Next Wednesday (April 22) is Earth Day, a day when people around the world focus on the well-being of Planet Earth.
At Deck and Patio, however, we strive to make every day Earth Day. When working to beautify a landscape, we consider the project’s impact not only on the property, but how it will affect surrounding habitats.
It is not surprising, then, that water being such a dominant part of the Earth’s health, offering sustainable water features to our clients has become a key element of our business. When these are installed, consumption of the local municipal water supply is significantly reduced.
In fact, Long Island and her environs’ growing passion for such projects has evolved an entire separate division at our company: The Rainwater Harvesting Group, where RainXchange systems by Aquascape Inc. are the mainstay of our water preservation projects. And they have included residential, public, commercial, and industrial properties.
Here is a small sampling.
There are lots of bonuses in having a backyard sustainable water feature. Because the water held in the Aquascape RainXchange system is always moving and being aerated, it can’t help but become a sanctuary for wildlife.
“When you attract wildlife such as this North American Bullfrog into your yard and other amphibians who like to hatch eggs in or near water, you contribute to a healthy eco-system,” says Bill Renter, Deck and Patio’s Outdoor Living Expert. “Frogs, for example, eat algae in the water, thereby helping to keep it clean. Adult toads also aid your garden because they help control insects — as do the birds that the water feature will naturally attract.” (Photo: Wikipedia/Tigershrike)
For this same decorative water feature, the water seems to disappear into the gravel, but instead is collected in a completely sub-surface system. There it is recirculated to maintain the feature. Bright plantings that include green ground cover and water plants, as well as river gravel, add to the natural look and serenity of it all.
In cooperation with the Town of Huntington (Long Island), we added a 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.
“There is enough captured water at this train station water feature to not only sustain itself, but to also irrigate all the plantings,” says Bill Renter. “Plus, this eco-friendly system keeps any non-filtered rainwater from going into the Town’s sewer system and on into Huntington Bay.”
Here you see us when we were hard at work in Brooklyn. Now that it’s finished, when water falls off the clients’ 4-story roof, it collects in a 500-gallon underground rainwater harvesting reservoir (RainXchange). “When the reservoir is full, water flows into an overflow regeneration zone where it can perk slowly back into the ground,” says Renter.
In the past, excess rainfall from this Brooklyn 4-story roof ran off — unfiltered — into the NY City sewer system. Now, because the overflow is collected, stored, and controlled, rainwater maintains their backyard plant and vegetable gardens, completely separate from the city’s water systems.
Children are natural enthusiasts of local landscapes, who delight in a brook or stream they can wade in, collect pollywogs from, or skip stones along. Even when a stream isn’t nearby or accessible to them, children tend to let their imaginations take them to enchanting outdoor places — through books, movies, etc.
In the case of this project showcase, we can not say what inspired the clients’ desire for this backyard stream and pond. We suspect, however, that a generous degree of childlike enthusiasm underpinned their plans and hopes.
The “Fairytale” Project
The clients’ property had an unused slope near their patio. This allowed the 35-foot-stream we added to move along with the help of Mother Nature’s own gravity. Natural moss rock boulders and plantings, as well as river stones, were positioned along its banks.
The stream ends where it tumbles over moss rock waterfalls into a 10-foot-by-15-foot fish pond. Here, the adjacent landscape is graced with tall grasses (e.g., Miscanthus) and evergreens such as Juniper Parsoni, which provide a lush backdrop to it all.
“The whole area attracts so much wildlife — like frogs and birds,” says the homeowner. “That is really is one of my favorite things about having a pond.”
The homeowners say they also enjoy the sounds of the falls and the serenity they feel watching the fish swimming. “It’s something we look forward to at the end of a long day.”
This project earned The Deck and Patio Company a Silver Award from the Northeast Spa and Pool Association (NESPA).
This beautiful watery trail meanders along a formerly unused slope in the clients’ backyard. Gravity is a very energy-efficient way to make the water move forward. During winter, the moss rock boulders become stunning ice sculptures that beautifully extend the seasonal enjoyment of it all.
Deck and Patio added such lovely bursts of color as Purple Cone flowers, Coreopsis and Spirea Anthony Waterers. In addition, tall grasses, deep green ground cover, along with the peaceful sounds of moving water, totally captivate the senses. All this can be viewed from the pool area, back patio, as well as the house.
