Full-Service Landscape Design
8 Pineview Ave, Berlin, NJ 08009
ph: (856) 753.1944
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01 Jun 2022

Audible Landscape: How to Incorporate Sound Into Your Outdoor Entertainment Space

Summer is here, and soon those barren wastelands of patios and decks will be alive with activity again. Grills will be fired up, furniture cushions placed, and portable stereos plugged in.  Time out… “Portable stereos?” It’s time to retire that Boom Box you’ve had since high school, purge those mounted “lunch box” style outdoor speakers, and take advantage of today’s technology. How about introducing symphony quality sound to your outdoor entertainment space? Innovative designs are gaining popularity with easy installation and control.

Top technology

Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are two words most people are familiar with and use daily. Permanent outdoor sound systems have the same capabilities to be controlled by either of these platforms using a smartphone app. Whether the streamer for the system is a simple Bluetooth connection or more advanced Wi-Fi, such as Sonos, they both can be installed on a home’s exterior. In conjunction with an amplifier, your entire audio system can remain within the vicinity of the outdoor space without any costly interior wiring or renovations. A GFI electrical receptacle is all that is needed to get this outdoor powerhouse control center up and running.

Sound quality is undoubtedly the most critical product of a well-designed system, but speaker type and placement are key. They should be in the landscape surrounding the space to create an absolute sensation of immersion. Directional speakers will deliver sound to specified areas while being considerate to neighbors’ ears. Combination 3-way speakers are also available, which provide subwoofer, woofer, and tweeter all in the same unit. Speaker durability and longevity should be considered as well. We live in a region where temperature extremes and shore salt exposure can wreak havoc on outdoor electrical devices, so speaker housing materials are very important. Coastal Source is one of the leading manufacturers of these turnkey plug and play systems and has designed them to fit any application.

Sound in an outdoor environment can enhance any experience and influence the dynamic. Installing a properly planned sound system can foster relaxing alone time or a-rockin’ party. In addition, imagine being able to control the whole vibe and tone of the space without even leaving your seat.

“Music is the wine that fills the cup of silence” – Robert Fripp.

01 May 2022
Paver walk

Written in Stone

The explosion of outdoor living spaces has brought upon many new (and old) innovative materials to create these environments. Patio and wall materials have transformed to simulate natural stone and even wood products accurately. The combination of concrete, porcelain, and natural stone has blended seamlessly and added unique standout elements to these outdoor entertainment areas.

Concrete pavers

The lure of the once highly sought-after octagonal concrete pavers of 25+ years ago has long diminished and has now been replaced multiple times over. The trends in concrete pavers and other patio materials are the larger “slab” style pavers. These pavers are readily available from many well-known manufacturers throughout our area and come in various sizes ranging from 12″ x12″ to 30″ x30″. They can either resemble natural stone with ridges and valleys (clefts) or have a very contemporary streamlined, smooth appearance. One main advantage of these manufactured concrete slabs is that they are available in numerous color blends to complement any home or business’s existing palette façade.

Pavers

Porcelain pavers

The relatively new kid on the block is outdoor porcelain pavers. The thought of porcelain immediately raises the question of how durable these materials can possibly be compared to their fine China and figurine relatives collecting dust in a curio cabinet somewhere. Interestingly, they are the most durable, with a psi of 38,000. This is almost five times stronger than a standard concrete paver and even more so than most natural stone. They resemble the appearance of travertine, marble, granite, and even wood planking. At only ¾” thick, they make the perfect choice for overlay applications on existing concrete bases. These incredibly strong pavers are even suitable for vehicular applications such as driveways.

Natural stone

Created under extreme earth pressures and processes, natural stones used today have been around for millions of years. These ancient materials are what manufacturers have been striving to emulate and capture their natural beauty. Bluestone, limestone, travertine, and granite are materials that can be seen readily used in landscape projects because of their timeless beauty and enduring nature. Natural stone makes a great choice as step treads, wall caps, and countertop accents, in addition to also using one of the other options mentioned above. Each individual stone is unique in its own way, and this will never be able to be duplicated in the manufacturing process.

Stonemasons have constructed many “Wonders of the World” throughout history, which have taken lifetimes to complete. However, today’s available hardscape materials and their ease of installation will only take a fraction of the time and allow you to create a similar “Wonder of the Neighborhood” right in your own backyard!

If you want to learn more about hardscaping materials and how we can design a beautiful outdoor space to complement your home, give us a call today at (856) 753.1944, or check out the various projects we’ve created and installed for our customers here.

01 Apr 2022

Striving for Straight F’s: How Can You Achieve the Ultimate in Outdoor Entertainment?

