve always had a sense that beautiful landscapes healed the spirit,” adds Dave Stockwell, owner of Deck and Patio. “It’s one of the reasons I do this work. But I was surprised myself by these studies that proved natural beauty can also speed up recovery of the sick.”

Dave continues, “Dealing with the demands of every day life can be exhausting. We are overwhelmed with stimuli. A peaceful surrounding calms you right down as you take in the serenity and quiet.”

Deck and Patio has a history of creating beautiful landscaping projects projects where families can revive themselves. 

 

Deck and Patio Beginning a new landscaping project

Deck and Patio Beginning a new landscaping project

 

In this photo (left), you see members of Deck and Patio’s landscaping team beginning the work to create a serene space by bringing in plants with variations in color and texture, as well as creating slope gradations for visual impact.

 

 

 

 

 

Deck and Patio completed project

Deck and Patio completed project

This completed walking area (right) was planned by Deck and Patio to appear as if it was designed by Mother Nature herself.

Stepping stones lead to larger steps of natural stone which are flanked by colorful plantings including bright red “Wave Petunias” and colorful purple and yellow “Coneflowers.” Such a spot offers wonderful scents as well being a delight for the eyes. 

 

 

 

Landscaping Around a Pond:

Landscaping Around a Pond:

These clients wanted a water feature as part of their landscaping plan. Along with robust green ground cover that Deck and Patio added in and around the waterfall’s natural rocks, the pond also bursts alive with color. Bright orange blossoms of “Canna Lilies” (left), which take full sun but can thrive in partial shade, offer up tropical-like blossoms. The green-leafed plant to the right is “Hosta” which boasts delightful waxy leaves and produces white flowers in late summer.

 

 

Landscaped Pathways:

Landscaped Pathways:

Stepping Stones can be a cost-effective way to create a path around or beside your pool or even just beside your house. Then by adding colorful and lush plantings you have a beautiful area not overwhelmed by too much hardscape.

 

 

Backyard Garden with Bridge (Long Island/NY):

Backyard Garden with Bridge (Long Island/NY):

As a spot to enjoy their backyard oasis, this garden bridge, set amidst lush plants, moss rocks and imported boulders, became a favorite spot for the homeowners. It’s a beautiful spot to refresh the spirits. 

 

 

Beautiful Garden Rooms

Beautiful Garden Rooms:

For these clients, the “garden” serves several purposes. Planted directly into the slope, supported by massive rock steps, it becomes part of a lovely “natural” retaining wall.

The upper patio area is surrounded by lush greenery, bright plantings and a tranquil waterfall. Whether one escapes here to read a book, meditate, or just relax and listen to the sounds of flowing water and chirping birds, there’s a reason garden rooms are a popular landscaping trend.

 

“Whether or not our landscaping designs will heal everything that ails you,” adds Dave, “we know for sure they will heal the spirit. And maybe that is quite enough.”

 

A Repeat Customer Is the Best Testimonial

 

Deck and Patio Backyard Oasis

Deck and Patio Backyard Oasis

Last fall we completed this backyard upgrade for a client’s newly-built home in Manhasset, NY.

The project boasts: a free-form heated Gunite pool with spillover spa and Jandy equipment, stream-fed waterfalls, pavilion, sunken fire pit with circular seating, outdoor kitchen, Cambridge Pavingstone patios/pool surround, and lush landscaping. 

“The couple wanted us to pull out all the stops,” says Deck and Patio’s Dave Stockwell. “But that wasn’t what made us so happy to do the job. You see, they came to us as repeat clients — clients who loved our previous work for them, which to us is the very best testimonial.”

Backstory

In 2011, Deck and Patio upgraded this family’s deck area when they lived in Roslyn, NY, (click here to view that complete project).  At the time, the couple really wanted a pool, but the Town had denied the request.

“The husband told us after we completed the deck, pavilion etc. that ‘one day, when we get our next house, and I can build a pool, you’ll be the first person I call.’”

And, indeed, in 2018, after their new home in Manhasset was built, they had lots of room for a pool (immediately below).

Manhasset ‘Before’ Photo

Manhasset Property before Deck and Patio began upgrade.

 

Custom Pool and Spa:

Deck and Patio designed a large 25’ x 52’ free-form Gunite pool (above) with a  flowing stream alongside it to feed the pool’s 4’ x 6’ moss rock waterfall and second waterfall; also a custom spill-over spa with a veneer of Bucks County Country Ledgestone. We also allowed for a Dolphin waterslide, and partial boulder coping. 

