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Bring Your Backyard to Life with a New Deck and Pond

Most are aware that when you add a pond to your yard, the water feature naturally attracts desirable wildlife such as birds, butterflies, etc.

But a deck can add life, too.

A deck that abuts a pond, for example, creates an idyllic spot for a variety of fun pursuits: cocktails after work, dining al fresco, bird watching, koi study/feeding, watercolor painting, book reading, and even meditation.

Because of such enticements, laughter and human chatter frequently mingle with birdsongs and the croaking of frogs. And backing up this vibrant symphony are the tranquil sounds of waterfalls and babbling brooks. 

The following Deck and Patio project is one such life-bringing project. (And we are delighted to say that it won for us two prestigious Gold Medal awards (APSP Awards/NESPA Awards).

Backstory

The homeowners felt they had neglected their love of nature long enough. They wanted a new backyard that was a home for desirable wildlife and lush vegetation, a place to regularly refresh the soul and spirit as well as entertain. 

The wife says she always loved birds and nature but hadn’t seen birds in a long time. A fully-blooming landscape was important to them, not only to attract birds but lots of butterflies. We proposed a multi-feature natural retreat that included a deck and pond. 

 

The Pond

 

Brooks, Waterfalls, Pond

Brooks, Waterfalls, Pond

This retreat includes two 35-foot babbling brooks and a four-foot multi-tiered waterfall that feed into the pond. The rocks we installed – some of which weigh over three tons — were imported from farmers’ fields in New Jersey. Each rock was hand picked for its particular use, sometimes for their ideal crevices in which garden perennials could be planted.

 

The Deck

For their deck, the clients wanted natural wood. 

“We often recommend using the remarkably durable Brazilian Walnut hardwood (Ipe – pronounced “e-pay”) that we used for this project,” says Dave Stockwell.

“Ipe’s strength, hardness and durability also resists splintering, termites, wear, rot, fire, chemicals, marine borers and almost every other threat imaginable. And because it is 100 percent natural wood, it is recyclable at the end of its long service life.”

 

Iron Woods “Ipe” Deck:

Iron Woods “Ipe” Deck:

Because we were installing the pond at the same time, we were able to design it all as a whole. Note how the pond seems to continue to flow under the deck, even though it doesn’t. The bridge, which was not done by Deck and Patio, was also constructed out of Ipe.

 

The Ultimate in Outdoor Dining (Long Island/NY):

The Ultimate in Outdoor Dining (Long Island/NY):

Imagine dining on your deck as the sun sets when you can not only hear birds singing goodnight, but being so near the pond, the gentle swish of koi swimming is part of the experience. That’s pretty much as good as as life gets. 

 

Aquatic Plants for Ponds (Long Island/NY):

Aquatic Plants for Ponds (Long Island/NY):

Creeping Jenny is one of the many aquatic plants Deck and Patio used here, first as a type of ground cover, but also for its cascading ability over rocks into the pond. Its pale green (chartreuse) leaves are shiny and luxurious and in summer boasts tiny yellow flowers. 

 

Pond With Waterfalls:

Pond With Waterfalls:

The four-foot multi-tiered waterfall feeding into the pond appears just like you see it in nature. To accomplish this, it is important to understand the way water moves over rock. Natural looking movement is determined by the type of rocks used, forcing water to move multiple ways when it comes down over the waterfall.

 

We also considered every detail carefully to ensure that it would fit perfectly with the additional elements the homeowners had hired other companies to do, such as the conservatory and small bridge — always taking into account how everything would appear in nature. 

 

 

 

 

Get Ready for Summer with a Stone Bar and Trellis

These Long Island, NY, clients wanted to upgrade their backyard with lots of outdoor living amenities. But space was at a premium. There wasn’t room, for example, for a pond with waterfalls. Also, designing/adding a waterfall area to their new pool (something Deck and Patio is known for) would have reduced the desired patio space. 

Sheer Descent Waterfalls

Sheer Descent Waterfalls

“So our design team came up with the idea of having two sheer descent waterfalls  flowing out of the stone outdoor bar they wanted,” says our own Dave Stockwell.

“We designed the waterfalls be be ‘pondless’ — so the spill is captured below ground without the usual above-ground presence of a pond.”

