Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Vendor Spotlight: Belgard

Belgard is a company that strives to make the best products for your outdoor hardscapes. Since 1995, their locally made and nationally backed products have transformed thousands of residential and commercial properties across North America.

Belgard's outdoor porcelain pavers have the same benefits as regular porcelain - frost-resistant, skid-resistant, durable and easy to clean - combined with incredibly high breakage loads (up to 2,000 pounds) creates the perfect solution for gardens, terraces and high traffic outdoor areas. Outdoor porcelain pavers can be dry laid onto grass, gravel, dirt and sand - or onto terraces and roofs using raised supports - without grout, adhesives or specialized workers, making installation incredibly easy.

With a variety of products like pavers, walls, edgers, steps and more, Belgard helps you take the next step in your Outdoor Living Journey.

Belgard pavers installed in a Breckon design in 2013
Close up of Belgard pavers
Belgard pavers installed in a Breckon design in 2015
Belgard pavers from an installation in 2013

Find out more about all of their products online: www.belgard.com.

Bringing The Indoors Out

Landscape architects have always approached design in terms of defining space in order to create 'outdoor rooms' but never before has this idea been interpreted as literally as it is in contemporary residential landscapes. Whereas landscape designers used to offer seating in the form of benches, seat walls or lawn chairs, and tended to think of outdoor eating areas in terms of barbeque grills and picnic tables, now we are transforming our porches and back patios into true living rooms, complete with couches, rugs, coffee tables, and ottomans. It's also common to see fully operational outdoor kitchens with built-in gas grills, refrigerators, and sinks with running water.

Taking this outdoor room concept to a new level, Breckon landdesign recently designed a backyard entertainment area that included a large flat screen TV housed in a weatherproof cabinet. These outdoor rooms are not just places to sit for a few minutes and enjoy the garden, but full-on extensions of our homes that invite us to lounge, hang out, and stay a while.

In high desert climates like Idaho and the Intermountain West where seasons bring extremes of hot and cold, it can be difficult to blur the boundaries between indoors and out and still maintain comfortable spaces for people. In order to extend the outdoor living season and get the most enjoyment from these outdoor rooms, it’s important to keep the following in mind.

Mitigate for Temperature Extremes
Even in warm weather months, Idaho temperatures can swing as much as 40 degrees over the course of a single day. Good design involves mitigation for extremes of temperature and weather that will turn your outdoor room into the place you want to be.

Exposure. When designing for a particular site, our landscape architects consider the orientation of your home relative to sun and shade patterns. Does it afford outdoor areas that receive pleasant morning sun in the summer, for instance, versus direct sun in the late day? It’s also important to note prevailing winds and other elements of microclimate. Ideally, location of and design for outdoor spaces will work with the orientation of the house to maximize opportunities for shade and shelter.

Hammock with paver patio and timber pergola with party lights
Speaking of Shade... In our dry climate, shade is the best way to guarantee outdoor comfort, especially in the heat of summer. This is perhaps most easily accomplished with trees, planted strategically where shade is needed. One drawback to trees can be the time they take to mature. If more immediate shade is desired, overhead shade structures are a great way to provide shade for comfort and cover. These structures may be constructed of various materials, commonly wood or metal, with open slats to create a light shade effect, or a more opaque roof structure, depending on site requirements. Recent innovations in outdoor fabrics also offer additional options for shade. Often these have a more modern aesthetic in terms of form and materials, and may be positioned vertically to handle low sun angles in the late afternoon and evening.

Elemental Components

Waterfall with stone slab bridge
Water. The integration of water and water features can create and/or enhance cooling effects in your outdoor room. Water might be used in misters mounted along the edge of a roof or overhead structure. These are relatively inexpensive, easy to install, and take advantage of the significant potential for evaporative cooling in our dry climate. Fountains and Water Features are another way to evoke a cool, relaxing atmosphere, without actually getting wet. The sound of flowing or falling water helps any outdoor space seem cooler, because water symbolizes cool, and carries with it associations both refreshing and restorative.

Fire pit in Boise State University colors
Fire. On the other end of the thermometer, a campfire not only adds warmth and light when autumn days grow colder and shorter, but also adds life to your outdoor room by providing a focal element people naturally gravitate towards and love to gather around.

Fire pits may be integrated with landscape design as a classic stone or metal pit sunk into a paver patio with seating around the edge. As an alternative, freestanding fire pans on stands or pedestals are also available in catalogs and garden shops. These have the added advantage of being portable, allowing greater flexibility for users, and may be easily added to any existing design. As with indoor fireplaces, permanent outdoor fire pits may be plumbed for natural gas. Styling can be contemporary or traditional, to complement other design elements and existing architecture.

Weather-Friendly Furnishings
It is now possible to buy outdoor versions of nearly every kind of furnishing, from modular, sectional sofas to weatherproof rugs and pillows. These items are widely available at a variety of price points starting with big-box retailers and on into higher-end chains and boutiques. Because Breckon landscape designs do not always extend to this level of detail, selection and placement of these furnishings are an opportunity for you to personalize your outdoor room with color and texture and otherwise make it your own.

While outdoor furnishings are designed to withstand exposure to weather, overhead cover serves here as well to keep furniture dry for comfortable seating anytime. It also prolongs the life of furnishings by minimizing exposure to sun and moisture.

Other Advantages
Beyond offering just another place to hang out, the trend towards converting outdoor spaces into living rooms in their own right offers other benefits. A comfortable outdoor space that remains usable over a large part of the year can increase the size of your home in a functional sense. That is, folks who live in small houses but have a generous outdoor room can use that area to augment space available for entertaining guests or hosting functions that would otherwise exceed their home’s capacity.

