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Stepping Stones Turn Footpaths into Contemplation Spaces

Stepping stones are most often used as a way of letting some “softscape” such as grass shine through while still providing some “hardscape” in heavily traffic areas.

But is that all that stepping stones do? “We think not,” says Dave Stockwell, owner of Deck and Patio. “While they are very serviceable, they can also contribute to the serenity of a space. They can be a key element of creating ‘contemplation’ spaces.”

Today our blog is showcasing a sampling of stepping stone paths that we have created for clients — ranging from the very practical to the Zen-like in impact.

 

 

 

These clients, for example, wanted a footpath leading to their tool shed. But they had a small backyard. And we were already installing extensive multi-level paver patios. So it wasn’t surprising they didn’t want more solid brick hardscape on the opposite side of the pool.

Instead, the bluestone stepping stones they opted for allowed for greenery to show through. Along with attractive plantings on either side of the pathway, the journey to their shed offers an uplifting experience that’s not just about the tasks at hand.

 

 

 

 

 

Stepping Stones and Ponds

Not all stepping stones are flat bluestone slabs. The Japanese introduced Zen garden landscape techniques centuries ago, inspiring the world to place larger stones as stepping stones across ponds and water features.

“The clients’ desire for a natural-scape in this yard helped inspire us,” says owner Dave Stockwell.

First: We installed regular flat bluestone stepping stones leading up to a flowing stream water feature we were doing. Then: Larger natural stones were added to walk across it. More flat bluestone was positioned on the other side as a walkway up to the clients’ pool area. Finally, we also added moss rock in various places which adds color and texture.

“Our clients even enjoy it in winter when the moss rock boulders become sparkling ice sculptures,” adds Dave.

 

 

Speaking of larger natural stones, have you ever considered adding a stone “island” in a pond where you can picnic?

When Deck and patio built this lovely water feature, comprising of two separate ponds next to each other, there was room in the larger pond (shown here) to add a sizable stone island.

With smooth natural stones leading to it, the homeowners have a true Zen experience walking across the still pond to their own private island.

The clients placed two Adirondack chairs on the island giving them an escape for extended moments of contemplation. Plus, the wide arms of these chairs allow room for a small lunch and cool drink while they listen to birds and watch koi swim. Surrounded by robust bright plantings, including gorgeous aquatic plants, it’s a delightful escape.

 

 

 

 

A deck can be part of the pond/stepping stone contemplation space, too. This Deck and Patio deck was designed with a viewing platform to enjoy the new pond with waterfalls and beautiful landscaping.

At the bottom of a set of stairs, we placed the first of several large  stepping stones leading out from the deck. The stones offer a Zen-like walk across the pond to other viewing areas of the multi-faceted water feature.

 

 

 

 

 

So far we’ve explored stepping stones across ponds, one path leading to a utility shed, and (below) you’ll see stepping stones to a swimming pool.

But here the bluestone stepping stones we added lead past cascading waterfalls, including a dramatic 7’-high waterfall.

“This is a very special experience for the clients,” says Dave Stockwell. “Usually waterfalls drop into a pond and you can’t walk close to them. But these do not fall into a pond, but pass through river tock int a ‘pondless’ reservoir instead.”

In the underground Aquascape Inc. reservoir, the water is filtered and then recirculated so it operates as a self-sustaining system that remains clean and clear. The different rocks used here include river rock, moss rock, spill rocks and, of course, bluestone stepping stones. They all contribute to a footpath experience one might only hope to get on a mountain trek.

 

 

 

 

 

We placed these bluestone stepping stones so they almost skim across the backyard sod. The path connects the clients’ pool patio to a Trex deck and second Cambridge patio located near the house.

This area is also home to a new outdoor kitchen area, complete with barbecue and refrigerator.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How’s this for one last example of the serenity that comes from simply adding bluestone stepping stones.

The stones make a special walking area for the homeowners as they move around their larger backyard retreat.

“While this kind of space is ideal on its own,” says Dave Stockwell, “the idea came to us when we were looking for a creative way to hide their new swimming pool equipment.

“We decided to create this wilderness area with plantings etc. in a way that offered contemplation moments while at the same time finding a creative way to hide their pool equipment.”