Manhasset Project's Pool and Spa Area:

Manhasset Project’s Pool and Spa Area:

“After the backyard upgrade designs were approved by our clients and the Town, we immediately brought in True Blue Swimming Pools to construct the pool,” says Dave.

“The magnificent color of the water you see in the photos, for example, is due to True Blue’s choice of a custom Pebble Tec finish for both the pool and spa. Pebble Tec’s finish is also durable, textured and non-slip, as well as stain-resistant.

The pool/spa, of course, is a completely new design, but hints of the old Roslyn project are reflected in some other new backyard oasis’s amenities. 

 

Pavilion with Fireplace

Their previous smaller Roslyn pavilion was fine when they had only one child who was very young — he could scoot around inside it on his tricycle — but now they had two children who would require more space and more activity.” 

And although the previous project did boast a fully enclosed climate-controlled four-seasons room, this time, they were happy to sacrifice the ability to control the enclosure’s temperature for a much larger entertaining space. 

Custom Pavilion Fireplace

Custom Pavilion Fireplace

“For the new large 16’ x 32’ pavilion, we dealt with the fact that they wouldn’t be able to screen out bugs by including large ceiling fans. Fans like these do deter irritating bugs while providing a nice breeze in warm weather.

For colder weather, a large custom fireplace with a mounted television on the mantel was constructed outside it, but flush to it, to allow for the maximum of space.”

 

 

Old Roslyn Project

Old Roslyn Project

New Manhaset Project

New Manhaset Project

 

 

 

 

 

 

One bit of drama we designed for them back at their old roslyn home was a stone veneer wall behind their deck’s new outdoor kitchen (left above). Note how, in Manhasset (above right), we capture that same drama — and some — with the majestic custom fireplace we set against the large, open-air pavilion. 

“The new fireplace design also includes different ledges capped to match the pillar bases. These are not just architecturally interesting; they will allow them to add pots and lovely plants come spring,” says Dave.

The veneer we used on the fireplace, and on the inside of the sunken fire pit, as well as on the face of the outdoor kitchen and exterior of the custom spa is all Bucks County Country Ledgestone.

 

Deck and Patio Designed/Built Sunken Fire Pit:

Deck and Patio Designed/Built Sunken Fire Pit:

Speaking of the sunken fire pit, Deck and Patio designed it as a true gathering place, says Dave. “The homeowners wanted a wood-burning fireplace for the pavilion, but the fire pit he intended to be used a lot by his children and, therefore, wanted it natural gas with an electronic ignition that he can control from the house.”

Indeed, adds Dave, everything is on a smart Jandy system — from music, lights, the fire pit, swimming pool and spa.

“The patios are made of Cambridge Pavingstones — from their Sherwood Ledgestone XL series. We laid them in a random pattern from our own design, including inlays with custom cut in borders.”

The outdoor kitchen is constructed with a concrete block base and veneered to match other amenities. It has a grill, fridge, ice maker, etc.  The husband is a wine connoisseur so it also has a wine fridge.

“We love this project for another reason,” says Dave. “It is a truly fun unique area that highlights everything Deck and Patio is known for — lush plantings, lawns, waterfalls, fire pits, patios, and custom spas.

“We finished the job about end-June into early July this year, which made a short outdoor living season for them. But because of the heated pool, the family told us they used it all the way into fall. They didn’t close the pool until end-October.”

 

Landscape Focal Points: Leading Your Eye to a Peaceful 2020

The winter holidays are over. Even if you still have to drag a Christmas tree to the curb, at least the pressure is off. It’s time to appreciate the joys of relaxation. And, even better, to look forward to relaxing outdoors come spring. 

Enjoying Your Landscape's Design

Enjoying Your Landscape’s Design

But even outdoors, there are tricks to making truly restive spaces. The key is to have serene focal points that draw the eye where you sunbathe, enjoy a hot tub, read a book, dine al fresco, or just relax. 

Focal points keep the eye from being confused with too much to take in. They allow your eyes to fix on one spot or item rather than jump from object to object. Resting the eye on an attractive spot encourages muscles to loosen, allows levels of harmful hormones to decline, and, without effort, you breathe out a peaceful “ahhhh.”

