Tag Archives: patios montgomery county pa

4 Hardscape Additions for Your Yard

4 Hardscape Additions for Your YardHardscaping can add instant appeal to most any yard. Fences, concrete, pavers, rocks, and walls are all useful hardscaping elements. A simple makeover that includes these building blocks can make your yard feel warm and welcoming.

A large yard, which can easily turn into a time-consuming maintenance project, can benefit from hardscaping. Rather than adding too many flower beds and plants, which will likely require daily attention, hardscaping can create a more livable space without regular, hands-on work.

Hardscape Additions for Your Yard

Patios

Whether they are added to an empty space near your home, or are set elsewhere in your yard, patios create spacious areas to play and relax. It’s easy to add potted plants or floral borders to this hardscape design. You can also add an outdoor fireplace, so you and yours can enjoy this space even when the summer heat fades.

Pathways

Flagstone pavers, brick, cement, pebbles, and mulch can create simple pathways throughout your yard. Mimic the natural flow of Mother Nature, shifting and bending paths to add visual interest. Just don’t forget to light the way. Include solar stakes or traditional lighting elements to illuminate these walkways, and highlight any plants along the way.

Playful, Useful Touches

Think outside the concrete and cobblestone, and consider adding hardscaping elements that are more functional. A gazebo can add a gorgeous focal point to your yard. Birdbaths provide a place for feathered friends to flock, while adding a simple, easy water feature. You can also add a wooden bench to the space, so you have ample room to admire the view.

Frame It Up

Too much hardscaping can look cold and unpolished. Be sure to include softscaping elements, like plants, flowers, and trees. Line the concrete or gravel edges of paths and patios with flowerbeds. Add potted plants of varying height to mix hard and soft elements all in one container.

Inviting Hardscape

Before getting started, you need to plan out what you’d like to accomplish. Are you adding patios, fencing, or steps? Whatever you choose, break it down into sections. By dividing the project into more manageable chunks, you’ll be more inclined to enjoy the process, while keeping it within budget.

Also check in with your local building office to see if there are any building codes or ordinances you should follow before breaking ground.

 

Whether your yard needs an entire renovation, or just a few tweaks, Blue Tree Landscaping is the one-stop-shop for everything yard. From planning to design and maintenance, you can get your yard from barren to beautiful without the hassle.

 

5 Tips for Planning Your Patio Design

hardscaping-09A shabby, neglected patio doesn’t exude a welcoming atmosphere, but a sleek, modern patio can become a beloved part of any home, while raising the home’s value in the process.

Whatever you can imagine, chances are there’s a patio to match that dream. Today’s styles have gone far beyond a boring slab of concrete, and include all manner of size, color, and shape. Before getting started, here are a few tips you should keep in mind to ensure a beautiful, finished product.

5 Tips for Patio Perfection

Layout

What do you want out of your patio? Do you want it near the kitchen for easy entertaining, or closer to an opposing side of your property for a restful retreat? How close are the neighbors? What sort of patio lighting do you prefer? Consider the size of your yard, as well as any problem areas. Are there any air conditioning units you’d like to camouflage? Do you want a water feature, or a fire pit? Browse through images of other patios to get a better idea of what suits you.

Size Matters

If your space will be used for entertaining, consider the number of people you’d like to comfortably move around this space. Many designers recommend making the patio as wide, and as long as your home, or mimicking the size of a favorite room inside.

Must Love Plants

Do you have a natural green thumb, or do you prefer plants that can stay alive with little help from you? Consider container groupings to provide a punch of color. Be sure to complete the hardscape before you put any plants in place.

Rules and Regulations

What does local law mandate as the maximum height for a fence? Do you need a permit? Check with your local city office to find out the rules for your area. Otherwise, your patio project could result in costly fines, and the removal of everything you’ve built.

Planning

Don’t feel like everything has to get done immediately. Create a long-range plan. You can tackle different items on your list as time, and budget allows. This will also help you prioritize your projects, so you don’t take on more than you can handle.

