Backyard Escapes

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Getting Behind a Pool Waterfall in Your Own ‘Sea Cave’

Children love a private escape. The youngest ones hide under a table, behind table cloths or chairs etc. But, even as adults, we love a personal getaway. 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 part of what’s possible in 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.

Another benefit of a pool grotto is the ability to get away from the heat of the sun. And, still be 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

 

Completed TN Pool with Grotto

Completed TN Pool with Grotto

1.  Our first example is of a Deck and Patio-designed grotto/water feature that 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.

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!

 

 

TN Project Included 3 Sets of Waterfalls 

TN Project Included 3 Sets of Waterfalls

“A two-ton rock isn’t an easy maneuver,” says 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.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Long Island, NY, Swimming Pool Grotto 

Long Island, NY, Swimming Pool Grotto

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

“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.

 

 

 

Swimming Pool Tanning Shelf 

Swimming Pool Tanning Shelf

“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.”

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Backyard Upgrades: Blending the Old with the New

Property upgrades often require an artful blending of the old with the new. For this upgrade, the property’s existing pool had pool equipment that was 20 years old.

Getting to the pool plumbing would have been a challenge, but the homeowners were also seeking improvement to what they felt was a very “confining upper patio area.” 

The limited upper patio happened to be where the family enjoyed sitting in the shade and taking in the home’s stunning water views. 

“Since any upgrade plan to extend that patio would call for tearing out all the existing patio areas, this presented the perfect opportunity to gain access to the pool’s dated equipment,” says Dave Stockwell.

Deck and Patio’s design/build team carefully worked out a detailed plan of what to keep, and what to improve or restore in the backyard: 

 

  1. upgrade the existing pool and spa;
  2. expand the property’s confining upper and lower patios,. (This would open up the space, and better show off the property’s spectacular views of Long Island Sound);
  3. And add new colorful plants and flowers to enhance the opened up water views.

 

The result? A remodeled backyard that looks like an entirely new property — with upgrades and equipment that will last for many years to come.

 

Upgraded Pool:

Upgraded Pool:

Deck and Patio refinished the inside of the pool, changing it from white to dark gray. This new color reacts with the water to give the more desirable “natural lagoon” effect. Swim-out steps were added; new stepping stone path beside the pool provides a swath of natural charm within the expansive patio areas.

 

Spa Upgrades:

Spa Upgrades:

The spa circulates pool water, constantly fills up with pool water, then water falls via the spillover channel back into their pool. When expanding the patio near the master bedroom, Deck and Patio took the opportunity to upgrade the spa by adding boulders, and turning the spillover into a larger waterfall to create a more beautiful pool scene.

 

Patio Upgrades:

Patio Upgrades:

The upper patio — where the clients liked to sit in the shade and enjoy the view — was extended to allow room for lots of comfortable outdoor furniture. In addition, an equally confining lower patio was enlarged for sunning; an outdoor kitchen (at the side of the house) was added for easy entertaining.

 

Landscaping Upgrades:

Landscaping Upgrades:

New plantings were included to screen out unwanted views; the addition of colorful plants and flowers enhance the breathtaking water views. The result of the overall transformation is the homeowners enjoy stunning vistas, and a feeling of space from all areas of their yard.

 

 

 

 

Eco-Friendly Projects for Earth Day, 2021

One week from today is Earth Day –when people around the world will highlight a variety of ways to help preserve our planet.

Many parents might even want to involve their children in home earth-friendly activities.

 

Involving the Kids

Butterfly Themed Lesson for Kids

Butterfly Themed Lesson for Kids

 

 Pinterest, for example, is full if ideas on how to involve the kids come April 22nd: 

— butterfly themed lessons for preschool (left), 

— creating spring sensory bins, 

— flower planting themed activities, 

— making a worm-friendly mud containers

 

 

 

 

Contemporary Rain Barrel Urn/Gardeners.com

Contemporary Rain Barrel Urn/Gardeners.com

Some parents might even involve their children in setting up a simple rainwater harvesting project — barrel rainwater harvesting.

“Basically all that involves is connecting a pipeline from a roof or terrace to a large barrel,” says our own Dave Stockwell. “You can even set up several barrels for collecting the rain, since we often get a fair amount in our neck of the woods.”

