What is Resort Style Living?

Well, have you have heard of “stay-cations?

Smart people have been investing in their property and finding ways to have the same experience they would at a fancy resort right in their own backyard.  

About 18 months ago we saw a trend where customers came back—somewhere around 2-3 years after we had done a huge detailed landscape design for them, and were now ready to take the leap.  Those investment dollars could have gone to a new beach condo, or a camper or RV.

They told me, “we decided not to do the beach thing”, or “we can travel on our points whenever we want the beach or skiing”, and ” its wasn’t going to be worth the maintenance and service headaches having an RV”. At the end of all that time, the common theme was to have more of that resort style at home.  Family is the most important element.  Being able to entertain at home saves time, there is not traffic, there are no calls from an HOA that there is an emergency, no HOA fees, no TSA delays, no parking fees, no maintenance headaches.  And if you already travel 3-4 days a week all you want to do is get back home.  Let us make it easy and enjoyable.

Here is a survey that shows the popularity of items being invested in that turn backyards into resorts.  Are any of these on your list?  Do you notice them when you go away on vacation?  Why not have them at home?

ASLA reveals top 10 trends in Landscape Architecture for 2017

ASLA reveals top 10 trends in Landscape Architecture for 2017

I recently attended the Techo-Bloc Contractor Showcase when it rolled into Annapolis.  WOW!  3 semi’s of materials and a rocking presentation by “Paver Pete” and friends.  A single day wasn’t enough to get my head around all the cool combinations we now have available.    We studied every element of what you’ll see next.  We did workshops on using better tools, being safer, underground structures like drainage and permeability, and best practices for installers.

Take a look at these shots from a build completed by Techo-Bloc just last year.

Techo-Bloc Borealis Seating, Raffinata Fire Pit

Techo-Bloc Borealis Seating, Raffinata Fire Pit, Lighting and water falls

Outdoor sound systems

Coastal Source Sound

Coastal Outdoor Sound and Lighting

And Lighting on the same wire as the Sound System

Grill, Pizza Oven, Root Beer Keg over a wood plank look called Borealis

Grill, Pizza Oven, Root Beer Keg over a wood plank floor look called Borealis

Resort Style Living

What does it cost to visit this resort? Nothing, it’s right outside your back door!

Resort Style Living

An Investment in Resort Style Living–It seems to be catching on!

It all starts with a phone call.  Tell me you want a resort style back yard and I’ll bring in the Landscape Architect who will get all the details right so it fits your needs, works in the space provided, and has that WOW factor I just experienced.  Then we’ll bring the best technicians and craftsmen to grade, create drainage, stabilize and install the finest paver materials available.  This can be yours!  Your call means we’ll start NOW!

Drown You Cares Away

I have built some neat backyards. Water slides through boulders, bridges over ponds, deck/patio combinations, a fishing hole you could swim in, lots and lots of pergolas, pavers, walkways, and steps–you name it. Lately we have been doing pondless waterfalls. Smaller versions of what you think of when I say “pond” but without the fish and mess and safety concerns for kids falling in.   Wait, did you say pondless?

Yep. Take a look—

Pondless Ceramic Pots, Water Feature

Pondless Ceramic Pots Water Feature

Large Mushroom Water Feature

Large Mushroom Water Feature

So with these systems we can add beauty and have a functional water feature in a limited space.  And there is very little maintenance compared to a pond that everyone should have one.  I’ve installed a few but never had the chance to hang out with the homeowners and see what it’s really like.  Busy busy busy.

I had that opportunity this weekend and a cookout.  Yes, a January cookout.  Great Idea, by the way.  It wasn’t all that cold and when night time came the fire pit was the perfect gathering place which kept the party going longer than it probably should have.

