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Landscaping Mistakes to Avoid During the Winter

In most climates, winter can be hard on the landscaping you have worked so hard all year to maintain. To protect your grass, trees, plants and shrubs from the hazards of winter, these are the landscaping mistakes you want to avoid.

  • If you are new to an area or new to caring for your lawn, a critical mistake can be not understanding the zone where you live. Zones determine what type of plants, trees and shrubs will thrive. Planting for the wrong region can be a costly mistake if you decide to landscape your property without understanding the care the various plants and trees will need and if they are suitable for your particular zone.
  • Leaving grass clippings and fallen leaves on the ground over the winter. Foliage left on the ground mixes with moisture to form the perfect place for mold and fungus to thrive. Mold and fungus can not only leave you with unsightly patches of dead grass, but it can spread to the rest of your lawn or nearby shrubs and plants. Rake your yard well during the fall, but also continue to rake sporadically through the winter as foliage continues to fall to the ground.
  • Many people make the mistake of stopping watering during the winter months. Winter is not always synonymous with moisture, and in the absence of rain or snow, landscaping can suffer from a lack of water. Continue to water your for as long as it remains green, and water fruit trees and shrubs until temperatures drop to freezing.
  • Most spring bulbs are planted during the fall and early winter months. If you do not have them in the ground before the first freeze, you will not have the beautiful sprouts you want for the spring months.
  • Pesticides and weed killers require temperatures above 60 degrees to work. Using them around your r property in colder temps means you risk harming your plants for no gain as they will not be effective against pests.
  • It is tempting to store tools as usual after the last use of the season. Unfortunately, this often leads to accumulations of rust and other damage over the winter months. Make sure to clean, dry and oil your gardening tools before you store them over the winter.
  • The winter months are a great time to plan any changes and updates you plan to do to your landscaping. If you wait until spring to decide what you would like to add or change, you are missing out on valuable time to research and plan.
  • Most lawn maintenance and care slow down during the winter months, but the winter months are when you need to do any heavy pruning. Pruning when the plants or trees are dormant makes pruning less traumatic. Light pruning in the summer is fine, but winter is the time to do heavy pruning.
  • Another common mistake in winter landscaping is having nothing evergreen or blooming during the winter months. Most zones have winter flowering plants and shrubs that are suitable. If you fail to include any of these in your landscaping, then your property can look stark and barren during the winter months.
  • Change your lighting scheme for winter. In the winter months, the nights are longer and warm lighting around your property can help dispel the gloom. You also want to move lighting to different areas. After all, you do not want to spotlight a particular tree that might be glorious in the spring but is leafless and stark in the winter.
  • Winterize young trees and shrubs. Winter can be brutal on young trees that do not have heavy bark and a deeply established root system. Failing to wrap the trunks in a light colored burlap can leave these young trees and shrub supsceptible to frost damage.
  • Skimping on mulch is another critical mistake to make as winter closes in. Mulch can help protect your plants from the hazards of freezing temperatures, and helps them maintain vital moisture over the winter months.
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Winter Landscaping Tips

Caring for your lawn and landscaping during the winter months should not be a time-consuming task. Much foliage and grass are dormant in the winter months, so the time spent on lawn maintenance should be significantly reduced during the cold days of winter. Your focus on lawn care in the winter should be about giving you the best chance to have a gorgeous lawn when spring arrives.

If you want a beautiful, year-round landscape, your winter landscaping should include:

  • Continue to water during the winter months, unless you live in an area that receives abundant moisture. Do not water when the temperatures fall below 40 degrees.
  • Winterize your sprinkler system. Winter means freezing temperatures for many places, and freezing temperatures can damage or destroy sprinkler systems. Wrap exposed piping, and blow out lines using an air compressor before the first freeze of the year.
  • If you have thin-barked trees, consider placing a light-colored wrap around them during the winter months. The light-colored cover will help protect them from frost damage and sun-scorch.
  • Rake your lawn several times during the winter. Leaves and other foliage will continue to fall during the winter months. When these foliage remains on the ground and mixes with water from rain or snow, it creates an environment for mold and fungus that can damage your grass.
  • Add mulch around trees, shrubs and plants before winter. Mulch will help protect your plants from frost, and help them retain moisture over the winter months.
  • Road salt is hazardous to plants. If you have shrubs close to high traffic areas that will experience salted road spray, consider covering them. Use salt sparingly on walkways and driveways that are lined with shrubs. Remember that the salt melt will run down toward the roots of nearby shrubs and trees.
  • Fertilize your lawn and landscaping well before the first frost. Fertilizing before winter sets in will help your grass and plants have the proper nutrients to survive winter and flourish in the spring.
  • Cut your lawn shorter than normal before winter arrives. Experts recommend cutting your lawn to 2 to 2.5 inches before the first frost of winter. This helps to protect new growth and keeps your lawn from becoming a habitat for burrowing animals such as mice and moles during the colder months.
  • Trim and prune during the winter. The slow or dormant growth of the winter months makes it a perfect time to achieve the perfectly symmetrical look you want. Winter damaged branches can lead to infestation and damage healthy growth, so always prune damaged areas as soon as possible.

