Author Archives: GCSDev

How to Design Your Outdoor Living Area for Mixed Generations

Creating your perfect landscape can be a project that lasts a lifetime, but how can you effectively design your outdoor living area when your needs, activities and preferences may change over the years? Fortunately, with a little careful consideration, you can create a functional and beautiful landscape that all generations of your family will enjoy.

Assess Your Landscape

When you’re planning outdoor spaces, it is critical to work with what already exists in your landscape. This means creating a landscape that flows with the contours of your property, is suitable for your overall space and will thrive in your climate. Before planning extensive landscape work, consider…

  • Soil quality and condition and any adjustments that may be required
  • Irrigation needs, including sprinkler systems, runoff and natural rainfall
  • Sunlight levels and how light changes throughout the year
  • General climate and microclimates throughout the yard
  • Views from different angles, including those you may want to preserve or block
  • Existing structures, pathways and borders that may or may not be altered
  • Potential trouble spots, such as narrow yards, steep slopes or poor drainage


By thoroughly understanding your landscape before you begin redesigning an outdoor space, you can effectively plan proper landscaping that will thrive rather than struggle.

Assess Your Needs

Once you know what you already have to work with in your landscape, you can assess what your needs are for an outdoor living space and how you can create a fun and enjoyable sanctuary in your yard. The needs of toddlers, teens and adults can be very different, however, and it is important to note how preferences may change in the years to come. By thinking ahead, you can make full use of your landscape through different life and family stages without needing to redesign the yard every few years. Consider your family size and how it may change, including whether family members may move away or move closer, whether different family members may be interested in different outdoor activities and how changing schedules may affect how your landscape is used over time.

Planning Outdoor Spaces for Changing Needs

It may seem impossible to plan a beautiful landscape that will be just as enjoyable and useful a decade from now as it is today. Considering different aspects of your outdoor living space one by one, however, can help you develop a master landscape plan that your entire family, as well as friends, neighbors and guests, will enjoy for years. When designing your outdoor living space, consider…

  • Seating
    There should not only be enough seating for the entire family to share, but also for entertaining. This might include casual kids’ parties, summer barbecues or more formal events such as a graduation party or bridal shower. While you may not have a seat for every guest over the years, be sure there is space to add additional seating for special events if needed.
  • Storage
    From garden tools and children’s toys to sports equipment, patio cushions and outdoor holiday decorations, there is always a need for more storage related to your landscape. A shed is a good option, or integrate storage areas that will serve multiple purposes such as built-in storage benches or bins that are part of the patio or deck design.
  • Gardens
    If you want a productive, delicious garden as part of your landscape, opt for adjustable gardening areas such as raised garden beds, container gardens or vertical gardening spaces. These types of gardens are more easily adjusted over the years as your desire and needs for fresh produce changes, as well as being more adjustable for garden care.
  • Activity Areas
    Plan activity areas in your outdoor space that can be modified over the years to meet different needs and preferences. A play structure in an open area, for example, can be removed when young children outgrow it, and that same area can become a badminton court for the whole family. A fire pit area, yoga space or meditation niche can also be adjusted through the years.
  • Pathways
    Getting from one area to another in your yard should be easy for everyone to navigate. Broader pathways will be easier for unsteady youngsters as well as seniors with mobility assistance, and shallower steps are easier for feet of all ages. Be sure paths are level and even, and plants should not overgrow busy traffic areas.
  • Entertaining
    If you enjoy entertaining in your yard, be sure to incorporate gathering spaces for groups to enjoy. This might include a fire pit with conversation seating, a grilling area with good access to tools and supplies or even an outdoor kitchen for more elaborate parties. Proper lighting or a speaker system for music can also be essential for an outdoor entertaining space.
  • Lighting
    You will want to see your outdoor living space and enjoy it even after the sun goes down. Pathway lighting, spotlights on focal points and fun string lighting or outdoor chandeliers in entertaining areas can all be part of your lighting design to keep your outdoor space functional as well as festive after dark.
  • Privacy
    Always consider privacy when designing your outdoor living space, not only from nearby streets or neighbors’ yards, but also from different areas of your yard. Be sure there are good sightlines where necessary, but also consider cozier niches where individuals or smaller groups can feel more private. Plants, screens and lattices or trellises are all good options for enhancing privacy.
  • Plants
    Choosing plants for your landscape is easy when you consider not only your own future needs, but the future needs of the plants as well. Note the mature sizes and growth patterns of plants when placing them in your landscape, and consider how much maintenance they may require over the years to be sure you can give them the care they require even as your life changes.
  • Focal Points
    Focal points can unite your landscape and bring it together visually, even as your needs may change. An eye-catching specimen plant, for example, can become the backdrop for family events and photos, and these familiar sights will always be welcome to your family even as its composition changes.

No matter how your outdoor living space may need to change over the years as your family and its preferences change, you can plan a versatile, adaptable space to change with your family. What won’t change, however, is how much you can enjoy that space and how it will bring your family together for many memorable moments.

Need help planning the perfect landscape for your family’s diverse and changing needs? Our experts can help you craft outdoor living spaces you will enjoy for years!

Phased Landscape Installation

Redoing your landscape, whether you are starting from scratch, updating parts of an existing design or completely renovating your yard, can be a lengthy and expensive process. Phased landscape installation can help you adjust your time, labor and budget to create your dream landscape in easy-to-manage steps.

