Archive for Pools

Seven Great Water Features

The sounds of splashing water is always soothing – and it’s a sound we don’t hear often enough of in Southern California.  There are ways for you to enjoy the sights and sounds of water around your home without spending an arm and a leg to keep the water going.  Here are seven great water feature ideas that will turn your backyard into a soothing paradise:

1. Install a fountain.  A fountain is probably one of the easiest ways to get a water feature which lets you hear the sounds of splashing water – without a ton of hassle.  But, if a traditional fountain doesn’t match with your style, there are plenty of other options.  You can have an art installation which is also a fountain, install orbs that are small fountains, or even have a recycled water set up coming out of a surrounding wall.

2. Go with a pond.  Ponds can be big or small, they can include fish and other creatures, and you can even set it up so it doubles as a bird bath. Central Park

3. Incorporate a water feature into your existing landscape.  You can create a little river that falls down the middle of your stairs, a small waterfall that rolls down the side of your hillside home, or a pond for your flat lot.

4. Want to just try out the whole water feature business?  Try a pond in a pot or a bubbling water container.  These are small and inexpensive, but they will give you an idea of how a more permanent feature might match your landscaping.  iStock_000001549219XSmall

5. Think about using basins.  These are a more artistic expression of a pond.  A basin can feed into another basin in a small waterfall, it can be fed by an external pipe, or it can just bubble from a recycling system below ground.

6. Add a waterfall to your pool or Jacuzzi.  Jazz up your spa with a waterfall that feeds into it. Beautifully landscaped backyard pool with a waterfall.

7.  Go pondless.  There are some really great designs that allow a waterfall to drip onto rocks or some other feature.  This can create a pretty sound – and make it safer for kids to play around.

Here’s to a yard that makes you feel happy and calm every time you enter it!

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Summer lights

It’s officially summertime!  The time of year when you entertain friends and family, relax outside, or eat outdoors.  It’s lanterns hangingstaying light late at night, but with the warm nights, we tend to want to stay out past dark.  Instead of sitting on a bright porch looking at a pitch-black yard, think about the lighting you’d like to install in your yard.  Here are some ideas:

  • Float tea candles in a water-filled birdbath.
  • Hang Japanese lanterns from trees and trellises around your property.
  • Surround your eating area with pillar candles for a fine dining feel.
  • Go vintage with kerosene lanterns.
  •  String lights through trees and trellises.
  • Install LED lights that accent walks and beautiful flowers or trees.
  • Brighten your walk or your front porch with luminarias.
  • Install a lamppost a la The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
  • Brighten up an area with a firepit. This is a nice gathering space and a way to brighten up your yard.
  • If you have tables with table cloths, try putting a camping lantern under each table.  Try using LED lights.  If you use electric lights, keep the fabric 2 feet from the bulb.

These are just a few of our ideas to brighten up your yard.  It’s an important safety precaution to install some permanent lighting fixtures on pathways, around a pool or along steps.  Be sure to add these year-round fixtures to your lighting to-dos.

Here’s to a bright and fun summer!

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Unconventional Ways to Enjoy your Summer Yard

Sometimes I get into a rut when it comes to enjoying my yard.  The yard just seems like a pile of work, or something to enjoy from afar.  Here are some ideas that can make your yard a place to enjoy:

– Sunbathe in your yard.  I currently have a pool – so that’s not super unconventional, however, when all I had was a large patch of grass, I would sometimes go out with or without a towel and lay on the grass to enjoy the cool ground on my back and the hot sun on my face.  No matter what kind of yard you have, you can enjoy the sun.

– Take a stroll.  You toil in your yard, you plan your yard, but do you really enjoy your yard?  Take a little walk through your yard as if you were a visitor on a home and garden tour.  Admire the beauty of your space – no matter how big or small it is.

*Fun idea: Get misters installed on random trees, lamp posts, wall crevices, etc.  As you walk through you will feel cooler.

– Get your friends or family involved.  If you have kids, the yard is a great place to have them help you out.  They can see how a seed grows into a plant, which can grow into food or a pretty flower.  No kids?  You can still involve your apartment-bound friends.  Let them help you in the veggy or flower garden with the agreement to share the bounty of food or fresh-cut flowers.

– Have a treasure hunt.  No matter how old you are, a treasure hunt with a prize at the end is tons of fun.  Make the starting area a fun spot with food or barbecue and have friends or family spread out through the yard looking for clues or prizes.

– Serve a fancy dinner outdoors.  Light some candles, turn on the accent lighting in your yard (or serve dinner at sunset), and serve dinner to your loved one or friends.  If you don’t have a patio, put a table right on your lawn.

