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Earth Day 2019: Protecting Earth’s Species

“In nature, nothing exists alone.”
— Rachel Carson, 1962

 

Butterfly

Butterfly

From whales to elephants, coral reefs to pollinators, this year’s Earth Day (Monday, April 22) will be focused on protecting the earth’s species. And while not everyone is quite prepared to, say,  set up bee hives in their yards, there is a pollinator almost everyone does want to attract and protect — the butterfly.

“We’re frequently asked by our clients to create settings that will attract these beautiful insects,” says Dave Stockwell. And we’re not the only ones. Local nurseries have seen a large spike in purchases in recent years of pollinator-friendly plants. 

Whether or not you are a gardener yourself or prefer using a landscaper (we can recommend one, should you need it (smile), creating butterfly-friendly areas in your yard is a very easy way to do your part In the Earth Day celebrations. 

“Hummingbirds are another pollinator you will wish to attract,” adds Dave. “When attracting pollinators, you might also attract some bees, but if you plan your yard’s landscape design well, you can enjoy all these small visitors, but at a comfortable arm’s length. This is good for both you and the insects.”

Another consideration, of course, is avoiding toxic chemicals in your plant care.

“Earth-friendly lawn and plant care is very possible,” says Dave. “It not necessary to go for a fast kill of plant disease and pests. Besides, you might also hurt helpful organisms in the process. Not to mention that toxic chemicals in large amounts are also dangerous to pets and children. A more organic approach is a much healthier way to control them — and protect butterflies and other pollinators in the process while you’re at it.”

caterpillar

caterpillar

 

Let’s start with the basics.

It’s just as important that caterpillars have a safe habitat on your property as it does the full-grown insect.

Consider such herbs as Dutchman’s Pipe or Dill which not only give the larvae something to munch on but also provide protective cover.

 

Moving on to food.

Butterfly Bush (Photo: Hicks Nurseries)

Butterfly Bush (Photo: Hicks Nurseries)

Umbrells (or tubular-shaped plants) are a great example of a protective sanctuary for butterflies. It’s a great landing plant and its nectar is just what these insects love.

Also consider a variety of plantings throughout the seasons to create friendly habitats:

— in spring, plant Columbine, Bachelor Buttons, Bleeding Hearts, and Dianthus;

— in summer: there’s a large number of choices including Butterfly Weed, Butterfly Bush and Black Eyed Susan;

— in fall, consider Asters (see feature photo at top of page), Golden Rod and Sedums.

 

Special Treats for Butterflies

Butterflies Love Oranges

Butterflies Love Oranges

 

“Humans and birds aren’t the only species who love orange juice,” says Dave. “In addition to the liquid butterflies get from from leftover sprinkler droplets and morning dew, they love a bit of orange.”

One of our contacts at Hicks Nurseries in Westbury suggests that, “if you want to keep ants away from the sliced fruit, put it on a smaller dish and insert it into a larger one with water. Also, cut fresh slices into the fruit every day, he says.

 

 

“As we go about our daily work,” says Dave, “we’re happy to meet so many Long Islanders who are helping the environment, in their own quiet way. They, in fact, celebrate Earth Day, every day, by creating safe, beautiful habitats for butterflies and other pollinators.”

 

By |2019-04-11T12:23:11-05:00April 11th, 2019|Backyard Refurbishments, Creative Design, Landscaping, Living Landscapes, Outdoor Living, Plants, Updating Landscape|Comments Off on Earth Day 2019: Protecting Earth’s Species

How Do I Create a Private Outdoor Space?

As youngsters, we had our bedroom where could hide away from too much family togetherness. And you know, we still need a little space we can call our own— or, at least, use on our own. And having such a space outdoors is perhaps the best escape of all.

That’s true even if we already have a fabulous backyard. For if it wasn’t designed with a view for private time, it can be hard to find quiet: e.g., around an active barbecue, busy outdoor dining table, and especially near a pool.

First, Assess What You Have

The next time you are outdoors, take a quick survey of your property and ask: Where would I love some quiet time? If you can’t point immediately to a ready-made spot — where you sneak away to read or do yoga, perhaps — it’s not all that hard to create such a spot.