Ever since I can remember, I thought that if I studied hard, paid attention, and tried my best, A’s would come my way. This couldn’t have proven to be more accurate. However, when designing and implementing an outdoor entertainment area, F’s are what we strive for. Food, Fire, and Fluidity are the main elements that deliver the ultimate “staycation” of homeowners’ dreams when brought together.

Food  

Enough said. Nothing brings people together better than an array of delicious food. The home kitchen always seems to be the main gathering area during holidays, birthdays, or parties. Why? Because people love to eat. And there’s no reason why a kitchen with all the same amenities (and more) can’t be created outdoors.

Grills, warmers, side burners, refrigerators, sinks, ice makers, pizza ovens, and even beer meisters can add functionality and fun to your patio space. Most of these kitchen structures come equipped with natural gas, electricity, and plumbing. Granite countertops, stainless steel cabinets, and drawers are also possibilities that provide beauty and convenience to your gourmet cooking experience.

Good food attracts friends and family alike. So put away those frozen hotdogs and hamburgers and prepare a restaurant-worthy spread in your new outdoor kitchen!

Fire  

Since the beginning of time, we have always been captivated and mesmerized by fire. A fireplace is typically the main focal point of a home’s family/living area and has much the same power as the kitchen to bring people together. Roasting marshmallows or huddling and talking around a fireplace hearth can easily be done right out your back door. That’s why incorporating an outdoor fireplace, fire pit, or fire element has become increasingly popular over the past ten years.

Wood, natural gas, or propane can all be used to fuel your inferno. Depending on your preference, these structures are available in kits for ease of installation or can be custom designed to fit specific needs. Natural stone, clay brick, or manufactured block and veneer are all used in construction. Whether it be warmth, utility, or just plain beauty, adding fire to your backyard will entice everyone to your outdoor space.

Fluidity  

The sound of flowing water has a calming effect which can be a tranquil addition to any area. Waterfalls, fountains, and ponds each have unique attributes in providing a soothing atmosphere. Waterfalls can be even be incorporated into swimming pools and ponds to drown out nearby vehicular traffic or an overly noisy neighbor.

Ponds can bring an entire mini living ecosystem to your property by including aquatic life and plants. Many homeowners looking for low-maintenance structures have pondless water features. These range from boulder/stone waterfalls to decorative bubbling urns spilling into underground collection basins with recirculation pumps.

Water has even made its way into built-in patio misters to keep your guests cool on those hot summer days. The introduction of moving water can transform an average outdoor space into a dynamic, relaxing environment.

A well-thought-out plan, qualified contractor, and flexible budget (of course) can blend all three of these elements. Now is the perfect time to plan your spring/summer outdoor projects and get ahead of the rush. Forget the travel agent. Create a private resort oasis and create new memories right in your own backyard instead by incorporating the 3 F’s. Give us a call to learn more at 856-753-1944.

01 Dec 2021
What are the Best Ways to Bring Warmth to Your Outdoor Entertainment Space?

What are the Best Ways to Bring Warmth to Your Outdoor Entertainment Space?

As we’re preparing for the holidays and the cold weather to set in, it’s a great time to start thinking about your outdoor space again. Though the summer barbecues, family parties, and relaxing sunsets are now all just a fond memory, your outdoor entertainment area doesn’t have to be left vacant during the winter months. And we have some great ideas to help you with this. You may even want to add one to your holiday wish list.

As you turn up the thermostat inside with the plummeting temps, warmth can also be brought outside to make your patio enjoyable and functional with the use of FIRE.  It’s no secret that fire has been warming souls and bringing people together since the beginning of time. However, today’s applications and uses make this ancient element easy to add to any outdoor environment.

Fireplaces

By far, the stateliest way to incorporate a warm glow is a fireplace. They are typically the main focal point of a home’s family/living area and bring that similar aesthetic value to an outdoor patio space.  These structures are available in kits for ease of installation or custom-designed to fit specific needs.  Natural stone, clay brick, or manufactured block and veneer are all available options for constructing these features.  Incorporating solid stone mantels and hearths (as of their interior counterparts) even adds to their beauty and functionality. Imagine pulling the patio chairs up close and enjoying a hot cup of coffee or your favorite cigar while enjoying your outdoor fireplace.

Firepit

The firepit is where it all began and has evolved from the metal bowls on legs (which usually rusted out after a few years) to the permanent works of art built directly into the patio itself.  They can be constructed from all the same materials/kits as mentioned above with the fireplaces.  Circles, squares, rectangles, and hexagons are amongst the geometric shapes these firepits can take.  A few advantages of a firepit vs. fireplace are a 360-degree viewing and warming angle, not to mention taking up far less space.  And the price tag is only about 20% of a fireplace!  Though they may not possess the grandeur of a fireplace, there is nothing better than gathering around a firepit with your children and grandchildren, roasting marshmallows, and telling stories.

