Sustainable Water Features

/Sustainable Water Features

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.”

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Dining Al Fresco by a Pond

Memorial Day weekend (May 26-30) launches the year’s outdoor living season. And that includes lots of outdoor dining: family barbecues, picnics, dinner for the boss and his/her spouse, romantic dates, and  just enjoying the air as we eat our take-out.

“Many in our neck of the woods not only like to dine al fresco during the outdoor season, but they want to do that next to, or near, their own backyard pond,” says Dave Stockwell, owner of Deck and Patio.

As Certified Contractors of Aquascape Inc. — one of the country’s leading manufacturers of pond and water feature products — Deck and Patio is able to stay informed and trained on all the latest techniques and technologies for ideal waterscapes.

Indeed, on any given day, our teams can be found, in addition to other landscaping services, installing ponds, water gardens and other water features across Long Island and her environs.

“The ponds we design/build can, for example, be completely eco-friendly and include rainwater harvesting; they can be landscaped with gorgeous water plants, stocked with pond fish, and aerated with waterfalls. Each project we do is as unique as the clients themselves,” says Dave.

The one thing our ponds all have in common, adds Dave, is how much a backyard pond adds to each family’s outdoor experience. Having a water feature like a pond with waterfalls — with the sounds of moving water and natural beauty this provides — makes outdoor living and dining an exceptional experience.

 

Photo # 1

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.

 

Dining Al Fresco By a Pond:

Dining Al Fresco By a Pond:

This photo, which is featured at the top of this page, was supplied to us by Aquascape Inc. Here a group of family and friends — and even someone’s favorite pet —- enjoy a meal beside an exquisite pond stocked with koi. Soothing sounds from the waterfall help everyone relax and be at ease.

 

Backyard Sanctuary Perfect for Dining Al Fresco:

Backyard Sanctuary Perfect for Dining Al Fresco:

These homeowners asked Deck and Patio to create a natural backyard retreat complete with a large deck and pond that comes up to it. The layout detailed different settings and focal points; we planted over 4,000 bulbs, 300 species of deciduous woody plants, evergreens, and perennials, including 150 different varieties of these species. The family can dine on the deck or in their glass conservatory. (Note: Deck and Patio did not build the conservatory but worked with the contractors the family hired to bring this beautiful project together harmoniously.)

 

“Deck” Pond Perfect for Dining Al Fresco:

“Deck” Pond Perfect for Dining Al Fresco:

Aquascape Inc. provided us with this photo of a charming dining area set on a deck with pond. Note how the wall mural picks up where the real plants leave off, giving a smallish water garden area the sense of natural expanse. The homeowner also chose blue cushions to go with the mural’s water scenes, which helps to tie it all together.

 

Picnicking "In" a Backyard Pond:

Picnicking “In” a Backyard Pond:

Yes, you can picnic “in” a pond. When Deck and Patio built this lovely pond water feature (which comprises two separate ponds next to each other), in the larger pond shown here there was space for a sizable stone island where the homeowners placed two Adirondack chairs. We installed stepping stones out to it adding to the overall Zen-like experience. They can go their island just for quiet contemplation; however, the chairs’ arms offer room for a small plate/box lunch and a cool drink.

 

Al Fresco Drinks/Dining by a Pond:

Al Fresco Drinks/Dining by a Pond:

Thanks to Aquascape Inc. who supplied us with this photo as well. Imagine getting home from work, taking off your shoes and sipping some cool lemonade before dinner while the kids play by the pond? Yup, this is pretty much as good as it gets.

 

  A big thank you to Aquascape for sharing some of today’s photos with us.

 

Quality Backyard Makeover Pulls Out all the Stops

 

Pulling out all the stops of an organ increases the sound so an audience can hear everything — every grand sound, in all its lovely variations.

You might say that the two Long Island homeowners who planned this backyard upgrade also “pulled out all the stops” to orchestrate a wonderful experience in outdoor living. Their completed project included:

—  a free-form pool and surround renovation

—  new custom pool pavilion

—  refurbished multi-level Techo-Bloc patio

—  new multi-faceted water feature (several sets of waterfalls and stream)

—  new koi pond, and

—  a new hot tub (Bullfrog Spa) wedged in-between the upper and lower patios.