Remember, summer is about enjoying your landscape – not staying cooped up indoors and watching the grass grow!

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Keeping Your Yard Looking Nice

I just did a large project of cleaning up my yard.  I have the pool sparkling, all the weeds are pulled, the cement around the pool is cleaned and swept.  My yard looks awesome.  Yours can too!  Here are some simple actions you can do to your existing yard space which can get it looking great:

– Clean up.  This is a pretty simple one – but can be the hardest thing to do.  After all, the origin of dirt is the great outdoors – which is where your yard is.  But the simple action of pulling out weeds, pruning dead growth off your plants, keeping your grass mowed and bushes trimmed, getting your pool or water feature cleaned, and pressure washing or repainting your hardscape can really make your yard the place you want to be.

– Now that your yard is neat and clean, try brightening it up with simple things like new flowers and bright pots – or more complicated things like a water feature.

– Consider revamping or installing new light features.  Summer nights are perfect for outdoor gatherings, or just sitting and enjoying.  Make sure your favorite parts of your yard are well-lit so you can enjoy them at any time.

Put in a “relaxation station”.  This can be as simple as gathering some yard furniture around a table or putting out some lounging chairs – or can be more complicated like getting a firepit installed, or getting a permanent barbecue structure.

– No matter what kind of yard situation you have – all hardscape, all lawn, half and half, mostly garden space, etc – make sure to put bright clusters of flowers in various parts of your yard.  They add beauty to your outdoor space and – depending on the flower – can attract fun insects like butterflies and bumble bees, or pretty birds for you to enjoy.

Here’s to a bright yard and a brighter summer!

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Enjoying the Early Summer

It’s hot hot hot!  Here are some fun ways to beat the heat:

– Get a hammock or a lounge chair and… lounge.  You can laze about in the sun or enjoy the shade with a good book or cold lemonade.

– Install a cool sun room.  If you already have a patio, get an awning and a fan.  Or, you can partially enclose your patio to keep the bugs out and just enjoy being outdoors.

– Let the sprinklers go and run through them like a kid.  There’s nothing wrong with a little summer fun.

– Install a water feature, like a little creek, fountain or pond.  The sound of running water can keep you nice and cool.

– Paint things with bright colors, whites, or cool greens.  Another option is to plant some nice shady greens or bright flowers.

Get a pool installed.  There’s nothing more fantastic than a nice cool pool in the summer time.  If you can’t quite afford a new pool, try getting an over-the-ground pool set up.

– If you have outdoor hardscaping, think about accenting it with tile, or installing tile flooring.  It’s a nice way to cool down an outdoor space.

– Get inspired by amusement parks and get those misters installed in your yard.

– Install a gazebo under a nice shady set of trees, or with its own shade.

What are your favorite ways to cool down?

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Water Features

With the wonderful weather we are having, it’s a great time to think of hotter times and cooling down with water features.  Here are some great ideas to consider:

– A cozy birdbath to attract our fine feathered friends over summertime.

– A pond of any size.  You can add fish, cattails, a rock display, turtles, and more.

– A burbling stream.  A little stream right through your property will give your home a pleasant ambiance and lets you add neat water plants to your garden.

A modern art display with water as an accent.

A lovely fountain. This is a great option if you have any noise issues.

A swimming pool. Obviously, this one is a much larger undertaking. Another idea to consider is a romantic, personalized jacuzzi for two.

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Softening up your landscape…with hardscape

Landscapes with soft, round edges are more appealing to the eye and more natural looking than squared-up shapes.

Some things you can use to create a natural look are:

– Natural rock and stone to create a rounded landscape

– Cement poured in various molds

– Broken bricks – formed up like the natural rocks

– Rounded patios, pools, etc

– Installing a gazebo and planting inside and outside of it

– Rounded swimming pools with a waterfall

– Streams, ponds and firepits made of natural rock

– Laying rock or stone in rounded patterns

These are all things you can consult with your landscaper about.  Creating a new look in your landscape can create a pleasing area for you and your family and friends to enjoy.

Here’s to a pleasant, natural-feeling yard!

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New Years Resolutions

Each year, all around the US, we make home improvement resolutions.  This coming year, here are some fun landscaping ideas:

– Create a natural habitat for local butterflies and/or birds.  Add bushes, bright and nice-smelling flowers, bird baths, trees, and bird houses.

– Add natural plants to your landscape.  If you aren’t too attached to you lawn, try out some natural landscaping with local plants.  You’ll be surprised what beautiful birds and insects you will attract.