How Phased Landscape Installation Works

Instead of doing an entire large landscape at one time from start to finish, phased landscape installation breaks the project into more manageable pieces. It may take several weeks, months or years to complete the landscape installation in phases, depending on the size of the project and what resources are available to complete it.

Phased landscape installation can be beneficial in several ways. Not only does it make a large project more manageable, but it also allows for tweaks and refinements throughout the process as needs, preferences and living styles may change over time. Installing a landscape in phases can also better accommodate a limited budget or limited time with shorter seasons, while still allowing for the yard, garden and landscape to be used and enjoyed before the full project is complete.

Designing a Master Landscaping Plan

Creating a master landscaping plan is a critical first step in phased landscape installation. A master plan is necessary to keep the landscape’s end result in mind, and that plan can be adjusted as needed throughout the different phases. When the full project can be envisioned, it is also easier to plan the order of phases to be installed with the greatest efficiency so there is less disruption to established parts of the landscape when a new phase is begun.

The first part of a master plan should involve a comprehensive evaluation of the site and its landscaping needs. This should include soil condition and quality, drainage concerns, sunlight levels, potential erosion problems and more. This evaluation can help direct the landscape installation to correct difficulties with each step. After the overall evaluation, the first phases of landscape installation need to be sufficiently detailed for the project to get underway. Later phases and finishing touches may change by the time the final phase of installation is ready to begin, and so those phases may not necessarily be as firm when the landscaping plan is first developed.

It is important to keep the master plan accessible, especially when it may take several years to fully install a larger, more elaborate landscape. Notes, changes, suggestions and updates should all be documented. This will ensure that all contractors and experts – who may change over the years – are aware of the overall landscape vision.

Landscape Phases to Plan

The order of projects in phased installation will vary depending on the overall master plan for the landscape, as well as how each phase is integrated into the overall process. Needs and preferences can also influence which phases are implemented first to ensure the landscape is usable and enjoyable from the very first phase. Typical phases in a landscape plan may include…

  • Surfaces – Sod, seeding, groundcovers, or mulching for erosion control and visual appeal.
  • Hardscapes – Borders and edging, terraces, retaining walls, etc.
  • Gas and Electrical Lines – Support for water feature pumps, lighting, outdoor kitchens, etc.
  • Irrigation – Sprinkler systems and drip plans as well as drainage adjustments.
  • Shade – Large trees and plants to provide shade for outdoor living spaces as well as structures.
  • Entertaining Space – Patios, decks, pool surrounds and similar high use spaces.
  • Structures – Pergolas, trellises, arbors, sheds, play structures, etc.
  • Waterscapes – Ponds or pondless waterfalls, creeks and streams, or fountains.
  • Garden Space – Raised beds or dedicated growing areas for practical harvests, fruit trees, etc.
  • Pathways – Connections between parts of the landscape or around the entire home.
  • Plantings – Shrubbery and flowerbeds, specimen plants, etc.

While the order of phase installation can vary greatly, many plans opt to put surfaces, hardscapes and shade early in the master plan. Surfaces are often used right away and help a landscape look attractive even as the plan is being implemented, while hardscapes establish the borders that will gradually frame the entire landscape. Shade is also important to implement early, as larger trees have slower growth cycles and will take longer to mature and provide their full benefits, so the sooner they are planted the sooner they will be providing that shade. Of course, depending on the exact budget and master landscaping plan, several phases may be implemented at once, or smaller phases may be spread out over a greater period.

In addition to these potential phases, it is important to consider the final phase of landscape installation – care and maintenance. Particularly when plants are young and the ground may still be settling, extra care may be needed to nurture plants and ensure they adjust to their new environment. Proper care, including pruning, fertilization and pest control, will help keep the landscape looking just as attractive and inviting as it is from the first moment of installation.

Are you considering phased landscape installation? Our experts can help develop your master landscaping plan and recommend the best phases to create your dream landscape!

The Use of Focal Points in the Landscape

We have all used focal points in our daily lives, from showcasing favorite photos in a gallery wall to throw pillows adding a pop of color on the sofa to choosing accessories to highlight our best features. But did you know you can use landscape focal points in a similar way, drawing the eye to the very best features of your home and property to accentuate its unique characteristics and highlight its beauty? Learn how to truly showcase your landscaping with the best focal points to give your home extra flair.

What Is a Focal Point?

A focal point is a highlighted, outstanding feature that draws the eye and grabs attention. In the landscape, this can be nearly any type of feature, from plants to structures to hardscaping to ornamentation. Popular landscaping focal points include…

  • Unique specimen plants, either unusual varieties, unique shapes or exceptional sizes
  • Water features such as ponds, waterfalls or fountains
  • Boulders, terraces or other dramatic hardscape details
  • A bird feeding station or other wildlife-oriented feature
  • A colorful flowerbed, container garden or even a dramatic window box
  • A statue or sculpture, even as simple as a gazing ball or sundial
  • Inviting structures such as gates, arbors, pergolas or arches
  • A seating area or other outdoor gathering space
  • A uniquely designed pathway, such as a mosaic, stepping stones or bridge
  • Specially designed pavers, such as a mural-like feature

A focal point can be anything unique, whether it is a naturally-occurring feature of the existing landscape or something you have dreamed of adding to your yard or garden.

