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Techo-bloc Paver Patio and landscape design

Techo-bloc paver patio  projects require good landscape design.  What are the key elements for patio design ? What are the key elements for landscape design? Techo-bloc materials include many choices. So the first key element is a knowledge of the paver choices.  The design style will inform the paver choice.

Techo-bloc Paver Patio
Techo-bloc Paver Patio

Techo-bloc Paver Patio Chocies

The project pictures above uses the EVA paver with a Antika paver border. The EVA paver is a random rectangular pattern. It comes in a variety of blended colors. The Antika paver has a rustic cobblestone appearance. The Antika paver joints are large. A drawback can be weeds. So we use Antika sparingly. For a more contemporary design we would use Industria, Linea or Sleek paver styles.

Patio and Landscape Design

Design is the bread and butter of a success landscape project. Plenty of  hardscape companies have skilled craftsman. But very few landscape companies have skilled landscape designers. What makes a skilled landscape designer?  Part of the skill is innate talent and part is training.

The most skilled landscape designers have an ability to see the land holistically.  They perceive the spaces of the home and the landscape as one unified space.  This means the designer can understand the flow of activity and uses throughout a property. It is a skill of seeing the big picture. An understanding of how all the parts fit together. This is a way of thinking developed since youth. It is very hard to train this skill.

Landscape designers are choreographers. They design flow of movement through spaces. Design is a dance. Patios are a dance floor. And the dances can be cooking, eating, and entertaining.  A good landscape designer knows how to build a good dance floor that works smoothly.

The best landscape designers are typically trained in Landscape Architecture. Look for a landscape architecture degree from an accredited university .  The degree is only a piece of the overall qualification. Who did they train with after college? Are they members of the American Society of Landscape Architects?  Have they won  landscape awards?

A good  landscape designer is artistic and creative. He thinks outside the box. She practices several art forms. Does your landscape architect also paint? Does she play an instrument?

Techo-bloc Paver Patio Design

First step in patio design is program. How do you plan to use the patio? Are you planning an outdoor kitchen? Or a small patio  sitting outside? Write out your entire program carefully. Have that for your landscape designer.

Do you have a Techo-bloc paver catalog?  You should go through it carefully. Highlight the products that catch your eye. Mark the project images that you like. Have that ready to show your hardscape contractor.  For Allentown Landscape Companies get your catalog at AB Stone. 

Think about all the options for patio location. Maybe it is best right by the back door. But you may also want the patio to be a destination.  We like to design the patio far enough from the home to feel like a separate space.  After all, you are going outside to get out of the house. We prefer to put some landscape plantings between the patio and the home. This creates the  ‘Outdoor Room’ character.

Is your patio area flat? If it is not, you may need steps and walls. This will add significant cost. But also adds dynamic character to the patio project. Walls and steps can allow for seating or for pots and urns.  Techo-bloc offers plenty of wall and step products that go with your pavers.

Landscape plantings make a patio a rich outdoor room.  Trees and shrubs create the boundaries of the space. Perennials provide color and textures.  Does your landscape designer know their plants?

Techo-bloc Paver Patio Allentown

Allentown hardscape companies tend to buy product from AB Stone. They have a good Techo-bloc paver patio display for homeowners. The patio displays show the range of paves styles and colors.  Meet your landscape designer there and make societies together.  Ask the staff at AB Stone about your hardscape contractor. Do they pay their bills on time? Do they have a good reputation with customers?

 

Paver Patio

 

Techo Bloc
Paver Patio Contractor

Are you thinking about installing a paver patio and searching the web for information? Want to know how to install paver patio? Do you want some knowledge and experience from professional paver patio contractors?

