Top Trends in Outdoor Decorative Concrete
Decorative trends that help create an outdoor retreat
by Anne Balogh, ConcreteNetwork.com Columnist
Do you want to be on the cutting edge when it comes to using decorative concrete outdoors, and dare to go beyond a simple ho-hum driveway or patio slab? Creative contractors are always experimenting with new looks and applications for outdoor concrete, often in response to the desires and changing lifestyles of their customers. Here are some of the hottest trends we've been noticing at The Concrete Network, based on recent outdoor projects concrete contractors have shared with us. Hopefully, they will spark your imagination and embolden you to take on projects that rise above the ordinary and break new ground.
Creating Backyard Adventures
More people are taking "staycations" in their own backyards and using concrete to create mini theme parks, complete with faux-rock water features, concrete garden bridges, firepits, a sculpted concrete pool with water slides, and even a ship-wrecked concrete boat.
Going Back to Nature
With the growing concerns about our environment and preserving our natural resources, more homeowners are using concrete because it's a sustainable, eco-friendly building material. Plus, it also has an organic look and feel that can enhance and even mimic the surrounding environment. See these projects for ideas.
Concrete Mimics Natural Stone
Natural Pool Designs Brought to Life
Concrete Lava Rock Driveway
Custom Concrete Furniture
With its year-round weather resistance and ability to be molded into any shape, concrete is being used to create permanent backyard furniture, from patio tables and benches to outdoor concrete pool tables. This custom concrete furniture offers lasts a lifetime and never needs to be painted or refinished. See more examples.
Outdoor fireplaces continue to grow in popularity, with the trend in outdoor rooms fueling the fire. According to Scott Cohen of The Green Scene, homeowners are catching on to the fact that concrete fireplaces and other outdoor enhancements are a great way to add value to a home. And the cost of this outdoor ambiance is often more affordable than most people think. Learn more.
Videos: Outdoor Fireplaces and Fire Pits
In this series of 7 videos, landscape designer Scott Cohen of The Green Scene explores all the options with outdoor concrete fireplaces and fire pits, including precast fireplaces for small spaces, custom fireplaces that coordinate with the existing landscaping, fire pit design choices, and even combining a concrete hearth with a waterfall for the ultimate backyard showpiece.
Platinum Pools installs EasyTurf Artificial Turf for Customer's Dog Run in Barrington Hills, IL
Platinum Pools, a chicago outdoor living company based in Wheeling, IL, is proud to offer EasyTurf for its swimming pool and outdoor living customers. EasyTurf is the industry leader in Artificial Grass in the United States.
Platinum Pools and EasyTurf eliminated a bad problem for this homeowner by removing her muddy mess and installing a clean, comfortable dog run for her 4 Great Danes.
Why Easy Turf is perfect for Pets
Un-mark your turf today and save thousands!
Now you can have a dog AND a beautiful lawn!
EasyTurf artificial grass for dogs, with its revolutionary drainage capabilities, along with its realistic look and feel, make it the number one choice for pet owners. Because of its unmatched artificial dog grass durability, EasyTurf has proven to stand up to the most challenging of pets and its low maintenance features make keeping a beautiful, problem-free lawn all year long easy. Plus, over time, EasyTurf artificial grass for dogs saves thousands of dollars in maintenance and watering.
Here's why dog owners love EasyTurf artificial grass for dogs:
• MaxxFlow drainage makes dog grass clean up a snap
• Discolor and stain resistant grass for dogs
• Most dogs will give up digging
• Fixes dogs killing the grass
• Muddy paws and dirty pets are a thing of the past
• Non-toxic and hypo-allergenic artificial dog grass
• Eliminate water waste and fertilizing
Dog-friendly. With the pedigree to prove it.
EasyTurf artificial grass for dogs saves you money since little or no maintenance is required. Muddy spots and dog urine stains are gone. Dog waste and dog urine won't discolor or stain it; dogs can't dig through it and don't chew it. You spend less time cleaning your dogs since EasyTurf artificial grass for dogs prevents muddy paws and dirty pets, and helps you maintain a pleasant, safe environment for your pets. Your artificial grass is always available, no down-time for maintenance, watering or fertilizing. Relax, knowing this artificial grass for dogs has a 15-20 year life expectancy.
The difference is in the dog urine drainage!
Every inch of the MaxxFlow™ artificial grass backing drains freely with absolutely zero absorption. That means dog urine odor won't be a problem, and it even stands up to ALL pets, pet waste and dog urine. The backing also incorporates an integrated weed barrier which eliminates the need to purchase and install a separate one, saving you time and money. Remember...not only will EasyTurf artificial dog grass provide you with beautiful and useful artificial grass landscaping; it will also give the peace of mind that you have a clean, safe lawn for your pet.
