Sunday, May 8, 2011

Small Back Yard made functional and spacious!

This back yard is a well loved space which had reached a critical point of deterioration with its old deck and old concrete patio. The homeowner wanted us to rebuild the deck, using gravel path trex for the treads and facias, but keeping it in harmony with the older Bolton Hill neighborhood by installing painted wood railings and trellis. We retained the ivy covered fences, but removed the concrete patio and installed recycled brick pavers in a basket weave pattern, creating new planting spaces that will be perfect for an array of shade loving plants.

This photo shows a "Before" view of the patio and deck. We suggested extending the deck by about 2 feet to create a slightly larger deck that would more easily house a small table and chairs. There was very little planting space in the existing garden, so we designed 18" wide beds on 3 sides of the patio, and as an afterthought put in a small planting bed on one corner of the deck so a climbing plant could be trained to climb up the deck.

This "After" view shows the new deck and patio. The trellis doors open to allow items such as trash receptacles or other tools and items to be stored under the deck, as well as to allow access to the basement.

The existing deck had pressure treated pine treads which over time deteriorate and become slippery when wet, especially in this heavily shaded area. The substructure had been built using 2"x6" joists and 4"x4" posts that lacked footer. We built a replacement substructure using 2"x8" joists and 6"x6" posts that have the requisite 30" deep footers. The result is a much stronger structure that together with the trex treads will last many years.

The new deck perfectly accommodates this tasteful small table and chairs, the result is a clean and bright effect, inviting one to enjoy the urban woodland surroundings.

The patio was cracked and very old. Old concrete blocks lined the edges, providing the only planting space in the yard. We retained the basic design of the blocks by replacing the with slightly larger planting beds and angling corners to open the patio space more. Below: In a small space, a simple brick pattern creates a greater sense of spaciousness than a more intricate pattern, which are better used to add interest and definition to larger spaces. The simple basket weave pattern and border perfectly define the space. The recycled or recovered old brick are very heavy, solid, well made bricks that contain a wonderful blend of colors and textures that make this patio harmonize with the local historic neighborhood.

One benefit of a smaller yard is that landscaping and hardscaping (utilizing stone to landscape) are able to create a huge effect with a much smaller financial outlay than would be required in a larger space. With careful design that considers homeowner's priorities and budget, a little used "yard" can become a welcoming second "living room"!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A Garden for Bees, Butterflies, Birds and Family!

In this charming Bolton Hill neighborhood, tall old homes are backed by old gardens, many of which contain layers of garden history. Almost every garden has buried brick and stone, sometimes marble and sometimes old foundations . Digging down into the soil of these gardens we uncover old pathways from times when someone obviously adored their garden.

Just as the older homes are being upgraded and renovated in keeping with the historic style of the area, these gardens also are slowly being renewed, and at times septic issues have disrupted their original appearance as these were addressed.

This garden was designed to attract bees and butterflies and to create a welcoming outdoor space in which the family could enjoy the seasons. The homeowners also wanted more vertical interest, in terms of raised beds.

We suggested a terrace bed on one side, raised bed on the other, and two handmade locust trellises up which fragrant perennials could climb. We also suggested including native plants as well as the more classic butterfly, bee and bird perennials.

In this photo blog, we take you on a journey through this garden!
The two locust trellises create long lasting ladders for a native jessamine and a golden flame honeysuckle to grow up. Locust is an extremely hard wood that is very decay resistant, typically used to make fence posts. These locust branches were sustainably harvested locally! Two terraces are created to bring vertical interest without making the patio feel too closed in as it would if there was only a single, taller garden wall along this edge.
BEFORE: The garden view looking out from the porch. These old bricks were reused in the new patio.
AFTER: View from the porch. The "hardscaping" (patio and walls) create the "skeletal structure" of the garden. The new patio successfully drains all the water safely to the back alley.
BEFORE: View from the back gate towards the house. The garden lacked definition.