 

There are so many factors to consider when designing your patio, but these tips will help you create an outdoor space that fits the way you live. To get your Philly patio in tip-top shape without the hassle, contact the landscaping professionals at Blue Tree Landscaping.

From planning to design and construction, Blue Tree Landscaping is a one-stop shop for all your landscaping needs. Call today, and make your patio the envy of the neighborhood.

Smaller Yard? Here’s How to Make the Most of Your Space.

Small yardsWho says the best yards have to be big? Sure, it’s easy to dazzle a crowd with a grand and spacious patio, but when you can wow your guests with a charming, one-of-a-kind yard, your creativity seriously shows. Here are some big tips on how to utilize the small space you have:

Get cozy with a firepit

Although it has been an unseasonably warm winter for Pennsylvania, you might consider installing a personal fire pit in the middle of your yard. This is the perfect accessory for all seasons. Imagine the first barbecue of spring, roasting marshmallows in the summer, or just warming up in the coziest way possible during the fall and winter time. Line the seclusive space with some lush foliage, and you’ve got yourself a particularly memorable haven.

Elevate your home with a patio

A thoughtful addition to a small space is an elevated patio. Nothing looks more enticing than some steps that invite people to new heights—even if these heights are just a foot off the ground. The best part is that the patio can be built to accommodate the rest of the yard. It can act as your personal outdoor dining area, while the rest of the yard can be whatever you want it to be: a play space for your kids, dogs, or impressed guests, perhaps.

Illuminate your sanctuary with landscape lighting

You might think lighting isn’t necessary for small yards (let’s be honest, the lights from the house can probably illuminate the whole yard at night), but you can create something truly magical when you highlight the right features. Set the mood with some hidden landscape lights within a bed of shrubs, or with the addition of a romantic lamppost. You can also enhance a part of the yard you’re proud of with lighting on the outer edge of, say, a garden, or a fire pit, or a patio.

 

As they say: big things come in small packages. You don’t have to sacrifice quality simply because of the size of your yard. Dream of big things for your small space with the help of the professionals at Blue Tree.

Gazebo or Pergola—Which One is Right for Your Landscape Design?

PergolaGazebos have long been a popular element in landscape design—but over the last few years pergolas have entered the limelight. Indeed, in just a few years pergolas have gone from unknown to highly coveted…but is this trending design element right for your yard? Or, should you go with the more classic gazebo?

To figure out which landscape design element is right for you, let’s take a look at what each one is…

 Gazebos

Gazebos can be quickly recognized for their iconic look—a generally round, octagonal, or hexagonal shape, conical roof, and wood/lattice exterior. While they vary greatly in size they often fit four or more people comfortably. As they fit so many people, they are popular for outdoor entertainers. Since they have a roof they provide protection from the elements, especially rain.

 Pergolas

Pergolas also have a ‘look’ that makes them immediately recognizable, with their beam-based roofing slats and thick wooden posts. Pergolas can also come in wrought iron, however thick wooden beams remain the more popular option. Another option, instead of wooden beams on top, is a lattice, which is used for pergolas that (will) have vines growing on them. As these structures have a partially uncovered top and fully uncovered sides they provide little to no protection from the elements, making them purely decorative architecturally.

Which One is Right for You?

Deciding between a gazebo and a pergola depends on what your goals are for your outdoor structure…

  • Price
    If cost is a large motivator, then a pergola will make your budget happier than the more costly gazebo. As they use less material and tend to be less intricate, they can be purchased and/or built for significantly less.
  • Protection from the Elements
    Hands down, if protection from rain and other elements is your primary goal then a gazebo makes sense. A pergola can provide some protection if it has an extremely thick vine on the top, but even then, rain will leak on you eventually.
  • Look
    Gazebos tend to have a more classic architectural look, which goes well with country and other classically styled yards. Yards with modern architecture will appreciate the styling that a pergola brings.

 

If you’re having trouble integrating a gazebo or pergola structure into your overall landscape design, then perhaps you should leave that decision to the professionals! With our keen architectural eye and landscape design experience we can match the right structure with your particular home and yard.