• Drains clean: It requires no chemicals for dog urine odor found in another artificial grass or natural grass
• 100% permeable backing makes dog urine clean up a snap
• Most Realistic artificial grass for dogs
• Unique multi-color blades match the look of real grass
• Best Draining artificial dog grass – Drains better and cleaner than real grass
• Inherently antimicrobial and hypoallergenic dog grass surface
• Safe and non-toxic dog grass infill
• Artificial dog grass helps keep pets clean
• Artificial dog grass that is fertilizer and pesticide free
• Artificial dog grass dramatically improves water conservation
A comfortable dog is a happy dog! This Great Dane loves his new EasyTurf which Platinum Pools installed for him in Barrington Hills, IL.
Other uses for EasyTurf
Artificial grass applications have expanded greatly since 2010. An artificial grass turf product that was once only used for sports fields and small front yards, has expanded into all facets of outdoor landscape and surfacing.
EasyTurf artificial grass lends itself to many surface applications because of the extraordinary advantages it offers over other landscape and outdoor surfacing options. EasyTurf has also expanded indoors now offering indoor golf, play and training surfacing, while bringing all the benefits of field-training indoors without the mess; all while standing up to the strict fire-safety standards.
- Swimming Pool Landscaping!
Durable, Safe, Chlorine and Salt Water friendly pool-side landscaping
- Synthetic Grass For Commercial Landscaping
Commercial-grade synthetic grass applications
- Artificial Grass Color & Design
Outdoor living goes to the next level with colored artificial grass landscape designs
- Lawn Monograms – Artificial Grass Logos & Family Crests
NCAA logos, family crests and more offer new ways to personalize your outdoor living space
- Artificial Turf for Tennis Court Surface
Ultra-realistic simulated organic grass and clay court surfaces
- Artificial Turf Landscape Applications
Realistic, beautiful water-conscious landscape
- Artificial Grass Green Roofs
Low weight, water conscious compliment to green roof living and design
- Commercial & Home Golf Putting Greens
"True-Roll" custom backyard home putting greens
- EasyTurf Grass Play Surface is Far Superior to a Rubber Playground Surface
IPEMA Certified, Beautiful, safe, clean playground surfacing
About Easy Turf
EasyTurf is a professional synthetic turf company. We pride ourselves on offering the finest product and customer service in the industry. There are a variety of sources for synthetic turf landscaping, ranging from small turf companies to even your landscaper. Only EasyTurf offers the experience, quality and proven successful history to get the job done correctly the first time. Typically, other turf companies promote low cost turf that doesn't look as good, last as long or drain as well as FieldTurf.
EasyTurf, Inc. has been Southern California's exclusive FieldTurf® dealer for the residential and commercial landscaping market since 2000, offering the highest quality synthetic grass landscaping and golf green products and installations available. With over 7,000 installations in their region, EasyTurf is by far the largest synthetic grass distribution company in the country.
Besides offering the finest products available, the company's commitment to excellence and superior customer service has been the main driving factor towards their success and rapid growth.
EasyTurf has been an innovator of synthetic grass landscaping and has taken a leading role in educating consumers thereof. The acceptance of quality synthetic grass landscaping as a popular alternative to natural grass, and as a viable solution for problem lawns has also assisted EasyTurf's corporate growth and dominate market share.
Recognizing their market leading position, in May of 2010, FieldTurf, Inc. the industry dominant manufacturer and installer of sports fields worldwide, acquired EasyTurf to take charge of the development of the residential and commercial synthetic grass markets for the North American region. This development will allow FieldTurf to quickly become the major player in these rapidly growing and high demand arenas.
"Forming a partnership with EasyTurf will allow us to rapidly expand our already successful existing dealer network, accelerating our growth on a national level," said FieldTurf President Eric Daliere. "EasyTurf has been recognized for many years as the leader of the artificial grass landscaping industry which makes this joint venture a very exciting and historic announcement."
"Entering into this agreement with FieldTurf allows us to build off of the company's unparalleled reputation for product innovation, safety, and leadership in environmental responsibility," stated EasyTurf president David Hartman.
The Most Realistic Look and Feel
EasyTurf's monofilament fiber and color blends give it a natural look, unlike any other competitor's turf. Our newest Supra and Lush series artificial grass looks exactly like the real thing. Your friends, family and neighbors won't be able to tell the difference between your new EasyTurf lawn and an expensive, professionally-manicured natural lawn. It's so realistic, you'd have to see it to believe it!