(Sheer descents are also known as sheet falling or water curtain waterfalls.

 

 

 

'Pondless' Waterfalls

‘Pondless’ Waterfalls

The best part of these waterfalls is their ability to offer the audio and visual enjoyments of continuous flowing water while using only a minimum of water flow. The Aquascape underground “pondless waterfall” system stores and recirculates the captured water through an underneath pump that sends the water up through a filter.

Note: The charming block of plantings in front of the bar provides a natural softscape that breaks up the surrounding hardscapes with bursts of color and softness.

 

 

Custom Wood Trellis/Pergola

Custom Trellis

Custom Trellis

 

The addition of a custom wood trellis over the bar helped create an “outdoor great room” effect through the use of this attractive piece of architecture.

It also adds to the private escape feeling which is desirable anytime, but which is particularly valuable these days when travel is so unappealing to many. 

Homeowners can add climbing roses or other climbing plants to such a trellis for additional natural beauty. And the shade from the pergola will increase over the years as the vines continue to grow.

 

 

 

 

Custom Bar with Trellis

Custom Bar with Trellis

The custom bar with trellis was set across from a slightly raised patio lounge area furnished with circular wicker seating and a shade umbrella.

The bar’s stone mimics the lovely patio paving stones; it is topped by a counter made from composite decking material that gives the appearance of wood, but without the cracking, rotting, or splitting.  This countertop also requires no sealants because the composite materials are already protected from UV rays, and is very resistant to damage from insects, water or sun.

 

A note about the Cambridge Random Pavers used in this project. 

Cambridge Pavingstones

Cambridge Pavingstones

To create the patio pool surround and other patio areas, we compacted the soil back around the pool to allow for the immediate installation of the new pavers around the pool.

This compacting process is not done by many contractors. We, however, have been doing it successfully for over 15 years with little or no soil movement.

The idea is that, using compacted soil, the base will not settle so you don’t have to wait to install a patio around a new pool. Many contractors still install concrete slabs under their patio. In our experience we find this does not work well. Settling still occurs under the slab allowing the patio to crack or settle.

After the base materials were finished, we installed chestnut-hued durable pavers. The pavers’ protective coating means these clients will have a clean-lined modern look. Even after being subjected to snow plowing, de-icing salts and normal wear, they will keep their color and beautiful appearance.

 

 

Vinyl Pool

Vinyl Pool

 

 

This project also included a vinyl-pool with automated cover and additional patio lounging areas.

 

 

 

The Backyard Sanctuary You Always Wanted

 

 

Wish Lists Are Key

Wish Lists Are Key

 

Have you been wanting a backyard sanctuary but don’t know what to do first? Sometimes, the best way to begin is to create a wish list.

That’s what these Deck and Patio clients did. This is what they wanted for their outdoor sanctuary:

 

 

 

Wish List Come to Life

Wish List Come to Life

That’s what these Deck and Patio clients did. This was their list for an outdoor sanctuary:

— an in-ground vinyl-lined pool

— large patio area,

— outdoor kitchen,

— outdoor shower,

— fire pit,

— serene streams and waterfalls, and

— high-tech/energy-efficient pool components that are undetectable in the landscape.

 

“We were happy to assure them that we could bring together all the expertise necessary and design and organize it all,” says Deck and Patio’s Dave Stockwell. “In fact, incorporating outdoor technology with all the mechanics well hidden in beautiful settings fit right into our wheelhouse. It’s one of our trademarks.”

 

Energy-Efficient Pool

Insulation

Energy-Efficiency

Energy-Efficiency

 

The water in a pool is often around 85 or 90 degrees, while the surrounding soil is considerably cooler. Adding insulation around the outside of the pool wall, as we did for this project, creates a thermal break between the warm water and the soil that really saves energy by helping the pool water to retain its warmth.

 

 

Heaters/Pumps

We worked with the owners to find energy-efficient solutions for the whole project. There are many ways to increase efficiency:

To heat the pool, we added a hybrid system that uses both a gas heater and an electric heat pump. The heat pump acts like a reverse air conditioner, pulling in warmth from the air and transferring it into the pool. This design not only adds heat taken from the air — and not from electricity — but the gas heater can act as back up when the air temperature is very low or when creating heat more quickly is required.

