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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

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.

 

 

 

 

Fall Gardening Tips from Hicks Nurseries, Westbury, Long Island

Like our friends at Hicks Nurseries, Deck and Patio and our blog followers love each new season for the gifts it brings.

Autumn is no exception. So in case you missed it at their own website, Hicks Nurseries’ gave us permission to share below their October 23rd blog on: FALL GARDENING – YES, YOU CAN!.  Enjoy!

 

By Karen Musgrave, Hicks Nurseries

Fall can be a confusing time for the novice gardener. Their gardens are producing less, if any fruit and flowers are starting to look tired and leggy. The weather is cooler and it seems like the time to garden has ended . . . or has it?

Fall is a great time to plant!

Fall gardening? Yes, you can! Although the air temperatures are cooler the ground temperature is still plenty warm for root growth. Here on Long Island you can plant trees, shrubs and perennials well into late fall. Learn how to plant here.

 

Lawn Renovation

Now is the time to re-seed your lawn or fill in bare spots that may have formed over the summer months. Plentiful rainfall, cooler temperatures and the lack of competition from weeds combine to make this the best time to accomplish lawn seeding or sodding. Learn more here.

 

 

Move Houseplants & Tropicals Indoors for Winter

If you moved your houseplants and tropical plants such as hibiscus outdoors for the summer, now is the time to transition them indoors for the winter. Learn how here.

 

Dig Up Summer Blooming Bulbs & Plant Spring Blooming Bulbs

 

Summer Blooming Bulbs

Not all bulbs can survive the winter outdoors. Dahlias, elephant ears, cannas and caladium are of few of the bulbs you will need to dig up before winter. Learn more here.

 

Spring Blooming Bulbs

Now is also the time to plant tulips, daffodils and other spring blooming bulbs. These bulbs require a period of cold (winter). Plant them now and they will bloom next spring. Learn more here.

Mulch

Nothing makes the flower beds in front of your home look nicer – especially in the winter – than a layer of beautiful mulch. Mulch gives beds a finished look, helps the soil to retain water for your trees and shrubs and suppresses weed growth.

 

What About Pruning? 

Heavy pruning at this time could result in the stimulation of new growth that may not have enough time to mature before winter; making it prone to frost damage. Limit pruning to the removal of dead or damaged branches during this time. Learn more about pruning here.

 

For information about how and when to prune hydrangeas , read our Hydrangea pamphlet.

 

Fall is a great time to garden. The weather is cooler and the sun is shining, get out there and enjoy it! A little work now will save you time this spring.”

A big thanks to Hicks Nurseries. Note: Today’s feature photo at the top of this blog is from Hicks’ Facebook page.

***

For tips on how falling leaves can affect your driveways, decks, lawns, and patios, etc., Dave Stockwell, owner of Deck and Patio reminds everyone that the tannin in leaves can stain pavers, concrete etc.

“It is better — and easier to remove the leaves than to seal your decks and patios,” says Dave. For more on this, see our blog.

 

 

 

By | 2017-10-26T13:29:35+00:00 October 26th, 2017|Ask the Experts, Creative Design, Gardening, Herb/Vegetable Gardens, Landscaping, Living Landscapes, Outdoor Living, Plantings/Pondscapes, Seasonal Landscapes, Updating Landscape|Comments Off on Fall Gardening Tips from Hicks Nurseries, Westbury, Long Island

Before the Leaves Fall: Some Backyard Maintenance Tips

 

 

 

It’s weeks away. But as sure as leaf tannin stains decks and driveways, fall foliage is coming.

So kick back and give a few thoughts to some backyard maintenance that can be done now — and might make falling leaves less of a problem.

 

 

 

 

 

Pruning

Right now — on the cusp of early fall — is the ideal time to prune. Cutting plants back now will give them enough time to callous over before the first frost.

Without callouses, frost can cause them to die back or not bloom come spring. And we don’t want that.

