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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. 

 

 

Garden Color for Fall and Winter — a ‘Berry’ Good Thing

Around this time last year, our blog highlighted some great ideas for fall/winter garden color in the Northeast. Now that our evenings once again have a chill in the air, we thought it the perfect time to update that information.

unspecified The previous blog included a fairly comprehensive list of what would “lift winter doldrums with outdoor color and texture” — information that we put together with the help of Sandra Vultaggio, Horticulture Consultant at the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Riverhead, NY.

Red Twig Dogwood

Working with her again, we’re updating the list by highlighting different species of shrubs and have even included a new beauty not on last year’s list at all — the glorious Red Twig Dogwood.

“The Red Twig Dogwood boasts bright red branches that make a very attractive landscape shrub in  winter,” says Vultaggio. “You can cut twigs from the bush to add décor in the home — creating centerpieces and wreathes, etc.”

Chokeberry

Another gorgeous shrub that was actually on last year’s list under “Berries and Seedheads,” but not highlighted with a photo and further info, is the stunning Chokeberry. We also think that it deserves to appear under the list’s heading “Late Season Foliage” because of its lovely red fall foliage.

Plus, during spring, the Chokeberry offers up delightful light pink flowers. Of course, we’re really highlighting it because in winter it provides dramatic color through its berries.

“Chokeberry Aronia melanocarpa is native to the northeast,” adds Vultaggio, “so it is a great choice for gardeners looking to plant natives. It also is a host plant to the Coral Hairstreak butterfly, in addition to it’s winter berries providing food for wildlife.”

Winterberry Holly

Another beauty we are highlighting this year is Winterberry Holly, Ilex verticillata, which happens to be one of Vultaggio’s favorites.

“Also a native, its bright red fruit is eaten by more than 48 species of birds. It is also a good choice for a shaded site,” she says.

 

Red Twig Dogwood:

Red Twig Dogwood:

Making our list for the first time, this bush has a reputation for attracting bluebirds along with other birds and butterflies. It grows as both a perennial and as an ornamental, and will be most enjoyable after about 3 years. Note that it likes partial sun and lots of water so it’s great around water gardens — something Deck and Patio specializes in (ahem), so, naturally, it’s a favorite of ours.

 

Chokeberry Aronia melanocarpa:

Chokeberry Aronia melanocarpa:

The beautiful chokeberry requires only medium moisture with full sun to partial shade. And don’t forget its stunning fall foliage.

 

Winterberry:

Winterberry:

This dramatic and colorful bush is from a species of the deciduous holly family and is native to the Northeast. A slow grower, it loses its leaves each autumn. And, birds love the berries…what more need be said.

 

Callicarpa:

Callicarpa:

In last year’s blog we highlighted the beautiful purple berries of the Callicarpa. They begin in fall and last through winter. Photo: Missouri Botanical Garden

 

Skimmia:

Skimmia:

As we wrote last year, “these evergreen shrubs sport bright green leaves and, in spring, bring vibrant white flowers; in fall, they offer up crimson red fruits (berries) that last all through winter and are especially fine in December,” says Vultaggio. “They make great Christmas, holiday, or Thanksgiving hostess gifts “as they are slow growers that are ideal starting out in pots and containers.”  Photo Credit: Musical Linguist at the English language Wikipedia

 

 

Fall/Winter Garden Color for Long Island and the Northeast

 

Did you know that even during winter northeastern gardens can be full of color and interest? Have you spied any of the gorgeous berries blossoming right now around Long Island?

For example, Callicarpa bodinieri, aka “Beautyberry,”  is one of Mother Nature’s delights that thrive locally and is offering lovely color right now (see large feature image above). This ‘beauty’ not only makes a sublime colorful statement in fall, but the berries remain through winter.

To obtain a comprehensive list of what will lift winter doldrums with outdoor color and texture, Deck and Patio spoke with Sandra Vutaggio, Horticulture Consultant at the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Riverhead, NY. She shared a substantial list of choices that will provide either bark interest, colorful berries/seedheads, late-season foliage, flowers or evergreen (see list below).

