Friday, January 28, 2011

Newsletter Winter 2011

In The News

Well 2010 has come and gone and we had the opportunity to work on some very exciting projects and we look forward to the challenges of the New Year. One of the main highlights of the past year was the award I received from Landscapedia in November. I was selected by the members of Landscapedia as 2010 Designer of the Year. This was a great honor and I look forward to challenging myself to think outside the box and to create interesting and dynamic outdoor living spaces for my clients!

We have also developed a couple of new on-line site for our clients’ information. We still have our main Web Site, as well as our residential on-line portfolio on Landscapedia but we have added a new portfolio site as well as a Facebook page. Our Landscapedia portfolio is organized per individual project while our new On-line Portfolio at Behance is organized as per element (water features, patios, walls….) and also accepts higher resolution images. We are also excited about the launch of the Breckon Land design Facebook page. I will update this page with new and interesting plants I find on my nursery tours, as well general comments and pictures of my current projects.

I have some new features in the newsletter this year. The first one is called Project Showcase. This will follow one project from before pictures, concept drawings and renderings thru construction and after photos. We will highlight the contactor of the project and go over the entire process. At the end of each project showcase, we will show a before picture of our next issue, so readers can try to image how our design team will change it.

The second new feature is where I will focus on a local nursery, landscape contractor or manufacture and highlight their service and products and how they could be helpful to my readers. I feel that creating a successful landscape is a team effort, and it involves the designer, home owner, contractor, nursery and hardscape manufactures/suppliers.
Please feel free to check out the following links for more information:

• NEW – Behance Network – On-line portfolio that organizes all the images into specific categories – (water features, patios, shade structures, plants…..)

• Landscapedia – On-line portfolio that organizes all the images by individual project.

• NEW – Facebook Page – come check us out and see what we are up to.

NEW – YouTube Page – come check out some of the computer animations we have done for our clients


Designing Trends - Raised Beds

Designing Trends

- Raised Garden Beds and Planters

Plants are nice to look at, but once in a while it is nice to be able to sit down and enjoy them without breaking your back. Raised beds are defiantly the way to go, but before you start putting raised beds all over your yard, you will need to consider a few things first. What kind of plants do you want in the raised bed? Where is the best location for the raised bed? What is the best size and shape? What kinds of material are avaible?

When most people think of raised beds, they think about vegetable and herb gardens. While raised beds are great for these edible plants, almost any plant can be highlighted in a raised bed scenario. Raised beds can be a functional & aesthetic way of raising plants off the ground plane for maintenance or screening/aesthetic purposes.

Now that you know what you want to put in your raised bed it’s time to find the right spot. If you are planning for vegetables, you will need to make sure the area has enough sun light. Ideally, raised bed for vegetables are farther away from the house, usually located in the more utility type area of the yard. If you are planning a herb garden, you will want to located fairly close to the kitchen door, so when you need to pick something to spice up dinner, you don’t have to go all the way across the yard (especially if it’s raining). If your raised bed is just to highlight plants or give some height to a screening area, you will want to make sure the raised bed fits in with its surroundings.

Raised beds can come in several sizes and shapes, but you will want to take into account what you are planting in the beds, because that will help dictate the size. When planning for herbs and vegetable, maintenance will dictate the size. Typically the beds are sized 4’x8’, although you can make them longer. A 4’ wide bed makes reaching the plants in the middle, manageable. Typically raised planters are between 18”-24” tall, this is approximately the same height as the average chair. If you are using the raised bed for landscape plants, the size is more determined by the plants to be located inside. For medium to large shrubs, 5’-8’ wide bed would work, if you are planning on putting in trees, the smallest you would want to make the bed is 10’ wide. Most raised beds are rectangles, but they don’t need to be. Feel free to use your imagination.

There are many material choices for raised beds. The main driving force between choosing the material is the location of the bed and the cost of the material. For beds that are close to the main patio and that will be a focal point, natural or cultured stone will look the best, although there are some also some great concrete block materials out there (keystone country manor…). For garden beds that are farther away and not a focal point, fir makes a nice raised bed.

Hardscape – Oh that’s Hardscape - Flagstone

Flagstone patios, paths and stepping stones

Flagstone is a natural, flat stone that is great for making very natural looking patios and paths. There are several different kinds of stone avaible and you can install it in different ways to give the area a different feel.

Flagstone comes in several different varieties like Arizona, Three Rivers, New England Blue Stone, Oakley stone and many more. The main keys to picking the stone, is color, texture and thickness. The color of the stone should pick up hues of the surrounding environment (boulders, patio, bark...) and should not clash with the surrounding colors (house color and trim…). Flagstone should be flat and smooth – this will make it safe to walk on (no stubbing toes) and will also make it easier to install. Thickness for flagstone patios and paths should ideally be 2” thick and hopefully be sorted at the stone yard.