Benefits of Replacing Natural Sod
Maintaining a natural sod or grass lawn can be a daunting task. From watering to fertilization, maintaining natural grass and sod lawns can be nearly impossible in Southern California. Recently, for these very reasons, synthetic sod grass lawns have become very popular. An EasyTurf artificial sod grass lawn requires little maintenance, no mowing or watering, stays green year round and lasts from 15 to 20 years, making it the ideal solution for problem plagued natural grass and sod lawns.
Being an Educated Consumer
No matter who you choose to install your artificial turf, you will be making a considerable investment. Make certain that you have done your research and that you make the choice that will serve you for years and years to come. EasyTurf invites you to do your homework. Contact the BBB and The California Landscape Association for references, and check out existing installations of the company's turf. Also, research the manufacturer of the artificial turf products you are considering. Please visit our Consumer Awareness page for more information about making the right synthetic turf choice for your project.
Be sure to check out the enclosed video from the San Diego Humane Society about EasyTurf
To learn more about EasyTurf, click here
Once an afterthought at best, gate and fence treatments have become key elements in the finely crafted projects of Phoenix-area designer/builder Roger Soares, owner of Hydroscapes, a firm specializing in highly customized aquatic environments. Here he demonstrates in words and images just how dynamic and important these peripheral structures can be when treated with care and creativity.
In our work designing and building pools, spas and other aquatic features, it can be easy to focus entirely on what's happening inside the property lines. In our work at Hydroscapes (Scottsdale, Ariz.), we've discovered there's tremendous value in considering the structures that define the boundaries of the space and provide points of entry.
Specifically, we've learned through years of design exploration and first-hand experience that designing and building custom gates and fences can present a tremendous opportunity to add creative and functional elements to a project – if you take the time to step back and look at these structures through fresh eyes.
Certainly, in many situations, the fences and gates already exist and the client may not have any need or interest in changing them. In our work, however, we've found numerous situations where gate and fence treatments become an extremely important part of the overall design scheme and become a point of tremendous interest and enthusiasm for the client.
For example, when the pool area is located in a front yard (something we see more and more of these days) the gates and fences involve a range of critical issues including the appearance of the property's frontage and the ability to block and reveal views of the pool area, not to mention defining the initial experience of entering the property.
In other situations where you have large properties, gates and fences can be used to define the pool area within the property. And there are many situations where clients realize it only makes sense to do something creative or stylish on the perimeter as a way to accentuate the work being done within their yards. If safety is a concern, for example, why not make those barriers as attractive as possible rather than consigning yourself to the notion that fences present some sort of visual compromise.
Overall, it's fair to say that gate and fence work represents an opportunity to add tremendous visual interest to a property, yet it's something that many people in our industry barely consider or even completely ignore. I think that's a mistake because when you step back and think about it, these are tremendously important structures that define access, frame views, can make dramatic or subtle stylistic statements, define visual boundaries and, of course, add measures of safety and security depending on the situation.
Years ago, we started working with fence treatments due to our clients' maintenance concerns. Here in Arizona's Valley of the Sun, the elements can be extremely tough on certain materials, such as the wood used in many common types of fencing. We started designing fences using metal as a way to relieve those issues and to give the clients something more visually interesting compared to an ordinary plank or picket fence.
With that modest start, it wasn't long before we became more and more involved in gates and fences from a far more ambitious design standpoint. These days it's something we bring up with the vast majority of our clients and we've found that they often become extremely excited knowing that they're going to have something beautiful to look at.
It's become another element we can use to give the clients something no one else has.
What's so neat about these kinds of additional features is seeing how the outcome plays out with each client. Oftentimes, doing something creative with a fence or gate adds very little, if any, cost to the project. It's simply a matter of looking for alternative materials or design treatments. If you're building a large masonry wall finished in stucco, for example, the wall has to be some kind of color, so why not make use of the color palette you're already using on the project? Or perhaps finish different sections of the wall in different colors to add interest, or use different textures in various places to create visual variety.
By simply varying texture and color on these vertical elements, you gain a wide range of design options that can be used in all sorts of interesting ways and, again, often with very little or even no impact on budget.
On the other end of the spectrum, there are situations where clients will opt for expensive treatments that become spectacular design elements. For example, we've worked with various metal and glass craftsmen who collaborate on intricate designs that become works of art themselves.
We've done large wooden gates that have windows and various types of apertures that serve the dual purpose of making a powerful aesthetic statement while also giving visitors glimpses of the garden spaces on the other side. We've created custom gate designs that are sculptural in nature and impress visitors from the moment they approach the property.
