Stepping Stones

Home/Stepping Stones

In Times of Stress, Americans Seek Safe Outdoor Spaces

According to the Washington Post this week, one way Americans have been seeking refuge during the pandemic is by visiting botanical gardens. Out in the air, well away from others, they can stroll amid nature’s beauty, and like the iconic image of Mary Tyler Moore throwing her hat, throw off with joy their uncomfortable protective masks.

While the Post’s main focus was on visiting botanical gardens — which can be a wonderful outing for enjoyable social distancing — some of Deck and Patio’s clients are creating peace-evoking scenic spots right in their own yards.

 

Creating a ‘Breathe-Free Refuge’ at Home

 

Natural Retaining Wall

Natural Retaining Wall

Sometimes you can combine a refuge designed for peaceful relaxation with other more practical needs.

This photo (left), for example, shows how Deck and Patio designed/built a “natural” retaining wall for some clients. 

“Retaining walls can be pretty boring to look at,” says Dave Stockwell. “But they don’t have to be. Here a ‘natural’ retaining wall includes a ‘pondless’ water feature. The water from the waterfall is captured underground, in a safe area where very young children can’t access it. From there, the water is filtered and recirculated.”

In addition, this retaining area has been installed with lush plantings, river rock and natural stone steps which together with the water feature create a beautiful nature walk — all while serving the purpose of holding back the grade.

Dave notes that the reserved underground tank water never stagnates because it is continuously circulated up from the underground pond via the waterfall.

 

Sometimes You Want a Pond

 

Pond Ecosystem:

Pond Ecosystem:

These clients (above) didn’t have young toddlers and wanted a full pond. Their completed water feature system consists of a stream, waterfalls and pond, and it is the perfect spot for letting the day’s cares melt away. 

Enchanting Echinacea (coneflowers) and magenta Lythrum are just some of the various plants brightening this pondscape.

 

Children Love Koi

Children Love Koi

 

Koi ponds were once a characteristic of Japanese gardens, but have been growing in popularity around the world, including Long Island.

And why not. Listening to the sounds of trickling water, while watching colorful koi swim around throughout several seasons is transforming. 

Whether it’s built near a patio, bridge or deck, this water feature is an attraction to more than adults.

Children love ponds, including feeding koi. It’s truly interactive in that way.

This pond (right) is owned by Brian Helfrich of Aquascape Inc. — the company that makes the water feature systems that Deck and Patio uses.

 

 

 

Sometimes a Garden Is Enough

Water features are wonderful but you can create a perfect place to de-stress without one. 

 

Backyard Garden Bridge (Long Island/NY):

Backyard Garden Bridge (Long Island/NY):

Note how the colorful plantings, moss rocks and deep green ground cover (above) line the steps leading to the clients’ charming wooden bridge.  

With or without water features, it is a lovely spot to enjoy your backyard oasis. By adding this garden bridge, “It became a favorite spot for the homeowners,” says Dave.

 

 Backyard Strolling

Backyard Strolling (Long Island/NY)

This completed walking/strolling area, like most of our projects, was planned by Deck and Patio to appear as if it were designed by Mother Nature herself.

Stepping stones lead to larger steps of natural stone which are flanked by colorful plantings including bright red “Wave Petunias” and colorful purple and yellow “Coneflowers.” In addition to being a delight for the eyes, such a spot offers wonderful scents which the family can breathe in — mask-free. 

“Dealing with the demands of every day life can be exhausting, especially today,” says Dave. “A peaceful surrounding calms you right down as you absorb the beauty and quiet.”

 

Feature Photo at Top of Page: Above a natural retaining wall, Deck and Patio carved out a patio area with waterfall for the clients where they can sit after a stroll and breathe it all in.

 

 

Creating a Lush Poolscape with Colorful Plantings

Sleek geometric pools can look just fine without a lot of softening. The addition of, perhaps, sheer descent waterfalls (aka sheet falling), a handsome patio, plus a green backdrop, and the picture is complete.