What are the pros and cons of a paver patio versus my other patio contractor choices? Paver patios are installed on a compacted layer of modified stone. The benefit is flexibility to move with larger ground movements. But, no matter how perfect your paver patio installer can be, over time a paver patio will move, settle and migrate to some degree. But, since the concrete pavers are dry set on a stone base, the fix is not difficult or expensive. If you install a paver patio, plan for a restoration project in about 10 years.  Concrete pavers don’t usually age all that gracefully. The top finish wears off and they can become dull and unattractive. This is less true with each new product that improves on the older technology, But if you want to keep the pavers looking their best, you should pressure wash and apply a sealer every two or three years.

Can an untrained homeowner install a paver patio? Yes, if they are experienced in related types of landscape construction. It’s hard work, but it is not rocket science. You will need some specialized tools to install your own paver patio. You can rent those hardscaping tools. First big challenge is where to put all the soil once you dig out for the stone base. You need to big out about 12″ deep and until you reach virgin compacted soil. Then you’ll need to get the modified stone delivered and compacted in place. Proper compaction is essential to a quality paver patio. You must have a mechanical plate tamper with appropriate psi compaction rates. The next big challenge is to create a level setting bed. Paver patio contractors use steel pipes and screed boards to make sure the patio is smooth with a slight grade for drainage. If you can get that fer, you done the hardest technical part. Now the hardest labor part of setting each paver. The up and down on the knees. The lifting and the hauling. the repetitive motion is tough on bodies that don’t do professional landscpae contractor work each day. You will need to rent a stone cutting saw to cut paver as needed. That is a dusty and dangerous job. Finally, when sweeping in the polymeric sand make sure and get it precisely in the cracks. Make sure that you rinse the paver tops absolutely when wetting the sand into place. If not, polymeric sand residue will stain the pavers. You can probably teel we think it best that a professional paver patio contractor do the work.

Many of our new clients call because they want a paver patio. In Allentown, Emmaus, Lower Macungie and the Lehigh Valley, paver patio is the the most common request for outdoor hardscaping projects. Garden Design Inc. are paver patio contractors specializing in Techo bloc pavers for landscape design and landscape contractors projects. You can review our paver patio ideas on Houzz.

 

Landscape Maintenance for Spring

Bloodgood Maple
Spring Landscape Maintenance for Summer Beauty

What is your spring landscape maintenance plan? We all want to get our landscape gardens off on the right roots so we can enjoy a healthy, thriving and vibrant landscape through the spring, summer and fall. Spring landscape maintenance plans start with general plant and bed maintenance, followed by shrub pruning, perennial cutbacks, fertilizing, mulching and edging beds. Garden Design Inc. offers full service Spring Landscape Maintenance and ongoing landscape services for Allentown, Emmaus and the entire Lehigh Valley Landscape companies.

March – April  Landscape Maintenance

Overview:  Plants begin to break dormancy. Work done now sets tone for remainder of season. Good Garden Hygiene will reduce needs for excessive pesticide and herbicide throughout the season

General Plant Maintenance:

  • Cut back and cleanup dead and decayed perennial growth from prior season
  • Prune any dead branching from woody shrubs and small trees
  • Weed removal – winter weeds bittercrest, chickweed dandelion etc.
  • Check for Scale and treat with Horticultural Oil
  • Divide Perennials – where appropriate to fill in and encourage healthier growth.

Infrastructure Maintenance:

  • Exposed lighting wire or irrigation tubing – dig and bury
  • Check lighting systems, replace bulbs as needed, adjust timer as needed
  • Check downspouts and drains for clogs or other issues
  • Inspect hardscapes for heaving – repair lifting or shifting paving
  • Inspect general garden drainage and resolve any washout problems
Landscape Maintenance
Landscape Gardens Allentown

Perennials:

  • Mow Liriope, Epimedium and other appropriate cutback groundcovers
  • Hand groom Fern, Hellebore, Bergenia, Geranium (semi-evergreen perennials)
  • Uncover plant crowns and ‘press down’ from winter heave
  • Cutback and Divide Grasses

Flowering Shrubs:

