Monthly Archives: May 2015

Outdoor Lighting for Pools, Patios and Walkways—Enjoy your Outdoor Space LONGER!

pool with lightsOur ‘patio season’ here in Philadelphia is far too short. Enjoy your patio for longer this summer by adding landscape lighting and encouraging your family’s outdoor time to last past sundown. As an added bonus to creating a more beautiful nighttime entertainment area, outdoor lighting can also improve the safety of outdoor spaces at night—especially for young children and the elderly.

Outdoor Lighting for Pools, Patios, and Walkways

Here are some things to consider when designing a landscape lighting concept:

Areas

Before you purchase your lighting, consider which areas will have lighting installed.  Common areas include around gardens, pools (including in-pool lighting and pool landscape areas), walkways, and decks.

Fixtures

There are a number of fixture types to choose from—each of which will offer a different lighting concept and overall appearance. Fixture types include lampposts, lanterns, path lighting, floodlights, spotlights, deck lights, and porch lights.

Power Types

An important element to consider is the power source, especially as it relates to your layout. For example, solar powered garden lights are popular in yards, as they can be placed anywhere, regardless of power source. Lights that must be plugged into electricity need to be close to a power source, or you will need to use power extensions (which can be unsightly). Another option for light fixtures that are not located near a power source are battery powered, rechargeable, propane, and natural gas powered lights. Fire-based flames are another option, however safety can be an issue.

Brightness

When selecting your lights, consider how bright you want them to be, as you’ll need to choose the lighting type and wattage accordingly. Brighter lights offer better safety, but softer lighting can create a more attractive outdoor lighting concept.

Location, Use, and Fixtures

To help you decide what outdoor lighting to use, where you’ll put it, and which fixtures you’ll use, here is a basic guide:

1. Spot Lighting

Spot lighting is commonly used for walkways, patios, swimming pools, gardens, and decks, in varying brightness depending on the type of lighting concept you want to create. Fixtures for spot lighting include porch lights, deck lights, lampposts, and spotlights.

2. Security Lighting

Lighting designed specifically with security in mind is usually motion-activated lighting for porches, yards, and garage areas. It often uses floodlights, spotlights, and porch lights.

3. Decorative Lighting

Decorative lighting can be used almost anywhere, and has a long list of features. It is typically used for ‘mood lighting’ and not necessarily for security or safety, and is commonly placed around yard architecture like walkways, gardens, and pools.

How to Begin

Yard and landscape lighting—and yard and swimming pool landscape in general—can be complex. To achieve a professional look, considering calling Blue Tree Landscaping for assistance. Our low-cost, high-value services can perfectly highlight and add to the beauty of your existing landscape.

We’re here to help.

Gardening with Retainer Walls

retaining-wall-ideas-for-gardensA retaining wall is a beautiful way to architecturally sculpt your yard and garden design. Plus, it’s a wall—easy right? While garden retaining walls look like a somewhat simple concept, their construction can be surprisingly difficult and is often best left to professionals.

Professional Tips for Gardening with Retainer Walls

Retaining walls for your garden design are more than just a pile of stacked, stately rocks—there are a lot of considerations. A quick check around your neighborhood at the quality of the landscape design’s retaining walls over time will illustrate just that.

To plan a retaining wall that will stand the test of time, here are our top professional tips:

1. Drainage

A retaining wall retains more than dirt; it also can retain water. Consider water drainage as part of your retaining-wall architecture. Poor drainage can cause cracks, leans, and/or bulging within the wall, and can prevent certain plants from receiving the right amount of water.

2. Cost

Sculpting a garden isn’t a cheap hobby—but neither is using retaining walls. While the cost will vary greatly depending on materials used and cost of labor, a rule of thumb is to plan at least $15/square foot for timber, $20 for interlocking and poured concrete, and $25 for natural stone.

3. Frost

If you live here in Philadelphia, frost is a reality. Frost heaving on retaining walls is also a reality, so plan for this accordingly.

4. Fill

Retaining walls that need to deal with water and weather (which is pretty much ALL of them) need to leverage proper filling techniques. Depending on the type of retainer garden you’re building, you’ll need to consider drainpipes, backfill, landscaping fabric, and compacted soil.

5. Digging

Digging might seem like the easiest part of building a retaining wall, but even that can be complex. For example, you need to consider things like frost depth, soil type, mortar, footings, etc.

