Monthly Archives: May 2019

Backyard Upgrade on a Budget

“When it comes to backyard upgrades, most people want some sort of water feature,” says Deck and Patio’s Dave Stockwell. “In-ground pools can be expensive to both build and maintain.

“There’s more to outdoor living than a pool,” he adds. “We did a project in Massapequa, NY, without a pool that gave both the husband and wife all  they longed for — a true outdoor retreat for a reasonable cost.”

Portable Hot Tub Appears Custom-Built

Portable Hot Tub Appears Custom-Built


The couple, says Dave, hankered to enjoy their own backyard — which was tidy but not enticing.

Space was also at a premium. And in lieu of a pool, the couple settled on installing a quality hot tub, in-ground.

An in-ground installation makes a portable hot tub appear like it’s a custom-made spa.  Plus it would be easy to get in and out of (see before/after photo above).

Creating Focal Point for Spa Enjoyment

Creating Focal Point for Spa Enjoyment

However, even though they knew they’d love spending time outdoors in their new hot tub, they also wanted something beautiful to look at while in it. They certainly did not want to be facing their home’s siding, or even just a plain line of healthy evergreens. 


The pond with waterfalls, hot tub installation and landscaping were still less expensive than a pool.

“The husband had longed for a pond for some time. And by adding one as part of a single overall project, it saved time and money, and allowed the same designer to plan it all in a harmonious way.”


Portable Hot Tubs (Massapequa/NY):

Portable Hot Tubs (Massapequa/NY):

Portable spas are self-contained units, with all they need to operate included within itself. “This is what helps make them so cost-friendly compared to other water features,” says Dave.

That said, when installing them in-ground it must be done in a way that allows water from rain to drain away from the spa. If not, the hot tub’s plumbing could get damaged. “In this case, in order to have it completely in-ground, we removed the spa’s plumbing equipment to a protected area above ground where it is accessible for any future repairs.”


Pond and Spa (Massapequa/NY):

Pond and Spa (Massapequa/NY):

When the clients sit outside now they  enjoy the sound of water as well as see a lovely pond with waterfalls and watch the pond fish swim about. Not only do they have this view from their patio, but even better, they can enjoy it all — and even feed the koi — from their in-ground spa. 

The project’s natural-looking waterfall feature with the pond included surrounding moss rock boulders and lush landscaping. We used Aquascape Inc.’s water systems — high efficiency pumps, skimmers, biological filters etc. 

“The couple told us that their ‘in-tub views’ are spectacular,” says Dave. “Plus the in-ground installation makes it easy to get in and out of the spa. They also said they love the spa’s hydrotherapy for all kinds of relief as well as relaxation. “It was definitely the right choice for them.”



A Healthy Water Garden Eco-system Includes Delightful Aquatic Plants

“The key to an ideal water garden eco-system is maintaining clean, healthy water,” says our own Dave Stockwell. “It is then that you attract and support delightful wildlife such as birds, butterflies, frogs, etc.”

Pond filtration systems and operating waterfalls are a big part of keeping water clean and oxygenated (aerated), adds Dave. “However, another major part of creating and maintaining a healthy water garden system is the aquatic and surrounding landscaping you do.”

Deck and Patio Pond

Deck and Patio Pond

Aquatic Plants

Aquascape Inc., in St. Charles, IL — the country’s leading experts on all things pond and water gardens — describes the basic groups of aquatic plants as:

Water Lilies Lotus

Marginal Plants Water Lily-like Plants

Floating Plants Submerged Plants

(Note: Our feature photo at the top of the page is a Lotus.)

“The best designs for ponds and water gardens utilize a wide mixture of plants in different heights, textures and color from at least three of the above groups,” says Dave. “This gives the most natural look. When installing these, at Deck and Patio we don’t do it in a symmetrical way. We find that a more random placement provides the most natural look.”


Aquatic Plants and Pond Landscaping (Long Island/NY):

Aquatic Plants and Pond Landscaping (Long Island/NY):

The tall aquatic plant on the left of the pond (canna lily) offers a nice tall statement. It thrives in water conditions that are 70-80 degrees F, with a pH of 6.5-7.5. They’re also easy to care for, love natural light and are ideally suited near the edges of a pond. The weeping hemlock at the top right in the photo flourishes in moist soil and offers a bit of shade which helps balance the water temperature.

But there’s more to aquatic plants than aesthetics. Plants such as water lilies and irises feed on the nutrients (algae or small primitive unwanted plant life) in the pond water, and produce oxygen while they provide shade and food for small creatures attracted to the water garden. 

Aquatic floaters and marginals, adds Dave, are perfect for gobbling up the excess nutrients that are produced by any pond fish and excessive plant algae growth. They also help by reducing sunlight in the pond, which also controls the growth of algae. 

Aquatic Plant: Arable Hornwort

Aquatic Plant: Arable Hornwort

One submerged plant, arable hornwort, is a great example of plants that eat up algae and will also release oxygen. 

“Remember, that while nutrients sound like a good thing, too many in your water garden, and your pond water changes dramatically,” says Dave. “However, despite the fact that aquatic plants eat up unwanted nutrients, too many plants or plant material will also contribute to an over abundance of nutrients. For example, when plants die in the fall, they fall back in the pond, adding to the problem. We recommend cutting them back before this happens in order to have healthy water.”