But the best place to relax was on the patio near the water feature.  Sitting in a chaise lounge, you really could really be in the moment.  There is something about the sound of water that clears your mind of all distractions and allows focus.  It complimented conversations and music alike.  Subliminally, it put all your busy-ness on hold. There is a certain calm to the sound of water.  I should put one on my desk, although I’m rarely there for long.

Pondless water feature design

Pondless water feature design

It can also look just like a mini-waterfall with plants and boulders.

But does it fit in my tiny back yard? Exactly!

Pondless waterfalls are achieved by recirculating the water after it passes through filtration and sediment control but on the surface, all you see is small stone and your choice of decor (boulders, plants, statuary, etc.).  Up at the top of the one shown here is the spillway for the waterfall, and there is a fibrous filter up there that you simply hose out if flow appears to be slowing. About once a month in summer is enough.  We do recommend to pull the pump out for the winter through that tall black spout in the picture, but we have people for that if you don’t want to mess with it.

Aquascape Inc. is a pond company in Illinois. They call themselves “The Pond Guys”  They’ve even been on TV show called “The Pond Stars”.  These guys are brilliant.  Zoologists and Construction guys who together come up with some of the most unique ways of making ponds more enjoyable.  This is one of their systems.  And I know they work better than anything else.  Take a look at their catalog for more ideas.  Most can be installed in one day.

 

Water Features are also good for attracting birds, but keep an eye on the water level.  They’ll spend hours splashing around in the basin or on top of the mushroom getting a drink.  We recommend either a timer on a hose bib set to refill daily for a certain period of time or, if you have irrigation, a zone can be installed for this purpose and set up in your controller.  Add some lighting in the splash zone and you won’t believe the look.

 

 

 

7 Deadly Sins of Landscaping

We spend and inordinate amount of time listening to how you will use the space we create. Why?  So at the end it exceeds your expectations.  We apply a lot of resources educating buyers on what works and why, how it’s built, what the construction process will look like and how they will celebrate at the end when we finally leave them alone with their new backyard paradise. Of course a solid landscape design plan goes a long way to paving the road to a more satisfying installation.

But there are a few things that every good buyer should be aware of that may not seem top of mind about Landscaping.  Along the way we have run into all kinds of “trunk slammers”, guys with a truck who did just enough work somewhere else to think they can do this cheaper and faster and not get caught. And those prices, man, they are tempting.  We charge a great deal of money to fix those blunders and we’d like to help you avoid the pain, frustration and expense from selecting the wrong landscaping company by doing it right the first time.

Here are a few things you should be asking when interviewing a prospective Landscape Designer

1.) References.
All the marketing gurus will tell you the testimonials from existing satisfied customers carry the most weight. No one can tell your story better than someone for whom it played out according to plan. That would be our customers. Getting them to do a video for the website or write a review on Google, Houzz, Angies List etc., for your review provides a broad scope of work to ensure you’re getting the best value for your money.  There is so much more to it than getting a good price. And will the design really work for you and your family or many years to come or will you always wish you had made a change?

2.) Scheduling.

Don’t give your deposit without a solid commitment to when the job will start. Any landscaper who doesn’t know the date of the next open slot isn’t doing good business. Exceptions? There are a few. Weather is the worst. If it rains for two days, it’s still too wet most times to work on day 3. If you live downhill from the neighbors, you could be getting water perking through your property for several days. Its a judgement call but your landscaper should be in contact with you daily to adjust the schedule. Material availability is another exception. Most of the time we have two weeks to get ready so that’s not going to be in play very often. Permits can definitely wreak havoc on the schedule. Otherwise your landscaper should be on top of scheduling. And he/she should be talking to you, at least a text or email before you have to call and ask what’s up.

3.) Plant sizes.
There is no rhyme or reason to plant sizes. Used to be a 1 gallon pot had a one gallon sized root ball and the plant would always be a certain size for it’s variety. Now we see pots half filled with pine bark and a tiny little thing trying to grow roots. Ask you landscaper about the size of plants being installed. It should be spelled out in your contract anyway and be aware of how they will grow to fit the landscape design you are paying for. Say, you just spent all that getting the front redone, you don’t want them growing back up over the windows in 5 years.