The “variable speed pump” is an extremely efficient pump that allows low energy use by slowing down the motor dramatically. It decreases the amount of energy the pump uses. It can run twenty-four-seven much more efficiently than others pumps that are used only a few hours a day.

Automation

Raising and lowering the speed of the pump is programmed by computer and they can control when it turns on and off. The computer will also monitor the chemical levels in the pool and decrease or increase them as required.

 

 

Hiding the Automation Equipment

Hiding Pool Equipment

Hiding Pool Equipment

Deck and Patio hid the pool equipment away, up a delightful pathway, behind the waterfalls.

We designed and built the streams and waterfalls to flow through berm with moss rock. The gentle sounds of two streams leading to two separate waterfalls, as well as the splash of jet sprays, screen out any sounds from high-tech pool equipment.

 

 

 

 

Backyard Sanctuary (Long Island/NY):

Backyard Sanctuary (Long Island/NY):

This serene backyard sanctuary gives no hint of high-tech energy efficient components supporting it all. The sounds of waterfalls, streams and sprays add tranquility to backyard retreat. 

An outdoor shower stands at base of stepping stone pathway (right) that leads up to pool equipment.

 

 

Vinyl-lined Pool Sanctuary (Long Island/NY):

Vinyl-lined Pool Sanctuary (Long Island/NY):

Sometimes clients want more than a pool. This newly created backyard sanctuary comprises an in-ground vinyl-lined pool, large patio area, outdoor kitchen, outdoor shower, fire pit, two streams and two waterfalls.

Note: Updating Your Pool

With vinyl pools you can also change a staircase, add a bench or swim-out, change the coping, and of course change your old liner.

Liner color choices are almost limitless and it is amazing what a new liner does to an old faded pool as seen in this photo. There are even pebbled colored liners in a tan tone that make them look more like a gunite pool.

 

Outdoor Kitchen

Outdoor Kitchen

Outdoor Bar/Kitchen

Outdoor Bar/Kitchen

Their sanctuary’s outdoor kitchen includes ample work area, barbecue, sink, refrigerator and eating bar with bar stools.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pond-side Living: The Home-Refuge You Never Knew You Wanted

Just about every one on Long Island has a “can’t wait to do” list for when social distancing is over. Being locked down has been a struggle. Every inch of our properties, inside and out, have been under family microscopes — causing us to make still another list: “must-have improvements” as soon as possible!

This week, Deck and Patio is focusing on a landscape idea for that second list. A landscaping transformation that will be enjoyable for the whole family. 

Imagine for a moment an eco-friendly water garden, steps from your door. A water feature that provides endless hours of entertainment and draws family members outside, together or on their own. An outdoor spot alive with interest and stimulation that is a delight in all seasons.

This home-refuge idea is: Pond-side living.

 

Ponds in Spring

Deck and Patio Pond in Spring

Deck and Patio Pond in Spring

As the weather warms, pond fish come out of winter hibernation. As koi lethargy turns to activity, inactivity in the family is also overcome. Children want to run outside and feed them. Even Fido is thrilled.

With flowers blossoming, trees budding, pond-side in spring is a paradise for families. Not only are pond fish a delight to study but a healthy pond attracts more birds, a few frogs, etc. Backyard strolls are enjoyed with a symphony of birdsongs and croaks — melting any winter-built-up tensions away.

We should add, spring is also a time for pond cleaning and maintenance: the removal of debris, revving up of the filtration system, installing a pump or skimmer, and sometimes changing the water. 

“Having designed and built over 300 ponds on Long Island, Deck and Patio has our share of spring pond maintenance contracts,” says Dave Stockwell. “Spring pond maintenance isn’t all that hard really. Frankly, we specialize in creating low-maintenance ponds. Their ecosystems work naturally with Mother Nature to keep the pond clean and clear. So very often the maintenance is minimal.”

 

Ponds in Summer

Natural Swimming Ponds

Natural Swimming Ponds

If your pond was designed to be a natural swimming pond, summer is a wonderful time for pond-side living. Regular swimming pools are terrific, too, but there’s not much to see when snorkeling in a concrete pool. 

