Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Five Basic Water Features

One cool thing about running a landscaping company near Spokane is the different kinds of terrain we get to work with. As you can see from our water features portfolio, we've landscaped sloped, rocky terrain, rolling Washington Palouse and everything in between. It's pretty much impossible to think of a location that couldn't be improved by a suitable water feature.

This is because water features have so much potential variation. The features below are basic elements a good landscaping company (i.e. us!) can combine and customize to fit the surrounding terrain.

Cascades: We like them so much, we named our whole company after them! Seriously, though, the main difference between a cascade and waterfall is that a cascade's job is to direct water more horizontally than vertically, without taking the smooth course of a stream. Water staircases are an example of a more artificial looking cascade. We find that a lot of jobs call for a more naturalistic "rapids" style.

Fountains: Fountains add dramatic punch to your landscape by providing a "tower" of flowing water and in most cases, a basin that reflects the light back to the feature. Fountains usually immediately turn into the dominant feature in your garden. We've found they provide a great counterbalance to major nearby natural features like steep slopes and large stands of trees. If you're using a mix of water features, the fountain can usually serve as the source of pump output.

Pools: Well, you've got to let all that water go somewhere. Pools can come in so many different shapes and sizes that they're probably the most flexible water feature. They can be the endpoint for a stream, the basin for a waterfall or just stand by themselves. They'll brighten a shady area or with the addition of some plants, add an accent to a clearing.

Streams: Streams add a dividing line or a border to your landscape, allowing you to give it the shape you want. A big enough stream also adds a great excuse for an ornamental bridge. They're an excellent way to make an open area look a little more intimate.

Waterfalls: Waterfalls are a favorite feature, and for good reason. They add some soothing noise to an area, cool down the air around them and easily complement terraces or other inclines. We've created some great natural-looking waterfalls, but you can make them as subtle or dramatic as you like. These days, waterfalls are easier to maintain than they used to be, because you can precisely control the water feed and pumping speed. You can even turn them off and let them sit as a dry feature when the mood strikes you.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

What the Heck are Hardscapes?

Yes, that is the question. I mean, we're a hardscaping company, so I guess we should tell you what they are. You never know -- you just in might need one on your property!

Hardscapes are permanent landscape features made of stone, brick or concrete (and other stuff -- hard stuff -- thus, "hardscape") that cover the natural earth. A hardscape could be a path of paving stones, a sidewalk or a ground level brick patio. Anybody can throw a bunch of rocks on the ground and call it a path, but turning it into a proper hardscape is a bit more complex.

Drainage is probably the most important consideration. Hardscapes block the natural earth, so you need to make sure that runoff flows the right way. Do it wrong, and your pretty patio will turn the yard next to it into a small, muddy pond. (We know water features are popular, but that's just cheating. Call us to get it done the right way!) Placement and materials are the two main considerations.

In terms of placement, we make sure that hardscape surfaces are pitched to carry runoff away from your home and other spots where you don't want to see a lot of water build up. On the other hand, you can't direct the water on an extreme slope without risking over-fast building and nearby soil erosion. The key is to consider the entire landscape and work with it (or change it!), adding additional features (like retaining walls) when they're called for.

Materials matter according to their ability to absorb water. Absorbent porous or "pervious" materials either let water soak through into the ground or hold onto it to prevent rapid surface runoff. If your hardscape exists to divert water away from a spot, you obviously want to avoid these, but if you want to control rapid runoff, pervious materials are the way to go.

Those are the basics any good hardscaping company will take into account. Want a nice, tough path or patio? Give us a shout!