Posts Tagged ‘hardscape’

patios: day 5

Sunday, December 5th, 2010

So our patio project is really hardening up. heh heh. See all that cement?

day 5 cement

It’s now in our backyard. Day 5 was all about finishing the walls of the koi pond. That entailed a lot of cement…

day 5 cement day

And a lot of ensuring that lines were squared up and things were level…

day 5 getting the walls level

And a lot of yard guts being moved out of the way and into the street…

day 5 yard guts

What does that mean for the plants in the margins of the yard?

day 5 poor cardoons

Let’s just say I’ll be digging out the cardoons and the euphorbias and yadayadayada.

It never made it out of the low 40s today. Brrrrrrrrr. But in spite of the cold those boys powered through the walls. Look at them go!

day 5 what a difference a day makes!

day 5 view from the corner

With the temps dropping down into the 20s at night, the crew decided to break out the thermal blankets on the newly poured walls and upper patio area…

day 5 thermal blankets

As well as the lower patio…

day 5 lower thermal blankets

That was a long Saturday’s worth of progress. Nothing going on here on Sunday. Except more hardening. And maybe I’ll get out there with a shovel to see if I can find my poor plants. Sorry plants!


Day 4

Day 3

Day 2

Day 1

patios: day 4

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

I swear we’re not building a pyramid. Really. Even though our full driveway says otherwise. No room for cars here. It’s full of sand. Cement block. Cement block. Cement block…

day 4 driveway full

Oh, and the granite strips that will eventually create the border of the pond…

day 4 stone strips

This morning the Land Design Associates boys started forming the walls of the pond. Those cement blocks were leveled and stacked and leveled and stacked, etc. Rebar pounded into place…

day 4 building walls

Remember how they’re out there designing The Island of Patio? Might help to look at the layout again. The pond wraps around two sides of the patio, with steps across the koi pond on both sides…

the winner!

So they started digging the top part of the L today…

day 4 digging the other side

Now you can really begin to understand why I’m calling this The Island of Patio…

day 4 one big L

Easier to see what it’s going to look like it you view it from the outside edge…

day 4 patio as island

Island! Cue the Hawaiian music. Easy to see why they’re going to need all those cement blocks, eh?

day 4 more walls

At the rate they’re whipping through this project, this thing might be done next week. omg, a project that might actually be done! Hard to imagine. It hurts my head. Ouch.


Day 3

Day 2

Day 1

patios: day 3

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

The Land Design Associates crew was hard at work making the magic happen out there today. A quick rundown…

The 5′-long granite steps got hauled up the hill and readied for installation…

day 3 first step comes up the slope

Some trimming. Some pounding. And voila! We have a step…

day 3 steps goes in

18″ deep to match the width of the stone pavers that will soon go in. It’s gonna be a little crazy having an actual step instead of the tree stump we’ve been using…

day 3 closeup on steps

Minimal. I dig it. Can you picture it with our future wall of glass? Looks good, right?

day 3 steps from a distance

Further down the hill, the crew marked out the lower patio and prepped it for pavers…

day 3 lower patio prepped

Back up top, the big patio had more base material added and tamped down…

day 3 more patio prep up top

A massive load of concrete blocks arrived. These will eventually form the walls of the pond. Don’t worry, they’ll be hidden by the rubber pond liner…

day 3 concrete blocks

The blocks started making their way out back as the boys dug out the pond a little bit more…

day 3 soil removal

Which means truckloads of soil leaving our yard again…

day 3 haul it away

Can you believe the size of this thing?!

day 3 man that’s deep!

The finished pond will only be 2′ deep, so my luxurious giant pool is really just a pipedream…

day 3 giant pit

Giant pit, however — we got that. Yup.