The Purpose of a Focal Point

While a focal point initially draws the eye, it actually does far more than just attract attention. A well designed landscape will work with focal points to bring order and dimension to the yard, centralizing the view and directing guests’ viewpoints. A focal point can add character to the yard as well, whether it creates a sense of natural elegance, adds a chic, modern touch or even introduces a bit of whimsy to the landscape. Focal points can also help distract from less aesthetically pleasing views, such as drawing attention away from a neighbor’s yard, minimizing the appearance of a trouble spot or redirecting sightlines away from a utility box or air conditioning unit.

Choosing a Landscaping Focal Point

Which focal point you choose for your landscape will depend on several factors, and you want to consider each one carefully when planning to use a focal point.

  • Yard Size: The focal point should be proportionally sized to the yard. A too-large focal point will overwhelm a small, intimate yard, making it seem more crowded and cramped, while a too-small focal point can be lost in a larger space.
  • Landscape Style: A focal point should coordinate with the style of the yard and garden. A cozy cottage garden can look great when focused around a romantic statue or elegant bird bath, but a stark obelisk would look out of place.
  • Seasonal Changes: Ideally, a focal point will remain attractive and eye-catching throughout the year, even with seasonal changes in nearby plants and light levels. Opt for a focal point that can be enjoyed year-round for the best results.
  • Viewing Angles: A good focal point will draw the eye in a pleasing way no matter where it is viewed from, including different angles, windows or approaches. Paying attention to every viewpoint will ensure the focal point serves its purpose however it is viewed.

Once these factors are considered, a landscape may have one or more focal points. So long as they are balanced and appropriate to the yard’s design, they can be beautiful features that will be stunning highlights in the landscape.

Designing Your Landscape Around a Focal Point

Once you have selected a focal point for the landscape, it is best to coordinate the landscape’s overall design to enhance and complement that focus. This will ensure its beauty and prominence in the landscape without creating an overwhelming or dominating effect. Easy ways to design your landscape around a focal point include…

  • Paying attention to symmetry to draw the eye to the focal point. You may opt for a completely symmetrical, geometric layout to lead the eye to the focal point, or choose a deliberately asymmetrical design that builds dramatically to the focus.
  • Coordinate colors, plants and other features to work with the focal point rather than contrast and detract from it. Coordinated colors, shapes and textures – even when used in variety – can add to your focal point and enhance its beauty and drama.
  • Highlight the focal point without blocking it from view, particularly when considering views from different angles and in different seasons. This may include regular pruning and other care to keep the surrounding landscape in check.
  • Keep the focal point in good condition so it is not a disappointment when it draws the eye. Plants should be properly pruned and shaped, while statues and other accents may need regular cleaning. Structures may need regular repairs or repainting to look their best.
  • Consider muting nearby landscaping features to further highlight the focal point. Opt for more subtle plants and fewer accents away from the focal point to ensure no other areas of the landscape compete with the intended focus.
  • Design pathways, borders and lighting to highlight the focal point and draw attention to the appropriate space, both visually and physically. This will keep your focal point centralized in the landscape at all times, serving its purpose as your landscape highlight.

A focal point is more than just a highlight of your yard, it can become the centerpiece of your landscape, set the mood for your outdoor space and showcase the beauty of your home. Working with a focal point can help you draw together the entire space in an eye-catching way you’ll always be proud to see.

Want to design your landscape around an appropriate focal point? Our design experts can help you choose just the right focus and create a stunning look to highlight your landscape’s best features!

Creating Depth and Character in the Garden

No matter what you grow, your garden does not have to be a bland, predictable space. With careful planning, it is easy to create depth and character in the garden to reflect your personal flair and the enjoyment you find among your flowers, fruits, vegetables and herbs.

Understanding Your Foreground, Middle Ground and Background

Before planning your garden to enhance its depth and character, it is important to understand the different levels of space you have to work with. Your garden’s location, size and shape, as well as the overall layout, are part of these levels and can help you plan the best design to reflect your personal style.

  • Foreground – The front of your garden, including borders, edging, fences, and entryways, as well as the first plants a visitor encounters when stepping into the space. Visually, this area is the welcome to your gardening or landscaping space.
  • Middle Ground – The bulk of the garden or landscape, the center or middle areas. This will include most open spaces and the most heavily used parts of your garden, those that are accessed and admired the most.
  • Background – The furthest, rear point of your gardening space, that provides a backdrop or endpoint for the design. This can include rear fences, walls or property borders and is the stopping point for your garden.

As you design your garden, each of these areas can be enhanced to create a more aesthetically pleasing space and an overall design rich in texture, color and creativity.

Depth in the Garden

Adding depth to the garden varies the space and makes the garden appear larger and more spacious. This can easily improve a narrow landscaping area or open up a small garden, and it maximizes growing space to allow for more plants. Great options to add more garden depth include…

