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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.

 

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: 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.

 

 

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!