Day 2

Day 1

patios: day 2

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

As I write this, the rain is blowing past the windows. Sideways. At about 50 mph. Luckily the Land Design Associates crew nailed everything to the ground. Including our cat — where is she? The boys got a lot done before the rain that arrived. Let’s see…

The 5′ long x 18″ wide x 7″ tall granite pieces arrived for the back step…

day 2 stone steps arrive

Cement blocks were trimmed to create a foundation for the granite steps…

day 2 cutting concrete blocks

Then they got set in place and filled with crushed stone…

day 2 step base

The pond got dug out a little bit more….

day 2 the trench

If you look closer, you can see where the rainwater collection tank’s overflow pipe got cut…

day 2 broken drainpipe

Oopsie. S’okay. We knew that might happen, seeing as its placement runs right below the pond area…

rain collection diagram

Luckily it’s an easy fix. Not a problem.

Meanwhile, more patio base material arrived…

day 2 more crushed stone

And the crew turned on the heavy machinery again to start excavating the lower patio…

day 2 lower patio

They got it level and tamped it all down right before the skies let loose…

day 2 tamping lower patio

And then Mother Nature told everyone to go home. Except us. We were already there.

day 2 Bambino, there you are!

Found the cat.


Day 1

patios: day 1

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

And so the transformation begins! Monday afternoon, Jim and Connor came and marked out the site with their laser level…

marking out the site

all marked out

And then it was Tuesday! The day I had to do some letting go. Had to look away as the Land Design Associates crew dug up my Beni Kaze forest grass so it wouldn’t get crushed. Then they leveled a good portion of my carefully prepared bed. Funny how prep takes you days and days of manual rock removal and shoveling in compost, and yet how immediately it all comes undone…

day 1 destroying my bed, it’ll all be okay

*sigh*  The steel steps had to come out, too. Once that was done, they were able to get the machines up the hill and into the yard…

day 1 up the hill

Gravel was moved out…

day 1 removing gravel

So the digging could begin…

day 1 digging begins

Is it a pond?

day 1 is it a pond?

Or a lap lane?

day 1 or a lap lane?

As you can see, the patio area got leveled,  geotextile reinforcement put down and crushed run and sand tamped down over top in preparation for the stone pavers. All in one day!

These guys aren’t messing around.

high-tech garden geekery

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

Hey gadget geeks: you should dig this. Just opened our new Wingscapes Digital Timelapse PlantCam.

plantcam box |

plantcam box |

It’s a  4.0 megapixel digital camera you can install indoors or out to capture the progress of your project, plant growth, etc.

camera setup |

camera setup |

We’ll be using it to snap shots of the patio install. Luckily, it’s weatherproof and came with a bracket, so we can attach it to one of our trees and forget about it for the next few weeks.

weatherproof exterior |

weatherproof exterior |

You can program it to snap photos or video at set intervals.

the inside |

the inside |

Unfortunately the package didn’t arrive until the end of the first day of our project. Damn. Would have made a more impressive time-lapse movie to start from zero.

Oh well. Next time. Only next time will be indoors. Stay tuned for results.

and the winner is…

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

As promised in yesterday’s post, today I reveal our patio layout choice. WHOOP-DEE-DOO! Can I get a whuh-whuh… and a drumroll?

THE ISLAND OF PATIO, slightly revised

the winner!

There’s a lot to love about this design. Lots of pond — more than I envisioned, actually. And the city says we can go 2′ deep without having to fence the yard, so that was a pleasant surprise. We were originally told 12″. Whew! In the upper righthand corner of the patio, you can see a long inset. That’s going to be a planting area cut into the stone where I can tuck something vertical but not too tall. Maybe equisetum hymale (horsetail), like this…

equisetum hymale | “Tiny patios are big on setting the mood”

equisetum hymale | “Tiny patios are big on setting the mood”

Or maybe a short running bamboo, like this eye-catching Pleioblastus Auricomus?

pleioblastus auricomus | “A Northumberland Alpine Gardener's Diary”

pleioblastus auricomus | “A Northumberland Alpine Gardener's Diary”

Both equisetum and bamboo require a containment barrier — 2′ deep, minimum. No matter what ends up here, I think it’s smart to protect our patio investment. Having to pull plants out from in between the pavers would be a nightmare!