What Type of Gazebo or Pergola Design is Right for YOU?

Gazebos and PergolasA gazebo or pergola can be a beautiful addition to your landscape and patio design. However, these beautifying structures are more than just visual statements. They also provide essential patio shade on sunny Philly days. So, when choosing between a gazebo or pergola, how do you choose which one is right for you and your patio, yard, and landscape design?

Choosing a Shade Structure

Each shade structure has its own landscape design, visual effect, and function, so let’s begin by taking a look at the qualities of each one:

Pergolas

Pergolas are freestanding structures that consist of 4+ supporting pillars/posts, and decorative (somewhat shade-forming) cross beams, in either a line or lattice pattern. While they can be used for walkways, they are most commonly used in residential design as an element for outdoor patios. The most common pergola designs use wooden beams and posts, though metal is also an option.

Benefits:

  • They provide a decorative and classy look.
  • They provide some shade, without blocking all sunlight.
  • They offer a vertical growth place for vines (which can provide additional shade when grown over the top of the pergola).
  • They are more cost effective than gazebos, as they require fewer materials and are easier to erect.
  • They can be constructed quickly and easily.
  • They help build your patio’s aesthetic.

Drawbacks:

  • They don’t provide complete shade, so they aren’t a full respite from the sun.
  • They don’t offer rain protection.

Gazebos

Gazebos are more effective at providing shade than pergolas, thanks to their eight sides and full roof. Their design can be inspired by a number of styles, though English and French are the most common. In recent years, gazebos have been overshadowed by the pergola design, as a consequence of the DIY trend.

Benefits

  • They offer greater protection from the elements, especially rain and sun.
  • They offer enough coverage for electrical outlets and lighting.

Drawbacks

  • Quality gazebos are more expensive, and are difficult to construct without additional help.
  • They don’t work as well as pergolas for patio spaces.

Which One is Right for YOU?

The two biggest differences between gazebos and pergolas are protection and appearance. Pergolas tend to offer a more modern look, while gazebos lend to a more classic appearance. Their shape also differs, with gazebos having a round, octagonal shape, and pergolas using a square or rectangular design.

So, ask yourself a couple of questions: Does your landscape design have a modern or classic look? What level of element protection are you looking for?

For a professional opinion on what best suits your yard, and for professional design help, contact us here at Blue Tree Landscaping today.

Outdoor Audio: A Design Concept

Outdoor audioWe’ve all been to BBQs where someone brings out a pair of portable speakers and hopes the batteries will last at least as long as the party does. But…there are better options.

Outdoor Audio: A Design Concept

Playing ambient or other music outdoors needn’t be a messy affair, and it doesn’t need to disrupt the landscape design visuals of your backyard. By using aesthetically-pleasing outdoor sound equipment, you can have better sound, remove the need to setup a sound system outdoors each time you entertain, and enhance your overall backyard design.

Design

While looks aren’t everything, the design of your speakers is extremely important. Finishes and shapes that don’t blend in with your overall landscape design will stick out like a sore green thumb. Choose shapes that match your landscaping. So, if you use rocks in your landscaping architecture, consider using speakers that resemble rocks in shape, color, or size. If you have a lighter backyard, then go with a brushed nickel or sand color, and if you have darker tones and stained woods then opt for a copper color.

Function

The main point of designing an outdoor audio concept is to have beautiful sound for your backyard. So choose high-quality speakers that have an output that matches the rest of your sound system. An outdoor, cleverly-designed subwoofer can help make your sound much richer.

Placement

Your placement should ideally support both design and function. Subwoofers should generally be somewhat hidden in a spot that isn’t entirely conspicuous, like near shrubs or ferns. Speakers need to be placed so that they are pointing in the right direction (like towards your patio or swimming pool), but also spaced evenly apart so that you don’t create sound pockets or ‘battling’ sounds. Ideally, you want your speakers to surround your common areas, creating an outdoor surround-sound experience.