Some of the listed flora actually fit under multiple categories: Skimmia, for example, offers crimson-red berry interest in fall and winter, and also bright white flowers in spring.

“Deciduous plants like Oakleaf Hydrangea have late season foliage and later offer nice bark in winter,” says Vutaggio.

“All on the list grow well in the northeast, although some can be a little fussy. The Skimmia are an example of those that are a little temperamental and harder to grow. Camellias, which thrive much further south, can be marginally hardy, if planted in a good protected spot where they will get a wind break; then they’ll do fine on Long Island.”

Vutaggio adds that any winter interest in the garden should include some evergreens because they will be the backdrop to anything else that you plant.

Other Tips from Vutaggio:

For perennials — e.g., Hellebore (listed under Flowers) and Rudbeckia (under Seeds): if instead of cutting them down you leave them planted, they provide interest amid snow; the Rudbeckia will provide seed heads which will draw birds to them during winter.

You can still get perennials into the ground right now, but for the larger trees and shrubs, you should wait until early spring until the ground is workable to give them time to grow roots and adjust to your property.

Trees like the Crepe Myrtle, which offer beautiful pink spring flowers and, in fall, finish flowering when the leaves pod up into pretty berries, also provide interesting bark color in winter. More on Crepe Myrtle: http://deckandpatio.com/for-fiery-fall-foliage-are-you-barking-up-the-right-trees/

Evergreens of all shapes, sizes and variegation add winter interest. Many junipers turn a bronze/purple in the winter as well. Just google the names on the following list to discover all the wonderful options available for winter color and interest.

 

Cornell Coop Ext List jpeg

 

 

Callicarpa (or Beautyberry):

The beautiful purple berries of the Callicarpa begin in fall and last through winter. Photo: Missouri Botanical Garden

 

Crepe Myrtle:

Crepe Myrtle:

Thriving on Long Island and the northeast, the Crepe Myrtle brings delicate clusters of pink blossoms in late spring (shown behind waterfall); in fall, it offers bright red-orange leaves and in winter interesting bark. Photo: With Permission: Southern Lagniappe)

 

Skimmia:

Skimmia:

These evergreen shrubs sport bright green leaves and, in spring, bring vibrant white flowers; in fall, they offer up crimson red fruits (berries) that last all through winter and are especially fine in December. In fact, they make great Christmas or Thanksgiving hostess gifts as they are slow growers that are ideal starting out in pots and containers.  Photo Credit: Musical Linguist at the English language Wikipedia

 

 

 

Planning A Landscape For All Seasons

An undulating backyard landscape, with shrubs and trees at different heights, and berms and pitches causing changes in the property grade, make a great canvas for Mother Nature to paint on in every season.

If budget and room permits, an in-ground free-form pool can suggest a natural South Sea lagoon — which will entice you outdoors from late Spring through Autumn. Planting a few trees chosen for their fall foliage can set your yard ablaze in color come Fall. And when winter arrives, the undulating landscape, dusted with snow, is a wonderland that brings the child out in everyone.

Such vistas on their own are, indeed, lovely. BUT! Now, add in a few very special touches, such as a stream or pond with waterfalls — landscaped with an array of long-blooming plants, including some hardy evergreens — and you have scenery that will truly uplift your spirit any time of year.

At Deck and Patio, we keep our waterfalls running all winter. You need not worry about your koi either.

Even without much of the above, something that guarantees outdoor winter enjoyment is the addition of a hot tub. Used all year, especially on cool nights, or when you want to warm up after a long swim in the pool, a spa’s bubbling warm waters is especially welcome in winter.

 

Winter Landscape (Long Island, NY):

Winter Landscape (Long Island, NY):

With evergreens offering punches of color against a blanket of white, and grades in the property adding interest, this front yard looks like a fairytale in winter.

 

 

Summer Landscape (Long Island/NY):

Summer Landscape (Long Island/NY):

This is how the same front yard, pictured above, looks in summer. The stream works its way down a hill through several spills, with a final spill freshening the pond; bridge crosses over the stream for the perfect stroll through it all.