Install landscape lighting.  Some ideas for this are track lighting along your walk ways, LED lights in the trees, lamps, etc.

– Try out a vegetable garden.  A vegetable garden certainly does not have to be traditional.  You can do a traditional English herb garden, or even plant fruit trees and shrubs.

– Install a sprinkler system.  This is a great way to conserve your water useage.

– Add a waterscape.  You don’t have to install a full-fledged pool to enjoy the cool sound of running water in your yard.   You can install a pond, waterfall, foutain, or a non-traditional waterscape.

– Get inspired. Throughout the year, visit local parks and gardens and see what they do in the off-season to keep their spaces looking gorgeous.

Here’s to a very happy holiday – and a wonderful New Year!

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Time to Get Planting

It’s getting chillier and, as the season changes, the prime time to plant or move plants around begins.   This is because, as the weather gets cooler, your plant itself doesn’t do much growing, but the root systems continue to grow and cements your plant in the ground.  Your plant’s roots will continue to grow until the ground freezes, which – in some parts of SoCal – may not even occur.

So, as you consider what plants you want to put into your yard, consider, what is your yard’s purpose?  Here are some ideas:

1. A place for your kids to play, and/or for you to entertain friends and family.  What accomplishes this?  A row of planters lining a kid-friendly path?  A firepit and barbecue?  An enclosed or open patio area?  A vast lawn for slip n’ slides, picnics, and child’s play?

2. Do you want to be able to eat what you grow? What accomplishes this? Do you want rows and rows of raised beds? Are you going to line your driveway with fruit trees? Would you like clusters of vegetables or fruit plants, or do you want them in the traditional rows? Do you like to put plants in big buckets or pots, or do you want them in the ground? Does your soil need amendment to support the kinds of plants you’d like to grow?

3. Are your goals to have a beautiful place to look at an enjoy? What accomplishes this? Are you trying to attract a certain bird or butterfly? Do you like local plants more, or would you prefer foreign ornamentals, or do you want a mix? How much work do you want to put into this garden?

4.  Do you want a beautiful place for swimming or water activities?  What accomplishes this goal?  Do you want a garden around your swimming area, or just a cement area to put out lawn furniture?  Are you looking at also doing a barbecue in the area?

5. Do you want a combination of all these factors?  How can you accomplish this?  Do you want a veggie garden separate to your pool and entertainment area?    Would you like a gorgeous garden surrounding your firepit?  What works best for you?

6. Do you have a strangely shaped yard?  If so, what do you want to do with it and how can you go about accomplishing your goals?

Now is a great time to look over your goals, consult with your landscaper, and get your goals accomplished!

Here’s to a perfect yard!

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Unique Yards

I’ve touched on the topic of unique and creative landscaping before, but I’ve recently been inspired by some really beautiful outdoor living spaces.  So, here are some more neat ideas:

– Install waist-high planters.  This is especially useful if you have pets or children as you can install fun pathways and play areas between your prize roses without worry.

– Add a unique water feature. We’ve discussed bird baths, fountains, pools, waterfalls, streams, etc. You can also add a water feature specific to your home. If you like the ultra modern feel, you an install an art installation with water dripping down, or even steps of cascading water leading to a pool or pond. If you are into olde tyme features, you can install an Italian water fountain, complete with statue.

– Put up a gazebo.  There are many kinds of gazebos – some with trellises of hanging grapes, bougainvillea, morning glory, or other vine-plants.   There are others in the classic round style inside which you can put comfortable benches.

– Get a treehouse.  Yes, I said it.  You know you’ve always wanted one. 🙂  Seriously, though, you can actually get some pretty neat and safe tree houses installed.  Did you want an office or external studio set up?  Check out this option.

– Install unique walkways.  You can get raised wooden walkways, or inset brick or flagstone walkways.  If you have the space, add a little hideaway just off one of your walkways.  I have a friend who installed a little jacuzzi in a copse of trees just off his walkway for a hidden, romantic get away.

– Create hidden spaces by adding texture to your landscaping.  If you have raised planters, you can hide a bench behind one.  If you add large trees, you can string a hammock or install a treehouse.  If you are living on a hillside, you can add rope walkways, hidden decks or fire pits, etc.  There’s no end to ways you can create a hidden getaway to add to the pleasure and enjoyment of your backyard.

– Plant a garden close to the house and install a barbecue, patio or other gathering place a bit farther away, so you and your guests can enjoy your beautiful plants on the way to your soiree.

– String lights or install unique lights at strategic points in your yard.

Let me know if you have other ideas or case studies of unique landscaping!  I’d love to hear about them.

Here’s to an outdoor living space which is uniquely “you”!

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