 Execution

Creating a sound concept and design is easier said than done. And that’s where our professionals here at Blue Tree Landscaping come in. Our full-service offering can sculpt the entirety of your yard, from inground swimming pools to hardscaping, all the way to a sound concept and garden lights. Our expert eye for design can help you incorporate an audio concept that is both unique to your yard and suited to your overall aesthetic.

Here at Blue Tree we’ve partnered with one of the most beautiful—visually and audibly—outdoor sound companies, Coastal Source. Click here to view some of the stunning outdoor audio system options available.

Beautiful sound components combined with our designer eye and expert installation professionals (and affordable pricing) means your eyes and ears (and wallet!) will be happy.

Revitalize Your Patio Space for Summer Fun

Revitalize Your PatioWith summer comes endless BBQs, birthdays, garden parties, and other excuses to entertain outside. With all of this outdoor merriment, however, comes elbow grease to spruce up your outdoor spaces…which have likely faded and degraded over the tough fall, winter, and spring months.

One (relatively) easy way to revitalize patios is to clean and reseal your patios’ stones and pavers. Bringing your patio stones and pavers back to life is a two-step process:

 1. Cleaning

You’d be amazed at the dirt, grime, and minerals that build up on patio stones over time. There are a few ways to clean your stones, each of which should be chosen based on how much build up your stones have…

Vinegar

Using a solution of equal parts vinegar and water will help eat away at the mineral and other build up, as vinegar is a mildly acidic cleaning product. While it will only help with small amounts of mineral and other build up, it won’t harm your stones.

Pressure Washer

For a chemical free approach to cleaning try using a pressure washer. If you don’t have one handy you can borrow one from a neighbor or friend, or rent one from a hardware store. For particularly grimy stones you may need multiple passes with the washer.

Stone Cleaner

For grime and build up that can’t be removed with pressure washer or vinegar you can purchase a stone cleaner from a hardware store. This should only be used when necessary, as it can eat away at the stone. Another option is muriatic acid, which works well to remove mineral buildup, but is also extremely harsh on your stones and pavers.

After cleaning, you may need to replace cracked or crumbling bricks or stones, and you may want to put new jointing sand in if it has worn away significantly over time.

 2. Resealing

Once your stones, bricks, and pavers are clean you’ll already see a visual revitalization. To bring that ‘new again’ look a step further—and to protect them from wear and tear—reseal them. A sealer will give them a glossy look, and will help water bead off.

You will want to wait a day after washing before applying a sealer, to ensure that the stones are fully dry. You can choose from a matte, semi-gloss, and high-gloss sealer at your local hardware store based on the desired look.

Here are our professional resealing tips:

  • The sealer can be rolled or sprayed on—but we recommend spraying, as it doesn’t pick up the jointing sand and trap it under the sealer.
  • If you’re using a solvent-based sealer you may need an industrial sprayer as it can eat through the cheaper plastic varieties.
  • Ensure the bricks are 100% free of all moisture, or the sealer may turn whitish in color.
  • Ensure that you allow at least a few hours before foot traffic resumes on the stones (and ideally 24 hours for any heavier traffic).
  • Follow the sealant instructions carefully—especially if you’ve never resealed patios before.

 After Revitalization

After you’ve brought your patio back to life…and are probably planning your next outdoor event, take a moment to consider other work that could improve the space. Could your patio use an expansion? Could you use an added eating area for larger crowds? Would stone walkways or hardscaping add something to the design?

If you answered yes—or ‘maybe’—to any of those questions, give us a call here at Blue Tree. We can offer you advice based on your yard, your entertaining lifestyle, and other factors key to your outdoor space.

Outdoor 4th of July Activities for a Backyard Spectacular

4th of JulyFor many, the 4th of July is an opportunity to involve family and friends in an outdoor brouhaha (or brew-haha). This year, avoid the crowds of public venues by bringing the festivities into your own backyard. Invite your friends and family over to use your swimming pool, patio, and/or outdoor kitchen.

 

8 Backyard Activity Ideas for this 4th of July

 To help get your creative juices flowing, we’ve come up with a number of ways that you can incorporate your yard into 4th of July festivities!

