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Outdoor Fireplace

Outside fireplace patio

Just as the kitchen is the center of socializing in your home, the same can be said for an outdoor fireplace. A cozy sitting area next to the mesmerizing dancing flames is sure to draw a crowd. There are many benefits to installing an outdoor fireplace.  It’s a popular trend for outdoor patios and we can understand why! They liven up and change nearly any landscape design and create a focal point for the backyard. There are many benefits as well as decision that need to be made when installing an outdoor fireplace.Outside fireplace with patio

First, consider what type of fuel you’ll want to use: wood-burning, gas, or propane fueled. Each one has benefits of their own, but your home may already have access to a certain type of fuel, so this question may be easily answered. Your current homes interior style may want to be extended outdoor to keep a flowing feel to the home.

outdoor oven

An available party space outside your home is an entertainers delight! A fireplace can provide an addition cooking area it can be a simple grate over the flame or this could include a deluxe pizza oven! (We vote PIZZA!)



Outdoor patio with fireput

An obvious benefit to an outdoor fireplace is pure warmth. This can be used year-round and can extend outdoor time spent by keeping your guests warm. Along with warmth comes ambiance – perhaps you’re not one for cooking or throwing parties. We know that the pure ambiance of a fireplace- either modest or deluxe, will draw your loved ones to a cozy chair next to the fireplace.


We gladly can consult you more on outdoor fireplaces and build one for you home, with your desired rationalization!

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Hillside Landscape

Hillside landscape is the most challenging of all residential design problems. Whether it is a natural undisturbed slope or one composed of cut-and-fill, there are five essentials that every homeowner should be aware of. Not all designers will be skilled in this special situation, so you must know your options before decisions are made; that can not only be extraordinarily expensive to implement, they can have far reaching impact on the stability of your entire homesite.

First you want to preserve the view, but carefully. You may be tempted to take down the biggest and view blocking trees but tree roots are a great way to keep a hillside solid. So, it’s not a good idea to log your entire property. Hiring an arborist can help decide which trees could be cut down and which ones could be thinned out for a view.Hillside landscape design

Secondly, slope your space as gradually as possible. Any time you cut into the slope you compromise the integrity of the slope. So, go slow. To preserve the slope, take up the grade with a series of shorter terraces rather than one or two very large ones graded with cut and fill. The larger terraces may require extreme erosion control measures on the cut slope and a substantial retaining wall must be specially engineered to hold the fill. Such walls are constructed with enormous footings, sometimes extending down to bedrock.

Next, use woody plants to bind deep underground. When creating multiple retaining walls or building pads the natural layers of the soil will inevitability be compromised. By planting woody plants and select trees they will reach far down to secure the slope. Some great plants to plant on slopes are rosemary, creeping juniper, purple coneflower, astilbe, and Lily-of-the-valley.

Another way to protect your sloped property is to protect the soil surface. By covering the exposed soil is great way to extend the longevity of a sloped landscape. As touched on above, any type of ground over is a useful plant on a slope.  Research your area to see what would do well in your sun and shade areas. By protecting the soil, you don’t want to completely soak the soil as it will erode quickly. Install a drip line system to ensure that plants get the water they need and your property remains stable.

Lastly, this brings us to maintenance and accessibility. Now that you’ve planted woody material on a slope in an area that is dry you are at a higher risk for fires. So, keep this area maintained. Provide an open through-way to drag out cut material off the slope. In addition, have an accessible area for firefighters to put out a blaze if this should occur.

Read the complete article here


A hillside landscape shouldn’t scare you away from your dream home, just know it comes with special circumstances you’ll have to be willing to take on. Call us today and schedule a time for our experts to come and walk your property and work with you to create a gorgeous hillside landscape design!

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What you should know about retaining walls

retaining walls as part of landscape

Retaining walls are a great investment for homeowners to either expand yard space or secure a slope. They can be constructed in many ways. You can have small walls that just add aesthetic levels of landscape or extreme walls that hold up entire hillside.

Retaining walls can be installed for a wide variety of reasons; but contractors divide them into two categories by size. Retaining walls under 4 feet are designed and built by contractors and landscape architects. Walls over 4 feet require much larger footings due to the increased lateral earth pressure. It must be designed by an engineer who will specify the size and extent of footings and steel requirements according to strict loading calculations.