If you don’t want to purchase special rain barrels, you can use a simple trash holder. Plus, getting the kids to help clean the trash clan before setting it up is an easy safe job for them. 

 

 

Rainwater Garden

If you’re storing rainwater and have a garden, you can place a pipe to directly connect with it. “All it needs is an easy tap in order to control the water flow and prevent any overflow into the garden,” says Dave. “Some might even increase the amount of gardening they are doing because of the abundance of water they have at hand.”

It’s helpful to remember that only a small amount of falling rain actually seeps into the ground. Much of it ends up as runoff in our sewers and on into our waterways. So saving it and utilizing it is truly a gift to mother earth for Earth Day 2021.

 

Sustainable Water Features

For those interested in adding a water feature to their yard, business, or public land, but don’t want to waste precious water to keep it running and topped off, can consider more complicated rainwater harvesting products.

“Indeed, we are so very passionate about rainwater harvesting that we have a special division at Deck and Patio devoted to such beneficial water preservation projects,” says Dave.

Here’s an example:

 

Rainwater Harvesting (Brooklyn/NY):

Rainwater Harvesting (Brooklyn/NY):

For this project, we also 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 it.

While we’ve done hundreds of green water features at private homes across Long Island, a favorite project we sharing below we did several years ago for the Town of Huntington at the local railroad station. 

And for an example of a public project:

 

Public Sustainable Water Feature:

Public Sustainable Water Feature (Huntington, NY):

In cooperation with the Town of Huntington (Long Island), we added this serene water feature and a paver pathway at the area train station parking lot.

Permeable pavers by Techo-Bloc were put over gravel and a rubber liner which filter the rainwater runoff before it reaches the reservoir we installed at the end of the stream.

 

Public Sustainable Water Feature:

Public Sustainable Water Feature (Huntington/NY):

“There is enough captured water at this train station water feature to not only sustain itself, but to also irrigate all the plantings,” says Dave. “Plus, this eco-friendly system keeps any non-filtered rainwater from going into the Town’s sewer system and on into Huntington Bay.”

 

As Earth Day approaches, there’s lots of ways to celebrate Mother Earth. Happy conserving!

There’s More to Aquatic Plants Than Meets the Eye

Plants Attract Delightful Creatures

Plants Attract Delightful Creatures

It is true that water gardens — and the plants installed in and around them — are delightful to look at.

And they attract equally delightful creatures: chirping birds, flapping butterflies, and croaking frogs.

But there’s more to it all than what meets the eye. “For an ideal water garden eco-system, the key is maintaining clean, healthy water. 

“Pond filtration systems do a lot, as do waterfalls etc. which aerate and oxygenate the water. But at the end of the day, a huge part of creating a healthy system is the water landscaping you do,” says our own Dave Stockwell.

Aquatic floaters and marginals, says 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 helps control the growth of algae. 

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 the small creatures attracted to the water garden.

Submerged plants  (e.g., anacharis, parrot’s feather or hornwort) will also release oxygen.

 

Aquatic Plants

 

Deck and Patio Built Pond

Deck and Patio Built Pond

The gurus of all things pond/water garden — Aquascape Inc., in St. Charles, IL — list the basic groups of aquatic plants as:

  •  Water Lilies

  •  Lotus

  •  Marginal Plants

  •  Water Lily-like Plants

  •  Floating Plants Submerged Plants.

 

“An ideal pond mixes plant heights, textures and color from at least three of these groups,” says Dave. “This gives the most natural look. We also don’t install plants in a symmetrical way. A more random placement looks the most natural.”

“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. 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.”

But don’t 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.

 

Aquatic Plants and Pond Landscaping

Aquatic Plants and Pond Landscaping

The tall aquatic plant on the left of this Deck and Patio pond (a canna lily) 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.

 

Landscaping Around Ponds and Water Features

Landscaping Around Ponds and Water Features

This photo was taken just after we built the pond. Lily pads, and other in-pond aquatic plants, had yet to be added. But we had installed some attractive peripheral landscaping using plants that like moist, but well-draining soil. 

These do well around a pond but not in one. The red/pink flowers in the foreground are roses. To the right of them are variegated hydrangea and to the left are variegated hosta. All of these plants attract birds and butterflies.