  • Tiers
    Tiers, with taller plants at the back and shorter plants in the foreground, expand the space and give it a better scale. Taller plants can be added in corners or at the sides, with shorter plants filling in the center. Terraces, containers and raised beds can all create tiers.
  • Colors
    Warm colors, such as red, yellow and orange, are bold and filling, and are best used at the front of the garden to create a welcoming flow. Cooler tones, such as greens and blues, are best in the background where they recede from the eye and give an illusion of greater depth and openness.
  • Contrasting Textures
    Gardens and landscapes look smaller when they are uniform. Textural contrasts, however, break up sightlines and add more visual interest, enhancing depth. Opt for finer textures and airy plant structures to increase depth in the middle ground and background, while fuller, more compact textures are best in the foreground.
  • Plant Size
    Positioning larger, taller plants in the background and reserving smaller plants for the foreground of your garden will enhance its depth. In small gardens, dwarf or miniature plant varieties immediately create greater depth and make the space seem more generous.
  • Secret Spaces
    Adding a secret space will create depth as it draws the eye into the landscaping design and encourages more detailed examination of the area. Meditation niches, cozy benches or swings, or other places invite more interest in the garden and improve the depth.
  • Reflections
    Just like a mirror creates more depth in a small room, reflections create more depth in a garden. Gazing balls, reflecting pools or mosaics are great options, but be sure there are no overly focused reflections that might damage nearby plants with excess glare.
  • Views
    If your garden overlooks a dramatic view, such as a mountain range, ocean cliff or adjacent park, take advantage of that view for more personal garden depth. Avoid blocking the view, and instead frame it to draw the eye deeper into your space.
  • Vertical Gardening
    Taking your garden vertical with climbing plants on a green wall, trellis or other support is a great way to increase depth and add more gardening space. Many vegetables and flowering vines can easily be trained to grow vertically.

Character in the Garden

Adding character to the garden personalizes it to reflect your unique style and flair. This adds a meaningful touch to your space, no matter how big or small it may be. Fun ways to give your garden more character include…

  • Specimen Plants
    Unusual plants create a focal point in your garden and draw the eye into the space. Even in a veggie garden or berry patch, an unexpected specimen can be an interesting feature.
  • Unique Shapes
    Give your garden extra flair by incorporating unusual shapes, such as topiaries or plants with unexpected foliage or flower shapes. This extra texture will also enhance the garden’s depth.
  • Curves
    Gardens and landscaping don’t need to follow straight lines. Help your landscape flow with curved garden rows, curving beds or other smooth, elegant lines.
  • Fill-Ins
    Bare spaces cause a disjointed look in the garden, but you can easily fill in patches with extra herbs, flowers or ornamental grasses. This will add even more texture and interest to the area.
  • Welcomes
    Welcome visitors to your garden with a fun, customized gate, quirky arbor or unique archway. This feature will draw the eye and encourage visitors to enter and enjoy the space.
  • Curbing
    Get creative with curbing to border your garden area with personal flair. Instead of predictable options, choose colored curbing or add accents such as glass bottles or stepping stones.
  • Wildlife
    Welcome wildlife to your garden to add life to the space. Bird feeders and baths, a butterfly, bee or toad house, or even a koi pond can bring movement and life to your garden.
  • Surprises
    There’s always room in the garden for a surprise or two. It might be a hidden gnome peeking out at guests, scattered sunflowers that grow through other plantings, exotic edibles or flowers with potent perfumes to lure guests in to seek out the surprise.

You can add depth and character to your garden in many ways. If you aren’t sure just how to go about personalizing and enhancing your garden, ask our experts for help to create the garden of your dreams!

The Value of Updating an Existing Landscape

Landscaping has a tremendous impact on the value, curb appeal and aesthetic beauty of your home. If your landscaping feels outdated, old or worn, however, it is not necessary to rip out all the plants and start from scratch. Updating an existing landscape can be a faster, easier and more cost-efficient approach to give your property a fresh appearance.

When to Update Your Landscape

Even without starting from a blank slate, updating your landscape can be an overwhelming project. There are times when updating is a good value, however, and can actually create savings or bring you significant profits.

  • The Overgrown Landscape
    Shaggy, overgrown landscaping may be causing problems you aren’t aware of, such as damaging underground water or septic pipes, gas lines or electrical cables. Elevated lines could also be damaged by falling branches. An overgrown landscape will block views and could scratch your home’s siding, cause roof damage or stain or crack concrete in the sidewalk, driveway or patio areas. All of these problems can lead to very costly repairs.
  • The For Sale Landscape
    If you plan on selling your home, the landscaping is one of the first things potential buyers will notice. Poorly maintained landscaping gives a bad first impression that could discourage buyers, while an updated landscape adds significant value and may increase the sales price. A complicated landscape might put off buyers who aren’t interested in outdoor maintenance, but a simple, fresh landscape can welcome new owners to your home.
  • The Unused Landscape
    A lush lawn and ornamental plantings may be pretty, but they don’t necessarily add value to your home. Updating your landscape to include gardening space and edibles such as fruit trees, berry bushes and fresh herbs, however, can dramatically cut grocery bills. Similarly, a wide swath of lawn does no good to your quality of life if you don’t enjoy it, but adding a recreation area, entertaining space or other outdoor living areas can be a fantastic value.
  • The High Maintenance Landscape
    Complicated gardens, plants that require extensive care and lawns that need generous fertilizing and watering can be a significant financial drain on homeowners. Updating your landscape to minimize lawn surfaces or opt for lower-care options can be a beautiful way to modernize your property and lower the time and money needed to keep it looking its best.

By updating your landscape, you can save both time and money, and you’ll find yourself enjoying your new landscape much more than any outdated design.