Infrared Heaters

Now more than ever, businesses (restaurants, bars, event venues) are using infrared heaters outdoors to increase their space due to COVID challenges. There are now so many options available on a residential scale for homeowners.  Compact and engineered to fit into virtually any area, they provide warmth where it is needed most. This is key in today’s efforts to conserve energy and reduce your carbon footprint. Although some of these heaters are typically mounted above, the heat originates below the floor zone and then rises.  Much the same way the infrared rays emitted by the sun work as they are reflected off of Earth’s surface.  It only seems right to heat your patio area the same way the sun has been doing it for the past 4.6 billion years.

Whether you choose wood-burning, natural gas, or propane to fuel your inferno, careful planning is a must before implementing any of these, as many construction codes and permits apply to their location and use. A licensed contractor with experience in their design and installation is essential.

If you’re interested in adding heat to your outdoor entertaining space, give us a call today at (856) 753.1944, or check out the various fireplace and firepit designs we’ve created and installed for our customers here.

01 Nov 2021
landscape design

How Can You Develop a Comprehensive Landscape Design Plan?

Every great plan begins with just an idea.  Maybe it’s a concept of an outdoor entertainment space, complete with fireplace and bar top, or a plan to arrange landscape plantings to complement the style of your home. However, it’s the next steps that are so important in transforming this idea into a reality.  Site evaluations, conceptual drawings, and final site plans/3D imagery all compose the path leading to your ultimate “staycation.” Before jumping into this process, the undoubtedly most crucial aspect is determining a BUDGET.  This mystical number will help guide the direction of the plans and how they are composed.

Site Evaluation

This initial step highlights any limiting factors present on your property to be considered in the plan.  Drainage (water flow) should be evaluated not to introduce any landscape/hardscape features that could impede flow or redirect water in an unapproved fashion.  Sun exposure will dictate if a roof or pergola structure may be a nice addition to beat the heat or simply the variety of plants that will thrive. Town building/zoning codes need to be researched to be aware of what is allowable within your municipality.  Most towns have lot coverage and setback codes which may limit the extent of your project.  Conduct a soil analysis to determine if there is a high clay or sand content present.  The soil will directly affect how certain hardscape features are constructed (footing depth, base material, etc.) and the type of plant material utilized.  Spend some time studying the dynamics of your property to lead you in the right direction.

Conceptual Designs

Exterior landscape/hardscape design is a very fluid, ever-evolving process that should not be rushed. Take your time and allow the spaces to be sketched out so that all “wish list” elements be accounted for and located.  This planning will help in deciding spatially what can be incorporated and what can’t. This step helps examine the possibilities.  An old-fashioned #2 pencil with a fat eraser, in conjunction with trace paper, is a great way to create overlays and optional features.   This stage is the time to be creative, so if one idea doesn’t work, erase it or sketch over and try again.

Final Site Plan/3D Imagery

This last step is typically reserved for certified/degreed landscape architects and accredited landscape designers; however, computer programs are available if you feel up to the task.  A home survey is a valuable document you most likely already have to develop the base map of existing structures.  The survey is a scaled drawing that is either enlarged by hand drafting or importing into a computer program.  The conceptual images are now drawn in at the exact dimensions of the proposed project.  This is the plan which will be used for construction, so precision is key.  All structures, hard surfaces, bed lines, plant material, etc., should be included in these plans.  For those who have trouble envisioning overhead site plans, 3D imagery is available to create a realistic representation of the project’s appearance before a shovel is put into the ground.  Specific vantage points can be manipulated and viewed through these images.

The comprehensive landscape/hardscape design process is the necessary starting point to elaborate on that “million-dollar” (or maybe just a few thousand) ideas and provides piece of mind in your investment.  So, when you see those accreditations and abbreviations listed next to a designer’s name, know they come with the value and the ability to help professionally. So now that your design is complete, it’s time to start planning the best feature….  how you’re going to relax and enjoy your newfound outdoor space once construction is complete!

Need help planning your next landscape project. Our experienced, accredited team can help. Call us to schedule a consultation at (856) 753.1944.

01 Aug 2021
Dog Days of Summer

Dog Days of Summer: How is Your Landscape Weathering the Heat?

School’s out, beaches are crowded, and that giant fireball high in the sky is baking your landscapes. The golf course-esque front lawn and lush landscape plantings you enjoyed throughout the spring may be showing signs of stress due to higher temperatures. Just how we become uncomfortable on a 95-degree day scorching in the sun, our lawns and landscapes are no different. So let’s touch on three aspects that, if addressed, will keep your lawn and plantings growing beautifully into the fall.