When such clients want their doors or gates to make a statement, to have them stand out amongst their neighbors, it becomes an extremely exciting part of the discussion. In many cases, it's because they've seen other treatments that impress them and they want the same thing for themselves. Oftentimes, we amplify that excitement by showing them designs we've done in our own work and in many of the places we seen throughout our travels.
It's one of those tangential discussions that can become as interesting and dynamic as any other element of the project.
In many settings, transparent fence and gate treatments can be used to both frame the space with stylistic elements, and minimize visual distractions.
POWER OF INFLUENCE
Without question, travel and research into design traditions can pay tremendous dividends as you develop concepts for use in projects. As one smallish example, my wife, Sheri, and I recently visited New Orleans for the 2012 PSP show. We took time out to tour the legendary Garden District, a neighborhood chock full of beautiful homes designed in an array of great traditions such as antebellum, French provincial, Greek revival, Italianate and Victorian, among others.
The tree-lined streets are like a living design museum. Common to many of these spectacular homes are fences and gates that define the properties' frontages. You can partially see beyond the property line into all sorts of beautiful gardens and courtyards. Some of these gate and fencing designs are extremely simple, other far more elaborate, but in almost all cases they entice you to stop and peek into the property. It's all part of this fantastic pageant where you're separated from the homes while at the same time visually invited to stop and take in the highly personalized landscapes and magnificent architecture.
Another huge and entirely different set of examples can be found in the traditions of Asian design. I'm a huge fan of Japanese design and greatly admire Japanese architecture and landscaping. One of the hallmarks of that ancient design tradition is the use of fences and gates to partially conceal and reveal garden spaces, to provide a sense of discovery as you move through the landscape. The structures themselves are often rendered with simple, yet beautiful wooden structures that both contrast and yet seamlessly blend with natural forms.
Chinese design, on the other hand, is much different. There you tend to find fences and gates used as imposing barriers where there is a far more pronounced feeling of separation within the landscape. These structures can be beautiful in their own ways, no question, but they are also often quite monolithic and imposing.
Although I personally prefer the more seductive approach found in Japanese design, there are useful lessons to be gleaned from both traditions in that they demonstrate how the structures that both prevent and provide access can tell you something about the people on the other side.
And, of course, there are almost infinite examples of vastly differing design styles to be found throughout Europe. From the great Italian villas to French gardens and the Moorish designs of Spain, as you travel and actively pay attention to the structures and their detailing, you can find volumes of different ideas that can be repurposed in our work back at home.
Here a beautifully simple gate frames both the entrance to this contemporary yard and the stunning distant mountain vista.
Even if you don't specifically use design details from those types of explorations, the principles used in the modalities of great design can still be applied on conceptual basis. A prime example would be the conceal/reveal techniques in Japanese design. Regardless of the stylistic palette, you can always apply the concept as a way to generate interest, even mystery in the work through transparent elements such latticework, windows or apertures.
In the greater Phoenix area, where we do the majority of our projects, we're often working in either contemporary or Spanish colonial settings, which you can see in the images on these pages.
Everything I've said above applies to those projects and hopefully you can see the numerous ways that the gate and fence treatments are used to introduce, frame and elaborate on the various design programs within the properties.
In some cases, you'll see how we've used fencing structures to open up views to the dramatic surroundings of the Sonora Desert with the use of highly transparent structures. In other situations, we've used monolithic walls to conceal unwanted views and create areas that feel extremely private and intimate. In other situations, we've used combinations of the two to generate variety and spatial definition between different areas within the landscape.
Likewise, the gates cover a variety of concepts, some being magnificent works of architectural art that make bold statements about the homeowners' tastes, and in other, the gates are far subtler, and all sorts of designs that fall somewhere between those two extremes.
Across the boards, these gates and fences are all designed and built to add value to the setting and serve as surprising points of pride for our clients. All in all, working creatively with these peripheral features is a great way to step outside the proverbial box.
Bring Back the Guests!
from Resort Cabanas
It didn't use to be this tough getting bookings.
And so here you find yourself, pulling out all the stops to fill those rooms and bring sufficient meetings-and-events business in through the front doors. Improve your chances of success. How?
By maximizing your property's visual cachet, its "Wow!" factor. The temptation in times like these is to cut corners on site optics and instead rely on brand reputation to carry you. But you know better. Name alone is no longer enough. You need your place to stand out as never before in order to convince the world that yours is the only hotel or resort worth visiting, worth spending money at. What's imperative is that travelers, tourists and event-goers fall madly, passionately in love with you the instant they catch sight of your grounds. And that's exactly what Resort Cabanas can do for you!
Resort Cabanas, a division of Eide Industries, Inc., offer contemporary beauty, comfort, protection and privacy alongside the swimming pool, on the beach, in the garden and in any lounging area with custom cabanas and canvas gazebos.
