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Need a Landscaping Idea for Your Backyard Slope?

A few years ago, Deck and Patio had clients whose property had an unused backyard hill area that sloped toward their house. And they asked us to think about how to best make use of it.

“At the top of the slope was a pool,” says our own Dave Stockwell. “Our idea was to take advantage of the slope by designing a stream beginning near the pool to run downward toward the house, ending in waterfalls and a koi pond. We also suggested a new patio and stepping stones as finishing touches.”

Stream Ending in Pond

Stream Ending in Pond

This Deck and Patio free-form pond and stream turned out to be a huge hit with the clients’ entire nature-loving family.

“Everyone loves feeding and watching the koi as they swim about. Because of good outdoor lighting, we even get to enjoy it all at night,” says the mother. “Plus, we can see it from inside our home and offices, too.”

The homeowners add they are particularly enchanted by the sounds of the waterfalls and the serenity everyone feels watching the fish swim. “It’s something we look forward to at the end of a long day.”

Frankly, the clients’ desire for a natural-scape in the yard helped inspire us at Deck and Patio,” owner Dave.

“Our design meandered the serene watery trail along their property’s formerly unused slope. Gravity is all that’s needed to move the water, so it’s also very energy-efficient.

The 35-foot-stream includes natural moss rock boulders and plantings, as well as river stones positioned along its banks; the stream ends where it tumbles over moss rock waterfalls into a 10’-by-15’ fish pond.

“The adjacent landscape is dotted with tall grasses like Miscanthus and evergreens such as Juniper Parsoni, giving a lush backdrop to it all,” adds Dave.

A natural setting such as this backyard project naturally attracts wildlife, which the homeowners particularly hoped would happen.

“The whole pond and stream areas attract so much delightful wildlife — like frogs and birds,” say the homeowners. “That really is one of our favorite things about having a pond.”

The Deck and Patio Company earned a Silver Award from the Northeast Spa and Pool Association (NESPA) for this project.

 

Free-form Pond and Stream:

Free-form Pond and Stream:

Deck and Patio used a flexible pond liner to create a free-form pond that would blend into the natural landscape. We planted Purple Cone flowers, Coreopsis and Spirea Anthony Waters, as well as tall grasses, and deep green ground cover. Together, the bursts of bright plant color and the sounds of moving water are soothing whether the clients are lounging by their pool, back patio or even in the house.

 

Creating Natural-looking Pondscapes:

Creating Natural-looking Pondscapes:

Having gone to “pond college” at Aquascape, Inc’s Pondemonium, Deck and Patio’s team has learned to look at a property from various viewing points — from wherever the clients will be looking at the water feature, including the house. Here we positioned an 11x 16 pond adjacent to their patio.

 

Pondscapes-Beautiful All Year Long:

Pondscapes-Beautiful All Year Long:

“Our clients found that in winter the moss rock boulders become sparkling ice sculptures so they enjoy their water feature all year-long” says Dave Stockwell. “Their backyard hill area sloped toward the house and a pool at the top of the hill. Our design allowed for the stream to begin near the pool and run toward the pond, patio, and house.”

 

Backyard Pondscape and Stream:

Backyard Pondscape and Stream:

Deck and Patio’s design called for an extended patio with bluestone stepping stones leading to the stream, natural stones to walk across it, and more bluestone on the other side up to the pool area.

 

 

 

The Healing Benefits of a Garden

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Deck and Patio Beginning a new landscaping project

Deck and Patio Beginning a new landscaping project

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

Deck and Patio completed project

Deck and Patio completed project

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

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

 

 

 

Landscaping Around a Pond:

Landscaping Around a Pond:

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

 

 

Landscaped Pathways:

Landscaped Pathways:

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

 

 

Backyard Garden with Bridge (Long Island/NY):

Backyard Garden with Bridge (Long Island/NY):

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

 

 

Beautiful Garden Rooms

Beautiful Garden Rooms:

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

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

 

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

 

Can Beautiful Landscaping Improve My Well-Being?

