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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.  

 

Love Birds and Nature? How About Your Own Natural Retreat!

Ever notice how every few scrolls on Twitter, etc. will show a delightful bird, a funny squirrel, someone saving a desperate animal, a croaking frog, or lovely vistas — all squeezed in between posts of angst and politics?

Well. As helpful as these momentary breaks online are, the best break is enjoying nature close up, away from our phones. As Diane Sawyer’s Report: ‘ScreenTime’ showed a few nights ago, families are challenged today. They’re spending too much time with technology. And most, deep down, hunger for more family-time and time outdoors. 

Ms. Sawyer’s report reminded us of a very special Deck and Patio backyard natural retreat we did several years ago. The wife contacted us saying she always loved birds but hadn’t seen many in her yard in a long time. She was also hungering to see butterflies, etc. Could we come up with a plan to bring nature alive on their property?

It soon became clear they wanted something truly special. They had already contacted other companies to provide them with a backyard conservatory and charming wooden bridge. Our challenge was to ensure we incorporated these into our own landscaping design in a harmonious way.

“The multi-feature natural retreat we proposed and built included a deck to overhang a new backyard pond — in such a way so that it looks like the pond continued under the deck,” says Deck and Patio’s Dave Stockwell. “In addition to these, our plan called for two 35-foot long babbling brooks, multiple waterfalls and lush multi-seasonal landscaping.”

To make it look as if Mother Nature designed this entire retreat, adds Dave, our team chose, for example, each rock and boulder carefully to create the right “water spills.” Sometimes a rock was chosen because of its crevices allowing for planting perennials within. 

The homeowners were very involved in choosing the plants. In the end, we incorporated about 5,000 bulbs, almost 300 species of wooded plants, as well as evergreens, and about 150 varieties of perennials.

 

Creating Different Outdoor Focal Points:

Creating Different Outdoor Focal Points:

It was important to create a variety of different spaces and focal points, just like you experience in nature when you move about. In one place you sit next to the pond and observe the waterfall. Other times you’re walking through a wooded path. The lush landscape attracts a myriad of birds (and butterflies) so the sights and sounds of nature, along with the rushing water, are as relaxing an experience as is possible outdoors.

 

Waterfalls and Ponds:

Waterfalls and Ponds:

The rocks we used for the four-foot multi-tiered waterfall/pond came from farmers’ fields in New Jersey. Some weighed over three tons. Carefully placed, the scenes suggest one is trekking a natural preserve or wilderness. 

 

Dining Al Fresco at Home:

Dining Al Fresco at Home:

Whether on their new deck, or in their glass conservatory, the family enjoys dining together al fresco to the sounds of birds and croaking frogs. When lounging outside, they can take a quiet moment to feed their koi. 

 

 

Changing a Liner Pool to Gunite Is Perfect Time for Backyard Haven

Changing a liner pool to a gunite, (or a gunite to vinyl) is a bit of a job. Since there’s some tearing up going on anyway, this is a great opportunity to create the haven you’ve been desiring.

That is exactly what evolved when these Oyster Bay Cove, NY, clients approached Deck and Patio a while back.

The family wanted a change from their existing vinyl-lined pool to a gunite. But during our consultation, it became clear they wanted more than a change in pool materials. They were also unhappy with the pool’s shape/design which didn’t fit well with the architecture of their house. And despite the steep grade that limited construction in their backyard, they really wanted an overall larger pool.

To expand the size of the pool we knew we would have to extend it extremely close to the property’s sharp hillside. “This would require shoring up the slope with boulders, creating various small retaining walls to hold back the grade,” says Deck and Patio’s Dave Stockwell. “The trick was to bring in machinery and place the boulders in place before we dug the pool and area out.”

Our design team also helped create a more unified look with their contemporary home by designing the upgraded pool in a geometric pattern. “We also tracked down the same brick used on their home’s exterior,” adds Dave. 

In addition, to give the clients the natural look they wanted, we surrounded the pool with beautiful bluestone. “The shape of these stones also mimic the overall geometric design we were going for.”

