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Stepping Stones Turn Footpaths into Contemplation Spaces

Stepping stones are most often used as a way of letting some “softscape” such as grass shine through while still providing some “hardscape” in heavily traffic areas.

But is that all that stepping stones do? “We think not,” 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.”

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.

 

 

 

These clients, for example, wanted a footpath leading to their tool shed. But they had a small backyard. And 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 they opted for 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

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

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

First: We 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 it. 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 become sparkling ice sculptures,” adds Dave.

 

 

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 of 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.

 

 

 

 

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 out from the deck. The stones offer a Zen-like walk across the pond to other viewing areas of the multi-faceted water feature.

 

 

 

 

 

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 Stockwell. “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 tock int 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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 Stockwell, “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.”

 

 

 

 

Fall Foliage: Tips for Backyard Maintenance

 I Love NY’s Fall Foliage Chart

I Love NY’s Fall Foliage Chart

It hurts to let summer go. But Mother Nature offers us a big treat to ease the pain —

Fall foliage.

It’s so sublime — with its blaze of colors taking weeks to complete — that some of us are desperate to photograph it.

Others can’t wait to walk, bike, or drive Long Island’s trails and byways to watch the leaves change.

Without throwing too many wet blankets on Nature’s gift, just remember that these colorful leaves — glorious as they are —

will be falling to the ground before we know it.

 

 

And that means…

drum roll please…

Fall maintenance clean up!

 

“Taking care of fallen leaves is one of a variety of chores worth your time,” says Deck and Patio’s owner, Dave Stockwell.

 

 

 Prevent Leaf Tannin Stains:

Prevent Leaf Tannin Stains:

Leaf tannin stains pavers, concrete, and decks. It is better — and easier — to remove the leaves than to seal your decks and patios. Sealers need to be constantly redone, which turns into a lot of maintenance.

 

 

Keeping Lawns Healthy in Fall:

Keeping Lawns Healthy in Fall:

“It’s also important to keep leaves off the grass,” says Dave. “Healthy grass can get matted down, and in winter, when it needs sunlight and oxygen, this could be a problem.”

 

 

Tree Maintenance in Fall: (Photo: Aquascape, inc.)

Tree Maintenance in Fall: (Photo: Aquascape, inc.)

This is a good time of year to cut any dead tree limbs away, so that coming snow or ice storms won’t cause them to crack and fall. Falling limbs can result in accidents to people, cars, and homes.

One way to predict future problems is to look up the tree carefully before the leaves have fallen. Any branches completely bare of leaves indicate they should be cut off. Also check to see if any low-hanging branches are near power lines; trim these so the weight of snow or ice won’t pull them dow into the wiring.

 

 

Fall Driveway Prep with Stakes:

Fall Driveway Prep with Stakes:

To prep your driveway and walkway for winter, it’s helpful to get supplied with fiberglass stakes (sometimes called “plow stakes” or “snow stakes”) for placing along your driveway in advance of the first snow storm.

You position the stakes to indicate where any costly Belgium Block or other edging could be damaged from snow plows. One end of the stake is pointed for easy insertion in the ground. Also, they come in different colors and you can let a particular color indicate, for example, where a fire hydrant is, the regular curb, your driveway entrance, etc.

 

 

Now back to the good news.

As you can see from the above chart from NY State’s Division of Tourism, I Love NY foliage page, Long Islanders have a bit of time yet before peak foliage to schedule our outdoor maintenance  — and our fall foliage activities as well.

This also means, if you have a pond, there’s time left to get netting to protect it from fallen debris.

 

 

 

 

By | 2017-10-12T12:00:45+00:00 October 12th, 2017|Composite Decking, Deck and Patios, Landscaping, outdoor maintenance, Patios & Decks, paving stones|Comments Off on Fall Foliage: Tips for Backyard Maintenance

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.

 

 

Contemporary Landscape Design: Front, Back, and In-Between

In landscaping projects, a contemporary look is frequently achieved through an emphasis on wood and other amenities installed in sleek, non-rigid formations. Such designs are often most successful when they involve improving something already in place.

That was the case with this stylish Deck and Patio complete contemporary makeover. However, initially, when these Long Island homeowners first approached us, they were only looking for an innovative and modern outdoor look for their property’s existing deck.

 

Backyard: New Decking

Deck and Patio replaced the clients’ old pressure-treated deck, positioned close to their home’s geometric pool, with a sleekly-designed multi-level Trex Accents composite deck in “Saddle.”

Trex’s “Saddle” suggested the natural look and hue of wood that was needed to achieve a contemporary design — just without the constant maintenance.