The Land Design Associates crew just arrived and digging begins today. You ready? I’m ready!

patios for the holidays!

Monday, November 29th, 2010

Hope you had a great Thanksgiving holiday. Ours was appropriately gravy-covered and cheerful. So now let’s get back to patios, shall we?

We decided a few weeks back that our partner in crime will be Jim Egan of Land Design Associates in Walpole, MA. He’s psyched to launch into a project with a modern sensibility and has the design chops to withstand our quirkiness. When we shared our patio vision with him, he almost immediately turned around and handed us four patio layouts as a place to start. Impressive. He really took my Andrea Cochran obsession and ran with it! Take a peek…

* click to biggify *


This layout features three bands of stone pavers divided by strips of grass. Rectangles of black Mexican beach pebbles and plantings bound the lawn side of the patio. The fish pond is about where we pictured it but a little smaller, with steps across it to the patio…

option #1: 3 strips


In this layout, the patio breaks from a singular rectangle to include some functional areas — ex., our Phoenix Grill/firepit is the triangle on the left edge of the patio. Again, the pool is about where we pictured it. Strategic lines of plantings move you through the garden (a la Pac Man)…

choice #2: pac man


Wow. There’s almost too much to look at in this layout to take it all in. How about I simplify things?

choice #3: L pool

If we zoom in on the patio you can see that the pond wraps around two edges, with steps across the pond to the patio in two places. Essentially, the patio is an island. I so want to get stranded there…

patio island closeup


Ooh, this layout has it all. Excitement. Drama. Curves to offset our linear house. Nice. So the rectangular patio is intercepted by a circle, the diameter of which is made up of plantings, pond and (at the far corner of the yard) a curved stone bench…

option #4: circle

The center of the circle is lawn with a rill of water through it. Love that…

circle closeup

Man, a lot to choose from, right? David and I narrowed it to our favorites — the last two. We met with Jim and came up with a few tweaks. We hemmed. We hawed. Then we had to pull the trigger on one final choice last Wednesday. Can you guess which?

I’ll tell you in my next post. Jim and crew are outside setting the markers for the upper patio right now!


UPDATE: At least one of you knows how militantly anti-hedge I am. Don’t worry, I’ll not be budged into hedging. Screening, yes. Hedging, never. I thank Jim for his ideas, though. He knew not of my bias. :)

granite it is!

Friday, November 19th, 2010

One huge step for mankind: we’ve chosen our patio material. WOO HOO! I know, I know — honestly, who cares? We deliberated over which kind of stone would work best for our ongoing patio drama. Bluestone, eliminated. Three granite samples, under review…

granite samples


Browns and greys, flecks of black. Appearance overall is a warm grey. Probably from Canadia. That’s right, I said Canadia. Humor me. The darkest of the options. Large flecks of … mica? You know, the shiny bits. The roughest, crunchiest grooviest of textures among the options. I like it. David’s least fave.

caledonia granite closeup

caledonia, straight on


Very light grey with flecks of black. Looks like the stuff every curb in New England is made of — may be called Chelmsford? From the U.S., probably quarried not too far from here. The lightest, most uniform and smoothest finish of the bunch. Classic. David’s favorite. Not as expected as bluestone but of the granites, it’s pretty familiar.

grey granite closeup

grey, straight on


Beige to tan with gold and grey flecks. Very warm, almost Mediterranean. Couldn’t find out where it’s from. Fairly porous. Not as smooth as grey granite, not as rough as Caledonia. We think it’s pretty but too yellowy for what will eventually be our grey house exterior and grey concrete retaining wall.

gold granite closeup

gold, straight on


In any other case, I’d likely say Caledonia. But in the interest of keeping things minimal and modern, I’m going to agree with David on this one and say basic grey granite will work fine for this project. Pairs well with the light concrete we already have in the backyard. And after all, the patio material shouldn’t be the star in this case, just a supporting character. Make that affordable supporting character.

Would just like to add that I never would have considered granite as a contender  — am completely anti-granite when it comes to the inside of the house. Granite countertops? Blech. Oh the irony.