It takes expertise and experience to position rocks in such a way as to coax water into waterfalls just like it happens in nature. Bill Renter, our Outdoor Living Expert, has been passionate about the outdoors since he was a child. Even today, he spends every chance he can walking the woods and hillsides of upstate New York — stopping and studying how water flows over rock, how plants crop up along side of such water trails, etc.
Our design plan called for an extended patio with bluestone stepping stones leading to the stream, natural stones to walk across it, and more bluestone on the other side up to the pool area.
This stunning free-form pond is a huge hit with the clients’ entire nature-loving family. Everyone enjoys feeding and watching the vibrant koi as they swim about in it. “We even get to enjoy it all at night,” says the wife. “And we can see it from our home and offices, too.”
Like backyard bridges, garden benches need not be just for decorative purposes, although they undoubtedly grace any property. Rather, they are treasured rest-spots, where one can be still and take in pretty views — up close and personal….and really stop and smell the roses.
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
…or a myriad of other materials, sizes, shapes. You can even personalize your bench, with some sort of family commemoration, coat of arms, or motto.
Remember, to enjoy a bench, all you really need is some sort of pretty focal point, or view, (maybe under your favorite tree) and a bit of open space.
Bonus: If you planted particular flowers or shrubs, your may attract butterflies or hummingbirds near your bench. Even if not, some species of birds will be chirping nearby and the sky will be blue — all with no effort on your part.
In sum, 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.
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. The addition of two Adirondack chairs present a perfect spot to feed and watch the koi, and listen to the pond’s waterfalls.
Talk about peaceful…you can imagine these homeowners sometimes praying for rain…so they can finally get indoor chores done. The beautiful scene that opens up in front of the wood bench includes a koi pond, waterfalls, rolling grass slope, aquatic plants and a bridge crossing the stream that feeds the waterfalls.
Talk about up close. From the rock sofa and flanking rock-seats, sitters can stretch back and run their fingers in the waterfalls behind them.
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.
One of the special delights of Deck and Patio’s design/build work is when we get to put the icing on the cake of something we’ve created. That is, when it’s time to landscape the project.
Such landscaping can sometimes mean adding a bridge or a bench. While these can be for decorative purposes, mostly they offer ways to enjoy an idyllic backyard scene in a fuller, languid way. Occasionally, before we begin, we discover that the homeowners already have one. In that case, it’s our job to accommodate its vantage point well in our plans.
In the Part I of this two-part blog series, we are focusing on a few of the bridges we feel are good examples of what a very special touch these provided to a few of favorite projects:
In our first photo (below), colorful plantings, moss rocks and deep green ground cover line the steps leading to the charming wooden bridge. Our main projects were creating two very special ponds: one a vanishing edge upper pond and a second lower pond, both with waterfalls. From the bridge, they can look over it all, meditate, or just enjoy the air.
As a spot to enjoy their backyard oasis, this backyard garden bridge, set amidst lush plants, moss rocks and imported boulders, became a favorite spot for the homeowners.
Here we installed a manmade pond with waterfall, stream, aquatic plants, colorful koi, around a deck observation area and handsome old-fashioned bridge.
These clients had a glorious wooded yard with some natural private walks. We added stone steps, streams, and waterfalls in an around an existing bridge just below a comfortable park-style bench. Robust green ground cover and plants appear as if they were always part of the natural woodland.
What a way to stretch your legs! In true Japanese Garden style, we carefully selected large natural stones that offered an ideal walking surface and appropriate size. Isn’t this a really graceful way to cross over the pond we designed and built?
When creating this backyard sanctuary, complete with koi pond, we built an Iron Woods Ipe deck; 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.
Deck and Patio Wins Silver LIPSA award
Clients of ours, who were saving for a pool, wanted some sort of water feature to enjoy immediately. They had a lovely wooded backyard, so it also had to be natural looking.
After deciding on a stream with an upper and lower waterfall, they opted for a “pondless” reservoir system to collect the water. Their property abuts parkland and they were concerned that the usual above-ground type of fish pond would attract too many wild animals.
The “green” pondless reservoir system we installed at the end of the stream captures the water and recirculates it, making it a green system. Plus we designed it to seemingly disappear into the gravel instead of looking as if it’s being collected.