“The totality of these amenities create a beautiful paradise,” says Dave Stockwell, owner of Deck and Patio. “But the homeowners didn’t stop there. They asked that their multi-faceted water feature (which they can enjoy on the upper patio, from the house and poolside) be extremely eco-friendly. For example, Town water is not used to keep the stream and waterfalls supplied.”

To ensure no use of Town water, Deck and Patio installed a ‘pondless’ reservoir system below the lower-level waterfall. The spills from the waterfall pass through river rock and gravel and is collected underground. Inside the reservoir, a pump recirculates the filtered water back up through the system.

Also, by letting gravity pull the flowing water downward, the whole system is turned into a complete ‘green’ maintenance-free water source that can enjoy throughout most of the year.

The Pool Area

“We designed the overall look of the refurbished pool area to appear organic so it blends with the property’s beautiful natural surroundings,” says Dave. “The pool construction included a 24-by-42-foot free-form concrete wall.”

Deck and Patio’s toughest challenge was accurately measuring and cutting the vinyl liners needed for the pool itself and its in-pool stairs. However, having done many vinyl-pools over the years, Deck and Patio’s team knew it would just require patience and steady attention to detail.

“All this was done so as to create bodies of water that would be in harmony with the patio area, with its outdoor kitchen, and with the waterfalls, stream and koi pond. Not only is the end result beautiful to look at, but the sounds of moving and spilling water can be appreciated at every section of the outdoor retreat. For sure, these clients pulled out all the stops.”

The following photos highlight many of the project’s elements.

 

Backyard Upgrade Showcase Project:

Backyard Upgrade Showcase Project:

This photo looks up from the custom pool pavilion (not seen) over the newly renovated vinyl pool, Techo-Bloc pool surround, a pair of natural stone steps leading to upper patio that flank the waterfalls, the lower-level waterfalls, and a portable spa set against the upper patio area. Not seen is the upper waterfall that faces the house.

 

Backyard Water Feature:

Backyard Water Feature:

Looking down at the pool and new custom pavilion that grace the lower level, the eye is first captivated by an upper waterfall; its spilling water flows downward forming a stream behind that gravity pulls to the lower level. This part of the water feature was installed to face the house so it can be enjoyed from the upper patio as well as inside the home.

 

Waterfall-Fed Koi Pond:

Waterfall-Fed Koi Pond:

The complete water feature for this project includes a 10-by-15 foot freeform koi pond, which is regularly aerated by waterfalls from the 35-foot backyard meandering stream. Parts of the property is natural woodland, so care was taken to protect the fish. Predators, that might live nearby, are discouraged from going after the fish by installation of a small cave where the fish can hide unseen — as well as remain dormant during winter months.

 

Techo-Bloc Patio and Steps:

Techo-Bloc Patio and Steps:

One reason we love Techo-Bloc products is because they appear natural. They come in kits with varying shapes that allow us to create an attractive design instead of being limited by one-sized bricks etc. The Bullfrog Spa these clients chose fits snugly against the patio which was shaped to embrace it.

 

Bullfrog Spas:

Bullfrog Spas:

This portable spa was positioned against the patio in a way to appear built-in — or custom. This way the clients have the best of both worlds, a handsome looking spa that is fitted with Bullfrog’s enviable massage jets — their patented JetPaks.

 

One last thought. The Waterfalls, stream, double steps, moss rock and plantings along the change in grade together create a natural looking retaining wall — a great way to cut costs while increasing the aesthetics of a beautiful graded property.

 

‘Green’ Water Features Don’t Always Require a Pond

Sometimes, for a variety of reasons, clients want the beauty of a waterfall feature but don’t want it to include a pond.

That was the case for these clients. They were saving for a swimming pool and wanted a water feature to enjoy in the meantime. Also, since their property was a delightful wooded lot, they asked that any feature look natural so it would fit in with the surroundings.

“Their property is also adjacent to a parkland,” says Dave Stockwell, owner of Deck and Patio. This was the main reason they didn’t want a pond with any waterfall. They feared a pond, with or without koi, would attract too many wild animals.”

The solution Deck and Patio suggested was for a “pondless” system that included a stream with upper and lower waterfalls. At the end of the stream, where usually a pond would capture the spilling water, we installed a “green” pondless-reservoir underground that holds the water and recirculates it.

“With this system, the spilling water seems to disappear into the gravel,” says Dave. “But it’s really being filtered through the river rock and then a filtration system underground. After it’s collected, it is pumped back up into the stream for a continuous flow.”