Landscaping and lawns that look gorgeous for most of the year can appear barren in the winter. If you want to add a touch of beauty to your winter landscape, consider adding:

  • Use pots for closely trimmed boxwoods or other plantings that will remain green year-round in most climates. Lining your walkways, or drive, with these pots will add a welcome spot of green to your landscape.
  • Know the zone you live in, and then add winter-blooming flowers throughout your landscape. The burst of color in the winter months is a welcome addition in the gloom of winter.
  • Use the winter months to plant trees such as maple and evergreen hollies. These trees do well in the winter months and add visual appeal to your property.
  • Use outdoor lighting in warm tones. Soft winter lighting looks beautiful against snow, and also holds appeal in brightening the gloom of long winter nights.

A little lawn care and maintenance during the winter, can save you work during the spring. Winter landscaping can keep your property looking neat and attractive for all four seasons. If you live in a warmer climate, winter may see you spending more time outdoors enjoying a break from summer heat. If so, winter can be the perfect time to do any repairs to fencing or decking on your home. Potted year-round shrubs, a fire pit, and beautiful lighting can help make entertaining outdoors a relaxing way to enjoy the cooler temps.

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Good Ways to Maintain Home Garden and Landscape

The landscape and garden around your home are important to the value of your property, adds aesthetic appeal, and make your time outdoors more enjoyable. Given all the benefits of having a well-maintained garden and landscaping, it is essential to know how to care for your plants, shrubs, and trees.

If you are installing landscaping or a garden for the first time, the most critical decision is how much time, and energy are you willing to invest? Do you want something simple, hardy, and easy to maintain? Or, are you a seasoned gardener who wants a lavish garden? Once you determine how much time you want to invest, decide on what plants best suit your needs. Take into account your soil, climate, and the time it will take your landscape to mature.

If you bought a home with established an established landscape, or a home garden, then you may want to know the best way to maintain what you already have. The first step is to walk around your property with a notebook and write down every type of tree, shrub, and plant you have. If you can’t identify them, take a picture. You can use Google reverse image search to identify the plant or tree. Take notes of any immediate maintenance that needs to be done. Are there sick or dead growths? Those need to be removed as soon as possible. Diseases can spread rapidly among plants and shrubs, so remove any diseased plants as quickly as possible.

If you plan to do any new planting, know what time of year is best in your region. The early spring, after the last frost, is generally the best time to plant any new shrubs or trees. Garden plants vary by region and zone, so research what you want to plant. Now that you have an idea of what you have or want to have let’s discuss the best way to maintain your home garden and landscape.

  • Consider simplifying your home garden and landscaping by using flower beds and borders with similar plants. You can use differences in color in various areas to add visual appeal. Using the same or similar plants make maintenance more straightforward as the plants should all require the same care.
  • When adding any new planting, make sure you leave enough room for mature growth. It is easy to overcrowd your space when not accounting for how a plant or shrub will look when it reaches maturity.
  • Consider putting in an irrigation system. There are low-cost options available, and they can save you time and money, especially if you are away frequently and have to pay someone to water your garden. If you do water by hand, be careful to not over-water. Watering is usually required no more than once or twice a week. Avoid watering the leaves and plant heads. Gently spray water into the soil around the stem and roots of the plant.
  • Densely planted beds will discourage weed growth, as does the use of mulch. Weeding on a weekly basis will keep the task easy. You will catch any weed growths before they have time to proliferate.
  • If you have an outdoor patio or entertainment area, consider planting lavender. It is an easy maintenance plant that comes back year after year. The aroma is pleasing and relaxing, and, most importantly, it acts as a natural insect repellant.
  • If low maintenance is essential to you, consider crushed stone beds. They require almost no maintenance and add visual interest to your yard.
  • To winter-proof, your lawn, remove all leaves from the ground in the fall. Leaves decompose and can damage your grass, leaving an unattractive mess.
  • Prune shrubs and trees in the early spring. Do not over prune. Let your shrubs develop into their natural shape to cut down the amount of time you spend pruning. For the rest of the season, only prune unruly shoots or dead limbs.
  • Consider mulch around all your borders, trees and shrubs. Mulch is attractive, has a pleasing smell, prevents weed growth, and helps plants maintain their moisture balance. Mulch is an inexpensive way to make things look tied together.