AFTER: View from the gate. Walls are PA fieldstone and additional stones are creatively placed in the garden beds to appear as if they naturally cropped up in those areas. This garden allowed for the use of both shade and sun perennials as it transitions from deep shade by the gate to almost full sun by the porch. Shady areas, in particular are wonderful areas for native plants, including, trillium, wild ginger, may apple, native sedum, and more. There are also many beautiful sun loving natives, including many whose names are familiar to nursery goers, such as liatris, lobelia, butterfly weeds, joe pye weed, creeping phlox, and many more, they are just the native varieties not the cultivars.

Close up of one of the locust trellises. This one has a golden flame honeysuckle that will attract the bees and hummingbirds in addition to its fragrance.

BEFORE: By the back gate a small space needed to contain trash and other debris.
AFTER: By opening up the space by the back gate a little and defining it with the stone walls, we created a space that can accommodate a couple trash cans as needed.

We included a trellis, with door, under deck in order to provide a storage space that is not visible from the garden, as all the stored items would be at eye level for someone sitting on the patio.

For these homeowners, renewing the garden made all the difference in having a "yard" vs. a "garden", a place for the children to play and the family to enjoy the "extended home". Carefully and creatively designed and installed outdoor spaces can expand "home" and provide a functional, refreshing, and beautiful "garden room"!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Repointing to Maintain Stone and Brick

One of the beauties of stonework and brickwork, is that it tells us a story, not only about the stone but also about the masons and the styles of the time. Some of the stone we see on older homes came from quarries that are not longer in operation, or from layers of existing quarries, that no longer produce the type of stone they once did. When Seven Winds does a repointing job we are in a prime position to look at the story of both the stones and the styles of the time. This makes every repoint job unique!
Repointing old stone and brickwork is essential to keep it in good condition. Once cracks develop, which allow entry of water, the structure very quickly deteriorates, often require complete replacement, which can often be expensive. To avoid costly replacements, call someone to repoint your stonework before it gets beyond the point of no return.

Repointing is one of those seemingly simple tasks and involves removing the mortar joints between stones or bricks and replacing those joints with fresh mortar. The choice of mortar type is very important as the mortar should not be stronger than the brick, or stone, and very often older structures have softer brick requiring a softer mortar.

The porch in the photos above and below was a combination of a repoint (vertical work and piers) and a replacement (patio). The patio was concrete that had been damaged due to salt. We removed the concrete, adjusted the sides, poured a new concrete pad and installed quartzite flagstone on the surface, to completely rehabilitate the structure.

Below, is another case, where the mortar did need some spot repointing, but in this case the homeowner wanted to improve the appearance of the home's foundation, and asked us to repoint the whole foundation, including some areas under the porch which were in greater need of repointing. At the time that this home was made the style of pointing the stones was very different from what we typically do today. In many cases mortar is almost more visible than the stone itself.
When we repoint, we remove this mortar, and reapply new mortar in a way that accentuates the beauty and character of the stone. The photo above shows the same wall as the photo below, and you can see the difference the repoint makes.
The areas below the porches were even more extreme examples of the mortar appear larger than the stones. (see photo below)
After the repoint, the style of stonework becomes apparent, and although it is clear that the original stonework style is sloppier under the porch, it still looks much better once the repoint is completed.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Shady City Garden

In this city garden we needed to work with deep shade, existing bricks and a need to bring a sense of space to this very vegetative location! Since there were some very beautiful old bricks forming a small path and small patio, we acquired some additional old Baltimore bricks and mixed them with the existing bricks in a herringbone pattern. The small slope in the yard from side to side was addressed with the installation of a small PA fieldstone dry-stacked retaining wall. The natural weathering and moss on the fieldstones instantly harmonizes with the old bricks, creating a patio and garden which looks as though it has been here for years!

This photo is the yard before the work took place!

When addressing stone and brick choices for older homes we always take into account the age of the home itself as well as the individual preferences of the homeowners. Older homes look wonderful when landscaped with natural stone, recovered old brick and recovered flagstones.

This garden is now ready for an array of shade loving perennials.
These are ideal gardens for Maryland Native Woodland plants!

This photo is the same space as the above photo, before the work took place.