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Category Archives: Landscape Design

Landscape Curb Appeal

Dynamic front facades can allow simpler landscape designs; however, note the vibrancy of a color scheme that makes the vegetation stand out from the neutral stone.
Dynamic front facades can allow simpler landscape designs; however, note the vibrancy of a color scheme that makes the vegetation stand out from the neutral stone.

Curb Appeal is everything! The essence of suburban homes skyrocketed in popularity since their establishment in the 1950’s. What was once known as a weekend home has now turned into a permanent residence for many Americans. One element that has not changed since the development of these neighborhoods is the importance of curb appeal. Passersby are often given a strong first impression of the home owners just from a quick glance from a street view. With this in mind, every home owner should be mindful of their home’s appearance, and with a few small adjustments, a homeowner can make their curb appeal stand out from the rest.

Every home and its landscape are different; however, there are a few key elements that remain constant: front door, windows, garage and/or garage door(s), and plantings. Focusing on these aspects and finding ways to accentuate their best features is a great way to start improving a landscape.

Typically, the front door is the main focus in a frontal façade design. Knowing this, it is crucial to continue and promote focus on the door. Playing around with walkway design is a great way to dress up the front façade. Experiment with walkway design patterns using a linear and curvilinear directional, and try to stick with a walkway that is around 4 feet wide. This will give visitors more room to walk and it permits two people two people to stand shoulder to shoulder on the path.

Windows play a significant role in design choices as well. Rather than hiding a façade of a house with tall, dense vegetation, opt for vegetation that will feature the window. Short standing shrubs are typically a safe choice. Experiment with plant height and color to permit variety and interest to a formerly simple design.

The vegetation provides many options for the owners; however, stick to perennials, shrubs, and small trees that fit within the season and look for colors that mesh well together. Try incorporating species of hydrangea and rhododendron into a landscape. They are well-sized shrubs that have the ability to produce vibrant flowers. Flowering cherry trees are also beautiful when in bloom. When planting perennials, consider species such as Astilbes and daylilies.

Improving curb appeal can improve the overall neighborhood’s appearance and it creates more appeal for a potential homebuyer. Adding planted containers along the sides of the front door and window boxes on the windows and cleaning off walkways and garage doors can dress up a plain looking home. One lesser known element that can make or break your curb appeal is the appearance of the mailbox. Dress up the space with perennials and other small standing vegetation. Taking the opportunity to dress up your curb appeal will not only impress the neighbors, but it will also give you a yard that will make you proud to call your own.

Garden Cottage – A New Wave of Personalized Design

Garden cottages can be personalized to each individual client.
Garden cottages can be personalized to each individual client.

Garden Cottage is hot! These landscape elements are being called “she sheds”; however, as a landscape architect, I most commonly call them Garden Cottage. I have completed a project that had two garden cottages at a pool. One was for the men to smoke cigars and play cards (with the bar), while the other was for the woman to gather and visit (and the outdoor kitchen). I felt like a complete cliché designing it and seeing it built. But that was the client’s specification.

I would prefer to stay away from the he/she dichotomy because but who is to say that a ‘he’ wouldn’t like a ‘she shed’ just as much. But, I suspect everyone needs some alone time. . All sorts of research says that our mental, physical and spiritual health requires retreating from our daily routines and making time to relax. Doing that in a space outside of the daily household grind helps free the mind from the cooking, cleaning, bills and whatever surrounds us in our homes.

A far more descriptive discussion that informs the design approach to these small auxiliary ‘buildings’ which is far more fun and interesting as a designer, addresses the big question ‘what happens in the building?’. This is called the program. Other questions that can aid in the design process include: What purpose does it the building serve? Is it about an outdoor entertaining space, an outdoor room? Or is it for some specific hobby like painting, sewing, and woodcrafts? Or is it an office, a private space to write, to think, to read? All of these possibilities can be gender neutral. And the program will direct the design.

What I hear is a structure with more design detail and aesthetic, a Garden Cottage, something that is guided by the concepts of a ‘cottage’, ‘bungalow’, ‘lodge’, ‘Shanty’ or even a ‘shack’ but let’s avoid the word ‘shed’. So the roof, windows and doors need to have some character, be more dynamic, more unique than the ‘shed’. It may not be constructed from the standard cookie cutter materials available. Or if it is, the materials will be used and combined in unique and uncommon ways. So maybe it is the ‘Garden Shanty’ concept with the doors and windows being recycled and reclaimed materials. Or a ‘Garden Cottage’ with additional trim woods added throughout and a multi-layer paint scheme. The key is deciding on a concept then carrying that idea throughout the project material choices.