As the new deck was being completed, the homeowners were so happy with the work they asked us to make a complete renovation of the remainder of their backyard as well as the front and side of the home.

 

 

Backyard/Side-Yard: New Retaining Wall

The property’s old-fashioned, straight-lined railroad tie retaining wall was removed.

We replaced it with a tan Allan Block wall, laid out in sweeping curves. The serpentine shape doesn’t only define the space, but also softens the lines of their new relaxation area.

Deck and Patio chose Allan blocks because they look like natural stone; also they combine a rustic and modern aesthetic that result in an attractive contemporary look. In addition, they are also “dry-stacked” so there was no need for footings, mortar or connectors in the building process because the blocks stay in place once they are stacked together — a real boon for cost-savings.

 

 

 

 

In-Between

In-between the deck and retaining wall, we created a lovely water feature area that appeals to the homeowner’s sense of sound as well as sight.

 

 

 

 

Front Driveway/Steps

With the backyard completely finished, the old, crumbling asphalt driveway needed serious attention. The Deck and Patio Company’s design required removing the old driveway and replacing it with durable tan Techo-Bloc pavers.

The asphalt walkway was also extracted and a series of graceful Techo-Bloc stairs and landings were installed.

 

 

 

The beauty of the newly installed front door step and landing were subtly accented by a decorative circle kit giving a charming and aesthetically pleasing finish.

Made of interlocking paving stones, the design offered warmth and charm in a design that perfectly suited the design of their home.

 

 

 

Pool Area

 

 

Where there once stood a moss rock waterfall, Deck and Patio designed and installed a sophisticated and elegant fountain style water feature with three spilling sheets of water.

 

 

 

 

Final Note

On completion of the project, when all the craftsmen packed up, the homeowners were pleased with how their dream and the Deck and Patio’s design vision came to be a reality.

They felt that the finished custom landscape brought their outdated eighties’ exterior landscaping — front, back, and in-between — into the new millennium.

 

 

Backyard Pond and Stream Turns ‘Day at the Pond’ Into ‘Every Day’

This Deck and Patio free-form pond and stream turned out to be a huge hit with the clients’ entire nature-loving family.

“Everyone loves feeding and watching the koi as they swim about. Because of good outdoor lighting, we even get to enjoy it all at night,” says the mother. “Plus, we can see it from our home and offices, too.”

The homeowners add they are particularly enchanted by the sounds of the waterfalls and the serenity everyone feels watching the fish swim. “It’s something we look forward to at the end of a long day.”

The clients’ desire for a natural-scape in the yard helped inspire us at Deck and Patio as well, says owner Dave Stockwell.

“Our design meandered the beautiful watery trail along their property’s formerly unused slope. Gravity is all that’s needed to move the water, so it’s also very energy-efficient.

The 35-foot-stream includes natural moss rock boulders and plantings, as well as river stones positioned along its banks; the stream ends where it tumbles over moss rock waterfalls into a 10’-by-15’ fish pond.

“The adjacent landscape is dotted with tall grasses (e.g., Miscanthus) and evergreens such as Juniper Parsoni, giving a lush backdrop to it all,” adds Dave.

A natural setting such as this backyard project naturally attracts wildlife, which the homeowners particularly hoped would happen.

“The whole pond and stream areas attract so much delightful wildlife — like frogs and birds,” say the homeowners. “That really is one of our favorite things about having a pond.”

The Deck and Patio Company earned a Silver Award from the Northeast Spa and Pool Association (NESPA) for this project.

 

Free-form Pond and Stream:

Free-form Pond and Stream:

Deck and Patio used a flexible pond liner to create a free-form pond that would blend into the natural landscape. We planted Purple Cone flowers, Coreopsis and Spirea Anthony Waters, as well as tall grasses, and deep green ground cover. Together, the bursts of bright plant color and the sounds of moving water are soothing whether the clients are lounging by their pool, back patio or even in the house.

 

Creating Natural-looking Pondscapes:

Creating Natural-looking Pondscapes:

Having gone to “pond college” at Aquascape, Inc’s Pondemonium, Deck and Patio’s team has learned to look at a property from various viewing points — from wherever the clients will be looking at the water feature, including the house. Here we posited an 11x 16 pond adjacent to their patio.

 

Pondscapes are Beautiful All Year Long:

Pondscapes are Beautiful All Year Long:

“Our clients found that in winter the moss rock boulders become sparkling ice sculptures so they enjoy their water feature all year-long” says Dave Stockwell. “Their backyard hill area sloped toward the house and a pool at the top of the hill. Our design allowed for the stream to begin near the pool and run toward the pond, patio, and house.”