The above list provides easy ways to help keep the landscape and garden of your home healthy and attractive. The goal of plants and trees in your outdoor space is to add to your enjoyment of your home. Keep this in mind when deciding what to plant. In addition to aesthetics, you want to make sure your design and ideas match the time investment you want to make. You might also want to consider that well-done, but easy to maintain landscaping adds to the resale value of your home.

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Top 10 Backyard Landscaping Tips & Ideas

Your backyard, especially on beautiful days, is likely the space for hours of relaxation, entertainment, and enjoyment – the best way to make it even more enjoyable is to design the perfect backyard landscaping that establishes absolute paradise right outside of your backdoor.

 

  1. Define the use of the backyard: it is family fun, with swing sets for the kids and kid- and pet-friendly plants coupled sprawling greens for playing sports? A pool party paradise? An outdoor entertainment center replete with dining areas, with easy access to the kitchen and grill, making considerations for the need to have access to the main house if necessary for plating? Or simply an aesthetically pleasing design that ties into the the home’s structure? Perhaps it’s a mix of a few of these?

 

  1. Determine views: what you want to hide, want you want to showcase, and the site line from each location at which your guests will be seated.

 

Site line: what you see (your site) from whatever location you stand. For example: you want to keep in mind what the site line is when you look directly outside your door, and what the site line would be from wherever you would be sitting – is there an existing site line you are working with, or are you going to create one with your hedging and planting, such as the site line created by the hedges that the white chairs on this lawn face?

 

Showcase: is there a pond, fountain, or herb/floral garden that you’d like the rest of the landscape to center around? Or perhaps a seating area for outdoor dining that you want set off by its own edging?

 

Hide or soften: are there foundational walls or paths that are weathered by the elements but don’t need functional replacement? Plants make an excellent disguise for unsightly walls, but they also soften hard lines without sacrificing modernity, such as the growth on the concrete walls in this modern backyard.

 

  1. Layer: no matter what style you’re going for (bountiful floral gardens or modern greenery), layering different heights side-by-side will give you the lush growth that adds depth to your property.

 

Soft varieties of greens give pathways a peaceful aesthetic – and layered heights feed into the depths of steps in pathways like these.

 

  1. When in doubt, go green (especially in modern homes): you cannot go wrong with simply layering different textures of greens – especially in modern architecture.

 

Varieties of textures and heights of greens accent this modern concrete and gravel pathway, creating what feels like a modern rainforest oasis.

For a simple solution with minimal soil maintenance, easy-growing trees and mulched beds with well-placed bushes lend modern greenery to the clean lines in a home or office building.

 

  1. Repeat: recurring elements throughout the property create a unity and rhythm that moves you (and your guests) through the property. Often, this best takes the form of a specific colored flower or plant throughout the property, such as the purples in this front lawn that will reappear in the backyard.

 

  1. Accent with annuals: use annuals and accents around seating areas, such as edging on pool/lounge decks or showcasing garden seating, and couple with stone around fountains and ponds for exuberant emphasis.

 

  1. Create walls with greenery: hedging, dense trees, and tall shrubs provide privacy and/or the ambiance of truly being in a retreat, such as the tall greenery at the edge of this pool – whether it’s dividing your backyard from your neighbor or simply the tennis court on the other side, greens make a lush solution to the hard lines of a fence or wall.

 

  1. Don’t underestimate the power of grass: seriously, the good grass makes a difference – just look at this gorgeous sprawling field and this supple yard.

 

  1. Use edging to make spaces: define paths with different sections of plants and/or styles – such as this organized row of low bushes that break the seating area away from the pool in this backyard.

 

  1. Plant a small herb/produce garden where you will host your outdoor dining: nothing will impress your guests more than consuming a meal that’s literally fresh from the garden!

Seem overwhelming? There are literally thousands of plants to choose from and seemingly endless array of options for backyard layout – especially if your backyard is on the larger end of the scale! Leave it to us at Creative Design to help create the backyard of your dreams.