With all these elements, there are two directing principles to respect. The function and the style define the design approach. The function of the architecture and its elements are directed by the program, the styles are directed by the concept. Program and concept are the two main design principles. The concept is driven by personal taste in this situation, the taste of the owner. The concept help direct the decorating choices. Is it Shabby Sheik, Tuscan, Country Garden Cottage, Eclectic Artist, Modern Contemporary, Mid Century Modern, Rustic Country………… The program is what happens in the space, how it works, flows, is organized. The concept includes the program in a bridge to the ‘style’.

While program and concept are two driving forces in design, budget will overrule in the end. It always comes down to what can be afforded. Start modest. It is always easier to add then subtract. It is also feels much better to discover you can have more than realize you cannot have everything you had hoped.

 

Outdoor Kitchen – Allentown PA

outdoor kitchen
outdoor kitchen, pavilion, paver patio

The term ‘outdoor living’ is thrown around by people to describe all sorts of exterior projects. An outdoor kitchen in Allentown Landscape company projects can be a key ingredient. I visited a project that may be the ultimate in outdoor living and entertaining. I walked out the back door into a roof covered deck space with an extensive outdoor kitchen on one side and a full bar on another side. From the deck I walked down to a patio with a fireplace and seating walls. This was a truly on of a kind outdoor living space that seemed to have all the possible bells and whistles.

I was first stuck by the quality of the construction materials and the design details. The decking is an exotic Brazilian hardwood called Ipe. Ipe is used to wrap all the framing for the roof and any trim pieces. The bar sheathing is Ipe installed horizontally on the walls. The stainless steel cable railings are sharp details that make a complimentary contrast to the dark woods. The ceiling is vaulted with a tongue and groove pine. The deck appears to be built on a natural stone foundation. Stone is carried up to four feet above the deck floor making a privacy wall on one side. The bar roof area has a standing seem copper roof, and all of the gutters and downspouts are copper. This mix of quality materials made a classic, contemporary design feel and look.

The outdoor kitchen is extensive including a natural gas  grill, a single side burner, storage cabinets, a refrigerator and a warming drawer. The countertop is a polished bluestone that blends beautifully with the natural stone facings on the side and back wall. On the opposite side of the deck, a bar includes a full sink, icemaker, food refrigerator, beverage refrigerator, utility drawers and cabinets. The bar countertop is a buffed stainless steel surface that ties into the stainless steel footrest. The flat screen outdoor television is in full viewing from the bar.

This space is designed for all season use day and night. Being covered, it is protected from the elements. Commercial grade heaters in the ceilings made the space very comfortable even at 40 degrees or less. Ceiling fans help keep the summer air moving to cool the space. Extensive lighting design brightens the entire space. The ceiling holds recessed lighting and pendant lights hang over the bar. Perhaps the most innovative lighting is the LED strip lights under all of the counter edges. These lights illuminate the faces of the kitchen and the bar, and cast soft light into the surrounding areas. Some LED lighting can be rather cold and white, but these were the warm yellow variety and cast a soft mood into the surrounding materials.

A custom natural stone fireplace is oriented adjacent to the deck, oriented to be experienced throughout the outdoor spaces. Natural stone seatwalls on either side help to ground the fireplace while providing some casual seating. A water feature has cooper channels built into the exterior deck walls that pour into a gravel basin with a soothing background sound.

Even though this project was recently completed, the large trees that were installed make it feel like it has been there for a while. Up lighting on the tress make for a dramatic effect and reflect light into the surrounding landscape so it can be appreciated in the evening. Path lights and wall lights complete the landscape lighting and extend uses into the evenings.

I’ve visited a number of great outdoor living projects, but this one takes the term ‘outdoor living’ to the extreme. It seems to have every bell and whistle a family could want. The material choices are exquisite quality, the design details are unique, and the craftsmanship is top notch.