Remember that when it calls for it, your getaway can serve double-duty as a gathering place and a spot for solitude. And, no, that’s not a contradiction. If it is going to serve double-duty, all you need is a “do not disturb” sign that the family respects when it’s hanging in an agreed location.

Now for some tips and examples:

Tip # 1

Plan an attractive focal point. One of the enjoyments of an outdoor private space is being close to nature, so a water feature, special planting bed, babbling brook, butterfly garden, etc. are ideal options. These amenities will not only serve your new personal retreat, they can also be shared. A waterfall, or pretty flower bed, by definition can’t help but be enjoyed from a variety of locations in the yard.

Pondless Water Feature Focal Point:

Pondless Water Feature Focal Point:

Surrounded by lush landscape, this Deck and Patio waterfall focal point was created near the edge of an existing patio. With the addition of an attractive wood-burning stove and handsome wicker furniture it does double duty — you can escape there for some quiet, or enjoy it with friends. The pre-existing patio foundation is handsome Techo-Bloc (Elena in Earth Brown)

 

Tip # 2 

Create a foundation for a getaway. It can be very easy to extend an existing patio or deck, or add an entirely new area that will offer comfort and permanence underfoot.

Small Patio For Reading or Writing: 

Small Patio For Reading or Writing:

Techo-Bloc pavers were used to make this idyllic small patio sitting area next to the water feature. It’s a great spot to read, while sitting next to a trickling stream and the sounds of waterfalls. Note: The Techo-Bloc patio pavers were engineered in Canada, and they can well handle the freeze/thaw that occurs in our corner of the Northeast.

 

Tip # 3 

Consider your comfort. A few outdoor features such as comfy seating and shade are important. For seating, you might want a footstool (or a way to put your feet up), and a headrest; if you like movement, you might want a rocker or even a swing. If there isn’t a shade tree, outdoor umbrellas, a pergola, trellis, etc. will do the trick.

Your Own Private Space:

Your Own Private Space:

If you are planning a whole new patio, this is a great opportunity to plan ahead for that private space. Choosing a multi-level patio design like this Deck and Patio project makes delineating a private get-away space easy. Here, there’s a charming water feature flowing over moss rock covered in lush green ground cover; tall trees create privacy in the background; it’s snug and well away from other patio areas designed for sunning or sitting near the pool.

 

Tip # 4 

Think both ‘night’ and ‘day.” There’ll be times during the day when you’ll want to sneak away and perhaps read a book, or just listen to birds (and for that you might want to have a bird house or water fountain near your spot); other times you’ll be taking some ‘me’ time after sunset, so a fire pit or campfire will add warmth on cool evenings and offer pleasant lighting when it gets it’s dark.

Customized Gas Campfire:

Customized Gas Campfire:

This is a pleasant example of a space that is great for guests and family as well as for quiet private time. In addition to a beautiful pool with spillover spa and natural-looking waterfalls, the homeowners had room to add an expansive patio with several areas designed for different uses. For their inviting seating area, they wanted a gas fire pit surrounded with natural rock that complemented the look of their pool’s waterfalls. It’s perfect in the evenings, too. 

 

 

Earth Day 2016: Attracting Butterflies to Home Gardens

 

Monarch Butterfly

Monarch Butterfly

As landscapers, Deck and Patio’s team is frequently asked by homeowners to plant flowers that will attack butterflies. Yet even we were surprised at how widespread the desire for butterfly gardens has become.

In speaking recently with our friends at Hicks Nurseries, in Westbury, we learned that they have seen a huge spike in the purchase of pollinator-friendly plants, as well as a large uptick in the size of audiences attending seminars on the subject.

“Those interested are outdoor people, who traditionally enjoyed creating gardens that brought in birds to feeders and provided opportunities to watch butterflies,” says Caldwell. “More and more, however, we’re seeing a desire to create safe havens for butterflies, as well as other pollinators, including bees and hummingbirds.”