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How To Properly Care For Your Irrigation System Leading Into The Winter

As water changes from a liquid to a frozen solid, it expands – and when this happens inside your irrigation systems, it can cause expensive and inconvenient damages when the temperature rises and your lawn awakens after a dormant winter. It’s not just the danger of pipes bursting; freezing can damage valves, fittings, nozzles, and essentially any other sprinkler system component that water enters.

So how can you prevent damage? By preparing your irrigation systems properly through a process called winterization, which is basically just landscape-speak for “preparing irrigation for winter months.”

The general procedure of winterization is the same, but the processes are sometimes different, depending on your specific system:

Step 1: Run the water to check for leaks.

Run the water and survey each line and nozzle for leaking or broken heads, and make the necessary repairs prior to shutting the water off.

Step 2: Shut the main valve off.

To locate the main valve, look between the main water supply to your home and the sprinkler controller. It is sometimes in a basement, and other times outdoors. Don’t be afraid if it’s hard to turn – if it hasn’t been turned on or off in a long time, you may need pliers to open it – BUT do not force it if pliers aren’t working. This can break the valve and cause water loss!

Step 3: Drain all water.

Depending on your system, you may be able to do this manually through the drain valves (located near the main shut off valve) or automatically:

  • To drain manual irrigation systems: open all main drain valves and allow all water to drain, making sure all water also drains from the backflow device, piping, and sprinkler heads. Then, close the drain valves.
  • To drain automatic irrigation systems: relieve the system’s pressure to below 10 PSI to activate the auto-drain. Also make sure that all water is drained from the backflow device, piping, and sprinkler heads. Then, close the drain valves.

Note: sometimes locating these valves can be difficult, especially if over time their valve boxes have been covered with overgrowth. One way to identify them is to work with a partner and turn the water on, and notice where the pressure comes out first, the most. That’s likely the nozzle located directly next to a main valve. If that doesn’t work, just give us a call – we’re happy to help!

Step 4: Blow out any remaining water.

To drain an irrigation system with the blow-out (air compressor) method, we recommend hiring a professional, as it can be pretty dangerous and costly if done incorrectly; there are debris that can get in your eyes and potential for causing damage to your irrigation system – including melting the pipes! There are also little details that are easy to forget: isolation ball valves must be closed, flow sensors must be removed, and only certain PSIs can be used.

Step 5: Empty and open the drain valve.

After blowing the remaining liquid, open the drain valve to get the very last of the liquid out – and leave it open. The drain valve should remain OPEN during winter.

Step 6: Turn off or adjust controller settings.

If you are running an automatic irrigation system, you likely want to turn it OFF, unless you have (and trust) a rain-mode setting. If rain-mode setting is available, we suggest choosing it, since it will keep programmed times, but simply will not send the signal to the valves to activate.

If you feel more comfortable turning it OFF, it’s totally no big deal – you’ll just have to reprogram the times and settings when you power it back on. For extra caution, you can shut off the power to the controller and remove the wires that connected “MV” to “common.”

Step 7: Insulate anything exposed.

Whenever possible, it’s best to bury your irrigation lines, but if not, purchase self-sticking foam-insulating tape or foam-insulating tubes for your lines. Additionally, invest in a backflow blanket for insulation on your backflow preventer.

Failing to properly prepare your irrigation systems before the temperatures drop can lead to costly repairs when the weather warms up again, and even if the repairs aren’t imminent, systems that are improperly maintained will weather and wear faster, meaning you’ll have to replace parts and systems sooner than later.

Winterizing your irrigation systems ensures optimal performance come warmer months – but we know it can seem like quite a lot of work! Give us a call today and we’ll be happy to schedule maintenance.

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Fun DIY Landscape Design Ideas

  1. String lights
    You’ve probably been to those cafes that have the whimsical string lights outside – they lend the perfect atmosphere to drinks with friends, dancing under the stars, and evening dining. What’s stopping you from having that in your own home?
  2. Build a floating deck for more outdoor activities
    Whether it’s to take up a sunrise (or sunset) yoga practice or to set a table and chairs up for more outdoor meals, a floating deck is a relatively easy day-long project that will spruce up the look and the functionality of your backyard. Lowe’s will get you started with their tutorial.
  3. Add umbrellas
    If you’ve got a pool, chic beach-resort style umbrellas immediately upgrade poolside activities. You can also create an artistic umbrella overhang as an alternative to an awning or shaded patio as seen in the streets of both Paris and Miami.
  4. Plant an herb or veggie garden
    What’s better than home-grown? Nothing, really! Plus, many herbs are actually insect repellants and smell amazing. The Urban Farmer has an excellent guide (free) for what to plant when, so you know exactly what seeds/buds to buy in order to be successfully in growing them!
  5. Build a Zen garden
    We love this idea for modern homes especially, as it plays right into the aura of the overall design. Keep in mind, beach sand doesn’t work – you need gravel. Whether you’re building it as a place to drink Japanese tea or simply using it a calm respite, this step-by-step guide makes it easy to DIY one in your own backyard.
  6. Create a planter party
    Cluster multiple planters of different sizes (and colors, if you have a colorful garden – otherwise we recommend sticking to multiple sizes of the same color) in one location (such as close to your new hammock or around your new floating deck), using multiple plant profiles to create a “spillage” or cascading effect. We recommend 3 or more at time. The best part about planters is that you can replace what’s inside at any time without any disruption to the rest of your garden.