 

 

 

Ponds

Pond nets can keep out even the smallest pieces of debris such as falling leaves and pine needles. We recommend netting from Aquascape Inc. (St. Charles, IL) which includes hold-down staples to secure it.

Pond nets can keep out even the smallest pieces of debris such as falling leaves and pine needles. We recommend netting from Aquascape Inc. (St. Charles, IL) which includes hold-down staples to secure it.

One area that needs a little care before leaves drop is the backyard pond.

In a previous post, our blog covered in detail the importance of protecting pond water from falling leaves.

“Netting your pond before fall foliage is important,” says Dave Stockwell, owner of Deck and Patio. “But once the leaves have all fallen, you can pull out the netting and get rid of the leaves and have pristine clear water come spring. Water features can be enjoyed all through fall, and even into winter.”

Pond experts at Aquascape Inc., a leading pond supply company, also suggest “tenting” the net so it doesn’t sag into the water when it becomes heavy with leaves and debris.

They also say to trim back aquatic plants to reduce the amount of organic material decomposing in the colder months. A previous blog offers more details on water plants and how to care for pond fish in fall.

 

 

 

Tree Trimming

Photo: Courtesy of Aquascape Inc.

Photo: Courtesy of Aquascape Inc.

 

Before the leaves start falling off trees in your yard, check them out to see if there are any branches that do not have leaves on them.

“This will tell you which branches might offer potential problems later down the road,” says Dave.

“Come the cold weather, dead limbs snap off due to the weight of ice and snow. This can cause havoc with power lines. Not to mention they can be a source of accidents to cars, people and homes.”

 

 

 

 

 

Plantings

Skimmia (Photo Credit: Musical Linguist at the English language Wikipedia)

Skimmia (Photo Credit: Musical Linguist at the English language Wikipedia)

To give plants a head start before spring, now, through the end of October, is a great time to be planting.

Many of you will, of course, be thinking of planting bulbs for spring beauties like tulips, daffodils etc. But you can get all kinds of perennials in the ground now that will give you buds in spring, and color next fall/winter.

In an earlier blog, we discussed — Skimmia — along with other plants that offer color in the colder months. In spring these will give you vibrant white flowers; in fall, crimson red fruits (berries) that last through winter.

 

 

 

Deck and Patio Pond Project

Deck and Patio Pond Project

A bit of effort in fall — before the leaves fall — brings big rewards come next outdoor season. Clean pond water, tidy and safe yards, blooming with color.

 

 

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’

Gardening: Flowers That Thrive in Summer

If you waited too long, and didn’t get around to planting bulbs this spring, no worries! Even though long hot summer days will soon be upon us, there’s lots of beautiful summer-loving flowers you can add. And since weather in the northeast over the next week or so should remain fairly cool, this is ideal weather for time spent in your gardens.

With that in mind, we’re highlighting today a few of plants that will stand up well to heat and thrive.

 

Coneflowers

One of our favorites is a wildflower — the black-eyed Susan, a.k.a., coneflower. These plants are tough and take heat and bright sunshine well. They add gorgeous bursts of color to any garden, including around water gardens. But they don’t just turn the outdoors lovely. As cut flowers, they make great bouquets.

The following two photos celebrating coneflowers are Deck and Patio projects.

 

Coneflowers/Curb Appeal (Deck and Patio project)

Coneflowers/Curb Appeal (Deck and Patio project)

 

Coneflowers/Backyard Beauties. (Deck and Patio project)

Coneflowers/Backyard Beauties. (Deck and Patio project)

 

Red Coleus

Again, we have a plant here that thrives in the sun. These beautifully leafed flora are great as container or bedding plants. It’s certainly a good time to add them to your gardens — or anywhere you’d like a spot of color — as they don’t survive during frost and cold climes unless you take them inside. If you plant them now they’ll thrive through the warm months…just pinch the tips from the stems regularly to help growth.

The following Deck and Patio project shows coleus we planted near a water feature.