Should you build a porch or a patio?
Do you need to build a porch? Maybe a patio will suffice.
Are you thinking of hiring a deck builder to build a new porch or deck for your house? While it could be a good investment, it might not be the most effective expenditure. If you need to landscape your yard as well as create an outdoor living space for yourself, a patio built into your landscaping might be a more efficient use of resources. Building a patio into your yard also is time efficient. If you are considering building an outdoor living space to improve your house's curb value and you want to start showing your house as soon as possible, then bypass the deck and go right to building a patio.
A good landscaper or landscape designer should be able to guide you through the process of building a patio into your existing landscape. Before you hire the landscaper or landscape designer, be sure to check his or her references. Go to see patios that he or she has built or designed before, to see if the work is durable and up to your standards. If all is a go, then have some fun choosing materials with the landscaper.
Flagstone or slate tiles are a classic material for a backyard patio floor. Also look into cement pavers. Cement pavers come in many different shapes and sizes, and can give you some flexibility with design. Another option is to create a gravel or rock-covered patio ground covering. Solid stone slabs are pricey, but look luxe. Another option for a patio floor material is brick, which is durable and classic.
The way that you edge around the patio will help to create a patio that rivals a deck's independence from the rest of the yard. Shrubs, flower beds, rocks, or pathways are options for edging around a patio. You can also erect trellises, arbors, or fences, or build a pergola over your patio for shade. A raised garden bed or a small wall in the center or near the edge of a patio can help to define the space. To make your patio really stand out, be sure to add dimensionality with built structures and edging.
For patio inspiration, I recommend looking at Minneapolis-area landscaper Switzer's Nursery & Landscaping's photos of patio alternatives to decks on Hometalk.com. It's a great inspirational starting point for building a patio as an alternative to a deck.
EP Henry Contractors Weigh in on the Year's Top Trends for Outdoor Living Spaces
By EP Henry, via herald online
WOODBURY, N.J., APRIL 8, 2013 — /PRNewswire/ -- With the steadily improving residential real estate market and recent uptick in sales reported by home improvement retailers, many homeowners are investing more in enhancing their outdoor living spaces this year. The timing of tax returns and current low interest rates are among other factors driving consumer spending.
These positive economic signs point to parallel growth in the Hardscaping and landscaping industries, which stand to benefit from increased sales during their busy season.
"We recognize that refinancing dollars are important to our industry," said Mark Wagner, president and founder of Wagner Landscaping and an EP Henry Authorized Hardscaping Contractor®. "A lot of our work is tied to interest rates, and with low refinancing rates, we're seeing an increase in demand for a lot of our products."
EP Henry, the leading manufacturer of unit concrete products serving the mid-Atlantic region, recently surveyed its contractors to identify trends for outdoor living spaces this year.
Topping the list of outdoor design trends for 2013 are:
Outdoor living rooms. "Adding a roof structure over patios allows people to spend more time in their outdoor space," said Joseph A. Nardo, owner of Private Paradise Construction and an EP Henry contractor. A recent survey by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) indicated outdoor living spaces earned almost a 95 percent rating in popularity from respondents.
Multifunctional "kits." This year, EP Henry introduced its Solitaire Kit, which allows customers to convert their fire pit into a fish pond or an aquatic garden. This enables the feature to serve a dual purpose as both a heating source in the cool early spring and fall months and a refreshing water feature in the summer months.
Outdoor kitchens. Adding to outdoor living spaces, certain amenities such as built-in grills, refrigerators, countertops and concrete seating walls make for a versatile outdoor space that can be enjoyed day or night.
Sustainable products. Environmental concerns continue to be a strong driver with outdoor projects. Products such as permeable pavers help the environment by allowing rainwater to recharge the ground, reducing stormwater runoff. They can also be used to harvest rainwater for multiple purposes, such as watering gardens, replenishing ponds and fountains or washing cars. EP Henry's ECO line of permeable pavers brings beauty and functionality to sustainable design.
Natural-looking stone products. "Many of our customers don't like the look of concrete blocks," said Chip Bunch, president of Shan-Gri-La Contractors and an EP Henry contractor. "But the natural look of Cast Veneer Stone™ coupled with its price point makes it a popular product."
For more ideas on ways to enhance an outdoor living space, visit EP Henry's Inspiration Gallery or watch the company's Hard Facts on Hardscaping video series.