 

 

 

 

Backyard Makeovers: No Need to Break the Bank

Transforming a backyard within clients’ budget

 

Project Showcase: This family wanted an entirely new makeover for their mid-1980s backyard pool and surroundings. They had big dreams for this upgrade but initial estimates from other companies were way beyond their budget. To their delight, we were able to offer creative ways to give them all they wanted for a price they could live with.

The key element to stay within budget was to keep the existing pool but upgrade it with all new plumbing, main drain, returns and skimmers, new pool equipment, and a new finish on the pool interior.

The addition of accent boulders along the backside of the updated geometric pool contributed to a warm natural pool setting. In addition, because the backyard was very overgrown and the pool couldn’t be seen from the house, the surroundings had become like two separate backyards. That had to be addressed in order to create a unified backyard retreat that was inviting, particularly when entertaining.

 

To stay within budget, we kept the existing pool but upgraded it with all new plumbing, main drain, returns and skimmers, new pool equipment, and a new finish on the pool interior.

To stay within budget, we kept the existing pool but upgraded it with all new plumbing, main drain, returns and skimmers, new pool equipment, and a new finish on the pool interior.

 

Other than the pool, everything else in the backyard was removed to make room for a new upper patio with a fire pit, hot tub/spa, barbecue, outdoor kitchen and dining area, as well as a new lower patio with custom cabana-pavilion. Connecting it all would be a spectacular multi-faceted backyard water feature.

The homeowners were also delighted that during the construction process we retained and transplanted most of their property’s original mature growth trees. They now have a beautiful pool and wonderful places to entertain, like the cabana, that are set in lush surroundings.

Our outdoor living expert retained and transplanted most of property’s original mature growth trees to create a lush setting for pool and cabana area. Resort-style mood of backyard retreat is at its romantic best at sunset.

Our outdoor living expert retained and transplanted most of property’s original mature growth trees to create a lush setting for pool and cabana area. Resort-style mood of backyard retreat is at its romantic best at sunset.

 

Pavilion floor was created by our outdoor living expert as an extension of pool area's patio pavers, creating one continuous surface.

Pavilion floor was created by our outdoor living expert as an extension of pool area’s patio pavers, creating one continuous surface.

 

 

Tying the whole project together is the backyard’s spectacular water feature which creates a natural look, in an eco-friendly way, while turning needed retaining areas into exquisite settings.

The original property’s sloping backyard needed retaining in several areas. Our team did something called “cut and fill.” This process cut into the hill and used the cut out fill in lower areas to create the level space needed for entertaining.

Fill was also needed around the backside of the pool because of the grade. However, you can’t take loose soil and put it behind a pool. It has to be compacted properly so things don’t shift and move.

At Deck and Patio, we have a terrific way of cutting costs and increasing the aesthetic value by using large moss rock boulders instead of expensive and unattractive retaining walls.

In this case, we integrated these boulders into the staircases that surround the water feature. A machine puts them in rather than needing a skilled mason. And it creates a very natural look. In addition to retaining the grade level of the sloping property, these natural moss rock boulders create the ideal surroundings for streams and waterfalls.

We have a terrific way of cutting costs and increasing the aesthetic value of graded property by using large moss rock boulders instead of expensive and unattractive retaining walls.

We have a terrific way of cutting costs and increasing the aesthetic value of graded property by using large moss rock boulders instead of expensive and unattractive retaining walls.

 

 

Indeed, it is this backyard makeover’s water feature, with multiple falls and streams, that is the heart of the transformation. The waterfall offers 360-degree viewing in the backyard, say the homeowners. They love the soothing sounds of all the water areas.

We installed one side of a waterfall to spill toward the house, just outside their backdoor. It can be enjoyed even during the months when the pool is closed down. From there, this upper-level waterfall gets split into two streams that flow downward along the property grade, into two separate waterfalls that can be enjoyed from the swimming pool area.

Collecting the water at the lower level is a pondless reservoir designed to seemingly disappear into the gravel instead of being collected. The reservoir acts as a ‘green’ maintenance-free source for the water feature that can run from March through December, 24-7. City water is not used. The water is harvested from rainfall on the roof of the house and gravity alone collects it into pipes.

Deck and Patio created the upper-patio source-waterfall to spill away from pool so it can be enjoyed from the house and upper patio including during the months when the pool area is closed down.

Deck and Patio created the upper-patio source-waterfall to spill away from pool so it can be enjoyed from the house and upper patio including during the months when the pool area is closed down.