Deck and Patio’s Bill Renter chose a location for the waterfall feature where it could be seen from inside the house as well as from the patio.
“We took advantage of the property’s slope. By allowing gravity to carry the stream water down to the waterfall, we were able to set the whole feature right into the existing hill with little reshaping of the land.”
Landscaping was also very important to these Huntington homeowners. Deck and Patio designed the project to be exuberant in both color and variety. These plantings are all set around imported moss rocks and other natural stones.
For our efforts, Long Island Pool and Spa Association (LIPSA) lauded us with a Silver Medal!
The Aquascape Inc. pondless system 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.
Graceful plants such as Pennisetum drape over and round the moss rock and natural stones that Deck and Patio installed; the rocks were positioned to help move the water in different directions, just like it would appear in nature.
The existing patio was previously installed by Deck and Patio. It was made from Techo-Bloc’s Elena in “Earth Brown” which offers five differently-sized stones to create a beautiful random pattern.
Plantings also included various deciduous shrubs and several Norway Spruce. Behind the upper waterfall is a colorful Japanese Maple. Other plants include Japanese Blood Grass, Sedum Autumn Joy, Hosta Sum and Substance, and one of the water plants is Yellow Flag Iris.
The sustainable division of The Deck and Patio Company — Rainwater Harvesting Group — recently won a prestigious award for a rainwater harvesting project in Huntington Station (NY).
“Rainwater harvesting is just what it sounds like,” says Deck and Patio owner, Bill Renter. “It’s a green method of capturing rainwater, which can be used at your residence or business for tasks that don’t require treated water: washing vehicles, lawn watering, washing a deck, or maintaining a garden or water feature. In this case, the project was for a public water feature at our local train station.”
It came about one day when Bill was engaged in a casual conversation with a few women who live nearby. They were planting flowers near the station to brighten it up. As the local landscaper for the area, he offered to help them by adding plants, flowers, shrubs and moss rocks.
“However, I learned at that time there was no immediate access to clean water. The women had been lugging five-gallon buckets of water from their condos to maintain the plants they put in. I thought there must be a way to help with that, too.
“First, we added some moisture retention product to the soil so less water was needed. Then I noticed there was no walkway beyond the small brick and cement sidewalk. There was only a dirt path. It was not handicap accessible and it seemed like the spot needed more than just plants and shrubs.”
After consulting with our Rainwater Harvesting Group, and gaining the support of the Town of Huntington, we installed a lovely water feature as well as a paver pathway for direct access from the curb to the parking lot.
We laid Techo-Bloc permeable pavers over gravel and a rubber liner. The gravel and liner filter the water runoff before it is sent to the reservoir we installed at the end of the stream in the water feature. The system we used is a RainXchange Harvesting System, produced by Aquascapes Inc.
“There is enough captured water to not only sustain the water feature, but to also irrigate all the plantings,” adds Bill. “Plus, this eco-friendly system keeps any non-filtered rainwater from going into the Town’s sewer system and on into Huntington Bay.”
This project has ignited interest in creating an entire rainwater harvesting park as part of the Town’s on-going revitalization of Huntington Station. Just recently, our company received a 2014 Bronze Award from Long Island Pool & Spa Association (LIPSA) for the feature.
Where once was only a dirt path from the sidewalk to the train parking lot, permeable pavers allow easy walking (arrow area pavers) while capturing and filtering rainwater for reuse. The pavers used are Techo-Bloc Victorien Permeable Pavers.
The water feature is not just for aesthetics, but it is highly functional. Its waterfall aerates the water — or oxygenates it. The water plants that our Rainwater Harvesting Group planted absorb nutrients and pollutants to help purify the water. All together, the gravel, liner, and plants create a self-sustaining rainwater harvesting garden. The area is now a magnet for local birds who come here to bathe and drink.
The RainXchange Harvesting Systems (produced by Aquascapes Inc.) includes an auxiliary pump connected to the irrigation system. This ensures that the water used isn’t city water, but harvested entirely from rainwater. The below ground Aquascape Aqua Blox Reservoir holds 500 gallons of rainwater.
This project has ignited interest in creating an entire rainwater harvesting park as part of the Town’s revitalization of the area. In such a park, the rainwater would be harvested from different areas and sustain park streams, ponds, as well as irrigate the turf and plantings.
