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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.

 

Outdoor Fireplace and Patio Lehigh Valley

Lehigh Valley Outdoor Fireplace Patio Landscape
Outdoor Fireplace with patio and wood pergola

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.

 

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.

Landscape Lighting – Landscape Design

 

The feature and area lights accent specific sections of the walkway to visually attract visitors and guide them through the path.
The feature and area lights accent specific sections of the walkway to visually attract visitors and guide them through the path.

Landscape lighting is  not picture small colored bulbs that illuminate a residence around the holidays. However landscape lighting, in the context of landscape architecture, exterior illumination has expanded beyond the Christmas lights into a completely different realm of lighting. They can be used to focus on specific elements of a design that can typically be seen as a whole during daylight. This type of lighting can also be used to direct a visitor literally and visually. It can draw visitors into a landscape and persuade them to stay past dusk. Landscape architects have proven that night lighting design creates intrigue but also manages to benefit the landscape and the homeowners.

Typically, lighting can be split into a few categories, some of which include feature lighting, area lighting, spot lighting, etc. Each hold a specific purpose in landscape design. Certain types of lighting might strictly focus on a small portion of a facade of a house, a tree, or a combination of vegetation and hardscape. Exterior illumination can allow a design to be seen from a different perspective and at a different time of day. As a designer you and the client can decide what elements of a designated space that you want to create an emphasis.

While night lighting creates a beautiful aesthetic to a landscape, it is necessary to address the health effects of night lighting on vegetation. Too much lighting on vegetation can cause growth problems, so when considering night lighting for vegetation, perhaps using indirect lighting might be the healthier option.

On the flip side, exterior illumination provides some benefits to the homeowner. Aside from the dramatic aesthetics that coincide with night lighting, there personal and home safety increase. The lighting makes for easy visual access to and through the landscape, which makes it more difficult for a burglary to go unnoticed. Additionally, tripping hazards are alleviated with more night lighting. It is always a good idea to have sufficient lighting near decking and especially pool areas, front steps and porches areas as well.

Night lighting provides more opportunities for homeowners to utilize their landscape as much as possible. Rather than feeling limited to daylight restricted activities, people can take these activities to a later time of day. Night lighting has been installed within decks and patios which promote people to say outside longer and linger in their outdoor living spaces. Consider implementing more landscape lighting to your home to get the most out of your outdoor living space.

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.

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

Fall landscape planting

landscaping
landscape planting

Fall landscape planting projects are ideal. The reasons are both ecological and economic. Cooler fall temperatures leave plants less stressed as they adapt to their new environment. But more importantly, fall soil temperatures are ideal for root growth. Plants can get six to eight weeks of root growth before winter. This gives them a big advantage when next summer’s heat arrives. The exception is that some trees, such as many Oak varieties, are ‘fall dig hazards’ and are best not planted in autumn. (Ask your nurseryman for more information). Don’t forget to water your new plantings, as fall can sometimes be very dry.

Deals can often be had on plants in autumn for fall  landscape plating. Nurseries may drop prices if they are anxious to get rid of planting stock to avoid winterizing it or if they need to make room for holiday decor. Nursery plants will be larger at the end of the season, so you may get more plant for less money. Perennials can often be bought for half price or less since they are starting to die back. But put them in the ground anyway, and next spring they will shoot out strong. Landscape contractors may even lower installation prices if they want to get a little extra revenue before the seasonal shut downs.

Fall is perfect for pruning. It is much easier to see the branches and structures once the leaves have fallen from shrubs and trees. You will be able to determine which branches have die back and where certain diseases may need to be cut out. Thinning out trees and shrubs properly can also reduce potential winter damage from heavy wet snows or freezing rain. Pruning back perennials is a personal choice. Some professionals are adamant that perennials should be cut back in the spring so that the die back provides a winter blanket of protection. But if that is a messy look that drives you wild, go ahead and cut your perennials back in the fall.

Cooler weather does not mean the end to gardening. Autumn is a great time for fall landscape planting and pruning.

 

 

Landscape Design Theory – Tools of the Design Process

landscape design gesture
Gesture in landscape design, long linear allee, brick wall and perennial garden

Landscape design theory is a process of building ideas in a visual format. The material creation of a design relies on the tangible tools of art and drafting – pens, pencils, paints, computers etc. The methodology of design relies on the less tangible tools of knowledge gathered through education and experience.  Those tools of design theory and principles guide the creation and   will determine the quality of the meaning, form and ideas expressed in the visual representation.

Design ideas start as intangible firings of neurons in the designer’s brains, creating vague mental images and emotions. They are inspired by the inception of a design program and a site (real or imaginary). The program is the ‘what to create’, ‘what is the purpose’, ‘who is the user’ and the ‘how will it operate or be experienced’. The site is usually a specific geographically defined area in the case of landscape design. Conceptual or transitory design projects can be based on an imaginary site or meant to travel various sites. Once the program and the site are established, then designer is ready to apply the tools of design to the process of creation.

The ‘concept’ is the first landscape design theory tool required once the program and site are established. Concepts are macro level design tools that guide the entire process. This was discussed in a previous blog and won’t be readdressed here (see Landscape Design Concepts – Principles of Landscape Architecture May 22, 2014). Once the macro tool of a concept is defined, designers can begin the process of resolving the program, the site and the concept into a cohesive and successful design. That process of design resolution relies on the ever expanding set of design theory and design principle tools. We add more tools to the tool box if we continue to grow as designers.

One of my favorite landscape design theory tools is ‘the gesture’. A design gesture is a sweeping movement directing the experience toward a note of significance. Gestures can be subtle in approach and create a surprising discover. Such is the case with the long arch of a gravel path, elegantly defined with a simple border planting, sweeping around to an unseen groove of mystery. That would be an intimate and even personal type of gesture in the landscape. At the other end of the spectrum, an allee in the garden design creates a very formal and directed experience.  Gestures can be playful, majestic, axiomatic, or illusional just to specify a few of the possible ways to use the gesture tool in design. A gesture is an implication that does not spell out the exact nature of the intent. It is one of my favorite tools used in choreographing landscape design.

This article is the first another entry in an ongoing exploration of landscape design theory. I am a designer and a builder. I find joy, satisfaction and a place to contribute to the world in the practice of design and construction.  I will continue to write about design tools such as ‘the gesture’. It is a process of sharing ideas and working through my own thinking. If you enjoy this journey and would like to interact on an individual level, please send me an email through the company website contact information form or at info@GardenDesignInc.com.