Swimming Pool Company – Design & Construction Advice

Swimming Pool
Swimming Pool Landscape Lehigh Valley

Are you thinking about hiring a swimming pool company? If so, there are a number of interrelated factors that need to be considered in order to have the most successful end product at a budget that fits your needs. Though we like to dream big and by nature can have expensive desires, it is critical that budget be the first decision in the swimming pool design process. There is no point designing a pool you can’t afford. The second choice is which professional to help guide you in the process. A pool builder can build pools, but a landscape architect or designer knows how to properly layout the pool on the property and how to integrate it with the home and the remainder of the landscape and the right one can help make sure all the costs are being considered. Pool builders are notorious for leaving out costs and then coming back with them after a contract is signed. For example, does the pool price include the water to fill the pool, the pool cover, the pool fence, the permits, or the restoration of the site after construction? We suggest the landscape designer manage the whole design and pricing process as the key point person with the homeowner. A pool builder should be picked early to clarify details and the costs of those details.

What is a realistic swimming pool construction project cost? At the least expensive cost range, homeowners can build a 400 square foot liner pool with a simple concrete apron for around $30,000. That would include a simple fence around the immediate perimeter. A landscape architect is not needed for such projects since a pool builder can handle all that. The high end of the range is more difficult to pin down. An 800 square foot custom concrete pool with high end plaster finishes, natural stone coping, built in benches and wet ledges, a spa and spillways, fencing, paver or natural stone paving areas large enough to accommodate plenty of lounging and outdoor living area, a salt water treatment system, heater and safety cover easily gets into a $150,000 project or more. This type of extensive swimming pool and outdoor living project requires an experienced landscape architect or designer. Determine your budget early and be rigorous about sticking to it. That will guide the landscape and pool design and keep honest and open communication between all parties. Many designers and pool builders have a very hard time listening to clients specify budgets and there is a tendency for them to think the client will spend more than they say. Sometimes the contractor thinks the clients can spend much more. Don’t let this happen to you. Pick someone you trust completely and talk about the budgets often. Be strict and clear about that.

Pool builders like to sell themselves as full service designers who can address all of the design needs relating to the project. Most of them are not qualified for this and have no training or quality experience in the broader range of landscape design. They make their money building pools and at the end of the day that is all they really want to do. Sure, they will give a nod to some surrounding amenities to appease the client. But their goal is to dig a hole and build a pool. They seldom take a truly holistic approach to the design and end result as it relates to the entire landscape or home. They push clients to build the pool where it is easiest for them to build it. They don’t want clients needing to spend money on extra grading or design elements to site a pool in a truly ideal spot if it means those extra items are constructed by someone else and thus it isn’t money in their pockets.

A landscape architect or designer who is experienced in pool design and construction projects can manage the pool builder and utilize their valuable sources of information, while offering a much broader set of insights and project management abilities. They can also help keep the pool builder honest and focused. What types of paving materials are best around the pool and for what reasons? Are concrete pavers ideal, poured in place concrete or natural stone. How will the lounging and outdoor living patios fit into the overall design? Will there be landscape lighting, what type and how will it be laid out? How will the planting design accentuate the pool design and the patio areas? How does the pool connect to the home and other outdoor living areas? These are all questions handled best by an experienced landscape architect or landscape designer.

I have worked on numbers of swimming pool company projects. Without exception, when the client calls me after the pool builder has done their thing and built a pool, there are a number of things I immediately see that could and should have been done differently. I have never seen a pool builder site a pool on the property well on their own. It is always placed in the ‘easiest’ location and I always see a better placement for it. The pool fencing is seldom thought through well in these situations and the hardscape designs are mediocre at best. The pool equipment is usually in again the easiest place and most of the time a place that will be visually and audibly distracting. It is always disheartening to be called to doing a planting project around a pool that has already been built. I always see ways that the project could have been designed better and usually ways the client could have saved money. I always wish they had called before they ever got started because I know the end product would have been far more successful for them.

So pick a budget and be rigorous with everyone involved that the budget is not to be surpassed by your swimming pool company. Decide what type of pool and amenities will fit your budget with some basic research on your own. Then call some professional landscape architects or designers. Interview them extensively about their pool design knowledge and experience, and then pick one to work with. They should charge for their design work because they are design professionals. You will save more than the cost of the design work with a well-designed and planned project. Once you have a preliminary design, then the architect should manage the process of getting a few preliminary prices from pool builders. Once you have those prices, interview the pool builders with the landscape architect together. Then it is time to choose a pool builder to work with as part of the collaborative team.