 

Red Coleus for drama. (Deck and Patio project)

Red Coleus for drama. (Deck and Patio project)

 

Globe Amaranth

This lovely annual looks like pom-poms; their flowers come in purple, red, and white and last into fall. Hardy as it is, do water it from the soil, not overhead, which can cause a powderly mildew to grow.

These plants will die back when frost appears but their seeds will germinate after winter.

 

Globe Armaranth/Three cheers for pom-poms

Globe Armaranth/Three cheers for pom-poms

 

Hibiscus

People often think of hibiscus as a tropical flower — which it is. But it will thrive surprisingly well elsewhere, including the northeast. They do need lots of space, rich well-drained soil, and plenty of water but are worth the coddling.

Some varieties of hibiscus can grow into trees. How about that.

 

Hibiscus/worth coddling

Hibiscus/worth coddling

 

Verbena

Talk about saving the best for the last. Verbena shows its stuff (beautiful blooms) during the hottest of summer heat. Available in annual and perennial varieties, they are long lasting spreaders. They come in 250 varieties so there’s lots of color to choose from, including white, pink, or purple.

Some of the species are drought resistant, too, if that’s on your mind. They are often used in herbal teas…and as if all this wasn’t good enough, butterflies and hummingbirds love them.

 

Verbena/Ideal summer plants

Verbena/Ideal summer plants

 

 

 

 

By | 2017-06-01T14:18:27+00:00 June 1st, 2017|Gardening, Living Landscapes, Outdoor Living, Seasonal Landscapes, Updating Landscape|Comments Off on Gardening: Flowers That Thrive in Summer

April Gardening is For the Birds: Some “To Do’s” and “Not To Do’s”

Today’s garden planning goes well beyond simply color and texture. Some of the delights of outdoor living are the amazing creatures our gardens and water features attract.

With that in mind, below are some “to do” and “not to do” lawn/garden ideas for the month of April that we put together with the help of Sandra Vultaggio, Horticulture Consultant at Suffolk County’s Cornell Cooperative Extension.

 

April “To Do’s”

Photo by Sandra Vultaggio

Photo by Sandra Vultaggio

During March and April many birds migrate back up north. Ruby-throated hummingbirds, for example, make their home in Mexico and Central America during winter, and are already en route to our neck of the woods.

So if you want to invite them to your yard, it’s time to fill hummingbird feeders etc. As for blooms, Vultaggio says that these hummingbirds particularly love rhododendrons and azaleas. “They also love Columbine, which they track as they move north.”

 

Oriolefest feeder

Oriolefest feeder

Other delightful birds — e.g., the Baltimore Oriole and certain Warblers — also arrive on Long Island and other areas of the Northeast in April.

Oriole migration coincides with that of hummingbirds, says Vultaggio — arriving usually a week ahead of their smaller rapid-flapping friends. For the Orioles, she puts out oranges, which they love.

Like hummingbirds, Orioles winter in Mexico and Central and South America. It’s worth planning for their arrival because they don’t stay around long. They begin migrating south again in August. So get your Oriole-feeders out early.

 

 

“When it comes to bees, which have been on the decline in alarming numbers, some suggest that we leave dandelions in our lawns for them,” says Vultggio. For while hummingbirds, etc. are going after nectar, the bees are in search of pollen,” she says.

This means it’s a good idea to cultivate both pollen and nectar producing plants, adds Dave Stockwell, owner of Deck and Patio.

“Indeed, we recommend sufficient seasonal plantings so that the right blooms appear from early spring into late fall. We also suggest that you plant them in clusters to provide havens for birds and pollinators.”

Dave says that early April is also a great time to clean and repair any bird houses so they’ll be ready for birds to nest.

 

April “Not to Do’s” 

 

“April is a good time of year to postpone any severe pruning you might want to do,” says Vultaggio. “This time of year is usually mating season, and squirrels and birds are busy building their nests.”