We were able to make use of the property’s slope and gravity to move the water down to the waterfall. The water feature was fitted in an existing hill without need to change the terrain much at all. This location was also ideal because it meant the family could enjoy it from within the house as well as from the patio.

“Since landscaping was also important to these clients, we added a lot of vibrant plantings in different colors and textures,” says Dave. “The plants were fitted in and around hand-picked moss rocks and other natural stones in the perfect size and shape.”

For our efforts, the Long Island Pool and Spa Association (LIPSA) awarded us a Silver Medal for the project.

 

Pondless Waterfalls:

Pondless Waterfalls:

If you want a water feature (think stream and waterfalls) but don’t want a pond, then “pondless” is the way to go. Here, Deck and Patio used Aquascape Inc.’s pondless system which captures the water underground and recirculates it. Note how the water seems to be disappearing into the gravel where it is collected in the reservoir and redistributed.

 

Water Feature Landscaping:

Water Feature Landscaping:

We used evergreens (e.g., Procumbent Juniper) that are dense and green and very low maintenance; they also spread nicely. Begonias, Coleus, and flowering plants like Astilbe add punches of color.

 

 Moss Rock Make Natural Looking Water Features:

Moss Rock Make Natural Looking Water Features:

Note how Pennisetum plantings drape around the moss rock and natural stones; we also placed each stone and used gravity to move the water in different directions as it would appear in nature.

 

Techo-Bloc Patio:

Techo-Bloc Patio:

Deck and Patio had previously built this handsome Techo-Bloc patio for the clients using “Elena” pavers in “Earth Brown.” The pavers come in kits with five differently-sized stones which allowed us to create a stylish random pattern.

 

Water Feature Landscaping:

Water Feature Landscaping:

Along with the plantings mentioned above, Deck and Patio planted Blood Grass, Sedum Autumn Joy, Hosta Sum and Substance; one of the water plants is Yellow Flag Iris. We also included various deciduous shrubs as well as several Norway Spruce. A Japanese Maple was added behind the upper waterfall for a its texture and color.

 

Backyard Water Features Are Magical in Winter

We had a little snow this week on Long Island, and a cold snap is definitely trying to take hold. So, we thought it the perfect time to rerun a blog we posted last December on how winter turns backyard water features into something magical.

Yesterday, we also shared a great post on Facebook from Aquascape Inc. that suggested a great Christmas present: outdoor lighting for your pond or water feature. Outdoor lighting does, indeed, turn night into magic any time of year, not just winter.

Enjoy!

In a previous blog, we showcased Aquascape Inc.’s Fountainscapes as a great way to experience a water feature in your yard without committing to a larger pond or waterfall system.

You might be wondering, why bring this up now, when winter is about to set in? Actually winter is the point. This blog focuses on just how beautiful water features — of any size — are during winter.

In fact, when the temperature drops, flowing water can turn into art as it crystalizes.

Take for example, the waterfalls we created a few years back on Long Island (NY) as part of a double-pond, stream and multiple-waterfall feature. When months later we stopped by during a strong cold snap, we couldn’t resist taking a photo of the sparkling water falls as they crystalized (first photo below).

In order to give you a fuller picture of the winter beauty that can be part of a water feature, we also posted below four glorious fountains capes operating in winter.

 

 

Water Features in Winter: (Long Island/NY) - During a prolonged cold snap, ice forms on the natural stone boulders of this water feature; the water falling over the stones crystalizes into glistening flowing threads — an exquisite sight!

Water Features in Winter: (Long Island/NY) – During a prolonged cold snap, ice forms on the natural stone boulders of this water feature; the water falling over the stones crystalizes into glistening flowing threads — an exquisite sight!

 

 

Fountainscapes in Winter: This fountainscape is part of a fountain/miniature pond feature that is arguably even more delightful in winter months than in summer. Note how the small stream of water has become a jeweled thread of ice.

Fountainscapes in Winter: This fountainscape is part of a fountain/miniature pond feature that is arguably even more delightful in winter months than in summer. Note how the small stream of water has become a jeweled thread of ice.

 

 

 

Commercial Fountainscapes

 

 

Fountains are not just for backyards. No sir, they are a wonderful indulgence at business offices as well — and as you can see from this winter scene,  clearly a year-round uplift for management and staff.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winterizing Waterscapes: If you do not want the water to freeze, you can choose to winterize your water gardens/waterscapes by running them with heat, which will melt the ice dams. But that is not necessary and might you miss some gorgeous winter scenes.

