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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



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.






The Deck and Patio Company Awarded Best of Houzz 2021

A few days before we got the good news, we heard from Houzz that our “photos have been saved 377 times on their platform in the last three months!”

Then, within days, we were given the great news that The Deck and Patio Company — that is, our entire team of outdoor living experts — had won a “Best of Houzz” award for Design.” 

About Houzz

As many of our readers know, Houzz is a leading platform for home renovation and design. It is thrilling to know that we were chosen by the millions of homeowners that comprise the Houzz community — and selected from more than 2.5 million active building and design industry professionals who post on their platform.

Houzz’s design awards honor professionals whose work was the most popular among the Houzz community. A “Best of Houzz 2021” badge appears on winners’ page profiles on their site as a sign of a company’s commitment to excellence. These badges help homeowners identify popular and top-rated home professionals in every metro area on Houzz.

Houzz is available on the web and as a top-rated mobile app. It is headquartered in Palo Alto, California and has international offices abroad.

Our Projects

So! Would you like to see some of the photos that have been downloaded recently on Houzz? Don’t be surprised if you’ve seen some of these photos before. We’ve shared them on our social media pages where they are just as popular. 

We’ve divided them into two categories for this blog post.


First. Decks!

Houzz Best in Design: Favorite Deck and Patio Decks

Houzz Best in Design: Favorite Deck and Patio Decks


Next. Custom Spools and Spas!


Favorite Deck and Patio Spas on Houzz

Favorite Deck and Patio Spas on Houzz


The above are only a few of popular Deck and Patio project photos on Houzz. We’ll keep sharing more in the near future!

Watch this space.

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