Landscape Design Guide

If you are ready to start exploring landscape changes, it’s easy to get started.  Write down your needs and wants and things you’ve seen that you enjoy. You may not be able to incorporate everything at once and some things you may have to do in stages.  However, this creative time should not be hurried or dismissed.  

 

Once you have a rough idea of what you would like to accomplish, give us a call and we can take it from there.  Our experienced landscape designers will work with you every step of the way to make sure you get just what you envisioned.

 

We’ve included a guide to some common landscaping elements to help you explore the possibilities of enhancing your landscape.

 

Time, money and planning

Your landscape is a living and growing part of your home. It’s easy to see how a simple plan can save you money down the road. If you plan your landscape in stages, you can easily use time to your advantage.  For example, if you are installing a lawn in the front yard and you are planning on planting a few trees down the road, consider this.  Purchasing a few small trees now will save you hundreds of dollars over purchasing more mature trees 5 years down the road.  Instead of paying the nursery to grow your tree, you are basically paying yourself in the form of savings.  This is how you can make your landscape pay for itself when it comes time to sell your home.

 

Small projects provide big opportunities.

Remember, before you start a small project ask yourself a few big picture questions.  Once you have the big picture in mind, each small project can move you toward your big picture.  Without proper planning, they can often pull you away from it and leave your yard looking mismatched and thrown together.  However, with a little forethought, you can take the little projects and use them as stages in a larger one.  Try to incorporate some common elements.  Plan your walkways, and plant small trees or shrubs to use in the next phase.  We specialize in small projects and would be happy to help build that comprehensive landscape, one project at a time.

 

Paths and walkways

Our properties are defined by them. Pathways first and foremost should be functional.  They can meander slightly, but not without purpose.  The last thing you want is to feel restrained by your walkway.  If you find yourself consistently shortcutting a walkway you may need to modify it or add to it.  This is often the case when your landscape changes or you start using it differently.  For example, if your trash pickup changes from the alley to the front of your house. You may want to install an inexpensive Breeze (crushed concrete) pathway.  It’s affordable and functional. If you are fortunate enough to be able to start from scratch, make sure you plan each area of your yard, and think about how each area will be used.  Then and only then should you layout your pathways.

 

One of the most common pitfalls we see when designing a path or walkway is not making it wide enough.

A small winding path may work well leading to a garden but for the main walkways, you will need a minimum width of 5 feet to accommodate two people.  This is especially important when walking with an elderly person that may need a helping hand for stability.  If you have steps, it’s important to check local building codes to determine whether or not you will need a railing.

 

There are countless options when it comes to the building materials for your walkways and paths. Start by determining whether you are looking for a formal walkway with defined lines and sophisticated paving material or a more natural winding path with less formal paving, like flagstone, crushed concrete or gravel.  

 

You can even find a balance somewhere in the middle.  The important thing is to keep the big picture in mind and make sure the path or walkway compliments the surrounding landscape and doesn’t distract from your design style.  Remember to give your path or walkway a purpose, like winding around a large rock or leading to a gazebo or patio.

 

Stepping stones

Great for garden paths, flower beds, or anywhere you need access to and don’t want to disturb the ground.  Stepping stones can be made with flagstone, natural rock or you can even use round pieces of wood or bark.

 

Boulders and Rocks

Want a touch of the mountains in your yard?  Rocks are essential in creating a natural outdoor experience.  Rocks can be incorporated in all aspects of your landscape.  Hillsides, retaining walls, dry creek beds, walkways, patios and more.

 

Define an area or create a focal point by adding bold elements to your yard.  Colorado has beautiful rock that will work perfectly in a formal or informal setting.  Make sure to go big when it comes to making a statement with a boulder. In a formal setting, you can use a boulder or rock as a piece of art to draw you in.  On the other hand, that same boulder or rock could look like it’s protruding from a hillside in the mountains.  Some of the most amazing examples are when you combine rocks with water features.  Formal or informal, there’s no limit to what can be done with boulders and rocks. Best of all, they last forever and never go out of style.