 

Backyard Pondscape and Stream:

Backyard Pondscape and Stream:

Deck and Patio’s design called for an extended patio with bluestone stepping stones leading to the stream, natural stones to walk across it, and more bluestone on the other side up to the pool area.

 

By | 2017-08-17T12:13:03+00:00 August 17th, 2017|Backyard Escapes, Creative Design, Design and Build Experts, Koi Ponds, Landscaping, Living Landscapes, Outdoor Living, Plantings/Pondscapes, Ponds & Water Features, Updating Landscape|Comments Off on Backyard Pond and Stream Turns ‘Day at the Pond’ Into ‘Every Day’

Creative Solutions: Designing Pool Wall As Part of Retaining Wall System

Sometimes when designing/building an outdoor retreat, it is essential to preserve the natural environment. However, when site constraints or landform challenges limit what can or cannot be done, this often causes Deck and Patio to be more creative.

For example, unattractive retaining wall systems — often required on Long Island’s rocky sloping properties — are not normally hidden by a body of water such a pool. But, for this award-winning outdoor retreat, that’s just what we did.

 

“We conceived the freeform concrete wall of a vinyl-lined pool positioned into the hillside,” says Dave Stockwell, owner of Deck and Patio.

“This way, the pool wall became part of a retaining wall system.”

Deck and Patio designed a curved-steel, reinforced-concrete wall with the strength to withstand the pressure exerted by the slope — and the sheer weight of 20 tons of boulders sitting on the pool beam itself.

 

 

In addition, a stone wall was located at the main patio to not only serve as an aesthetic feature to hide the grade changes to the pool area, but to become a seat wall.

Long Island boulders were used throughout the landscape to support the remaining surrounding grades as well as to give visual impact.

In order to incorporate a client’s wish list into a design, every project — from inception to completion — requires a hands-on approach to better understand a site’s characteristics, architecture, building codes and its impact to the surrounding environment.

That said, many homeowners cannot visualize from a blueprint how such extreme makeovers will look completed. As an aid, our team utilizes design technology to provide clients with a computerized 3-D animation of their project.

 

 

This presentation format means clients do not have to guess what the project will look like such as the case for this project. Such presentations also allow construction crews to have a better understanding of what exactly is being constructed.

To design and build a 22’ x 42’ freeform pool and raised spa, with waterfalls nestled into a 20 foot hillside — and incorporate multiple patios at different elevations with landscaping — requires more than just lines on paper if a job is to be successful.

 

 

This property’s undulating hillside enabled Deck & Patio to create an “amphitheater-like” environment with two spectacular water features:

–a 6-foot-high waterfall into the pool, –and a 4-foot-high cascading waterfall from the spa into the pool.

These large water features not only present a visual impact from every viewing angle, but the enhanced sound effect of the cascading waters minimizes the noise pollution coming from a nearby heavily trafficked road.

 

A unique combination of tumbled pavers, Techo-Bloc Quarry Stone walls, natural rock steps, Long Island boulders and retaining wall systems helped create a supple transition from the house and pool and spa patios by capturing the similarities in the earth tones throughout.

For the landscaping, we applied our extensive knowledge of how plants will grow, sequentially bloom, and react to soil conditions, solar exposure, irrigation, etc. With so much rock and pavers built into the design, we understood it was imperative to soften the impact of these massive structures by scalloping the plants into the hillside with a wide variety of colorful perennial, deciduous and evergreen plant material for a year-round impact.

Landscaping Also Key

The landscaping is also very important, because once the pool is closed for the season, it’s nice to see an impact during the winter months as well. But, in the end, all the amenities of this backyard refuge (automated pool, spillover raised spa, waterfalls, natural retaining walls, seating walls, raised patios) hinge on a creative design that made use of the pool in a surprising way: as part of a needed retaining wall.

Awards

Forgive us if we brag, but this pool and spa won two NESPA (Northeast Spa and Pool Assoc.) awards:

  • Silver Medal, Second Place, and an Outstanding Achievement in Design and Building award.

And in addition it won:

  • LIPSA- Long Island Pool and Spa Association Inc. – Silver Award, Second Place.

 

 

By | 2017-08-10T12:32:34+00:00 August 10th, 2017|Awards, Backyard Escapes, Backyard Upgrades, Creative Design, Deck and Patios, Landscaping, Outdoor Living, Patios & Decks, Ponds & Water Features, Pool Surrounds, Pools & Spas, Retaining Walls, Spillover/Custom Spas|Comments Off on Creative Solutions: Designing Pool Wall As Part of Retaining Wall System

Backyard Makeovers: No Need to Break the Bank

Transforming a backyard within clients’ budget

 

Project Showcase: This family wanted an entirely new makeover for their mid-1980s backyard pool and surroundings. They had big dreams for this upgrade but initial estimates from other companies were way beyond their budget. To their delight, we were able to offer creative ways to give them all they wanted for a price they could live with.