Another pleasure of a natural swimming pond is the lack of chemicals. This means you’ll run across the odd dragonfly flitting across your pond’s surface. You may also spy a salamander at its edge. And frogs (who eat the more undesirable insects around your pond) may parent some tadpoles in any natural pond. That aside, swimming in a well-maintained pristine natural pond is not just possible, it is thrilling. Children and adults alike love it. 

Whether or not it’s a swimming pond, most ponds are designed with waterfalls which add to the peaceful enjoyment while they aerate the water. The sounds of moving water is as good for relaxing as a massage. 

Reading a book next to a water garden or dining al fresco with the family is a wonderful way to spend summer hours.

 

Pond-side Living:

Pond-side Living:

This pond project by Deck and Patio included a new deck with a viewing platform where the family can dine and enjoy the pond and its robust landscaping. After dinner they can walk across a set of large stepping stones to view the pond from another vantage point.

 

Ponds in Fall

Ponds/Water Features

Ponds/Water Features

As long as the weather permits, family pond enjoyment continues well into autumn. The fish continue swimming about and wanting to be fed as long as the water temperature is above 60 degrees. 

The addition of an outdoor fireplace, fire pit or fire table — perhaps at the edge of a patio or deck — makes the whole experience that more relaxing, extending the outdoor season.

And can you imagine a more peaceful spot to watch the trees turn from a bright green to yellow, crimson and orange? 

From spring through fall, your pond will be the hobby of the whole family. It’s perfect for relaxing or dining beside, koi keeping, nature study, and water gardening.

Note: As the weather cools and fall arrives, once again there’s some maintenance to get the pond ready for winter.

 

Ponds in Winter

Ponds in Winter

Ponds in Winter

Some pond lovers say the real magic begins in winter. True, you won’t be sitting or dining pond-side when it’s really cold or wintry. However, ponds can help create a winter wonderland that is delightful during crisp winter walks.

Indeed, many people love to be outdoors in winter. A popular trend these days is creating a winter walk “event” for strolling by lighted trees or bushes, a fully-operating water feature with waterfalls, and even skating on your pond-rink. While it may take some preparation and care to create a safe rink, it is very doable. 

As for your pond’s fish, Dave Stockwell says 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, I always caution pond owners to be alert. When ice covers the pond, the fish might not be getting enough oxygen.” To learn more about that, click here.

Pond-side living is a home-refuge gift for all seasons. A gift that, until the recent pandemic, you may never have known you wanted.

Blog photos: With the exception of our feature photo at the top of the page all photos are of Deck and Patio ponds. The feature photo is from a blog post on Aquascape Inc.’s website, titled: “Growing Up Around a Pond.” The writer included this photo of her son encouraging a friend to join him in the pond. Photo: Courtesy of Aquascape Inc.

 

Birdsongs Are Actually Good For You

 

 

Note: We highly recommend opening the above video before reading further. That way you can experience the transforming effects of bird songs — while reading about the transforming effects of birds songs and how to entice more birds to your yard!

 

Birdsongs’ Restorative Effects

Birdsongs

City Birdsongs

Because of extensive sheltering-in-place, even city dwellers are hearing natural sounds these days that usually are muted by the normal drone of human activity.

Rebecca Franks wrote on Facebook that she used to think there weren’t really any birds in the city where she was living. She rarely saw them and never heard them. “I now know they were just muted and crowded out by the traffic and people. All day long now I hear birds singing.”

And what better time to learn that hearing birdsongs is actually good for you. A recent study says that, depending on the particular birdsong and its type and frequency, the sound of birds can actually help one feel better and react more positively to life — offering restoration from stress and cognitive fatigue.

 

Attracting Birds to Your Yard

Bird Feeders

Bird Feeders

Before rushing out to put up more bird houses and feeders, remember attracting birds takes some planning.

Deck and Patio has been in the business of creating bird-friendly landscapes for over 25 years. And we’ve learned a thing or two.

For example. Birds aren’t as happy with your perfectly cut and edged expansive lawns as your neighbors might be. And while the odd bird house or feeder will help attract a few birds to a nicely manicured area, birds, prefer a bit of density.

“Songbirds love bushes and trees,” says Deck and Patio’s Dave Stockwell. “Birds of all sorts drop by for the food, comfort and privacy such lush vegetation gives them. And in turn for access to some clean water and natural munchies, like berries, they’ll give you an opera of stress-reducing songs. Berries, by the way, have been known to tempt even timid birds out of hiding, like woodpeckers.”

