Boulders in the landscape

Natural Limstone steps through a bouldered wall.

An example of natural limstone steps incorperated into a bouldered wall.

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Outdoor living space, where does it start and stop?

I searched the internet to find the perfect definition of an outdoor living space, and to my surprise I came up short, even Wikipedia left me hanging.  In my opinion, creating an inviting outdoor living space is similar to that of changing your house into a home.  They both require an investment of time and materials. They both require the owner to personalize the space.  Some of the adverbs I’d utilize to describe this place would be, comfortable, welcoming, functional, interesting,… etc.  Establishing such takes ability, creativity, experience, and a personal investment in the effort (a.k.a “time and money”).  This definition includes both you and the people doing the work.

Outdoor living can consist of both structural and natural elements.  The tactful combination of these elements determines the overall success of the project.  Structural elements that come to mind include but are not limited to a pergola, deck, outdoor furniture, grill, patio, fire pit, hearth, etc.  Natural elements would be plantings, lighting, contours, fragrance, water, stone, sound, etc.  The outdoor living space is not to be confused with an outdoor kitchen.  An outdoor kitchen is simply structural elements in combination with the needed appliances to cook outdoors.   Therefore the outdoor living space may include an outdoor kitchen but is not limited to having one.  A growing trend in residential landscaping is that of placing more emphasis into the outdoor living space.  This is perhaps one of the most cost effective home improvements.

Improving your home is always a good investment. In the current economic environment, people are staying home.  Adding to your home’s value is smart, it positions you well if ever decide to sell your home as it makes your home more marketable.  At the same time, it improves your way of life and adds to your overall health and well being by placing you in direct contact with the outdoors.

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Poolside – Projects

As I said before, pools make our job easier.  Look at the color and interest, couple that with the reflection off the water and you have a recipe for success.

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Rose – Project before and afters

Well what do you think.  We gutted the pond and built an entirely new one.   Tree’s were added for shade and dimension.  Plantings were changed to better fit the design and mood we were shooting for.  Boulders and contours were added as a backbone to this landscape.  Finally, lighting was introduced, which tied the whole project together and extended the use of this special area.

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Tennity – A beginning… there was turf?

Here is what we started with in July. A basic back yard with a large expanse of turf and limited landscaping. The Tennity’s had quite the check list of needs. Our plan covered most of them, and we added a few additions along the way to bring the entire project together. To date this has been my toughest back yard renovation and most rewarding. I’ve learned a great deal from this project. Namely, with the right equipment, planning, and motivation, anything is possible.

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Tennity – After pictures.

Here are some after installation photos.  Note:  the color both in bloom and foliage.  Contrast is everywhere, and bold distinctions abound through this landscape.  We installed a retaining wall for the elevation changed to accommodate the pool.  As you can see we added a dry creek bed to eliminate trapped water.  Then we installed a flagstone path to the golf course.

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Walsh – Bring the camp fire to you!

Here we added a nice area right off the house that allows for a nice fire.  You can cook out or just enjoy a nice evening by the fire with this cozy hardscape.

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Walsh – One year later

Our first picture was taken in November 0f 09′, this one is one year later to the date.

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Water Feature Lighted

All water features look better under lights.  Here the feature continues to add enjoyment into the evening hours.

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What components comprise a professional landscape?

As a landscape professional, I ask a fairly complex question of my customers; “what look do you have in mind for your landscape”? On many occasions I get, “I’d like my yard to look great” or “I want some nice curb appeal”. These generalized statements are exactly what designers constantly address. The fact is many customers lack an understanding of what a professional landscape can entail. I will cover some of the basics in the design concept below.

Per Wikipedia – Landscaping refers to any activity that modifies the visible features of an area of land, including:

1. Living elements, such as flora or fauna; or what is commonly referred to as gardening, the art and craft of growing plants with a goal of creating a beautiful environment within the landscape.
2. Natural elements such as landforms, terrain shape and elevation, or bodies of water;
3. Human elements such as structures, buildings, fences or other material objects created and/or installed by humans; and
4. Abstract elements such as the weather and lighting conditions.
Landscaping is both science and art, and requires good observation and design skills. A good landscaper understands the elements of nature and construction, and blends them accordingly.

The above definition speaks of elements both natural and human. A landscape professional will have an eye for combining these elements in a creative, harmonious, and sustainable manner. In a perfect world, I have a few elements available right out of the shoot. The first natural element I prefer to have or add is elevation. In the picture below, one can clearly see how the ground slopes. This is a good example of elevation change. Elevation change allows one to stack items, if done properly; nothing is hidden behind taller items. Depth is visibly created in the bed through the use of contrasting elements. The picture below does a nice job of featuring contrast as well. We see contrast in color from plant to plant and through the introduction of boulders. I also see the use of contrasting texture as some plantings offer long grassy leaves where others have small dainty leaves. I see too many landscapes where there is very little contrast between one plant and the next. This slope planted with only plants providing green foliage would have presented an entirely different look. Again and again, I see my eye drawn to landscapes that combine elevation change, stone elements, contrasting foliage color, contrasting foliage texture, and differing heights. If you can maintain these principles your landscape is off to the right start in my opinion.

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What not to do?

Here is a good example of  “In my opinion” what not to do in your landscape.  As a landscaper, I crying when I see yards like this.  If nothing else it goes to show just how important professional landscaping is in the overall valuation of your property.  This random placement of stones, and bleak expanse of river rock, only lessons the value of this home.

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Williams – Project before and afters

Privacy was gained through the installation of large trees, some topping out at 4″ caliper. We also utilized grade change through berming and boulder work to elevate our plantings. Elevation change also aided us in providing our customer with a nice water feature. Hardscaping in the form of pavers and castle wall added additional usable space to the back yard. A natural gas fire pit was installed to take the chill out of those cold Nebraska nights. Lastly, we installed lighting on both the landscaping, hardscaping, and the house itself. Here we did our best to better life for this uprooted Mizzu fan. May your ship sail strong on this ever present sea of red.

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Zysset – Granite bouldered waterfall

Granite creates a natural look to any stream or pond.  Granite is also resistant to freeze and thaw damage unlike Colorado Moss Rock.

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Zysset – Project after pictures

This project is filling in nicely wouldn’t you say.   This was a major renovation, with essentially most of the back yard being torn out.  We worked around the large trees, contracted concrete experts to weave the sidewalk and steps through the landscape down the slope.  The deck was added using composit materials for durability.  A sound system was built into the landscape as construction ensued, lighting was also built into the project.  This picture just doesn’t do the project justice, you just have to be there and interact with the space to have a feel for how much is going on!

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Zysset – Water feature

Here we added a bubbling stream right next to the steps.  Boulders and water are ever present through out this landscape.

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