Dave says not to fret if your pond water has a slight tint to it. “Crystal clear water has no nutrients. You want some algae, diatoms, protozoans, etc. because they offer a diverse food source for pond fish, frogs, and plants. It’s all about choosing the right plants and keeping them all in balance. 

To complete an enchanting water garden eco-system, the plants you put in around your water feature’s edge will aid in attracting birds, butterflies, pollinators, etc. No pond/water feature will be completely free of algae but it can be kept in check and in a natural way.


Aquatic Plants (Long Island/NY):

Aquatic Plants (Deck and Patio Project /Long Island/NY):

In addition to the canna lily, this pond boasts water lilies — both tropical and hardy ones. The pinkish coneflowers on the right are not aquatic and are not in the water but are perfect edging plants as they attract desirable wildlife — one of the reasons we love our ponds.


Bonus: Keeping the garden’s water circulating using a pump, or adding waterfalls, will help prevent mosquito larvae from hatching. 


By |2019-05-22T14:14:02-05:00May 22nd, 2019|Aquascape Biofalls, Creative Design, Gardening, Koi Ponds, Landscaping, Living Landscapes, Moss Rock and Stones, Outdoor Living, outdoor maintenance, Plantings/Pondscapes, Plants, Ponds & Water Features, Updating Landscape|Comments Off on A Healthy Water Garden Eco-system Includes Delightful Aquatic Plants

Outdoor Kitchens: The Heart of Outdoor Living

Cooking Yummy Food on the Grill

Cooking Yummy Food on the Grill

It’s hard to imagine an outdoor party that doesn’t include yummy food cooked up on a barbecue. Outdoor get-togethers like Communions, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, graduations, and anniversaries, not to mention Memorial Day and July 4th, invariably include a food element.

Deck and Patio clients are no exception. We’re frequently asked for more than a barbecue. Outdoor living is so valued in our neck of the woods, clients frequently want a full-sized activity center, partly for flexibility in cooking, but also to allow the “cook” or “cooks” to be part of conversations and fun.


Backyard Upgrade with Bullfrog Spa

Backyard Upgrade with Bullfrog Spa

The outdoor kitchen we’re highlighting today was part of an overall backyard upgrade that boasts a two-level Techo-Bloc patio, custom fire pit, dining and seating areas, and a water feature with stream and waterfalls that flow alongside a new portable Bullfrog Spas’ hot tub (right). 

Space, however, was an issue when planning this upgrade. Rather than a fixed pergola, the clients chose moveable outdoor umbrellas — or, ‘flexible shade.’


Upper and Lower Patios (Long Island/NY):

Upper and Lower Patios (Long Island/NY):

Both patio areas were built with Borealis’ modular slabs from Techo-Bloc. Note how the colorful umbrellas behind the outdoor kitchen can be moved as needed in their yard, and offer such nice pops of color wherever they are positioned.

Their new custom fire pit is overlaid in a facade of natural stone that mimics that of their outdoor kitchen. The outdoor kitchen’s amenities include a built-in stainless steel grill, expansive work area, sink, refrigerator and eating/drinking bar with stools. 


Feature Photo

Feature Photo

Project’s Feature Photo (Also Top of Page): The outdoor kitchen’s handsome and expansive granite countertop allows for an eating/drinking bar, while leaving plenty of “prep” space for cooking. Ice and cold drinks fit in the fridge immediately below the eating/drinkingbar area. Note also how the outdoor kitchen is only steps from their hot tub and relaxing water feature. 

A full-sized activity center is the perfect spot for a break anytime. Whether entertaining or not, it’s the heart of outdoor living.

Note: You can see more Deck and Patio outdoor kitchens/bars here.


Love Birds and Nature? How About Your Own Natural Retreat!

Ever notice how every few scrolls on Twitter, etc. will show a delightful bird, a funny squirrel, someone saving a desperate animal, a croaking frog, or lovely vistas — all squeezed in between posts of angst and politics?

Well. As helpful as these momentary breaks online are, the best break is enjoying nature close up, away from our phones. As Diane Sawyer’s Report: ‘ScreenTime’ showed a few nights ago, families are challenged today. They’re spending too much time with technology. And most, deep down, hunger for more family-time and time outdoors. 

Ms. Sawyer’s report reminded us of a very special Deck and Patio backyard natural retreat we did several years ago. The wife contacted us saying she always loved birds but hadn’t seen many in her yard in a long time. She was also hungering to see butterflies, etc. Could we come up with a plan to bring nature alive on their property?

It soon became clear they wanted something truly special. They had already contacted other companies to provide them with a backyard conservatory and charming wooden bridge. Our challenge was to ensure we incorporated these into our own landscaping design in a harmonious way.

“The multi-feature natural retreat we proposed and built included a deck to overhang a new backyard pond — in such a way so that it looks like the pond continued under the deck,” says Deck and Patio’s Dave Stockwell. “In addition to these, our plan called for two 35-foot long babbling brooks, multiple waterfalls and lush multi-seasonal landscaping.”

