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.
“Enjoying my deck in winter?” you might be asking. Actually, yes!
To get the snowdown on how to enjoy our decks even when it’s snowy outside, we spoke to Edie Kello, Director of Marketing Communications at a leading capped-composite decking manufacturer: Fiberon Decking.
Kello says the most important aspect to outdoor winter enjoyment is to remove any existing snow.
“Whether you have a wood or capped-composite deck, we recommend not using metal shovels for this, but plastic ones. If you feel it necessary to use de-icing materials, rock salt is the best choice for any deck surface. Be sure to choose rock salt that is labeled safe for flagstone or concrete and will not kill grass.”
Kello does not recommend using sand to remove ice and snow because that can mar a deck’s surface; if the snow is light, a broom is a good choice or, again, a plastic shovel, Kello recommends sweeping the used rock salt into the trash, then rinsing the deck off to remove any residue. This is especially important if you have pets.
“You can use a pressure washer if you like, but we recommend not going beyond 3,000 PSI (pounds per square inch). Also, keep the nozzle about 10” above the deck. This applies to both wood and composite decking.“
In the Northeast, where fall can change to winter at any moment, we thought we’d share an earlier post showcasing an ideal four-seasons outdoor room. Enjoy!
November 20, 2014: Project Showcase: What Would Your Ideal Outdoor Room Include?
“Sometimes we dream of an outdoor space we’d love to have ourselves, — like this four-seasons outdoor room — and without fail, our team comes across a client who wants it, too,” says Deck and Patio’s Outdoor Living Expert, Bill Renter.
That said, the idea for this climate-controlled four-seasons room didn’t come about all it once. It evolved in degrees. Deck and Patio had been contracted to build an entire backyard retreat, in three phases, for these clients. In phase one, we built a sound-barrier fence to block noise from a nearby busy street. Phase two, which eventually included this four seasons room, was for a Trex Transcend deck and railing, an outdoor kitchen, and an opened roof structure for sitting out and enjoying the yard.
“When we were creating the deck and open roof structure, however, after an evening of being pestered by insects, the clients decided they wanted it screened. Soon screens turned into windows for added protection during windy times. And, of course, once it was to be fully closed in, opportunities for special amenities opened up.”
First, to ensure the completed outdoor room would be in keeping with their two-story brick home, Renter consulted with an architect. The completed four seasons room not only harmonizes with their home, it boasts fully operating windows, as well as screens, automated Mitsubishi ductless heating and air conditioning, flat screen television, and enough room for their young child to use his ride-on toys.
In the end, the clients new outdoor room more than matched Deck and Patio’s own dream for such a space. (Note: Phase three, and the final phase of their outdoor retreat, will be a new pool and surround, and a pond.)
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: https://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.
The beautiful purple berries of the Callicarpa begin in fall and last through winter. Photo: Missouri Botanical Garden
“One common misconception about new decks is that there’s no sense in building one in late fall,” says Bill Renter, Deck and Patio outdoor living expert.
“Here in the Northeast, for example, the weather does indeed get chilly in mid-November, but cooler weather is actually good for this kind of project. For one thing, if built now, a deck will be ready and waiting when the first buds bloom in spring.”
November frequently offers several good opportunities for enjoying the outdoors, adds Bill. With the addition of a fire pit, it’s possible to hold several backyard get togethers before winter completely overtakes the outdoor season.
“Most important, with the availability of so many high-quality capped composite and PVC deck materials such as TimberTech, Trex Decking, Fiberon, etc., you don’t have to worry how winter will affect the deck. It’s only when using natural wood that you might feel it is best to wait until spring.”
Also, depending on the complexity of the design, its location, and especially how high off the ground it will be, a deck may not require a permit.
“So it’s possible that a deck, which easily expands a home’s entertaining area, can be built within one to three weeks,” says Bill. “In fact, we build quite a few decks and patios this time of year.”
Swimming at the edge of your world
Some say the first infinity pool was built at France’s Palace of Versailles, where from, say, one of the palace’s gardens, the eye is enticed across an expansive “infinite” pool of water up to the panoramic King’s palace.
Now perhaps it’s a breathtaking sunset that you want to draw the eye to on your property, or a gorgeous flower garden, or scenic bay. Indeed, in today’s project showcase, it was their property’s spectacular views of Oyster Bay on Long Island’s North Shore that drew these Deck and Patio clients to such a pool.
Man-made infinity (aka vanishing edge) pools expand the serenity of a backyard pool by drawing the eye to some other exquisite scene, thereby substantially increasing the restful beauty of any backyard retreat. However, the finished results belie their underpinnings. These pools — no matter which focal point you are drawing the eye to — require experts to design and install it.
“Vanishing edge pools are an optical illusion that suggest the water is vanishing out of the back edge of the pool,” says our outdoor living expert, Bill Renter. “Nothing is, of course, vanishing in a vanishing edge pool. The water is actually clinging to a recess in the pool wall which then drops into a catch pool below. And while this sounds simple enough, it requires a good deal of mastery to design it correctly. An undersized catch pool can almost never be corrected.”
Bill explains that if the catch pool or basin isn’t large enough there won’t be enough water returning to the main pool and can cause serious problems. Insufficient water may also be a real disappointment, since many like the idea of an infinity pool precisely because the water they swim in will never be stagnant, but will be continually recycled through the pool.
The key, then, is to make sure you deal with experts. And what you get for your effort, is — dare we say it — fit for a king.
Additional note on catch basins: If the catch pool or basin isn’t large enough there won’t be enough water returning to the main pool and the catch pool will run dry. That can trigger huge water bills because it would have to be constantly refilled to compensate for not having enough room to store water. In addition, during rain falls, the basin could be overwhelmed, leading to it overflowing, or eroding or liquefying the soil behind it.