  7. Hang a recycled wooden pallet as a planter
    Pick up a used pallet for free from your local hardware store and DIY this hanging planter for a super chic yet boho vibe – it will match perfectly with your café-chic string lights. What to plant? Herbs, of course – you’re steps away from a fresh meal made with homegrown herbs on your floating deck under your café lights! What a dream.
  8. Build a firepit for s’mores and ghost stories
    A weekly “camp” night in the comfort of your own backyard makes for excellent family bonding time (or perhaps a couple-hour respite from the kids if you’ve got one old enough to supervise activities ????). Home Depot’s quick tutorial makes it easy.
  9. Re-mulch
    Okay, so this may only be fun for you if gardening and landscaping is something you truly enjoy, but if it is, re-mulching will freshen up all your garden beds and make everything just a tad big brighter. While you’re at it, trim the edges of all beds for a super prim and clean look.
  10. Upgrade your walkways
    Whether it’s the path from your garage door to your dumpster, your driveway to your front door, or your back door to your garden, changing up your pathways is a relatively easy, low-cost project that will update your home’s exterior. You can purchase new pavers at your local store, or use these creative ideas instead:

    1. Wood rounds instead of stepping stones: just make sure they’re properly treated so that they don’t crack and cause splinters.
    2. Pavers and pebbles: concrete pavers spaced out by pebbles (try glow in the dark for extra wow-factor) and gravel create a touch of modern in any backyard.
    3. Weather-proof tile: guests will be amazed when you’ve got an extension of your indoors radiating out – just make sure they’re not slippery.
  11. Install a hammock with some shady trees
    Perfect for outdoor naps and lazy Sundays, a hammock adds a relaxed vibe to any space. Place one at the end of an upgraded walkway path and cluster some planters around it to create a world of its own.
  12. Build a garden teepee for your kids to play in
    Trust us, it’s much easier than a treehouse! Plus, you can string fruit vines and other plants along the edges, so it works double duty!
  13. Draw/write in moss:
    Draw or write something on any exposed brick or weather-proof walls with moss for true living art. Write a quote or use a large stencil to “paint” a moss solution on any brick (we recommend a geometric pattern or a family crest – super cool!). Instructions to DIY your own moss paint here.

We’d love to see what you DIY in your backyard!

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Keeping Your Lawn Healthy During The Summer Months

Oh, that summer heat. With these record high temperatures, we know how important it is to protect our skin from the sun – your lawn needs extra TLC to prevent damage, too! How can you keep your lawn healthy and verdant without wasting water or overusing chemicals? These Do’s and Don’t’s will have you covered:

Don’t: over-water.
Do: water according to the stage of your lawn.

  • if you have brand new seed or new sod, you must water more frequently – starting at 3 times a day every day, then spreading out watering as it’s ready
  • if you have a young lawn (1-3 years): you need deeper watering to facilitate root growth
  • if you have an established lawn (3 years or more): water frequently in short spouts (no longer than 10 minutes) – do not deep water.

Note: a common conception of short and frequent watering is that your lawn is more susceptible to fungal growth – one fungicide treatment for the season will keep this from happening.

Don’t: overestimate the amount of rain your grass gets during a storm.
Do: track the rain and adjust watering accordingly

Are there sporadic thunderstorms and rainstorms while you sleep, while you’re at work, or while you’re otherwise away from your home? How can you know if the rainfall was enough to skip your daily watering, or the storm was all bark and no bite – just thunder and little rain? You can either invest in a rain gauge – manual or digital – or go old school and simply put a bucket out anywhere in your yard with a stone/heavy brick in to make sure that it doesn’t overturn in wind.