  • Rejuvenate Pruning – on heavy bloomers – Roses, Spirea, Hydrangea, Weigela
  • Selective Pruning – to Form/Shape larger woody flowering shrubs i.e. Viburnum
  • Reduction Pruning – Reduce 1/3 old wood past seasons i.e. Red Twig Dogwood

Evergreen Shrubs:

  • Rejuvenate Pruning – form oriented shrubs i.e. boxwood and ilex
  • Selective Pruning – Remove dead and damaged wood
  • Disease & Pest – Inspect and treat Scale and psyllid (boxwood)

Trees:

  • Selective Pruning – Remove dead/diseased wood and prune minor to good form
  • Remove reversions, scions and root sucker growth

Fertilizing:

  • Perennials – Fertilize around the crown, not on it
  • Shrubs – fertilize 3-5” around the drip line, not inside or beyond
  • Trees – Fertilize 6-12” around the drip line. Deep plug fertilize every 48”

Mulch:

  • Cut bed edges – Check work order for specification Hand Edge vs. Machine
  • Note prior over mulching and remove/spread out before new mulch
  • Install mulch between plants – do not ever dump onto a plant!
  • Move mulch around plants, never closer than 1” to crown or trunk
  • Never bury crown, trunk or branching in mulch
  • Never over mulch around any plant (2” Maximum)

Techo Bloc Pavers Reviews

Techo Bloc Pavers Reviews
Techo Bloc Borealis Slab

I attended the Techo Bloc contractors showcase 2017 last week. They always put on a great show highlighting new products and techniques. It is a service to the contracting community making us all better professional hardscape contractors in Allentown. With that, lets talk a little Techo Bloc Pavers Reviews. What new pavers are available, new landscape walls, new permeable paving options, and a bit about our favorite Techo Bloc pavers for Allentown Landscape Projects.

Borealis Wall
Techo Bloc Borealis Wall

First, which and how do new Techo Bloc products apply for Emmaus landscaping projects? Or any of our landscape services areas of the Lehigh Valley. The Techo Bloc borealis paver and the borealis wall are products generating positive attention with landscaping clients in Emmaus and Allentown. The Borealis paver and wall line simulate a natural wood appearance. The main benefit is that this line offers a distinctly different look in landscape hardscapes. The Techo Bloc Borealis line can be effectively combined with the Techo Bloc BLU to create dynamic patio hardscapes. The Borealis wall has the look of the old landscape timbers. I am not a fan! I do like the dimensions and creative oportunies that the size of the Borealis Wall offers. But I think the product will become outdated, out of landscape style. It is not a timeless landscape product.

Para Slab
Techo Para Slab

The new Techo Bloc Para Slab collection does introduce a new hardscacpe option with a timeless style. This new patio paving option has contemporary, clean styling. Para Slab is available in both a smooth and a polished finish. Though contemporary, it will still work well for the older homes of an Emmaus landscaping or Allentown Patio project.

Paver Pete of Techo Bloc fame was very excited about the new Ocean Grande Slab. It is an innovative landscape paver product, but I don’t see it working in most Allentown Landscaping or Emmaus Patio projects. The texture of the Ocean Grande Slab is dynamic and eye catching. But it will be outdated before long. Maybe it would work for Urban, Miami or California projects, but not for most Lehigh Valley Landscaping or Allentown Patio projects.

Techo Bloc Pavers Reviews can not discuss all of the options the Allentown Hardscape Company offers. We at Garden Design Inc. are big fans of the Techo Bloc Eva paver for a value oriented option. The new Techo Bloc Valet offers creative patio design options for Emmaus landscaping projects and Allentown Patio companies. The larger Aberdeen and BLU Techo Bloc Patio options create classic landscaping for larger patio projects. For permeable paving in the Lehigh Valley patio, the Techo BLU is out favorite option.