About EP Henry
EP Henry (www.ephenry.com) is the premier family-owned and operated manufacturer of unit concrete products in North America. The company supplies Hardscaping™ – a term it coined – and architectural concrete masonry products, all of which are 100 percent American-made, to homeowners and businesses. Headquartered in Woodbury, NJ, EP Henry was founded in 1903. A sponsor of the world-renowned Philadelphia International Flower Show, EP Henry also supports veterans' organizations through its Heroscaping™ Active Military and Veterans Donation Program, instituted in 2012.
SOURCE EP Henry
Read more here: http://www.heraldonline.com/2013/04/08/4754493/top-five-hardscaping-trends-for.html#storylink=cpy
Creating Privacy In Your Yard
by RACHEL LAURENDEAU, from My Home Improvement on APRIL 9, 2013
It's easy to add privacy to your yard or deck while beautifying your landscape. We all use our yards differently from swimming and sunbathing to grilling and entertaining but one thing is certain, it's nice to have some privacy while enjoying your space.
• Plan your landscaping and hardscaping strategically. Although it might seem logical to build a deck right off the house, if your yard offers an area with more natural privacy such as large trees or a berm, consider building your patio or deck in this location.
• Privacy screens are excellent and attractive ways to block off one or more sides of your deck. By planting climbing vines at the base of the screen or trellis, it will blend into the garden and can provide more greenery, flowers and even lovely scents. Simple screens can be built as a DIY home improvement project or your can ask your deck builder to custom build one to match the deck.
• Natural screens offer a more organic look while providing privacy. There are a number of different ways to achieve this:
o Large pots can be filled with quick growing ornamental grasses, bamboo or even small shrubs such as pyramidal cedars and lined up along the edge of your deck. If you want something more permanent than pots, you could put in a narrow garden bed along the edge of the deck and fill it with these same types of plants.
o Plant shrubs to create a hedge. There are a number of fast-growing shrubs that can be selected to offer privacy and interesting leaf color/texture or beautiful blooms to attract butterflies and birds. Talk to the pros at your local garden center to find out which species would be best suited to your area and specific growing conditions.
o For a larger scale and longer-term commitment, plant trees in your yard. Trees have the added bonus of creating shade and attracting wildlife to your yard and there are a number of excellent species that grow quickly.
• Build structures for privacy. If you are looking for more seclusion than privacy screening can offer, you may want to consider talking to your deck builder about constructing a gazebo, porch or a pergola. The pergola could be draped in vines or you can have drapery made of beautiful, weather-resistant fabrics.
Following these simple tips can help you create the privacy that you crave in your yard while enhancing the look of your landscaping. Now, get out and enjoy the beautiful outdoor space that you've created!
Landscaping shapes home value, seasonal enjoyment
A couple weeks ago I discussed horticulture's behavioral benefits. If that didn't inspire you to grab a trowel and plant something, there is another benefit: Money.
by By: Don Kinzler, INFORUM
A couple weeks ago I discussed horticulture's behavioral benefits. If that didn't inspire you to grab a trowel and plant something, there is another benefit: Money.
A well-landscaped yard is the 401K of the plant world. Landscaping adds between 7 percent and 20 percent to the resale value of your home. Clemson University and Michigan State University research indicate an average 11 percent increase.
An attractive lawn and plantings are doubly important in the eyes of real estate agents. Landscaping not only adds substantially to the dollar value of the property, but makes prospective buyers feel the house itself has been well-maintained. A well-planted yard significantly increases the speed at which a home is sold.
In an interesting study similar homes were shown to realtors and home owners. One set of homes contained generous landscaping, while the others had minimal plantings. Both realtors and homeowners valued the well-landscaped homes 30 percent higher.
The key phrase is "well-landscaped."
• First, you need a plan. Visualize your yard's desired landscape. For ideas, consult landscape books and websites containing inspirational photos.
When I was with North Dakota State University Extension Horticulture, I gathered landscape ideas by driving the streets of North Dakota towns. Look around your neighborhoods for inspiration.
You will rarely find a landscape to copy exactly. Rather, borrow a front yard idea from one source, rear patio from another and border plantings elsewhere. Or seek the service of a landscape professional.
With a good landscape, the house appears naturally in a setting of greenery. Your home should be a restful part of your property's tree and shrub plantings, almost as though the landscape existed first, and the house was located within.
• Develop a long-range master plan.
Include any existing landscaping. Budgets often do not allow completion of a grand plan in one season. Accomplish portions as you are able over time.
• Have patience.
Home makeover programs give the impression that a mature landscape can be created in 72 hours. In reality, perennial flowers require two to three years; shrubs need three to five years, and shade trees need a decade for established appearances. Enjoy watching the development.
• Create a focal point.
When viewing your home, the eye should be led invitingly to the front door.