 

 

For the new custom pavilion-pool house, the homeowners wanted it to be a gathering area around the pool that was protected and private. The finished pool-pavilion includes a shower, and a sitting area where they can watch television or entertain.

Half of the pavilion’s space is for seating and there is an outdoor flat-screen television with a ceiling fan overhead. There is also a two-level bar — one level for sitting at the bar and another set at counter height for cooking and bar-tending.

The finished pool-pavilion includes a shower, and a sitting area with an outdoor flat-screen television where they can watch television or entertain; a ceiling fan is overhead.

The finished pool-pavilion includes a shower, and a sitting area with an outdoor flat-screen television where they can watch television or entertain; a ceiling fan is overhead.

 

Bright delicate impatiens, moss rock boulders and large mature trees beautifully naturalize original geometric pool area.

Bright delicate impatiens, moss rock boulders and large mature trees beautifully naturalize original geometric pool area.

 

Natural Landscaping Design: Why You Need Moss Rock

Ever notice in old classic movies how distracting fake scenery looks outside, say, a car that actors are supposedly traveling in?

Well, that’s true in landscaping as well. Creating a serene outdoor scene that looks natural — like Mother Nature sculpted it — requires knowing what elements will make it appear genuine.

For example, whenever we design and build a new water feature or landscape wall, moss rock is always part of the design.

“Deck and Patio finds that these sandstone or flagstone rocks, with their red and brown undertones, provide the ‘mountain stream-woodsy appeal’ that is key to any natural looking water feature and surrounding landscaped garden,” says owner Dave Stockwell.

Moss grows well in shady areas, Dave adds. And along with ferns, it helps transform any backyard into a natural cool setting. “Of course, choosing the right size rocks and knowing where to position them is also key to creating a natural-looking scene.

About Moss Rock

Moss rocks are harvested from quarries nationwide; later moss is added. While the moss on the rocks do not flower, the initial planting reproduces through its tiny spores, absorbing water and nutrients through their foliage. The only requirement for healthy growth is the moist conditions derived from water features or other sources.

For our first project showcased below, Deck and Patio added tall grasses and evergreens like Juniper Parsoni, to complete the rich, lush, green backdrop to see. Coneflowers and Spirea Anthony Waterers help bring in the bright bursts of color. During winter months, the moss rock boulders themselves form breathtaking ice sculptures that extend enjoyment of the water feature.

 

Backyard Stream with Moss Rock

Backyard Stream with Moss Rock:

We designed and built this natural looking meandering watery trail and lined it with natural moss rock boulders and river stone gravel. Robust plantings along the stream also add to the natural look of it all.

 

Spill Rocks for Backyard Streams:

Spill Rocks for Backyard Streams:

Each spill rock along this second backyard stream was carefully positioned to depict the most natural water movement. The stream flows down and over a 2-foot-by-2-foot-wide moss rock waterfall and cascades into a 10-foot-by-15-foot pond. It looks like it has always been there, part of the natural environment.

 

Natural Retaining Wall with Moss Rock:

Natural Retaining Wall with Moss Rock:

Natural Retaining Wall with Moss Rock: One of our outdoor living experts was called in by the pool company to design a pool surround positioned against a steep hill. Our design plan also included a large retaining wall made of natural elements like moss rock, a stream, a beautiful waterfall, and boulder pool coping — instead of constructing a less attractive wooden retaining wall. Overall, it looks like a natural stream created by Mother Nature meandering down a woodsy hill.(See also 2nd photo below)

 

Moss Rock Creates Attractive Hot Tub Installation:

Moss Rock Creates Attractive Hot Tub Installation:

In addition (see immediate photo above), moss rock steps leading to a small blue stone patio became part of Deck and Patio’s overall design. Plus, a portable hot tub was installed on a flattened area in front of the patio.

 

How To Choose the Perfect Pond for Your Property

Whether your property is large and expansive — or no bigger than a postage stamp — most yards can accommodate some type of pond. As you’ll see from examples we’re highlighting today, ponds come in many sizes, shapes, and depths, and sometimes these water features may not be classified as ponds at all.

“When it comes to the pond’s location on the property, we recommend locating it where it can be enjoyed from a patio or deck, bedroom, or kitchen,” says Dave Stockwell, owner of Deck and Patio.”