6. Masonry

Using blocks for building might seem juvenile, but there are elements to look out for—especially damaged blocks. Never be shy to send back damaged blocks, because they will compromise the overall integrity of the life of the wall for your landscape design.

 

Creating a garden design strategy around a retaining wall design can be difficult. Will it retain the right amount of water? Is it built for our Philly climate? Are you using the right materials?

When it comes to retaining walls—hiring a professional can improve the lifespan and beauty, and can decrease your overall frustration. Call us today to for a quote for a garden retainer wall and landscape design.

Incorporating Walkways Into Your Backyard

walkwaysBackyard walkways are a savvy way to make people walk the line in your gardens. When done well, they incorporate beauty and function into your yard, and as a bonus require little to no on-going upkeep. They’re like the perennials of backyard design.

Of course, constructing backyard walkways can be easier said than done…just ask any DIYer who tried to stamp their own concrete. For a walkway that looks professional—and can increase the value of your landscaping and home—follow the tips below.

1. Location, Location, Location

A walkway to nowhere is rather pointless, so be sure that you choose a location that adds to the functionality of your backyard and garden. Ideally, you will want to connect two elements together, like a patio and pool, or create a loop.

 2. Size

Bigger is better is not the mantra of backyard walkway design. You definitely need to take into account the size and shape of your yard—and the walkway itself. The width of a walkway especially should be proportionate to the yard itself, as there’s nothing worse than a walkway that usurps the beauty and functionality of your landscaping design.

 3. Complexity

While many people ‘dig’ the beauty of complex and ornate walkways, you need to consider the time and money involved.

 4. Materials

Your materials are an important factor. They will reflect the price, appearance, and durability of the walkway. Common options include concrete, brick, natural stones, flagstone, river rock, and gravel. Natural stones like granite, limestone, slate, and sandstone are also becoming increasingly popular, and may add more value to your landscaped property.

 5. A Reflection of your Home

Choose the design of your walkway to highlight the features of your home. If you have granite highlights on your deck, don’t choose a marble walkway tile. If you have modern architecture, don’t opt for a traditional-looking walkway, like those made from river rock.

 6. Lighting

If you plan to entertain in your backyard, consider lighting to complement the walkway.

7. Garden Around your Walkway

Plan your foliage around the walkway to match the wear and tear of the landscape, and the water flow created by it.

 

A well-done walkway can complement your garden and your home, while a poorly-installed one will detract from it all. If you need help designing your walkway concept—give us a call here at Blue Tree. Our affordable services will assist you from design to installation, and beyond.

Design Options for Gazebos and Pergolas

gazeboYou finally get off work and the sun still hangs lazily in the sky. You’ve been sitting indoors since this morning, so staying inside for the rest of the evening doesn’t sound appealing. You cook a quick meal, grab a good book, step out your back door and…

What’s there? What have you rewarded yourself with after a hard day’s work? Now that summer has arrived, it’s time to start thinking about your backyard once again. It’s not just a place to collect wood for the fireplace—it’s a place to spend time.

Incorporating a pergola or a gazebo into your backyard is only one way, among several, that you can turn your backyard into a retreat. From simple accents to mini-temples for contemplation, the pergola and gazebo offer a variety of possibilities for you and your family. Here are some design ideas to get you thinking of the possibilities:

Size

Will you be entertaining guests, or enjoying a romantic meal for two? There’s no limit to the dimensions of your pergola or gazebo—find what’s good for you!

Open or closed?

While we typically imagine the pergola or gazebo as being very open, that’s not necessarily a universal rule of design. Adding some shades can give you added privacy in your retreat. Try some roller shades for a simple, flat-weave design that doesn’t take up much room, but offers all the benefits of blinds.

When it comes to roof design, the question of “open or closed?” remains, well, open! A Gazebo typically has a solid roof, but it’s not uncommon these days to see an airy, latticework covering the top—think gazebo/pergola fusion.

The focal point and the anchor

If you’ve already incorporated hardscaping into your backyard—perhaps you have a lovely patio—try anchoring it with a gazebo or pergola. Rather than letting the patio simply come to end, you can arrange the feel of the space with a beautiful, separate destination just at the edge of the lawn.

For those without a patio or for those with a large lawn, using a gazebo or pergola as a focal point helps reorient an otherwise rambling expanse. A simple dash of gazebo or pergola gives the yard a new, deliberate design.