Winterizing Waterscapes: If you do not want the water to freeze, you can choose to winterize your water gardens/waterscapes by running them with heat, which will melt the ice dams. But that is not necessary and you might miss some gorgeous winter scenes.

 

 

 

Winter Backyard Pond (Long Island/NY):

Winter Backyard Pond (Long Island/NY):

This was actually a pond that we had just built but had not started up. It was crushed with snow from the Northeast Blizzard of 2013. You can see the boulder stepping stones and Moss Rock Island in the middle of the pond. The deck and Bullfrog Spa were completely covered by snow in the shot under the pergola. Despite the storm completely covering the water feature, we think the pond was as beautiful a picture as it was come spring.

 

 

Fountainscapes: Of course, winter isn’t the only time of year you’ll appreciate a water feature; even a simple fountain will provide the delightful sound of moving water and a picturesque setting.

Fountainscapes: Of course, winter isn’t the only time of year you’ll appreciate a water feature; even a simple fountain will provide the delightful sound of moving water and a picturesque setting.

 

 

Landscaping Ideas: Ending the Summer Entertaining Season with a Splash of Color

While Labor Day weekend (just two weeks away) is not the end of the outdoor season, it is the last of summer’s three big holiday weekends.

This means you’re probably either planning to host or attend one or more family barbecues, pool parties, summer movie parties, or just plain end-of-summer gatherings. There may be corporate shindigs happening as well. Not to mention kids will be begging for a last sprinkler cool-down with friends.

Those hosting such outdoor festivities have probably been looking over their property’s landscaping, with a view of how the yard will look when entertaining.

Sandra Vultaggio

Sandra Vultaggio

We are happy to report that it’s far from too late to add a splash of color and beauty right now that will last well into Fall. In speaking with Sandra Vultaggio, Horticulture Consultant at Suffolk County’s Cornell Cooperative Extension, she offered our readers some great landscaping ideas.

“Late in the season is actually a great time to add some perennials,” says Vultaggio. “And you can usually get good deals on them this time of year.”

As for which ones to look out for, she agreed with the beautiful Honorine Jobert Anemone (aka Windflower) that we showcased on Facebook this week as a great choice to add mid-to-late August.  The Windflower will bloom through October and it prefers shade-to-partial sun, and moist, well-drained soil.

Vultaggio offered several more perennial choices, e.g., Chelone, (aka Turtlehead). “This purple/red flowering plant does well in both shade and sun,” she says. “And Asters, as well as Sedums (the “upright” like Autumn Joy) are also great choices. These prefer sun and are available in many different varieties and shades of pink and purple.” For a sunny yellow option, Vultaggio suggests Solidago (aka Goldenrod) which also prefers full sun.

“I suggest getting them in the ground sooner than later,” she continues, “and because of the drought in the Long Island area, it’s important to soak the root systems thoroughly and keep them very well watered and mulched after planting.”

But what about droughts? Shouldn’t we be considerate and fair in how much water we use? As many of you know, Deck and Patio has a division completely devoted to rainwater harvesting  and we are available to give advice on how best to collect rainwater for use in maintaining water features as well as property landscaping.

“In the meantime, there are things we can do immediately to conserve water for our gardens,” says Vultaggio.

“Think about the water we throw away just when making a pot of pasta. Rather than let it go down the sink, simply let it cool and use it in your garden. The fact that pasta was cooked in the water will not harm your plants. I recommend keeping a bucket for water collection. Put your pasta water there and any leftover water in drinking glasses. Just be mindful of all the water we use that can be conserved. In a recent blog, Gardening in a Drought, I highlighted a variety of ways to ensure a healthy garden despite low precipitation.”

“So don’t feel guilty making a splash this Labor Day weekend with bright plantings around your property,” says Dave Stockwell, owner of Deck and Patio. “Even if you don’t yet have a rainwater collection system, you can nourish your landscape by not wasting household water as outlined by Ms. Vultaggio.”

Below are photos of some ideal plants to add in time for Labor Day. These should add color and beauty well into Fall. And if you aren’t entertaining at home, these would make great hostess gifts. Happy Labor Day wherever you spend it!