If your interested in more of our thoughts on Techo Bloc Pavers Reviews and the Techo Bloc hardscape products for use in Lehigh Valley landscaping projects, give us a call. We are glad to share our thoughts. There are a number of other lehigh valley landscape contractors who also have opinion about Techo Bloc for landscape patios and landscape walls. Of course, we want you to hire us to build your Allentown Landscaping or Emmaus patio project. But regardless of who you choose to work with for landscape design and landscape contracting in the Lehigh Valley, check out the Techo Bloc product. If you want a neutral summary, talk to John or Jared at AB Natural Stone. They carry Techo Bloc landscaping products and other options.

 

When and How Much Should I be Watering my Plants?

Formal Garden
Tulips and Boxwood Formal Garden

When and how much should I be watering my Plants?
That can be a tough landscape question. Hard to know sometimes, and there is not always a right answer. Varied factors need to be considered. Does the plant require moist or dry conditions? Has it rained or been dry and windy? How long has the plant been established? Confusing, under-watering can look like over-watering. Leaves wilt, wrinkle and turn brown. But, when plants are under-watered, the leaves are dry and crispy. When over-watered, the leaves are soft and loose. Over-watering will eventually lead to root rot and plant death.
The best test for watering needs is to regularly check the soil for moisture. The easiest test is to insert your index finger into the soil near the roots. Put your finger 2″  into the soil. If soil seems damp and moist, should be fine. Check it again the next days. If  soil is dry then water. For trees or larger plant material, check for moisture with a sample using a soil probe. Insert the probe as far as you can into the soil, twist and remove the ‘plug’. Check the soil moisture profile and water accordingly.
Always water deeply at ground level to avoid getting  water on the leaves and flowers. Water deeply and less often. Get that moisture deep into the soil so the roots go searching for it. That builds better plant roots more able to withstand drought. Always best is best to water in the early morning. This lets the water dry off any leaves, lets it soak in and doesn’t leave moist soil overnight when bacteria may grow.
General Watering Instructions
Annuals planted in the ground
Annual flowers are shallow rooted plants. You will need to water more often, every two or three days in hot summer.  It is especially important to water early in the morning to let the plant dry before sun hits the flowers.
Annuals In Pots Of Baskets
These plants also have shallow roots and need more readily available water. Container plants need more frequent watering since the soil is lightweight and there is not a whole lot. Watering is best every day to every other day. If hot and windy , you should check them twice a day because they can dry out quickly. On hanging baskets, you can lift them from the bottom to ‘weigh’. That will give you a good idea of how well watered the plants are by how heavy the pot is.
Annuals
Water annuals around the base, even flooding the bed. Try to avoid overhead watering.  Overhead spray watering could damage flowers and foliage. Use a moisture retaining fertilizer to help keep soil moist. Annuals generally prefer to be on the more watered side as they are a more fleshy and herbaceous plant.
Perennials
Perennial gardens need about 1″-2″ of water a week. That depends on the types of perennials. Native and drought tolerant perennials can go with much less water. IN fact, many perennials prefer dry conditions. Make sure and design your perennial garden with the plants watering needs in mind. A lavender plant that likes it dry would not be happy by a ligularia that likes it wet.
Trees And Shrubs
You will absolutely need to regularly deep water your new shrubs and trees for the first year after planting. This means at least once a week setting the hose on a trickle and letting the ground get deep soaked. Set the hose near the base of the plant and leave it on a slow trickle for about 1 to 3 hours. A drip hose or drip irrigation system can take the place where the new planting is more extensive than can be managed with a hose. Water deeply and less frequently. Watch out for the Autumn mentality when people think plants don’t need water because it is cooler. Autumn can be the driest time of year and w2e see more plants die of neglect in the Autumn than any other time.

Watering your new landscape plantings is an art. It requires getting your hands into the soil to check soil moisture. It requires getting to know your plants and the signs of thirst – wilting and dry leaves. For Allentown Landscaping and Lehigh Valley Landscaping, each summer brings a new weather pattern. What worked for watering your landscape plants last year, may not work next year. Get to know your plants up close and personal.