To make it look as if Mother Nature designed this entire retreat, adds Dave, our team chose, for example, each rock and boulder carefully to create the right “water spills.” Sometimes a rock was chosen because of its crevices allowing for planting perennials within. 

The homeowners were very involved in choosing the plants. In the end, we incorporated about 5,000 bulbs, almost 300 species of wooded plants, as well as evergreens, and about 150 varieties of perennials.


Creating Different Outdoor Focal Points:

Creating Different Outdoor Focal Points:

It was important to create a variety of different spaces and focal points, just like you experience in nature when you move about. In one place you sit next to the pond and observe the waterfall. Other times you’re walking through a wooded path. The lush landscape attracts a myriad of birds (and butterflies) so the sights and sounds of nature, along with the rushing water, are as relaxing an experience as is possible outdoors.


Waterfalls and Ponds:

Waterfalls and Ponds:

The rocks we used for the four-foot multi-tiered waterfall/pond came from farmers’ fields in New Jersey. Some weighed over three tons. Carefully placed, the scenes suggest one is trekking a natural preserve or wilderness. 


Dining Al Fresco at Home:

Dining Al Fresco at Home:

Whether on their new deck, or in their glass conservatory, the family enjoys dining together al fresco to the sounds of birds and croaking frogs. When lounging outside, they can take a quiet moment to feed their koi. 



Swimming Pool Grotto Designs: Fun ‘Out’ of the Sun

Children love a private escape. The youngest ones hide under a table, behind table cloths or chairs etc. However, even as adults, we still love our personal getaways. From man-caves to home gyms, we need moments spent in a quiet space. 

Pool Grottos

Pool Grottos

One such escape may be the most delightful of all.

Truly, could there be a better hideaway than one you can swim to — say, behind a waterfall? And, what if behind that waterfall, there’s a hot tub, with hydrotherapy to massage you? 

Well. That’s the possibility of a swimming pool grotto design. Grottos are usually constructed as part of an enlarged water feature. And it can be a delightful location for fun with friends and family, as well as a solo retreat. 

Imagine. Being outdoors, but away from the heat of the sun. And, still close to all the happenings in the pool. Not to mention, that whether you are in the grotto or outside of it, you get to enjoy the stunning appearance and sounds of cascading water and the cooling mist such a waterfall will occasion.

Two Deck and Patio Grotto Showcases

1. Our first example of a Deck and Patio-designed grotto/water feature came about after Peek Pools and Spas invited us to travel to Nashville, TN, and participate in another episode of their popular TV series, Pool Kings on the DIY Network. (See large feature photo at top of this page for the complete project.)

While working on-site in Nashville, one major challenge was digging/lifting out of the ground and then positioning an enormous 4,000-pound piece of rock to help form the grotto. Indeed, it was such a task that it caused Pool Kings/HGTV to title that episode: A Rocky Road to Backyard Bliss!

Project Included 3 Sets of Waterfalls

Close up of Nashville Project’s Waterfalls

“A two-ton rock isn’t an easy maneuver,” laughs our own Dave Stockwell.

“But the result was worth it. We knew it was just what was needed when we saw it, and it became part of this project’s water feature. The whole feature included the grotto cave, a meandering stream, three sets of waterfalls, flanking fire bowls and a fire feature for inside the pool.” 


Children’s Hand Prints Saved

Children’s Hand Prints Saved

 “Not all of our efforts there were so challenging,” adds Dave.

“In fact, while tearing out the old patio, we found a special piece of concrete. It had the handprints of the homeowner’s children. We knew right away it was a precious piece. While constructing the lotto, we ensured it had a place inside the grotto behind the pool’s waterfalls.”


2. The second grotto project we’re highlighting today was built in our own neck of the woods. 

Long Island, NY, Swimming Pool Grotto

Long Island, NY, Swimming Pool Grotto

“It came to us as a referral,” says Dave. “The finished project boasts a free-form concrete pool, large grotto, water feature and spa. But it’s where the spa is placed that’s a special part of the design. The spa is actually hidden inside the grotto with the high waterfall cascading over it into the pool.

“We used large moss rock boulders to construct the grotto, supported by structural steel and concrete underneath,” says Dave. “We also added a tanning shelf in the shallow end of the pool that is large enough to accommodate lounge chairs.”


Swimming Pool Tanning Shelf

Swimming Pool Tanning Shelf

For this second project, the tanning shelf is directly across from the front of the grotto and waterfall. Not only can lounge chairs fit in the shallow water there, but it’s close enough to enjoy some of the mist occasioned by the falling water.

So it’s a great place to keep cool, but still be out in the sun. The pool is surrounded by a handsome Techo-Bloc tumbled paver patio and Deck and Patio landscaping. The entire project won us a prestigious Silver Medal from the Northeast Spa and Pool Association (NESPA).


Spa Inside Pool Grotto

Spa Inside Pool Grotto:

This is the view seen from inside the spa grotto. Note how private the spa is because it is nestled inside a cave made from moss rock boulders. The majestic high waterfall spills into the free-form concrete pool — just outside from where you have escaped from the heat of the sun. 


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