After rainfall (or when you wake up and get the paper in the morning, or return home from work), if see that the bucket is empty, you know you need to water the lawn pas usual; if the bucket is over ½” full, skip the next watering – if it’s over 3”, it may be a good idea to skip 1-2 full days.

Don’t: avoid fertilizer if your lawn actually needs it.
Do: switch to organic or use a whole-health fertilizer that contains more than just nitrogen.

You’ve likely heard of the rule don’t fertilize in the summer. This thanks to the fear of potential nitrogen burn, which will happen if you’re going to the big box store and buying the old school high nitrogen content fertilizer; you’ll fertilize, then because it’s summer, perhaps experience a few days of heavy rain, then a drought will come, leading to a nitrogen burn.

But this isn’t a catch-all rule; if your lawn is need of nutrients, you can fertilize it – with the right fertilizer. In fact, if you’re not already organic, summer is the best time to switch to organic fertilizer, because it’s not as strong. You can also opt for a whole-health fertilizer that contains way more nutrients than just nitrogen, so your lawn experiences a healthy dose of everything it needs. What to look for in a whole-health fertilizer? Nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, iron, humic acid, micros, and more – you want nitrogen to be 1 of many ingredients, not a main ingredient.

So, think of the rule instead, as: don’t use inorganic nitrogen fertilizer.

Note: you’ve likely heard this rule for fungicide as well. Again, that’s assuming you’re buying a catch-all, heavy-hitting fungicide. The truth is, you may be experiencing brown patches in your warm-weather grass or sod webworm in your cool-season turf which does require fungicide for treatment; in acute cases, it’s completely fine to apply fungicide, but seek out a natural, less aggressive one.

Don’t: spray full-lawn weed control
Do: spot-treat as needed.

Do not spray or use any weed control during the summer – your lawn is already under severe stress. If weeds are cropping up, use acute spot treatments in the evening, so the spots treated have some cooler “breathing” time through the night.

Don’t: cut during the day
Do: cut near the evening

It’s not just about avoiding the heat because you don’t want to suffer a heat stroke – it’s about protecting your grass. Mow in the late afternoon or evening when the temperatures are lower, so that your lawn has all evening to “relax” before the heat really sets in.

Don’t: cut too much or too often
Do: cut “high” every 7-10 days

Your grass’s roots need shade so that they don’t overheat. A general rule is to not cut more than 1” at a time, leaving the cut “high” on the blade of grass. Cut every 7-10 days. If you don’t cut at all, you risk your lawn entering dormancy, which isn’t much fun (or very cost effective) to revive.

Seem like too much maintenance? Give us a call and we’ll keep your lawn in tip-top shape – in the summer and year-round!

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Back Yard Landscaping Ideas

Your backyard, especially on beautiful days, is likely the space for hours of relaxation, entertainment, and enjoyment – the best way to make it even more enjoyable is to design the perfect backyard landscaping that establishes absolute paradise right outside of your backdoor.

  1. Define the use of the backyard: it is family fun, with swing sets for the kids and kid- and pet-friendly plants coupled sprawling greens for playing sports? A pool party paradise? An outdoor entertainment center replete with dining areas, with easy access to the kitchen and grill, making considerations for the need to have access to the main house if necessary for plating? Or simply an aesthetically pleasing design that ties into the home’s structure? Perhaps it’s a mix of a few of these?
  2. Determine views: what you want to hide, want you want to showcase, and the site line from each location at which your guests will be seated.
    • Site line: what you see (your site) from whatever location you stand. For example: you want to keep in mind what the site line is when you look directly outside your door, and what the site line would be from wherever you would be sitting – is there an existing site line you are working with, or are you going to create one with your hedging and planting, such as the site line created by the hedges that the white chairs on this lawn face?
    • Showcase: is there a pond, fountain, or herb/floral garden that you’d like the rest of the landscape to center around? Or perhaps a seating area for outdoor dining that you want set off by its own edging?
    • Hide or soften: are there foundational walls or paths that are weathered by the elements but don’t need functional replacement? Plants make an excellent disguise for unsightly walls, but they also soften hard lines without sacrificing modernity, such as the growth on the concrete walls in this modern backyard.
  3. Layer: no matter what style you’re going for (bountiful floral gardens or modern greenery), layering different heights side-by-side will give you the lush growth that adds depth to your property.Soft varieties of greens give pathways a peaceful aesthetic – and layered heights feed into the depths of steps in pathways like these.
  4. When in doubt, go green (especially in modern homes): you cannot go wrong with simply layering different textures of greens – especially in modern architecture.Varieties of textures and heights of greens accent this modern concrete and gravel pathway, creating what feels like a modern rainforest oasis.