Other design elements: 

— steps at the base of the retaining wall lead to a peaceful woodland path — at the end of which we hid all the pool equipment, 

— sheer descent waterfalls along the inside of the pool add extra contemporary elegance,  

—and landscape lighting created a beautiful romantic scene at night.

When the whole transformation was complete, not only was the family ecstatic, but their pet turtles seemed to love the transformation as well. With more room to swim in, they took to the new pool like, well, turtles. 

On visiting the project after its completion, the lady of the house let us put an underwater camera on one of them — and the turtles filmed what it’s like inside the pool as he swam. The pool transformation became a haven for them as well.

Here’s that precious video:

 

Geometric Gunite Pool (Oyster Bay Cove/NY):

Geometric Gunite Pool (Oyster Bay Cove/NY):

Deck and Patio remodeled an existing vinyl pool into a larger, geometric gunite, with elegant sheet falling waterfalls. The new design handsomely complements the home’s architecture.  

 

Steps to Woodland Path (Oyster Bay Cove/NY):

Steps to Woodland Path (Oyster Bay Cove/NY):

Steps faced with the same brick as used around the pool’s retaining wall, lead to a peaceful woodland path where the pool equipment has been hidden out of sight.

 

Bluestone Patio (Oyster Bay Cove/NY):

Bluestone Patio (Oyster Bay Cove/NY):

The pavers of the previous patio/pool surround had not been compacted properly and were separating. The family also wanted a more natural product. Bluestone was chosen and its hues blended nicely with that of the brick-faced retaining walls; in addition, the rectangular shapes of the stones echo the shape of the pool and house windows.

 

Sheet Falling Water Feature (Oyster Bay Cove/NY): 

Sheet Falling Water Feature (Oyster Bay Cove/NY):

 

Pool Lighting (Oyster Bay Cove/NY):

Pool Lighting (Oyster Bay Cove/NY):

It’s hard to decide which time of day presents the most beautiful picture; but nighttime has to be near the top!  

 

 

What is Involved in Creating a Backyard Oasis Landscape?

You know it when you see it, a backyard so tranquil and lovely — and beautifully designed for entertaining — that it didn’t come about without expert planning.

Of course, you’ll no doubt turn to a professional to install any pool or spa, and perhaps the deck or patio areas. But for you hardy do-it-yourselfers out there, if you want to do the landscaping yourself, for picture-perfect, and useful, outdoor living spaces, here’s a few tips.

It is key to learn which plantings work well together, their bloom periods, those that thrive in full or partial shade, as well as plantings that will need the least care.

In addition, a beautiful backyard retreat can require selectively removing what is already there: trees and shrubs, as well as undesirable rocks and boulders that may be in the way. It’s also important to learn what is needed to nourish your particular property’s soil.

When it comes to soil nutrients, there are several places you can go for information, such as the Cornell Cooperative Extension in your area, where experts can guide you and sometimes even help analyze the soil.

As for the landscape design plan, take into consideration your home’s architecture as well as your style preferences.

“It’s also key to pay close attention to your property grades,” adds Dave Stockwell, owner of Deck and Patio. “We plan so that the landscape will flourish and last for years. Our designs include a layering technique that offers privacy on the periphery and vibrancy where it will be best enjoyed.”

Dave adds that another trademark of great design is the careful combining of ‘softscape’ with ‘hardscape.’ “Careful placement of moss rock will also add to the dimension and texture and a natural appearance.”

 

Landscaping Techniques:

Landscaping Techniques:

Because this property was open on three sides with three homes in full view, we added Skip Laurels, Leyland Cypress, and Cedars on the periphery to create a natural privacy screen. Texture and color were brought in to the buffering divider by incorporating flowering deciduous shrubs.

 

 

Landscaping Techniques:

Landscaping Techniques:

For the same project above, Deck and Patio’s Marc Wiener incorporated creeping evergreen ground covers that cascade and wind over and between the rocks we used. His selection of plants provide color from April through October; the whole design flows beautifully into the back property.