Ideas to Update Your Landscape for the Most Value

Depending on your reasons for updating your landscape, its existing condition and the budget and timeline you have for the project, there are many options that will add good value to your property. Popular choices include…

  • Fast Updates
    For an updated look right away, add new mulch around trees and in flowerbeds to create a pop of color, suppress weeds and give the area a unified look. Other easy options include pruning shrubs, weeding and adding containers to an entryway or colorful flowers to existing beds.
  • Widening Pathways
    Wider pathways give your home a more welcoming, open feel that is ideal for entertaining. Existing paths can be expanded with pavers, bricks, gravel or mulch to make them broader, and it is also a good time to be sure they are level and easy to navigate.
  • Deepening Beds
    Deep flowerbeds create a luxurious buffer around your home and provide space for additional plantings, such as a row of colorful annuals along the front edge of the bed. When deepening beds, you can also easily change their shape for a fresh, new look.
  • Protecting Privacy
    Landscaping that protects privacy is always desirable, and tall ornamental grasses, a green wall, large containers or fencing can create a more private space for you to enjoy. Consider enclosing a patio, blocking unwanted views or otherwise sheltering your space for greater privacy.
  • Casting Shade
    Plants or structures that shade your home or outdoor spaces can help control temperature to make the area more comfortable and save on heating and cooling bills. Planting trees or installing awnings, pergolas or other shade structures are the most popular options.
  • Lighting Up
    The right lighting can give your landscape a whole new look, with more security as well. Add lights to pathways, specimen plants, architectural features or outdoor living areas to update your landscape and create a brighter, safer, more enjoyable space.
  • New Niches
    Creating a cozy niche in your landscape is a great way to encourage you to enjoy being outdoors. A comfortable hammock, swing or bench can lead to more time outdoors, a fire pit welcomes gatherings, or a meditation feature such as a fountain can be a peaceful addition.
  • Outdoor Rooms
    For more formal entertaining, a complete outdoor room can add tremendous value to your property. An outdoor kitchen, grill or bar is a great choice, or you might opt for an entertainment area complete with a television, fire pit and extra seating.
  • Trees
    Trees are ideal long-term investments that add wonderful value to your property. A small tree may not seem significant, but over the years it will grow into a luxurious specimen that provides shade and distinction, as well as fruit, nuts or other benefits, depending on the tree.
  • Sod
    If it’s your lawn that needs updating, consider new sod for instant results. Replacing sod will even out your lawn, remove weeds, repair bare or thin patches and provide luxurious footing all in one step.

No how you choose to update your existing landscape, our experts can help you find just the right options to refresh your property for your needs and budget. Contact us today and see how we can bring new life to your old landscape!

The Value of Natural Stone vs. Pavers

The hardscaping in your landscape, including pathways, steps and patios, is a key element of your yard, and the decision to opt for natural stone or pavers is not one to consider lightly or without scrutiny of both materials. By carefully comparing the pros and cons of each option, you can choose the best material and design for your home, needs and budget.

About Natural Stone

Natural stone is any stone material that has been naturally quarried for construction use, including home interiors as well as landscaping. There are different types of stone that make ideal landscaping options, including flagstone, slate, granite, limestone and fieldstone. Each one has a unique texture and variable colors, with rich, natural appeal. The stones may be cut rugged or smooth to suit different design preferences, and can be fitted into any type of landscaping design. Many designers opt to use natural stone for a more rugged or rustic look, and it is always beautiful when the type of stone is matched to the surrounding region for an integrated look.

There are several pros to using natural stone for your landscaping needs, including…

  • Natural material has color and texture variations for more visual interest
  • Generally does not require sealants or other treatments to stay at its peak
  • Extremely durable when correctly cut and installed, making it ideal for heavy use
  • More of an artisan look with a timeless appeal

Of course, natural stone may not be ideal for every landscaping project. The potential cons of using natural stone include:

  • Potentially more expensive than pavers or other manufactured options
  • Requires more expertise and extensive labor to install correctly
  • Top layers on certain types of stones may occasionally shear or splinter off

About Pavers

Pavers are engineered concrete stone, often created in uniform, symmetrical shapes. Because they are more geometric than natural stone, they have much more flexibility for landscaping design options, and because they are engineered, there are more color options than most natural stones. The color is also more uniform, which can give your landscaping a more formal or planned look than the rustic nature of natural stone.

The benefits of using pavers for all your hardscaping needs include…

  • Greater customization for project designs and color choices
  • Generally cheaper than natural stone, depending on options
  • Less time to install a complete project, so you can be enjoying it sooner
  • Easier to repair or replace if any one paver is damaged
  • Durable material is suitable for both moderate and heavy use

Just as with natural stone, however, there are cons that must be considered before choosing pavers for your patio, driveway, paths, edging or other projects, such as…

  • Slight fading is common after installation, particularly in full sun
  • Joints and seams need to be periodically resanded
  • Stones may absorb stains if sealant is not applied and renewed appropriately
  • Smaller stones may settle more easily if not installed properly

Considering the Value of Natural Stone vs. Pavers

Whichever material you choose, both natural stone and pavers can add value and beauty to your landscaping and outdoor living areas. Professional assistance from start to finish will ensure the project looks its best, meets your needs and will have fewer long-term difficulties. The very best value for both natural stone and engineered pavers will include expert design consultation, a thorough project plan and experienced installation.

Choosing between natural stone and pavers is a very personal decision, and different projects and design preferences may prefer either material. The choice often depends on the available budget, the amount of use the area will receive and how to coordinate with the house and surrounding landscape. Properly done, however, both materials can add amazing value to your property and you will enjoy your hardscaped areas for many years to come.

