This landscaping project in Oak Park began with a property really in need of some help. The existing landscape was the unfortunate combination of some work that had been suspect in the beginning as to its quality, plus the passing of many years, a lot of time for all the problems to really develop into a mess. The new owner was anxious for a change.
The first step was to take everything out, a process which required demolition equipment and several dumpsters but was over with in a few days. In the interest of saving as much water use as possible, the new design incorporated a lot more patio space and just a tiny amount of lawn in the back yard so the dog would feel comfortable. The dog has a wonderful character and is definitely part of the family so it was only fair.
Underground drainage as well as the drainage of surface water was addressed as the first part of the construction. In an area with a lot of clay in the soil, this can be very important as it keeps water from building up. Water building up underground can cause the soil to shift and this can impact the patio surfaces as well as the foundation of the house, itself. In addition to regular drain pipes with surface water grates, a French drain was installed both under the patio and in the garden areas. This is a perforated pipe with a porous nylon sleeve over it (to keep the dirt and roots out but let the water into the pipe). It is connected to the regular drainage system to let the underground water out.
After the drainage was addressed, the planter wall was designed and built in a freeform style on three sides of the yard to accentuate natural curves which helps to give the yard a relaxed feeling. It has a reinforced concrete foundation with concrete and steel in the wall as well to prevent cracking. A two toned stucco finish was added and a few flagstone inset pieces for flavor. The patio was also designed with natural curves, set off by strips of synthetic grass. The synthetic grass was used because watering, feeding, mowing and edging small strips of lawn in the patio is just not practical – and, of course, this type of lawn doesn’t need any water at all. A few sections of random flagstone were added to dress up the patio a little.
The concrete surface, itself, is reinforced with steel bar as well as micro-fiber mixed right into the concrete. This makes it very strong. The natural colors are achieved by adding one color into the concrete itself and then dusting on several more colors while the concrete is wet and working these into the top surface. The concrete surface is given its final finish by pounding the surface with heavy rubber mats which are molded into a natural stone look. Joints were hand-cut into the patio in a random pattern to help with the natural stone feel, too.
The project was completed with a new garden design using some common and some not-so-common plants. A low voltage lighting system was installed to highlight the garden areas as well as a professional sprinkler system designed to cover all the areas evenly.
The owner of the new landscape was thrilled with the complete change.