The key element to stay within budget was to keep the existing pool but upgrade it with all new plumbing, main drain, returns and skimmers, new pool equipment, and a new finish on the pool interior.

The addition of accent boulders along the backside of the updated geometric pool contributed to a warm natural pool setting. In addition, because the backyard was very overgrown and the pool couldn’t be seen from the house, the surroundings had become like two separate backyards. That had to be addressed in order to create a unified backyard retreat that was inviting, particularly when entertaining.

 

To stay within budget, we kept the existing pool but upgraded it with all new plumbing, main drain, returns and skimmers, new pool equipment, and a new finish on the pool interior.

To stay within budget, we kept the existing pool but upgraded it with all new plumbing, main drain, returns and skimmers, new pool equipment, and a new finish on the pool interior.

 

Other than the pool, everything else in the backyard was removed to make room for a new upper patio with a fire pit, hot tub/spa, barbecue, outdoor kitchen and dining area, as well as a new lower patio with custom cabana-pavilion. Connecting it all would be a spectacular multi-faceted backyard water feature.

The homeowners were also delighted that during the construction process we retained and transplanted most of their property’s original mature growth trees. They now have a beautiful pool and wonderful places to entertain, like the cabana, that are set in lush surroundings.

Our outdoor living expert retained and transplanted most of property’s original mature growth trees to create a lush setting for pool and cabana area. Resort-style mood of backyard retreat is at its romantic best at sunset.

Our outdoor living expert retained and transplanted most of property’s original mature growth trees to create a lush setting for pool and cabana area. Resort-style mood of backyard retreat is at its romantic best at sunset.

 

Pavilion floor was created by our outdoor living expert as an extension of pool area's patio pavers, creating one continuous surface.

Pavilion floor was created by our outdoor living expert as an extension of pool area’s patio pavers, creating one continuous surface.

 

 

Tying the whole project together is the backyard’s spectacular water feature which creates a natural look, in an eco-friendly way, while turning needed retaining areas into exquisite settings.

The original property’s sloping backyard needed retaining in several areas. Our team did something called “cut and fill.” This process cut into the hill and used the cut out fill in lower areas to create the level space needed for entertaining.

Fill was also needed around the backside of the pool because of the grade. However, you can’t take loose soil and put it behind a pool. It has to be compacted properly so things don’t shift and move.

At Deck and Patio, we have a terrific way of cutting costs and increasing the aesthetic value by using large moss rock boulders instead of expensive and unattractive retaining walls.

In this case, we integrated these boulders into the staircases that surround the water feature. A machine puts them in rather than needing a skilled mason. And it creates a very natural look. In addition to retaining the grade level of the sloping property, these natural moss rock boulders create the ideal surroundings for streams and waterfalls.

We have a terrific way of cutting costs and increasing the aesthetic value of graded property by using large moss rock boulders instead of expensive and unattractive retaining walls.

We have a terrific way of cutting costs and increasing the aesthetic value of graded property by using large moss rock boulders instead of expensive and unattractive retaining walls.

 

 

Indeed, it is this backyard makeover’s water feature, with multiple falls and streams, that is the heart of the transformation. The waterfall offers 360-degree viewing in the backyard, say the homeowners. They love the soothing sounds of all the water areas.

We installed one side of a waterfall to spill toward the house, just outside their backdoor. It can be enjoyed even during the months when the pool is closed down. From there, this upper-level waterfall gets split into two streams that flow downward along the property grade, into two separate waterfalls that can be enjoyed from the swimming pool area.

Collecting the water at the lower level is a pondless reservoir designed to seemingly disappear into the gravel instead of being collected. The reservoir acts as a ‘green’ maintenance-free source for the water feature that can run from March through December, 24-7. City water is not used. The water is harvested from rainfall on the roof of the house and gravity alone collects it into pipes.

Deck and Patio created the upper-patio source-waterfall to spill away from pool so it can be enjoyed from the house and upper patio including during the months when the pool area is closed down.

Deck and Patio created the upper-patio source-waterfall to spill away from pool so it can be enjoyed from the house and upper patio including during the months when the pool area is closed down.

 

 

For the new custom pavilion-pool house, the homeowners wanted it to be a gathering area around the pool that was protected and private. The finished pool-pavilion includes a shower, and a sitting area where they can watch television or entertain.