The Value of Maintenance

For many people, their home is the single most expensive purchase they will ever make in their lives. Once that purchase is made, a great deal of time, effort and money will go into home maintenance over the years, from painting rooms and replacing carpeting to general repairs and more elaborate renovations. Few homeowners realize, however, that the care and maintenance of their lawn and landscaping is equally valuable for the upkeep of their home and its tremendous investment.

Why Landscaping Matters

Landscaping is one of the first things you notice about a new home even before you consider purchasing it, and after you move in, your landscaping will greet and welcome your family members, friends and guests. Yet landscaping is far more than just a pretty picture that frames your home, it also performs a number of practical, essential tasks that add to the value of your home and property, including…

  • Providing shade to promote energy efficiency with heating and cooling
  • Providing a windbreak to lessen severe weather
  • Creating privacy barriers to shield windows or outdoor living spaces
  • Enhancing security by creating natural barriers to unwanted entry
  • Managing pests and overall property pest control
  • Welcoming native wildlife for plant pollination or pest control
  • Contributing to food production with gardens, berry bushes or fruit trees

With so much value that your landscape can add to your home, proper maintenance is essential not only to keep it looking its best, but also to ensure that it fulfills all these functions admirably.

If You Don’t Maintain Your Landscape

While a well-maintained landscape can be a great asset to your home, a poorly maintained landscape can be equally damaging to your property’s value. If your landscaping isn’t well cared for, many difficult problems can arise, far beyond a loss of curb appeal or aesthetic appearance. Problems that can be caused by unkempt or improperly planned landscaping include…

  • Damage to septic tanks, irrigation systems and other underground pipes
  • Falling branches disconnecting power lines or other wires
  • Damage to the roof, gutters or awnings
  • Contamination of a pool, hot tub, backyard pond or other water feature
  • Staining a deck, patio or walkway with fallen debris
  • Cracking concrete from root growth
  • Invitations for insects to invade the home’s perimeter
  • Spread of diseases among landscaping plants

When problems become severe, not only can there be tremendous costs for repairs, but homeowners may also be subject to fines, fees or other penalties from homeowner associations or municipal guidelines. These costs can be far higher and more troublesome than the price of proper maintenance and landscaping upkeep.

Landscaping Maintenance to Consider

There are many different types of lawn and landscaping maintenance to consider, all of which can add value to your property and prevent unsightly and potentially expensive problems. Different options include…

  • Regular lawn care, from weekly mows and trims to seasonal dethatching, fertilization, weed control and repair for brown patches or thin areas
  • Pruning and shaping of trees and shrubs to maintain proper shapes and foster healthy, lush growth for the plants to reach their full potential
  • Tree and stump removal and turf reshaping to renew areas where plants need to be removed due to age, size or health
  • Seasonal cleanup of flowerbeds or naturalized areas, including raking, brush cleanout, selective pruning and mulch renewal
  • Flowerbed nourishment with soil amendments, fertilization and similar treatments to encourage better blooming and more floral color
  • Irrigation plans, from full planning and installation of a new sprinkler system to necessary maintenance and emergency repairs
  • Pest and weed control for lawns, flowerbeds, borders and other areas using appropriate techniques to control or eliminate unwanted guests

Whether a one-time service is necessary to correct a simple problem or ongoing services are desired to keep your landscaping looking its very best throughout the year, proper landscaping maintenance adds tremendous value to your home and is a smart investment for your property.

Importance of Circulation in an Outdoor Space

Your landscape is a great space to enjoy, but if you can’t get around that space, you won’t enjoy your outdoor living nearly as much as you could. From patios and decks to gardens, flowerbeds, sheds, play areas and more, circulation is critical to make the most of your landscape and enjoy every inch you have so thoughtfully cultivated.

Where Are You Going?

Before you start planning pathways and circulation space in your landscape, it is important to recognize where you are going and what pathways you will use the most. This is your landscape’s hierarchy of circulation, and depends on what features you have and how you use them. The locations of access points, such as doors or gates, and how they relate to the biggest features of your yard – a pool, deck, patio, hot tub, gazebo, garden, play set, etc. – will help determine how pathways should flow through your yard. The widest, most welcoming pathways should be between the most frequently used features and access points to make moving around your outdoor space safer and more convenient. Lesser used features, such as a private meditation niche or a shed that stores seasonal tools, may have smaller, narrower paths, or may not even need circulation pathways at all.

While you are considering the circulation between major spaces in your outdoor living area, don’t forget smaller circulation concerns as well. For example, a comfortable seating area with a fire pit or dining table won’t be so comfortable if guests aren’t able to move around furniture or other obstacles safely and easily. Also be sure that pathways aren’t crossing undesirable areas, such as passing closely by private windows or leading guests around less aesthetic features, such as utility boxes, air conditioners or trash cans.

How Will You Get There?

Once you have plotted where the pathways belong in your outdoor space, you need to decide what types of pathways will meet your needs. Factors to consider include…

  • Width – The path should be proportional to the yard and allow for easy access to the space
  • Material – Pavers, gravel, mulch, timbers and natural stone are all popular pathway options
  • Layout – Paths can have gentle curves to wind and flow or may be more straightforward
  • Architecture – Design pathways to coordinate with the house style and landscape design
  • Elevation – If steps are necessary, be sure they are safe and secure for all types of visitors
  • Views – Envision pathway routes to be sure they are as pleasing to the eye as the feet

There are many different ways to plan proper circulation in, around and through an outdoor space, and careful consideration of these different factors will ensure you enjoy every step along the paths you create.