 

Anemone Windflower -- or "Honorine Jobert

Anemone Windflower — or “Honorine Jobert

 

 

Chelone or Turtlehead

Chelone or Turtlehead

 

 

Asters

Asters

 

Sedum or Autumn Joy

Sedum or Autumn Joy

 

 

Solidago or Goldenrod

Solidago or Goldenrod

 

Water Features: Memorial Weekend Kicks Off Outdoor Entertaining Season

Deck and Patio’s design/build team is frequently asked what goes into creating a backyard that is ideal for entertaining, as well as outdoor fun.

Depending on what a budget permits and the size of the property, we usually recommend a water feature — be it a pool, pond, stream with waterfalls, or a simple portable hot tub — as a focal point of its surroundings.

“Any time a client wants a water feature in one of our projects, we know it will help make a home run,” says Deck and Patio’s Bill Renter. “Water is the one of the essential elements of life, and people are naturally drawn to it — which is what you are looking for when entertaining. So after determining all the needs of the client, we ask ourselves — how can water be part of it all.”

 

Infinity Pool

Infinity Pool

Pools  

Pools, of course, are the most popular water feature. According to Dave Stockwell, owner of Deck and Patio, what makes one pool appear awesome over another is usually its surroundings. “Choosing the right harmonizing elements is what makes something breathtaking. It’s how you blend water with its hardscape and landscaped environment.”

Pools vary in shape and complexity and homeowners can also choose between a vinyl pool and gunite, freeform and geometric. When budgets and property sizes are tight, rather than a full-sized regular pool, a smaller “spool” can function as both a small pool and spa.

SHINThe placement of swimming pools and patios is very important. “If you don’t use a landscape designer, you may find that some pool builders simply plop the pool where it’s most convenient for them,” says Deck and Patio’s Bill Renter. “We tend to push pools off to one side and leave lawn area for the children to play or just to have some “softscape.” That was the case for this award-winning pool (left), where we worked with True Blue Swimming Pools. The yard was small but they still got their pool — and enough lawn left for the kids to enjoy.

Surrounding Patio Areas   

Patio designed to harmonize with home architecture

“When it comes to ‘hardscape,’ we try to create truly functional spaces,” says Renter. “We often see a surrounding patio that is 10’ or 12’ feet wide all around the pool. Instead, we specialize in creating functional spaces of different sizes and shapes. We’ll ask if they have patio furniture and we measure it to ensure that there is ample room for that particular grouping, while allowing for easy circulation.”

Deck and Patio also looks to see how the sun comes across the yard. “The chaise lounging area should face the water feature and the afternoon sun. You and your guests wouldn’t want to sit by your pool and have the sun to your back.”

Dining Areas and Outdoor Kitchens  

We generally locate outdoor kitchens fairly close to the inside of the house — unless it’s a destination pool. In the case where all the outdoor living areas are a distance from the house, this requires different planning. “But usually it’s key to be near to the home’s kitchen,” says Renter.

Outdoor Kitchen with Ronda insulated drawers

Outdoor Kitchen with Ronda insulated drawers

Extra Tip: One trend we’re seeing in outdoor kitchens are warming/cooling drawers made by companies like Ronda. These insulated drawers are sealed and work without electricity so your drinks stay cool or your food stays warm depending on what you put in its lower drawer.

“They have a magnetic seal, which along with being waterproof will also keep away bugs and dust. Indeed, you can choose a single drawer just for keeping dishes and cutlery completely clean,” says Renter.

 

 

Outdoor Bars and Dining Areas

 

Outdoor Bar/Dining Area

Outdoor Bar/Dining Area

Outdoor bar with waterfalls

Outdoor bar with waterfalls

 

 

 

 

 

 

A bar/dining area is a great place for guests and family to gather. You can even add waterfalls. Shown here (above right) are sheet waterfalls, which offer a sleek modern look as well as a very pleasant sound. This helps people de-stress while inviting easy conversation.

 

 

 

Wild-Ride-slide

Wild-Ride-slide

Fun for Kids and Adults 

Kids love water and action. Pool slides and diving rocks are two favorite pool amenities. “When we add a slide, we try build it safe for the kids by setting it in around boulders and plants so if they ever fall, it won’t be far and with a soft landing,” says Renter.

 

 

 

Tanning-Shelf

Tanning-Shelf

 

 

Other kid favorites: swim outs, deep end stairs and tanning shelves. We’ve found kids love to dive, swim out and dive or slide into the pool again, over and over. A tanning shelf or deep end stairs allow adults and other kids to watch them playing on the slide, etc. These are great places for young and old alike to gather.