When installing flagstone, there are several finishing touches that will give the stone a different look. When working with a softer stone like Arizona flagstone, you can saw cut the joints and edge to give the path or patio a more finished and uniform look. If a more naturalist look is desired, arrange the stone in a puzzle like arrangement so that the gaps are around 2” wide but no larger than 4” wide. These gaps can then be planted with woolly thyme (or other groundcovers) to give the patio a more organic feel. If you do not want to deal with groundcovers, fill the gaps with mini rock mulch, but make sure the rock mulch is compacted well between the stone to ensure it doesn’t get kick up too much. Flagstone can also be used as a stepping stone path, just space the stones as per your stride in lawn or planter areas for an informal path.

Focus on Plants - Weeping White Pine

Weeping White Pine
One of the more interesting and different ornamental trees is the Weeping White Pine. The evergreen tree has a softer appearance due to its longer needles and has a relaxed, weeping form. Every Weeping White Pine is different in form. They can be low and cascading by a waterfall, or more upright to give height to a specific area. The tree has a more open appearance in the nursery or tree field, but as the tree matures it will fill in quite nicely. The Weeping White Pine like a sunny area with well drained soils and protection from the wind. If you are looking for something different, which is easily trained into different forms, why not try the Weeping White Pine.

Project Spotlight - Hillside Remodel

Hillside Remodel

The main goal for this hillside project was to incorporate more garden area for the client on a steep hillside. The existing back yard consisted of a steep grassy slope, an irregular shaped and unevenly spaced natural stone steps (that were dangerous to try to go down) and a waterfall that was unimpressive and virtually unseen.

After walking the site with the clients and reviewing some pictures, long term goals were discussed and it was determined that the client would like to see 4 different options for their back yard.
Concept #1 – Key Points

• Redesigned disappearing waterfall and stream that takes advantage of the hillside by adding dramatic waterfalls versus the existing stream that just flows down the hillside.

• Natural stone slab steps and flagstone path that follows the waterfall down the hillside. Natural stone slabs act as a bridge over the stream and waterfall.

• A semi circular garden area with boulder walls built into the hillside

• Deck with built in spa

• New patio off the lower sliding doors

• No grass on the hillside, just trees, shrubs and naturalizing groundcovers. For the side yard a flagstone path takes the pace of the skinny grass strip

Concept #2 – Key Points

• The existing water feature to remain as is

• The location of the stone steps would remain as in the existing, but new 6” thick, flat slabs would be used to increase safety

• A rectangular garden area with concrete/keystone walls built into the hillside

• Existing concrete patio remain

• Grass is replaced on the hillside with naturalizing ground covers, shrubs and trees

• All grass is eliminated on the side yard and a new flagstone path welcomes guests to the back yard

Concept #3 – Key Points

• A more linear type design plays off the lines of the residence

• A small screen wall with a spillway water feature serves as the focal point for the upper patio.

• A large concrete wall and staircase leads to the new lower patio.

• The lower patio has a shade structure to match the existing shade structure on the upper patio

• A rectangular garden area with concrete walls sits on the hillside

• All grass on the hillside is replaced with naturalizing groundcovers

• The side yard grass is removed and a stepping stone path leads to the back yard

Concept #4 – Key Points

• The waterfall is redesigned with no stream going down the hillside

• The existing steps and lower patio remain but large boulders are brought in to make level areas

• The grass on the hillside is reduce by approximately 50%

• A small garden area is and wall is located next to the steps

• The side yard remains as is

After presenting the 4 concepts to our client, they gravitated to concept #1, but they also like elements from the other concepts. The final base design consisted of the Side yard path from Concept #2 and the waterfall and steps from Concept #1. While sitting down with the client to go over the concepts, we also decided to make the garden are larger (use the shape from concept #1). We also decided to eliminate the existing hot tub and to create a very small patio by the exiting lower patio doors.

We revised the plan to reflect these changes and then we started our construction documents.

 • Demolition plan - to illustrate all elements that were to be removed and elements to be saved and protected during construction.
• Grading Plan - to illustrate the grade changes proposed, wall heights and drainage patterns. This drawing was approved by the City

• Erosion and Sediment Control Plan – to illustrate how the contractor will reduce/eliminate erosion during and after construction. This drawing was approved by the City

• Materials Plan – to illustrate, note and detail all hardscape items like, the rock wall, steps, waterfall, patio and walls.

Planting Plan – to illustrate all plant material proposed for the project

• Irrigation Plan – to illustrate how all landscape areas shall be irrigated.