“You don’t want to be cutting down trees while these creatures are nesting. Also, it’s helpful to the birds if you don’t make a thorough clean up of your yard during spring maintenance. Leave behind loose twigs and leaves for them to build their nests.”

During April, gardeners often find it necessary to go after insects and pests that might destroy their garden. This can mean applying fungicide or spraying insecticides.

“Be sure that when you do this, not to spray the blooming trees and shrubs. You don’t want to harm birds, bees and other pollinating insects,” adds Dave Stockwell.


 

Finally, Vultaggio says that doing a few things — and not doing some others — will help attract all the beautiful creatures we want to enjoy when outdoors. In fact, right now, she is daily tracking the 2017 migration of hummingbirds to our area in the Northeast.

“I went to hummingbirds.net just this morning. And guess what? They were already in Virginia.”

 

 

2016 Baltimore Oriole Sighting on Long Island:

2016 Baltimore Oriole Sighting on Long Island:

This photo of a Baltimore Oriole was taken by Sandra Vultaggio last spring. Note: yellow/orange Helianthus and pink Zinnias in her garden make a perfect spot for her feeder. “The feeder is actually a hummingbird feeder,” says Vultaggio, “but Orioles will feed from it as well.”

 

The Benefits of Aquatic Plants and Water Garden Landscaping


Water Gardens, and the plants installed in and around them, are delightful to look at. They also attract creatures that offer a daily open-air symphony: chirping birds, flapping butterflies, and croaking frogs.

For an ideal water garden eco-system, the key is maintaining clean, healthy water. Pond filtration systems do a lot, as do waterfalls etc. that aerate and oxygenate the water. But at the end of the day, a huge part of creating a healthy system is the water landscaping you do.

 

Deck and Patio Built Pond

Deck and Patio Built Pond

Aquatic Plants

The gurus of all things pond/water garden — Aquascape Inc., in St. Charles, IL — list the basic groups of aquatic plants as:

  •  Water Lilies
  •  Lotus
  •  Marginal Plants
  •  Water Lily-like Plants
  •  Floating Plants Submerged Plants.

“An ideal pond mixes plant heights, textures and color from at least three of these groups,” says Dave Stockwell, owner of Deck and Patio. “This gives the most natural look. We also don’t install plants in a symmetrical way. A more random placement looks the most natural.”

But there’s more to it than aesthetics. Plants such as water lilies and irises feed on the nutrients (algae or small primitive unwanted plant life) in the pond water, and produce oxygen while they provide shade and food for small creatures attracted to the water garden.

Aquatic floaters and marginals, adds Dave, are perfect for gobbling up the excess nutrients that are produced by any pond fish and excessive plant algae growth. They also help by reducing sunlight in the pond, which also helps control the growth of algae.

Submerged plants  (e.g., anacharis, parrot’s feather or hornwort) will also release oxygen.

“Remember, that while nutrients sound like a good thing, too many in your water garden, and your pond water changes dramatically,” says Dave. “However, despite the fact that aquatic plants eat up unwanted nutrients, too many plants or plant material will also contribute to an over abundance of nutrients. For example, when plants die in the fall, they fall back in the pond, adding to the problem. We recommend cutting them back before this happens in order to have healthy water.”

Dave says not to fret if your pond water has a slight tint to it. “Crystal clear water has no nutrients. You want some algae, diatoms, protozoans, etc. because they offer a diverse food source for pond fish, frogs, and plants. It’s all about choosing the right plants and keeping them all in balance.

 

 

To complete an enchanting water garden eco-system, the plants you put in around your water feature’s edge will aid in attracting birds, butterflies, pollinators, etc.

 

No pond/water feature will be completely free of algae but it can be kept in check and in a natural way — providing you with a daily outdoor natural symphony.

