Friday, November 12, 2010

Revisited: A Swimming Pool Landscape, Revisited

Here is another swimming pool landscape, revisited.  (This is a different swimming pool landscape that was revisited earlier in the summer.)  This design strives to maintain the general feel and layout of the old pool, and be complimentary to the style and era of the 1960s home.

This design scales back the square footage of the existing deck quite dramatically in removing the lower deck terrace in lieu of a boulder terrace with a flagstone patio surrounded by garden. It replaces the short, dry-stacked stone walls with new limestone walls that are accented by large seating boulders and a nice, clean coping stone.  The fence was pushed out to include a large oak tree as the centerpiece of the back yard, and adds a modest planting arrangement around the perimeter of the yard and around the pool to give it a formal, yet somewhat naturalistic look.  In this particular pool landscape, as in others that I have worked on in the past, I like to employ a selection of "tropical-esque" plants to evoke a tropical paradise in being around the pool.  

Note:  There once was a website devoted to the use of "tropical-looking" plants in northern landscapes in order to provide the aesthetic of a tropical paradise in a website that was called "tropical-esque".  However, I cannot seem to find that website any longer.  But there is a forum on devoted to this type of discussion. (

Here are the before views of the old and tired landscape, with the new design and new concept image that illustrates the new design.  The homeowner was not looking for a radical change to the pool or to the shape and size of the pool deck. Therefore, I made only modest changes to the overall layout and paid particular attention to the plant and materials selection in the use of natural stone.  The natural stone would be a light colored limestone/sandstone combination, with a random flagstone pattern pool deck.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

(WIPs) Works in Progress...

Hello, and Happy Fall... while it still lasts.

There are limited days left in the 2010 "Landscape Season" (as we like to call it in the 'biz), as the weather is supposed to hold in the high 40s and low 50s for the remainder of the week, and then, unfortunately, take a turn toward Winter.  It appears as though the 2010 "Landscape Season" is going to wind down to a halt.  Meanwhile, there are some things that are certainly WIPs (Works In Progress) in the process of getting done, or partially getting done, that will have to be closed down and then resume in the Spring of 2011.  Knowing how Minnesota winters go, Spring of 2011 seems like an awful long time away, and long, long time to wait. 

While I have often been welcoming of the end of the Landscape Season in the past -- getting ready for more family time, the holidays, the Winter, the climax of the football season, and some fun trade shows -- I wish that somehow we could get just another few weeks of work in for the year with what is currently going on.  I just don't like to set things down without them being finished.  Maybe that is why I am masochistic about staying up late at night, even if until 4:00 AM sometimes, in order to finish what I've started.  Sometimes getting that work done allows me to relax and be free of worry.  But inevitably, the Winter weather is just around the corner.

Works In Progress are always tricky when it comes to Winter time.  The seasonal aspect of the landscape industry in Minnesota makes things difficult to maintain any semblance of a steady stream of work and therefore a stream of income.  Just as the Holidays arrive and family vacations are to happen with the extra time on our hands, the money does not come in, and that is a tough fact of life.  However, I have been fortunate to get some amount of design work to do for the early part of Winter, which is sure to help.  But I am dreading the decline in work and the decline in pay for a few months.  I am bracing for it.

I am also eager to get started on some of the marketing planned for the 2011 season, where Jack and I hope build our business connections quite a bit further for 2011.  We have been very pleased to work with a nice network of related contractors, working in symbiotic relationships with highly reputable companies in order to elevate our selves through a tight economy and elevate each other's business.  It has been great working with these companies and we look forward to continuing to do good work in 2011.   It has been a good feeling where it seems like I have had a very high (dare I say 100%?) level of satisfaction.  I hope to continue this into 2011, practicing our business of trying to deliver exceptional design and find a good value in delivering exceptional execution of the landscape installations.  I want to make sure that we are well equipped to keep things rolling forward and continue to solidify our good reputation.

Works in Progress.. they are a scary thing sometimes.  Where to stop it, where to leave it, and where to begin when you pick it back up?  While I have a good handle on it, it looks pretty rough and tumble and not very representative of what it is going to look like when completed.  Case in point...

 We are not too far along with this pool project, and we've got a ways to go.  But the goal is to get the old pool deck removed along with the failing retaining walls, then install the new retaining walls, the new plumbing lines, electrical, gas, and the new location of the equipment.  Then, we'll put in the new equipment pad and place the equipment, install all drain tile, grade out around the pool and backfill the walls, silt fence the property, and call it good for the year.  That is about all we can do and the rest will need to wait until Spring.

Since I have often brought sports up into the mix, another Work In Progress is my Iowa State Cyclones, in both football and basketball.  They are in season #2 under a new coach, Paul Rhoads, and the future is looking up.  It is great to see my Cyclones elevating their game and getting the most of their players under Coach Rhoads, who has a knack for getting his players to give everything they've got on the field, though they were predicted to finish at the bottom of the Big 12 Conference this year with arguably the most difficult schedule in all of NCAA D1 Football.  They are up to 5 wins now, and could likely win their 6th next weekend against Colorado.  It is great to feel some pride in my Cyclones, after years of frustration overshadowing my passion for Iowa State Athletics. 

Jack (being a Nebraska alumni and rabid Cornhusker football fan) and I (an Iowa Stater) went down to Ames last weekend to see the last meeting of Iowa State since their conference rivalry began in 1908.  Nebraska has been able to elevate their program over the last century, with the 8th highest winning percentage of all time and 5 National Championships.  Now, they are off to greener pastures in the Big 10 Conference and won't likely be playing Iowa State anytime soon, if ever again.  So, we headed down thinking that maybe we'd see a respectable game, although neither of us would have imagined it would be a virtual draw, with a 31-30 OT win for the Huskers, ending on a botched 2-point conversion by the Cyclones.  It was a game that no-one who witnessed will soon forget.  In spite of our deep rooted allegiance to the opposing teams on the field, and my utter shock and extra enthusiasm because I was anticipating the game to likely be closer to the 19 point spread in favor of the Huskers, we managed to remain as friends and business partners when it was all over.  Iowa State put on a gutsy performance.

I hope that my WIP Iowa State Cyclones will keep improving and make a run for the Big 12 Championship in the next few years.  That is, if the Big 12 still exists.

Here is another WIP design that I am working on, which is a remodeling project and a landscape renovation.  The remodeling project is still being finalized, as the initial design by the architect did not provide enough space for the driveway approach to the garage and needed to be reconfigured.  I took a stab at the floor plan, creating a new plan that is dramatically different to the former layout, having a master bedroom being built off of the back of the garage with optimal views to the pool and back yard landscape.  The client wanted a dramatic back yard full of features in addition to the pool, including a pool house with fireplace, outdoor kitchen, water slide, waterfall and pond, and a place to set up a hockey rink.  This was all to be placed into an adapted Cape Cod style, with naturalistic features.

If you are reading this, and are looking to get started on your plans for the 2011 Landscape Season, please let me know.  I would be happy to help, and would be willing to make you a deal.

- DS