Here’s an example of a modest natural sanctuary we designed/built for one of our clients.

 

Attracting Birds:

Attracting Birds:

Although the neighbors of these clients have a natural wooded area, we added bushes, trees and plenty of plantings to their own yard. This means birds and their songs will be closer by and easier to hear. The crepe myrtles, for example, contribute to an extended picture-perfect landscape season — they bloom from August through October, providing a haven for a variety of visiting birds.

 

Some 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 are just one species that make their home in Mexico and Central America during winter, and are already back in 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, horticulturist Sandra Vultaggio says that these hummingbirds particularly love rhododendrons and azaleas. “They also love Columbine, which they track as they move north.”

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.

Some ‘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,” says Dave.

Extra Tips

If you’re not an avian expert and are not sure which bird is which, you’ll appreciate the Audubon Soceity’s app. Not only will it help you identify the birds you see, but you can keep track of them, share photos, etc. There’s a good tutorial on their app’s information page, just click here. 

So make your home’s outdoors as much of bird sanctuary as possible. If you help the birds…they’ll help you right back! In the meantime, if you need a little restorative birdsong uplift, try out  Bird Song Opera. It’s great.  

 

Landscape Planning: Sheltering In Place Yet Still Moving Forward

Just when you promised yourself that this is the year you’d have the outdoor haven you’ve always wanted, most of New York, for very good reason, went on lock-down. And the local news is very worrying at times. Confined at home, we yearning for some normalcy back.

One thing you can still do, despite sheltering at home, is to keep your dreams for a property upgrade moving forward.

Planning Landscaping Projects While Sheltering in Place

Deck and Patio is well set up to develop landscape plans without meeting clients in person. For example, we do not need to see your property first-hand to begin planning. All we need — via email or phone — is a rough idea of what you are hoping for. 

Google Earth Map

Google Earth Map

Then, through the use of technology such as Google Earth maps, we collect a clear outline of the terrain and size of the property. From that, we make a rough plan which can be emailed to clients, followed by a video-conference or discussions by phone. 

Once we’re all on the same page, the fun begins. A Deck and Patio designer enters design details into our computer software program resulting in a 3-D Animation Plan, which will not only show what the upgraded yard will look like — including from different perspectives — it also allows for tweaking and changes as the project goes along.

Will Deck and Patio Need to Visit the Property’s Site?

Granted. It is helpful to see close up an existing patio or pool, for example, that’s being upgraded or replaced. But any necessary on-site inspections can be arranged so as to minimize, or eliminate entirely, any personal meet ups with you. And with ongoing tele-conferencing, we can get your input and discuss any adjustments throughout this process.

 It could very well be that by the time the plans are finalized that either sheltering in place is no longer required or any ongoing restrictions will still permit outdoor landscaping projects to be done — with care and proper procedures.

An Example of Computerized Landscape Planning

In the case of the following Deck and Patio project (also shown at top of this page), 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, we upgraded their pool and spa and added colorful plants and flowers to enhance these vistas.

3-D Design

3-D Design

Completed Project

Completed Project

 

 

 

 

 

 

Again, we used 3-D animation to show how this multilevel pool area would change. We showed how we would turn what the client described as a problem area into a feature, by enlarging the upper area, where the client liked to sit in the shade and enjoy the view. The lower area was expanded for sunning; an outdoor kitchen was added for entertaining.

The upper patio — where the clients liked to sit in the shade and enjoy the view — was extended to allow room for lots of comfortable outdoor furniture. In addition, an equally confining lower patio was enlarged for sunning; an outdoor kitchen (at the side of the house) was added for easy entertaining.

 

Completed Project

Completed Project

 

 

 

Let’s do all we can to stop the contagion, for sure. That said, while sheltering in place, we can still move forward.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Backyard Waterfalls Make the Right Noises

There are some noises we want when enjoying our backyard escapes — the open-air symphony of birds, flapping butterflies and croaking frogs. And the laughter of children and friends.

Of course, there are noises we don’t want. Cars wizzing by on a high-trafficked street, beeping horns, etc.

But what’s a homeowner to do, if their cherished home is in a busy area?

