Outdoor Oasis

What does your outdoor oasis look like? We had the pleasure of helping this client create theirs. Check out these before and afters!

© Great Lakes Landscape Design, 2015

© Great Lakes Landscape Design, 2015

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Outdoor Living

Outdoor Living, what does your Oasis look like? Creating an outdoor oasis will depend on the person or family that it is being created for, each will be a custom creation based on their needs. Many factors such as: children, pets, entertaining requirements, along with the new term called “staycation” where homeowners come home to their own personal resorts in their back yard. Other factors such as: personal taste, special features that the home owner is interested in seeing, such as outdoor fire elements, water gardens, as well as kitchens. These factors help the designer create the perfect space for homeowners.

The perfect oasis consists of all nature’s elements: earth, fire, water and air. Having each element represented can help create a zenful retreat. Earth represents resistance to change; earth elements are represented by the soil, mulches and stone. Fire represents drive and passion and this can be represented by a fire pit or fire place. Water represents adaptability and flexibility and tends to be one of the most relaxing elements, typically used to add white noise to the background, helping to drown out “nuisance” noise, providing an environment for an individual to relax. There are numerous types of features that can be created to represent the element water, ranging from ponds to small fountains. Wind represents the freedom of movement, compassion, and wisdom, and is hard to represent in the landscape because it can only be seen with help of another item, using elements such as ornamental grasses or wind chimes to show the movement that the wind creates.

© Great Lakes Landscape Design, 2014

© Great Lakes Landscape Design, 2014

When creating an outdoor retreat one must consider how to create separate rooms or extensions from the home. The open concept that homeowners are trending to is more of what one should be thinking about when dealing with an outdoor space. These spaces are just designated to be what the homeowner/designer wants them to be. Walls and ceilings are represented differently in the landscape for the most part. Walls can be represented by planting a hedge row of something cutting off a space like a fence, or by planting something that just gives the illusion of separation, something that will give an opaque, diffused view. Ceilings can be represented in a couple of different ways; one by planting a tree with a canopy. Another way to represent a ceiling is to add one in the form of a pergola or shade sail, not only are these items functional by providing much needed shade and shelter, but they can be quite stunning.

The human senses can be a powerful tool to help create the perfect oasis, sight being the most influential of the senses. Sight is our most powerful sense and therefore it would be a given that the view is going to be key to the design process of your oasis; location, site lines along with color combinations. Site lines and open spaces allow for a more family friendly environment, making the space more conducive to entertaining. Color can set the mood along with its ability to create drama and appeal. Warmer colors such as red, orange, and yellow draw you in and can induce a warm and bright feeling that demand attention and evoke excitement, while cooler colors like blue and green can evoke a calming effect. The color purple has a tendency to go in either direction; this would depend on the colors that it is used with, while white is used to intensify the surrounding colors. Color can be one of the most important parts of the landscape, without them your landscape would be green and void of interest or excitement.

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© Great Lakes Landscape Design, 2014

Sound is also another important aspect to your oasis. By creating a space that allows for nature to be prevalent; sounds like birds, insects, small mammals, etc… The saying if you build it they will come is a true statement. Creating an environment that allows for nature to thrive will add not only to the beauty of your oasis, but allows for you to enjoy the sounds of nature. While creating an environment that allows for nature to inhabit the space, specific plants can help draw them in. They create noise as the wind pushes through them, these subtle sounds add to the ambiance creating that peaceful natural retreat. The addition of a water element can also add to the creation of background noise, the amount will all depend on how much water is involved and how far it has to fall. The larger the amount of water and the farther that it has to fall the more noise that you have. This tactic is usually used to blot out the surrounding noise from nearby traffic and neighbors. One last item that can be added to your environment would be the placement of speakers throughout the space; your home has speakers so why not have them throughout. With the option of speakers the homeowner can create the perfect amount of background noise.

The remainder of the human senses; taste, touch and smell, are minor within the landscape, but still can have quite an impressive impact on your oasis. Smell being one of the most abundant can impact your oasis more so than the other two. Some plants can produce an array of odors ranging from sweet to putrid; because of this the designer needs to be aware of what these odors will be. For example, one of the most popular landscape plants in the industry is Pear. These can produce a strong odor of ammonia and the use of this plant should be limited around areas that are being utilized for dinning or gathering. Plants such as lilac and certain verities of viburnum produce a strong sweet smell that can be overpowering to some, so knowing your client is very important; does your client enjoy sweet odors, are they allergic, etc. Touch and taste are specialty features within the landscape and are usually utilized for herb and/or sensory gardens. Most homeowners are not viewing their gardens from that vantage point. There are many plants within the landscape that utilize these senses, taste being used with fruits, vegetables and herbs. While most gardens are visual, some can take on both rolls and can be quite functional as well. Some homeowners take a more natural and utilitarian roll in the landscape, growing items that can be utilized along with the esthetic. The ability of a homeowner to stroll through their oasis, kneel down, and touch and feel can be that basic. Many plants within the landscape have characteristics of softness or fuzzy textures, but as stated above most homeowners hardly take the time to stop and smell the roses, let alone kneel down and pet the lawn. Plants such as lambs ear and wholly thyme have a soft fuzzy texture that is quite unique, while plants like viburnum and dogwood have tiny little hairs on their leaves that can cause itching and skin irritations if exposed for long periods of time. On the other spectrum sharp thorny plants can be used as a deterrent for unwanted trespassers under windows or on property edges; plants such as roses and barberry are frequently used items within the landscape that have a visual esthetic that outweigh the negative aspect of the plant in most homeowners minds, unless small children are a factor.

As you can see there are many things to consider when designing a personal oasis, knowing your homeowners personal likes and dislikes, style, and needs, along with color combinations etc.

© Great Lakes Landscape Design, 2014

© Great Lakes Landscape Design, 2014

Pool Decks

Timing is everything when planning pool decks; spring time schedules fill quickly and it is usually first come, first served in this industry. Planning and development should start late fall to winter at the latest, this allows timing for changes. Michigan has such a short lived pool season and most pool owners will want to make the best of the time in which they have been given, so beginning construction as soon as the weather permits would be in their best interest.

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© Great Lakes Landscape Design, 2011

When designing your pool deck there are many options to choose from, concrete and pavers are two options. Cast concrete pavers can come in many shapes, styles, and sizes giving the home owner multiple looks to consider with just as wide of range of costs. Installation cost is also something that the homeowner needs to consider when dealing with pavers; pavers are more labor intensive to install than concrete.  Concrete is much easier to install and much quicker. Aggregate can be added to your concrete to give it a more modern look but will also add to the cost. Another option is staining your concrete to give you a custom look at a fraction of the cost of a high end paver.

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© Great Lakes Landscape Design, 2011

Good old fashion plain vanilla concrete is one option, and for variety exposed aggregate is a process where an additional stone element has been added. The aggregate can range depending on the look the homeowner chooses. The process for installation is basically the same as installing plain concrete but the final step is to wash off the top layer of concrete to expose the aggregate, hence the name. Once the aggregate has been exposed and the concrete has cured, the cuts and sealing can be performed.