    For a simple solution with minimal soil maintenance, easy-growing trees and mulched beds with well-placed bushes lend modern greenery to the clean lines in a home or office building.

  5. Repeat: recurring elements throughout the property create a unity and rhythm that moves you (and your guests) through the property. Often, this best takes the form of a specific colored flower or plant throughout the property, such as the purples in this front lawn that will reappear in the backyard.
  6. Accent with annuals: use annuals and accents around seating areas, such as edging on pool/lounge decks or showcasing garden seating, and couple with stone around fountains and ponds for exuberant emphasis.
  7. Create walls with greenery: hedging, dense trees, and tall shrubs provide privacy and/or the ambiance of truly being in a retreat, such as the tall greenery at the edge of this pool – whether it’s dividing your backyard from your neighbor or simply the tennis court on the other side, greens make a lush solution to the hard lines of a fence or wall.
  8. Don’t underestimate the power of grass: seriously, the good grass makes a difference – just look at this gorgeous sprawling field and this supple yard.
  9. Use edging to make spaces: define paths with different sections of plants and/or styles – such as this organized row of low bushes that break the seating area away from the pool in this backyard.
  10. Plant a small herb/produce garden where you will host your outdoor dining: nothing will impress your guests more than consuming a meal that’s literally fresh from the garden!

Seem overwhelming? There are literally thousands of plants to choose from and a seemingly endless array of options for backyard layout – especially if your backyard is on the larger end of the scale! Leave it to us at Creative Design to help create the backyard of your dreams.

Categories
News

Front yard landscaping ideas

A cohesive and well-designed yard is flows into and away from a well-designed interior, and just like your interior, you want to ensure that the layout, color scheme, and general planning of the design is cohesive and provides a seamless path into (or out of) the entrance of your home.

First impressions when you meet someone literally define how that person sees you moving forward and are pretty hard to change. Think of your front yard as the physical first impression anyone has when “meeting” your home.

Don’t even know where to start?

Here are a few things to keep in mind when designing your front yard:

What landscaping will best emphasize the structure of your home?

For modern architecture, it’s best to stick to clean lines and simple plants such as ornamental grasses. It’s best to stick with greenery as opposed to

For traditional and classical architecture, a variety of landscape design will flow well with the house’s design, so you can stick to greenery or introduce a variety of florals.

How much effort will go into maintenance?

Make sure you only plant what you are able to take care of. If you’re maintaining the yard on your own, determine your time budget that you’ll be able to allocate to the plant maintenance. If you have a landscaping or ground maintenance crew, determine the added (if any) cost that will be associated with maintaining the new plantings.

Keep in mind what type of plants are being used; perennials grow back every season, so there’s little maintenance, whereas annuals must be planted each year. For overall landscape design, perennials are recommended. Annuals are best in a small garden in your backyard, or for homeowners that enjoy gardening themselves.

 

Is there a functional use for the planting design, or is it simply for aesthetics?

Plants can be used solely for art and design, but can also be designed to afford more functional features such as privacy or even concealment of structural faults in the property.

Privacy: Hedges or tall grasses, tress, or plants, are a softer approach to privacy than a standard fence and can be designed to whatever height or density you’d like.

This Hamptons home makes use of tall trees and bushes to obscure the view of the house, while this home uses hedging to hide the front of the house to anyone from ground level.

Obscurity: whether it’s a wall that’s exposed to the weather that you’re just sick of repainting every year or foundational aspects of your home that you simply don’t love, plants can be used to hide imperfections.

Who is using the pathway, and what design fits its use best?

Formal pathways ensure that guests can get to your front door without ruining your beautiful design, providing ease of entrance.

Solid concrete and/or pavers or stones offer the most specific, defined direction for pathways. Traditional pathways will be a solid application with grouted/concrete seams, but many clients will opt for concrete “tiles” with grass “grout” between, which provides a beautiful contrast of greenery against the stone. Keep in mind, with this application, that the grass between does need to be properly maintained, or else it will die and completely defeat the purpose of the design. If you like the idea of the concrete “tiles” as a path but want a less-stress option, you can use the same design, but simply use gravel or fine pebbles as the “grout” lines.

To go softer you can instead use ground gravel, such as this modern application of a gravel pathway, or spaced stepping stones. When using stepping stones, make sure that they’re spaced as someone would step.