Front of House Landscaping – Redesigns and Renovations

landscape, Allentown pa
Front of House Landscaping Before & After

Front of House Landscaping may be the word most associated with the quality of a home. It is our image portrayed to the outside world and sets the tone for the character of our homes. After 30 years of walking up to front doors for landscape appointments, I’ve learned to read some things about people by the style and maintenance of their front yard landscaping. Sometimes I simply read that this is a project in need, but other  projects that have taken priority. And, maybe that is why they called me to review their front of house landscaping with them and develop a plan to renovate the front of house landscaping. If that is the case, there is often a common set of opportunities for increasing the Front of House Landscaping curb appeal and the visitor’s experience.

Most of the time, the front walkway is the first opportunity for big improvement in Front of House Landscaping. Builders leave a home with the most simple, barely function and least expensive walkway to the front door. The walk is usually crammed up close to the house, too narrow to walk side by side and just horribly boring. Front of house walkways are experience through the landscape, a journey to the front door. They should begin from the sidewalk or driveway with a generous landing to gather before the journey. I like it large enough to accommodate a few landscaped containers with annual flowers flowing over throughout the season. A large landing makes the walkway entry easier to recognize and to enter from various directions.  Along a similar line of thinking, I like to incorporate a landing near the front door entry. It should be large enough for a few people to pause together before entry to the home, or for the homeowner to come out and greet visitors. If the overall landscape accommodates the space, this entry landing could be large enough to call a patio and have outdoor furniture arrangements. It may even end up being a favorite hangout to wait for visitors or watch the neighborhood activity.

Between the landings at either end, the walkway can be designed as an experience. It should be wide enough for two people to walk side by side, so at least 48” wide. Whether it is a curvy or linear walkway depends on personal taste. Both approaches can be well designed landscape experiences. I like to have walkways move in, through and out of a series of subspaces using diverse landscape plantings, trees, groundcover and lawn areas. The landscape design principle is to create varied planting plane heights, textures and densities. Maybe you enter with a tree arching overhead, walk through a field of low perennials that narrow into a tight arrangement of medium height ornamental grasses and the open up to an area with the flat green lawn panel on each side, rinse and repeat.

There is a wide range of landscape materials for walkways and patios. Concrete paver walks over a huge range of styles and colors. Beware that these require maintenance over time and are not the least expensive approach. Poured in place concrete walkways are the most economical choice with many options for concrete color and texture. Natural stone walkways are beautiful but expensive. Choose materials that fit your budgets and preferences.

Front of house landscape plantings are a personal preference. I encourage people to keep the wild and untamed landscape style in the back yard. We live in communities and that requires some respect to our neighbors in the form of a relatively neat and clean front yard. That doesn’t mean pruned hedges and mowed lawn everywhere. Naturalistic landscape plantings can still be clean and organized. But the jungle look tends to irritate neighbors.

Well planned Front of House Landscaping designs will help ensure a cohesive project that expresses an organized result. It may be alright to approach your back yard landscapes with ever evolving and more experimental designs, but the front is not the place to show everyone your playful experiments unless you live in a community that embraces such an approach. Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of the entire landscape being an ever evolving dynamic experiment. I’m aware of and have visited communities that embrace such an approach. Decide for yourselves the appropriate approach for your neighborhood. A manicured front yard would be would be a digression in a sustainable and experimental housing cooperative, while the wildflower and experimental aesthetic will offend suburban neighbors. But, landscape plans are a good idea for any scenario where a project is to be undertaken.

Psychology of Landscape Design for Outdoor Living

psychology of landscape design
psychology of landscape design

Knowing about the psychology of landscape design guides landscaping a successful outdoor living room? What makes patio  landscaping a rich and dynamic space that encourages us to go into the landscape and spend time outdoors? The qualities of the landscape design and the landscape construction will determine if you paver patio, flagstone patio, concrete patio or even gravel patio are inviting, warm and embracing spaces. Principles of the landscape design apply to any outdoor room and can be applied to landscape projects of all scales. Some elements of design are universal and others depend on individual preferences. The most primitive and universal principles are rooted in our psychological predispositions and survival instincts stemming from the long history of human evolution. These relate to the geographical and architectural structure of the space in relation to the surroundings. The more temporal and individual characteristics will manifest in the stylistic and material elements of the structure. These elements of style change often with cultural and individual trends while the structural principles landscape design are timeless.