4.) Disturbances on you property.
Face it, it’s construction and there’s nothing clean about working in the dirt. You might see some footprints or tire marks on the driveway, sampled grass from the 100 trips to the back yard with a wheel barrow. Landscaping is a little like open heart surgery…we open up the ground, construct whats on the plan and put it back together. That doesnt happen without some foot traffic, machinery and a lot of dust. Some dirt marks will fade in time with a little help from the rain. Another option is for the landscaper to agree to powerwash hard surfaces on his way out at the end of the job. That should be in your contract if you want it done. If they aren’t going to finish by the weekend, or your job will take multiple weeks like a pool deck might, then how will they stage materials and equipment so you can enjoy you home while they are off duty? What about your neighbors?  Do we need to go visit them before we start so they aren’t angered by all the commotion?

If things work out this year we are going to video this process so you can see for yourself what you are getting into. I think the dust and disturbance is the most shocking thing homeowner don’t expect to see. Of course, it comes together beautifully in the end.

5.) Staging Areas.
Parking multiple pallets of pavers in your driveway can inhibit your use of the garage. Are you ok with that? Make sure you understand and specify what you want prior to signing the contract. Landscaping projects will certainly cost more if we have to spend hours walking to the street and hauling heavy wheel barrows of paver material to the back yard, so we like to be as close to the work site as possible. But it’s your house and if we are planning to be there a couple weeks you might want to discuss staging of materials, parking of vehicles, etc.

6.) Watering. Too Much, Not Enough? Both? It happens.
Plants come from the nursery where they are watered 2-3 times a day and live in perfect oil with extra fertilizer tossed in to make them look strong. They they go in the ground and you off to work but when you get home they are wilting. You water at the worst time of day but it’s better than nothing. Are you sure how much water you put on the plant? Did someone else from the household water too? Next thing you know there are bugs attacking your new plants because they are in shock and under stress. Plants have virtually no warranty because of this. No one can stop Mother Nature but you can work with her if you follow instructions. I’ve even seen people go a couple weeks and think things are great and start to forget to tend their new baby plants. Death ensues.

7.) No Maintenance Follow Up.
Not following up with clean ups, mulching, proper pruning (sore subject for another time) makes no sense to me. Why spend all that time and money on a beautiful plan thats executed perfectly to let it turn to a mess. A decent landscaper should have a follow up program you can enlist them to do that work. They know what to look out for and when to do things. Especially one who is Certified for Pesticides and Fertilization, which is a Maryland Law, should be able to identify weather conditions that cause fungus and disease. Plants and lawns can be sprayed to combat this natural occurrences that plants cannot defend themselves against.

The deadliest sin?

False impressions. 

At true story…Many, many years ago I worked for a car dealership as the Service Director. I had 3 franchises to worry about and one just plain sucked. This was about the time the JD Powers surveys were hitting the public. This one manufacturer got more complaints than anything in the history of surveys. Rightly so.  But, the complaints were falling on deaf ears. Those customers who weren’t happy were screaming at the top of their lungs to get some value for the money they had already spent. And the manufacturer kept sending them surveys. What else was a consumer to do? They were dinging the dealership for manufacturing issues and complaints. Hey, it was their only voice.

I was talking to different car manufacturer’s rep about this (where we had a 98% rating, so we were pretty sure it wasn’t us) and he suggested something ingenious to trick the system because low scores affected availability of cars, technical training and warranty payments. We made up a check sheet, laminated it and mounted it right on the service counter and at the cashier window. We told every warranty customer they would be getting a survey to gauge their “satisfaction” and that if they couldn’t fill it out by checking all the ‘excellent” boxes to let one of us know and we would make it so they could.