A few years ago, The Atlantic magazine published a news feature outlining how “natural environments refocus our attention, lessening stress and hastening healing.”

In the article, a study was referenced that was conducted by a researcher at Paoli Memorial hospital (Paoli, PA). After visiting patients recovering from the same type of surgery, she noticed that some had improved at a faster rate. Since most everything else was the same, she wondered if the faster recovery could have been related to the differences in patients’ rooms.

Sure enough. While the rooms were basically identical, some of the hospital rooms on the same recovery floor faced a brick wall, while others looked out onto a small group of deciduous trees.

As the researcher dug further, she noted interesting details in the patients’ recovery charts.

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

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

“I have always been aware of the effect a green landscape has on children, including my own,” continues Dave. “Even when they have had a bad day, like challenges at school, they pick up quickly once they get to play in a pleasant outdoor space.”

Dave also agrees with The Atlantic’s explanation as to why nature revives us.

“When you’re busy dealing with the demands of every day life, it can be exhausting. We are overwhelmed with stimuli. A peaceful surrounding calms you right down as you take in the serenity and quiet.”

Deck and Patio has a history of creating beautiful landscaping projects (including many award-winning) where families can revive themselves. Various elements are frequently involved:

  • sounds (moving water, chirping birds, croaking frogs, the rapid flaps of hummingbirds)

  • colors and textures (aquatic plants, seasonal plants, bright and soft colors, rich greenery, leafy shrubs, interesting barks, winter berries, etc.)

  • overall harmony (when things fit together in a beautiful way), including a right balance between hardscapes (patios, decks, pool surrounds, driveways, walkways) and softscapes (gardens, grass, trees, soil gradations).

 

A body of research on how landscaping can affect our well-being continues to grow, says Dave. “Studies from Stanford University, for example, are some of the many ways experts continue to explore this connection.

“It also doesn’t require a large area to create a restful contemplation-scape,” adds Dave. “When you realize that the patients in the Paoli Memorial hospital study improved just by looking at a nice group of trees, imagine the positive effects that a fuller nature-escape provides, when it’s right in your own yard and can be enjoyed every day.”

 

 

Contemporary Style Water Features:

Contemporary Style Water Features:

You can plan/design a contemplation-scape just about anywhere, and in any style you like. Where new sheet-falling waterfalls (right) flow into this backyard pool, there had been a moss rock waterfall. Adding new sleek waterfalls and bright greenery, along with the Asian touches chosen by the homeowners, Deck and Patio turned this backyard escape into a Zen-like atmosphere perfect for their tastes.

 

Serene Walking Spaces:

Serene Walking Spaces:

According to published reports (see above), serene areas are healing areas. Here, Deck and Patio created a special walking area for the homeowners when they move from one space to the next. This also allowed us to hide their pool equipment in a way that offers contemplation moments as they move around their larger backyard retreat. “However, this kind of walking space is ideal on its own,” says Dave Stockwell. “It was part of a larger project, but it doesn’t need to be.”

 

Beautiful Contemplation-Scapes:

Beautiful Contemplation-Scapes:

Deck and Patio not only built a natural pond for these homeowners, but we installed stepping stones out to a stone “island” so they could actually sit out in the middle of their pond. The whole area is surrounded with beautiful colorful plantings at the water’s edge as well as aquatic plants and grasses, not to mention beautiful waterfalls (unseen). “Here, sights, sounds and harmony all come into play,” says Dave Stockwell.

 

The Healing Benefits of a Garden:

The Healing Benefits of a Garden:

“Gardens and chocolate both have mystical qualities.” said Edward Flaherty, author of landscape stories. We couldn’t agree more! And while this garden photo isn’t of one of our own projects, Deck and Patio designs gardens with the same variations in color and texture, as well as slope gradations whenever possible. The result is a relaxing and healing place for young and old alike.