 

 

Garden Gnomes (Long Island/NY): Garden gnomes manage to make you smile no matter the season or weather.

Garden Gnomes (Long Island/NY): Garden gnomes manage to make you smile no matter the season or weather.

 

 

Hot Tubs in Winter (Long Island/NY):

Hot Tubs in Winter (Long Island/NY):

A steamy hot tub, set in this same yard, is so inviting in winter. Plus, it offers an ideal spot to sit outdoors and enjoy your backyard winter wonderland.

 

 

Enjoying Hot Tub inWinter (Long Island/NY):

Enjoying Hot Tub inWinter (Long Island/NY):

Bill and Gina Renter particularly appreciate their hot tub in winter.

 

 

Backyard Winter Pond (Long Island/NY):

Backyard Winter Pond (Long Island/NY):

This is Deck and Patio’s display pond and waterfall at our Design Center. We run this all winter long.

 

 

Summer Outdoor Paradise (Long Island/NY):

Summer Outdoor Paradise (Long Island/NY):

With an in-ground free-form pool, attractive surround, lush plantings, and waterfalls, you’ll find it hard to ever go back indoors.

 

Backyard Natural Retreat Is Splendid in all Seasons

Design/Build: Even when snow is falling, a backyard oasis can offer delightful daily escapes

 

Deck and Patio’s outdoor living expert finds that backyard natural retreats — once championed for their “staycation” potential — are becoming more and more popular for short daily escapes. Indeed, quiet moments listening to the trickle of water as birds sing offer ongoing opportunities to disconnect from technology, so sorely needed in today’s modern life. However, many do not realize that these daily escapes can be equally enjoyable in winter!

While The Koi Hibernate

If you add a backyard koi pond as part of your retreat, it no doubt will include a small cave where the koi can lay dormant during winter months. However, that does not mean you need to hide in your indoor home-cave. By including an in-ground or above-ground spa in your backyard oasis, a bubbling, steaming spa will be waiting every day to warm your cold bones, rejuvenate, and supply the ideal spot to watch and listen to winter birds at their feeders — a true winter wonderland!

 

“Winter Wonderland” Backyard Oasis:

“Winter Wonderland” Backyard Oasis:

By including an in-ground or above-ground spa in your backyard oasis, a bubbling, steaming hot tub will be waiting every day to warm your cold bones, rejuvenate, and supply an ideal spot to hear the winter birds sing from their feeders.

 

Splendid In Winter

Imagine a beautiful outdoor retreat with rushing waterfalls that frequently glistens with ice crystals as the cold months settle in. Also, picture the extraordinary sunsets and starry nights that shine through winter’s crisp, clear air — made all the more splendid by a vanishing edge, or “infinity” pool or pond, bringing vistas right up to your backdoor.

Backyard Retreat That Is Splendid In Winter:

Backyard Retreat That Is Splendid In Winter:

The clear, crisp winter air makes for extraordinary sunsets and starry nights — made all the more splendid with a vanishing edge pool or pond.

Under the stillness of one of our large multi-faceted water features (vanishing edge upper pond and lower pond, waterfalls, and a gentle stream) Deck and Patio’s outdoor living expert installed an extremely high tech and a complex natural biological filtration system that continuously maintains the feature’s crystal clear water.

 

Backyard Water Features/Natural Biological Filtration:

Backyard Water Features/Natural Biological Filtration:

An extremely high tech and complex natural biological filtration system maintains this feature’s crystal clear water.

 

Biological Filtration System

This water feature project includes three bodies of water: two ponds at two levels, and a 3,000-gallon underground storage vault of water – all kept clear and clean with “biological filtration” through the use of beneficial bacteria, plants and other filter media.

The vanishing edge upper pond is raised in front of a bluff. Water spills from it into a delightful connecting meandering stream down to the lower pond located at the side of the house.

