Landscaping a Small Space

Designing and landscaping small spaces is one of my favorite things to do. I tend be be somewhat of a private person myself, so I enjoy creating intimate, private spaces. There is something therapeutic about being outside, yet having that feeling that you are still “in your room”. Sort of like relaxing in your den or your favorite chair after a long day. There are a lot of things to consider when landscaping a small space, but I will hit a few of the basics

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A well designed space can be the difference between actually enjoying your time in the space, or just looking at it from your window, wishing you would have spent your money on that new hardwood floor. .

The first thing to do is to ask yourself some questions. Don’t forget to consider practicality as well as esthetics.”What am I going to use the area for? Entertaining? Do I just need a place to put my grill or do I also want room for patio furniture and a hot tub?” Questions like this will help you determine the size, the location (a grill would normally be close to the kitchen, for example) and how you will access it. What features would you like to see? How about a water feature, such as a pond or bubbling rock? Do you want a paver patio, a deck, or just a small area of grass? If you need a walkway will it be flagstone, pavers, or any of the new concrete products available? In the photo above, the large piece of flagstone to the right of the sidewalk will be where the grill goes. The two large boulders integrated into the sidewalk and the flower pots do nice job of framing the door to the three season porch.

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Just like a room in your house, your outdoor room also has walls, a floor, and a ceiling. The walls could be a hedge, your house, a fence, or even a low  flagstone wall. The ceiling could be an arbor, the canopy of a large tree, or even the sky. The floor, can be composed of any number of things, including a  patio, a walkway, planting beds and even your lawn. Consider how you want to incorporate these elements in to your space to create your outdoor room. In the job we did in photo at the left, the walls are a lattice fence, the house, and a small detached garage. The sky is the canopy of a shade tree, and the floor is combination of a paver patio, a raised planting bed, some lawn, and a flagstone walkway. The raised planting bed could also be considered part of the wall. (Click on photo to enlarge)

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Don’t be afraid to consider breaking up your room into into smaller segments. This can create interest and also give you the feeling that it is actually a bit larger by creating depth. Make sure you keep it in scale, however. For instance, don’t use pieces of flagstone in your walkway that are too large, or a plant that that has large leaves instead of one with

a finer texture that will look better in a narrow planting bed. In these photos I used a walkway, raised planting beds, and a small patch of lawn to break up the space. The lattice fence screens the area from a neighboring daycare center. The lattice-work creates privacy without feeling too boxed in.

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In the lower left photo, the boulder in the foreground and the trunks of the Pagoda Dogwood in the background add a feeling of depth.The Pagoda Dogwood forces your eye to follow the sidewalk around it to the entrance, adding an illusion of a larger area.The wooden steps are actually quite close to where I was standing when I took this picture.
Right: A little serendipity never hurt anybody! In this picture, a small, old stature my client picked up is combined with a birdbath. You can find them hiding on a low stone seat-wall in among the ferns.

The photo at the below is the view of our pond from our bedroom window, and shows what can be done with a problem area. The pond itself is 11′ by 16′

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Landscaping a small space

Designing and landscaping small spaces is one of my favorite things to do. I tend be be somewhat of a private person myself, so I enjoy creating intimate, private spaces. There is something therapeutic about being outside, yet having that feeling that you are still “in your room”. Sort of like relaxing in your den or your favorite chair after a long day. There are a lot of things to consider when landscaping a small space, but I will hit a few of the basics

A well designed space can be the difference between actually enjoying spending time in the space, or just looking at it from your window, wishing you would have spent your money on that new hardwood floor. .

The first thing to do is to ask yourself some questions. Don’t forget to consider practicality as well as esthetics.”What am I going to use the area for? Entertaining? Do I just need a place to put my grill or do I also want room for patio furniture and a hot tub?” Questions like this will help you determine the size, the location (a grill would normally be close to the kitchen, for example) and how you will access it. What features would you like to see? How about a water feature, such as a pond or bubbling rock? Do you want a paver patio, a deck, or just a small area of grass? If you need a walkway will it be flagstone, pavers, or any of the new concrete products available? In the photo above, the large piece of flagstone to the right of the sidewalk is where the future grill goes. The two large boulders integrated into the sidewalk and the flower pots do nice job of framing the door to the three season porch as you approach the entrance.

