Tag Archives for " purcellville landscape design "

May 15, 2013

Who cares for your landscape? That’s the last step in the design!

If I had a penny for every client who included “I want a low/no maintenance design” as part of their wish list, well… 170 pennies are in a pound, so I’d have a stack that weighs more than my biggest cat. I get it. We’re all busy, whether it’s work or kids or church or all of that, and we want something that will look as good in two years as it does today. But wait, landscapes don’t work that way.

culpeper landscape design

If you have an interior designed for you, maintaining that space comes down to keeping it clean and tidy (and maybe the occasional fresh coat of paint). If your landscape was well designed, it doesn’t look its best the day we pull off. It looks its best a few years down the road when the plants have all started to fill in and mature and create that beautiful, layered, effortless look. However, the wrong person caring for that landscape can inadvertently keep it from ever reaching its potential. As landscape architect Michael Van Valenburgh stated,

If you leave plant management decisions entirely to horticulturists who remain on the site after you, you are surrendering too much of your design. On the other hand, your design will be ill fated if you don’t collaborate with people who know horticulture. Collaboration—this is the unheralded key to management.

I came up through maintenance, then construction, before coming into design. I feel pretty comfortable designing with the long term in mind and I personally handle the pruning for a few clients because it allows me to guide the landscape in the direction I want it to go. I can’t do it for everyone in the nation, though, which is why I think it’s important to talk about what you’re looking for when seeking someone to care for a designed landscape. It’s not complicated:

  • Knowledge – can they identify what you have?
  • Skill – Do they know proper pruning techniques?
  • Vision – can they tell (by looking at the plans, looking at the landscape, or talking with you) what the goal is and how to get you there?
  • Professionalism – proper plant care is going to take more time than a mow and blow approach. Do you feel confident that they’ll use your time wisely? Can they provide you with a synopsis of what they did after each visit?

Whoever you select will play a large role in shaping your garden now and in the future, so I recommend selecting someone with whom you’re comfortable and with whom you can communicate well. Do that and you should have an easy relationship and a beautiful landscape.

Is your landscape still a great design away from needing a guiding hand to maintain it? Contact me to set up a consultation! I’d love to learn more about your project.

 

 

 

Travertine Paver Patio Installers in Virginia – What to Know

When I was designing landscapes in Arizona, one option we had available to us was travertine marble tile. These were actual tiles – typically 12″x12″ and less than a half inch think – so they had to be laid in a mortar bed on a concrete slab. Shortly after landing in Virginia in 2005, I started seeing travertine pavers make an appearance.

These are really cool because they’re an inch thick and are laid just like a concrete paver. You build up with a base layer of compacted gravel (21A or crusher run), then use a one inch layer of sand as your bedding layer. Once the pavers are in place they’re compacted and polymeric sand is swept into the joints. That’s it. It’s a beautiful finished product that has the ability to flex and move like a traditional concrete paver patio in Virginia. From the test data I’ve seen online, travertine pavers have a compressive strength similar to concrete pavers and can even be used for driveways!

The biggest challenge I’ve found with designing travertine paver patios in Virginia is making the materials make sense. Travertine in California or Arizona doesn’t look out of place. It can look a little foreign here, though. I recently designed a fireplace, seat wall, and travertine paver patio as part of a winery landscape design project. I used a plum-colored flagstone to tie in with the warm tones of the travertine and the rich reddish colors in the fireplace stone, and I’m quite pleased with how it turned out. All those color theory classes have finally paid off.

I’m starting my next travertine paver patio project this week, and I may have one more in the pipeline as part of a swimming pool project. The travertine pavers are a great product that (unlike concrete pavers and flagstone) aren’t in every other backyard. Making it work requires someone who can integrate this new material in the landscape design while blending all the colors harmoniously. In other words, you need a landscape designer. Contact me to set up a consultation if you’re looking to build a travertine paver patio in Virginia, Maryland, or DC and I’ll be happy to talk with you about it!

Garden Art and Ornament in Northern Virginia

Truer words, am I right? Consider the source, though. You know Thoreau was running around Walden Pond naked as a jaybird.

Anyhow, context: this weekend MJ came with me to visit a client in Maryland, and we looped around and came home through Point of Rocks. As we came down route 15, we came to the Old Lucketts Store. We’ve driven by here dozens of times and it’s always looked intriguing, but I’ve never stopped.

The interior stuff is not my style, for the most part. However, I did like the idea of converting old doors and other house parts into chalkboards, something that would give my Manassas Park landscape design office a little more character.

Let’s be honest though – I stopped for the garden ornaments. They have them in abundance, from the questionable

to the awesome (with a coat of hot pink automotive paint)

to more conventional garden ornament.

Because so many of my landscapes tend towards a natural, soft, wild look, I really like strongly architectural pieces to set in plant beds. This would do quite nicely:

And, while a little pricey, I think this would make – hands down – the absolute coolest gate into our backyard:

If you find yourself looking for great landscape design pieces in Loudoun County, this is a great resource. Places like this make me glad that I’ve stepped down from a 3/4 ton pickup to a Subaru wagon. Having limits on what I can haul home is a beautiful thing.

What’s your favorite hunting ground for garden treasures?