Accent over function

Especially with pergolas, you don’t always have to be thinking in utilitarian terms. The pergola can act as a simple accent at the transition between home and backyard.

Best Practices in Pool Safety

Pool SafetyWhen you finally open your in ground pool after winter, the last thing you should feel is anxiety about safety. At Blue Tree, we want you to enjoy your pool. A few simple precautionary measures can ensure that you and your family play Marco Polo day and night without a care in the world.

Structures

Blue Tree Landscaping can assist with all of your in ground swimming pool needs. From design to installation and landscaping, Blue Tree is a one-stop shop. Throughout this process, we also consult with you on pool safety. Ultimately, the decisions regarding your pool are up to you—it is your pool! However, we highly recommend incorporating the following structures into your pool design:

1.  Fences

A fencing system—or any barrier around the perimeter of your pool really—is a simple way to effectively manage pool risks, especially when it comes to younger children. Industry experts recommend a barrier at least 4 feet high that is self-closing and self-latching.

2.  Alarms

As a pool-owner, it’s important you know at all times who is in your pool and when. An alarm system can aid in your supervision by going off whenever someone enters the pool area.

3.  Covers

Adding a cover to the construction of your pool provides an added barrier to pool access. A lockable cover ensures that the pool is used only when you’re around.

Practices

In addition to building a safe pool, it’s necessary that you and your family also have in place rules, know-how, and practices that allow everyone to look out for each other and themselves.

1.  Swimming lessons

If possible, make sure everyone in the family has been properly trained to swim before installing your pool. You can’t get to the enjoyment part if swimming is still a struggle!

2.  Train family in CPR basics

Being CPR certified is a great skill to have across the board. However, it is especially helpful for pool owners.

3.  Establish safety rules

Your rules will, in part, depend on your pool, although practices like not running near the pool are a good idea in general. However, when it comes to diving, you’ll have to make the call based on your pool’s depth. And of course, make sure these rules are clearly displayed in the pool area.

4.  Supervision

Even with the above practices in place, it’s still critical that an adult supervise the pool area at all times during use.

5.  Have a phone nearby

In the age of cellphones, this practice is more easily committed too. However, on a hot lazy Sunday there’s always the chance that you’ll walk out to the pool with just your swimsuit and your towel. Having a phone nearby can make a difference in a state of emergency.

Irrigation systems mean less work and higher payoffs!

Blue Tree LandscapingSummer is supposed to be a time of relaxation. It’s also supposed to be a time of beauty, with gardens of vibrant reds, blues, yellows and greens in full bloom. Cultivating that beautiful garden, however, can be quite the hassle. Not only is routine watering necessary, but you also have to prepare for droughts and periods of higher-than-average heat.

At Blue Tree Landscaping, we want you to have both the beauty and the relaxation. One way you can reduce your gardening workload is to invest in an automated irrigation system.

Just the right amount

“The more the merrier” does not apply when it comes to watering your plants. Too often, above ground and manual irrigation methods oversaturate your garden. Just as destructive as forgetting to water the plants, though, is is watering too often. This can deplete the plants’ nutrients as they get lost with the run-off. On the other hand, you can calibrate your irrigation system to water the right part of the plant with the right size water droplet. As opposed to the spray of a hose, irrigation systems spread smaller water droplets that can hit the roots instead of the leaves. This is key, as standing moisture on the leaves fosters diseases, while large water droplets can compact the soil and damage the roots.

Of course, watering too much also means wasting your time. With some simple planning, you can set up an automated watering routine with your irrigation system tailored to your specific watering needs.

Less water, less money, more value

Time is money, and so is water. As mentioned, a properly calibrated irrigation system cuts water usage in two ways: the frequency of the watering and the size of the water droplet. The more efficient your irrigation system, the more efficient your budget. It’s as simple as that. In addition, implementing an irrigation system also creates value for your property.

Proper installation with Blue Tree

Installing an efficient irrigation system is no small task. More goes into the design than you might think. Ensuring uniform watering requires appropriate spacing, and this can only be achieved with an accurate analysis of your lawn or garden’s needs.

Efficiency isn’t the only goal, however. Safety is a big concern when it comes to irrigation system installation, as electronic sensors and timers are critical components of any irrigation system.

Thankfully, Blue Tree has a team of experts ready to safely and efficiently install your irrigation system. Call us today to discuss your lawn’s unique needs!