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

Front entry upgrade

 

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Before

When renovating the front of a home, a very important part of the project is the front, or main, entry. This can be especially true when the home is located on a corner lot with more than one choice to get to the front door.

I designed this project it so that from no matter which side you entered the property, it would lead you to the front door. The first thing I did was eliminate  the sharp angles and long straight lines and switched the concrete sidewalks to pavers, which softened the look. The long  paver pathway  (which comes from the driveway on the other side of the house) was installed in a running bond pattern,  will be passing through a garden, making the 80 foot long  ”journey” to the front door more pleasant than, say, a concrete walk cutting through the lawn.

The front walk coming from the street also needed more character and some softening up, which we accomplished by installing the paver walkway in a soft “S” line.

 

A curved entry softens the approach to the front entry

We added a small entry patio and installed a seat stone in it , which helps draw attention to the front door, and also helps separate the two walkways with the change in brick pattern.

 


 

Patios and Ponds: the perfect combination

A while back we did a project  that involved constructing a large clay paver patio and walkway designed by Northfield landscape architect Spencer Jones. This project involved clay pavers, outcropping stones, a “bubbling rock” water feature, seat stones, and a pathway to a stone bench.

The owners wanted to expand their deck for an outdoor entertainment area, but they had to solve a water problem first. The soil around the existing deck was composed of a poorly drained, heavy clay soil, which caused a real problem with frost heave when the ground would go through it’s yearly freeze-thaw cycle. Spencer had us start by building up the area around the patio with a thick, well drained base of gravel. We then constructed the patio at  a positive slope. (That is, we sloped the patio away from the house so the water would drain away from the deck).

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Paver sidewalk leading to the patio

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Water feature, seat stone, and flagstone pathway leading out to the stone bench

The clay pavers were laid in a herringbone pattern, which can be challenging in a large area because they tend to wander and get out of alignment. The real challenge came when we had to pave around the water  feature. We had to start on one side, lay pavers all the around it and come back to meet the pavers at the exact spot we started.

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Under construction

The  new space has plenty of room  for outdoor entertaining with a beautiful view of their acreage. The pathway, which is constructed of large rectangular pieces of flagstone, leads you out “in to the view” ,ending at a stone bench, which is framed by two  flowering crabapples and two large seat stones.

Ponds and Water Features: A Backyard Paradise

A few years back, I installed a 11′ x 16′ pond with a waterfall in our back yard, next to our paver patio. It’s something that I’ve enjoyed immensely, and has become the focal point of the yard. Any water feature that we have installed for our clients has been become a real favorite spot for them to spend their outdoor time.
I thought I’d share with you some of the important features of a well-built system.The following is condensed is from an article I wrote for the Northfield News a while back.

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The popularity of water gardening is growing rapidly, as back yard ponds are becoming a frequent landscaping feature. More and more mn. are coming home at the end of a stressful day and unwinding to the relaxing sound of a stream, the enjoyment of seeing the water lilies with their white to pink blooms, the colorful fish, and birds of every kind that are attracted to this little oasis that you’ve provided for them.

One of the most enjoyable of having a water feature is that each one is a totally unique creation. You are only limited by your imagination as to it’s size and shape. A good standard size water feature is 11′ x16′ with a 6′ stream and a waterDSCF0026.JPGfall. If you are thinking about installing a pond of your own, it is better to invest a little more time and a few extra dollars into a system that will give you the most enjoyment for the longest time.A well designed system is a biologically balanced, self-maintained ecosystem. It is totally chemical free so that it’s not harmful to the fish. 1 (6).jpgNot only is there less maintenance involved, but the aesthetic differences are easily evident.

It is a common but mistaken belief that fish cannot survive a winter in in your pond. Fish can comfortably hibernate in a pond that is 24″ deep, if a hole is kept open in the winter so the gases created by the fish and organic matter can escape.. This can be done by an aerator or a floating de-icer, like you find in cattle tanks. Or you can bring them inside and put them in an aquarium.
What about mosquitoes? In a well balanced system the pond fish will eat the mosquito larvae and the moving water caused by the pond’s circulation system won’t be attractive to mosquitoes, anyway.
The nice thing about these pond systems is that they are almost maintenance free, with the exception of taking a few minutes each week to add a biological element that will control the algae (more about that later) and adding some water every now and then. (Or you can get an automatic fill valve soCopy (2) of DSCF0033.JPG you don’t have to worry about it).

If you are thinking about having a water feature installed or if you want to do it yourself, it is better to invest a little extra time and money in to a system that will give you the most enjoyment over theDSCF0073.JPG longest period of time. You’ll find that it is well worth it. Not only is there less maintenance, but the aesthetic differences are very easily evident.
A well-constructed water feature will be a beautiful addition to your home. It will be pleasure to look at and listen to. It won’t be long before you are watching the fish multiply, shopping for the newest varieties of water lilies, or or arranging a special rock here and there to get that “just right” look!

Next week I’ll be going over the basic elements of constructing a new waterfall and pond system.

Improve your basement walkout with a paver patio

First stages of the walkway leading from the steps to the patio

Many of our clients have walkout basements. Many of them will also have an overhead deck or sunporch above them. The space under the deck is more often than not a dark, empty, wasted space that no one uses, or is an unsightly storage area where anything from basketballs to snowmobiles are stored. Some will have concrete surfaces, probably built by the contractor when they built the house. One of the more common solutions  is to build  a screen, which can be some tall shrubs, lattice work. or fencing. This can work if done right, but usually it  looks like you are just trying to hide that unsightly mess that has been getting bigger and bigger over the last few years.

Jon making sure his paver cut will be "on the money"

So how do you make it attractive and usable at the same time?   We were contacted by a client to solve that issue. They had recently added a sun room to their main floor and wanted to make the walkout space under it usable. They also wanted to add an area for a gas grill. We constructed a paver patio under the sun room, and laid the pavers in a basket weave pattern. We extended the patio to include an area out from under the porch for grilling, changing the paver pattern in that area to running bond. This did a nice job of visually separating the grilling  and seating areas while at the same time  leaving them physically connected. The result was an area that was functional with a great look, along with a great view!

View of the wildlife area, before the paver patio and BBQ areas were finished