 

Aquatic Plants

Aquatic Plants

In addition to the canna lily, this pond boasts water lilies — both tropical and hardy ones. The pinkish coneflowers on the right of this Deck and Patio pond 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.

 

“Pondless” Waterfall Landscaping

“Pondless” Waterfall Landscaping

Pink petunias add a bright statement away from where the waterfalls spill and seep into the ground. Close to the waterfall area we added grassy plants like Liriope that thrive in moist soil.

 

Why Not Include a Bench with Your Backyard Upgrade

Adding a bench, or other seating, to your backyard provides a treasured rest-spot, where you can be still and take in your property’s pretty views.

All you really need for a view is some sort of focal point, maybe near your favorite tree and a bit of open space, if not something more elaborate like a water feature (see below examples).

Bonus: And if you’ve planted particular flowers or shrubs, your place of contemplation may attract butterflies or hummingbirds near your bench. Even if not, at a minimum, some species of birds will be chirping nearby and the sky will be blue — all with no effort on your part.

Whatever its focal point, the garden bench offers that special up close and personal opportunity to enjoy the outdoors — an enjoyment you might miss from further away in the kitchen, or on the patio or deck.

 

The Bench

Depending on individual taste, there are a wide variety of bench materials and designs available:

—  wrought iron

—  various woods: eucalyptus, reclaimed wood, acacia, cedar, redwood, etc. (just choose a durable/weather-resistant wood)

—  cast aluminum

—  a bamboo bench (great for Asian-inspired gardens)

—  a backless bench, perhaps with hidden storage

—  a swinging or glider bench

—  farmhouse and park style bench

—  or how about dual chairs such as Adirondacks instead of one piece of outdoor furniture

—  or a natural stone slab

 

You can get some idea of how nice it is to have a seating spot through the photos below of Deck and Patio projects.

 

Pond Viewing (Long Island/NY):

Pond Viewing (Long Island/NY):

How’s this for up-close and personal. These Deck and Patio 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. In lieu of a bench, the addition of two Adirondack chairs presents a perfect spot to feed and watch the koi, and listen to the pond’s waterfalls.

 

Perfect Spot for Contemplation (Long Island/NY:

Perfect Spot for Contemplation (Long Island/NY:

Within this already beautiful setting, Deck and Patio added stone steps, streams and waterfalls. The clients already had a bridge and bench so we designed water features and stepping areas to fit around them. (Green bench is in top left of photo)

 

Rock Sofa and Rock Seats (Long Island/NY):

Rock Sofa and Rock Seats (Long Island/NY):

Talk about up close. From this Deck and Patio installed rock sofa/bench — with flanking rock-seats — sitters can stretch back and run their fingers in the waterfalls behind them.

 

Backyard Pond and Waterfalls with Bench (Long Island/NY)

Backyard Pond and Waterfalls with Bench (Long Island/NY)

What a scene to relax by. A gentle stream is coaxed over rocks into several waterfalls. Lily pads wait on croaking frogs. Ornamental grasses wave in the breeze, and flowering perennials add color and charm.

 

Patio Benches/Seating with Fireplace (Long Island/NY):

Patio Benches/Seating with Fireplace (Long Island/NY):

Whether it’s one bench or seating for a group, these benches and seat are perfectly placed to enjoy a waterfall and custom fireplace. 

 

 

The Value of Trees in Your Landscape Plan

“Look deep into nature, and then you will  understand everything better.”

— Albert Einstein

 

Frequently, here on Long island, when we visit the property of a new client to discuss an upgrade, we are welcomed into a lush woodland scene. “So whatever they are looking for to enhance their outdoor living,” says Deck and Patio owner Dave Stockwell, “our first priority is to safeguard those trees. And if there are none, we often recommend planting some as part of the landscaping design plan.”

In our work, we utilize a wide range of landscaping elements such as flowers, shrubs, ground cover, waterfalls, and, of course, trees, in and around useful hardscapes, such as decks, patios and pool surrounds. And while most appreciate trees for their color or shade, their full value to the landscape isn’t always well known.

