Home & Design
McHale Landscape, brick pool house
McHale Landscape, brick pool house

McHale Landscape Design conceived and built a brick pool house for clients in Potomac looking for a multi-season space for entertaining; it features a kitchen, bathroom, fireplace and attached pergola.

D.A. Dunlevy, brick-walled courtyard in Georgetown, Washington, DC
D.A. Dunlevy, brick-walled courtyard in Georgetown, Washington, DC

Designed by D.A. Dunlevy, a diminutive brick-walled courtyard in Georgetown features a travertine patio and ashlar stone retaining walls that support flower beds. The garden perfectly reflects the home’s charm and historic character. Photo: Mason Summers/Anchor Pictures

Raised-beam pool clad in natural stone veneer and Indiana limestone coping, designed by Walnut Hill Landscape Company
Raised-beam pool clad in natural stone veneer and Indiana limestone coping, designed by Walnut Hill Landscape Company

A raised-beam pool clad in natural stone veneer and Indiana limestone coping was designed by Walnut Hill Landscape Company with an infinity edge that creates the appearance of water flowing directly into the adjacent Chesapeake Bay. Photo: Michael Prokopchak

Colao & Peter, privacy wall that doubles as a water feature
Colao & Peter, privacy wall that doubles as a water feature

Colao & Peter bordered a welcoming DC pool with a privacy wall that doubles as a water feature; it supports a lush bank of hydrangeas. Photo: J.R. Peter

Surrounds, Inc., driveway made of Delaware Valley River Jack stone bordered by granite cobblestone.
Surrounds, Inc., driveway made of Delaware Valley River Jack stone bordered by granite cobblestone.

On a McLean property, Surrounds, Inc., installed a driveway made of Delaware Valley River Jack stone bordered by granite cobblestone. Photo: Judy Davis

Curved Trex deck designed by Kane Landscapes
Curved Trex deck designed by Kane Landscapes

A curved Trex deck is part of an extensive Vienna landscape designed by Kane Landscapes’ Alan Blalack. Photo: Morgan Howarth

Sculptural planter adorns a pool scape, designed by Joseph Richardson Landscape Architecture
Sculptural planter adorns a pool scape, designed by Joseph Richardson Landscape Architecture

A sculptural planter adorns a pool scape in a Falls Church project designed by Joseph Richardson Landscape Architecture. Photo: George E. Brown

EP Henry cast-veneer stone and bluestone steppers, Scapes, Inc., designed terraced stairs
EP Henry cast-veneer stone and bluestone steppers, Scapes, Inc., designed terraced stairs

Using EP Henry cast-veneer stone and bluestone steppers, Scapes, Inc., designed a terraced stair down to a patio; the structure stabilized a steep slope along the back of the Riva, Maryland, property. Garden rows were planted with boxwood, hypericum, nepeta and carex. Photo: EP Henry

Garden designed by Campion Hruby Landscape Architects
Garden designed by Campion Hruby Landscape Architects

A garden designed by Campion Hruby Landscape Architects converted an obsolete rear sloping lawn into a vibrant four-season garden, complete with a pool anchored by an elegant stone water feature; dramatic lighting enhances the space. Photo: David Burroughs

Garden Variety

Local landscape pros dish on how to make your outdoor spaces bloom

Explain how to devise a garden scheme in a small space.
Even small spaces deserve a big design. In fact, a small space often demands a more thorough analysis and more precise calculations than a larger yard; the design must accommodate multiple uses in one area (play, relax, swim, grill, dine, host and more) rather than being able to spread the functions out. This also holds true when considering utilitarian factors such as fluid circulation, drainage mitigation and proper furnishings that allow homeowners to enjoy their yard. The smaller the space, the more complex the project becomes in terms of layering its components. And always keep in mind that no matter the size of the lot, establishing a seamless connection between outdoor spaces and their indoor counterparts is critical. —D. Blake Dunlevy, PLA, D.A. Dunlevy

How do you integrate a water feature into a landscape?
A relatively small garden can have a big impact—and water can play a surprisingly large role in how you experience your outdoor space. For instance, we use water features to disguise otherwise-noticeable traffic noise and to focus attention on the immediate surroundings. When considering a water feature for your garden, be very specific about the effect you are trying to achieve, audibly and visually as well as seasonally. And remember when designing and locating a pool on your property that in our climate it will be covered and unusable for almost half the year. —Bob Hruby, RLA, ASLA, and Lindsey Tabor, associate, Campion Hruby Landscape Architects