Landscaping Allentown PA

Landscaping allentown
A landscaping Project in Allentown PA

A variety of landscape business options are available for landscaping Allentown pa. How do you choose which landscaping companies to call? If you have an extensive landscape project in mind, you first priority is the landscape designer. Look for a landscaping company with a highly regarded landscape designer. Review their landscape plans for other projects. Are you looking for patio designs or landscape gardens? How well does the landscape designer know landscape trees and shrubs?  Ask to see before and after pictures with the landscape plans. Landscaping Allentown pa requires a qualified landscpae designer first.

Allentown Landscaping companies range in quality of their tradesman.  When choosing an Allentown Landscaping Company, ask the following questions. Are the installers skilled and certified landscape professionals? Are they certified landscape technicians? Do they attend educational seminars? How long have they been with the Allentown Landscaping Companies? Are they generally clean cut and professional landscapers? Landscaping Allentown PA is best served by skilled landscape professionals.

Lehigh Valley Landscaping Companies can be evaluated by how long they have been in business. Do you want a company landscaping Allentown PA who just bought their first shovel yesterday? Many people think that landscape gardeners may not need to be experienced. They think landscape gardeners just pull weeds. But professional landscapers must be trained horticulturalist who know plant cultures, diseases and proper pruning techniques. An Allentown Landscaping company that has been in business over 20 years proves they are qualified landscape professionals.

Read the reviews! Landscape company reviews are spread across today internet, Just look up Landscaping Allentown PA and reviews to find information from your friends and neighbors. These reviews are your most important tool in determining the quality of an Allentown Landscape Company. Good companies have lots of good reviews. For example, Garden Design Inc reviews at Google, Facebook, Houzz & Yelp. You can try the internet sites that claim to review local contracting companies, but overall these are just money making ventures that don’t accurately represent quality landscape companies in the Allentown landscaping market. But of them all, Angie’s List is probably the best.

Perhaps you are here wanting the names of specific companies to call. Of course, we want the potential Landscaping Allentown PA customer to give us a chance at Garden Design Inc. But there are other very good choices. Plantique is the oldest Allentown Landscaping Company. They have skilled craftsman and quality landscape designers. Western Lehigh Landscaping has been around a while and I’ve always been impressed with the quality of their work. These are the most established three companies, most award winning, most skilled landscape designers generally best know for custom residential landscape projects. There are a handful of Allentown Landscaping companies, who do good work but are not as well known for the quality of their landscape designs in the specific Landscaping Allentown PA market.

 

How much does a Paver Patio Cost? – The influence of Labor Costs

paver patio
Paver Patio in Lower Macungie

How much does a paver patio cost ? A standard concrete paver patio cost in the landscape client anywhere from $14 per square foot to $25 per square foot in the Lehigh Valley region of Pennsylvania. If you want a specific price and not a broad price range for your patio project, go to one of the many HomeInfo type websites. They will give a very narrow price range for the question ‘how much does a paver patio cost’. But, they aren’t accurate and don’t account for the broad range of landscape design and landscape construction factors of each unique patio landscape project. Those sites list prices at least 20% less than built project pricing. If you want to understand the more complex factors of a paver patio price and why the range is so broad, keep reading. This first article will focus on the cost of landscape labor in relation to the price per square foot for a concrete paver patio in the Allentown region.

First let me qualify my experiences and knowledge base with regard to these price ranges for concrete paver patios. Those price per square foot price ranges are based on over 30 years of real world professional experience in four different states across the country. It is also based on conversations with other professional associates in this hardscaping industry; professionals who practice in California, North Carolina, Maryland and more diverse locations. Finally, it is based on conversations with concrete paver manufacturing companies who are knowledgeable of the range of landscape contractor pricing for paver patios in Allentown, Macungie, Emmaus, Coopersburg and Bethlehem.

patio allentown
Techo-Bloc Paver Patio Construction Allentown

This discussion is specifically about paver patio pricing in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania. And more specifically it pertains to paver patio pricing in Allentown, Lower Macungie, Emmaus, Coopersburg and Bethlehem area landscape projects. When combined, the Lehigh Valley is the third largest metropolitan region in Pennsylvania after Philadelphia and Pittsburg. Location affects labor costs which are the first factor in paver patio pricing. Though the discussion of landscape labor costs relate specifically the Lehigh Valley, the principles can be applied anywhere.