Pond lovers are familiar with Aquascape as the leading water garden innovator in North America, so we were more than flattered when, in early May, our own Bill Renter was invited to do a guest blog on koi ponds for their web site. In case you missed it, we’re sharing it today.
By Bill Renter, Outdoor Living Expert
“Growing up, I was what they call today a ‘free-range’ kid. Like most children back then, I was free to explore the outdoors on my own and interact with nature.
Things are different today. Parents and child caretakers are far more cautious about letting children wander on their own. This is one reason, I believe, why koi ponds have skyrocketed in appeal. Through them, Mother Nature’s best experiences are brought right to our own backyards.
For sure, kids love watching and feeding colorful pond fish. Koi are gentle creatures that will swim right up to be fed, accepting food directly from the hand. And since it’s better to feed them in small amounts throughout the day, pretty much any time the kids are free, it’s a good time for the koi, too.
Backyard ponds attract other wildlife that children love: frogs, salamanders — basically any amphibian that lay their eggs in or near water. Plus birds will flock there, including song birds.
However, predatory birds like heron may be attracted to the koi. There are steps you can take to dissuade them, like netting, decoys, and electronic scarecrows with sensors that spray water when they catch movement. Also, thoughtful landscaping can provide protection as herons prefer an unobstructed path to wade into the water. And from the outset, having the right depth of water in the pond (no less than 24″) is key to keeping heron at bay.
My favorite koi ponds are the larger ‘swimming ponds.’ Children can snorkel in these and get up face to face with the fish. For swimming, you want clean water, so I’d recommend not overstocking your pond. You don’t want more fish waste than can be reasonably absorbed by aquatic plants and the pond’s bog filtration system.
Now while there are a few things to consider, with a little care, koi ponds are ideal to bring out the child in us all. Even today, when a pond is large enough, I can’t resist a swim.
So I say … go ahead … be a ‘helicopter’ parent or grandparent, and hover over the kids. With a backyard koi pond, kids aren’t missing out on much at all.”
Ever wonder how to determine the best hot tub to buy? Deck and Patio is pleased to share our blog page today with guest blogger Danielle Adams — a freelance writer with expertise in the hot tub experience. Enjoy!
By Danielle Adams
You’re ready to buy a hot tub, but do you know what kind of hot tub you want? Hot tubs are an investment and before taking the plunge, you want to choose one that best fits your needs and lifestyle. Finding the perfect size, jetting configurations, and seating layout that fit within your budget can vary and provide different benefits.
As you do your due diligence to decide which hot tub is the best one for you, here are a few things to consider.
During your research, you’ve probably run into these two terms interchangeably: “hot tub” and “spa.” But is there a difference between the two? Not really, but this is a common question that gets brought up.
Although these two terms have indicated to different things in the past; today they are considered to be the same thing— a portable tub of water with integrated heating and jetting. The terms have emerged because hot tubs were typically built from wood, in the form of large whiskey barrels or wine casks. Whereas spas were more permanent pools of hot water where people would go for the healing properties of hydrotherapy.
What is the purpose of your hot tub? If you know what you are planning on using your hot tub for—neighborhood parties or relaxation with your spouse—you can better decide which size is your best option. Hot tubs come in a wide range of styles and sizes, but some sizes are not always equal to capacity. As you look closer into hot tubs, make sure to look at both the dimensions and capacity.
To get a better idea of what size spa will best fit your lifestyle, consider the maximum number of people who will use the spa on a more regular basis.Then think about the maximum number of people who will ever use the spa, and aim for a nice balance between those two numbers.
While you determine the ideal size for you, take the actual spa size, external dimensions, internal space, water capacity and depth into consideration. Also, measure the spa location at your home to verify the spa will fit in the area you are planning on having it installed.
Many high quality spas are created with a durable acrylic shell material. The acrylic material ensures you have a scratch resistant surface that is resistant to moisture, chemicals, and the elements, especially in the long run.
When deciding on the best hot tub, look at what is underneath. Some hot tubs are still constructed with the same mentality of the 1970s and 80s with wood framing. We’ve come a long way since then and, with the improvement in hot tub materials, there are more precise methods and other composite material to ensure you get the best, most efficient product with less chance of error. Check out Bullfrog Spas manufacturing process by KSL.
Going green is a popular trend right now and with good reason. Who doesn’t want to help the environment and save money? As you consider the various hot tub options, it’s important to chose one that is well-insulated, well-designed, and is energy-efficient to help you save on monthly operating costs.
The first thing to look at is insulation. Hot tubs of higher quality have a full foam insulation feature to prevent heat from escaping. Check the California Energy Commission (CEC) to see if your hot tub meets or exceeds the energy guidelines. Also, look at the spa cover to verify it is well made, insulated, and fits over the spa for maximum energy conservation.
In addition to the installation, added energy savings can be found in the plumbing. The plumbing design can have huge impact on energy costs. How so? More plumbing equals more exposure to environmental elements which can lead to friction and more energy being used to pump water to the jets.
Investing in a hot tub takes time, but you want to make sure you choose the best one that fits your lifestyle and budget. Take the time to ask the right questions, do the research, sit in various models, and find the one that you can feel most comfortable in. A hot tub can provide lasting benefits and enjoyment for years to come—if you choose the best one today.
Bullfrog Spas has created an easy, step-by-step guide to help you select and design the best spa model for you.
About the Author: Danielle Adams is a freelance writer who works with http://www.bullfrogspas.com/. When she’s not writing, Danielle enjoys learning more about design, rearranging her house, and spending time with friends.