When the owners of this Needham home asked us to help out with their landscape design, we were all in. Visiting the site, we saw a beautiful new home but with a “builder’s special” landscape.
The family wanted an outdoor fire pit with sitting walls, a grill island, lighting and privacy screening. They wanted the front yard to give a welcoming feel to the neighborhood but allow them visual filtration and privacy so they could sit on their front porch without feeling like they were on view.
The Design Process is Key to Making a Great Space
Organizing the flow and usage of the outdoor kitchen area, fire pit and dining area was the first step. We gave the homeowners multiple layouts. Each design layout had unique elements organized in a different flow and arrangement.
We encouraged our new Needham clients to think about how they would use the spaces on a day-in-day-out basis. We sprayed the design out with marking paint and had them to “live in the space” for a weekend using their use tables and chairs and imagine being in the completed space. This is the best way to get the feel of the spatial organization. Does it feel too big, too small or, as Goldilocks says, “Just Right.” We often suggest that families spend time “feeling” what the new space will be like then and deciding whether they need to be tweaked.
We will show you many possible ways to organize the components of your patio design so you can see and imagine being in each of the spaces. From there, we will put together a final drawing. Usually, we end up taking one element of one design and one from another and so on, combining the client’s desired patio components into a working concept drawing. From there, one idea leads to another and then another. It’s a heuristic process. At the end of the landscape design process, we can layout the patio in place in your yard. We often suggest that families spend a weekend “living” in the spaces and deciding whether they need to be tweaked to be a bit bigger or smaller.
Going through the landscape design process is fun and often the kids get into it. They like to imagine themselves and their friends sitting around the backyard fire pit. They enjoy giving input on where the swingset will go and if the lawn area is big enough for soccer etc. Children also have fun selecting plants and flowers and usually are quite interested in the different attributes of each plant. Kids also get really excited to plan vegetable gardens. They love talking about planting strawberries, blueberries and apple trees. After all, you never know if an early pleasant experience in landscape design will lead to a career as an architect or a scientist.
Patio, Wall, Grill Island Materials Create A Welcoming Space
Once the overall configuration of the outdoor space was determined, we focused on choosing patio materials and wall materials. We used the Unilock Estate Wall for the sitting walls, fire pit and grill island. For the patio pavers we used Techo-Bloc . The custom bluestone wall caps were templated by our crews and fabricated locally in Newton at Stone Gallery . The landscape masonry choices are all a blend of good looking and economical. The paver and wall block, when married with natural bluestone and granite caps and a grill island countertop, sings out with welcoming notes. For the landscape lighting, we used Integral lights. The ambience of low voltage, outdoor lighting is wonderful and makes eating out under the stars ahhhhhmazing. By going through all the layouts, components and materials ahead of time on paper with the client, their options and final selections easily fell into place. The worst thing is to finish a landscape project and say “why didn’t I think of that!!!”
Unilock Estate Grill Island with Napoleon Grill
Trees, Shrubs and Flowers Enhance the Ambiance
Being originally from New Hampshire, the homeowner wanted to add a touch of New England to the patio area. And since it was an unbearably hot sunny space prior that was too uncomfortable to sit out in during the day, we suggested planting sugar maples around the patio. These trees provide lovely fall color and just the right amount of shade for the sitting area to be cool and usable during the summer heat. We used white Annabell hydrangeas, Crystalina summersweet, a Sweetbay magnolia and long-blooming purple Rozanne geraniums to enclose the patio with nice fragrance and interesting texture.
Around the perimeter of the yard, privacy was sought from the relatively close neighbors’ houses. For this we used Norway spruce, Green Giant western red cedar and Nellie Stevens evergreen holly. In the front of the house we used Endless Summer hydrangeas planted behind a low hedge of Green Mountain boxwood providing a separating element from the street. Along the porch, we planted Landmark rhododendrons which have a lovely deep pink/red flower and are evergreen with year-round foliage.
All the plants selected for this Needham landscape were recommended because of their relatively low maintenance and their reliable performance. We never suggest plants that are “fussy” and require a lot of care. All of our plants are proven winners in the Massachusetts climate. We recommend flowering plants that have fragrance and are summer blooming when folks are outside enjoying their backyards. We like the mix of evergreen and deciduous plants for year-round interest.
Cozy furniture tops off this patio turning it into an outdoor living area you’ll never want to leave
Lawn and Plant Irrigation Keeps Everything Green
To keep the fresh sod for the lawn happy, we installed an automatic sprinkler system with both rotary heads and spray heads. This system is controlled by a Hunter Hydrawise smart sprinkler system that takes satellite weather information and automatically adjusts how much water goes to each lawn area and planting zone.
The best way to water a lawn is to soak the soil thoroughly to simulate a heavy rain and then to let it dry out. This makes the roots of the grass plant “chase” the water down rather than staying near the surface dependent on daily shallow watering. The deeper the root system, the stronger the lawn will be and enable it to resit drought, insects and diseases. Also, cutting the grass high keeps moisture in the plant since it has more leaf surface to help conserve water. Also, longer grass leaves give needed energy and support to the lawn’s root system as it works its way deeper into the soil.
Combined with lawn irrigation, cutting the lawn and leaving the clippings down helps promote bacterial activity in the soil. Like probiotics for humans, high soil microbial activity is beneficial for making the grass healthier so it can fight off bugs and any diseases that may occur. A properly scheduled fertilization program will enable good grass leaf production. Also, watering the fertilizer in deeply with the irrigation is key.
Plant irrigation is vital to healthy growth and flowering of all the plants in the yard. Trees, shrubs and flowers will win the battle against weeds. Lush stands of plants will cover the ground enough to shield the soil from the sunlight weeds need to grow. This means that dense spacing of plants is the best way to design the garden beds. We create our landscape designs with plants that spread and cover a lot of the plant bed. This also creates a full, relaxed, opulent garden design. Large groupings of plants that are allowed to grow together in masses is definitely the way to go instead of staccato-style design where there is one plant of each here and there with a lot of space between them. This is how weeds get their toehold and pretty soon the nice landscape plants are losing the weed battle. Proper plant spacing along with proper fertilization and irrigation will ensure this happens.
Looking to Upgrade your Backyard Space in Newton and the Surrounding Area with a New Landscape Design?
Here is what the Needham homeowner, had to say about working with Land Design Associates on this project:
“The outstanding communication, care, responsiveness, flexibility, and patience of LDA’s staff during the design process gave us complete confidence in choosing the firm’s hardworking landscape professionals to complete the project for us. Their expert installation of a patio, sitting wall, fire pit, trees, shrubs, flowers, irrigation system, and lighting created a beautiful and functional outdoor living space and landscape that our family will enjoy together for years to come.!”
We work in Needham, Newton, Wellesley, Westwood, Dover, Milton and other communities surrounding Boston. Fill out a form on our contact page today to book your no cost consultation.