Water is pumped from the underground vault to both ponds through variable energy efficient speed pumps. In the upper pond, water enters from its floor. In the lower, it enters through a separate bog – a natural filtering system – and continues through a waterfall into that pond.

Except for what is pumped in from below, everything works through gravity along gradations that our team created in the landscape. Every part of the water feature has a reason and purpose and works together in an ecologically friendly way.

When It’s Easy Being Green

In autumn, leaves from the trees fall into the water and are pushed along the stream where they are caught in a bed of gravel and are easy to remove, like emptying a skimmer basket in a pool. Considering the energy efficient pumps, which only ramp up when the homeowners arrive home, as well as the fact that the system harvests rain water to help sustain its underground water reserve, it’s a project to delight the heart of any green enthusiast.

Multi-Functional Water Feature:

Multi-Functional Water Feature:

Every part of this water feature (summer view) has a reason and purpose and works together in an ecologically friendly way.

 

 

By |2017-01-21T16:34:40-05:00December 12th, 2014|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Refreshing Moments Enjoying a Deck and Patio Retreat

Deck and Patio’s outdoor living expert finds that backyard natural retreats — once championed for their “staycation” potential — are becoming more and more popular for short daily escapes. Quiet moments in a hammock or deck chair — listening to the trickle of water as birds sing all around — offer ongoing opportunities to disconnect from technology, so sorely needed in today’s modern life.

One Deck and Patio project perfectly exemplifies the kind of ongoing escape people are seeking. The homeowners of this award-winning installation felt they had neglected their love of nature long enough and wanted a new backyard that was a home for wildlife and lush vegetation, a place to regularly refresh the soul and spirit.

The wife says she always loved birds and nature but hadn’t seen birds in a long time. A fully-blooming landscape was also important they felt, not only to attract birds but lots of butterflies.

Deck and Patio’s outdoor living expert proposed a multi-feature natural retreat. One special detail in the overall design is the deck actually overhangs a pond so it appears as if the pond is partially underneath the deck and continuing down the property.

 

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The deck designed and built by the Deck and Patio Company overhangs the pond.

Our outdoor living expert’s plans for this retreat also included two 35-foot babbling brooks and a four-foot multi-tiered waterfall to feed into the pond.

 

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Deck and Patio’s natural retreat included two 35-foot babbling brooks.

 

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Deck and Patio’s outdoor retreat contained a four foot multi-tiered waterfall to feed into the pond.

Our outdoor living expert also considered how Deck and Patio’s designs and installations would fit with the additional elements the homeowners had hired other companies to do, such as a conservatory and a small bridge — always taking into account how everything would appear in nature.

The streams and waterfalls look natural because Deck and Patio’s expert understands the way water moves over rock, which is what makes our waterfalls and streams look natural. Movement is determined by the type of rocks we used, thus forcing water to move multiple ways when it comes down over the waterfall.

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

 

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The deck, water features, and landscaping designed and built by Deck and Patio work harmoniously with elements done by other companies.

Every plant in this installation was approved by the homeowners, in addition to being approved by Deck and Patio’s outdoor living expert. We planted 4-5,000 bulbs, over 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. In some cases you are setting next to a pond observing a waterfall; in other cases you’re walking through a woodland path. The result is a wonderful outdoor experience. First, one is captivated by the sensational color scheme — in this case — pinks, purples, yellows and lavender.

 

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Deck and Patio’s outdoor living expert suggests taking some moments not just to smell the roses but also to feed the koi.

The layout of the project detailed different settings and focal points. In some cases you are setting next to a pond observing a waterfall; in other cases you’re walking through a woodland path. The result is a wonderful outdoor experience. First, one is captivated by the sensational color scheme — in this case — pinks, purples, yellows and lavender.

 

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Deck and Patio can create a woodland path as part of an outdoor retreat.

 

 

Deck and Patio’s outdoor living expert is available to help you plan your own special retreat. Soon you, too, can leave the cell phones, iPads, laptop, and remote controls on the kitchen table for a little while each day. Instead, enjoy heading outside with some food for the koi.