The primary psychology of landscape design principle in the design of an outdoor living patio in called ‘defensible space’ in the western psychology paradigm. Eastern cultures incorporate the same principle into broader design paradigms such as Feng Shui.  Early in human evolution, survival required us to inhabit spaces that could be defended. The first garden courtyards were walled sanctums from a dangerous outdoor world. But we also need a way to see our surrounding, to know what danger may be coming or to have good vantage point for food resource potentials. Humans are comfortable when they feel like there is adequate ‘wall barrier’ around them and when the have good visual viewpoint vantages. These two elements work together in that the greater visibility of our surroundings allows for lesser dependence on barriers. If we are at the peak of a grassy hill and can see a long distance in every direction, we have less need for barrier protections since we can see any danger and flee. Contrarily, in an area dense with visual obstacles, we feel the need for more ‘walls’.

We are many years evolved from those early years of human history, but the principles are ingrained and pertinent to landscape design today. If we are creating an outdoor living space in a rural area, within a setting of beautiful nature, we may want our patio space to open wide to the surroundings. Conversely, in the city we tuck our patios tight to the home and create privacy barriers to the surroundings. So the first principle is that all other principles of landscape design start first with and understanding of the broader geographical and architectural surroundings.

The most common psychological preference, regardless of setting, is to inhabit a space where we can feel safe and private but also have good views of our surroundings when we want them. That is the primary principle to follow when designing a patio in the landscape. The key is how we feel or rather how the person who will inhabit the space will feel. This is where a designer has to be a psychologist. Though security seems to have some universal elements, people feel safe for a wide range of reasons. One person may feel most comfortable back against the wall tucked into a building corner, while another may need to be away from buildings with a good 360 degree view and the openness provided. These are questions that must be resolved to best design a patio for the specific resident.

When it comes down to the enclosure of an outdoor living space, psychology of landscape design can again guide decisions. Remember that it is how the resident feels in the space that determines their level of comfort. There is not a universal approach to how we create the feeling of security and comfort. Some people will only need to have simple distractions around their outdoor living space in order to keep their attention from outside ‘dangers’. This can be accomplished with landscape dynamic landscape plantings, perennials with season change, shrubs with texture and color, and trees with sculptural interest. Other people may need heavier structures using heavy planting barrier designs with dense evergreen foliage, stone walls, wood fences or a combination of all these landscape elements. Landscape design is a process of creating space that will impart a character of feeling, an emotion. Too often a landscape designer focuses on the aesthetics, the forms or the art and the materials from a self-based orientation and they neglect the emotions of those who will inhabit the space.

A successful outdoor living room patio will help create a safe, peaceful and joyous set of emotions for those who ‘own’ the space, those who most use it and for whom it was designed. It will provide ‘protection’ from surroundings where needed and good views of the larger environment where appropriate. It will also have clear delineation for the choreography of movement, the access and egress to surrounding spaces, and adaptability for uses that will likely change over time. But, those landscape design principles will be discussed in a future article.

Paver Patio and Timber Frame Pergola Project

pergola, patio, landscape
a quaint backyard landscape in Allentown pa

Timber frame pergola. Garden Design Inc. completed the  timber frame pergola project pictured in Allentown PA, during the summer of 2014. The client contacted us to review ideas for creating a new outdoor living space. She started with the idea of a new patio in her backyard and a place to put a grill. The property had more opportunities for outdoor living than just a patio installation. The first step was to determine the clients budget. Once she expressed an interest in spending more than just a patio would cost, we began to discuss the range of additional project features.

The first constraint was a large cherry tree very close to her sunroom addition. It limited the flow and use of the adjacent space, and it made a big mess in areas she wanted to have patio space. But, it also provided shade. I suggested the possibility of removing the tree and installing a pergola overhead. The pergola would provide some shade and define the outdoor room adjacent to the sunroom. The client liked the idea and thus we added that additional design direction and element. The next constraint was how and where to put the grill. Since she was in the market for a new grill anyway, I suggested a built in outdoor kitchen. Nothing extravagant, just a simple grill station. The built in element would allow for a more unified design.

The client is an active gardener and has an eclectic backyard landscape. The plantings and the elements are organic in form and character with nothing being formalistic. Reflecting that aesthetic, we designed a timber frame pergola constructed with rough, large Douglas fir lumber. The pergola would be constructed in the timber frame approach with mortise and tenon joints, pegs and wood brackets. It will be allowed to turn grey naturally and not be oiled to maintain the yellow, new cut color. The pergola is designed architecturally as an extension of the sun room and the two sliding doors leading to the landscape.