“We plan focal points in all our designs,” says Dave Stockwell. “For more substantial projects, like grand swimming pools, the property’s own views can become a natural focal point by adding a vanishing edge to the pool. But sometimes it can be as simple as one beautiful tree, or a garden statue set amid lush plantings. Of course, adding the sights and sound of moving water adds to the restful experience.” 

 

Below we have some Deck and Patio projects that highlight focal points:

Using a Natural View as a Focal Point: One of the many vanishing edge pools we’ve been involved with includes one this one in Cove Neck, NY, where the homeowners had a spectacular water view.

Using a Natural View as a Focal Point: One of the many vanishing edge pools we’ve been involved with includes this one in Cove Neck, NY, where the homeowners had a spectacular water view.

 

Water Features as Focal Point: This captures the view from the homeowners new patio where colorful plantings help create a beautiful setting. But notice how the eye naturally is drawn to the waterfall. In addition, the sounds of moving water adds to an experience of relaxation.

Water Features as Focal Point: This photo captures the view from the homeowners new patio; see how colorful plantings help create a beautiful setting. And notice how the eye naturally is drawn to the waterfall. In addition, the sounds of moving water adds to an experience of relaxation.

 

Deck’s Outdoor Seating Area

Deck’s Outdoor Seating Area

Dining Area of Deck

Dining Area of Deck

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Multiple Focal Points in One Deck Design: We designed the above Timbertech deck in 45-degree angles to orient the different spaces, including positioning the outdoor furniture toward the stunning views. 

 

Stand-Alone Fireplace at Patio’s Edge: Fireplaces can stand on their own and make a dramatic focal point. This custom fireplace by Deck and Patio was added next to a relaxing water feature — a pondless waterfall — at the edge of a new patio which makes the whole experience that more relaxing — and warm, when the weather requires it.

Stand-Alone Fireplace at Patio’s Edge: Fireplaces can stand on their own and make a dramatic focal point. This custom fireplace by Deck and Patio was added next to a relaxing water feature — a pondless waterfall — at the edge of the new patio which makes the whole experience that more relaxing — and warm, when the weather requires it.

 

Dramatic Plants as Focal Points: Here we planted bullrush, horsetail, a rose hybrid water lily — and tall dramatic pink canna lilies that draw the eye naturally.

Dramatic Plants as Focal Points: Here we planted bullrush, horsetail, rose hybrid water lilies — and tall, dramatic pink, canna lilies that draw the eye naturally.

 

Purple Allium Sphaerocephalon Draw the Eye: These beautiful purple flowers (seen in the foreground) are planted in the fall and are one of the many plantings that offer robust color in the summer outdoor season and thrive nicely. We chose them for this design plan for their height as well as their lovely color contrast. They make a great focal point when in the hammock. Whether it’s a tree, plant, waterfall, outdoor fireplace or the property’s own lovely views, focal points in the design aid outdoor relaxation.

Purple Allium Sphaerocephalon Draw the Eye: These beautiful purple flowers (seen in the foreground) are planted in the fall and are one of the many plantings that offer robust color in the summer outdoor season and thrive nicely. We chose them for this design plan for their height as well as their lovely color contrast. They make a great focal point from the hammock.

Whether it’s a tree, plant, waterfall, outdoor fireplace or the property’s own lovely views, focal points in the design aid outdoor relaxation. They are sure to lead your eye to a peaceful 2020!

 

 

Landscape Planning Can Make a Great Gift

Whether it’s for the holidays of Christmas and Hanukkah, New Year’s, or an upcoming anniversary, birthday, or even Valentine’s Day, landscape planning can make a great gift. 

Through the software available today, the drafting and collaboration design process for landscaping is surprisingly quick — providing an accurate representation of how your outdoor spaces will look.

“People think they can’t begin landscape planning until the spring,” says Dave Stockwell, owner of Deck and Patio. “But that’s really not necessary at all. It can be done during any season.”

Working with Google Earth

Working with Google Earth

Even if the ground is covered in snow, experts like those at Deck and Patio don’t need to see the ground to begin planning a project.

“Granted, it is helpful to see close up any existing patio or pool that’s being upgraded or replaced,” adds Dave. “But much of our planning can be done through surveys and Google Earth.”