This focal point can be accomplished using curving or linear groups of plants visually leading to the front. Use colorful or unique specimen plants by the front entry. Brightly colored annual flowers in various pot heights grouped together will invite the eye.
• Include lines.
Broad, sweeping curves are more natural and dynamic than straight lines. This includes shrub plantings around the house foundation and curving shrub and flower borders along the property edges.
• Use edging.
Establish a crisp, clean-cut edge between the lawn and planting areas, regardless of edging material used.
• Maintain lawns, but don't make them the focal point.
The lawn is not the main feature. Rather it is a well-maintained canvas upon which the rest of the landscape is placed.
• Include trees wisely.
Install trees early in your master plan. They require more time to achieve size.
Locate trees to frame the view of your home, and for background beauty. Avoid low-headed trees squarely in front of your home which obscure the view.
• Create a large enough width.
Design planting areas that are large enough. Planting beds should be six to eight feet in width from the foundation for a single story home.
This draws the landscape out from the home naturally. Narrow widths are a common mistake, which gives plantings a cramped feel.
• This about plant size. Use the mature height and width of plant material to establish spacing and distances. Plants look so cute when they are tiny, often resulting in overcrowding as the plants mature.
• Plant in odd numbers.
Choose plants in multiples of three, five, or seven for a natural appearance. Few homes are symmetrical, and odd numbers suit the landscape.
• Mind the foundation.
The house foundation doesn't need to be continuously concealed with shrubbery. Rather plant shrubs in groupings.
• Combine a variety of textures, colors and heights.
Plant evergreens with deciduous shrubs. Remember to landscape for winter contrast.
• Use vines on fences soften hard lines.
Allow areas for annual and perennial flowers among shrub groupings.
• Surprises located within the landscape will create fun.
Use water features, hidden statuary, and secret garden hideaways.
• Add to existing landscapes.
To massage existing plantings into your master plan, remember to build a focal point. Re-establish a crisp edge. Widen shrub beds if they are too narrow. Prune to rejuvenate overgrown deciduous shrubs. Remove and replace straggly evergreens that are beyond pruning.
We can each do our part in landscape beautification. Your home value will increase, and our cities will look great. We will truly be "Growing Together."
This column was written exclusively for The Forum.
A Guide To Lighting Your Pool Area
from Guardian Pool Fence
Especially in the warmer months, decks, porches, and patios around the pool are some your house's most important "rooms." They're the perfect venues for leisurely brunches, festive grills, and just hanging out after a relaxing swim. But, when the sun goes down, you don't want to scrimp on beauty or have any unnecessary hassle because your pool area is poorly lit. Here are a few lighting tips to keep your sacred space stunning and safe:
Hidden lights at the edges of your pond or pool, or even underwater will add an extra touch of glamour, and make it safer and more fun for you and your guests to swim at night. Just make sure the lights you choose are waterproof!
Wouldn't it be great if you could enjoy your favorite flowerbeds, trees, and shrubs during your late night swims? Once you choose your space's focal points, the right outdoor lighting will let you do just that. For example, a bright, weatherproof up-light at the base of each tree around your patio is a regal way to beautify your whole yard!
For paths leading from your home to the pool, you'll probably want to invest in some path lights. These can be really fun, you can choose between plain white and color-changing varieties, with an array of battery operated options so you don't have to worry about unsightly power cords.
Rope or tape lights along the handrails of your porch will not only help you and your guests see at night, but the warm glow will give the whole space a magical ambiance. Other places that benefit from stylish accent lights include dining areas on decks and patios, and staircases (lighting these areas also make negotiating them in the dark much more manageable).
Automating your lights with motion sensors, photo sensors, and/or timers will save you endless hassle every night. They'll keep the lights on when you need them, and shut them off when you don't. Photo sensors and timers are perfect for those areas you want constantly lit at night, and motions sensors are more ideal for utilitarian purposes. Both will keep your home and pool area extra safe.
6. Barbecue Lights.
If you love cooking for friends and family after a long afternoon swim, you may want to invest in a small barbecue or grill light. They clip or rest easily on your grill, and allow you to see perfectly while cooking in the dark. You'll never risk cooking mishaps like burning yourself or undercooking meat!
Here's a final piece of trivia: LED lights don't attract any bugs, because they don't emit UV rays like other light sources. Therefore, if you choose to light your pool area with LEDs, you won't have to deal with hundreds of pesky insects swarming around. Finally, you can relax in peace!
There are nearly limitless choices of how to light your pool – it's the perfect opportunity to exercise your creativity and show off a space you're really proud of!