Funny thing was we still couldn’t fix the defective cars, two years later, when the new models came out, most of the “issues” were resolved. We did make that 43% rating jump up to 96% just by getting more happy people to complete the survey. Their voice was now being heard too which tipped the scales the other way.  So having few or no review may not tell the whole story, but having everyone talk about you is actually good.

I am afraid we see the same thing in Landscaping. Initially all the work looks good because its new, but if you have to pick up after your contractor, spot inconsistencies in the workmanship, are told “that’s how we do it” when you ask questions, can’t get anyone to explain how to operate the new irrigation controller or lighting timer, have to reseed your own lawn where they drove over it, or aren’t able to communicate with the crews, it might be time for a full service landscape company.

The caution here is to do your due diligence and find out what the company you are giving your hard earned money to is all about. It’s ok to ask for references. Any company who doesn’t have them readily available should be eliminated. Look for testimonies and comments on the website, Angies List, Google, Houzz, etc. to get a balanced feel for their abilities and personnel. Go visit their yard and see if they look organized.  Even read the bad comments and see how they responded to criticism.

The more you dig, the more you learn, the more satisfied you’ll be at the end.

by, John Gallagher

3 things You could be doing right now to have a more relaxing Summer

bored kids, outdoor living spaces, fire pit

You put away the patio furniture but its still nice enough to be outside and you are staring out the window wishing for a BBQ or pool party.  The kids are driving you nuts being cooped up.  Remember the fun you had outside last Summer? But you don’t want to have the same old entertaining space as last year.  So, a flood of questions comes to mind…

1.)  Consulting with our Designers

Breezesta, Adirondack Chairs, outdoor living, outdoor furniture, outdoor furnishings

Breezesta Recycled Plastic Adirondack chairs  (click photo)

We have a warm cozy showroom full of products and solutions.  Now is the perfect time to explore your options.  Set up an appointment so we can meet you there and we’ll explore all your options.  What kind of upgrades would make it more enjoyable to spend more time outdoors?  Need a new Grill for sure; have you considered a smoker or an egg style?  www.amjlandscaping.com  Are you thinking about deep seating chairs?  What about some environmentally friendly recycled plastic Adirondacks? They come in any color you can imagine? A pub height table set? A bigger patio or a roof over your head?

 

Bring us your Pinterest and Houzz collections…we’ll help you sort them out!

Are you wondering if a fire pit would be a good idea?  Where should it be placed?   Do you have enough clearance under the tree branches?  Where will people sit–on the grass in chairs or on a patio? What about embers?  Maybe you want to pull gas from the house and use that to avoid the mess of wood?

family gathering, fire pit, summer's eve, outdoor living

The New Family Gathering Place (click photo)

This will take some thought, and that’s our job—

Come to AMJ Landscaping to get your questions answered.  

410-437-3027 to set your appointment.

 


2.)  Extend the amount of time you can spend outdoors at night

Its dark a lot earlier now and being able to see without the glare of spot lights is amazing. Safety is important—steps can be tricky if not lit properly.  So is ambiance.  Tell you a secret?  What you see at night looks totally different than the daytime view when we use LED landscape lights in all the right places.  Its Magical!

Two birds, one stone with LED Landscape Lighting.

Landscape lighting can be used to accent a water fountain, provide a backdrop and illuminate the textures and colors you see in the daylight, thus extending your enjoyment of the investment you put in the landscape into the night.   Downlighting through tree branches puts a pattern on the ground just like when there is a full moon shining through the trees during the Summer.


3.)  Put the finishing touches on your design ideas

Maybe you started a plan before but never got it quite the way you wanted?  Would a 3D preview make it come to life?  In 3D you can see different angles and get the whole picture better than any other format.  Changes made during construction can be costly, so why see it all right up front?  This house below was roasting in the afternoon sun so they couldn’t even consider being outside until well after dark.  No grilling, no reading the paper, no relaxing at all; and they also had 3 neighbors looking right into their back yard.  Click the photo to see the video composition of this and many other 3D designs…then call 410-437-3027 to schedule you appointment at AMJ.