1. Pool Party

A swimming pool party is always a popular choice during the hot month of July. Combine this with a BBQ and you’ve got a family-friendly event fit for everyone. Be sure to carry out all of the necessary pool maintenance before (and after) the event though, as a chemically balanced and clean swimming pool is critical to a successful pool-oriented event. To go the extra mile, choose a theme like a luau or beach party.

2. Lighting Concept

Creating a lighting concept isn’t exactly an activity, but it will foster an environment that turns your 4th of July daytime event into a nighttime party. Keep the party going after dusk by adding path lighting, lanterns, and other outdoor lighting. If you’d like a more permanent solution, contact us for professional backyard lighting advice.

 3. Outdoor Forts

If your 4th of July will be a family event, consider turning your gazebo or pergola into an outdoor fort for the kids. Not only will it entertain them for hours (which most parents can vouch for!), but it will also provide the kids with much-needed shade and a space to rest between activities.

4. Yard Twister

Children and adults alike can have a ton of fun with the game Twister. It can, however, be more difficult to set up on a lawn than it is on a floor, so consider an outdoor version. With four shades of spray paint and the twister spinner you’ll have lawn twister! (Be prepared to have a painted lawn until the grass grows long enough for you to mow the color off, though.)

5. Giant Backyard Chess/Checkers

Giant lawn chess (or checkers for the kids) can be a fun activity piece for your backyard. All you need to do to create your outdoor chess or checkers board is order large chess/checker pieces and add giant square tiles to your lawn in a checkerboard pattern. Note that you’ll either have to remove the tiles after the event or make them a permanent piece, as they will kill the grass under them if left there for an extended period of time.

6. Glow-in-the-Dark Lawn Bowling

Many 4th of July activities extend well beyond dusk—which is critical if you want to observe area fireworks! To help keep people entertained during the dusk hours, consider easy-to-create glowing lawn bowling. Simply fill large empty plastic bottles (preferably all the same size), like Coke bottles, with water. Drop the fluid from a glow stick into the bottles (it’s perfectly safe, although it’s best to have one of the adults do this). This will create glowing bowling pins, which you can knock down with a lawn-bowling ball, or whatever ball you have around the house.

7. Swimming Pool Games

If you’re lucky enough to have a pool, add a few games to it to keep the kids entertained in the water for even longer (although keep extra sunscreen on hand). Volleyball nets are popular among many pool owners.

Your own backyard is a great venue for a 4th of July event. It’s intimate, budget-friendly, and can accommodate a large group of people. Adding a few activities can boost the fun, especially for kids.

Planning Your Outdoor Kitchen

OutdoorKitchenSummer is the season for lively barbecues and outdoor grilling, but for a host it means splitting your time between the kitchen and the grill. As a convenient alternative to the hassle, many homeowners are turning to outdoor kitchens as a one-stop station for all their culinary needs. However, planning for one can prove an overwhelming task, considering the numerous provisions and design options to choose from. To get you started, here are some essential guidelines to bring you up to speed and give you a sense of what the project entails.

Determining the right layout for your yard

Layout is more than just an aesthetic consideration: it’s also prudent to bear in mind the features of the space you’re working with. Smaller yards are better served with a straight line kitchen model. Similar to kitchenettes, these are installed against a wall and make the most efficient use of limited space. On the other hand, for more spacious grounds, the kitchen island and the u-shape kitchen are popular choices. Both possess a wide array of amenities including a sink, refrigerator, and a dishwasher.

Whichever design you choose, you’ll want to be sensible when you’re determining placement. Proximity to the house is great, but be careful not to obstruct the view from your window. Also consider factors such as wind direction to avoid blowing smoke into your house, and when possible, construct your workspace beneath the cool shade of trees. If that isn’t an option, you might want to incorporate a pergola or canopy into your design.

For those who are building around an existing patio or deck, take into account the weight of your appliances and invest in any necessary renovations. If you prefer your kitchen to be situated near your pool or hot tub, steer clear of tile and marble flooring, as both are slippery surfaces when wet.

