Thursday, October 10, 2013

Come home happy: the Karpiak project

One spring, Kevin and I got our acts together and re-landscaped our front yard.  It was beautiful.  Every day, I literally sighed as I pulled up front.  I took in the hanging flower baskets framing the door, the fragrant herbs as I walked up the steps, the overall picture.  It made me happy to come home.

That should always be our experience.  Our home can be an oasis.  But... sometimes life gets in the way.  Or we feel lost about how to handle an aspect of our property.

We've got your back.

The Karpiaks have a beautiful bungelow with a hidden back driveway.  It's a pretty great way to enter the house.  You turn up a steep winding lane, reaching through the shade until you arrive in their backyard.  However, it was feeling kind of unmanageable.  Limited light, steep slopes, clay soil, and railroad ties that had been knocked about by various drivers.

I totally knew how they felt.  Everytime you come home you furrow your brow.  What do I do with this?  

You call us.

Shade gardens can be super low-maintenance and involve lots of perennial and native-species plants.  Bearing in mind some of the influences we found around the house-- a Buddha on the porch, a well-loved Japanese maple-- we went for a Zen, minimalist feel.

Kevin began laying cardboard down as weed barrier.  It's water permeable & more environmentally-friendly than landscaper fabric as it breaks down.

Lots of compost to help with drainage in the heavy clay.

He removed the existing railroad ties to neaten the edge.

Let there be plants!  Lots of evergreens, a few flowering perennials, and plenty of ferns that will fill in as ground-cover, ultimately cutting down on weeding.

Plants moving in!  Two shade tolerant magnolias to offer lush blossoms and fragrance upon returning home.  Lots of skip laurels and rhododendrons, good for managing water run-off, happily blooming in the shade, and offering low-maintenance visual allure.

A rich root mulch, re-buried railroad ties, dug in to keep that neat edge.

Dappled light through the shade garden.

A soaker hose establishing the new planting.  Creating that happy sigh to welcome you home.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Fear not your hedges: the Bandock Project

Our friend and fellow yogini, Ms. Bandock, is an avid gardener.  However, her Queen's Anne Lace hedge was infested with poison ivy.  Every time she attempted to prune or weed she contracted the rash.  Stink.

Thankfully, Kevin has pretty much self-inoculated against poison ivy given how much he's been exposed!  He's also adept at getting rid of the poison ivy.  Soaking the roots allows you to get at the base of the plant & prevent years of regrowth, as Ms. Bandock had unfortunately experienced.  This method eliminates the need for harmful chemicals!

She is now poison ivy free!  And happily enjoying her Queen Anne's privacy hedge again.

She also wanted to enjoy a fire pit with her guests in the backyard.  Kevin suggested a circular irregular slate patio, to not occupy the entire lawn, but to give her a safe place to enjoy evening fires.

Voila!  Around the periphery, fresh grass seed.  The grass will grow up to the edges of the patio.

More enjoyment from her own backyard.  This is what we love-- making your home suit you!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

From row-home concrete backyard to private oasis: the Conrow project

Our friends, the Conrows, have a fantastic house in downtown Collingswood.  For years, they've had a backyard concrete patio that didn't do much to inspire outdoor fun.  It was practical, sure, but didn't reflect either of their design inclinations, nor offer much privacy.

Kevin and I spent some time thinking about the options (there are so many!).  With a project like this, there are also a lot of unknown variables.  How deep is the concrete?  Is there re-bar laced into the poured concrete?  Ultimately, we found a solution that worked for us and the Conrows.  We'd outsource the concrete removal for an optimal price for them and let our energy be focused on what we do best: building something beautiful.

Concrete begone!  Kevin and his crew began lowering the ground level and getting everything nice and even.

Mike even has a passion for geology!  We felt even more excited to secure the most beautiful slate flagstone.  This is where the project becomes art-- lots of time and attention to create a secure and attractive jigsaw patio.

Space allotted for the beds.  Right now, you see there's no screen between the Conrows and their lovely neighbors.  While these people are all fantastic, we all know the allure of a private oasis.

We wanted to maximize patio space so that the Conrows could fit their table, fire pit, and a few other items that live in the back patio.  Instead of creating a living privacy screen, we installed a cedar trellis.  It's thin, durable, affordable, and as the plant-life establishes, a vibrant screen that's appealing for the Conrows and their neighbors on either side.

As this photo demonstrates, there's a fair amount of shade.  English ivy is a highly successful shade vine, but it's also pretty opportunistic and requires a lot of maintenance. The Conrows are like many Rooted clients-- they prefer low-maintenance.  For those reasons, we elected to plant a shade-tolerant variety of clematis.  It's a little slower to establish, but once it does it offers beautiful purple/blue flowers that are consistent with the larger color palette of the planting.

When we met to do the estimate, we walked through the Conrow's home.  It's a beautiful reflection of both their tastes.  I noticed lots of cool greys, purples, and earth tones.  We wanted a sense of continuity as you enter the outdoor living space, so the planting also reflects a variety of purples with some bright green ferns for contrast.

Love it!  Full privacy, an enchanting patio that directs drainage away from the house, and a perennial, low-maintenance planting.