 We’ll help you explore all your options.

Vinyl pergola, outdoor furniture, outdoor living, outdoor entertaining, 3D Landscape Design

3D Perspective of a great Landscape Design

Finding Solutions is the hardest part of the process.  We believe there are many good installers, but getting it just right is a whole other thing.  AMJ would like to offer our services to make sure your backyard paradise is truly heaven on earth!  410.437.3027

Shovel Selection and Avoiding Slips and Falls

Best Shovels:  Plastic, Plastic, Plastic – because the tips do not scratch driveways and pavers

  • Ergonomic handles help relieve back strain
  • Larger shovels are not always better; having to make one or two extra passes across the driveway is always better than getting hurt

Ice Melter –

  • Generally, all ice melters work in the same way by depressing the freezing point of ice or snow and turning the mixture into a liquid or semi-liquid slush.
  • No Salt!  Ever!  Salt damages concrete and paver surfaces and is toxic to plants and grass if left down too long or applied excessively
  • The compound Magnesium Chloride (AMJ’s product of choice) is applied after precipitation has fallen or ice has formed when using a commercially available granular mix.
  •  Factors to consider for any anti-icer / de-icer product include (1) amount needed to be effective, (2) time needed to react and go into solution, (3) how long it will provide de-icing action (e.g., longer means fewer reapplications), (4) effectiveness of temperature range (magnesium chloride is 5 degrees F), and (5) environmental aspects such as residues, effects on plant life and effects on concrete.
  • Purchasing and use decisions should be carefully considered since anti-icing and de-icing performance capabilities of common ice melting compounds vary significantly.
  • Some companies add a color dye so you can see where it’s been spread, a nice feature
  • Once a significant melting has occurred, shoveling of the ice layer will be easier and allow things to dry out more quickly.
  • Magnesium Chloride residue on the surface will aid in slowing refreezes too, so you may use less product which is more cost effective and better for the environment.
  • Also look for new Pet Friendly products
  • Snow Shovels
  • Always use Plastic, Plastic, Plastic!

Ready for Something New?

Let us know what you didn’t get  from your holiday wish list and we will plan now for a Spring Installation

Fill out the request form below so we can help Design and Build your new:

Patio, Outdoor Kitchen,  New Grill or Pizza Oven?

New Outdoor Deep Seating Furniture?

Fire Pit with Sitting area and seating wall?

New 3D Design for the whole yard (only $399)

Yard maintenance program for 2015?

Fertilization, weed control, tree and shrub pest control programs?

Irrigation Services and Updating Landscape Lighting to LEDs?poolside outdoor-lighting

AMJ Is your one stop place for most everything outdoor.  If we don’t do it in-house, we will recommend the best people we know.

Ask AMJ first:  Call 410.437.3027

Stone Veneers

One of the most valuable renovations outside a home is the addition of stone veneer.    It sets the tone for the rest of the home by adding natural colors and texture that make the home stand out.  And because it’s masonry work, it will last for many many years.

Veneer Stone

Pasadena Home Renovation Stone Veneer and Flagstones

Approved easily by most HOAs, stone veneer adds nearly 30% more than it costs to the value of your home according to Realtor.com

Brown Garage lintel keystone

Door Lintel and Keystone

Stone veneering is a process where we remove the siding, insulate and protect the walls of the house from moisture, install a screen lathe and mortar bond the man-made veneer or fine natural stone masonry to improve the look of your home.

Special touches like keystones and window/door sills add an extra element of beauty.

Indoor fireplace veneer

Veneer used as an accent for indoors

This treatment on a wall or fire place adds enormous appeal and value to a home, adding texture and color to make it warmer and more inviting.

fireplace veneer, natural stone masonry, fireplace renovation, custom stone masonry

Natural Stone Masonry Veneered Fireplace

 

Eldorado Stone Veneer, natural stone veneer

Even an out building like this garage can be improved.

