Ready for the Great Outdoors?

Landscaping Given the cost of land today, it seems that increasingly homeowners are looking beyond the four walls of their homes and maximizing the usability and beauty of their entire property. With careful planning and execution, a program of landscaping and hardscaping can turn an ordinary backyard into a resort-like haven for personal getaways and entertaining. Andy Balderson of Donovan, Feola, Balderson & Associates, a landscape architecture and site planning firm, shares some of the trends he is seeing in their residential work.

Use of Large-Specimen Trees:

Many homeowners are opting to use specimen trees of a large caliper, ranging in height from 20-to-45 feet and weighing up to 40,000 pounds. Large-specimen trees are particularly appealing as they provide immediate shade, are of architectural scale and are ideal for creating spatial delineation. They do, however, require advanced planning and a thorough understanding of the site’s conditions to ensure their success. For example, some species can only be planted in certain seasons and, depending on the soil conditions, the tree may require a sub-surface drainage system. Balderson’s advice is to begin working with a professional at least six months in advance and tag the tree at the nursery so it can be held for planting in the appropriate season.

Greater Variety in Hardscaping Materials:

Whereas flagstone, pavers and other domestic products were once the norm, today’s homeowners are using a wide variety of beautiful materials from around the world to add character and charm to their outdoor spaces. Surprisingly, some granites and natural stones can be imported from countries, such as India and China, and used as cost effectively as locally acquired materials. Balderson warns that it is important to understand how a material will be affected by Greater Washington’s fluctuating freeze-thaw conditions before making a final selection.

Effective Landscape Lighting:

When properly executed, landscape lighting can serve multiple purposes and enhance one’s enjoyment of the property from both outdoors and in. It is important, however, for the plan to be well thought out and flexible to achieve the proper balance of security, ambiance and safety lighting as conditions change with the seasons. Balderson advises clients that it is easy to overdo landscape lighting, and that in his experience, understated lighting is often best.

More Elaborate Outdoor Rooms:

Homeowners are creating more-and-more elaborate outdoor rooms to extend their living space. Outdoor gathering pavilions, cozy sitting areas with chimneys or fire pits, and fully functional kitchens with high-end appliances and even pizza ovens continue to be quite popular. These spaces often incorporate built-in entertainment centers, heat lamps, and cascading water features to add to their charm, beauty and comfort.

Integrated Pools:

When a pool is in the plans, many homeowners are opting for those with a more natural, freeform shape. Pools with a loose and curvy edge can wind around the landscape to become an integrated feature of the property. Equally popular are pools with vanishing edges, which are visually stunning and create an experience that captures the drama of the site. As an enhancement, water features, such as waterfalls and fountains, are a growing trend. Natural waterfalls incorporate rocks, boulders and other real or fabricated elements to achieve an exotic look, while contemporary waterfalls often feature a smooth plane of water streaming down a decorative wall for a touch of elegance. Now that spring is in the air, most of us are looking forward to getting back outside and enjoying the fresh air. With careful planning, you may not have to go any further than your own backyard for a luxurious getaway.