 

10 Tips for Landscaping with Kids

With the end of another winter upon us, I’m reminded of my mom’s summertime refrain: “David, go outside and play!” Here’s a list of ten things to think about when creating a play space for your kids (or grandkids, or nieces and nephews, or whomever):

1-    Love The Lawn.

With a little imagination a lawn is a soccer pitch, waterfight battlefield, or a perfect spot from which to lay back and analyze puffy clouds. Do not underestimate the lawn!

2-    Sometimes, the simplest play spaces are the most fun.

A sandbox is easy to put together and provides an inexpensive space that can be repurposed when the kids are older. Just make sure you incorporate a lid; neighborhood cats don’t differentiate between Tidy Cat and play sand.

3-    If you’re adding a playset or other equipment, keep it safe!

Most manufacturers recommend a minimum six foot buffer zone around equipment, and you want a soft surface to cushion falls. Grass doesn’t hold up too well under swings and it can be a hassle trimming around slides and posts. Recycled rubber mulches and specially-engineered wood mulches are popular with community playgrounds but can also be purchased in reasonable quantities for home playsets.

4-    Outdoor toys need a home.

Even something as simple as a bench with storage inside can keep toys out of the rain, and off the grass when it’s time to mow. If you have the space and the budget for a larger solution, why not combine a playhouse with some storage?

Now that's a path!

Now that’s a path!

5-    Plan for paths!

Remember that the shortest distance between two points is often over or through Grandma’s heirloom roses, unless there are several clearly identifiable ways around them.  It may be urban legend, but I was once told that when a new building is built at a college, the designers wait to see where the students create paths before they install the sidewalks. If you’re starting from scratch, why not see where the kids go?

6-    Learn what plants are especially poisonous, and make sure that they’re not planted where they’ll be a temptation.

You can find a number of great lists online (websites that end in .edu are often the best), or contact your local County Extension Office.

7-    A garden full of edible plants can help kids learn where food comes from and why plants are so important.

Even something as simple as a “Pizza Garden”- tomatoes, basil, oregano, peppers, and onions- can encourage healthy eating and a little help pulling weeds.

8-    Edibles are great, but don’t forget to plant for the other four senses!

Those, of course, are smell (lavender, roses, mint, lilac); sight (sunflowers, hosta, Echinacea, hydrangea); touch (globe amaranth, lambs’ ears, silver artemesia, sedum, river birch); and even sound (ornamental grasses, Chinese Lantern Plant)

PlantLovingCat

9-    The magic of gardens is that they’re not just about the people.

Encourage pollinators, birds, frogs, and other critters to give kids a chance to see Nature in action. The National Wildlife Federation even has a program through which your backyard can be recognized as a Certified Wildlife Habitat. You can learn more at www.nwf.org/backyard/

10-    Think about the future when planning your child’s play space.

After all, he or she won’t be this age forever. When I was little, I clamored for a treehouse. My dad and I built one, but it was not your “normal” backyard tree fort. The treehouse was beautifully framed, and built to adult proportions so that when we were grown, the structure could be lowered with house jacks and converted to a garden shed. A wise man, my father.
I should include a rule # 11- just be open to using your imagination and having fun. Listening to my neighbor’s kids screaming, laughing, and running around, I think they’re doing just fine without my Top Ten list. Get outside, spring doesn’t last forever!

Elements of Design: Line

We all know what a line is: a connection of two or more points. In design, line happens when two planes meet, or when we see an object in silhouette. Line helps us play with scale and proportion by emphasizing height, width, or movement. There are several types of lines, each with a particular effect that it creates.

Straight Lines

Horizontal lines: Horizontal lines are secure, restful, and stable. They can emphasize the horizontal nature of a space, and they can lead the eye to a focal point. In the photo below, you can see how the horizontal lines of the house give it a sense of grounding, without a lot of excitement.

Vertical lines: Vertical lines can be inspiring, drawing the eye towards the heavens – which is why they’ve been used in church architecture for centuries. Too many vertical lines and it can feel like a prison, but the right number… good stuff. I love ecclesiastical (church) architecture, and occasionally I’ll stop the truck for pics of a really cool church. The picture below is of a church somewhere off of I-81 that I fell in love with from the road. Look at the vertical lines of the front of that church! And they continue into the three crosses. Too cool.

Angular Lines

Diagonal lines: Diagonal lines show movement and action, yet they’re still considered stable. Diagonals can be a great way to add emphasis to design. In the photo above, you can see that the roof of the church leads the eye to the dramatic vertical structure of the front wall. If you haven’t yet figured it out, I really like this building.

Zigzag Lines: Zigzag lines show a lot of exciting action and movement. They also introduce rhythm. In the photo below, you can see where this set of steps is still very comfortable and easily navigable, but is much more interesting and dynamic than a simple, straight set of steps would be. Too much movement, or too many repeated zigzags, can be overwhelming.

Curved Lines

Curved or Circular Lines: Circular lines help balance the straight, angular lines of a house or structure. They can also provide emphasis while giving a more human character to the space. In the photo below, the circular medallion defines a dining area while also providing a pleasing counterpoint to all the angular lines of the flagstone patio.

Flowing Lines: Everyone likes flowing lines in their landscape design. They provide a gentle sense of movement and grace in the space. Done correctly, you can’t help but want to walk down a gently curving path!

So, that’s line. Such a cool element of landscape design!

Next up: Texture!