Now that all the drawing were done, it was time solicit bids form landscape contractors. Sterling Landscape, The Lawn Co., and Eagle Landscape were invited to bid the project. The contactors presented their proposals and provided pictures of installed projects for the clients review. The client was very impressed with all the contactors and had a very hard time choosing just one contactor, but in the end, they decided to go with Sterling Landscape.

Construction started in February with the demolition of the existing grass, steps, waterfall and lower concrete patio. Because access was severely limited, we had to work our way backwards and start at the top and work our way out. We started with the upper stone steps and started to work our way down.

The waterfalls and stream were installed after the steps were installed because we could play with the grade of the water feature, while the steps and landings had critical elevations that had to be maintained. We first painted the main location of the water course, and then we decided the best location, height and orientation for each waterfall. It was then time to excavate for the water feature, install the liner and start to bring in the boulders. After we finished placing the boulders and rocks, we fired up the water feature to make the water went where we wanted it to go and to make sure we were not losing too much water to splashing or to see if we had any leeks. After some fine tuning and adjusting, the smaller washed pebbles were seeded in the bottom of the stream and waterfall and then the pond liner was trimmed to remove any excess.

Now that the water feature was done, it was time to finish the last set of stone steps, flagstone landings and new brick paver Patio. For the landings and stone Slab bridges, we used New England Bluestone flagstone. For the new lower patio, we used Basalite’s Italian Renaissance tumbled pavers.

With the majority of the hardscape in the back yard finished, the side yard flagstone path was painted out, excavated and installed. This truly transformed a boring grass side yard into an the main entry to the back garden.

Now that all the hardscape items were installed it was time to place the plants so they could be reviewed by the owner. After acceptance by the owner, the crew started planting the trees, shrubs and perennials. After the plants were planted, weedcloth was installed and topped with 3” of bark much.

A concrete mowstrip and new sod finished off the other side yard and now it was time to sit back, relax and enjoy the sound of water. Sterling did a fantastic job installing the project and listening to the client’s needs. This project took longer than most other projects of this size because of the access limitations and the steep slope working conditions, but if was finally completed in May.

I would like to thank the home owners for being great to work and for believing in me and having patience during the construction process. I would also like to thank Sterling Landscape and Afterdark Lighting for great installation job!

Here is a look at some before pictures for our project spotlight for the next issue -- I wonder what we are going to do here?

Contractor Spotlight

Sterling Landscape Company
One of my most trusted landscape contractors over the years has been Sterling Landscape Company. They have been installing my projects for 10 years now, but have been around since 1972 when John and Lynne Sterling set up shop.  Sterling has done an exceptional job for my clients over the years and some of the things that set them apart in my mind are their top notch construction quality and customer service. 

Sterling just doesn’t install landscapes; they are a full service Green Industry Company that can take care of my clients’ landscape needs. Sterling has 4 main divisions, the landscape division, the maintenance division, the personal gardener division and Harrington Farms (tree field division).

The Landscape division is headed up by three project managers (Lavon Webb, Jody Hurst and Thad Heidemann) and can install pretty much anything I can think up. I like that they line item their construction bids to my clients, so that it is easy to read and also easy to phase in. They can handle all aspects of the landscape installation, from hardscape items (patios, shade structures, outdoor kitchens, walls…), to irrigation and softscape installations (the plants and bark).  I like that they install the projects on budget and it’s done right!!  The entire installation team is a pleasure to deal with and they always listen to me and my clients needs.  If you need a patio, pond, outdoor kitchen or just a tree planted, think about calling Sterling.

Sterling Lawn and Grounds Maintenance division can deal with all the landscape maintenance needs for my residential and commercial clients.  Dan King oversees the division to make sure it runs smoothly throughout the year. They can handle simple lawn maintenance like mowing and trimming, but also deal with more specialized items like, chemical applications for trees and shrubs, irrigation service and repair.  The other neat thing that they can do for you is to design and install a Christmas light display that will be the envy of your neighborhood – and you can stay inside and watch as Sterling’s crews put up the lights as you sip your hot coco!

The Personal Gardner division at Sterling is really kind of special. They deal with the small details that will make a big impact at any special event or just to make your yard look like its ready to be published in a magazine. Suzy Profitt heads up the personal gardener side and they can make your yard pop with annual color beds, container planting, rose /shrub care and add those little details so your yard is ready to enjoy without you doing any of the work.

Harrington Farms (Sterling’s tree field), has 40 acres of locally gown trees that are adapted to our local soils and environment.   John Sterling is the manager at the tree field and they are set up to serve landscape contractors, builders and developers.