Bethesda Landscape Design Case Study

I’ve been really excited to share some case studies with you – detailed posts explaining what we did and why we did it – but it seemed like a lot to ask people to read. Enter the video blog! Enjoy, and if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t like web video (or maybe YouTube is blocked in your workplace?) you can read the transcription below.


Hi, I’m Dave Marciniak, Landscape Designer and owner of Revolutionary Gardens, and thanks for checking out this video! Today, I wanted to talk about a case study-a Bethesda Landscape design project that we did involving a new patio, water feature, a new set of steps going up to the backyard, and a whole series of plantings. To give you a little bit of a background on the project; we were approached by the homeowner who’s doing a major renovation on the house which included pushing the back wall out a couple feet. That little bit of distance really changed the whole character of the backyard and they figured it was a great opportunity to make some changes they’d been wanting to make for a long, long time.

One of the things that was most important to the homeowner was their pond. He loves his fish, loves watching the birds, and so they had this existing pond which was fine, except for the fact that it was all made out of concrete, and there was no filtration built into it whatsoever. So, it was a mess, it was really hard to care for and it just wasn’t quite big enough. So that was one of the first things.  The other issue was the patio was pretty boring, pretty blah, and just not all that functional. You can see in the pictures that it was pretty-really, really small, and just didn’t allow them to do a whole heck of a lot out there, and he had a lot of wasted space.

So, we came in, and part of the design brief-the most, most important thing, like I said was redesigning this pond for him. The second thing was to look at, how can we move things around, how can we push a little further back into the slope, and how can we give them a little bit more space back there? So, what I came up with was a design that actually incorporated a much larger pond where the retaining wall was actually the back of the pond. This allowed us to do a couple things: it allowed us to push a little bit further back into the slope; it also gave us the opportunity to make this water feature look like a mountain spring. I really wanted something that looked natural like it had always been there, and this was an opportunity to do that.

The other thing we did was create a much bigger patio space, but that’s not all that I wanted to do. I really wanted to use the paving patterns, and a little bit of the shape and flow to kind of create some special spaces, and something that would just look unlike anything that the neighbors had. So, luckily, I was able to work with some great masons, who were able to execute this. The third thing, that didn’t really come up as a part of the design brief, but something that I saw out there that I really wanted to make happen, was the fact that there were these timber steps going from the patio up into the upper area. They weren’t actually going to anything! But the nice thing about having steps like that is it’s a little design trick. You know, landscape design is all about psychology, and really kinda, you know,  playing with how people experience the space. And so when you’ve got a really, really tight back yard like that, where you can very easily feel hemmed in by the hillside behind you, the house to the other side, and all the trees and everything else- what this allowed us to do, was by creating a set of steps, a defined set of steps, right where those timbers were- it really makes it feel like you’ve got this tight space, but there’s an exit going out somewhere, and I thought that worked out really, really well.  So, to kinda walk you through some photos of what the finished space looks like…first of all here is the water feature under construction. So you can see it was a pretty significant undertaking. And what’s pretty impressive about this is the fact that there was no machine access into this backyard whatsoever, so those guys brought in all the boulders on a ball cart, and placed everything by hand. It was pretty fantastic, and I’m really glad I’m not them!

So, the pond went in and then the patio comes right up to the pond edge, and here’s where you can see the patio going in. And, this is a great shot that shows you a general overview of the patio and the shape-I mean, look at the quality of that masonry work there. Those curves are fantastic; those borders are flawless; totally thrilled with how this came out. And you can also see the steps that I was talking about.

So here are few additional finish shots of the project that lets you see what we’re looking at-I’m thrilled, I mean I couldn’t be happier with how this turned out, the homeowner’s absolutely thrilled, and just to give you a little bit more information about that water feature: as I said, the goal was to build it into the hillside and tuck it in and really make it feel like something that had been there for a long time. One of the things the homeowner mentioned that he really enjoyed about his old water feature was being able to watch the birds playing in the water while he was….procrastinating I guess in his home office? Let’s be honest…and, so what we did is by having the two stream beds; the one stream bed was a little bit closer to the patio space, where the…you know, your actual living area is, that’s where your impact is; your bigger drop off, your faster water flow-that’s where you’re getting your water sound from. The one closest to the homeowner (his office window), that one is actually a much, much slower trickle, and has a small, shallow pool, where the birds can play and splash and do their bird thing. So, that actually worked fantastic, and very, very proud of that.

Also, I just wanted to highlight, you can see the steps and how those come out, and if you’re wondering what those steps are made of-it’s actually a manmade product called (it’s a Techo-Bloc© is the manufacturer), and Rocka Step is the product; it’s a wet-cast, concrete step-and the reason why I chose to use that over a Fieldstone product or a natural product is because by being a manufactured product it actually has…manufacturers are very, very strict tolerances, so every single riser height, every single tread width-they’re all the same. So, it’s a very, very safe, very, very comfortable pathway up to the top.

Again, there’s not a whole lot of reason to go up there, except for you, you know, periodic maintenance, and you know, kinda, seeing what’s going on in the rest of the landscape, but again, it’s just something-you have that opportunity, and it looks great. We also retrofitted in this low seat wall here; this is eventually going to become an herb garden, and just be a great place for them to, actually, get a little bit of sunlight in what is otherwise a very, very shady backyard.

So, that’s an overview of this project, again it’s a Bethesda Landscape Design project that I am personally really, really proud of in how it turned out; incorporating a flagstone patio, water feature, Techo-Bloc© Rocka Steps, and again, a whole bunch of plantings, which will definitely come back and revisit in a couple years when everything has started filling out and looks even better.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this video case study and if you did enjoy it, and you want to see more of these, please subscribe to my YouTube channel. I’d absolutely love to have you come back, and again I’m Dave Marciniak with Revolutionary Gardens, and thanks for checking out my video!

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