LP 1 (30).JPG Just like a room in your house, your outdoor room also has walls, a floor, and a ceiling. The walls could be a hedge, your house, a fence, or even a low flagstone wall. The ceiling could be an arbor, the canopy of a large tree, or even a starry night sky. The floor, can be composed of any number of things, including a patio, a walkway, planting beds and even your lawn. Consider how you want to incorporate these elements in to your space to create your outdoor room. In the job we did in the photo at the left, the walls are a lattice fence, the house, and a small detached garage. The openness of  the lattice-work creates privacy without feeling too boxed in and also serves as a screen  from a neighboring daycare center.   The raised planting bed could also be considered part of the wall. The ceiling is the canopy of a shade tree, and the floor is combination of a paver patio, some lawn, and flagstone leading to the patio.(Click on photo to enlarge)

Don’t be afraid to consider breaking up your room into into smaller segments. This can create interest and also give you the feeling that it is actually a bit larger by creating depth. Make lpic1 (3).JPGsure you keep it in scale, however. For instance, don’t use pieces of flagstone in your walkway that are too large, or a plant that that has large leaves instead of one with a finer texture that will look better in a narrow planting bed. In these photos I used a walkway, raised planting beds, and a small patch of lawn to break up the space.

In the lower left photo (seen from the 3 season porch in the upper photo), the boulder in the foreground and the trunks of the Pagoda Dogwood in the background break up the space and add a feeling of depth.The Pagoda Dogwood forces your eye to follow the LP 1 (15).JPGsidewalk around it to thLP 1 (49).JPGe entrance, adding an illusion of a larger area. The wooden steps you see are actually quite close to where I was standing when I took this picture.
Right: A little serendipity never hurt anybody! This small, old stature my client picked up is combined with a birdbath. You can find them hiding on a low stone seat-wall in among the ferns.

 

If you would like help on a landscape design for your home, just give me a call or e-mail me and I will be glad to help.

Posted By Doug Grove, Grove Landscaping, Northfield, MN

Replacing an old flagstone wall with retaining wall block

In Minnesota flagstone (or limestone) can be used to make beautiful, naturalistic retaining walls. The only thing is, the wall can break apart if the limestone is not the right kind for building walls. Different quarries have different grades of Copy of DSCF0045.JPGlimestone, and they can vary greatly greatly in quality. This limestone wall was built by a previous homeowner out of a “local” limestone from a quarry nearby. He probably got the stone for the right price (free)! After a few years, it began to crumble and fall apart and it had lost its structural integrity and was starting to collapse. The reason is that it is a soft limestone, which absorbs moisture. Because of that, the freezing (expansion) and thawing (contraction) action of the ice crystals in the limestone due to our our Minnesota winters caused it to break apart, crumble, and eventually start to collapse.The best material for flagstone walls is found in Wisconsin. Because of shipping costs and the extra labor it takes it to make a good limestone wall, the cost of replacing a wall of this size can be a stretch on the budget.

After we explored different alternatives, the client decided on a DSCF0042.JPGblock wall with a weathered look, and colored to match the brick on the house. Because of the location, we had to bring in a backhoe to remove the old wall and excavate for the new wall and step system. Because the wall was located next to a well head, the excavator had to be extra careful not to hit the main water line going in to the house.

I added a few curves in the wall to2 (9).JPG soften the look, and added a planter at the top of the steps.The steps were also made out of the same material.

There is more to building this wall than just stacking the blocks. We had to install an anchoring system behind each wall to prevent the wall from getting pushed out by water pressure (officially called hydrostatic pressure), along with gravel and tile for drainage.2 (12).JPG
We added steps along the house, along with some planters. A small landing gives an opportunity to change the direction of the steps to lead up to the back yard, and also gives it a more restful look.

 

Written and posted by Doug Grove, Grove Landscaping, Northfield, MN