Additionally, by claiming a greater portion of the yard as outdoor living space, we minimize the landscape area that must be maintained. This significantly reduces the amount of water needed, resulting in more sustainable landscapes. It also saves money, and most importantly, time. Time far better spent enjoying your favorite room in the house which, as it turns out, may not be in the house at all.

A deck with an outdoor kitchen and dining area creates multiple rooms in the back yard

Friday, April 8, 2016

April is World Landscape Architecture Month

Governor Otter proclaimed April Idaho Landscape Architecture Month 2016 in conjunction with The American Society of Landscape Architect's (ASLA) World Landscape Architecture Month (WLAM).

April is a great month to educate children, young adults, and even teachers about landscape architecture and how landscape architects artfully design their world because of the natural tie-in to Arbor Day (April 29, 2016). This Arbor Day, and the whole month of April, we are encouraging people to plant and care for trees, realizing how much trees and green spaces contribute to our everyday lives.

According to a press release from the Idaho Montana Chapter of the Society of Landscape Architects, "Working with landscape architects, communities can promote health and well-being by encouraging the development of environments that offer rich social, economic, and environmental benefits. Healthy, livable communities improve the welfare and well-being of people by expanding the range of affordable transportation, employment, and housing choices through "Live, Work, Play" developments; incorporating physical activity into components of daily life; preserving and enhancing valuable natural resources; providing access to affordable, nutritious, and locally produced foods distributed for less cost; and creating a unique sense of community and place."

Do you have a favorite space that was designed by a Landscape Architect? Tell us about it in the comments.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Contractor Spotlight: Eagle Landscape & Nursery

Eagle Landscape Contractors Inc. has proudly been serving Idaho for 30 years. They work closely with clients to actualize their ideas and ensure that the clients have a role in the creative process every step of the way. Their experienced staff is extremely efficient in taking a project from design, through planning, construction, and installation.

Eagle Landscape is known for its innovative installations, and their work can be seen in a myriad of places around the valley. They have installed subdivisions at Baldwin Park, Bristol Heights, Castlebury West, Laguna Point, Madelyn Estates and many others. Eagle Promenade, Eagle City Hall, and Wyndstone Place are additional examples of their commercial landscaping. They also offer residential landscaping and have landscaped over 2500 individual homes in the valley.

Learn more about Eagle Landscape Contractors at their website eaglelandscape.com.

A residence designed by Breckon Land Design and installed by Eagle Landscape Contractors in 2012

Composite deck with screen-accent fence
Flagstone patio with fire pit
Stone steps
Spruce and pine trees add a woodsy feeling to the flagstone patio
Lawn with putting green in the distance

Another residence designed by Breckon Land Design and installed by Eagle Landscape in 2014.

Multi-level paver patio with shade structure and hot tub

New paver patio and shade structure 

Multi-level paver patio with steps
Landscape boulders with plantings to soften the patio

Project Spotlight: Harris Ranch III

The main goal of this project was to create a Koi Pond that the homeowners could view from their new outdoor living space as well as from inside the house. A new free-form Koi pond was designed with a paver patio and large boulder slab bridge. A waterfall acts as the foal point to add sound and visual interest.

The project was installed by Sterling Landscape in 2014.

Paver patio and Koi Pond with Boulder Slab Bridge

Annual color pots hooked up to drip system add a pop of color.

Front Yard Landscaping

Raised Garden Beds

3-D Rendering of the Design Plan

Plant Feature: Flowering Quince

Just as modern parents are now giving their children names that were popular decades ago, the trend towards nostalgia has caught on in landscape as well. Old-fashioned flowering plants -- in delicate blush tones, pale lavenders, and corals -- that conjure memories of your grandmother’s garden are once again in demand. One such plant that blazes to life in the spring landscape is Flowering Quince.

The species itself is a large, hardy shrub with a mounding growth habit and dense blooms that range in shade from scarlet to red. These abundant flowers burst out along bare branches in the early spring before leaves begins to grow. New foliage comes on in a deep bronze-red color that later matures to glossy green.

Texas Scarlet Flowering Quince
Historically planted in hedgerows, as a barrier, or espaliered along walls, Quince is a relatively low-maintenance landscape shrub. The species has thorns as well as hard, small fruits that attract birds and wildlife. These fruits taste bitter to humans when eaten directly off the plant, but lend themselves well to jellies and preserves. This overlaps with yet another trend of the last decade -- edible gardens and home-grown food production.

In recent years new cultivars like Double-Take Orange Storm Flowering Quince have been developed to maximize blooms and eliminate less desirable traits, including thorns and fruit, which can be messy. These modifications, along with more compact growth habits, make them more compatible with the contemporary landscape while evoking the beauty of past eras. Among the newer plants, blossoms are single or double, and span the spectrum from light pinks to peaches and corals to fiery reds.

Double-Take Orange Storm Flowering Quince
Flowering Quince prefer full sun, but can tolerate dappled or part shade. They are relatively drought-tolerant and adaptable to most soil conditions. As is often the case, cultivars may be more delicate than the species.

Bloom-laden branches make wonderful cut flowers.  Shrubs should be pruned to shape after flowering, as necessary.

USDA Zones: 4-8
Bloom Time: Early Spring
Fall Color: ---
Approximate Mature Size (HxW): 3x5

Planting Instructions: Dig the planting area well, incorporating organic material as noted on planting details. Dig the planting hole three times as wide as the root ball; ensure the planting hole is deep enough so that the crown of the new plant lines up with the existing grade or slightly higher (DO NOT PLANT LOWER THAN EXISTING GRADE).

Care Instructions: Follow a regular watering schedule during the first growing season to establish a deep, extensive root system. Watering should be reduced after establishment. Prune to shape / control size.