Tailoring design toward a clear purpose

Whether you’re catering to large gatherings or simply improving upon your own lifestyle, there are a variety of design alternatives to serve the needs of any preference or occasion. Before settling on a layout, think about your priorities and plan accordingly. If you’re inclined to isolate yourself while you work, a good overall design concept might include a living room or lounge area for your friends to mingle in the meanwhile. On the other hand, if you enjoy socializing while you cook, there are kitchen options that offer bar-style counter space with stools for your guests to keep you company.

Make informed decisions

Remember, it’s imperative to seek professional consultation before finalizing any plans or getting started. You’ll need to consider the hazard of combustible material as well as the most practical placement and installation of your gas, water, and electric supply. And, with an outdoor structure, you’ll want to plan around inclement weather and seasonal change. Prepare yourself for Pennsylvania’s cold winters by choosing durable materials like stainless steel and ceramic, while steering clear of tile countertops that are prone to freezing.

Fun additional touches

While many of your decisions will inevitably fall to the dictates of utility, exposure to the elements, and practicality, there are indeed several ways to tweak your space for that added touch of ambiance. Some minor atmospheric accents might include decorative objects and light fixtures, but for a more transformative effect, consider cultivating a garden, elaborating on the design of your deck or patio space, or even adding a small, tranquil pond. Ultimately, you want to create an environment that is more than just functional, but one that is pleasurable and ambient as well.

An outdoor kitchen can certainly prove a worthwhile investment, but as with any investment, your vision should be informed by practical necessity. When you’re ready to begin, Blue Tree Landscaping is happy to guide you through every stage of the process: from planning, to design, to construction, to deliver you the most stylish, yet affordable and sensible, solution.

Back to the Patio: A Spring To-Do List

backtothepatioThe snow clears away, the sun comes out, and… springtime reveals the damage. Winter conditions often cause unwanted stains and cracks in your patio, along with weed growth in its surrounding areas. At Blue Tree Landscaping, we want you to enjoy your patio at the first possible opportunity. Here are some tips and tricks that will ensure you refresh your patio with plenty of time left to enjoy it.

Stain removal

When it comes to a concrete patio, the first thing you might notice after you sweep away the debris is a colorful assortment of stains. Some can be removed with a hose and some soap, leaving the spot brighter than before. However, green and black mold stains often require diluted bleach. A brown stain indicates mineral deposits that have leached out of your untreated surface. A simple solution of vinegar usually does the trick here.

In extreme cases, muriatic acid is required. However, consulting a professional for such stains is recommended. It may be that a weaker acid, such as phosphoric acid, is more appropriate when dealing with stained masonry. Either way, handling acids requires a greater degree of preparation and caution.

Plants: wanted and not-so-wanted

Plants are working for you and against you when spring arrives. At the edges of the patio, encroaching weeds make it unclear where your patio begins and ends. But a well-placed potted flower near the wicker chair might be exactly the kind of color and life your patio needs. In the end, it’s all about having a deliberately planned patio. Sharpening the borders of the patio, perhaps with a planted garden rather than a wild one, can make all the difference. Deciding which plants make it onto the patio also plays an important role.

Your new best friend: polymeric sand

Polymeric sand is an industry standard material used to realign pavers. Cracks and gaps form in your tiles and bricks after years of use. Polymeric sand, when properly used, can help roll back the years. It’s necessary to first clear out any weeds or debris and provide ample time for any residual moisture (from your last power wash or rainfall) to dry out. Under these conditions, you can begin sweeping the sand into the joints of the patio tile. Once the joints are filled, you want to saturate the sand with water (a measured pace with a shower nozzle is recommended) and let the mixture settle in. Protecting the patio for the next day or two from additional water exposure (which can flush out the sand before it fully settles) is absolutely necessary.

 

If at any point in the process of revamping your patio you need the help of a professional, give Blue Tree a call. There’s no need to let a relaxing spring day pass without a lounge on your beautiful patio.