Caldwell says the growing awareness in how pesticides has affected the pollinator populations has helped stir this awakening. “Butterflies and other animal groups are having trouble with repopulation because it is so hard for them to find pure food sources. Butterflies, for example, often use too much energy hunting for food.

“It’s also key to create a safe habitat for their caterpillars. Some herbs are ideal for that; Dill and Dutchman’s Pipe, for example, not only provide caterpillars food, but also protective cover before they turn into butterflies.”

Organic gardening and environmentally-friendly lawn care products go hand-in-hand with protecting and attracting the pollinators, Caldwell adds. Dave Stockwell, owner of Deck and Patio, agrees.

“Earth-friendly lawn and plant care is very possible,” he says. “It isn’t essential to go for a fast kill of plant disease and pests. In doing that, you might also hurt helpful organisms in the process. Heavy use of toxic chemicals are also dangerous to pets and children. It is much healthier to control them — and protect butterflies and other pollinators in the process — through a more organic approach.”

As for ideal food, tubular-shaped plants or “Umbrels” provide a wonderful sanctuary for butterflies. “These give them a landing plant filled with nectar just waiting for them,” says Caldwell. She also suggests a seasonal approach that not only provides multi-seasonal color in gardens, but extra months of safe, bountiful habitats.

“In spring, you can plant Columbine, Bachelor Buttons, Bleeding Hearts, and Dianthus, for example. In summer, there’s 30-40 plants to choose from, including Black Eyed Susan, Butterfly Weed, Butterfly Bush to name just a few. In fall, there’s Sedums, Joe Pye Weed, Asters, and Golden Rod.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Butterflies will get plenty of moisture from droplets left from sprinklers, morning dew, etc. “However, they do seem to love oranges, not only for food, but to quench their thirst,” says Caldwell. Note: To keep ants away from the fruit, put the slice on a smaller dish and insert it into a larger one with water. Also, cut fresh slices into the fruit every day.

“We were delighted to learn that so many Long Islanders are helping, in their own quiet way, to help the environment” says Dave Stockwell. “They’re celebrating Earth Day, every day, by creating safe, beautiful habitats for butterflies and other pollinators.”

 

 

Butterfly Bush (Photo: Hicks Nurseries)

Butterfly Bush (Photo: Hicks Nurseries)

As the name implies, Butterfly Bush is a great choice for attracting butterflies in the summer. “They can reach up to 6-8 feet in height,” says Caldwell. “They’re fast growing and don’t need a lot of care.”

 

 

Lavender and Butterflies:

Lavender and Butterflies:

Dave Stockwell (Deck and Patio) says that Lavender (shown here) is another plant butterflies love. “It also gives off a calming peaceful scent. There are several types of lavender that bloom at different times — so you can have its perfume from spring nearly through fall.”

 

 

Black Eyed Susans (Photo: Hicks Nurseries):

Black Eyed Susans (Photo: Hicks Nurseries):

Great for attracting butterflies, these biennials are also a haven for other pollinators like bees. Their bright yellow petals and dark centers can’t help but make you smile.

 

 

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

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

This is the first of a two-part series in honor of Earth Day 2016 (April 22nd). Next week, our blog will cover sustainable water features and rainwater harvesting. 

 

 

 

Outdoor Living: 5 Tips for Creating Your ‘Quiet Place’

 

As youngsters, we had our bedroom. There, we could hide away from the dictates of too much family togetherness. As adults, we still need a little space we can call our own or, at least, use on our own. Having that quiet nook, and having it outdoors, is perhaps the best escape of all.

However, even when we have a fabulous backyard, fully loaded with amenities, such an escape can still be illusive. It’s hard to find quiet around an always active barbecue and outdoor dining table, or even near a pool that’s frequently being used.

How then do you carve out your own private place?

The next time you are outdoors, take a quick survey of your property and ask: Where would I love some quiet time? If you can’t point immediately to a ready-made spot — where you sneak away to read or do yoga, perhaps — it’s not all that hard to make one.