 

 

 

 

Aquatic Plants and Pond Landscaping:

Aquatic Plants and Pond Landscaping:

The tall aquatic plant on the left of the pond (a canna lily) thrives in water conditions that are 70-80 degrees F, with a pH of 6.5-7.5. They’re also easy to care for, love natural light and are ideally suited near the edges of a pond. The weeping hemlock at the top right in the photo flourishes in moist soil and offers a bit of shade which helps balance the water temperature.

 

Landscaping Around Ponds and Water Features:

Landscaping Around Ponds and Water Features:

This photo was taken just after we built the pond. Lily pads, and other in-pond aquatic plants, had yet to be added. But we had installed some attractive peripheral landscaping using plants that like moist, but well-draining soil. These do well around a pond but not in one. The red/pink flowers in the foreground are roses. To the right of them are variegated hydrangea and to the left are variegated hosta. All of these plants attract birds and butterflies.

 

Aquatic Plants:

Aquatic Plants:

In addition to the canna lily, this pond boasts water lilies — both tropical and hardy ones. The pinkish coneflowers on the right are not aquatic and are not in the water but are perfect edging plants as they attract desirable wildlife — one of the reasons we love our ponds.

 

“Pondless" Waterfall Landscaping:

“Pondless” Waterfall Landscaping:

Pink petunias add a bright statement away from where the waterfalls spill and seep into the ground. Close to the waterfall area we added grassy plants like Liriope that thrive in moist soil.

 

 

 

 

Can Beautiful Landscaping Improve My Well-Being?

A few years ago, The Atlantic magazine published a news feature outlining how “natural environments refocus our attention, lessening stress and hastening healing.”

In the article, a study was referenced that was conducted by a researcher at Paoli Memorial hospital (Paoli, PA). After visiting patients recovering from the same type of surgery, she noticed that some had improved at a faster rate. Since most everything else was the same, she wondered if the faster recovery could have been related to the differences in patients’ rooms.

Sure enough. While the rooms were basically identical, some of the hospital rooms on the same recovery floor faced a brick wall, while others looked out onto a small group of deciduous trees.

As the researcher dug further, she noted interesting details in the patients’ recovery charts.

For example, the charts showed how much more work was required by the nursing staff for those facing the 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 an sense that beautiful landscapes healed the spirit,” says Dave Stockwell, owner of Deck and Patio. “It’s one of the reasons I do this work. But I was surprised myself to learn that natural beauty can also speed up recovery of the sick.

“I have always been aware of the effect a green landscape has on children, including my own,” continues Dave. “Even when they have had a bad day, like challenges at school, they pick up quickly once they get to play in a pleasant outdoor space.”

Dave also agrees with The Atlantic’s explanation as to why nature revives us.

“When you’re busy dealing with the demands of every day life, it 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 (including many award-winning) where families can revive themselves. Various elements are frequently involved:

  • sounds (moving water, chirping birds, croaking frogs, the rapid flaps of hummingbirds)

  • colors and textures (aquatic plants, seasonal plants, bright and soft colors, rich greenery, leafy shrubs, interesting barks, winter berries, etc.)

  • overall harmony (when things fit together in a beautiful way), including a right balance between hardscapes (patios, decks, pool surrounds, driveways, walkways) and softscapes (gardens, grass, trees, soil gradations).

 

A body of research on how landscaping can affect our well-being continues to grow, says Dave. “Studies from Stanford University, for example, are some of the many ways experts continue to explore this connection.

“It also doesn’t require a large area to create a restful contemplation-scape,” adds Dave. “When you realize that the patients in the Paoli Memorial hospital study improved just by looking at a nice group of trees, imagine the positive effects that a fuller nature-escape provides, when it’s right in your own yard and can be enjoyed every day.”

 

 

Contemporary Style Water Features:

Contemporary Style Water Features:

You can plan/design a contemplation-scape just about anywhere, and in any style you like. Where new sheet-falling waterfalls (right) flow into this backyard pool, there had been a moss rock waterfall. Adding new sleek waterfalls and bright greenery, along with the Asian touches chosen by the homeowners, Deck and Patio turned this backyard escape into a Zen-like atmosphere perfect for their tastes.