Next step: firming up the layout and pool details. And to play us out, Louis Jordan and his swingin’ band!

neverending patio story

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

Talk about dragging things out. November and we’re still talking patios! Here’s where we left off: on the fence about poured concrete, our ideal scenario, so we’ve been considering other options.

Our poured concrete layout looked like this (click to biggify)…

our last patio plan

Finished, those concrete sections would have looked kinda like this (but running parallel to the house)…

by shades of green landscape architecture |

by shades of green landscape architecture |

Too bad that’s not gonna work out moneywise. Waah.

Option 1 : concrete pavers

So if poured concrete is out, what’s the next best thing? Concrete pavers? We looked into a few sources after eliminating Lowe’s and Home Depot.  Stepstone, Inc. makes what I think are the best-looking concrete pavers by far…

narrow modular pavers |

narrow modular pavers |

The October Dwell features an article on the remod of the mag founder’s first home.  Lots of great images of Stepstone pavers on their back patio. Beautiful. They’re made in Cali. On the phone, their people were very helpful. Drawbacks: Several week lead-time. Shipping. Not cheap. And honestly, I’m still hooked on having pavers set into gravel or grass, in which case these wouldn’t work — they’re designed with a mortarless spacer system that requires them to be butted up against each other.

Looking for a concrete paver alternative closer to home, David came across Bolduc in Canada. We liked the look of Avenue

avenue in a commercial application |

avenue in a commercial application |

Commercial rather than residential, which didn’t deter us. Cheaper than Stepstone. Comes in several shades of grey. The folks at Southridge Farm and Nursery in Walpole ordered some samples for us. They look like this…

bolduc samples

They come in larger sizes. Good. Beveled edges. Icky. Overall, too, um, municipal looking? The top side of the dark option looks like poured asphalt. Not a look we’re going for. Shazam.

Option 2: stone

Okay, so if those pavers are out, what next? Stone? We automatically ruled out stone because it has to cost more. Doesn’t it? Turns out that bluestone or granite run about the same cost or even cheaper than the Bolduc pavers. Wow. Okay, so that sounds encouraging.

New layout options: squares

So what about layout now that the trapezoid look is a no-go? The square grid layout looks great but it’s a no for us, whether they’re set in pea gravel…

by daniel nolan design |

by daniel nolan design |

or set in grass…

by huettil landscape archictecture |

by huettil landscape archictecture |

Squares are perfect when the architecture is boxy like that. Not so much for our situation. David and I don’t always agree about everything but we do agree that a long, linear layout goes better with our long, linear house. Strips set parallel to the house would lead the eye out toward the low pool at the end.

New layout options: rectangular strips

Imagine strips of stone set in pea gravel. Either uniform strips…

maisonry winery, yountville |

maisonry winery, yountville |

Or staggered strips…

by environmental concepts |

by environmental concepts |

I can also picture strips of stone set in grass…

by feldman architecture |

by feldman architecture |

from seattle dream gardens |

from seattle dream gardens |

Decisions, decisions. We’ll be working out patio configurations this week so that we can get this party started.

Pool options

Then there’s also the matter of the pool. David was set on an above-ground water feature so that people could sit on the edge. Something akin to this…

by carolyn chadwick |

by carolyn chadwick |

Not impossible to create such a thing but it’s a little more expensive. I’m not budging on my desire for steps across the pool to the patio, either way. Luckily, David is now open to an in-ground pond…

desert botanic garden pool by ten eyck landscape architects |

desert botanic garden pool by ten eyck landscape architects |

montcalm street by rossington architecture |

montcalm street by rossington architecture |

The stones in the pond are kind of nice. Of course, both of those examples are concrete edge and not stone, so the look would probably be more like this…

blue mountain by phillips farveaag smallenberg |

blue mountain by phillips farveaag smallenberg |

Sounds like poured concrete may not be in the pond picture now. Pool liner? Oy. Our neverending story… everybody sing!

Want even more?

Reference previous patio and pool obsessiveness at total yard-on for hardscape.