 

Fire pits and outdoor fireplaces

The warm flickering light of a fire pit or outdoor fireplace can add a charming feel to any evening gathering.  There is something about the sound and smell of a warm crackling fire that draws you in and will create amazing memories.  If you have kids, don’t forget the S’mores.

 

Retaining walls and terracing

Retaining walls serve many purposes.  They can be strictly utilitarian, built with low-cost materials to avoid soil erosion and water runoff or they can also transform a hill into multiple flat areas.

 

At its core, a retaining wall is just as it sounds, a wall that is designed to hold back dirt. Take a closer look at a retaining wall and you will find them hiding in some of the most elegant landscape designs.  Think Terracing. Terracing is simply one or more retaining walls creating a multi-level space.  A terrace can be made of natural stone, decorative block, landscape timbers or a number of other materials.

 

As property values increase, terracing is quickly becoming more and more popular.  It allows you to transform a hard to use hill into a multi-level area.  If the area is big enough, it can be used to create a patio or sitting area.  If it’s a smaller area, consider using it like a planter for a garden or flowerbed.  Terracing to create flower beds can add a lot of vertical color and beauty.  In addition, the raised level of the terrace will make for easy maintenance by reducing the amount of bending and kneeling.  You can even use a small terrace to create a bench that works as an overflow sitting area for backyard celebrations.

 

Paver Patios

Colorado has more than 300 days of sunshine and is a great outdoor state.  It’s no wonder that more and more people are investing in outdoor hardscapes like patios and courtyards.  From simple paver patios to outdoor living areas with couches and even kitchens, Coloradans are making their yards an extension of their homes.  People are taking advantage of the fresh air and sunshine and getting the maximum benefit of their backyards.  If you are looking to upgrade an existing patio or install a new one, you need look no further.  We specialize in all types of patios and outdoor living spaces.

 

Patio planning.  The first step in putting together an outdoor patio or courtyard is choosing the correct space.  If you have a slope or hill don’t despair, we can always level a spot by adding a terrace (retaining wall).  Once you have a level area or a multi-level area, then it’s a matter of choosing a pavement to fit your budget and lifestyle.

 

Common paving options

  • Natural Stone, Flagstone, and Cut Flagstone – beautiful but costly because it has to be quarried and each piece is a different size and shape, requiring extra time to install.
  • Aggregates like crushed rock or gravel, tend to be informal but are very cost effective
  • Concrete and Stamped Concrete, affordable but can crack from roots and shifting soil
  • Brick, Timeless in style but the porous nature of bricks makes them susceptible to crumbling when enduring water damage from freezing and thawing.
  • Paver stones, currently the most popular paving option. You don’t have to worry about stress cracks, they are easily replaceable if damaged, they interlock for amazing strength.  In addition, they are affordable and come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes.

 

When choosing your patio pavement there are many options out there and we can help you decide what’s best for your area.  The most basic is of course, a concrete slab.  In fact, concrete slabs used to be so popular that you may already have one.  Today, you have the choice of stamped concrete, a variety of aggregates, natural stone, patio pavers, brick, and natural cut flagstone.  Patio Pavers are by far the most popular these days because they come in a variety of sizes, colors and textures.  Many of them are very affordable and they are quick to install because they are all uniform in size.  Best of all, they are beautiful and are easy to replace if you have shifting soil or root problems.

 

Say goodbye to cracked concrete. There’s nothing worse than having to patch your newly installed stamped concrete because the ground shifted, or you have large roots in the area.  With patio Pavers it’s easy to adjust or replace a few Pavers from time to time.

 

Ponds, Fountains and Water Features

Water features (aquascapes) can be the ultimate in outdoor tranquility and luxury.  The peaceful sound of water can mask the noise of city traffic or just provide the soothing backdrop that melts away the stress of the day.

 

There are many ways you can incorporate water features into your landscape but first and foremost comes safety.  If you are working in the front yard you may want to consider a pondless waterfall , bubbling rock, or fountain. Most cities, including Englewood, Centennial, and Littleton, have fairly strict rules when it comes to ponds in the front yard or any unfenced area of your yard.