Labor is the most significant and most varied cost involved in a paver patio project. The skilled landscape labor force in Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton is competitive since the areas unemployment is low. This means landscape labor costs are higher than many other regions. Local business owners report that finding qualified labor is the biggest landscape business challenge. Average wages for a hardscape professional are high compared to other moderately trained physical labor. Not only is labor is the most significant cost in the price of a paver patio, it is also the most significant factor for the quality of the patio when completed.

Labor cost variations influence the range of the square foot price for a concrete paver patio. Landscape clients can hire a patio landscape company from the Allentown area who will build a paver patio for $14/sf. Those companies will pay their employees the lowest wages and thus generally have the least experienced installers. They are likely younger, less experienced and unsupervised. They may have high employee turnover and a work culture of ‘who cares’ because they are just there for now and will move on to a better job soon enough, with higher pay. The cuts will be less accurate, the joints less tight, and the base less well compacted. An established, reputable landscape company in Allentown may charge $18/sf for the same patio. Such a landscape company will have employees who have been with the company for some years and are loyal because they are treated well and paid fairly. Employees who are dedicated to a company are also dedicated to a quality product because they realize the employee and the company survive and grow together. Reputable, established companies take the time required to ensure high quality so that the patio lasts. Supervision, safety and benefits all help the professional patio installer create a better quality patio. You may pay more up front, but in the long run you will save money by note having to repair and replace. When picking a company, ask about the employees. How long have they been with the company? What benefits are offered? Get to know your landscape contractor and the company culture. Then you can find that balance of price and quality with regard to labor costs and what the employees are paid.

The cost of overhead is the next labor factor in the price of a patio. The least expensive overhead is often a company where the owner does the paver patio installation along with a helper or two. They may operate out of the owner’s home property further reducing overhead costs. The owner likely wears all the hats with the help of a part time bookkeeper/accountant. Design is seldom as creatively and thoroughly addressed up front as the creativity can happen during the process with the owner hands on. That has many draw backs, and some benefits. This owner/operator is less often trained in business or landscape design, but may have a unique natural ability in those areas. But be careful, a company like that can be more expensive. Since the owner is out doing the work, that on the job labor cost is high.

The highest cost landscape patio companies are front office heavy with an owner(s), a business manager, a designer and a bookkeeper.  They tend to have larger property and equipment overheads to manage and thus employee fleet managers and yard staff. They will tend to be at the most expensive end of the paver patio price range because all those indirect labor costs must be covered in your paver patio price. They tend to leak money at all the edges, duplicate tasks, and have bloated payrolls. In theory, this can be overcome if the company can maintain high volumes of sales and create an economy of scale. My experience and observation is shows that to be the rare exception.

patio design allentown
Techo-Bloc Paver Patio Design Allentown

Somewhere between the owner/operator and the corporate large company is the tightly run professional landscape design build company. The owner may have a college degree and be a capable business man, landscape designer and people manager. She runs a tight ship, works lots of hours and wears many hats well. The client has a direct personal relationship with the owner during the entire design and construction process. And there is a clear line of responsibility for quality. These companies can have a ‘family’ type work culture resulting in the highest levels of loyalty and dedication to quality. Generally, this scenario yields the best price to quality ratio. In the Allentown, Emmaus, Coopersburg and Lower Macungie areas, paver patios may cost in the $18 to $22 per square foot for a small professional landscape company where the owner wears many hats but does not do the actual construction.