Always remember that however beautiful these walls may ultimately be, they are a powerful structure that must function as designed. This can only happen when they are composed of the proper materials and constructed by quality contractors. Get these things right and you’ll be able to count on your financial investment maintaining both beauty and integrity for many decades to come. This is a construction item you should leave to professionals.

The best way to double the value of a retaining wall is to make it a seat wall. Seat walls are simply a short wall that’s designed for comfortable seating. Install them near a feature item, like a pool, fire pit, or fountain. It will create an instant welcoming area and a bonus that you won’t have to store and drag out more seating when you have a gathering.

The pricing of retaining walls can widely vary by materials used. Some averages are listed below. Of course anything custom made will increase prices:

  • Interlocking concrete blocks are about  $15-30 per square foot
  • Wood $20-25 per square foot
  • Stone $25-40 per square foot
  • Poured concrete $30-40 per square foot

Moisture is the primary issues with retaining walls and necessary measures need to be taken to make sure that the soil and backfill provide the correct supporting factors. All retaining walls must be constructed the correct way to prevent failure. Permits may be required by the city you are in, so be sure to check in with your city requirements.

There are so many factors in different stones and options it may seem overwhelming…but that’s what we are here for! Whatever size wall you install, know that it is always a sound investment. Hardscapes for residential homes have a huge return on investment. Call us today and see how we can help design and install your new retaining walls!

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Xeriscaping: Drought Tolerant Landscape

House and xeri-garden

A xeriscape (from the Greek xeros, meaning dry) is a water-saving garden designed for a dry region. Xeriscaping is especially useful in the western half of North America, where little rain falls in summer and gardeners depend heavily on irrigation. Most gardeners rely on rainfall to water their garden. In some areas this may not be realistic therefore the drought tolerant landscape is a desirable way to approach your yard – BUT this doesn’t mean your yard needs to be brown, beige, and taupe colors. We’ll explain below.

  • Pay attention to your micro-climate. Note where the dips are and may hold the most moisture as well as the driest areas. This will create a map of your yard and will give you an outline of where to put certain plants.
  • Improve soil. By bringing in organic matter and fresh nutrient rich soil will help your new landscape flourish.
  • Limit lawn area. Most grasses require plenty of water to remain green and lush. By incorporating lawn and pavers or patio area together creates an open play area that your family may desire.
  • Use Mulch. Use mulch in unplanted soil areas with 2 -3 inches of organic mulch or gravel. To go a step further add a weed- resistant fabric under to keep the ongoing maintenance at bay. Do keep in mind that you don’t want to cover your entire yard in mulch – try to keep it to smaller areas in-between plantings
  • Water efficiently. Water the plants that have a higher water need more than the lower water tolerant plants. Lawns still may require sprinklers, but other plants can be done with drip irrigation.
  • Plant according to your specific area. For example, Maples aren’t recommended for California. A good place to start is your native plants, because will already be accustomed to the climate. Succulents are a trend that is sure to fit within this landscape. Young plants may have a tough time thriving in the heat. Be sure to purchase more mature plants to reduce the chance of them failing the first year.
  • Maintain closely. Fertilize, prune and check irrigation system frequently. Be sure to adjust the timing of the irrigation throughout the year.

Remember that your local nurseries are there to help! Bring them a rough sketch of your yard and see what they suggest for your new Xeriscape!

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Assessing and Planning your Landscape


When making changes to the landscape and surroundings of your home, there are many things to take into consideration when investing time and money into your land. Having a 1, 3, and 5-year plan is great! Of course, not every household can do 6 big projects within 1 year, but by planning it out over a few years you can find the most effective way to reaching your goals.  It is a good idea to have an expert help you to make these decisions.