NOTE: when designing pathways that lead directly to your door, keep in mind function: do you have elderly people living in, or visiting the home often? Ground pebbles or uneven steppingstones may not be the best fit. Do you/a family member living in the home wear heels often, and use the front door as the main entrance? Definitely not a great idea to have any uneven surface; smooth pavers or solid concrete are the best fit to ensure there are no twisted ankles!

Are there specific areas you want defined?

Plantings with clean lines define areas of interest, such as the front door, pathways, or a structure in your front yard that you’d like to emphasize. For other areas of your yard, it’s best to keep softer corners and lines – unless your structure is modern, in which case clean lines are always your best bet.

We’re here to help you determine your optimal landscape design. For more ideas, take a look at our gallery, full of designs from modern to classical. Even easier – simply give us a call!

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All the Basics You Need to Know about Designing your Landscape Lighting

The presence of light quite literally defines darkness – and how you light your landscape can define, frame, and even hide aspects of your home that you want showcased (or hidden).

 

Where to start with your landscape design:

The first place to start when deciding how to design your landscape lighting is determining what you want to hide and what you want to showcase. Then, you want to determine where light is absolutely required, such as pathways that could be considered potentially dangerous regarding tripping or that you’d like high visibility for security cameras (such as a pathway leading from the front yard to the back, or the pathway between garage and trash path or alleyway).

Consider the main areas, their functional use, and what you want showcased the most – you don’t want to light everything up, because then everything will look the same! That’s where layering comes in.

 

Layer your lighting:

Once you know what you want to light up, determine how it will be lit.

There are 3 main types of outdoor landscape lighting:

  1. Ambient: these are great for steps, edges, and general lighting that doesn’t require severely high visibility. Ambient lighting is also used to create shadows and shapes by using the actual architecture of the home or structures that it’s lighting up.
  2. Task: named for, well, tasks! Task lighting is used most often at tables and meeting spaces – such as lanterns on outdoor tables and portable lamps – they’re generally movable as needed for whatever occasion presents itself.
  3. Accent: these either add depth or showcase vegetation – they make elements of your yard sparkle.

 

How to design landscape lighting:

First, keep in mind the lantern effect that your home’s internal lights will have on the outdoor design – literally, how will the lights on in the house appear from the outside when it’s dark out? Also keep in mind that a pool will serve as a source of lantern lighting if you are lighting the pool heavily.

Then, sketch (or have your architect or designer sketch) both a birds-eye view and a street-level view of the layout of your current home as-is, from all perspectives. Will you be adding any accents or vegetation? If so, draw those in. Then, circle or highlight what items you’d like accented, what areas need lighting, and what’s functional versus decorative.

Once it’s determined where you want your lighting, you’ll need to determine what you’ll be lighting the areas with. The most common outdoor lighting fixtures are: spotlights, pathway lights, wall washes, in-ground lights, hardscape fixtures, step/deck indicator lights, and subversive lights (for underwater lighting)

 

Keep in mind:

Keep it warm: even if you enjoy bright light, as a rule, warmer light is more desirable for outdoor spaces. Light “temperature” is measured on the Kelvin scale, and you’ll find it on the package or the bulb itself. You don’t want to go any higher than 3000K – past 3000K is the bluer and white tones. The lower the number, the more ambient and warmer the light color is.

View from all angles: what perspective(s) will you be viewing your home from? Is there something (like a tree, guesthouse, or fountain) that will be seen from more than one angle? If so, you’ll want to light it up from all angles.

Low over line: you want your lighting to remain 12k low voltage as opposed to line voltage to reduce the risk of any shock. Lines often get cut in lawnmowing and weed trimming, so keeping the wiring at low voltage ensures that there are no live wires that will harm pets, kids, or adults!

The LED vs halogen debate: not sure which to choose? They both have their pros and cons, and your landscape designer is the best person to answer your questions. In general, LEDs are available in a wide array of more customizable shades, colors, and lighting levels, consume significantly less energy, and last much longer. Their con is that the fixtures themselves are usually more expensive and require more expertise to set up – so their up-front cost is higher. Halogens, on the other hand, require less expertise and cost less up front.

Solar if sunny: solar-powered LED lights are an excellent option if you live in a sunny climate, but it’s certainly not recommended if you are in low-UV rated areas. Sure, the idea of being environmentally friendly is nice, but if you’re relying on solar and you don’t get any solar power… you’re a bit out of luck when night falls!

 

Seem overwhelming? Just give us a call – we’ll be happy to sketch out your perfect outdoor lighting plan and implement the design to achieve anything from dramatic edges to ambient atmospheres.