Letting the Design Be the Gift

Since most property upgrades begin with a landscape design, the plan itself can be a gift. And you could go all out in this stage of the process — planning, a beautiful pond, or other water feature, for example, or a pool with swim-up bar and wild ride slide, a custom spa, pool waterfalls, perhaps tiered patios, and, of course, lush landscaping, — all of which could be phased in over several years.

The whole project can also be planned out financially, so the different phases can be worked into your yearly budgets. In addition, since landscape plans are computerized, it is no problem if the gift receiver has ideas of their own to add later or changes they want made.

Landscape Planning as a Gift

Landscape Planning as a Gift

The gift of a landscaping plan is definitely something memorable. And what a joy it will be seeing the plans come to life. 

Indeed, just this week we posted on Facebook a video of a Deck and Patio vanishing edge pond project we built in Eatons Neck, NY.

The video begins with one of Deck and Patio’s computerized plans and ends with the finished project showing the wonderful experience of having such a pond. Here it is again, immediately below. 

 

 

Another Example

Backyard 3-D Animation Plan.

Backyard 3-D Animation Plan.

Completed Backyard Upgrade

Completed Backyard Upgrade

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes a backyard 3-D animation (left above) not only helps show what the yard will look like in advance — including from different perspectives. Such a gift also allows for tweaking and changes as the project goes along, as well as changes from the gift receiver.

In the case of the immediately above Long Island, NY, project, the property had existing patios and a pool. The key was to decide what to keep and what to remove. 

One part of the design expanded the original confining upper and lower patios into both shady and sunny expansive areas. This also helped open up the space to allow unobstructed views of Long Island Sound.

In addition, Deck and Patio upgraded their pool and spa and added colorful plants and flowers to enhance these vistas. 

 

Great Gift Ideas

Great Gift Ideas

 

And you’ve got to admit that a computer plan downloaded on a small drive (or even printed out) is easy to wrap!

In every way, a landscaping plan makes a great gift! 

 

 

Give Yourself the Gift of a Backyard Pond

'Tis The Season

‘Tis The Season

You might be wondering if this is the best time of year to give yourself and family the gift of a backyard water feature. After all, aren’t ponds, streams, waterfalls, for the outdoor living season?

While most water features, particularly ponds, are, indeed, enjoyed extensively in warm weather, a water feature is actually appreciated during all seasons, including winter. And sometimes they are even built during winter’s blasts.

“Not to mention that during the gift-giving season we’re often encouraged to think deeply about what we’d love to receive ourselves as well as what to give to others,” says Deck and Patio’s Dave Stockwell.

But why now precisely? Shouldn’t we wait for spring? 

“You’d be surprised what can be built outdoors during these colder months,” adds Dave. “Even if it’s not fully built until spring, it’s great to get a good start.”  Click here for a Deck and Patio water feature built primarily during winter.

 

Holiday Gift Wish List

 

Natural Swimming Pond

Also called “recreational ponds,” these water features offer the opportunity to swim and snorkel without having to deal with chlorinated water. 

 

The Gift of Snorkeling:

The Gift of Snorkeling:

You’ll definitely get on Santa’s “nice” list when opting for swimming/snorkeling in your own natural or recreational pond over a regular pool. Natural ponds are good for the environment.

“In order to snorkel in your own home pond, it’s important to build a pond big and deep enough,” says Dave. “It’s also key to not overload your pond with fish so the pond remains pristine for swimming. “This way, the aquatic plants and natural filtration systems are able to absorb and ‘clean’ the pond sufficiently for an enjoyable swim.”

To learn more about Deck and Patio natural swimming ponds, click here.  Then next year, Santa won’t have to snorkel his way to your home via the local aquarium.

 

Koi Pond

Ponds in Spring/Summer:

Outdoor Living Season

Outdoor Living Season

Even if they’re not built for swimming, once the weather warms, ponds are a natural wonderland for children to explore. Plus, they provide a lovely spot for dining al fresco, or just sitting beside while reading a book. Feeding your koi is also a delightful way to relax and let stress just fall away. 

 

Ponds in Autumn

Ponds in Autumn

Ponds in Winter

Ponds in Winter

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few autumn leaves falling into a backyard pond is not a problem. Some leaves actually add to the health of a pond’s ecosystem.

However. If your pond is surrounded by deciduous trees, autumn’s storm of foliage are leaves of a different color.  Learn more here.