Make Paths a Pleasure

Circulation is not just a necessity in your outdoor space, it can be a pleasurable part of your landscape, especially when you consider the journey as well as the destination. To make the most of your circulation paths and help each one enhance your landscape…

  • Enter Elegantly – Use a gate or archway to mark the entrance to your paths and welcome guests to step into your landscape. Natural arches or structures can both be fun options.
  • Add Borders – A bordered path has a finished, elegant appeal. Opt for contrasting textures, angled pavers or even fun plants to frame your pathways.
  • Provide Niches – An unexpected niche or node along the path can be a treasure to find. Benches, fountains, specimen plants or other accents are all beautiful options.
  • Light the Way – Lighting is essential for safe pathways, particularly where there may be stairs or uneven terrain, but fun lights such as lanterns or rope lights also add personal flair to the path.
  • Consider Customization – Add fun, customized surprises along pathways, such as quirky stepping stones, children’s handprint rocks or even initials and other personalization.

From the first step to the last, how you move around your landscape is essential to be sure you can access the spaces you want and enjoy getting from one to another. Our experts can help you plan the best circulation for all your outdoor living spaces – contact us today to take your first step to a landscape you’ll love to move around in!

How to Size an Outdoor Space

An outdoor living area offers many possibilities for enjoyment, entertainment and relaxation, but is your space big enough for everything you want to do? You don’t necessarily need a large area to meet your needs, but it is crucial that you size your outdoor space appropriately and comfortably.

How Much Space Do You Really Have?

The size of your outdoor space isn’t as simple as your property size, and you need to carefully assess exactly how much space you have to work with when planning an outdoor living area. For example, some portion of the lawn and landscaping is always unable to be turned into more practical spaces, as many homeowner or community associations, as well as municipality regulations, require some percentage of a property’s space to remain green. Flowerbeds, sheds, borders, side yards, driveways, pathways and the footprint of the house also usurp space and change the flow of your yard, impacting how you size an outdoor space. The overall shape of the yard will also help determine how much available space you have to work with. By carefully appraising the available space – taking into account mature sizes of landscaping and how larger plants may overgrow an area – you will be able to more efficiently size your outdoor space to create a living area you’ll love.

Sizing Your Outdoor Space

There are many different sizing factors you need to consider when planning an outdoor living area. By carefully considering these different needs, you will be able to choose a size appropriate to your budget, needs and preferences.

  • Proportion: One of the most important factors in sizing an outdoor space is its proportion to the overall property and landscape. A huge patio, deck or other outdoor space can overwhelm a small yard and house, while a tiny patio can look awkward next to a huge, elaborate structure.
  • Activity Level: The more you plan to move around your outdoor space, the larger it will need to be to accommodate that movement safely and comfortably. Consider active children, energetic pets, and any activities you may want to do, such as frequent entertaining.
  • Furniture: Your space needs to be large enough to accommodate outdoor furniture, including seating, tables or storage benches, plus room to move around that furniture without stumbling. Also consider whether furniture will be used only on special occasions or more frequently.
  • Seating Type: The seating you choose for your space will affect the necessary size of the area. A hammock, for example, needs room to swing and sway, while folding chairs are more compact. Recliners or deep seating need extra space, while benches are great options for smaller spaces.
  • Table Size: If a table will be part of your outdoor space, be sure there is enough room for seating around the table as well as for guests to move to their seats. A large outdoor dining table requires more space than a café set, while end tables can create blocks or fill in tight corners.
  • Fire Pits: A fire pit can be a great centerpiece for your outdoor space, but it needs room for the flames as well as a safety buffer so there is no risk of unwanted fires. A larger pit will require a broader space so guests don’t feel too much heat when they gather around.
  • Play Areas: If you plan to incorporate a play area such as a jungle gym, playhouse, sandbox, basketball hoop, putting green or other active area into your space, you need to have room not only to use the area, but to move around it when others are using it as well.
  • Gardening Zone: A garden can be a great use of yard space and a fun addition to your outdoor living area, but be sure to account for space between garden rows as well as storage for tools. Container gardens or raised beds are the most compact options for small spaces.
  • Room for Plants: Even if you aren’t a gardener, you will likely want some plants as part of your outdoor space, from window boxes to specimen plants. Plan for their mature size, as well as proper spacing for air circulation and to keep the plants disease- and pest-free.
  • Storage: Consider how much storage space you need outside for garden tools, children’s toys, sports equipment, patio cushions, a grill and other accessories. Storage benches, dock boxes, sheds or storage carts are great options that can fit into many different spaces.
  • Traffic Flow: How you get around your outdoor living area has to be factored into sizing considerations. Note pathways, stairs and how doors or gates open into the area, and also take into account how people will move in relation to nearby windows or other doorways.
  • Null Space: Every well-designed outdoor space will have some null areas, space taken up by planters, a fountain, steps, pillars or other features. This limits the functional space in the area, and should be carefully considered so the space isn’t too small.
  • Versatility: If your outdoor dreams include many different activities, a larger, more versatile space may be necessary so you can shift around furniture or planters to accommodate different uses. Screen walls can help create a more functional space that can easily be arranged.
  • Cost: Your budget should definitely be factored in to your outdoor space sizing, but price doesn’t need to define the space. Larger spaces can be built incrementally as the budget permits, and qualified experts can suggest alternatives to work with the budget you have without compromising quality,

Need some help determining the best size for all your outdoor ambitions? Let our experts help you assess your space and plan the perfect size for all the outdoor living you want to do!