 

Ponds, Decks, and Landscaping

Ponds, Decks, and Landscaping

This deck, for example, was designed with a viewing platform from where the clients can enjoy the pond and the robust landscaping — rich with aquatic and other plantings. Also note that we  installed large stepping stones for walking across the pond to other areas of the water feature.

“However, if the clients are hoping for a more private escape for relaxing and meditating, the ideal spot for a pond may be farther away from the house,” says Dave.

 

Ponds With Additional Waterfalls

Ponds With Additional Waterfalls

In this case (above), the homeowners wanted the best of both worlds: a glorious private pond-escape further away on the property, and an additional waterfall located near the house. Deck and Patio set the extra waterfall at the top of a slope facing the clients’ indoor kitchen.

“From inside their home the family can enjoy the sights and sounds of this waterfall. A stream on its right flows down through five separate cascades into the lower, and more private pond area — a beautiful oasis for stillness and quiet,” says Dave.

 

 

Fitting Ponds Into Tight Spaces

Fitting Ponds Into Tight Spaces

When space is at a premium (and even when it’s not), Deck and Patio can help clients find ways  to creatively add a pond. The above photo showcases a Trex deck with two handsome “platform” staircases; we installed a beautiful micro pond and waterfall in and around the staircases in what was a former planting bed. “Every time they enter or leave the house they enjoy the sounds and sights of a delightful pond,” says Dave.

 

 

Photo courtesy of Aquascape Inc.

Photo courtesy of Aquascape Inc.

 

 

When children are very young, clients often opt for a “pondless” waterfall, in lieu of a pond. With these water features river rock allows flowing water from a waterfall to seep down into the ground where a reservoir captures the water and recirculates it.

 

 

 

 

Natural Playscape with Pond

Natural Playscape with Pond

In the case of these clients, their children were not toddlers. However, they thought them still young enough that some safety precautions should be taken. So Deck and Patio designed/built their city oasis (above) with a temporary 8” shallow pond.

The pond was constructed to “grow” with them. It is actually a deeper pond with boulders that are covered with fabric and gravel which, when they are older, can be removed, exposing a full-sized pond they can stock with koi — offering an entirely different experience for more mature children.

 

Perfectly Placed Pond

Perfectly Placed Pond

Deck and Patio located this pond in view of the home’s back patio and pool area, as well as from the house. Part of what makes a pond spectacular to look at is its landscaping. This requires knowledge of not just soil and sun but how each planting is affected by water and moisture. Here (above) we included Cone flowers, Spirea Anthony Waters and Coreopsis for pops of bright color along with deep green ground cover and tall grasses.

 

“Whatever the size or shape of your yard, there is a perfect pond for your property,” says Dave.

 

 

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.

 

Backyard Water Features Are Magical in Winter

We had a little snow this week on Long Island, and a cold snap is definitely trying to take hold. So, we thought it the perfect time to rerun a blog we posted last December on how winter turns backyard water features into something magical.

Yesterday, we also shared a great post on Facebook from Aquascape Inc. that suggested a great Christmas present: outdoor lighting for your pond or water feature. Outdoor lighting does, indeed, turn night into magic any time of year, not just winter.

Enjoy!

In a previous blog, we showcased Aquascape Inc.’s Fountainscapes as a great way to experience a water feature in your yard without committing to a larger pond or waterfall system.

You might be wondering, why bring this up now, when winter is about to set in? Actually winter is the point. This blog focuses on just how beautiful water features — of any size — are during winter.

In fact, when the temperature drops, flowing water can turn into art as it crystalizes.

Take for example, the waterfalls we created a few years back on Long Island (NY) as part of a double-pond, stream and multiple-waterfall feature. When months later we stopped by during a strong cold snap, we couldn’t resist taking a photo of the sparkling water falls as they crystalized (first photo below).

In order to give you a fuller picture of the winter beauty that can be part of a water feature, we also posted below four glorious fountains capes operating in winter.

 

 

Water Features in Winter: (Long Island/NY) - During a prolonged cold snap, ice forms on the natural stone boulders of this water feature; the water falling over the stones crystalizes into glistening flowing threads — an exquisite sight!

Water Features in Winter: (Long Island/NY) – During a prolonged cold snap, ice forms on the natural stone boulders of this water feature; the water falling over the stones crystalizes into glistening flowing threads — an exquisite sight!

 

 

Fountainscapes in Winter: This fountainscape is part of a fountain/miniature pond feature that is arguably even more delightful in winter months than in summer. Note how the small stream of water has become a jeweled thread of ice.