Many people love to be outdoors in winter and a pond helps create the perfect winter wonderland. A popular trend these days is creating a winter walk “event” for strolling by lighted trees or bushes, also a fully-operating water feature with waterfalls, and even enjoying an ice rink for skating. 

Creating Your Own Ice Rink

Creating Your Own Ice Rink

It takes some prep work and lots of caution and care to make a rink, but according to naturally-recognized “The Pond Guy” you can, indeed, turn your pond into a rink for skating.

The Pond Guy has several blogs on this topic covering how to create good ice, what red flags to look for, how to check the ice, and how to create a glassy smooth surface. For two of his blogs, click here and here. 

 

 

Plan Your Backyard Upgrade While Dreaming of Warmer Days

There’s more than a deep chill in the air. It even snowed a little over much of Long Island this week. It may not be officially winter yet, but many of us are already dreaming of warmer days.

So as you gaze out over your yard, here’s some ‘before and after’ Deck and Patio projects that might inspire the perfect upgrade for you — done in plenty of time for next year’s outdoor living season.

 

Backyard Upgrade on a Budget

"Before"

“Before”

"After"

“After”

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Massapequa couple, says Deck and Patio’s Dave Stockwell, hankered to enjoy their backyard more  — which was tidy but not enticing.

Space was also at a premium. And in lieu of a rather more expensive pool, the couple settled on installing a quality hot tub, in-ground.

An in-ground installation makes a portable hot tub appear like it’s a custom-made spa.  Plus it would be easy to get in and out of (see before/after photos above).

However, even though they knew they’d love spending time outdoors in their new hot tub, they also wanted something beautiful to look at while in it. They certainly did not want to be facing their home’s siding, or even just a plain line of healthy evergreens. 

Upshot? The pond with waterfalls, hot tub installation and landscaping were still less expensive than a pool.

 

Large Pond Under Stone Bridge

"Before"

“Before”

"After"

“After”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shortly after the homeowner purchased his property, he contacted us. An entrance he had to drive over each day, on his way to and from work, had not been kept up for many years.

He asked us to accentuate a beautiful 1880 bridge structure with a man-made reflecting pond.

Our design allowed the pre-existing bridge’s entire stone gazebo to be reflected in the pond water. The water feature we designed and built is more than 240-feet-long and 60-feet-wide, so it also captures the surrounding landscape. Plus, such a wonderful expanse of water made the perfect habitat for koi. 

Our team ensured the pond design included lots of flowing water, with rock overhangs, and plenty of space for pond fish to hide and thrive. Such a design makes it difficult for natural predators to reach the fish.

The stone bridge with turret creates a stunning pond reflection in its crystal clear water, doesn’t it?

 

Pool and Retaining Wall Upgrade

"Before"

“Before”

"After"

“After”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A family in Dix Hills, NY, called on Deck and Patio when they decided to update their 1980”s backyard pool area. 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.

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

The plan also called for draining the pool and removing the liner; a poorly built concrete block wall was uncovered and we straightened the wall and filled the block in with concrete and steal rebar for strength. New vinyl-covered stairs were added to the pool, plus new pipes, returns, skimmers, pump, filter and a new liner.

 

New Modern Deck

"Beginning Construction"

“Beginning Construction”

"After Construction"

“Completed Construction”

 

 

 

 

 

 

These Centerport, NY, 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.

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.

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.

 

New Backyard ‘Spool’

"Before"

“Before”

"After"

“After”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deck and Patio built this backyard ‘spool” (a cross between a spa and pool) several years ago. The homeowners decided on a ‘spool” for their yard  because they didn’t have room for a full-sized pool.

A spool would also allow them to enjoy it year-round. They could opt to run cool water in the spool during warm months, and hot water during cold months and cool evenings.

In addition, the mechanics of a spa provides the benefits of hydrotherapy massage — not to mention the amazing experience of sitting under flowing water from an added waterfall. A new fence was added for contrast and a bit of drama; a rushing stream flows through the large moss rock boulders to become a waterfall flowing into the spa. Lush plantings and a new patio completed their new backyard retreat.

So let it snow or blast cold. You can stay warm while planning your new backyard upgrade. 

Help the Declining Bird Population While Brightening Up Your Winter Yard

Long Islanders, including many Deck and Patio clients, are strong environmentalists and nature lovers. And they are well aware of recent news reports that North America has lost 3 billion birds since 1970. 