“Many parts of Long Island is fairly built-up,” says Deck and Patio owner Dave Stockwell. “In Nassau County, for example, the homes can be quite close together. But even in Suffolk, it’s hard to get completely away from traffic.”

In the case of the following Deck and Patio project, the homeowners had longed for a restful backyard, but their property was located close to a busy four-lane road. How could they enjoy a pool and spa amid disturbing noise?

“We were happy to reassure them that they could have an undisturbed backyard oasis,” says Dave. “The key was including in the landscaping design a substantial rushing waterfall near the pool. It would not only be beautiful to look at, but its relaxing sounds would mask   unpleasant street sounds.”  (A short video that captures the sounds of their waterfall can be found below after our first two photos.)

 

Natural Moss Rock Backyard Noise Barrier:

Natural Moss Rock Backyard Noise Barrier:

Not far from the right edge of the pool, Deck and Patio built a 19-foot natural moss rock barrier with a “pondless” waterfall. A small upper patio sits between this attractively landscaped barrier and the project’s spillover spa with its own waterfall.

“The waterfall also gives the impression one is vacationing on some south sea isle — away from everyday life,” says Dave.

 

Backyard Waterfall Blocks Out Traffic Noise:

Backyard Waterfall Blocks Out Traffic Noise:

This is a close up of the Rosyln, NY main waterfall. Water flows down moss rocks in a natural-looking way, and seeps through river rock, where it is captured in an underground reservoir. The water is filtered and recirculated, making it very eco-friendly.

 

The following video lets you hear the delightful sounds of rushing water at this Rosyln, Long Island, NY, project.

 

Backyard Paradise That is Noise Free:

Backyard Paradise That is Noise Free:

Pleasant sounds are the very opposite of unpleasant noise. And this backyard Roslyn, NY, paradise retreat is blessed with delightful sounds. These sounds can be enjoyed in the pool, while sunbathing on a wide patio, when relaxing in a quiet upper patio, when rocking back and forth in the outdoor swing — not to mention when relaxing in the spillover spa.

 

Vinyl Freeform Pool Retreat:

Deck and Patio surrounded the backyard retreat’s new freeform vinyl pool and raised spillover spa with handsome Cambridge Ledgestone patios and bright plantings. The raised spa has its own separate overhead waterfall as well as a spillover into the pool. All this adds to an undisturbed backyard experience.

A diving rock and landscaping cutouts add to this pool area’s summer charms. In addition, the Cambridge paving stones are tough when it comes to winter’s cold weather. The pavers seem to withstand abuse better than any poured and stenciled concrete.

 

Poolside Landscaping:

Poolside Landscaping:

Bright plantings with green ground cover, along with river stone gravel and delightful stepping stone path, add to the natural look and serenity of the barrier/pool area.

 

 

 

 

A Backyard Pond Retreat that ‘Feels Magical’

This editorial space is usually given to highlighting our own Deck and Patio projects. But, occasionally, we give a bow to work done by others that impresses us.

Such is the case with the following Chicago, IL pond. It was designed and built for his own backyard by Brian Helfrich, lead designer and president of construction at Aquascape, Inc. 

Aquascape is the leading water garden innovator in North America. From aquatic plant information, pond design ideas and equipment, to training/certification programs, they are the final word in koi ponds, water gardens and fountains.

“Brian is a water garden expert who was able to turn his backyard into a personal water garden retreat,” says Dave Stockwell, owner of Deck and Patio. “It’s outdoor living at its finest.”

Helfrich built his pond over 10 years ago which has become a delightful backyard escape during all seasons. Soft moss has collected on the boulders and rocks, and other rocks have been softened by the use of ground covers like Hostas and other smaller plants.

The trees in his yard have also matured. To help create privacy and, where needed, block unattractive views, conifers like Green Giant Arborvitae or Norway Spruce were used.

The water feature oasis is a blend of ponds, streams, waterfalls, gazebo with bridge, beautifully landscaped areas, and patios. The first photo of this expansive refuge (below) shows one of its waterfalls. It was positioned close to a welcoming patio where, “Friends and family gather for meals and celebrations,” says Aquascape.