What’s the best way to incorporate a pool house into a landscape plan?
When selecting the elements to include in a new pool house, homeowners should consider the distance of the structure from the main residence, their family’s needs and habits and their approximate budget. There should be a relationship with the architecture of the residence—in most cases, similar styles and materials work best. A professional landscape designer or landscape architect will be able to seamlessly integrate your home and your pool house. —Phil Kelly, McHale Landscape Design

What tips can you offer for installing a pool on a waterfront site?
Every good design should take into account existing natural elements and find ways in which to enhance the natural environment and blend the built environment with it. We find that enduring river views are strengthened by the presence of a pool with an infinity edge, which seamlessly blends with the body of water next to it and creates a striking vista. When designing a landscape by the water, it is critical to enlist a designer and contractor who are familiar with local building codes and regulations. If your project is within a critical area, the pool’s location will drive the rest of the design. Knowledge of codes allows for a landscape design that is both compliant and beautiful. —Michael Prokopchak, ASLA, Walnut Hill Landscape Company

Discuss strategies for pool placement on compact urban lots.
When creating a landscape plan for a small, urban lot, consider siting the pool at an angle perpendicular to the house to gain more usable lawn space and lengthen the sight lines to the end of the property. This orientation can make a significant impact in maximizing the space and enhancing the overall aesthetic. Incorporating a raised-wall water feature beside the pool creates additional visual interest and can cut down on the amount of paving needed if the raised wall supports plantings. Also consider installing a wall or pergola in a spa design, as this is an element that will add privacy as well as interest to a yard by screening the view of the neighbors. —J.R. Peter, RLA, ASLA, and David D’Amato, RLA, Colao & Peter

What factors do you consider when laying out the approach to a home?
First, we try to ensure guests will be able to view the home as they arrive; we achieve this either by siting the drive so it crosses in front of the home or with a U-shaped drive and drop-off area. A straight drive that is centered on the home will create a more formal look, particularly with allées of trees that frame up the home in the distance. We use architectural elements such as gates and walls to accentuate the home’s features—maybe through paint color or by mimicking a window shape. Pavers, which vary hugely in price and style, can also reflect degrees of formality. The other major factor to consider is drainage, which is the biggest concern for all hardscapes, including drives. The following are key points to be aware of: Positive drainage away from the home, planting beds and hardscape surfaces is preferable; draining water across a hardscape will deteriorate hardscape materials over time; and overspraying hardscapes with irrigation should be avoided. —Chad Talton, PLA, Surrounds, Inc.

What’s the secret to creating beautiful potted arrangements?
If you’d like to incorporate planters as part of your garden design, there are three main elements to consider. A great design typically includes a “thriller,” which is a tall plant that makes a strong statement of form and color; a “filler” plant that hides the soil; and a “spiller” that weeps over the edge of the pot. The result of using all three elements is a 3-D arrangement that looks opulent, mature and permanent—and will beautifully enhance your outdoor space. —Joseph Richardson, PLA, Joseph Richardson Landscape Architecture

How do you approach a design that needs extensive hardscaping?
If your landscape plan will require a lot of hardscaping, be sure to select materials that will complement the home and existing landscape to ensure that everything fits together aesthetically. It is important to consider drainage, which is always a huge component yet is easy to overlook because it isn’t visible once a project is completed. Poor drainage and bad water management will likely lead to failures of walls and steps. —Jeff Crandell, Scapes, Inc.

Share the best way to plan a multi-purpose landscape?
A comprehensive and detailed plan is the best way to start a complicated project. Having everyone on the same page and knowing exactly what the end goal is helps, as revisions and changes will have to be made in order to meet town or county requirements—and in a large project, there typically are revisions and changes. Note that stormwater management and impervious surface limits can add costs and create delays for projects located in densely populated areas. —Alan Blalack, RLA, ASLA, Kane Landscapes, Inc.

You may also like:

Outdoor Oasis
Rolling Acres transforms a barren yard into a modern refuge
Checklist: Landscape
The ins and outs of planning an outdoor kitchen
On the Drawing Board
Area landscapers show you how to plan your garden and outdoor spaces
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