Architectural Landscaping Containers add character and interest to patio landscaping projects, front entry landscapes or as accents in landscape planting beds. I was recently at the Maryland Nursery and Landscape Trade Show in Baltimore Md. (MANTS) where each year I am excited by the many new and old options of architectural pottery and landscape containers. The manufacturers keep improving the technology for attractive, quality finishes. I want them all for my landscape, but let’s be smart about this. Each type and style of landscape containers has a unique fit in the gardens.
One of the most classical Architectural Landscaping Containers is the metal urns as in the picture above. These fit especially well in more formal gardens with architectural plantings and classically designed patios. Iron fluted landscape containers are popular at either side of a front door in the front of house landscaping. The extra large metal urn pictured above would sit well within the landscape plantings. The large scale makes a focal point statement int the gardens.
For a less formal, more organic landscape, clay pottery may be an ideal fit. The architectural pottery shown above has lovely antique finishes that would accent a casual paver patio and backyard landscape project. Combine a few sizes in close proximity to develop more dynamic container gardens. The balance of three is especially pleasing aesthetically (small, medium and large). Not the longer, more trough type containers on the right. Combine those in an arrangement to create even more landscape interests.
The Versailles Box style container offers an especially substantial architectural interest for landscape spaces. These are commonly planted with larger specimen shrub or tree options. A ‘standard’ form of hydrangea tree would be an appropriate scaled specimen for these Versailles boxes.
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.
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.
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.
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.
An outdoor fireplace is a common desire for homeowners who want to expand their outdoor living in the landscape. This project was completed by a Lehigh Valley Landscape company. The outdoor fireplace is a synthetic stone. The pergola is a standard milled lumber. And the patio is a Techo-bloc paver patio. This is a lot of landscape design elements to fit into a small project area. But the patio furniture arrangements show that the space can afford a variety of outdoor rooms.
The outdoor fireplace is a custom design constructed with a synthetic molded stone. These manufactured stone products help keep the overall cost low by minimizing the masonry labor. The fireplace does have a firebrick liner in the fire box. It does not have a true smoke chamber designed for optimal draft. A true smoke chamber will add about $1,500 to the price of the outdoor fireplace. The overall price was around $15,000. That is a standard outdoor stone fireplace price in the Lehigh Valley.
The wood pergola is constructed with standard milled, pressure treated lumber. After a season of aging, it can be stained to add more character. The pergola defines the outdoor fireplace room. Outdoor LED lighting in the pergola can provide landscape lighting for evening entertainment. The price of the pergola was about $7,500 with some custom details. Pergola by Lehigh Valley landscape company
The paver patio is a is constructed with Techo-bloc pavers. The seat wall allowed the patio to be cut into the hillside. The wall is made with Techo-bloc wall stone. Boulder steps lead to the patio. The price for the patio and walls was approximately $8,500. The paver patio was provided by Lehigh Valley landscape company.
The landscape plantings were designed by Garden Design Inc. Evergreen privacy shrubs are placed at the perimeter. Flowering perennials decorate the top of the wall. Flowering shrubs include hydrangea and knockout roses. The landscape package cost approximately $3,500.
This ouotdoor firepalce, paver patio, pergola and landscape project cost a total of around $30,000. It was constructed by Lehigh Valley landscape companies. Follow link below for a YouTube video of the outdoor living spaces.
This video is a landscape design and landscape construction project completed by Garden Design in Allentown, PA. The landscaping included a brick patio, stone steps and landscape plantings. This is an existing landscape that was renovated. The project also included a custom cedar wood fence.
This landscaping design was based on a client wanting a diverse range of plantings to create a lush landscape garden. There were some existing plants in the projects area that we re-used. The Japanese maple stayed in place by the side patio. We transplanted the perennials including hosta, ghost fern, and daylily to name a few.
The new plantings included deciduous azalea by the large back windows. We in stalled a range of colors of the exbury variety of azalea. Vanderwolf pines are installed along the back fence to create a privacy screen. These are a lovely pine with a thick, blue hued needle. Serbian spruce are placed along the side fence to screen views of the neighbors house. Flowering shrubs include hydrangea, viburnum, and beauty berry. Aucuba was used as an evergreen shrub in the dense shade.
The outdoor patio space is set at the side sun room. The patio is natural clay brick with a bluestone border. The custom cedar fence provides privacy for the patio. An irregular flagstone patio leads from the patio to the back landscape gardens. Bluestone heavy tread steps transition the walkway from the patio to the back yard gardens. These large, natural cut stones add a warm organic character to the project.
Garden Design Inc. is a landscaping company located in Allentown PA. We specialize in outdoor living projects that include patios, landscaping, landscape lighting and much more. The quality of landscape design stems from the experience and skills of our landscape designers. We gratefully compete with a few other good landscaping companies in our Allentown market. They keep us designing the best landscapes we can creatively dream up.