  • Distinguish between dying trees/bushes and those that just need some TLC. Dead and dying trees are a hazard in storms and wind. They need to be taken out and addressed before that season comes around. Maybe you just need some fertilizer throughout the property.
  • Look at what’s over grown and obscuring windows, walkways, doors, and driveways. Vines and trailing plants can get out of control easily. Prune back and clean up anything that is overgrown.
  • Take into consideration how much work and effort you want to be putting in.  If you don’t have the time to take care of finicky plants, don’t plant those types.  If you are in a region that is hot and dry, take into consideration how much water plants need.
  • Assess how and where plants are in their lifespan. Financially, a home owner won’t install all young plants, trees, and bushes at the same time. Stagger out the ages of the plants, so they don’t all mature and overgrow at the same time, resulting in replacing or a large pruning at one time, which could cost a lot at one time.
  • Don’t fight Mother Nature. Look at what your property wants to grow. Work with the natural environment rather than constantly fighting natural tendencies of the land and area. If your home backs up to a stream, embrace it. Plant water heavy or even aquatic plants. Yellow flag, Louisiana Iris, Palm Grass or even water lilies would be fun!
  • Ask yourself what is a ‘Must’ on your list. Do you need ramps for the patio entrances for Grandpa Joe’s wheelchair? Does your home back up against the community park and you need to plant a privacy row of tall trees? Do you need covered parking for your RV? Will your child be the next Michael Phelps and you need an Olympic sized swimming pool installed? (Hey, you never know!)

Contact us today and we can walk your property and assess how best to go forward with changes to the landscape!

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Enhanced Backyard

House backyard, retaining wall

Transblue can transform your backyard into anything you want! Fire-pit? Sure! Water feature? Yes, please! And throw stone stairs on top of that!

Just let us know what you dream about, and we will do it for you! Look at our new project and a beautiful result:

Fire-Pit, Water Feature and Flagstone

firepit, water feature, backyard

Stone Stairs



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Checklist: Winter Landscaping Tips

Frosted grass

Winter season doesn’t mean that you don’t have to think about landscape. Here is few tips about winter landscaping from Home Advisor:

While most landscaping tips are concerned with tending plants during the growing season, winter landscaping is every bit as important if you want to have a great-looking lawn and healthy, vibrant plants. With the arrival of fall and cold weather, it is essential to complete a few projects to keep your landscaping protected during the dormant months. Prepare shrubs, trees and grass now, and they will return healthy in the spring and leave you with a neat, well-tended winter landscape.

Winter Landscapes: Preparing Your Lawn

Although grass appears to stop growing in the fall, the roots are actually growing deeper to prepare for winter. Now is the best time to fertilize and reseed your lawn. Feeding the lawn early in autumn will give the roots a boost before winter arrives. A second feeding in late October will keep it winterized and strong in the freezing weather.

If your lawn has some bare patches, early autumn is a perfect time to install sod or reseed. Adding sod gives you an instantly perfect lawn that will be a pleasure when the warm weather returns. To firmly establish new sod, keep it moist for the first week after it is laid. After the first week, it can be watered as needed. Avoid having sod laid in hot, dry weather, as it will be hard for the roots to establish.

Be sure the sod contains varieties of grass that are indigenous to your region. The sod should not look dry and should be sitting on a pallet no longer than two days. It should not be warm to the touch. You can eliminate a lot of uncertainty by buying sod from a reputable grower. For types and average pricing, see our sod price guide.

Winter Landscaping Tips for Pruning Shrubs and Hedges

Pruning is very important to encourage healthy growth in spring. Most pruning should be done after the leaves turn, indicating that the plant is dormant. A good rule of thumb is to prune spring blooming shrubs immediately after flowering and to prune summer blooming shrubs in the dormant season. Also, pruning late in the growing season will encourage new growth that will be damaged by frost.

When pruning, use caution to make a good cut at a slight angle about 1/4 inch from the branch. You may want to hire a professional gardener to help with this delicate task.

Some shrubs need to be wrapped with burlap to protect them from frost. If you have experienced frost damage in the past, make sure to protect these plants before the temperature dips down. Spread a layer of mulch around the base of the plants to provide insulation for the winter. Wait until spring to fertilize shrubs and trees.

Winter Landscaping Tips for Trees

Like most of the plants in your yard, trees need special care. It is important to keep tree limbs away from power lines and away from the roof of your house. Branches can easily pull down gutters or cause other costly damage if they are hanging over your house.

