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Category Archives: Stone Walls

Landscape Plantings & Patios – How to Create Balance

The stone walkway and patio break up the dense plantings.
The stone walkway and patio break up the dense plantings.

How do we develop landscape designs that balance landscape plantings and patios? Balance is one of the key design principles in landscape architecture, and without it, design lacks a primary component. A strong sense of balance between hardscape and plant life can truly bring a design together and transform a formerly plain and uninteresting landscape into a beautiful oasis. Designing with vegetation is always a primary focus, but how does hardscape play a factor in balancing design? In short, hardscape breaks up the potential monotony of vegetated plantings. It provides some structure to an organic flow of vegetated spaces. Hardscape can be defined as man-made structures or elements in a design, and in residential landscape design, materials such as brick, concrete, pavers, etc are common forms of hardscape. Hardscape colors, shapes, and patterns leave a designer with a number of design opportunities making it such a popular design element.

Concrete is the most commonly used hardscape, mainly for its versatility. It often comes poured, but it can come in a variety of colors. Brick more often than not, is manufactured as a bright red, and with a majority of planting emitting a contrasting color of green, the red will easily stand out in comparison to most other hardscape materials. While it can be used solely on its own, one interesting look that some residences are trying is using the brick red as an accent color. Designing a concrete walkway with neutral tones mixed with an outer brick edge, can soften the brick but also brighten the neutral concrete.

Other materials, such as flagstone or bluestone and natural stone tend to work well when designing patios. Hardscape can promote the design of patios, creating great outdoor living spaces without the woody appearance of a deck, for example. Stone walls can create enclosures, creating separate spaces within the landscape. Whether the hardscape becomes the home of an eating area for families or a fire pit gathering for a group of friends, the size, shape, and style are completely up to the user.

Taking a look at Techo Bloc, a landscaping supplier, they offer many products that can personalize a landscape. Pavers, walls, and many other forms of masonry are available for purchase. Some of my personal favorite hardscape designs consist of block pavers that are broken up using grass or fine gravel. This breaks up the monotony of a solid, flat hardscape, and it allows the user to notice a change in ground type.

Aside from the hardscape, the plant selection and other softscape materials  play just as important of a role in design. Selecting vegetation and hardscape of a corresponding color scheme is typically a good place to start. Think of vegetation possibly some mulching that can be used to soften hardscape edges. Or perhaps, you want the hardscape to stand on its own, and the use of seating and landscape planters can create an interesting design. Balancing hardscape and softscape with take some experimentation, but a successful design is always possible.

Front of House Landscape Design Project – Agrarian Setting

Front Courtyard with Fountain_Stone Walls_Pergola_Pavers I worked on this front of house landscape design and construction project several years ago in Bucks County PA. The homes design was developed around a rustic barn type architecture that fit naturally into the rolling agrarian landscape of the large property. To create architectural interest to the otherwise flat front of house façade, a pergola was added in a rough timber style. The pergola support columns are natural stone masonry construction with a taper to create dynamic interest.  The pergola is designed as a ‘roof’ for the front porch outdoor living space.

From the front porch, a wide set of bluestone steps flows to the front motor court. The motor court is designed in classical form on axis with the front door and the symmetry of the home. A natural stone masonry wall with bluestone caps delineates the gardens from the cart way. The concept is to create a garden experience and transition as the visitor moves from the motor court to the front porch outdoor living space and entry to the home.

The design axis of the front door, the front porch and the motor court is accentuated by a central fountain. The fountain is located in the center of the motor court and serves as a functional organizing feature for traffic flow as well as an aesthetic attraction. The fountain surround is a masonry stone wall using the same stone as the transition walls and the pergola support columns. The water feature itself is a granite millstone handcrafted in Maine. Water circulates up and through the stone, over the edges and back into the pool.

The form of the motor court is delineated with concrete paver bands and patterns.  Concrete pavers were chosen over granite cobblestones as a cost savings option since the entire long driveway to the main road also received a triple band of concrete pavers on each side. At the main entry to the property, a 15’ skirt of concrete pavers was installed as a transition to denote the entry.

Plantings in the front garden included boxwood hedges, shrub roses and groundcover. The garden design is classical in form, linear and organized in a geometric principle appropriate to the style of the home. A more intimate and informal cottage style garden was developed at the side porch where the family tended to spend more casual outdoor living time together. That side garden includes a wider variety of flowering shrubs organized around a pallet of hydrangea varieties and perennial geranium varieties.

Landscape Design

Landscape Design Lehigh Valley
Professional Landscape Design in the Lehigh Valley

Successful landscape projects require quality designs. This is true whether you are building a simple patio and walkway or an extravagant porch addition, pool, outdoor kitchen, fireplace project. Design is the process of unifying a range of factors including a family’s needs and desires, their budgets, natural elements of the property, and municipal building/zoning regulations. Plans are the designer’s tool for expressing everything from the concepts of the designs to the layout and the construction details. A skilled, professional designer and a quality set of plans will make a project smoother from the permit process though to the finishing details.

The first step is to choose a designer. That choice revolves around a potential candidate’s education, experience, creativity and chemistry. Does the designer have an accredited degree in landscape architecture or a related degree? How many projects has he designed and seen built? Does he have hands on experience with construction materials and techniques? Do examples of his work express a unique creativity in each project? Chemistry is the most important factor in choosing a designer, once you have determined a candidate is generally qualified. Design is a process of working together as a team from start to finish. Look for a designer who really listens to you, respects you, makes you feel comfortable and communicates well with you. Projects can be long and stressful at points, but the right designer will help the whole project go smoothly.

Design is a team effort. It starts with a conversation between client and designer. What are the family’s needs, what are their desires, what design ideas do they have, how do they currently use the spaces. During that initial conversation a designer may throw out some ideas, but the best ideas and true quality design requires a more reflective design process. The designer needs to survey the property and generate a base map of existing conditions, accurate and to scale. With an accurate base map, the design team can work out ideas with a series of trace paper overlays exploring a variety of possible design solutions in order to resolve a successful conceptual design. Once a concept design is complete, the design team can present the ideas to the clients. The clients will provide critical feedback that guides the process of revising designs. And so that cyclical process goes until a final design is resolved.