But pools designed in a more natural look, more free-form such as Mother Nature might create, cry out for a more lush poolscape. In addition, for practical reasons, pools naturally have a lot of surrounding patio hardscapes. So adding the right plants for color and texture, nestled in and around moss or other natural stone rocks and boulders, and some waterfalls, turn your poolscape into an oasis.  

Here’s a few Deck and Patio projects that will give you an idea of what we’re talking about.

 

Picture-Perfect Swimming Pool (Long Island/NY):

Picture-Perfect Swimming Pool (Long Island/NY):

Deck and Patio’s design gave this vacation-style Adirondack pool the exact feeling our clients wanted; they just step outside to a natural swimming pond where they can hang out. 

We added bright colorful plants in between the boulders, in such a way that they cascade into the pool, like they would in nature. This contributes to a beautiful all-rock pool, filtered and treated chemically, but which looks like a natural pond.

 

 

Pool Landscaping (Long Island/NY):

Pool Landscaping (Long Island/NY):

Here, vibration flowers and fragrance — provided by many varieties of perennials, evergreen and deciduous plantings — were planned for successional color throughout the pool season.

 

 

Pool With Raised Spillover Spa (Long Island/NY):

Pool With Raised Spillover Spa (Long Island/NY):

This concrete pool has a vinyl liner. We positioned it into the natural surrounding landscape considering carefully any existing trees and mature shrub root systems. With that lush backdrop, the addition of color plants and ground cover make for a glorious retreat.

 

 

New Natural Retaining Wall (Long Island/NY):

New Natural Retaining Wall (Long Island/NY):

Close Up of Natural Retaining Wall (Long Island/NY):

Close Up of Natural Retaining Wall (Long Island/NY):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And old wooden retaining wall took away from the attractiveness of the pool area.

Our creative team introduced a unique concept to deal with this new poolscape: re-grade the slope, turning it into a “natural” retaining wall (left) including a dramatic waterfall, stream, and woodland garden in its place.

Once the stream and waterfall were complete, we pressed boulders into the surrounding slope. After that, we addressed the landscaping (see close up at right).

Our crew installed natural woodland plantings to tie in with the tall oaks that exist on the property’s perimeter — and along with bright colorful plants, we added evergreen shrubs to ensure year-round color.

 

 

Go Bold with Your Poolscape (Long Island/NY):

Go Bold with Your Poolscape (Long Island/NY):

 

Now, consider this stunning apricot-pink rose that one of our designers added to landscaping around this client’s pool.

Such a dramatic hued plant gets attention, and in smaller spaces like this, it helps the landscape to recede behind it — causing the overall area to seem larger.

 

As for this color: without a doubt “orange” roses have the most attitude in the rose family. These beauties are known for enthusiasm, not to mention passion.

The color also suggests a sense of significance and even urgency — perhaps just the right color to draw your loved ones outside on a warm summer day.

 

 

Feature Photo

Feature Photo

 

Note: Today’s Feature Photo (top of page) is another example of Deck and Patio’s lush poolscapes. If you’d like to learn more about this project, 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.

 

The Healing Benefits of a Garden

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Deck and Patio Beginning a new landscaping project

Deck and Patio Beginning a new landscaping project

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

Deck and Patio completed project

Deck and Patio completed project

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

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

 

 

 

Landscaping Around a Pond:

Landscaping Around a Pond:

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

 

 

Landscaped Pathways:

Landscaped Pathways:

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

 

 

Backyard Garden with Bridge (Long Island/NY):

Backyard Garden with Bridge (Long Island/NY):

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

 

 

Beautiful Garden Rooms

Beautiful Garden Rooms:

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

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

 

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

 

Stepping Stone Walkway Ideas

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

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

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

Practical Pathway

Practical Pathway

 

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

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

 

 

 

Stepping Stones and Ponds

Stepping Stones and Ponds

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

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

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

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

 

Stone Island

Stone Island

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

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

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

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

 

Decks and Ponds

Decks and Ponds

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

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

 

 

Waterfall Walk

Waterfall Walk

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

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

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

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

 

Stepping Stone Path

Stepping Stone Path

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

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

 

 

Backyard Nature Walk

Backyard Nature Walk

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

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

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

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