 

Backyard Ponds

 

Natural Swimming Ponds:

Natural Swimming Ponds:

Deck and Patio specializes in building ponds so clear and pristine you can swim in  them (even if you don’t wish to). Remember, all bacteria isn’t bad, some good bacteria kill the bad guys. A healthy natural swimming pond is very possible and is worth all the care you give it. The goal, of course, is that any pond at a minimum be healthy for fish and aquatic plants. This kind of water feature is a joy to sit by, listen to; it’s also the perfect outdoor attraction for entertaining.

 

Pondless Waterfalls

Pondless Waterfalls

 

The simplest pond to have is pondless. It will take much less time to clean up a pond-less waterfall (left) than a pond basin each season and it is a safer environment when children are very young.

 

 

Hot Tubs Make Great Water Features

 

This pondless waterfall/stream was installed beside a portable Bullfrog Spas. The stream is a lovely, tranquil sight from the patio as well as the hot tub itself.

This pondless waterfall/stream was installed beside a portable Bullfrog Spas. The stream is a lovely, tranquil sight from the patio as well as the hot tub itself.

 

Keeping it Simple

 

 FirePits and Outdoor Furniture:

FirePits and Outdoor Furniture:

Sometimes all you need is need is a fire pit and some comfortable furniture on a handsome deck. It would be easy to add a simple water fountain on such a deck so as to not miss out on its tranquil sounds. The deck shown here is Fiberon. Photo: Courtesy of Fiberon Decking.

 

 

 

 

Upgrading Pool and Backyard: New Landscaped Slope Replaces Old Retaining Wall

As part of an overall backyard upgrade, Deck and patio was asked to replace a deteriorating two-tiered retaining wall that had become an unsightly focal point of the clients’ pool and patio area. In addition, loud noises that came from behind the wall were a problem. Other elements that needed refurbishing were the pool’s bowing stack concrete wall, and an aging patio.

To renovate the pool, we reinforced its wall with steel rebar and filled blocks with concrete; we also reshaped its design into an elegant geometric form. In addition, Deck and Patio surrounded the pool on three sides with a durable and handsome Cambridge patio.

Work in Progress

Work in Progress

Transforming the dual four-foot retaining walls called for a major transformation: removing and replacing the walls, and filling the space with naturalized boulders before colorful plantings, and a seven-foot high water feature could be added. Deck and Patio’s project manager/designer for the job was Bill Renter, who is an avid outdoor enthusiast.

“I spend as much time as I can walking the hillsides of New York’s Catskills and studying the landscape,” says Renter. “This has increased my expertise in how rock placement affects the flow of streams and waterfalls.”

Indeed, over the years, Renter has received a multitude of awards for choosing the perfect rocks, and artfully installing them to great effect and function.

 

INSERT # 2

 

Seven-Foot High Waterfall

Replaces Old Retaining Wall

 

“Bill wanted our clients to experience what he does when he explores nature,” adds Dave Stockwell, owner of Deck and Patio.

“Not only did he create a beautiful focal point behind the pool, the dramatic waterfall drops into a pond-less system by Aquascape that filters and collects the water underground to recirculate it. Not having a pond capturing the falling water allowed Bill to add a stepping stone path that bring strollers right up to the fall, as if they were on a nature walk in the mountains.”

 

 

 

Backyard Upgrade Before and After:

 

Before Photo of Pool and Retaining Wall

Before Photo of Pool and Retaining Wall

 

 

After Photo of Pool/Retaining Wall

After Photo of Pool/Retaining Wall

 

 

Cambridge Pavingstone Patio:

Cambridge Pavingstone Patio:

Replacing the clients’ old patio with Cambridge Sahara Chestnut pavers included this new handsome entrance to the pool area with a spectacular view of  of the new natural retaining wall.

 

Natural Noise Barrier:

Natural Noise Barrier:

The new seven-foot waterfall is not just a delightful feature, it serves as a natural noise barrier for unwanted sounds that might intrude on a serene backyard oasis such as this.

 

Natural Retaining Walls:

Natural Retaining Walls:

Plantings are a key part of creating any natural retaining walls. Along with boulders and other rocks, their root systems add to the overall strength of the support system. Deck and Patio always chooses plants for their color, bloom periods and how they grow — ensuring color all through the seasons that keep their harmony year after year.