What about that shed or separated garage?  We can do that. I like the way something new is made to look more rustic, like it has some history, as we did for this storage shed.

As you see veneer comes in many shapes and color ranges.  And this type of work can be installed year around.  We enjoy the challenge of this work and you will love the results!

Find AMJ Landscaping on Houzz

<table style=”width: 80px;” cellpadding=”0″ cellspacing=”0″><tr><td><a href=”http://www.houzz.com/pro/amj-landscaping/amj-lawn-and-landscape-inc”><img src=”http://st.hzcdn.com/static/badge_22_8@2x.png” alt=”AMJ Landscaping in Pasadena, MD on Houzz” width=”80″ height=”80″ border=”0″ /></a></td></tr></table>

With a little hard work and some kind words from our Customer’s, AMJ has received the Best of Houzz Service Award for 2016:  BestOfHouzz2016PressRelease copy follow this link:

And you will notice that we have been awarded the 2016 Service Award based on our level of work and your reviews.  Thanks and keep them coming!

The Key to Successful Landscape — Design

 

Plans are being drawn up now for Summer 2016  landscape design installations.  

Great Projects take time.  Large or Small – it doesn’t matter. Right now is the time between the Holidays and tax time to get creative.

Putting ideas on paper will provide you with peace of mind and having a 3D Design will bring those ideas to life.  Once the Holidays passed, we got serious about completing the fall plans right down to the final detail selections.  Those designs will get installed first.  But there is still plenty of time to get a design completed in the Summer of 2016-you just have to get started right now!  Look below for an example and Check out the video of this project on our website homepage: www.amjlandscaping.com

BEFORE:

Marriottsville, MD New Construction Before Landscaping Plan

 

3D DESIGN:

This process allows us to show the scope of work and the details that will finish the job.  You can study  things like traffic flow patterns, furniture arrangements, location of the BBQ grill or Outdoor Kitchen relative to everything else.  It’s the best we’ve seen so far for transferring ideas into a workable plan.3D landscaping design walkway and plants3D Landscaping DesignHot tub in landscape design

AFTER:

Marriottsville, MD After Landscape Design Installation

Best Shovels and Preventing Slips and Falls

Best Shovels:  Plastic, Plastic, Plastic – because the tips do not scratch driveways and pavers

  • Ergonomic handles help relieve back strain
  • Larger shovels are not always better; having to make one or two extra passes across the driveway is always better than getting hurt

Ice Melter –

  • Generally, all ice melters work in the same way by depressing the freezing point of ice or snow and turning the mixture into a liquid or semi-liquid slush.
  • No Salt!  Ever!  Salt damages concrete and paver surfaces and is toxic to plants and grass if left down too long or applied excessively
  • The compound Magnesium Chloride (AMJ’s product of choice) is applied after precipitation has fallen or ice has formed when using a commercially available granular mix.
  •  Factors to consider for any anti-icer / de-icer product include (1) amount needed to be effective, (2) time needed to react and go into solution, (3) how long it will provide de-icing action (e.g., longer means fewer reapplications), (4) effectiveness of temperature range (magnesium chloride is 5 degrees F), and (5) environmental aspects such as residues, effects on plant life and effects on concrete.
  • Purchasing and use decisions should be carefully considered since anti-icing and de-icing performance capabilities of common ice melting compounds vary significantly.
  • Some companies add a color dye so you can see where it’s been spread, a nice feature
  • Once a significant melting has occurred, shoveling of the ice layer will be easier and allow things to dry out more quickly.
  • Magnesium Chloride residue on the surface will aid in slowing refreezes too, so you may use less product which is more cost effective and better for the environment.
  • Also look for new Pet Friendly products
  • Snow Shovels
  • Always use Plastic, Plastic, Plastic!