When planning to prune trees, consult with a professional arborist. He or she will know the best method for your species of trees and the correct time of year for pruning. A professional arborist will also know how to safely remove any troublesome branches without causing damage to the tree. Typically, arbotris prune trees early autumn or late spring.

Preparing Landscape Fixtures for Winter

Winter landscapes are made up not only of plant-life, but of many other objects, as well. Just like the plants, however, these fixtures often require special care to weather the cold. Walkways and patios can take a beating in cold weather. Shifts in temperature and humidity can cause concrete and brick to heave and settle unevenly. Keeping them free of water build up and debris will reduce the chances of winter damage. If you noticed water or ice accumulation last winter, take steps now to provide proper drainage. This can be as simple as adding a small gravel drainage channel next to a walkway or fixing a gutter that drips onto steps.

Having a professional pool cleaning company winterize your swimming pool is essential. Drain the water and cover the pool to keep out leaves and animals. In winter, it is not uncommon for deer or other wildlife to walk over pool covers, so choose the strongest cover you can afford.

Hot tubs and spas will be a welcome treat in the cool weather. Make sure the heater and pump are functioning properly. If not handled correctly, water could freeze in the pump, pipes, or the hot tub itself, causing irreparable damage.


Link for the original article is here
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Arbor Care Part 4 – What to do about damaged trees

fallen tree in the forest

In the final installment of our Arbor Care blog series, we have some important tips for you about what to do about damaged trees in the wake of a storm. Of course, we’ve all been through them, be it strong wind, heavy rain, or a treacherous ice storm after freezing rain. When it comes to sever weather, the trees at your locations take a beating from time to time. It’s important to recognize what steps need to be taken next. Read on to find out if your landscaping team is making the right choices when dealing with tree damage.

In the aftermath of a significant storm, the first instinct is often to clear away as much as possible. However, rash decisions can often result in removing trees that could have been saved. Following best practices helps determine whether your trees can survive.

Shared from the National Arbor Care Association.

Here are five rules your landscaping team (and their certified arborist) should be following when working with damaged trees:

  • Take safety precautions. Look up and down. Especially be on the alert for downed power lines, hanging branches and broken limbs. Also stay away from any downed utility lines, low-voltage telephone and cable lines. Fence wires can also become electrically charged.
  • Remove any broken branches still attached to the tree. Removing the jagged remains of smaller-sized broken limbs is a common repair that, if done properly, reduces the risk of tree decay. Smaller branches should be pruned at the point where they join larger ones.
  • Repair torn bark. Carefully use a chisel or sharp knife to smooth the edges of wounds where bark has been torn away. Limit cambium (greenish inner bark) exposure, as these fragile layers contain food and water lifelines between roots and leaves.
  • Resist the urge to overprune. Don’t worry if your damaged trees appear unbalanced or naked. Trees heal quickly, grow new foliage and return to their natural beauty.
  • Don’t top your trees. Professional arborists advise that “topping,” or cutting main branches back to stubs, makes your tree more dangerous during future storms and reduces the foliage required for nourishment and re-growth.

Preparing for Future Storms

Major storms can inflict severe damage to trees in a short period of time, but in every storm, some trees survive with minimal damage. With proper care, much of the worst damage to trees and property can be prevented.

Here are five ways your landscapers should be handling pruning and care:

  • Encourage good branch angles. For most deciduous trees, narrow angles between two branches signal a point of future weakness. A good rule of thumb for many deciduous trees is to keep the angles at 10 o’clock or 2 o’clock.
  • Encourage strong branch/trunk size relationship. Ideally, lateral branches should be no more than 1/2 to 1/4 the diameter of the trunk.
  • Maintain a stable center of gravity. The center of gravity for a tree should be over the trunk. Remove branches on the leaning side and encourage branch growth on the opposite side.
  • Remove temporary branches. This includes rubbing branches, suckers and watersprouts.
  • Don’t cut branches back to stubs. Long, natural limbs on a tree are strong and can withstand storm-like conditions. If a branch needs to be removed, cut it back to the main branch or to the tree’s trunk.

Find the full Arbor Day Foundation Storm Recover guide here.