Archive for Pools

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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Time to Get Outside

The first day of summer is June 21st!  It may be hard to believe on these chilly, cloudy days, but the heat is coming.  I’m not sure what you do to prepare for hot, sunny days.  But, here’s a checklist for last-minute summertime preparations that I go through:

1. Clean the pool.  I don’t have a heated pool and there is no way I’m getting in when it’s cloudy outside, so I generally cover it until this time of year.  But, no matter how well I cover my pool, it still needs cleaning.  It’s time to either find a pool person, or get updated on your DIY tasks.

2. Prep the deck chairs, pull out the awning and generally make the deck spiffy.  There’s nothing better than sitting under the shady deck with a cold drink and good book in hand.  Except perhaps spending the night stargazing by the pool with all the lights off.

3. Speaking of stargazing – make sure your lights are all in good repair and your neighbors didn’t install a light that points right at your face in the middle of the night.  Warm summer nights make us want to stay outside.  To do this, we need light, but not too much light.  Make sure your neighbors didn’t install a new light that points straight into your backyard.  My cousins had this happened and they almost went blind each time they went outside to enjoy the night air.

A simple solution to this problem is to install some kind of shielding, like a tree, a wall or a large bush.  It’s a good idea to talk with a landscaper to find out which option best fits your yard and lifestyle.

4. Dig out any weeds growing between cracks.  Those weeds really sneak up on you.  It’s time to look at your yard with a critical eye.  Do you have weeds growing out of your foundation?  Between the bricks or cement in your pathways?  In any bare soil occupying your yard?  Yank them up if you can, or try grabbing a spade or trowel and digging them up.

5. Break out the barbecue!  I love barbecues.  I just had one and I mean to have many, many more this summer. Now is the time to clean up your barbecue and prepare it for a summertime of charcoally deliciousness.

If you’re really into barbecuing, realize there is a possibility of making this a year-round activity in Southern Calfornia.  It may get chilly, but it doesn’t usually get so cold that you can’t cook some food out doors. 

To enable your barbecuing needs, you can always get a barbecue installed permanently.  Another option for outdoor cooking is outdoor fireplace or a firepit

6. Clean up your garden.  This includes pulling any dead plants, any last weeds and installing any last-minute plants. 

Here’s to a summer filled with fun!

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Pesky Pests

Spring and Summer time means that bugs are out in full force.   While you want to attract beneficial insects like ladybugs and bees, you don’t want those bad insects.  So, what are some easy, natural ways to prevent bad insects?

1. Install hardscape. This is a pretty obvious solution as bugs don’t eat cement or brick, no matter how pretty. 🙂

2. Keep your plants healthy.  The point of insects in nature is to aid damaged or dying plants in their demise.  So, if you keep your plants healthy and happy, you will have fewer bad insects.

3. Cut out anything that is dead. If you have dead limbs or leaves on your plants, just cut those off.  You can generally do this at any time of the year, as long as you aren’t actually pruning into living wood or leaves.  Also, keep an eye out for anything that looks like damage from disease or bugs and get help in nipping this in the bud.

4. Keep your soil mulched.  Bugs like stressed plants.  If your soil dries out too much, your plants will become stressed and attract bad insects.

5. Bring helpful insects to your garden.  You can buy ladybugs, release them early in the morning when it’s still cool and dewy out, then let them eat away at bad insects.

6. Keep any water features clean.  Don’t let standing water into your yard.  If you have a pool, keep the pump operational and ensure the proper upkeep is occurring.  A mosquito cesspool is never fun.

7. Don’t use pesticides that kill good insects.  A lot of pesticides will kill both bad and good insect populations.  This generally lets stronger pests move in and weakens your beneficial insect population.

8. Attract birds to your garden. Our fine feathered friends are happy to eat up your bugs. If you don’t have a lot of edible plants, they are an excellent option for your pest woes. 

9. If you have a bad infestation, it might be a good idea to consult a professional landscaper and find out what you can do with the soil and plants to handle your insect issue.

Here’s hoping your summer is pest-free!

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Water, Water Everywhere

There is no sound more annoying in your yard than that of traffic noise.  A great way to get around this is have a water feature.

Here are a couple of ideas:

1. Install a pondless waterfall.  What is this?  A waterfall with no pond?  Preposterous!

Let me explain. Pondless waterfalls do actually have  a pond, it’s just underground.  The cool thing about that is, because sunlight doesn’t hit the standing water, algae and other plant life generally don’t invade your watery space.

The main kind of pondless waterfall I’ve seen is the stationary water feature, which generally looks more modern.  This is where you have an art piece of sorts that has water running down it.  It’s a clean, low maintenance water feature idea for your yard.

2. Listen to the babble of a brook.  Nothing makes me feel like I’m in a nice, natural environment than the sound of water running over stone.  This water features takes a bit of room, but the trade-off is a nice sound, plus a great place for attracting animals like birds to bathe in slower-moving portions of your little stream.

3. Do you already have a pool?  Install a waterfall which gushes its way into the pool.

As a kid, I loved these water features.  They are fun to climb, jump off of or swim under.  As an adult, I still like these water features – but I tend to enjoy them while floating on a blow-up pool recliner, drinking something icy.

4. Fountains put the “f” in “feature”.  Just kidding.  But seriously, fountains sound really nice, you can turn them off an on easily and, if you set them up with extra shallow spots, birds like them.  So, not only do you get the calming sound of running water, but you get some tweeting friends as well.

5. Set up a bubbling pond.  It’s really easy to install a feature in a pond which just shoots your replacement water a bit in the air, giving you that babbling sound.  This a neat feature because you can include water plants, fish, etc to the equation.

Here’s to a yard filled with relaxing sounds.

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Hardscapes – Preparing for next year

The weather outside may be frightful, but in spring and summer next year, you’ll want your hardscaping to look delightful.  So, now is the time to consider barbeques and outdoor activities which you’d like to take place when the weather warms up again.  Take a look at your yard, does that chain link fence need to go?  Is your cement or brick masonry crumbling or non-existent?  Do you dream of outdoor barbeques and entertainment?  Have you always wanted a waterfall?  Does it just look drab out there and you need a change?  Well, now is a great time to nab a professional landscaper and get your yard ready for spring and summer fun. It’s also a great present to give yourself, this holiday season.

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