 

 

Value of Trees

The Value of Trees

The Value of Trees

Trees are truly worth hugging. They filter the air which can be full of pollutants such as dust and impurities.

“Trees can also collect and filter rainfall,” adds Dave, “which is something we are very invested in as a company. Our division, Rainwater Harvesting, focuses on capturing rainwater underground through permeable pavers and roof runoff, etc. We are also mindful of the advantages of trees doing the same work, side-by-side with our man-made systems, preventing pollutants from entering local waterways.”

Trees, of course, are better known for their ability to release pure oxygen back into the air after they have filtered out any pollutants. It has been said that just one large tree can improve the air for four adults. 

“So you can see why we feel trees are so worth either preserving or transplanting in when there are no trees at all,” says Dave.

 

 

Healthy Trees Increase Appraisal Value

Healthy Trees Increase Appraisal Value

 

Some realtors suggest another benefit from trees. Apparently healthy trees add to the value of a property’s appraisal, which helps provide a return for any investment made by transplanting trees into one’s landscape or protecting those that are there.

 

 

 

 

Plant Once, By Doing It Right

Planting Trees Takes Expertise

Planting Trees Takes Expertise

While most people can put a plant or bulb into the soil, a tree can be a bit tricker and requires some expertise.

“Just like it’s important to know how to work around a woodland area so as not to damage any existing precious trees,” says Dave, “it takes some art and experience to plant a tree effectively.”

Some common mistakes our landscapers come across are trees being planted too deep with too much mulch, and or tree roots being strangled in wire baskets, plastic rope or burlap.

 

 

 

 

Deck and Patio Projects

 

Pre-existing Wooded Area

Pre-existing Wooded Area

The above photo is a great example of a pre-existing wooded area on a local property where Deck and Patio was brought in for an upgrade. We secured the trees ahead of time so no machinery damaged them in any way. 

Within this already beautiful setting, we added stone steps, streams and waterfalls. The clients already had a bridge so we designed water features and stepping areas to fit around it.

We also added additional plantings and lots of green ground cover. Now they have the perfect space to take in their property’s natural beauty before they start their day and when they return home at day’s end.

 

 

Creating Beautiful Backyard Escapes

Creating Beautiful Backyard Escapes

The key in creating or updating spaces as they appear in nature is to add only amenities that fit naturally in that environment.

In this case, Deck and Patio added a bridge, water feature, imported boulders and rocks and landscaped it with robust plantings.

It feels like you are in upstate New York, in the mountains.

Yet, it’s right in our clients’ backyard. As you can see, the wooded areas are healthy, blending perfectly with the landscaping plan without interference with their ongoing job: to clean the air and add more oxygen.

 

 

 

 

Protecting Woodlands on Long Island/NY:

Protecting Woodlands on Long Island/NY:

As you can see from this Deck and Patio-designed backyard refuge, we were careful to safeguard the existing woodland areas.

Extending out from the parkland areas, the new water feature was brought forward to the entertaining areas through the addition of a pondless waterfall. 

The new multi-level patios were carefully designed so that each patio space had a specific use. The complete project was a perfect blend of softscapes with hardscapes.

 

 

Private Woodland Path, Long island, NY

Private Woodland Path, Long island, NY

 

For this space, we took advantage of the family’s desire to hide their pool equipment by creating a private woodland path. We brought in bushes and plantings and fit them among existing old-growth trees. 

Adding bluestone stepping stones that lead to a larger woodland area contributes to an extended nature walk.

Such an uplifting nature walk gives one’s technology-driven life a break, and leaves the barbells behind. No place offers a better space for that than a quiet woodland area.

 

 

 

Trees add value to any landscape

Trees add value to any landscape

 

 

Today’s feature photo at top of page: This Deck and Patio pool/patio/landscaping project was done in collaboration with True Blue Swimming Pools.

 

 

 

 

Landscaping: How to Create ‘Soft’ Space Using ‘Hard’ Rocks

It may seem like a contradiction, but Deck and Patio landscape designers are known for creating soft effects in backyard landscapes through our expertise in using hard rocks — boulders, stone, and even man made wet-cast concrete.

If you think about it, rocks being a natural part of nature, if chosen well and positioned perfectly, they can make a man-made waterfall, for example, appear as if it’s flowing from a natural mountain stream.