 

If you want the sparkle and sound of moving water without the upkeep of a pond?  A pondless waterfall or fountain may be just what you’re looking for.

 

A Pondless waterfall or fountain collects the water at the bottom and pumps it back out, while only retaining a small amount of water at the base.

 

Shallow ponds are a great way to grow water plants like water lilies, lotus flowers, and tall grasses.  They will support small fish but will not be deep enough to protect fish over the winter.  

 

If you are interested in a deep pond to support Koi or other types of fish year round, you may want to consider a fenced backyard area. We can help find the zoning requirement for your particular neighborhood and type of water feature.  In addition, our knowledgeable staff will make sure you have just the right type of filters, liners, and pumps to minimize the amount of maintenance required and create a long lasting installation. We can also make sure your pond will support specialty items like Lily pads, Lotus flowers, or watergrasses by incorporating underwater shelves.  Our designer can go over all these items in great detail to make sure you understand each aspect of the design and installation of your pond.

 

There are limitless possibilities when it comes to aquascapes. If you are considering a water feature, give us a call and we can go over all aspects of designing and installing a pond, waterfall, stream, fountain or bog.

 

There is nothing like the experience of a professionally installed water feature to erase the worries of the day and transport you to a peaceful state, without ever leaving the comfort of your home.

 

Outdoor Lighting

A well thought out lighting plan should give you a beautiful nighttime ambiance while providing needed safety. Outdoor lighting is an essential aspect to any outdoor living space. Incorporating just the right angles can illuminate stepping areas, highlight the elegant shape of trees and shrubs, and never make you feel like you’re in the spotlight.

 

If you haven’t’ thought about outdoor lighting lately, now is the time to take another look.  LED lighting is changing everything.  Our low voltage LED lighting will save money and give your yard an elegant new look.  Low voltage LED lights are practical, safe, and save on electricity.

 

Hot tubs and swimming pools

When designing a landscape for swimming pools and hot tubs, the key is keeping walkways safe.  Wide pathways and adequate drainage is essential.  In addition allow a buffer area to reduce blowing debris, like dirt and leaves from entering the pool.  This is why most pools use a formal design theme.

 

For swimming pools, make sure groundwater runoff is never allowed drain into the pool.  In addition, chlorinated pool water should not flow into the surrounding landscape.

 

Hot tubs are used year round and will require snow and ice removal in the winter.  Try to avoid shaded areas where you enter and exit the pool and make sure there is an adequate walkway to and from the house.

 

If you have a pool or hot tub in your future, let us know and we can help with the appropriate landscape improvements.

 

Plants Trees and Shrubs

Sometimes referred to as softscapes, plants, trees and shrubs are the backbone of a professional landscape.  With the proper planning they can create a timeless look that will add value, year after year, to your home.  Here is a list of some of the amazing benefits of trees, bushes and shrubs.

 

  • Shrubs add interest and erosion control to gentle slopes.
  • Flowering plants can produce fragrant breezes
  • Bushes help filter dust and reduce sound levels and ambient noise.
  • Fruit trees provide beautiful colors in the spring and turning leaves in the fall.
  • Trees can provide valuable shade in the summer
  • Evergreens can provide color and block the wind in the winter.  

 

We’ve been planting trees, shrubs, bushes and plants in the Littleton and Englewood area for over 35 years.  We know what works well and thrives. We would be happy to share that experience with you.

 

Seasonal flower beds

Add brilliant color in the spring, summer, and fall by designating a few areas in your yard to install seasonal flowers (bedding plants).  Bedding plants are relatively inexpensive and typically don’t last through the winter.  However, it’s a great way to give your yard a new look year after year or take chances with bold colors and style.  Imagine purple petunias in the shape of a heart or a sea of red geraniums.

 

Most bedding plants are divided into two categories.

