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.

 

 

 

What this weather means for your plants and lawn in 2017

From what we’ve seen so far, winter isn’t going to amount to much. Snowfall will be light and brief, but lots of icing and warmer days in between. Here’s a snow prediction map put out by SIMA (Snow & Ice Management Association). NOAA predicts Atlantic flows which usually bend north of us following I-95 like we’ve seen so far this season.

And that looks like the story for this year.  Small storms with mostly ice and minimal accumulations.  We still think 1 or 2 storms will come up the coast parking 4-6″ of snow on us but no big blizzards this year.

SO WHAT’S THAT MEAN FOR YOUR PLANTS?

From the plants perspective, hibernation is being constantly interrupted.  Not good.  Plants are on an accelerated cycle of growth which will leave them vulnerable to freeze.  They are being tricked into growth mode by the weather.  Right now we are seeing bulbs popping up all over the place.

bulbs, winter bloomers, weather in mid atlantic 2017

What are these bulbs thinking?

Oh, and that fuzzy thing in the front…WEED!  Prepare to see a lot of them in 2017.

Weed seeds were dropped in the Fall and they usually attack in spring, but they’re out already.  Weeds will reseed again and be completely off cycle by spring, so expect a bumper crop of WEEDS!  Treating gardens with a Pre-emergent like Snapshot will provide blanket coverage of mulched beds, but you might have to pick/spray to eliminate the early risers and clean up before you apply pre-emergent .

Pre-M for lawns is a must in 2017.  

  • Application of Pre-M timing will be late March and again in May.
  • Two applications will be necessary to catch the various weeds because they have different, and now interrupted cycles.
  • Broadleaf weeds will be everywhere in the lawns this year.  Expect dandelions and crabgrass to grow like you planted it on purpose.
  • During the season, additional spray treatments to control most other weeds will be highly recommended, so be prepared to do extra in 2017.
  • A solid fertilization and weed control plan will keep things mostly under control.

 

dandylion, weed controls,

Common Dandelion

BOXWOOD BLIGHT

At the end of last season, many growers and homeowners were experiencing sudden declines in their staple foundation plants.  Namely, boxwoods. The fungus that causes box blight is known as Cylindrocladium buxicola.  the sticky fungal pathogens can be transferred by rain and overhead watering, pruning tools, pets, peoples clothing, etc.

boxwood blight, blight, fungicide

Blight noted by circular spots with brown to purple outer ring

Some of our favorites like the Wintergem and Wintergreen’s will be either unavailable or require so much care that they will not be priced well.  We are told that Korean Boxwoods somehow seem to have not been affected by the blight.  Still, substitutes are available.

Blight can spread to neighboring plants and damage occurs very quickly.  The plant will be streaked with brown stems as leaves die back.  Plants do not recover from blight.  Fungicides will help control, but will not eliminate the blight.  Fungicides can mask the problem as spores have adapted and may return requiring frequent plant inspection, especially right after a rain.  Often the offended plant must be removed and destroyed.  A word of caution:  Dumping the plant in your woods or compost pile will allow the spores to continue to thrive.

This goofy weather will be causing very unusual issues, so keep an eye on everything and consult your landscaper often.  Timing will not be typical so reaction times need to be quick.

WHAT ELSE  COULD GO WRONG BECAUSE OF THE WEATHER?

Well, the summer should be hot for all the beach goers!

Irrigation systems will need to monitored to avoid overwatering and causing fungus and disease in the heat and humidity.  3 days a week for about an inch of water is enough for an established fescue lawn.  Low volume drip is recommended for planting beds.  Newer models of

Mowing should be done at a full 3.5″ height.  Lower cutting looks neater but exposes the crown of the plant and makes it more susceptible to disease.

If you aren’t sure about your soil, a sample sent to the lab will evaluate all the nutrients and let you know what’s missing.  This can affect the balance of fertilization needed and is an important step in any lawn care program.  Typically soil tests cost about $65.

If you get all that under control, Have a Crab Feast!

blue crab, carbcakes,

Eat some Crabs!

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

I Will Miss Being Here Everyday

This Landscape Design Project is my favorite and I will miss coming to this house every day.  I am lucky enough to meet great people and help them find answers and solutions to issues in their yards.  It a great job.  Some times we meet about a drainage issue, an irrigation problem or they have finally made the decision to revise the landscape that has overgrown the front of the house.  Lately the calls have been to add some LED lighting around the back yard.  A handful of times a year it’s something that requires a fully designed landscape plan.  Really enjoy those, especially when it comes time to add color to the full scale landscape architect’s plan.  Takes me back to when I was a kid.