The outdoor kitchen was designed with enough space to function as a grill station and allow for a bar overhang at one end. The overhang bar seating area accommodates two stools so a couple guests can visit with the cook while she is grilling. Or, the grandchildren can eat at the bar while the adults eat at the outdoor dining table. The grill itself is professional quality Delta Heat. Delta Heat grills are a great quality for perhaps the lowest price in the professional grill range. The countertop is granite and a propane line was run tot he outdoor kitchen to eliminate the need to switch grill tanks.

The patio is designed with two levels. The upper main patio includes the pergola area and the outdoor kitchen. The lower patio is oriented to the pond. The client picked a CST ‘Ridgestone’ concrete paver with a natural cleft finish. The edges of the patio have curb stone to hold the planting beds and define the patio form. Outdoor lighting was installed in the step risers and path lights were installed around the patio. Kichler landscape lighting fixtures were chosen by the client.

The end result was a quaint outdoor living space with unique architectural elements to define the use and character. We enjoyed working with the client during the landscape design process and the landscape construction phase of the project.

 

 

Concrete Patios – Landscape Design

cocnrete patio_allentown pa
Concrete patios for landscape design

With the popularity of concrete paver patios, many homeowners neglect to closely review the options for concrete patios. The mention of a concrete patio can bring to mind the boring white slab tacked onto the back of a house. But concrete patios can be designed in dynamic and interesting forms. In some modern or contemporary landscape design aesthetics, concrete is a more appropriate choice. Concrete technologies have also evolved to include aesthetically attractive finish options. Installed properly, a concrete patio is a low maintenance and cost conscious approach to building an outdoor living space in your landscape projects.

Concrete patios offer a clean, simple and elegant opportunity when a modern landscape design aesthetic is preferred. It offers the opportunity to create large seamless slabs, simple flat colors and strong geometric patterns with cut expansion joints. That style cannot be achieved with the numerous pieces of a modular concrete paver.

Poured in place concrete patios involve less maintenance material than the concrete paver. With all the joints in a paver patio, individual pieces may settle or shift and moss or weeds may grow in the joints. Concrete paver patios need to be pressure washed and have new joint sand added to keep a fresh and clean appearance. Done properly, a concrete patio eliminates those maintenance issues indicative of a paver patio.

Concrete patios are around 25% less expensive than a paver patio. That cost saving will vary by 5-10% depending on the project site access and the finish style. A stamped concrete patio will cost more than a textured concrete patio. A textured concrete patio will cost more than a flat finish patio. Concrete patio’s also require less installation time and expedite a projects completion.

I personally am do not like stamped concrete finishes. The illusion never works and the result always looks contrived when the stamps try to make a concrete look like brick or flagstone. However, I do like the result if the stamp is simple and geometric, meant only to create a pattern and not the appearance it is something other than what it really is. I do also like a finish called ‘textured’ concrete. In this case is ‘stamped’ with very large sheets creating the cleft one would see on a large stone. The patio is then loosely scored for control joints. The result is clearly concrete that is not pretending to be something else, but it has a texture one would find in nature. Textured concrete patios have a comfortable sense of place and can be interesting without being contrived.

Some people can be snobs about concrete patios. I like them when done properly. They can be as nicer than a paver patio depending on the overall landscape design. Concrete offers a great value since it is less expensive than pavers, and it has more structural integrity. But, it must be installed properly with good sub-grade compaction and proper control joints to reduce the risk of any cracking. The quality depends on a professional landscape design and highly qualified concrete installers.

 

Memory Garden Design – Landscape for an Assisted Care Facility

Landscape Design Assisted Living
Memory Garden Design for an Assisted Living facility in Allentown, PA

Garden Design Inc. in Allentown, PA was given the opportunity to create the memory garden design plan shown above. The landscape design program is to accommodate and nurture a spectrum of elderly residential client’s ranges from moderately independent to those with a range of dementia. This  memory garden design project is in the first phase of design and future blog entries will document the design evolution through construction. The next phase is a construction budget which will help the client organization determine how much of the design can be instituted initially. From there, we will revise the landscape design, complete planting plans and construction details for the arbor, the potting table, the planters, the water feature and the paving surfaces.