What may be news to some is that not all the loss has been among rare birds. One in four colorful blue jays, for example, have been lost, and we recommend a SC Times post that includes some great tips on a variety of ways we all can help.

News has not been all bad though. Because of conservation efforts, populations of waterfowl have increased in recent decades. However, even with the increase in waterfowl, the overall loss in birds does tug on the conscience. 

Inviting Birds to Your Property

We may not have any snowy owls to protect, on Long island, but we can provide a safe habitat for lots of delightful birds — and birds of glorious color that can brighten our winter season.

 

Blue Jay

Blue Jay

Peanut Wreath

Peanut Wreath

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue Jays, who do need help, are colorful birds that by nature are happy to stay around in winter. These avian friends love to congregate in groups come winter. They also will squirrel food away. Some have witnessed Blue Jays hiding nuts in trees.

We spoke with Sandra Vultaggio, Horticulture Consultant at the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Riverhead about attracting the Jays.

 “If you want to help Blue Jays, they really like nuts and peanuts. I use a peanut wreath and fill it with shelled peanuts. This type of feeder attracts a lot of Blue Jays.”

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

 

Cardinals

Cardinals

Cardinals

Consider how the bright red plumage of the Cardinal could cheer the dreariest of days while you’re helping to save birds overall. 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 Vultaggio.

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.

 

Chickadees

Chickadees

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.

 

Extra Tips

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

2.  Bird Baths are a great help to birds in winter 

3.  Put up bird houses designed for specific birds

 

 

Bird Baths:

Bird Baths:

A bird bath is 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 immediately above is a Heated Deck-Mounted Birdbath by Allied Precision. “You’ll also find that in winter birds tend to appear in groups since many eyes make it safer to watch out for predators.” 

 

Upscale Birdhouses:

Upscale Birdhouses:

Granted, wild birds may not exactly be pets. But it’s trendy to treat them like they are. So it’s not surprising that fancy bird houses are growing in popularity. Indeed, there are even awards for the best design in bird houses.

The point is, a bird house can be a reflection of your own style and tastes and certainly can be upscale, all while you’re aiding in bird conservation. Besides, if our avian friends are going to sing for their supper, they might as well be housed as nicely as we are. 

It’s worth checking to learn what the birds you’re trying to attract require. For example, Blue Jays like to nest at least 10 feet off the ground so your birdhouse should be at least that high in a tree or pole. They like to use tree roots and small thin sticks to create a nest so you can place them nearby along with the food they prefer. 

 

Birds are, indeed, such a wonderful way to add color to your winter garden. And it feels great to know you are helping in a very small way to reverse the trends of bird loss on our continent. 

Note: Our feature photo at the top of the page is of a tit bird feeding on a tit ring. 

By |2019-11-08T16:28:33-05:00November 7th, 2019|Backyard Escapes, Environment Issues, Landscaping, Seasonal Landscapes|Comments Off on Help the Declining Bird Population While Brightening Up Your Winter Yard

Stepping Stone Walkway Ideas

Stepping stones in areas that get heavy foot traffic are an attractive way to protect the lawn. The stones allow grass, or “softscape,” to shine through while still providing the “hardscape” needed.

However. Is this all that stepping stones can do? “By no means,” says Dave Stockwell, owner of Deck and Patio. “While they are very serviceable, they can also contribute to the serenity of a space. They can be a key element of creating ‘contemplation’ spaces, for example.”

Today our blog is showcasing a sampling of stepping stone paths that we have created for clients — ranging from the very practical to the Zen-like in impact.

Practical Pathway

Practical Pathway

 

These clients wanted a footpath leading to their tool shed — a very practical need. But they had a small backyard. We were already installing extensive multi-level paver patios. So it wasn’t surprising they didn’t want more solid brick hardscape on the opposite side of the pool.

Instead, the bluestone stepping stones we installed allowed for greenery to show through. Along with attractive plantings on either side of the pathway, the journey to their shed offers an uplifting experience that’s not just about the tasks at hand.

 

 

 

Stepping Stones and Ponds

Stepping Stones and Ponds

Not all stepping stones are flat bluestone slabs. The Japanese introduced Zen-garden landscape design centuries ago, inspiring the world to place larger stones as stepping stones across ponds and water feature

“The clients’ desire for a natural-scape in this yard helped inspire us,” says Dave.