Have you ever noticed that just by looking at a property’s landscaping, you can get an idea of who lives there? Are they free spirits? Conversely, do they prefer things carefully controlled and manicured?
You can even learn how much the inhabitants enjoy entertaining, at least outdoors, as opposed to being more private. You can also guess how important color and nature are to them. Or maybe they’re more the hardscape types — those who like something firm and unchanging beneath their feet and that needs little tending.
So, to create the perfect landscaping plan, it is the job of expert professionals to understand each client. If their clients are worried about upkeep, which plants will survive with little effort and how to plant them so they’re easy to maintain?
Naturally, to complete the right picture, how a plan combines hardscapes with the trees, plantings and grasses is very important. Not only is it crucial to know how homeowners will use the space, but the size of the property — and, of course, budget — will greatly affect decisions.
In the end, the ideal project will express who lives there — and express them beautifully.
The hardscape on a property doesn’t have to be limited to a patio, deck, or pool surround.
Sometimes it’s using carefully selected boulders and stones with bright plantings that creates the perfect vista.
In this case, imported boulders and rocks were combined with a peaceful water feature to make the perfect outdoor escape for nature lovers.
Whatever your mood or lifestyle, planting flowers in containers is an ideal solution for those who want a low maintenance landscape plan. Plus, depending on the size/weight, containers can be moved to wherever the action is happening on any given day. Also note how Deck and Patio created privacy through the use of tall trees and shrubs at the periphery.
Multi-level patios not only make smaller yards look larger, they help delineate how the space is intended to be used. In one area, this patio is ideal for relaxing and taking in the peaceful water feature. Another spot to the side of the feature, and in front of a thicket of tall trees, creates a private patio. Spots for sunning and being near the pool has also been mapped out.
Some clients’ taste for outdoor space includes architectural statements such as this lovely gazebo and harmonizing deck. Bright plantings surround the area and a charming stepping stone path adds additional appeal. Notice how there’s little doubt that these inhabitants like to entertain.
Where extensive hardscaping is desired, it is still important to soften the space. Here hardy plants and shrubs, along with a mature Japanese maple, add a soft allure to the expansive walkway, walls and steps.
Attention fellow snow-bound Northerners: Now this may be difficult. But, if you are thinking of any upgrades to your property, it is best — despite all the white stuff — to look under the snow and see Spring.
“Everyone thinks because there’s so much snow on the ground, they can’t plan or figure out what can be done,” says Deck and Patio’s Outdoor Living Expert, Bill Renter. “But, all of a sudden, the snow melts, and our phones ring off the hook.”
Although Deck and Patio has several designers on staff, Renter says that because so many wait until Spring to contact us, it can take weeks for someone to get out to see them.
“What potential clients don’t realize is, we don’t have to see the ground to plan,” says Renter. “If there’s an existing patio or pool, that’s one thing. It’s helpful to see those. But for the most part, we can work through surveys and Google Earth.”
That’s fine you might be thinking. But you don’t want to just begin blind. Well, consider this. Deck and Patio will work up a plan and also provide a 3-D rendering, or video so clients won’t have to rely on their imagination.
Believe it or not, good design/build firms can “see underneath the snow” by using surveys and Google Earth, etc. to come up with a property upgrade plan for spring: be it adding a pool, spa, pond, waterfalls, or just lush plantings.
Our team worked with this homeowner (see photo above) through the use of a computer software program called “Pool Studio,” which is a 3-D animation program that allows viewers to literally fly over and walk through a project as it is developing.
All aspects of this project’s design — from the existing house to the proposed patio, pool, waterfalls, outdoor kitchen, and expanded pond – could be experienced in motion — even the gas campfires. This was particularly helpful, in order to fully appreciate the water-to-water views of the proposed vanishing edge pool.
These clients (photo above) say that when work began, the initial piles of dirt and stone panicked them. “I soon learned everything Bill [Renter] did had a purpose and I came to enjoy watching each stage unfold,” said the client. Because the property was flat, our 3-D renditions showed how different patio levels would make the yard appear bigger — even what the views would look like from various parts of the house.