Annie Josey is a blogger for Pegasus Lighting, a nationally acclaimed specialty lighting retailer. At Pegasus, it's Annie's objective to help all homeowners enhance their dwellings with impeccable illumination.
Fun with furnishings: Four ways to diversify outdoor decor for warmer months
from Times Colonist
TORONTO - As winter-weary Canadians welcome the return of warmer weather, many won't have far to travel for the opportunity to revel in the outdoors.
Whether spending time solo or hosting a backyard bash, those with a deck, porch or patio at their disposal are keen to pass the time idling or entertaining in their outdoor space.
Decor specialists highlight four ways homeowners can update their exteriors.
1. Colour change. Some tend to gravitate towards the dark side when selecting hues for lounge chairs, chaises and sectional sofas. While brown and black-coloured weaves remain popular, look for an emergence of pieces featuring frames in paler shades.
"Some of the lighter weaves now — the whites, the light greys — it really sort of gives an airier, lighter feel," said Andrew Bockner, principal of Andrew Richard Designs in Toronto.
Fans of a more rustic look may eschew wicker or metal furnishings in favour of wood. Bockner has embraced use of reclaimed teak due to the hardwood's ability to withstand the elements.
"It can stand the test of time. It stays outside for years and basically it just turns a little grey which is a beautiful colour for it, anyway."
For pre-existing furniture, consider taking the do-it-yourself route for pieces in need of refreshment.
"If it's a wicker or a wood, it can get a fresh coat of paint or stain," said Heidi Richter, stylist on HGTV's "Decked Out" and "Disaster Decks."
Updating cushions in weather-resistant materials is another cost-effective method to dress up the backyard, she added. And prepare for a furniture flashback with many retro-inspired fabrics — and even the pieces themselves — channelling the past.
"People are picking up old vintage pieces and maybe painting them in a really nice, bright poppy colour," said Richter, owner of Toronto design and project management company HR Design Inc.
"You're not doing all of your furniture — it's just one accent piece. So you're not married to it if you decide you like a different colour the next year."
2.Made in the shade. While some may choose to go light and bright with outdoor furniture, Bockner suggested selecting darker hues for overhead canopies to help mask the dirt and residue from the outdoors.
Larger cantilevered umbrellas also offer the benefit of protection without poles "interrupting your space," Bockner noted.
Injecting some added green with plants and foliage can lend some visual warmth as well as some added privacy. "If you're in a smaller backyard and not worried about the trees so much, vertical planting is something that's really nice," said Richter.
When opting to bring in potted plants rather than flexing your green thumb and digging in the dirt, Richter said it's important to be mindful of maintenance and sustenance when the weather cools.
"If it's something to stay outdoors all year, you need to ensure it's hearty enough to do that, and use an insulated plant pot where the roots won't freeze in winter."
3. Space savers. It's not just sofa beds and convertible tables: multipurpose furniture items which have been space-saving staples in interiors are being tailored for the outdoors.
"I absolutely love multifunctional pieces," said Bockner, who carries items like tables which double as storage chests.
"When someone has a small space and a piece that functions for them in two different ways, it really allows them to use their space to the fullest."
Bockner said they've also scaled down the size of pieces being showcased, creating lounge sets suitable for porches or condo terraces with benches that tuck underneath dining tables.
Day beds are another cosy addition for a porch or a small space. Larger variations can double as a chaise, lounge or hangout area for families to enjoy, he noted.
For individuals considering new furniture, Bockner recommended opting for deep seating rather than dining sets when adding pieces.
"I find that anybody who has a lounge set and a dining set, they spend 80 to 90 per cent of the time in that lounge set. I've been over at peoples' homes where they're like: "Let's take the barbecue over to the lounge; let's do it more casually.
"Adding deep seating, adding comfortable furniture in your outdoor space will extend the time that you use it," he added. "It'll extend the opportunities to entertain and it will extend the opportunities to spend down time with family."
4. Shine on. There are many ways to keep your outdoor oasis illuminated well past sunset, and there's no need to settle on a sole source to brighten up your surroundings.
Richter said "layering the light" can help add depth and dimension to the space. If you bring in low-voltage LEDs on the stairs to the deck, consider also incorporating candlelight and lanterns, and perhaps some sconces flanking the door.
"It just adds a great ambience. Then you can adjust as the mood suits," she said.
"If you're entertaining and it's fun and it's a lively party, you can even string up paper lanterns to add a little warmth and fun. But if it's just you and your hubby having a romantic evening, just go with the candles or the fire pit."
Tabletop ethanol fireplaces not only look beautiful but can add a touch of warmth on cooler nights, Bockner noted.
"They give you about five or six degrees. That might extend the time you can use your space by maybe three to four weeks on the end of each season."