Half of the pavilion’s space is for seating and there is an outdoor flat-screen television with a ceiling fan overhead. There is also a two-level bar — one level for sitting at the bar and another set at counter height for cooking and bar-tending.

The finished pool-pavilion includes a shower, and a sitting area with an outdoor flat-screen television where they can watch television or entertain; a ceiling fan is overhead.

The finished pool-pavilion includes a shower, and a sitting area with an outdoor flat-screen television where they can watch television or entertain; a ceiling fan is overhead.

 

Bright delicate impatiens, moss rock boulders and large mature trees beautifully naturalize original geometric pool area.

Bright delicate impatiens, moss rock boulders and large mature trees beautifully naturalize original geometric pool area.

 

Natural Landscaping Design: Why You Need Moss Rock

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

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

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

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

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

About Moss Rock

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

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

 

Backyard Stream with Moss Rock

Backyard Stream with Moss Rock:

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

 

Spill Rocks for Backyard Streams:

Spill Rocks for Backyard Streams:

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

 

Natural Retaining Wall with Moss Rock:

Natural Retaining Wall with Moss Rock:

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

 

Moss Rock Creates Attractive Hot Tub Installation:

Moss Rock Creates Attractive Hot Tub Installation:

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

 

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’

Pool Renovation: No Need to Start from Scratch

Blending the old with the new is frequently possible when it comes to swimming pools and backyard upgrades. Take the project we’re highlighting today. The pool and its equipment was over 20 years old. The homeowners thought it probably wasn’t possible to upgrade it.

But, looking over the project, Deck and Patio came up with ideas that allowed them to keep the existing pool and spa.

“Our initial concern was whether we could get at the pool’s old plumbing,” says Dave Stockwell, owner of Deck and Patio. “But we learned the clients also wanted changes to what they felt was a ‘confining upper patio’ area. Since this required tearing out all the patio areas, that would give us the perfect opportunity to get at all the equipment for an upgrade.”

Deciding What to Keep, Upgrade, or Restore

Working closely with the homeowners, an overall plan emerged that called for updating the existing gunite swimming pool and spa, removing and expanding the various patio areas, eliminating obstruction of the property’s fabulous views of Long Island Sound,  and adding new landscaping that would enhance the newly opened up views.

 

 

Pool Upgrade (Long Island/NY):

Pool Upgrade (Long Island/NY)

Pool Upgrade

Deck and Patio changed the inside of the pool by refinishing its old white interior to a new dark gray. The gray tone reacts with the water to create the more “natural lagoon” feeling you see here.

“We also added swim-out steps as a modern amenity,” says Dave Stockwell, “and of course modernized the plumbing, etc, which should last for many years to come.”

 

 

 

Spa Upgrade (Long Island/NY)

Spa Upgrade (Long Island/NY)

Spa Upgrade

The custom spa does double duty because it is continuously being filled with pool water which then spills over into the pool. This means the pool water is recirculated and aerated via the spa.

“When refurbishing the spa, we took the opportunity to upgrade it and enhance the spillover into a larger waterfall to create an even more special scene,” says Dave. “In addition, we added boulders around its spillover area for a more natural look.”

 

 

 

Patio Upgrades (Long Island/NY)

Patio Upgrades (Long Island/NY)

Patio Upgrade

Enlarging the various patio areas completely changed the clients’ outdoor living experience. Using Techo-Bloc pavers, Deck and Patio expanded the upper patio where the clients prefer to sit when they want a cool spot to enjoy views of the pool and the water vistas beyond.

The lower patio had been just as confining for the clients. Now they had an enlarged lower Techo-Bloc patio/pool surround for sun bathing etc. Plus, the upgrade allows plenty of room for a new outdoor kitchen and dining area, an additional seating area — all of which makes entertaining so much easier.

 

 

 

Landscaping Upgrade (Long Island/NY)

Landscaping Upgrade (Long Island/NY)

Landscaping Upgrade

Landscaping is not just an opportunity to create beautiful scenes. Groups of colorful or dense plantings can be strategically placed to block out things you don’t want to see. Here, Deck and Patio did all that, allowing the family to enjoy everything their new property upgrade offers.

Their yard boasts a comfortable feeling of expanse now. Different areas are defined for different purposes. Views were opened up and enhanced.

 

 

 

Backyard/Pool Upgrade

Backyard/Pool Upgrade

 

 

 

“This became a happy upgrade for our clients. It completely transformed their outdoor living experience. Best of all, they didn’t have to start from scratch,” says Dave.