AutoCAD 3-D Animation (Greater NYC/Long Island Area):
Again, we used AutoCAD and 3-D animation to show how this multilevel pool area would change. We showed how we would turn what the client described as a problem area into a feature, by enlarging the upper area, where the client liked to sit in the shade and enjoy the view. The lower area was expanded for sunning; an outdoor kitchen was added for entertaining.
It’s okay if you look outside and have no idea how to plan for Spring. The key is: design/build experts do know, and those such as The Deck and Patio Company have the ability to show you what to expect during, and after, the work takes place.
Perhaps inspired by the wife’s pet turtles — who are so happy in their individual shells — this family wanted to be happy with their swimming pool’s shell: this meant changing from a vinyl-lined pool to Gunite.
When being interviewed by Deck and Patio’s Outdoor Living Expert, Bill Renter, he learned other things that the family longed for beyond a change in construction materials. They were also unhappy with the pool’s shape and design, which didn’t coordinate well with the architecture of their home. In addition, they wanted a larger pool, despite the limitations presented by a steep grade in their property.
Indeed, expanding the pool size would bring it very extremely close to the property’s sharp hill. In order to retain it properly — without having to get special engineering done — our team’s plan called for boulders and various small retaining walls to hold back the grade. The trick: in order to bring in machinery to place the boulders, we had to put them in place before the new pool was dug out.
“And to create the more unified look they wanted, we designed the pool in a geometric pattern, and searched out the same brick used on their home for its walls,” says Renter. “The client also wanted a more natural pool surround, and we installed beautiful bluestone around it.”
Result? The family members aren’t the only ones ecstatic with their remodeled pool. The wife’s pet turtles love swimming in it. On visiting the project after its completion, the lady of the house let our team put an underwater camera on one of her turtles — and the beautiful creature filed the pool as he swam (see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HgRzG-tORYI).
So, for all it means, today we’re celebrating a little turtle wisdom: Yes, it’s good to be at ease in your own shell.
Deck and Patio remodeled an existing vinyl pool into a larger, geometric Gunite, with elegant sheet falling waterfalls. The new design handsomely complements the home’s architecture.
Steps faced with the same brick as used around the pool’s retaining wall, lead to a peaceful woodland path where the pool equipment has been hidden out of sight.
The pavers of the previous patio/pool surround had not been compacted properly and were separating. In addition, the family wanted a more natural product. Bluestone was chosen and its hues blend nicely with that of the brick-faced retaining walls; in addition, the rectangular shapes of the stones echo the shape of the pool and house windows.
Descending in a wide stream, the sheet falling waterfalls add a touch of classic elegance while their sound soothes those in the pool or lounging on the patio.
It’s hard to decide which time of day presents the most beautiful picture; but nighttime has to be near the top!
The owners of this relatively small Nassau County (Long Island/NY) property approached Deck and Patio’s Outdoor Living Expert, Bill Renter, for a new deck. They also shared their dismay at having been told by other firms that their backyard terrain would not allow for the construction of a pool.
As Bill discussed plans for renovating their existing natural wood deck into Trex decking, they were delighted by his assurance that a pool would not be impossible at all; it just would take a bit of creative design.
The major issue with their property was that it inclined toward the house. Other impediments included restrictive Town setbacks. Deck and Patio tackled these issues by setting the pool mid-grade, and building risers up to the pool height.
In addition, we built the attractive water feature behind the pool to deal with the rising higher grade, as well as to screen out the neighbors — all while maintaining a natural and beautiful scene.
And “pool aside,” the beautiful Trex decking and Cambridge patio and pool surround are pretty special, too.
By choosing a vinyl-lined pool, which can be constructed in any shape, curve, or angle, this allowed for great flexibility in design. Plus, the homeowners were not stuck with unattractive white interior stairs that wouldn’t blend with the rest of the pool, nor did they sacrifice a smooth bottom for the swimmers’ feet.
Deck and Patio also surrounded the pool with a patio created from Cambridge’s Round Table pavingstones. The pavers’ dimpled, embossed surfaces gently roll into soft, beveled edges on four straight-sided Cambridge Shapes with ArmorTec. The pavers were laid in a modified herringbone pattern.
Bluestone stepping stones skim across the backyard sod and connect the pool patio to the deck and patio at the house, which is also home to the outer kitchen area, complete with BBQ and refrigerator. The entire project was finished off with the installation of lush colorful landscaping and low voltage lighting.