 

 

Year Long Garden Color:

Year Long Garden Color:

Sandra Vutaggio, Horticulture Consultant at the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Riverhead, NY says that there are many plant choices that will provide either bark interest, colorful berries/seedheads late-season. The beautiful purple berries of the Callicarpa plant pictured here, for example, begin in fall and last through winter. Photo: Missouri Botanical Garden

 

 

Crepe Myrtle Trees:

Crepe Myrtle Trees:

The Crepe Myrtle thrives on Long Island and the northeast. It’s offers delicate clusters of pink blossoms in late spring (shown behind waterfall); in fall, it shows bright red-orange leaves, and in winter it has interesting bark.

 

 

Purple Allium Sphaerocephalon:

Purple Allium Sphaerocephalon:

These beautiful purple flowers (seen in the foreground) are planted in the fall and are one of the many plantings that offer robust color in the summer outdoor season and thrive nicely on Long Island and in the northeast. Deck and Patio’s Marc Wiener chose them for this design plan for their height as well as their lovely color contrast.

 

 

Landscaping: How the Experts Do It

This is Part II of our two-part feature on professional landscaping.

 

“The design, construction and preserving of the natural environment takes on many facets. For luxurious outdoor living, these components need to be thought through thoroughly during the design phase,” explains Marc Wiener, director of design and sales at Deck and Patio.

With a degree in landscape architecture, Wiener knows of what he speaks. His education has given him an abundance of knowledge of plant material — the basis of such expert designs.

“We’re talking about an in-depth knowledge of how plants will grow, sequentially bloom and react to soil conditions, solar exposure, irrigation, etc,” says Marc. “To accomplish the best results, moss rock and pavers will also be built into the design. It becomes imperative, then, to soften the impact of these massive structures by scalloping plants into the hillside etc. — in a wide variety of colorful perennial, deciduous and evergreen plant material — for year round impact.”

For the first project we’re showcasing today, Marc says that even after the pool is closed for the season, it’s nice to see an impact during the winter months and he planned it that way.

Wiener used a unique combination of tumbled pavers, natural rock steps, Long Island boulders and retaining wall systems to help create a supple transition from the house, pool and spa patios, and captured the similarities in the earth tones throughout.

 

Landscaping Experts:

Landscaping Experts:

Beautiful results like this require a hands-on approach to grasp every aspect of the site’s characteristics, architecture, building codes, its impact to the surrounding environment and to be able to incorporate a client’s wish list into the design. It’s a culmination of these factors that separate a good design from an award-winning design as was achieved here, says Marc Wiener.

 

Professional Landscape Design:

Professional Landscape Design:

“To design and build this 22’ x 42’ freeform pool and raised spa, with waterfalls nestled into a 20-foot hillside, and to incorporate multiple patios at different elevations with landscaping, required more than just lines on paper,” says Wiener.

 

Second Project

Here, the landscape design was by Bill Renter, Deck and Patio’s Outdoor Living Expert and Marc Wiener. Their achievement garnered us a gold medal from the Association of Pool and Spa Professionals (APSP).

In addition to professional recognition, our work also amazed the clients, because their yard’s beautiful and nature-friendly transformation had been accomplished so quickly.

“I have lived here over 40 years,” says the wife. “Our property had become overgrown. It wasn’t messy but it wasn’t well done anymore. I have always loved birds and flowers and a very natural setting. And we hadn’t seen birds in a long time.

“A full-time bloom was important, as I wanted to attract, in addition to birds, lots of butterflies,” she says. “I also looked at many ponds that other landscapers had done elsewhere. In the end, I felt Deck and Patio’s work looked the most natural, which was extremely important to me.”

 

Landscaping in Harmony with its Surroundings:

Landscaping in Harmony with its Surroundings:

Renter says he also considered how our work would fit with the additional elements the homeowners had hired other companies to do, such as a conservatory and a small bridge — while always taking into account how everything would appear in nature.