Helfrich Pond/Patio at Dusk:

Helfrich Pond/Patio at Dusk:

“A pond or water feature adds so much to outdoor entertaining and living,” says Dave Stockwell. “And just like Brian did for his project, when we construct ponds, we always try to include adjacent or close by patio areas.”

Children Love Koi

Children Love Koi

 

Whether it’s a patio or bridge or deck, a pond is an attraction to more than adults. Children love ponds, including feeding koi. A pond is truly interactive in that way.

Koi ponds were once a characteristic of Japanese gardens, but have been growing in popularity around the world. And why not. Listening to the sounds of trickling water, while watching colorful koi swim around throughout several seasons is transforming.

 

 

 

Speaking of the seasons. We love ponds all year, even in winter, but autumn can be an extraordinary experience.

 

Gazebo/Bridge When New

Gazebo/Bridge When New

Beautifully Weathered Bridge/Gazebo

Beautifully Weathered Bridge/Gazebo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enjoyment of a well designed pond, like the one Brian Helfrich has built, begins in the morning when you’re having that first cup of coffee.

A well-placed pond with streams and falls will be viewable from the most used rooms of your home and especially from the kitchen.

“It’s wonderful to watch the leaves bud, grow and change, and see it all reflected in your pond,” says Dave.

 

Adding a Bridge

Adding a Bridge

Bridges add a lovely design element to a backyard pond oasis. Here, Brian’s structure acts as a walkway along the side of his home. Plants and shrubs offer a pleasing “softscape” contrast to the rock and wood “hardscapes.” Note how the design makes it all appear organic, with water flowing in and around all the hardscape areas. 

 

Pond Waterfall

Pond Waterfall

Pondless Waterfall

Pondless Waterfall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The above two photos show two of the waterfalls that are part of the overall water garden. The one on the left is a waterfall cascading down into the pond, while the one on the right is a “pondless” waterfall, which is a perfect place for very young children to play. This pondless waterfall has been designed to let the water to seep through a “pebble beach” area before being filtered, captured below and recirculated.

We’re told by Aquascape that small birds love the pondless area and use it as their own private oasis to congregate, drink and enjoy a bird bath. 

The feature photo at the top of our page today is of one of Brian’s waterfalls captured at night. Landscape lighting helps create a very special mood in and around the pond when, as they described it, “the yard feels almost magical.” Brian says he designed the water feature but he built it with the help of Certified Aquascape Contractors across the country. Deck and Patio is proud to claim that same status.

To see more photos of this pond and learn more about it, click here. 

 

Can I Fit a Full-Sized Pool On My Small Property?

The owners of this relatively small Nassau County (Long Island/NY) property approached Deck and Patio for a new deck. They also shared their dismay at having been told by other firms that their backyard terrain would not allow for the construction of a pool. 

As our team discussed plans for renovating their existing natural wood deck into Trex decking, they were delighted by our assurance that a pool would not be impossible; it just would take a bit of creative design. 

Deck and Patio Project Showcase

Deck and Patio Project Showcase

The major issue with their property was that it wasn’t very large and inclined toward the house.

Other impediments included restrictive Town setbacks. Deck and Patio tackled these issues by setting the pool mid-grade, and building risers up to the pool height. 

In addition, we built the attractive water feature behind the pool to deal with the rising higher grade, as well as to screen out the neighbors — all while maintaining a natural and beautiful scene. 

And “pool aside,” the beautiful Trex decking and Cambridge patio and pool surround are pretty special, too.

By choosing a vinyl-lined pool, which can be constructed in any shape, curve, or angle, this allowed for great flexibility in design. Plus, the homeowners were not stuck with unattractive white interior stairs that wouldn’t blend with the rest of the pool, nor did they sacrifice a smooth bottom for the swimmers’ feet.

 Pool Surround (Long Island/NY):

Pool Surround (Long Island/NY):

Deck and Patio also surrounded the pool with a patio created from Cambridge’s Round Table pavingstones. The pavers’ dimpled, embossed surfaces gently roll into soft, beveled edges on four straight-sided Cambridge Shapes with ArmorTec. The pavers were laid in a modified herringbone pattern.