First: Deck and Patio installed regular flat bluestone stepping stones leading up to a flowing stream water feature we were doing. Then: Larger natural stones were added to walk across the stream. More flat bluestone was positioned on the other side as a walkway up to the clients’ pool area. Finally, we also added moss rock in various places which adds color and texture.

“Our clients even enjoy it in winter when the moss rock boulders around the stream become sparkling ice sculptures,” adds Dave.

 

Stone Island

Stone Island

Speaking of larger natural stones, have you ever considered adding a stone “island” in a pond where you can picnic?

When Deck and patio built this lovely water feature, comprising two separate ponds next to each other, there was room in the larger pond (shown here) to add a sizable stone island.

With smooth natural stones leading to it, the homeowners have a true Zen experience walking across the still pond to their own private island.

The clients placed two Adirondack chairs on the island giving them an escape for extended moments of contemplation. Plus, the wide arms of these chairs allow room for a small lunch and cool drink while they listen to birds and watch koi swim. Surrounded by robust bright plantings, including gorgeous aquatic plants, it’s a delightful escape.

 

Decks and Ponds

Decks and Ponds

A deck can be part of the pond/stepping stone contemplation space, too. This Deck and Patio deck was designed with a viewing platform to enjoy the new pond with waterfalls and beautiful landscaping.

At the bottom of a set of stairs, we placed the first of several large stepping stones leading from the deck, providing a delightful walk across the pond to other viewing areas of the multi-faceted water feature.

 

 

Waterfall Walk

Waterfall Walk

So far we’ve explored stepping stones across ponds, one path leading to a utility shed, and below you’ll see stepping stones to a swimming pool.

But here the bluestone stepping stones we added lead past cascading waterfalls, including a dramatic 7’-high waterfall.

“This is a very special experience for the clients,” says Dave. “Usually waterfalls drop into a pond and you can’t walk close to them. But these do not fall into a pond, but pass through river rock into a ‘pondless’ reservoir instead.”

In the underground Aquascape Inc. reservoir, the water is filtered and then recirculated so it operates as a self-sustaining system that remains clean and clear. The different rocks used here include river rock, moss rock, spill rocks and, of course, bluestone stepping stones. They all contribute to a footpath experience one might only hope to get on a mountain trek.

 

Stepping Stone Path

Stepping Stone Path

We placed these bluestone stepping stones so they almost skim across the backyard sod. The path connects the clients’ pool patio to a Trex deck and second Cambridge patio located near the house.

This area is also home to a new outdoor kitchen area, complete with barbecue and refrigerator.

 

 

Backyard Nature Walk

Backyard Nature Walk

How’s this for one last example of the serenity that comes from simply adding bluestone stepping stones.

The stones make a special walking area for the homeowners as they move around their larger backyard retreat.

“While this kind of space is ideal on its own,” says Dave, “the idea came to us when we were looking for a creative way to hide their new swimming pool equipment.

“We decided to create this wilderness area with plantings etc. in a way that offered contemplation moments while at the same time finding a creative way to hide their pool equipment.”

 

 

 

 

Backyard Pond: A Place of Reflection

Water Gardens in Giverny, France

Water Gardens in Giverny, France

The famed impressionist, Claude Monet, loved painting the water gardens in his home in Giverny, France. His paintings capture the trees, clouds, and sky reflected in the lily ponds at various times of day, in very different light — in the pre-dawn, the brightness of noonday, at sunset.

Each example allows the viewer to reflect on the differing views of beauty created by the pond’s stillness. 

We may not all be painters. But we all love to stop and reflect when we see the sky and other objects captured in still waters. 

Consider the happy owners of the following Deck and Patio vanishing edge (infinity) swimming pond. Our own Dave Stockwell explains that water features such as this project’s two man-made ponds, when correctly designed, positioned, and constructed, can provide a transforming experience in one’s life. 

 

 

Deck and Patio Vanishing edge swimming pond capturing a pink sunset

Deck and Patio Vanishing edge swimming pond capturing a pink sunset

 

The same swimming pond at 4 a.m.

The same swimming pond at 4 a.m.

 

The vanishing edge pond in fall

The vanishing edge pond in fall

 

Catching the reflections of twisted trees

Catching the reflections of twisted trees

 

“As you can see from the next photo of this pond, sunset is a magnificent time to mediate on the illusions created by the reflecting pond’s placid water,” says Dave. “The water mirrors its surroundings so perfectly, it can be a challenge to tell the real sky, ocean, and landscape from their images on the water.”