Such natural-looking water features have won for Deck and Patio many local, national and international awards for our Long Island water features.

 

Completed Pool, Spa, and Water Feature for Pool Kings on DIY Network

Completed Pool, Spa, and Water Feature for Pool Kings on DIY Network

In fact, one of our dramatic pool water features drew the attention of Peek Pools several years ago, when they were developing a special project for the DIY Network.

After seeing our work, they got in touch and invited us down to Tennessee to do the first of two water features (left) for a pool in that state and, later, one in Kentucky — all of which have aired on television.

In the first example of our work below, you’ll see that rocks, in all sizes, textures and shapes can be far more than an aesthetic choice. 

 

 

Backyard Water Garden

Backyard Water Garden

The above Deck and Patio man-made pond with waterfalls and stream not only looks natural and beautiful but enjoys a healthy ecosystem. Note: It is essential to choose the right stones and gravel for your pond to provide the correct ph value for the fish and plants and also reduce algae.

The whole design includes a handsome paver patio that ends next to river rock and a lush pond landscape with stream, plantings, and natural paths.

 

On a smaller scale, we created a waterfall to offer a bit of pizzazz to what could have been a boring retaining wall area.

 

Waterfall Softens Retaining Wall

Waterfall Softens Retaining Wall

Installing the above pondless water feature — yes, pondless — means that the water is underground and in a safe area where children can’t access it.

We built this waterfall, incorporating moss rocks and Mexican beach pebbles, when we were renovating their backyard pool area. The waterfall includes procumbent junipers and dwarf cypress along the edges to soften the hardness of the boulders and retaining wall.

 

When You Can Go Big

For the following project, we were building an 800-square-foot pool house for the clients.

 

Pool House with Pool and Waterfalls

Pool House with Pool and Waterfalls

Along with a lovely 50-foot-long and 26-foot-wide pool, we added a spillover spa, separate waterfalls, surrounded by an elegant Travertine patio. 

Again, in this project there is a lot of stone. But set around a huge water feature — a pool — with waterfalls and a separate spillover spa with colorful plantings creates a softscape.

 

Lush Landscaping Needs Rocks!

For our last example today, you can see how colorful plantings and waterfalls are enhanced by stone and rocks.

Diving/Jump Rocks (Long Island/NY)

Diving/Jump Rocks (Long Island/NY)

Set against lush landscaping and a beautiful man-made waterfall, a dramatic diving rock and paving stone patio feel like they’ve come about organically. 

 

 

 

 

 

How Can I Add Privacy to my Backyard?

Backyard upgrades can create a wonderful escape — a place to relax and forget about everything. But a lot of homes in our New York Metro and Long Island areas are situated in tightly packed neighborhoods. 

So often we hear the question: how can I add some privacy to my backyard?

1. Adding a Wall or Fence

Here’s a great example of living in a cramped neighborhood. The home of these Deck and Patio clients is in the heart of Queens, a borough of New York City. Their property is tightly surrounded by apartment buildings, traffic, and noise. 

In such a city atmosphere, even adding the pool and patio they wanted couldn’t offer all the escape they desired. For a real backyard oasis, we had to shut out noise and the oppressive atmosphere.

Backyard Refuge

Backyard Refuge

In addition to a lovely waterfall to help with the noise, we designed/built a 12-foot-high concrete block wall.

“While a wall like that is truly useful for privacy as well as a noise barrier, it can be overwhelming in itself,” says Dave.

So the next challenge was to soften the wall’s appearance. One thing great about interior and exterior walls is they make an ideal canvas. 

“First, we planted bamboo around its perimeter,” says Dave. “Bamboo can be invasive so we encased the woody grass with concrete blocks to limit spreading.”

Living Wall

Living Wall

 

 

We also designed and supervised the layout of a “living wall” that can hold multiple-sized pots for plants.

When completed, the living wall became living art — changing in color and shape almost daily.

The result: the clients may live in a busy part of New York City, but during outdoor living season every spare moment is spent in blissful leisure right in their own backyard.

 

 

 

Fence Landscaping

Fence Landscaping

For a second example of dressing up a fence or a wall, for these homeowners color and texture were really important.