Freshen Up Your Patio

Is your patio dingy or dated? Does it need repairs? Does it no longer meet your outdoor needs or reflect your changing preferences and evolving style? No matter what the issue, it is easy to freshen up your patio and give it a new, amazing look you’ll love.

What Do You Want From Your Patio?

Your outdoor lifestyle will change as new friends and neighbors come and go, your family grows, and your hobbies shift to new interests. Perhaps you’ve discovered the great taste of grilling and want to expand your outdoor cookery options, or your new passion for container gardens requires more space for growing herbs, vegetables, berries and flowers. The play area and toy box that was perfect for toddlers hasn’t been used in years, but your teens would love a place to hang out with their friends. Perhaps your aging skin doesn’t appreciate as much time in the sun, and you need a shadier space to enjoy without giving up your outdoor entertaining. Before you make any changes to your patio, it is important to really determine your needs, keeping in mind how your outdoor living may continue to change so you can make adjustments that you’ll enjoy for many years.

Assess What Your Patio Offers

When you’re ready to change up your patio, first take a good look at what the space already offers. How large is the existing patio, and does it need to be larger or smaller? Is it oriented toward the best views of your yard or do you need more privacy? What condition is it in? If any repairs are needed, now is the time to do basic maintenance to repair settling, reseal the concrete, stone or pavers, and replace any cracked stones or broken railings to be sure the space is safe and usable.

Giving Your Patio a Fresh Face

There are many ways to give your patio a fantastic makeover, no matter what your budget or timeline may be.

  • Cleaning – It is amazing how much difference a thorough cleaning can make to your patio. Powerwash the area, using appropriate treatments to remove mold or rust stains. Resand joints between pavers, and repaint or stain any railings or wood accents. If you already love your patio space, a good cleaning may be all the refreshing you need.
  • Pruning Plants – Overgrown plants near your patio can encroach on the outdoor living space. Shape plants attractively, and consider removing or replacing any damaged or unsalvageable plants. Add new mulch around the patio for a fresh look and to discourage weeds that detract from the area.
  • Get Edgy – Update the edging around your patio to better define its space. You might slightly expand the patio by adding a wide paver edging, or you could deepen the beds surrounding the patio to give it a cozier, more private feel. Different edging, such as bricks, slate or log-like options, can completely change your patio’s appearance.
  • Light It Up – Without proper lighting, you won’t enjoy your patio after dark. Consider fun string lights or an outdoor chandelier for amazing flair, or use solar lights or rope lights to define the edges of your patio. Clean the covers of existing lights so they look new, and update bulbs for better energy efficiency and light levels.
  • Contain Your Enthusiasm – Adding containers is a great way to instantly update your patio with natural elements. Large containers of tall grasses or shrubs can create privacy, or opt for fun edibles, dramatic flowers or even a whimsical fairy garden in a patio container. Don’t forget a small container to accent a patio table.
  • Have a Seat – New seating can give your patio a whole new vibe. You might consider deep, cushioned seating, lounge chairs, storage benches, intimate bistro chairs or even cozy hammocks. If you already like your seating, changing covers, cushions or accent pillows can give it a fresh look.
  • Fire and Water – Add elemental life to your patio by incorporating fire or water into the space. Heat it up with a portable fire pit, chimenea, fire table or even fun torches or lanterns. For watery options, consider a container water garden or miniature pond, tabletop fountain or a weeping wall for relaxing splashes that will refresh your space.
  • Shade for Sure – Providing shade over your patio will make your outdoor living space more comfortable in all weathers by reducing glare, blocking harmful UV rays and controlling the temperature. Options include patio umbrellas, awnings, pergolas or screens that can help top off your patio perfectly.
  • Fun With Flooring – Your patio doesn’t have to have the same old concrete slab. You can resurface the concrete, top it with pavers, cover it with wood tiles, paint a pattern or even add an outdoor rug to cover cracks or stains. Consider adding your initials or children’s handprints for fun personalization you’ll smile at for years.
  • Create an Entrance – Make your patio more welcoming by freshening up its entrance. Painting the doorway or adjacent windowsills or shutters can change the patio’s look. Adding an archway or putting fun and colorful containers on stairs or paths leading to your patio can visually define and expand the space.
  • Add an Accent – Let your patio reflect your personal flair with fun accents. You could opt for a practical touch, such as an outdoor clock, thermometer, barometer or a functional chalkboard wall. A sculpture, outdoor outwork, gazing ball, bird feeder, toad house or other fun accent can give life and whimsy to your patio.
  • Pest Control – No matter how you freshen up your patio, you won’t enjoy it if pests take over. Consider insect traps as needed, or use citronella or other essential oil candles or torches to help minimize gnats and mosquitoes. Be sure there is no space for snakes, mice or other pests, and you won’t have to share your updated patio with unwelcome guests.

Want help giving your patio new life? Our outdoor living experts can help you find great ways to freshen up your patio space so you’ll spend more time outdoors enjoying it!