Sunday, April 10, 2011

Plant picture database for the Phoenix, AZ area. These are some of the plants I use in my palette depending on the preference from desert to lush.
xJohn Stuart Leslie

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Waterfalls Without a Pond is a Safe Alternative

Pondless waterfalls are no different than a regular waterfall and pond except they do not have an exposed surface area of water that you would normally see. Instead, the water pools into a storage basin below ground where you cannot see it. The water still gets recirculated to the waterfall as a normal pond waterfall system. You can enjoy the sight and sound of running water without the maintenance of a pond.

The waterfall itself, with its cascading stream and gurgling sound of water over stones and gravel, is the most beautiful and favored part of any garden that features water as the focal point or theme. But some people are concerned about debris floating on the water surface or safety of exposed water. Others may have space limitations.

A pond and waterfall is a natural feature unlike a more formal manmade fountain. Both provide the sound of water, but a waterfall with the sound of water that mimics the real sound in nature, is favored for its realistic, nature-like appearance.

Benefits of Pondless Waterfalls

1) Safety

A pondless waterfall has nothing to fall into and therefore, even small children can be left without worry in a backyard with a pondless waterfall.

2) Cost

Cost can be a important consideration when thinking about the kind of waterfall you may want to have. In most cases, the cost of a pondless waterfall will be lower than a pond, due to there being less labor, less rock, and other materials. Pump size is smaller because of less water to pump, thereby allowing for better efficiency and operating costs.  Because you are not creating an aquatic ecosystem, you do not have to run the pump 24/7.

3) Space Saving Design

The small size of the pondless waterfall means you can create and enjoy a beautiful waterfall anywhere in your garden -- even in a courtyard !. As long as there is nearby water and electricity, you're good to go.

4) Maintenance

Taking care of your pondless waterfall is easier than a waterfall with a pond. Because you don't have a body of water to capture leaves and debris, the pump's filter will be clean less often. Because the underground reservoir is not exposed to the sun, it will not evaporate as much and reduce the amount of water needed to offset evaporative loss.

If this concept of having a waterfall but without the drawbacks of a pond appeal to you, give me a call and let's see where the perfect spot would be for a waterfall in your backyard.

John Stuart Leslie

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Design and Budget Must Be Realistic

Budget is certainly a major factor in the design process. It is simply an exercise in design if there is not enough money available or allocated to construct it and implement the original vision and intent of the design. 
 landscape planning is critical to your budget So if you are working with a designer, don't be put off if you feel they are overly concerned about knowing your "budget".  It makes the design process much easier and saves alot of "pie in the sky" scenarios that will never get built. 

If you are paying a landscape designer for their time and want to explore different scenarios, that's fine, but always have an idea of the cost to build each of the scenarios. Working with a designer who knows how much construction costs are is very important. 

An efficient way to design with cost in mind as you go along, is to hire a design-build contractor. One who has the capability of providing costs per their design. If you pay them separate for the design process, you can explore variations in the design that meet your budget or to find out how much things cost so you can adjust you budget.

Not knowing how much things cost stops many homeowners from establishing a budget. Often they go through the process of getting bids (with "free" designs) so that they can get a feel for how much of a range they are looking at with what they told the contractors to design for them. If the range is way over expectations, then you now have an idea of how much things cost. 

Another way to work with a budget is to phase the construction to give you time to fund the entire project or as funds become available. The downside to this method is not getting the benefit of those items you are going to install later. They may be important for you to have immediately, so then you must defer some other part of the project. 
landscape plans

A good designer who understands construction can put together a phasing plan based on cost, but also on what makes sense in terms of construction logistics. Some components jut have to go in the intial phase such as underground drainage, irrigation and sleeving.

Another factor is access. It doesn't make sense to defer items such as swimming pools, ponds or waterfeatures that require significant excavation and underground plumbing with equipment that will destoy half the yard just getting to the location.

The goal is to minimize the amount of disruption or having to re-do parts of the yard due to construction methods and access. One way of phasing is to install the underground piping such as waterlines, electrical, or gas lines and stub out the end for later connection. Trenching for underground lines is extremely disruptive and should always be done in the first phase. 

If you are to build your own landscape project or garden, do factor in the cost of all the materials and the amount of labor you will put in vs. hiring labor before you finalize your design. Knowing how much things cost will also allow you to possibly phase the installation if you intend to build the project exactly as designed but need to defer a portion of it until you have the money.

From a design stand point, the worst mistake to make is to spend all your "budget" on the pool and have very little left for the surrounding "softscape". If the pool contractor talks you into building the pool, the decking and the bbq but downplays the plantings and related components, the design will not be balanced. 

Work with a designer who looks at the entire yard thoroughly and doesn't defer decisions about what goes around the pool to another contractor or youself to figure out.

That is why it is best to work with a designer who understands all the components of the landcape and is not biased towards any one component such as the pool. A pool is often the major focal point of the yard, and deserves special attention, but don't have blinders on
when designing the rest of the landscape and know what the costs are for everything, not just the pool.