Although their neighbors had a natural wooded area they got to enjoy, by adding their own bushes, trees and plenty of plantings, birds and their songs came closer to them and easier to watch and hear. 

The crepe myrtles Deck and Patio planted, for example, are lovely in summer and contribute to an extended picture-perfect landscape season — they bloom from August through October, providing a haven for a variety of visiting birds and creating charming focal points in front of the fencing.

 

2. Pavilions

Pavilions

Pavilions

Sometimes, a fence and even bushes aren’t enough when, as you can see from this photo, neighboring homes are multi-storied. This is when a pavilion or a gazebo gives that extra bit of privacy. 

Open to breezes and the scents of blooming flowers, but shut to the sky’s burning rays or drizzling rain, pavilions offer both shelter and aesthetic appeal, in addition to privacy.

Even though we added a fireplace, with modern technology, Deck and Patio was able to add built-in heating to the pavilion, that with a flip of a switch, will warm up the interior so they can enjoy a truly extended outdoor season.

 

Can I get Privacy without a Fence?

Natural Privacy Barriers

Natural Privacy Barriers

Yes, and we have a great example. This property was open on three sides, in full view of four homes. “And the clients wanted a ‘spool’ — or a cross between a small pool and a spa — but the best spot for it was in a very exposed area,” says Dave.

Most clients want privacy when in a spa or pool but not all want structures changing the feeling of a space. For a truly natural appeal, Deck and Patio’s landscaping design team used Skip Laurels, Leyland Cypress, and Cedars to create an attractive natural privacy screen around the spool.

In addition, texture and color were brought in to the buffering divider by incorporating flowering deciduous shrubs.

“We also incorporated creeping evergreen ground covers to cascade and wind over and between the rocks we installed,” says Dave. “Plus a careful selection of plants provides the area with color from April through October. The whole design flows beautifully into the back property.

 

Privacy through Container Gardening

Privacy through Container Gardening

 

 

Another simple way is to just add large bushes or trees in containers and place them close together.

Privacy in possible for most backyards. It sometimes a little creative thinking, but at Deck and Patio we believe it’s almost always doable.

 

 

 

 

 

Backyard Upgrades: Winter Is a Great Time to Plan

Landscape Planning in Winter

Landscape Planning in Winter

If you’ve promised yourself that this spring you’ll begin creating the outdoor environment you want, here’s a tip.

There’s no need to wait until the ground is no longer cold.

“People think they can’t begin landscape planning until the ground is perfect,” says Dave Stockwell, owner of Deck and Patio. “But if you wait until all the snow melts and the weather is finally warm, you could find yourself behind a big queue for a landscaper’s attention.”

Google Earth App

Google Earth App

Believe it or not, experts like those at Deck and Patio don’t need to see the ground to begin planning a project. Granted, it is helpful to see close up an existing patio or pool that’s being upgraded or replaced. But much of our planning can be done through surveys and Google Earth.

Sure, you may be thinking. Deck and Patio can see under the snow and imagine the possibilities of a backyard refurbishment, but how does a non-expert grasp what it all will look like?

“It’s understandable that a homeowner would not want to proceed blind,” adds Dave. “And they don’t need to. Through computer animation, we’re able to work up a plan in 3-D that gives a good approximation of what the finished job will look like. There’s no need to rely on one’s imagination.”

 

How Computer Animation Helps

Backyard 3-D Animation Plan

Backyard 3-D Animation Plan

Completed Backyard Upgrade

Completed Backyard Upgrade

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes a backyard 3-D animation (top left) not only helps show what the yard will look like — including from different perspectives — it also allows for tweaking and changes as the project goes along.

In the case of this Long Island, NY, project  (top right), the property had existing patios and a pool. The key was to decide what to keep and what to remove. One part of the design expanded the original confining upper and lower patios into both shady and sunny expansive areas. This also helped open up the space to allow unobstructed views of Long Island Sound.

In addition, Deck and Patio upgraded their pool and spa and added colorful plants and flowers to enhance these vistas.

 

For the following homeowners, 3-D renderings helped in a slightly different way. 

After work began, when their yard was full of piles of dirt and stones, they panicked. But the 3-D animation really helped show how their original very flat property would be made to appear larger once different patio levels were created. 