 

Landscaping: The Connection Between ‘Contemplation-Scapes’ and Well-Being

According to recent news reports, studies from Stanford University are only the latest part of an ongoing body of research “exploring the connection between nature and human well-being.”

Indeed, outdoor living experts such as our own Bill Renter at Deck and Patio — not to mention our clients — have long been aware of this connection to well-being.

“I think I always understood the relationship between inner peace and the harmony and order of the natural world,” says Bill Renter. “Since a very young age, I have been inspired by how Mother Nature creates and how this beauty relaxes me. For example, as an avid outdoor enthusiast — mountain-biking, skiing, nature walks etc. — I’ve always gotten my best ideas when outdoors in beautiful surroundings.”

In his book, “Landscape as Spirit: Creating a Contemplative Garden,” landscape architect Martin Hakubai Mosko echoes Bill’s sentiments. He writes: “Inner harmony is expressed as outer beauty” and his various projects, although different in style, are “a reflection of the mind of clarity and calm.”

Bill adds that almost all his design work includes a ‘contemplation-scape’ aspect to it. This involves creating landscaping vistas or focal points that look like Mother Nature created them.

“Bringing the natural world to people’s homes through beautiful ponds, streams and waterfalls, including pools with waterfalls, all surrounded by lush landscaping, does contribute to well-being. Indeed, we strive to create harmony in a simple small patio or deck. The idea is always to create a space that inspires, uplifts, and rejuvenates — no matter the size.”

The first project we’re showcasing today was a property upgrade for a special pair of Dix Hills, Long Island clients. Here, Deck and Patio helped them create a variety of ‘contemplation-scapes’:

 

Backyard Pondless Waterfall:

Backyard Pondless Waterfall:

A pondless waterfall alongside the deck and pool area creates a luxurious and soothing highlight. River stones, moss rock, and plenty of green ground cover add to its natural appeal. Positioned between the driveway and upper patio, it acts as the first stage of a broader ‘contemplation-scape’ that culminates in the upper patio and pool area.

 

 

Fountain-style Water Feature:

Fountain-style Water Feature:

Above the pondless waterfall, where once stood a moss rock waterfall, now stands a sophisticated and elegant fountain-style water feature with three-spilling sheets of water. The pool area’s contemporary design, with Asian influences and sounds from the waterfalls — tied together with lush colorful perennials throughout — inspire restful contemplation before and after swimming.

 

 

Walking Quiet Spaces:

Walking Quiet Spaces:

As was indicated in the Stanford study mentioned above, walking in natural surroundings has a healing effect. For this project, as part of a larger backyard retreat, and to provide contemplation moments even when walking from space to space, we took advantage of the need to hide their pool equipment by making this walkthrough private woodland path.

 

Small ‘Contemplative’ Patio:

Small ‘Contemplative’ Patio:

We used Techo-Bloc pavers to make this idyllic small patio sitting area next to a water feature. It’s a great spot to read or just listen to nature and let the movement of water and natural surroundings uplift you.

 

 

Man-made Natural Pond:

Man-made Natural Pond:

These clients asked us to put smaller stepping stones out to a larger stone island — in the middle of the man-made natural pond we created for them. The irregular stepping stones hail back to ancient Japanese gardens. Because nature doesn’t create beauty through strict symmetry, but much more organically, such irregularity was an element of their ‘contemplative world.’ Stepping stones also serve to draw you in as they lead to a special focal spot. Here, two Adirondack chairs were positioned for periods of contemplation, while enjoying the pond and feeding the koi.

 

 

Backyard Contemplation-Scape:

Backyard Contemplation-Scape:

Here a gentle stream is coaxed over rocks into several waterfalls. Lily pads wait on croaking frogs to rest on them. Ornamental grasses wave in the breeze, and flowering perennials add color and charm — a perfect spot for calm thoughts and relaxation.