 

Using Rocks and Boulders in the Landscape:

Using Rocks and Boulders in the Landscape:

The rocks used in this inspired pond installation – some of which weigh over three tons — were imported from farmers’ fields in New Jersey, says Renter. Each rock was hand picked for its particular use, sometimes for their ideal crevices in which garden perennials could be planted.

 

Beautiful Landscaping:

Beautiful Landscaping:

According to Wiener, The Deck and Patio Co. planted over 4,000 bulbs, 300 species of deciduous woody plants, evergreens, and perennials, including 150 different varieties of these species.

“The layout of the project detailed different settings and focal points,” says Wiener. “In some cases you are sitting next to a pond observing a waterfall; in other cases you’re walking through a woodland path.”

 

 

Professional Landscaping: There’s a Reason You Struggle On Your Own

This is Part I of a two-part feature on professional landscaping

 

There are yards that are so beautiful — so relaxing and inviting — you can’t help but want one yourself. However, to create such an inviting space that can accommodate entertaining for both large and small parties, and which is also a haven where you can relax and meditate, takes professional expertise.

Why Professional Expertise?

In creating idyllic landscapes, professionals know which plantings work well together, their bloom periods, which will thrive in full or partial sun and shade, as well as which ones need the least care.

In addition, professionals have the equipment needed to properly remove trees and shrubs, till soil, and remove rocks or boulders that are in the way. They understand soil, and what is needed to nourish a particular property’s soil. They are also expert at conceiving a well-thought out design.

Spectacular Landscape Design

Beyond even the above basics, firms like Deck and Patio specialize in arranging plants, shrubs, and trees in a manner that makes every detail look like Mother Nature’s own creation.

“In our design plans, we also take into consideration a home’s architecture and the clients’ style preferences, as well as property grades,” adds Bill Renter, Deck and Patio’s Outdoor Living Expert. “We plan so that the landscape will flourish and last for years. Our designs also apply a layering technique for privacy on the periphery, and vibrancy where it will be best enjoyed.”

Another trademark of spectacular design is the artful combination of ‘softscape’ (or ‘landscape’) with ‘hardscape.’ Our use of moss rock, which has contributed to our firm’s many awards, adds dimension and texture while creating a natural appearance.

Below are a few examples of our team’s expertise. For the first project, which included an in-ground spa, to finish the surrounding landscape with a star quality, Deck and Patio’s Marc Wiener, ASLA landscaper designer, carefully selected the proper plantings to perfect a design.

 

Landscaping Privacy:

Landscaping Privacy:

This property was open on three sides and in full view of four homes. Skip Laurels, Leyland Cypress, and Cedars were used to create an attractive privacy screen. Texture and color were brought in to the buffering divider by incorporating flowering deciduous shrubs.

 

 

 Landscaping Long Bloom Periods:

Landscaping Long Bloom Periods:

For this same project, Marc Wiener also incorporated creeping evergreen ground covers that cascade and wind over and between the rocks we used. His expert selection of plants provides color from April through October; the whole design flows beautifully into the back property.

 

 

Landscaping for Visual Impact:

Landscaping for Visual Impact:

In order to preserve the surrounding landscape for this second project, instead of clear-cutting the half-acre property, the home was built among mature oaks, maples and pines. When doing the landscaping, space for a pool and spa was left. It was essential to plan in such a way so that any construction of the pool etc. would not disturb existing work.

 

 

Adding Water Features to Existing Landscaping:

Adding Water Features to Existing Landscaping:

Indeed, Marc Wiener successfully incorporate water features into the existing landscape. When considering color and texture he applied his extensive expertise on how plant material will eventually grow. Here we see low-lying evergreens and ground cover perennials in and around the stream and rock outcroppings which soften the large boulders, which he says would “otherwise stand out and detract from the overall intent of looking ‘natural.’”

Larger flowering plantings were installed behind the water feature to provide accenting and screening. On lower portions of the slope, the water feature was planted with flowers for cutting and small beds for annuals so the client could interact with the stream garden throughout the season.

Look for us again next week for our part two on professional landscaping!