 

Here’s one additional “before” and “after” grouping that highlights the process of replacing a  retaining wall.

New Wall Includes Aquascape Pondless Waterfall

New Wall With Aquascape Pondless Waterfall

Natural Retaining Wall as a Work in Progress

Natural Retaining Wall as a Work in Progress

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coming ‘Back Down to Earth’ for Earth Day 2016

Earth Day is once again upon us. And isn’t it heartening that so many countries and citizens around the world will be considering the needs of our planet at the same time? One of the special celebrations taking place this year on Earth Day (April 22)  is the signing ceremony for the international Paris Agreement on Climate Change, which many agree is a step in the right direction for safeguarding our shared home.

But Earth Day is also celebrated each and every day  — a ‘coming back down to earth’ so to speak — where individuals and communities regularly act in useful and practical ways to nourish their own corners of Mother Earth. Some are diligent about recycling, others capture rainwater for irrigation, still others install solar panels, or use organic fertilizers.

For Deck and Patio, protecting the earth is a priority as we create beautiful outdoor living spaces. Indeed, we specialize in helping clients design/build outdoor amenities that are as eco-friendly as they are enchanting. In some cases, these not only do no harm to the local environment, but the projects actually help to improve it.

Aquascape RainXchange Reservoirs

As Certified Aquascape Contractors, Deck and Patio strives not to only make serene water features look natural, but also be natural. One way we do this is by using an Aquascape RainXchange reservoir. The reservoir, which stores water underground to be recirculated, can be used as part of a “pond-less” water feature system. Instead of falling into a pond, the flow from waterfalls and streams seemingly disappears into gravel, where it is filtered, and eventually recirculated. (Examples: see first two photos below)

 

Pristine Water Features:

Pristine Water Features:

This “pond-less” waterfall and stream was installed with all Aquascape Inc. components, so it is eco-friendly: the water is kept clean and healthy without the use of any chemicals.

 

Eco-Friendly Water Features:

Eco-Friendly Water Features:

For this “pond-less” waterfall and stream, the water required to keep it topped off and refreshed is harvested from the roof of the clients’ house. “Such a water feature is run entirely without using city water,” says Dave Stockwell, owner of Deck and Patio. “It acts as a ‘green’ maintenance-free source that operates daily March through December. “And any excess harvested rainwater can be used for irrigation of the property.”

Environmentally-Friendly Backyard Ponds

Backyard ponds with waterfalls and streams can also be created in eco-friendly ways so they not only do no harm, but also help improve the environment. Fish ponds, for example, naturally attract — and provide a haven for — other wildlife that children (as well as adults) love: frogs, salamanders, song birds, etc.

Of course, all these creatures are delightful to watch and listen to. More than that, their presence offer natural ways to a healthier environment. Frogs eat algae in the water which contributes to keeping the water clean; adult toads aid in controlling insects, as do the birds the water attracts; and the koi, which are so much fun to feed, eat any mosquito larva that might develop.

 

Healthy Pond Eco-Systems:

Healthy Pond Eco-Systems:

It is essential to choose the right stones and gravel (which provide the correct ph value for fish and plants), in order to keep a pond healthy in a natural way. For this project, we also planted a beautiful Japanese maple that shades the pondscape’s bridge; bright red geraniums add a strong burst of color (bottom right of photo.)

 

 

Public Sustainable Water Feature:

Public Sustainable Water Feature:

Not all sustainable water feature projects are for private use. Deck and Patio created this stream and waterfall spot in cooperation with the Town of Huntington (Long Island) where we installed it with a paver pathway at the area train station parking lot. The pathway is made of permeable pavers by Techo-Bloc, which were put over gravel and a rubber liner, which capture and filter the path’s rainwater runoff before it reaches the underground Aquascape Inc. reservoir installed at the end of the stream.

 

 

Public Sustainable Water Feature:

Public Sustainable Water Feature:

There is enough captured water at this train station water feature to not only sustain itself, but to also irrigate all the plantings around the water feature. Plus, this eco-friendly system keeps any non-filtered rainwater from going into the Town’s sewer system and on into beautiful Huntington Bay.

 

 

Day 2016 coincides with the signing ceremony for the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Photo from WMO.

Day 2016 coincides with the signing ceremony for the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Photo from WMO.

 

This is the second of a two-part series in honor of Earth Day 2016 (April 22nd).