 

Vanishing Edge Pond at Sunset:

Vanishing Edge Pond at Sunset

 

The entire project was actually two ponds. The first larger pond shown in the above photos is the vanishing edge swimming pond. The smaller of the two ponds, below, is just steps outside the homeowners’ back door. Note how beautiful the back of the house is captured in the pond and reflected back. 

 

Smaller of Two Backyard Ponds

Smaller of Two Backyard Ponds

 

Landscape design is an essential element in bringing about beautiful reflections and peaceful scenes. “Our designers used Mother Nature’s own creations — plants, moss rocks, and the water itself, to design a true mystical experience,” adds Dave. 

To learn more about these two ponds and their natural biological filtration systems, read here. 

 

 

Choosing a Recreational Pond Over a Swimming Pool

Most people are pretty certain their family will enjoy using a regular pool. But not everyone is so sure about a recreational pond.

Even after learning that these ponds are a growing international trend and are so much better for the environment, they think, why rock the inflatable pool boat so to speak.

However, if like some of Deck and Patio’s Long Island client families, your passion for eco-friendly spaces makes you want to at least ponder (ahem) a recreational pond, one way to test the waters is ask: Do we like swimming in lakes, the ocean, and/or swimming holes? 

If the answer is yes to any of these, then you’ll probably love a natural swimming pond. Why? Because if you’ve swum in the ocean, for example, you’ve probably brushed up against the occasional bit of seaweed and snorkeled to get up close to colorful fish. 

In addition, because swimming in a natural pond means you won’t be swimming in chlorinated water, there’ll be no red eyes or irritated skin.

Because of the benefits to the environment a natural swimming pond offers, and the sheer pleasure families get from them, we’ve been staying on top of the different ponds being constructed across the country. In particular, we keep close watch on the work of the company that crafts the products we use for most of our water features — Aquascape Inc., St. Charles, IL.

And no more so than recently. For in the past year, Aquascape’s main focus, through their Aquascape Construction arm, has been on the design and construction of recreational ponds. And if Aquascape is all in, we’re confident this trend will be growing even wider.

The feature photo at the top of our blog page today is of an Aquascape Construction’s recreational pond that they built last fall in Arlington Heights, Illinois, and which they recently shared on Facebook. Here’s the video of their amazing pond:

 

 

Their pond sure is a beauty, isn’t it? And as much as we love gushing about our mentor, Aquascape, we’re proud to say Deck and Patio has done some nice recreational ponds at home on Long Island.

Here’s one very special award-winner!

Recreational Swimming Pond (Long Island/NY):

Recreational Swimming Pond (Long Island/NY):

This pond (above) is one of two ponds the clients had us create in their yard which overlooks Long Island Sound. We can assure you our beautiful model is not avoiding any of the natural pond experience by using a floating device. As you’ll see from the next photo below, she’s not bothered at all by healthy pond life. Indeed, this pond is pure and clean — a joy to swim in.

Pristine Swimming Ponds (Long Island/NY):

Pristine Swimming Ponds (Long Island/NY):

“A key factor in a good natural swimming pond is to build it big and deep enough so that you can snorkel as well as have room to swim,” says Deck and Patio’s Dave Stockwell.

 

Pond Water Feature Includes Stream and Landscaping (Long Island/NY):

Pond Water Feature Includes Stream and Landscaping (Long Island/NY):

The water feature being enjoyed by our lovely model in the two previous photos includes not only two ponds but also this beautiful stream that feeds them — which Deck and Patio  landscaped with lush plantings and river rock.

 

Swimming With the Koi (Photo: Courtesy of Aquascape Inc.)

Swimming With the Koi (Photo: Courtesy of Aquascape Inc.)

The child in all of us loves natural swim ponds. This photo was published originally by a homeowner who wrote an Aquascape Inc. blog “Growing Up Around a Pond.” She captured  her son in the photo encouraging a friend to join him in the pond.

A Note on Recreational Pond Maintenance

Eco-friendly recreational ponds require expertise to create a natural swimming  environment to be enjoyed much like swimming holes were in years past. It takes, for example, the correct underlayment, liner, Biofalls (from Aquascape Inc.), bog filtration, as well as the ideal water plants. 

As Aquascape said on Facebook, “The proper amount of filtration and aeration is included in the installation so that maintenance is kept to a minimum.”