Fountainscapes in Winter: This fountainscape is part of a fountain/miniature pond feature that is arguably even more delightful in winter months than in summer. Note how the small stream of water has become a jeweled thread of ice.

 

 

 

Commercial Fountainscapes

 

 

Fountains are not just for backyards. No sir, they are a wonderful indulgence at business offices as well — and as you can see from this winter scene,  clearly a year-round uplift for management and staff.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winterizing Waterscapes: If you do not want the water to freeze, you can choose to winterize your water gardens/waterscapes by running them with heat, which will melt the ice dams. But that is not necessary and might you miss some gorgeous winter scenes.

Winterizing Waterscapes: If you do not want the water to freeze, you can choose to winterize your water gardens/waterscapes by running them with heat, which will melt the ice dams. But that is not necessary and you might miss some gorgeous winter scenes.

 

 

 

Winter Backyard Pond (Long Island/NY):

Winter Backyard Pond (Long Island/NY):

This was actually a pond that we had just built but had not started up. It was crushed with snow from the Northeast Blizzard of 2013. You can see the boulder stepping stones and Moss Rock Island in the middle of the pond. The deck and Bullfrog Spa were completely covered by snow in the shot under the pergola. Despite the storm completely covering the water feature, we think the pond was as beautiful a picture as it was come spring.

 

 

Fountainscapes: Of course, winter isn’t the only time of year you’ll appreciate a water feature; even a simple fountain will provide the delightful sound of moving water and a picturesque setting.

Fountainscapes: Of course, winter isn’t the only time of year you’ll appreciate a water feature; even a simple fountain will provide the delightful sound of moving water and a picturesque setting.

 

 

Destination Swimming Pool: Deck and Patio Design/Builds Backyard Oasis

 

Have you ever fretted that your property has too many challenges for a backyard oasis? Well, the fact is, few properties have an ideal landscape for this. Some are small, others have severe slope problems, still others are limited by local code setback restrictions, or all of the above.

Cool refreshing lemonade

Cool refreshing lemonade

What frequently delights our clients, however, is discovering how drawbacks can bring out creative answers that turn proverbial lemons into cool, refreshing oasis-lemonade. This Dix Hills, Long Island, project is a perfect example.

The homeowners wanted a pool, and because of  the sloping topography, they knew any pool would have to be a “destination” pool — or a pool area that, because it is a distance from the house, includes convenient amenities such as an outdoor kitchen, bathroom, living room area, changing room, etc.

Before photo of new destination pool oasis

Before photo of new destination pool oasis

On looking over the property, Deck and Patio’s Bill Renter took a glance up the sloping hill from the proposed pool area and immediately realized the hill offered the potential for creating something spectacular. The slope was the perfect terrain for a meandering stream cascading down into a new koi pond beside the pool. This would turn the destination swimming pool area into a destination oasis.

There was, however, one large concern. It would be a real loss if such a delightful feature as a stream and waterfall couldn’t be enjoyed up the hill from the patio near the house. Would they have to be down at the pool to enjoy it?

The solution was to add an additional waterfall at the top of the slope that faced the house-kitchen area. That way, they could see a waterfall, as well as the beginning of the stream. And just beyond that vantage point, the stream would take an abrupt U-turn, and flow down through five separate cascades, before ending in the lower area pond.

 

Destination Pools:

Destination Pools:

Because of the topography, the pool was located far from the house, down a steep grade. We added beautiful creeping ground cover and natural boulders, so that even the property’s challenging raised grades were turned into benefits. Also, by installing enough retaining boulders and plant materials, Mother Nature’s own gravity coaxes water naturally over rock etc. into a pond.

 

Destination Pools:

Destination Pools:

The walk from the house down to the pool is part of the oasis experience. Beautiful plantings flank on either side and an additional natural looking waterfall falling over the edge of the swimming pool draws the eye forward. Also note how comfortably large the pool surround is for entertaining as well as family time spent by the pool.

 

Backyard Water Features:

Backyard Water Features:

Our vision was to take advantage of the steep property grade to create a beautiful slope with five cascading waterfalls, moss rock boulders, evergreens, perennials and annuals, plus a series of stairs and landings to bring them down to a new lower pool area.