Fungus

The silent, creeping killer of lawns and shrub material which is most prevalent July-August. It thrives in hot and humid conditions overtaking the turf of suburbia. Fungus usually shows up as patches of brown, yellow, or white in the lawn seemingly overnight, and most homeowners are inclined to crank up their irrigation systems to bring back that beloved emerald green color. Unfortunately, water only adds fuel to the fire and causes the fungus to spread more rapidly. Once the onset of a fungal infection is identified in a lawn or plant, an appropriate fungicide should be applied. Treating it will halt the continued spread and allow for the regrowth of lawn blades and new leaves.

It also might be necessary to reseed the affected lawn areas if the fungus was there for an extended period as the root system may have also been compromised.

Weeds

Considered by most to be public enemy #1 in the fight to maintain a manicured property. When lawns and landscape plants start to stress in the heat of the summer, it’s a weed’s time to shine. They will overtake any thin or bare areas of an untreated lawn or light mulch covering in landscape beds. The first defense to these unwanted guests is keeping healthy, lush grounds and properly mulched beds. Mulch layers should be a minimum of 2-3″ and bare lawn spots quickly patched with seed. If it’s too late and they have already set up residence, post-emergent selective herbicides will aid in the fight. As with all herbicides, read directions thoroughly and follow manufactures recommendations as there are many limitations to application.

The best practice is not to even give weeds the chance to germinate. Pre-emergents for turf and landscape beds are generally applied in the spring as they last for multiple months throughout the season.

Irrigation

Water is the essence of all life, and plants drink a lot of it, especially in the summer. Unfortunately, drought is commonplace in our area, where there could be little rain for weeks and temps 85 and above. Plants are trained to conserve water in times when lacking, but only to an extent. That is when we need to step in and provide that much-needed supplemental watering either with an excellent old-fashioned hose and watering pale or an automated irrigation system.

Irrigation systems can be programmed to provide water at different frequencies in spring, summer, and fall and gauge the amount of rainfall received to what is needed. In addition, wifi-capable control modules are becoming more commonplace, allowing complete control from the palm of your hand and communicating with local weather forecasts.

Summer is generally the time of family vacations, relaxing by the pool, and enjoying everything outside Mother Nature offers. And, a well-thought-out plan that addresses these necessary maintenance practices will allow more time to appreciate your landscape and not have to overwork at it.

You can also hire a professional! Give our award-winning team a call today at 856-753-1944.

29 Mar 2021
container gardening

Mental Landscape: Surviving Stay at Home

As the country, even the world, finds itself within the confines of “Home,” the population is trying to find ways to cope with social distancing.  Outdoor living, landscaping, and gardening have all proved to be invaluable assets to get us through these unprecedented times.

Governing bodies throughout the country have deemed landscape companies as essential businesses allowing them to proceed with operations throughout the entire pandemic. Lawns can still be manicured, fertilization/insecticide applications applied, and so can the planting of flowers, shrubs, and trees. There’s something important about still being about to connect with nature and appreciate it in all its beauty that reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression, decreases stress, and strengthens one’s sense of well-being. The fact that this has been recognized by the “powers that be” will enable all of us to get through this and keep our sanity.

Health and Wellness

Outdoor living can help you achieve the balance of physical and mental well-being. The implementation of outdoor spaces can create areas of calm contemplation to reduce overall stress leaving you in a more comfortable state of mind. The use of plant material that appeals to the five senses and soothing audio all add to this healing experience. Active family social interaction within these environments creates another dimension to the overall mental wellness. The same healing gardens seen in health care institutions can be recreated on a residential scale and lead you to embrace absolute Zen.

On a smaller scale, container gardens can become a project providing individuals, and even families, a chance to interact and promote increased physical activity while stuck at home. Sometimes when space is limited, you can still accomplish much with the use of decorative container gardens. The days of terracotta pots are long gone, and bold colors and designs are available in ceramic, stone, and composite. These planting vessels are a great way to add accents of color to your outdoor entertainment space.  Cobalt blues, chartreuse greens, and crimson reds may seem a bit loud for the timider gardener but can provide that little extra pop of needed color. Annual plantings are typically reserved for these container gardens and are removed at the end of the season. An easy way to create added interest is to include plantings of complimenting colors but contrasting textures. The use of grasses/sedges along with flowering plants and trailing vines will create your own personal mini landscape. Edibles are also a great addition not only for their nutritional value but also for the aesthetics of the flower/fruit they produce. Nothing’s better than freshly picked herbs, vegetables while dining al fresco on a mid-summer’s night with friends (hopefully) by the time we get to that point.

Connecting with others is the name of the game in keeping a healthy outlook on life. Even if the substitute for “others” is Mother Nature, let being outside and tending to your garden be your best remedy to ensuring mental well-being on a day-to-day basis. Most importantly, let your family be the other. Keep calm and garden on.

If you would like more information about container gardening or how to transform your property into a beautiful and functional space, give our award-winning team a call today at 856-753-1944.