 

Serene Walking Spaces:

Serene Walking Spaces:

According to published reports (see above), serene areas are healing areas. Here, Deck and Patio created a special walking area for the homeowners when they move from one space to the next. This also allowed us to hide their pool equipment in a way that offers contemplation moments as they move around their larger backyard retreat. “However, this kind of walking space is ideal on its own,” says Dave Stockwell. “It was part of a larger project, but it doesn’t need to be.”

 

Beautiful Contemplation-Scapes:

Beautiful Contemplation-Scapes:

Deck and Patio not only built a natural pond for these homeowners, but we installed stepping stones out to a stone “island” so they could actually sit out in the middle of their pond. The whole area is surrounded with beautiful colorful plantings at the water’s edge as well as aquatic plants and grasses, not to mention beautiful waterfalls (unseen). “Here, sights, sounds and harmony all come into play,” says Dave Stockwell.

 

The Healing Benefits of a Garden:

The Healing Benefits of a Garden:

“Gardens and chocolate both have mystical qualities.” said Edward Flaherty, author of landscape stories. We couldn’t agree more! And while this garden photo isn’t of one of our own projects, Deck and Patio designs gardens with the same variations in color and texture, as well as slope gradations whenever possible. The result is a relaxing and healing place for young and old alike.

 

How to Plan a Landscape Garden

 

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Audrey Hepburn once shared her love of beautiful gardens and landscapes in a television documentary series, “Gardens of The World with Audrey Hepburn.”

The episodes celebrated such delights as tulips and spring bulbs, perennials, flower borders, mixed planting styles, trees,  tropical plants, stroll gardens, etc., and nature in general.

“As landscapers, we draw on the same elements when planning each landscaping project,” says Deck and Patio owner, Dave Stockwell. “It’s just a matter of smaller scale.”

 

 

 

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Deck and Patio Landscape Rendering

The First Step in Designing a Landscape Garden

Whether Deck and Patio is planning the landscape for a water garden, stroll garden, or just landscape borders, we always begin with a detailed plan, says Dave.

“For the initial drawings, we frequently use a property survey and topographical map. From there, we create sketches which eventually turn into a final rendering.”

Dave adds that landscaping plans are often part of a wider project that can include a new patio, deck, swimming pool, pond, spa, or other outdoor living amenities.

 

 

Insert 3Once we get the fixed areas detailed and sketched (home, sheds, cabanas, etc.), including any new hardscapes like a patio or deck, the needs and preferences of our clients are weaved in.

“For example, will they need deer-resistant plants,” says Dave. “How much entertaining do they expect to do — will they require space for adding tables, etc.? How much will they use their property at night? Are they the type to garden on a regular basis themselves, or do they prefer plantings that are low-maintenance?

Sometimes there are young children to consider, so we might plan for a sand box or other play areas, along with sitting areas, contemplative quiet spaces, etc.”

Dave adds that once all this is known: the fun begins:

— Designing seasonal color, texture, fragrance, even fruits, etc. as part of their landscape gardens. Plants can also serve to delineate spaces  within the property as well as define where it ends.

— Sounds are also important, e.g., where should the sound of any fountain be, or a bird house to attract chirpers?

— Plantings, along with moss rock, etc. can add the strength to a natural and beautiful retaining wall.

— Plus groups of plantings to create focal points to sitting areas.

— What water source will be used to maintain the landscape gardens (town water or will they harvest rainwater)?

“Of course, planning for the passage of time is also key. Plants grow differently; some rapidly, some slowly. You need to know how it’s all going to look in six months and a few years down the line.”

 

 

 

Growing Hydrangeas on Long Island, NY: Hydrangeas can be a garden all on their own. Indeed, some clients want hydrangeas to grow to size without pruning in order to create a dramatic effect. For healthy robust growth, just remove dead-growth stems which should permit new growth without any problems. Winter frost and cold can affect these beauties so we recommend using some type of winter protection for them.

