Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Designing Trends - Courtyards

- Courtyards and Enclosed patios

One of the most forgotten elements in designing a comfortable sitting space always seems to be the sense of enclosure. People have a need and desire to look out and watch their surroundings, but they don’t want to feel like they are the ones being watched – well let’s face it, no one likes to be spied on! The key word here is sense of enclosure –we don’t want to screen off the key views – we want to frame them. So what are the best ways to enclose your patio without losing your views? The use of small walls, accent fencing and shrubs can be combined to form a courtyard or an enclosed patio. That will give you a sense of enclosure without losing key views.

When using small walls to enclose a patio, height is one of the main considerations. You have to take into effect the views you want to keep open and the views you want to screen, but ideally you will want the wall to be at least 18” high to 36” high so the wall could be used as a seat wall as well. Part of the wall or an accent post could be higher but the majority of the wall should fit into this range. This will give you the fame work for an enclosed space and with site specific placement of plants and other elements you are well on your way to enjoying your back patio or entry courtyard.

Accent fences are a great cost effect way to enclose an area and add visual interest to a patio. The accent fence could be a 3’ solid fence or a taller open style fence. The accent fence will take up less space than a wall, but it does not add the extra seating space that a seat wall would. An accent fence could be used in combination with stone columns for an old world look or the fence could have horizontal boards installed in a more modern style – the combination of materials and design styles are almost endless.

Plants are the most organic and cost effect way to enclose a space. Typically we want our hedging to stay between 18”-36” in height so we are able to enclose the area without screening views. Taller plants can be used in site specific locations to screen particular unsightly elements or to help frame views. Plants will also give you more year round interest and can add different textures, colors and fragrance to your outdoor living area.

The material combinations to enclose your patio are almost endless. Contact us today to discuss adding an enclosed patio or entry courtyard to you landscape.

Hardscape? Oh that's Hardscape! - Fencing


Fence is one of the more dynamic yet seldom used elements in the landscape. Typically when a client thinks fencing, they just envision a dog-eared cedar fence around the back yard. Fencing can be a lot more interesting than that and the fence does not need to be only on the property line. Fencing can act as a solid screen, semi transparent screen or as an architectural element.

Accent fencing can frame views, add a sense of privacy to a sitting area or add architectural interest to the yard. Materials can be combined to add needed privacy yet keep key views open. In this particular project a solid wood fence was requested for privacy, yet they also wanted the view from the street into the back yard give people the sense of something cool around the corner. So we designed a solid fence with a wrought iron gate that gives the clients privacy but will also keep the front and back yard open to each other.

When creating a comfortable space you want to provide a sense of enclosure, but you do not want to screen all the views. In this project a new raised deck was designed and the client requested some privacy, but they didn’t want to lose their views. We designed a small screen fence that had quite an open feeling, yet gave the clients a sense of privacy. A curved metal frame supporting horizontally installed composite boards complete this accent screen fence on top of the deck. This not only acts a semi privacy screen, but it also adds interest to the yard. This design element then was picked up and used as a trellis for the front yard to tie the front and back yards together.

The materials and look of your screen/accent fence are almost endless; contact us to see how we can incorporate an accent fence in your yard today.

Focus on Plants - Autumn Purple Ash

Autumn Purple Ash

Fall is around the corner and trees will be bringing on their fall color show to highlight the many colors in nature. One of my favorite trees for fall color is the Autumn Purple Ash. When the tree is young the fall color will be more of a solid purple, but as the tree get larger, the inside leaves will turn yellow in the fall while the outside leaves will turn a combination or wine red, yellow and purple. It is truly stunning effect that you will notice in early fall and will be the envy of your neighborhood.

The autumn purple Ash is a fast growing shade tree that has a mature canopy size of approximately 50’ high x 30’ wide. The green leaves will provide nice shade in the summer heat to cool your yard. If you have the room and you are looking for a fairly fast growing (18”-3’ per year) shade tree

Designers Toolbox

Conceptual Plans

When designing a plan for a client it is always preferred to give the client some different options. Similar in concept to HGTV’s Designers Challenge, we will proved the client with 3-4 conceptual landscape plans that are totally different in look and the client will get to pick the one they like. When designing the concept plans we like to define two objectives; the location for the main elements (patio area, lawn area, outdoor kitchen….) and overall design style/feel. The concept plans will show main tree location and shrub bed massing, but we do not deal with specific plant names at this time. Typically a client will gravitate to one of the concepts, but bring in some elements from the other concepts to make it their own.

When designing concept plans we also like to provide the client with SketchUp models of the concepts so they can see in 3D what there yard could look like.

In this set of concept plans for a back yard in Boise we present the client 4 concept plans that dealt with different location and shapes of the main key elements. The main elements were decks, patios, water feature, shade structures, lawn areas, planter areas, raised bed gardens, greenhouse, chicken coop, compost area, potting bench and dog run. When doing the concepts we are able to play with the location, level and look of the yard.

These 4 plans were able to give the client multiple options to see what the best use of their yard would be. After reviewing the concepts, the clients preferred concept plan #1 but also brought in elements from the other concepts into a final plan. Contact us to see how we can provide you with multiple options for your yard.


Yard Tips - Fall maintenance

The heat of summer is now past and your yard is getting ready for its winter hibernation. Fall is the time to get your yard ready for this. Fall is also the time for football and hockey, but don’t forget about your yard. In early fall, leaves will start to turn color, but your will have time until you need to start raking them up.  Your herbaceous perennials (the perennials that die back down to the ground) will have to be cut back to the ground after the first heavy frost (or before if you prefer). Fall is also a good time to rake and remove any leaves and debris from the base of your shrubs and trees.  I will usually wait to prune my shrubs and ornamental grasses until early spring. So sit back and watch the leaves turn color and enjoy this time of year before the cold comes!


Fall 2010

I hope you enjoyed our Fall 2010 newsletter. I would like to thank our partners for their help to make this newsletter possible. Please see their web sites to review their products and services.

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