 

 

Picture-Perfect Waterfalls:

Picture-Perfect Waterfalls:

We ended up creating an additional waterfall at the top of the slope that faced the house-kitchen area. That way, the family could see a waterfall and the beginning of the stream; slightly beyond that vantage point, the stream takes an abrupt U-turn, and flows down through five separate cascades, before ending in the lower area pond.

 

 

 

Ideal Landscaping Takes Planning

 

Lush beautiful landscaping that lasts and expresses those who live there is rarely random. It involves a thoughtful plan, which means that any expert professional involved needs to understand the client.

When planning a delightful outdoor landscape, it is key to consider such questions as: how do you feel about the upkeep of the space? Frequently that means choosing plants that will survive with little effort, with shade, and are generally easy to maintain.

However, to complete the right outdoor vistas, it’s not just the softscapes (or plantings) that are important. Where additional hardscaping is desired, the types of materials used need to fit the mood and tastes of those living there. It is equally important to soften around these areas with hardy plants and shrubs, along with dramatic statements like a mature Japanese maple — all of which add a soft allure to any patio, walkway, walls and steps.

Another crucial consideration is how do you want to use the space, with the size of your property – and, of course, budget –  affecting these decisions.

In the end, the ideal project begins with the right plan to express those who live there – and express them ‘beautifully.’

 

 

Hardscapes That Look Natural:

Hardscapes That Look Natural:

This beautiful walking area in the clients’ yard appears to have been designed by Mother Nature herself. Stepping stones leading to steps of natural stone  are flanked by lush plantings that include bright red “Wave Petunias” and colorful purple and yellow “Coneflowers.”

 

 

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.

 

 

Backyard Streams with Landscaping:

Backyard Streams with Landscaping:

So many clients these days want a stream with waterfalls that they can stroll or sit beside to enjoy peaceful contemplative moments. The key is to making such a delightful experience is for it to appear as if Mother Nature carved it out long ago. This means careful thought must go into the plants and rocks used along the banks.

The bright reds seen along this stream are “Wave Petunias” which are summer favorites. They are definitely easy-care as well as fast growing. Note: they are not the cascading Petunias you see growing in porch hanging baskets, but are garden favorites that spread and trail along full of flowers. The pretty bluish-purple flowers just behind them are “Russian Sage” and the robust green evergreens rolling along the banks are “Procumben Junipers.”

 

 

A Pond Monet Would Love:

A Pond Monet Would Love:

These clients wanted a stunning, natural looking expansive pond and if we say so ourselves, the finished water feature is a spot the painter Monet would appreciate. The joyous colors bobbing in the water are tropical water lilies that come in a variety of colors and are seen here in white, red and pink varieties. In choosing these plants, you’ll want to be sure they are mostly day-bloomers, but if you have good landscape lighting, and want to experience something very special once the sun goes down, include a few night bloomers in your pond.

 

 

Dramatic Curb Appeal:

Dramatic Curb Appeal:

When you want your entranceway to say “wow” like these clients did consider a hardscape in muted soft colors. Around the walkway and porch, we lavishly landscaped the area with bright eye-catching plantings. On the far left, for example, there is a blush of purple “Coneflowers” shining out from a much more expansive swath of sunny yellows of the same variety.

 

Water Gardens and Fountainscapes: Beautiful All Year Through

In a previous blog, we showcased Aquascape Inc. Fountainscapes as a great way to experience a water feature in your yard without committing to a larger pond or waterfall system.

You might be wondering, why bring this up now, when winter is about to set in? Actually winter is the point. This blog focuses on just how beautiful water features — of any size — are during winter.

In fact, when the temperature drops, flowing water can turn into art as it crystalizes.

Take for example, the waterfalls we created a few years back on Long Island (NY) as part of a double-pond, stream and multiple-waterfall feature. When months later we stopped by during a strong cold snap, we couldn’t resist taking a photo of the sparkling water falls as they crystalized (first photo below).

In order to give you a fuller picture of the winter beauty that can be part of a water feature, we also posted below three glorious fountainscapes operating in winter.

 

Water Features in Winter:

Water Features in Winter:

(Long Island/NY) – During a prolonged cold snap, ice forms on the natural stone boulders of this water feature; the water falling over the stones crystalizes into glistening flowing threads — an exquisite sight!