First, there’s no rule that says, when it calls for it, your getaway can’t serve double-duty as a gathering place when it’s not being used as a place for solitude. And, no, that’s not a contradiction. If it is going to serve double-duty, all you need is a “do not disturb” sign that the family respects when it’s hanging in an agreed spot.

Now for some tips:

Tip # 1

Plan an attractive focal point. One of the enjoyments of an outdoor private space is being close to nature, so a water feature, special planting bed, babbling brook, butterfly garden, etc. are ideal options. These amenities will not only serve your new personal retreat, they can also be shared. A waterfall, or pretty flower bed, by definition can’t help but be enjoyed from a variety of locations in the yard.

Tip # 2

Create a foundation. It can be very easy to extend an existing patio or deck, or add an entirely new area that will offer comfort and permanence underfoot.

Tip # 3

Consider your comfort. A few outdoor features such as comfy seating and shade are important. For seating, you might want a footstool (or a way to put your feet up), and a headrest; if you like movement, you might want a rocker or even a swing. If there isn’t a shade tree, outdoor umbrellas, a pergola, trellis, etc. will do the trick.

Tip # 4

Think both ‘night’ and ‘day.” There’ll be times during the day when you’ll want to sneak away and perhaps read a book, or just listen to birds (and for that you might want to have a bird house or water fountain near your spot); other times you’ll be taking some ‘me’ time after sunset, so a fire pit or campfire will add warmth on cool evenings and offer pleasant lighting when it gets it’s dark.

Tip # 5

Ready-to-Go Basket: Having a private-time-basket that’s always at the ready is a great idea, too. It can be stocked with one or two aromatherapy candles, a favorite cushion, a throw rug for a little spontaneous yoga, ingredients (glass/soda) for your favorite drink, including a corkscrew if it happens to be wine.

 

Here’s some examples of retreat-areas we’ve created for clients:

 

Pondless Water Feature Focal Point:

Pondless Water Feature Focal Point:

Surrounded by lush landscape, this ideal waterfall-focal point was created near the edge of an existing patio. With the addition of an attractive wood-burning stove and handsome wicker furniture it does double duty — you can escape there for some quiet, or enjoy it with friends.

For the landscaping – a layering effect was used; in the background, several Norway Spruce provide privacy; a colorful Japanese Maple holds court behind the upper waterfall with the complementing perennial ornamental grass (Japanese Blood Grass) standing tall nearby;  the pre-existing foundation is handsome Techo-Bloc (Elena in Earth Brown).

 

 

Flexible Private Escape:

Flexible Private Escape:

If you have the basics already in place, such as an attractive, well-laid patio or deck with large trees and shrubs on the periphery, simple container gardening allows you to create a flexible quiet spot — on the spot. If the containers are not too large, they can be moved at a moment’s notice. In this case, Deck and Patio’s clients also have an easy-to-move barbecue, and easy-living, yet elegant, outdoor furniture. An intimate spot away from the pool and main patio, it is also perfect for intimate dining.

 

 

Your Own Private Space:

Your Own Private Space:

If you are planning a whole new patio, this is a great opportunity to plan ahead for that private space. Choosing a multi-level patio design, it made delineating a private get-away space easy. For it, there’s a charming water feature flowing over moss rock covered in lush green ground cover; tall trees create privacy in the background; it’s snug and well away from other patio areas designed for sunning or sitting near the pool.

 

 

Quiet Walking Spaces:

Quiet Walking Spaces:

Sometimes all you need are a few quiet moments in the yard. For these clients, we took advantage of the need to create a place to hide their pool equipment, and made a walkthrough private woodland path. The clients can enjoy quiet moments of contemplation when strolling from one area of the backyard retreat to another.

 

 

Small Patio For Reading or Writing:

Small Patio For Reading or Writing:

Techo-Bloc pavers were used to make this idyllic small patio sitting area next to the water feature. It’s a great spot to read, while sitting next to a trickling stream and the sounds of waterfalls. Note: The Techo-Bloc patio pavers were engineered in Canada, and they can well handle the freeze/thaw that occurs in our corner of the Northeast.