Growing Hydrangeas on Long Island, NY: Hydrangeas can be a garden all on their own. Indeed, some clients want hydrangeas to grow to size without pruning in order to create a dramatic effect. For healthy robust growth, just remove dead-growth stems which should permit new growth without any problems. Winter frost and cold can affect these beauties so we recommend using some type of winter protection for them.

 

 

Landscaping Backyard Ponds: Many of our Deck and Patio clients choose to add a backyard pond. Landscaping a pond requires an understanding of not just soil and sun but how water and moisture will affect your plantings. Here we chose Purple Cone flowers, Spirea Anthony Waters, Coreopsis for bright bursts of color. You also see deep green ground color, tall grasses, along with the sounds of moving water. In developing the plan, we ensured that we located all this within view of the home’s back patio, pool area, in addition from their house.

Landscaping Backyard Ponds: Many of our Deck and Patio clients choose to add a backyard pond. Landscaping a pond requires an understanding of not just soil and sun but how water and moisture will affect your plantings. Here we chose Purple Cone flowers, Spirea Anthony Waters, Coreopsis for bright bursts of color. You also see deep green ground color, tall grasses, along with the sounds of moving water. In developing the plan, we ensured that we located all this within view of the home’s back patio, pool area, in addition from their house.

 

 

Backyard Stroll Garden: If you have the space, a stroll garden, possibly including a refreshing stream with waterfalls, can inspire through all seasons. Ruby red impatiens in the foreground and yellow-orange cone flowers towards the back, shrubs and trees, ground cover like Procumbent Juniper, flowering grasses are all added after careful rock placement. Knowing where to place rocks to create the most natural looking effect is key.

Backyard Stroll Garden: If you have the space, a stroll garden, possibly including a refreshing stream with waterfalls, can inspire through all seasons. Ruby red impatiens in the foreground and yellow-orange cone flowers towards the back, shrubs and trees, ground cover like Procumbent Juniper, flowering grasses are all added after careful rock placement. Knowing where to place rocks to create the most natural looking effect is key.

 

 

Landscaping Infinity Pool Cove Neck, Long Island: When developing any landscaping plan, it is key to mark out carefully where all the hardscapes will be, as well as any water features. Then you can add in flowering grasses, ground cover, bright plantings in harmony with everything else.

Landscaping Infinity Pool Cove Neck, Long Island: When developing any landscaping plan, it is key to mark out carefully where all the hardscapes will be, as well as any water features. Then you can add in flowering grasses, ground cover, bright plantings in harmony with everything else.

 

 

Tulips and Spring Bulbs: One of the episodes on Audrey Hepburn’s series on world gardens covered tulips and spring bulbs. It showcased the wide variety of tulips available as well as the story of how, through the centuries, tulips influenced the history and art of Holland, as well as Turkey. These beauties are some of the first heralds that spring has arrived. It’s no wonder that Ms. Hepburn and the producers of “Gardens of the World..” chose them as a focus of an episode.

Tulips and Spring Bulbs: One of the episodes on Audrey Hepburn’s series on world gardens covered tulips and spring bulbs. It showcased the wide variety of tulips available and the story of how, through the centuries, tulips influenced the history and art of Holland, as well as Turkey. These beauties are some of the first heralds that spring has arrived. It’s no wonder that Ms. Hepburn and the producers of “Gardens of the World..” chose them as a focus of an episode.

 

 

From “Gardens of The World with Audrey Hepburn.”

From “Gardens of The World with Audrey Hepburn.”

 

 

 

 

Ms. Hepburn fell in love with beautiful gardens when living in the English countryside during World War II. She learned that no matter what happens in life, no matter how harsh the winter, spring always comes, and life blooms again.

“At Deck and Patio, we also believe that if you plan your landscape garden well, its ongoing renewal will inspire and uplift all of us, just as it did Ms. Hepburn,” says Dave Stockwell.