Garden Design Inc. developed this landscape plan for a swimming pool project in the Allentown area. We were one of several landscape companies invited to develop a plan and a proposal for a swimming pool that had been built last season. When we are competing with other companies for a project, our first step is to develop a conceptual landscape plan. This plan does not take the full amount of time required to specify the exact trees, shrubs and perennials in a landscaping plan. It does allow us to present our general ideas and develop a budget to build the landscape project. If the client chooses to work with Garden Design Inc., then we will invest the time to specify the exact plants in the landscape planting plan.
The forms of each plant symbol do represent a general type of plant in the landscape design idea, even thought eh specific plant is not yet determined. The larger green shrub symbols represent both deciduous and evergreen shrubs. A combination of these two shrub types create the most pleasing aesthetic affect. The design principle is to create contrasting and complimentary colors and textures with both the leaves and the flowers. The evergreens will be placed in areas where we intend to screen a view year round. Species may include laurel, holly, viburnum, euonymus and taxus. Deciduous shrubs are generally more prolific with flowers and seasonal interest. They are often less expensive and they tend to grow faster. Hydrangea paniculata are one of our favorites with long bloom cycles, durability and dependability. These include the Hydragnea limelight, pinky winky, fire light and other new hybrids. The flowering viburnum such as Korean Spice are a strong depending border shrub.
The plan includes both evergreen and deciduous trees. The evergreens trees are placed to screen views of the closest house next door. Thuja ‘Green Giant’ and ‘Emerald Green’, Norway Spruce, Serbian Spruce, and Fastigiate Spruce are all good options for this landscape location. Three deciduous flowering trees are placed center of the plan to create a veil and sense of space within the pool garden landscape.
Simple dependable smaller shrubs such as spirea and hypericum will provide a landscape layering element with a series of flowering cycles. Ornamental grasses will offer an alternating texture and a screening for narrow spaces. Perennials such as daylily, coreopsis, and salvia provide the front of planting layer with additional color and texture interests.
The landscape plantings are designed with ample space to ensure this does not become a crowded planting. The intent is to always maintain some space between every plant grouping so that the landscaping doe not mush together. This will keep a clean, organized landscape aesthetic.
Garden Design Inc. was invited to develop planting plans for the pictured property in Emmaus PA. The home is newly constructed with no existing landscaping. But, it does have outstanding views of the natural landscape vistas beyond the back of the home. The program for this phase of landscaping is divided into four phases. One phase is to provide a beautiful entry planting where the driveway exits the main road. Another priority is to install tree, shrub and perennial plantings along the busy main road. The front of the home plantings invite visitors and soften the architecture. Finally, several planting islands extend visual interest and create a sense of space to the gardens. This is a conceptual planting plan. It allows us to share the design ideas and character without investing the extensive time required to detail each planting choice. This level plan allows us to budget a project. Once a client reviews the ideas and budget, we can then design the specific plant varieties.
All of the gardens are a combination of trees, shrubs and perennials. Trees provide the main vertical architecture. They help scale a property into the surroundings. Trees also provide the middle and taller level layers to the landscape. This design has a combination of evergreen and deciduous trees. The evergreen trees are designed as landscape anchors and strong visual screens. The deciduous trees are mostly small to medium size flowering trees. These create a veil to screen views and provide seasonal interest in flowers and fall leaf color.
Shrubs are the backbones of a planting design. This design uses a combination of evergreen and deciduous flowering shrubs. Larger sizes are used along the roadway and the perimeters. These will tend to be more of the evergreen varieties that flower but not as profusely as others. Small and more ornamental shrubs are used to ward the fronts of the planting beds and nearer to the home.
Perennials, ornamental grasses and ground covers complete the planting design. These are arranged toward the front of the planting beds. The perennials are designed with contrasting textures and bloom seasons. The goal is continuous landscape interests from spring to fall.
Fencing and Gates can be an influential elements defining the character of any landscape or garden, but they play an especially important role in the small, courtyard landscape. When the fence and gate become close and present architecture in a landscape experience, the scale, proportions and materials take on increased significance toward the character of the outdoor room. Garden Design Inc. designs and installs standard and custom fences and gates in Allentown and the surrounding Lehigh Valley.
When a landscape design includes fences and gates, consider the garden visitors experience of those architectural elements. Will they feel trapped by the fence or made safe and secure by it? Will the material be warm and inviting to create a sense of peace and harmony in the garden? Or will it be sleek and refined to express a certain elegance whether classic or modern of design intent? Or will it be practical and uninteresting, thus best veiled by plantings or other landscape elements?
Wood fences and gates tend toward the warm and inviting end of the design character spectrum. Being a natural material, and one from a living object, we experience a sense of that life in the fence. The type of wood will further define the landscape character. A pine fence will be organic and campy while a custom hardwood fence may express a mid-century modern craftsmanship.