Little children at the library doing crafts

Last summer I had a request for a screen room.  Seems simple enough.  I always approach projects with the mindset of what I would like to see happen if it were my house, so off I went to the drawing board.

Before photo from back of house in pasadena, md

This would be a second floor level screen room on a deck.  It had to be a statement piece, and it had to connect to an existing roof line.  Customer said,  “let’s see what you can come with…and I think I want a fire pit somewhere too, and just in case, think about what if we want to add a pool – maybe”. And there should be some way to connect it to the back yard and the customer’s home office…   Actually, all the individual elements of even a project like this are things we do anyway.  Fantastic conversation.

My mind was whirring through the litany of questions to be answered.  Second floor kitchen also means a walk out basement and that indicates the need for a transitional space and how are we going to get there from the driveway? The grade already slopes away from the house at odd angles, so there will be some machine work and landscaping to do.  Also have to renovate the irrigation to fit the new arrangement and figure out how to use led lighting to extend the length of time they can enjoy these new spaces, plus add safety.  What about the trees that are in the way, will the County let us remove them?  This thing is getting huge.  Great, here come the permit issues.  Love this stuff.  Not the customer’s problem, they just wanted “a nice screen room off the back”.  “And maybe a place for some chairs and the grill”, she added.

Two weeks later we had a design concept (yes, colored in) and when I laid this out on their kitchen table…Design Rendering - Color - AMJ LandscapingDesign Concept Plan_20150224_0001

There was a moment of silence or two, possibly some cursing under his breath, and then My Customer only asked one question, “When can you start?” I asked for some details about their lifestyle and how they thought it would look at the end so we could spec the materials and wouldn’t you know…

Thank you Pinterest?

My Customers sent me 25 different boards of ideas!  Guess they had planned this for a while.  We sorted through the possibilities over the next two weeks while permits where being processed and narrowed it down to what both made sense and was a good value.

Our carpenters had already spec’d it out with me, we had provided all the design, elevation and deck engineering drawings so we got it approved by the County pretty quickly.  Standard stuff.

Our discussions led to other non-structural details like beams and exposed ceilings in the screen room, a new door out of the home office where there was now a bow-window and finally to material orders.  Should we change the outside fixtures and what about the color of the glass for the fire pit, what about electrical and gas supplies, drainage, landscaping and can we connect power to the shed while we are at it?   So many details to cover and coordinate but possibly the most fun I’ve had.

Then, we got hung up by the weather after an October start and couldn’t complete everything until this spring but what a transformation.Outdoor Living concept brought to life

Hurdles? There was the process of getting an upgraded meter for the gas service to supply the HPC 250,000 btu fire pit burner.  All I can say is start early on that one.  Its like getting an appointment with the doctor.  Weather was definitely the number one factor.  Delivery of materials and on the fly, modifications to the grading, drainage and irrigation systems, the additional requirement of a LDL beam to open up the patio space under the deck was a brilliant call by the carpenters. The changes for material unavailability such as the under deck ceiling that no one had in the amount of square footage we needed – these could keep you up at night.  But we had daily conversations and as the Customers saw it coming to life they wanted to have more input.  That’s why we discussed progress and options, daily.  Because as it goes from paper to being alive and 3D, that is to be expected.  Talking daily and walking the site in person plus having done so much research on the front end, the Customer’s goals were very clear in terms of functionality, style and appearance.  These folks had great ideas and were certain in what they expected and that conversation every day helped keep things on track.

Maybe I should just put up a hammock in the trees.  Do you think they’ll notice if I hang out a while longer?

Want to see more?  Visit our Houzz site below and “like” the project, but here are a few sneak peeks:

Screen Room Interior Outdoor Living and Landscape pasadena md Cedar woodworking and screen room after photo

http://www.houzz.com/projects/1494333 for the most accurate chronological grouping and we have a couple of videos out on the Facebook Page 🙁https://www.facebook.com/AMJLandscapingInc/ )

Most importantly, if you have an idea in your head and need help getting it moving toward reality, send me a message.  We’ll have fun with whatever it is and I’ll make sure it turns out just as nice.—John

John Gallagher, AMJ Landscaping

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!