  • Annuals are usually affordable and only last one season.  They work well in flower beds and in hanging baskets.
  • Perennials usually cost a little more but are designed to come back year after year.  Careful planning is required to make sure the plants selected are correct for our climate zone and that they have the correct care and placement to make it through the winter.

Let us know if you need help installing the beds or installing the plants or both.

 

Planters and Raised Gardens or Flower Beds

They are the perfect solution to reducing maintenance, creating visual interest and saving your back.  No more bending over to pull those weeds or plant those seeds.

 

Raised beds and planters

  • Allow you to plant flowers, shrubs or gardens
  • Work as edging or as a retaining wall
  • Add visual interest by adding a terraced look
  • Reduce weeding and watering maintenance
  • Save your back by limiting bending

 

Planters can accent any landscape and serve a variety of purposes.  They can be built out of an inexpensive decorative block, landscape timbers, or a variety of natural stone.

 

Landscape Edging

Essential to a professional landscape is edging. It gives your lawn or flower bed a clean defined look while providing an essential border between different areas in your yard.  Lawn edging is by far the most common and serves the purpose of keeping grass from growing into your flower beds or shrubbery.

 

Some of the most stylish designs use an element from your landscape theme and incorporate them into your edging.  For example, a paved path, a retaining wall, or raised flower bed. Pretty much anything that works as a barrier for weeds and grass can be used as edging.  And if you don’t want to get fancy, we carry a variety of metal and plastic edging that will do just fine.

 

Drainage and water damage

Adequate drainage is essential to any landscape and can protect your home from water damage.  If you find yourself worrying about your landscape on rainy days or severe thundershowers, chances are you already know you have a problem.  Anytime you have pools of water collecting on the surface or sub-surface of your yard, you may be causing damage to your landscape.

 

Improper drainage can make a patio or path a disaster area when things get wet. However, when you have foundation drainage issues, the damage costs can go through the roof.  Unfortunately, many homeowners find out the hard way.  Minor drainage issues or flower beds along the home can create major foundation damage over years or months. A heavy rainstorm or thawing snow can easily send hundreds of gallons of water into your basement or crawl space over just a few hours.

 

To avoid foundation problems, flooded window wells and a water damaged basement, give us a call.  We can make sure the ground slopes away from your house at the proper grade to prevent water backflow, make sure your gutters are clean and working properly (another major cause of water damage from flooding), and even install french drains to keep water from pooling around your home.

 

Adequate drainage is also essential in preventing soil erosion and damage to your landscaping.  Anytime you have groundwater pooling or mushy saturated soil, it’s time to look at drainage.  The Colorado front range is known for its severe rain storms. It’s important to make sure your property is draining correctly. When shrubs and retaining walls are not adequate to alleviate soil erosion, a french drain may be just the ticket.  A french drain usually consists of a trench filled with rock.  At the bottom of the trench is a perforated drain pipe that collects the water and redirects it away from the affected area. If you are having a problem with oversaturation, the trench can circle the affected area and allow groundwater to be safely channeled away.  French drains can also be used when your property slopes toward a neighbor’s property or home. Most cities require your water runoff not to drain onto an adjacent property.  This can be a problem when it comes time to sell your home or if you’re adversely affecting your neighbors.  If you’re planning any landscape project, it’s a good idea to make sure adequate drainage is not overlooked.

 

Xeriscaping for low water and maintenance yards

Back in the day, water was abundant and the suburbs of South Denver were filled with homes that had large lawns.  Now, we are finding more and more homeowners looking to scale back the amount of grass in their yard and start installing elements from Colorado’s beautiful surroundings.

 

Designed to reduce or eliminate supplemental water requirements, xeriscaping is fast becoming a low maintenance eco-friendly landscape choice.

  • Reduced water requirements
  • Reduced maintenance
  • Natural mountain look

More and more Coloradans are creating natural looking front yards with rockscapes, indigenous plants, and shrubs.  To further reduce watering and maintenance,  people are building outdoor living spaces.  Patios, fire pits, and outdoor kitchens are some of our most popular backyard installations.