Vinyl fences are practical and lack much in the way of character. There are some nicer styles that are made with more detailed craftsmanship. But it is still a synthetic material, a cold material and not a welcoming option. However, it is a very practical option as the initial cost of the fencing and gates will be lower than a custom wood fence and the long term maintenance cost of the fencing will be very low. Vinyl fencing works best with some distance between the patio or outdoor living areas and the fence such that a veil of plantings can be installed to soften the overall affect of the fence.
Less standard and more innovative fencing and gates can be designed with a variety of materials from bamboo fencing to metal fencing options. These custom options get expensive but offer a unique character to the landscape courtyard. An especially distinctive and warm option is to combine solid fencing materials with living fence elements. Vines have long been used to soften fences and create character to a space. For more innovoative fence ideas, review : Garden Design Inc – Pinterest Fence Portfolio
Gates are one of the most memorable and architecturally defining element of any garden. The express a first impression to the landscape visitor. A solid gate of quality and craftsmanship will express a quality in the landscape design. Good garden gates can be expensive, but are well worth it in respect to the importance in a landscape. Review gate ideas at: Garden Design Inc. , Pinterest Portfolio of Gates
Take time to design fences and gates the relate the overall character of the landscape. There are many good fence builders in Allentown PA. Garden Design Inc. has designed and installed a wide variety of fences and gates in Allentown and the surrounding Lehigh Valley.
Late fall brings the end to the showy colors and rich foliage in most landscapes. But it is also a festive time of year with a couple major holidays running from late November until the New Year. Now is the time to empty the landscape containers and create winter landscape decorating. Mums and annual cabbages will carry the color through the Halloween season, but what to do for Thanksgiving and the December holidays? That is the time to empty your pots and urns of the summer plantings and replace them with fall-winter arrangements.
Start by taking out the old plants from your urns but leave the soil. Pick a couple or few central evergreen feature plant or deciduous twigs for the center and height of the pot. Cuttings from evergreen trees such as holly, spruce, pine, juniper or arborvitae work well. You can also use the bare branches of a red twig dogwood or the winterberry holly with its red berries. Trim the branch ends and insert them directly into the soil.
Next pick mid-level cuttings for the urn. Boxwood, cherry laurel and holly cutting with the red berries work well for the mid-level fillers and are easy to find. Blue color juniper can add a dynamic to the overall color scheme. Magnolia leaves and branches will add a varied texture. Think of these plants as the skirt that hides the bases and gives foundation to the central feature plants. Don’t be afraid to subtly add some fake fruit or ornament to this level.
Finally, the base level foliage can be added. You will want to look for something that hangs over the edges a bit and acts as the lower hem of the skirt. Low growing or weeping type junipers work well for this. If you have access to Russian Juniper (Microbiota) it makes a wonderful accent because the needles turn a beautiful bronze color. Ivy and Euonymus are long trailing plants that will hang low over the edges.
Winter Urns can be a fun and easy project for anyone. The required materials should be easy to find throughout the neighborhood. Finding and procuring them affords a good excuse to meet new neighbors during a holiday season.
One of the lesser used forms of residential landscape design would be the implementation of water features. Typically, when a homeowner is proposed a water feature, there is often a wary and cautious response. As a homeowner, you may begin to worry about the cost of the feature, the upkeep and yearly maintenance, and the cost. In early forms of design, yes, this would have posed a problem in residential design. Fortunately, many designers and non-designers alike are finding new and innovative ways to create successful and low maintenance fountain and water features. Tutorials are even available online that teach those who interested to make their very own homemade water feature.
Implementing water features in your landscape, especially if well kept, can cause housing values to increase. Additionally, water features provide a classy appeal to a landscape which can make you feel as if you home is the most expensive on the block.
The types of water features can differ based on your own personal preference. Some of the more common water features include ponds and waterfalls; however, some of the newer ones consist of bubbling rocks and even cascade falls.
Certain flowing water features now have the ability to reuse its water using electrical pumps and the water flow rate can be set off on a timer to turn on or off at certain times. This is both cost and energy effective.
Consider evaluating your landscape and see if and where it would be most suitable to install a water feature. Keep in mind that water features should be placed in area where falling debri is minimal. Installing one near a pine tree is poor planning considering it is likely that pine needles will fall into the feature, which can potentially cause some problems and pump can clog or break. It is also important to ensure that proper lining is installed for in ground water features. Water that sits on karst landscapes, or limestone dominant land, can cause deterioration of the limestone and form sinkholes.
Aside from a few minor considerations, water features are versatile and have the ability to be used in a variety of environments. Depending the number and scale of water features, a focal point can be formed. A water feature can be surrounded by small perennials and shrubs or it can sit in the center of a paved or gravel space. This is solely up to the owner and the designer. By the end of the implementation, a well-placed and design water feature will be on display for visitors, and it will create a calming atmosphere for the surrounding landscape.
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