 

Fountainscapes in Winter:

Fountainscapes in Winter:

This fountainscape is part of a fountain/miniature pond feature that is arguably even more delightful in winter months than in summer. Note how the small stream of water has become a jeweled thread of ice.

 

Office Complex Fountainscape

Office Complex Fountainscape

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fountains are not just for backyards. No sir, they are a wonderful indulgence at business offices as well — and as you can see from this winter scene,  clearly a year-round uplift for management and staff.

 

 

 

 

Winterizing Waterscapes:

Winterizing Waterscapes:

If you do not want the water to freeze, you can choose to winterize your water gardens/waterscapes by running them with heat, which will melt the ice dams. But that is not necessary and might you miss some gorgeous winter scenes.

 

Fountainscapes:

Fountainscapes:

Of course, winter isn’t the only time of year you’ll appreciate a water feature; even a simple fountain will provide the delightful sound of moving water and a picturesque setting. Photo: Aquascape Inc. Garden Fountain

 

 

Rainwater Harvesting: Savings from a Rainy Day

Have you ever considered that one way you can save for a rainy day is by saving water from a rainy day? Depending on the municipality that supplies your water and how much water you need for irrigation, etc., capturing rainwater can significantly reduce water bills.

With over 1/2-acre of wooded gardens, these homeowners had a well that operated a sprinkler system. It maintained their vegetable garden along with their entire property’s landscape. After the well stopped working, they asked us to provide another way to irrigate it all without using city water. In addition, they wanted a playground beside a pond, with waterfalls and stream. They hoped captured rainwater would help maintain these as well.

The Rainwater Harvesting System

The system we installed provides two ways to capture all the necessary rainwater. First, water from the roof is collected and sent to an underground 1,000-gallon reservoir. Because the clients also needed a new patio, this presented the ideal opportunity to use “permeable” pavers that collect water underneath what is now a new 1,000-square-foot patio.

Challenges

The home is located in an historic area in central Brooklyn, so all changes to the property and home had to be approved by the local historical society. Also, the property sloped and we needed a series of perforated pipe and bulkhead fittings to get all of the water to flow the correct way. Lastly, the New York City location made for difficult logistics. Excavated materials going out and truck loads of new material coming in was complicated, and we heard many beeping horns.

Results

With the Aquascape RainXchange rainwater harvesting system, 100% of their irrigation water comes from what falls from the roof and onto the patio. At any given time, there is now about 1,000 gallons of water in the reservoir and about an equal amount of water underneath their permeable pavers. In addition, we installed an automatic valve; when the water gets low in their new pond, waterfalls or stream, water in the irrigation system flows in and replenishes them.

 

Installing Rainwater Harvesting Systems:

Installing Rainwater Harvesting Systems:

The site was pitched the wrong way which made it difficult to get roof water, and water from the permeable pavement, to the 1,000 gallon reservoir. There was also a large pergola with a 30-year-old-grape vine right next to the reservoir that could not be damaged. The peaceful scene of the patio and its surroundings gives no hint of the work involved and the underground systems supporting it all.

 

Capturing Roof Rainwater:

Capturing Roof Rainwater:

Four downspouts collects about three quarters of the clients’ roof runoff, which goes through containers with filters to screen out twigs and small debris before sending the rainwater down into the reservoir.

 

Permeable Pavers:

Permeable Pavers:

Voids between the pavers are filled with crushed stone; when rain passes through the pavers’ joint spaces, it flows down into an underneath layer of bluestone gravel and about an inch of crushed stone which filters the water. Under all that, a liner captures the rainwater, and it is pitched so it pushes water towards the underground reservoir.

 

Rainwater Harvesting Process:

Rainwater Harvesting Process:

Just off the patio, a bubbling rock, which aerates and cleans the water, is connected to the reservoir system and pumps the water through the gravel to clear out impurities. That pump is hooked up to a high-pressure booster pump which operates the irrigation system for the yard.

 

Backyard Waterfalls and Stream:

Backyard Waterfalls and Stream:

When water gets low in the clients’ water feature, harvested rainwater in the irrigation system replenishes them.

 

Aquascape RainXchange™ Harvesting Systems:

Aquascape RainXchange™ Harvesting Systems:

Aquascape’s systems are a revolutionary design that combines a recirculating decorative water feature — like the bubbling rock we installed here — with a sub-surface rainwater harvesting collection system. The clients just enjoy it as a water feature, while the system filters and aerates the stored water to prevent stagnation.