 

 Stepping Stone Path (Long Island/NY):

Stepping Stone Path (Long Island/NY):

Bluestone stepping stones skim across the backyard sod and connect the pool patio to the deck and patio at the house, which is also home to the outdoor kitchen area, complete with BBQ and refrigerator. The entire project was finished off with the installation of lush colorful landscaping and low voltage lighting.

 

Landscaping with Pantone’s Color for 2020: ‘Classic Blue’ Is Elegant and Reassuring

At Deck and Patio, we frequently get requests for plants in the latest popular colors, including Pantone’s color of the year. This year Pantone has chosen ‘Classic Blue.’ According to their announcement, in making this decision, they considered the following: 

 

Pantone's Statement

 

“Classic Blue’ certainly is a reassuring color,” says our own Dave Stockwell. “We have available lovely blue plants that can bring that sense of reassurance, that anchoring, to any landscape or garden.”

Balkan Anemone

Balkan Anemone

Balkan Anemone

One spring bloomer that Dave recommends in the ‘Balkan Anemone’ (left) which is hardy and blooms again and again each year.

Its star-like petals are also stunning in the evening and at night as they sparkle amid landscape lighting and moonlight. 

Tall and lace-y, this flower is also known as ‘Grecian Windflower.’ If you are planting them yourself, it’s best to do it in autumn, in moist soil with partial shade. For an Anemone planting guide, click here.

 

Blue Hydrangea

Blue Hydrangea

Blue Hydrangea

Then, of course, there is a Long Island, NY, favorite — the stunning hydrangea. One lovely example is the Nikko Blue. 

However, achieving a true blue hue to this plant requires a certain type of soil, or you won’t get the blue color.  For more on growing blue hydrangeas, click here.

Note: Blue hydrangeas make such gorgeous bouquets, which means the interior of your home can be as filled with Pantone’s color for 2020 as your garden.

Cornflower

Cornflower

Cornflower

Of course, don’t forget the traditional blue ‘cornflower.’ This plant is hardy and can withstand draught and are delightful interspersed around a garden. They can be grown as a perennial or annual. 

By the way, cornflowers fit particularly well with Pantone’s intention in bringing classic blue to the forefront for 2020 because they are symbols of very old traditions. One website described them as reminding us of “the cultural ebb and flow of mankind throughout the centuries.” Now that’s an anchor.

Another note on cornflowers, they grow easily from seed — which makes them effortless to disperse in the garden — and they last quite a while as a cut flower and keep their color when dried. 

Availability

“As most gardeners know, blue isn’t the most prevalent color in plants. That said, our buyers do have a range of blue plants available,” adds Dave, “And of course, we have many sources.”

One mid-western U.S. florist company, Dreisbach Wholesale Florists, got the jump on Pantone back in June when this blue color was their choice for a Floral Friday focus. Although they admitted on their website, that: “…blue can be a challenge for [floral arrangements] since there are a limited number of naturally occurring blue blooms. Don’t let that stop you!”  

And Deck and Patio adds, when it comes to gardens, don’t let that stop you! As you’ll see from the flowers we listed above — as well as in the feature shot at the top of this page, there are enough blue flowers to incorporate Pantone’s reassuring color throughout your landscape. (Note: *Feature art at the top of our page today is courtesy of Dreisbach Wholesale Florists.)

 

Outdoor Color Is More Than Flowers

In choosing Classic Blue, Pantone said they also wanted to evoke “the vast and infinite evening sky,” which, Deck and Patio believes, can be achieved in many ways in the landscape. “You can change your pool and spa’s vinyl liner or Gunite finish to bring about this soaring feeling, for example,” says Dave. “Like this dramatic custom pool and spa project we did a while ago.”

Deck and Patio Custom Infinity Pool/Spa

Deck and Patio Custom Infinity Pool/Spa

To enhance an already beautiful view of Long Island Sound, the owners of the waterside home wanted an infinity pool; a spectacular “infinity” spa also became part of the project. A swim-up U-shaped bar serves as a patio bar; the pool boasts 5 in-pool stools and swim-out steps.

The ultimate in resort-style living includes a tumbled stone patio, natural gas campfires, evergreen trees for privacy, pool waterfalls, in-pool bar stools, three staircases, and in-floor cleaning.

You might say this project is awash in glorious Classic Blue. 

So readers. How will you bring Pantone’s elegant and reassuring Classic Blue into your yard this year?