In addition, they could clearly see what their backyard would look like from the deck and various parts of their house. Here is a photo of the completed project:

 

Pre-spring Landscape Planning for Backyard Upgrade

Pre-spring Landscape Planning for Backyard Upgrade

 

Every aspect of the following backyard paradise — infinity (vanishing edge) pool, custom in-ground spa, swim up-walk up bar, pond/waterfalls upgrade, extensive patio, and outdoor kitchen was first done on a 3-D animation program that allowed our clients to literally fly over and walk around this project —even their gas campfires. 

This especially helped them appreciate the water-to-water views they would experience from the pool and spa.

 

Deck and Patio Project Using 3-D Animation

Deck and Patio Project Using 3-D Animation

 

Here’s hoping some of the above has started your creative juices flowing. 

 

Designing an Ideal Pond for Your Property’s Size and Shape

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, 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 a water feature’s location on a property, we recommend installing it where it can be enjoyed from a patio or deck, bedroom, or kitchen,” says Dave Stockwell, owner of Deck and Patio.”

Larger Properties

In our first showcased Deck and Patio pond project (below), the clients also wanted a new deck. It was ideal being able to design both the pond and deck together for a truly integrated result.

 

Ponds, Decks, and Landscaping

Ponds, Decks, and Landscaping

We designed the above deck with a viewing platform. From there, the clients can take in the whole pond. It’s also an inviting spot for dining with family or friends. And the robust landscaping — rich with aquatic and other plantings — adds to the ambience. 

You can also see that we added large stepping stones for walking across the pond to other areas of the water feature.

“That path across provides the clients with what they were hoping for — an escape to a private place for relaxing and meditating. Of course you can always design your pond further away from the house for even more privacy,” says Dave.

 

Perfectly Placed Pond

Perfectly Placed Pond

Deck and Patio located this pond (above) in view of the home’s back patio and pool area, as well as from the house, for maximum enjoyment throughout the day. 

Some of the plantings used are Cone flowers, Spirea Anthony Waters and Coreopsis, providing bright pops of color, along with deep green ground cover and tall grasses.

As you will see from all our ponds, part of what makes these water features so spectacular — and so relaxing — is their landscaping. Landscaping a pond requires knowledge of not just soil and sun but how each planting is affected by water and moisture.

 

Total Backyard Sanctuary

Total Backyard Sanctuary

When constructing this backyard sanctuary, complete with koi pond, we built an Iron Woods Ipe deck (not shown); the bridge that crosses the pond is also made of Ipe — one of the strongest woods in the world; it is painted white to complement the clients’ existing backyard conservatory. 

The whole project earned Deck and Patio both a NESPA and APSP Gold award.

 

Ponds With Additional Waterfalls

 

Additional Pond Waterfall

Additional Pond Waterfall

For this water feature, the homeowners wanted the best of both worlds: an additional waterfall located near the house and a glorious private pond-escape further away on the property. 

Deck and Patio set the extra waterfall (left) 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.

 

Main Pond:

Main Pond:

This photo is the main pond of the additional waterfall above which was located near their destination-pool recreation area in another part of their property.

 

When Property Space Is Smaller

 

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. “So space is never an issue at all.”

 

Waterfalls Without The Pond

Photo: Courtesy of Aquascape Inc.

Pondless Waterfall/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.

“Of course, having a pondless waterfall does not mean that it can’t be adorned with robust plantings, especially when you consider that you’ve not had the added expense of any extra labor and materials required in creating a pond,” says Dave.

 

Pondless Waterfalls

Pondless Waterfalls

A pondless system, as show in this Deck and Patio project, recirculates the water from the stream and waterfall via an underground reservoir. 

It’s ideal for those who want to enjoy the beauty of a waterfall without the pond. We wanted it to appear as if the water is disappearing into the gravel.

We used dense and durable evergreens such as Procumbent Juniper that are very low maintenance and spread nicely. For color we used such delights as Begonias, Coleus, and flowering plants like Astilbe.

 

As you can see from these projects above, size and style depends on what meets the needs of each specific client. “Our ponds are never cookie-cutter,” says Dave. “The design and installation location always stems from our meetings with clients and visits to their properties.”

 

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