SUMMARY OF MEMORY GARDEN DESIGN ELEMENTS :

ARBOR GARDEN ENTRY – The arbor denotes the entry to and exit from the garden. It is visible from all areas of the courtyard to provide a landmark for residents and clear direction how the return inside from the garden. It inserts an architectural gateway element to help define the garden as its own sense of place separate from the building interior.

TABLE AERA – A table area is sited immediately inside the garden delineating the main activity and gathering area adjacent to the entry. The gathering areas are designed to draw residents into the garden and make the mental and physical process of going outside a more easy experience.

RAISED PLANTER ACTIVIY – A raised planter activity area is placed adjacent to the table area but with enough space to make its own area. The planter defines a perimeter wall to the seating area further defining both spaces. Residents can work on planting or enjoy the planting they have already done while sitting at the tables.

WALKING PATH – An oval walking path creates the unifying structure of the garden. It flows through the sub-spaces with a simplicity that minimizes confusion. Everything in the garden is tied to the walking path and residents can always find way back to the arbor entry without any confusion of turns.

WATER FEATURE – A water feature provides a sensory experience that triggers memory. A classic three tiered fountain is an iconic design with strong memory associations. For security and safety, the water would flow into a gravel base surround without a standing pool of water. The fountain can be seen from all areas of the garden including the entry and will provide visual clues to the organization structure of the space.

BENCHES – Benches are sited under the pergola and around the walking path. Six benches offer the opportunity for solitude or fellowship in locations prime for watching the activities around the garden (people watching).

ACTIVITY AREA – The activity area is a flexible space where accessible potting tables and sitting tables can be flexibly organized. This space defines the far end of the garden and is clearly visible to and from all other areas.

LAWN – A central lawn creates a neutral green plane allowing flexible use and viewing foreground. The lawn creates a sense of openness and space to minimize any potential for a crowded feeling.

LANDSCAPE PLANTINGS – A mix of trees, shrubs, flowers and groundcovers create the outer green layer to the garden. The plantings become a layer of textures and colors to create a sense of separation from the fence and the roadway beyond. Trees provide shade and vertical architectural elements, canopies to define and delineate the garden spaces.

Check back with us for updates on the evolution of this memory garden landscape design project. We hope to see it through construction and be able to share images of the final built project next spring.

Home Putting Green – Take the short game home

Home Putting Green

putting green
take your short game home

Time for a home putting green? Are you a golf fanatic or have one in your family? If so you know that perfecting the short game is critical. If you have the space and the budget, a home putting green in your landscape can allow you to practice that short game without a trip to the course. That ability to practice regularly and at random spare moments will translate to impressive long term improvement in your overall game.

Putting green design will be dictated by the space and budget available. If your landscape is small and budget tight, a one hole green may be the best answer. These can be installed professionally for as little as $3,500. On the other hand, your options are much broader if you have a landscape with expansive lawn areas and you have a budget of around $20,000. With that flexibility, the design can include multiple holes and chipping mats at distances around the ‘course’. The picture included in this blog is a three hole green with three chipping mats at 25’, 40’ and 80’ distances from the green.

What makes a professional putting green for the home landscape? The first choice is artificial turf of natural grass. Unless you have a degree in turf management, I strongly suggest the artificial turf. These materials have been extensively developed to have the look and more important the feel of natural turf. And, the topography of the green can be slightly altered over time to offer new challenges. It is only a matter of lifting the turf and re-sculpting the base.

The overall green is built in three layers. The first is a modified, compacted stone base. This should be around 8” thick, with geotextile fabric separating it from the subsoil. And make sure the subsoil is completely compacted. On top of the modified stone is a leveling layer of screenings, then a final layer of sand prior to the artificial turf. The turf itself is also over swept with a fine aggregate material.

There are companies who specialize in putting greens and they are the right people for the job. I designed the green in the attached picture, but I did the project with the consultation of professional company who installs similar greens for high end golf courses and is certified by Jack Nicholas Golf. I also included the clients in the process at every step since it was for him and his son, not for me.

If you are a golf fanatic, have space in your landscape and your budget, then consider a home putting green. It is a great way to relieve stress at the end of a long days work. And, it won’t require more time away from home and the family to squeeze in a few minutes at the course. Not that those days away at the course can’t still be welcome retreats, but when you do get out your short game will be better and you will enjoy the day more. You may even enroll some other family members in the sport and get to share that time with them.