These generalizations are intended to share a framework of thoughts regarding the general price range of a paver patio in the Allentown region. If you are considering a landscpae project, ask the salesman ‘how much does a paver patio cost’. How they answer will shed light on the type of company you are dealing with. There are exceptions to the three categories. I know of large corporate companies, small owner/operators, and landscape design build companies that all build a quality product at a very competitive and similar price. This discussion of landscape labor in relation to paver patio pricing is intended to encourage the potential patio buyer to research a company’s labor culture. Ask how long employees have been with the company. Ask the companies philosophy about labor. Does the employee work for the company or does the company work for the employee and the client? Get to know who will build your patio. Are the landscape technicians polite, neat and organized, reputable and safe? Do they respect the company, like working with the company, plan to stay? Focus first on labor quality and costs in the process of determining the cost to value balance in paver patio pricing.

 

Landscape Plants – Sun vs. Shade

Landscape plants
Landscape Plants
Front of House Landscaping

Sun versus Shade – Landscape Guide for proper plant choices

What amount of sun is full sun, part sun or partial shade? And how can knowing these specifications guide plant choices?

Each landscape plant has a preferred range of sun exposure. All shrubs, trees and perennials need sunlight. And it is often more than one would think. But each plant has specific sunlight preferences relating to the quantity of light, the quality of light, and the time of day it receives that sunlight exposure. These specific light exposure preferences are easily found with sources such as http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org with their PlantFinder application. This source provides a detailed range of landscape specifications for virtually all ornamental landscape shrubs, trees and perennials.

The majority of landscape trees, shrubs and perennials prefer over six hours of full sunlight. This is considered a full sun preference. Within the full sun plant category, there are many nuances that are less easily understood. For example, many Hydrangea varieties are listed as a full sun plant. However, Hydrangea does not like hot, late day sun. Therefore, Hydrangea should be located where they get good morning sunlight into early afternoon. That would be on the east side of buildings or larger shrub and tree groupings.

Few landscape plants are truly adapted to blazing full sun throughout the entire day. Mediterranean plants like roses, Hypericum, lavender and succulents all tolerant full, hot, all day full sun. They are also a group of plants that tend to be drought tolerant. They in fact prefer the dry soil over too much water. Thought the standard is at least six hours of sunlight, this group may be best classified as a full, full sun grouping and prefers at least 8 to 10 hours of sunlight to be healthiest. This landscape category also tends to tolerate the sandy or clay soils with little organic components.

The full sun, part shade landscape plants is a category that includes plants that prefer at least 3 hours of full sunlight. They will tolerate more if available. But this category of tree, shrub and perennial often prefers relief from late day sun or full summer hot sun. These plants will tolerate mildly filtered sunlight if direct, unimpeded sunlight is not available. But don’t expect as optimal plant health if placed in filtered light.

Part shade plants are a group thrives best in filtered sunlight. For example, a loose tree canopy above the landscape gardens will allow dappled sunlight through to give a sequence of sun and shade to each plant. These plants are the types that tend to wilt and burn easily if exposed to direct sunlight any time after morning. They are also a group of plants that tend to prefer rich, organic soils because they have evolved in the hummus of a forest floor.

The full shade plant category is by far the most limited with regard to options and choices. Not many plant families or species truly prefer full shade. At least not many that are commonly used in the ornamental horticulture and landscape trades. We struggle to find plant options when a garden is especially shady. And often those garden tend to be dry in the urban and sub-urban landscape posing yet another level to the plant choice challenge. Plants like Rhododendron are often thought of as full shade plants, but that is a misconception. The plant will tolerate full shade, but it will not be as healthy and grow as well as it would in a part shade setting.

Landscape plants and plantings have preferences, but will often tolerate a little less or a little more sunlight than generally specified. They may not grow as well, but sometimes we just have to put a certain plant in a certain location because we love it there. This means we may need to water the plant and fertilize it more, take a little extra care. But don’t be afraid to try and to learn. That process is the joy of landscaping, the journey not the desitnation.

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.

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.