What to Know About Lighting Up Your Hardscape

Your patio looks great. Your furniture is spiffy and your outdoor cushions compliment each other. Your garden has grown into a green goddess of gardening perfection.

The only thing missing? The lights!

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What good is your outdoor paradise if you can’t enjoy it on a beautiful summer night? With so many big features to focus on—brick layout, grill options, fireplace structure—many outdoor enthusiasts forget that lighting is a key feature in creating the ultimate backyard living experience.

Why are lights so important? Well, besides making sure you don’t trip on your way to your Belgard Brick Oven, lighting can enhance your hardscape. It’s all about what you’re in the mood to do. Do you want to show off your perfectly pruned garden? Are you having an evening soiree with friends and family?

Don’t worry. Whatever your desire, we’ve got all you need to know about setting the mood in your hardscape.

If you’re in the mood to… Highlight Your Garden

Just because it’s dark outside, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t show off your garden! Canopy lights are a perfect way to illuminate your plants and flowers once the sun goes down. These lights sit on an 18-24 inch post and can add a decorative element to your garden. Use low voltage lights, which are easy to install. You can even bury the cable beneath the dirt! Don’t want to deal with cables? Use solar lights!

If you’re in the mood to… Highlight Your Hardscape

Your garden isn’t the only thing that needs showing off! What about that great patio? For general landscape and hardscape lighting, spotlights can be very useful. Spotlights are used for a number of lighting techniques, including highlighting and uplighting. Highlighting is often used to illuminate trees by placing a spotlight near the base. Uplighting involves placing spotlights close to the base of a fixture (like a home or special hardscape feature) and creates a dramatic yet welcoming effect.

If you’re in the mood to… Light the Way

Lighting up your pathway is both a practical and aesthetic way to enhance your hardscape. The good news about path lighting? There are so many options. The bad news about path lighting? There are so many options! Perhaps you’d like to create a backyard beach paradise with tiki torches. Or maybe you’re more into the rustic, medieval look with lanterns. Or you love the traditional, tried and true canopy path lights. Whatever your style is, think about the mood you’re trying to create and use variety. For example, if your pathway is lined primarily with green, try using a bamboo path light to add some contrast. Avoid placing lights in a straight line or too close together. You wouldn’t want your path to look like a runway!

If you’re in the mood to… Have a Party

Who isn’t in the mood to have a party when the weather is warm? Don’t fret about complicated decorations – use lights instead! Lighting is an easy way to give your hardscape a festive atmosphere. Once again, it’s all about your mood. Use paper lanterns for a pop of color and a fun loving, youthful vibe. Or, have a southern soiree by placing candles or twinkling lights in mason jars for your backyard barbeque. Use your tiki torch path lights for a Luau! Want to take the romantic route? Candles are the way to go. Also, string lights can spruce up your hardscape, too. They come in several designs—butterflies, twinkling, standard Christmas style—and can be used for a variety of occasions.

If you’re in the mood to… Feel the Fire

We can’t talk about lighting without talking about fireplaces! What better way to light up the night than basking in the warm, natural glow of your fireplace? Fireplaces go with every occasion – pool parties, romantic dinners, family barbeques, or just relaxing and enjoying the outdoors! Cuddle up with your honey, tell ghost stories with the kids, and indulge in some s’mores, all the while taking in your landscape in the firelight. Don’t have a fireplace? See what we have to offer!

As you can see, lighting is all about your mood. What’s the occasion? The theme? The energy? Whatever you’re trying to accomplish with lighting decor, have fun when using this versatile method to set the mood in your landscape!

Have more hardscape lighting questions or suggestions? Share them in the comments! We’d love to chat about it with you.

The Ultimate Battle Plan for a Pest Free Garden

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You’ve worked and worked under the hot summer sun to have a garden worthy of your friends’ oohs and aahs. There’s just one problem: pests.

Whether you have deer, rabbits, slugs, mice, birds, or another garden bully, these animals can wreak havoc on your meticulously planted masterpiece.

But before you rage an all out war on nature, check out our easy tips for keeping your garden pest free. These could save you a headache, and a battle with wildlife conservationists!

Know your enemy

The first step in any defense plan is knowing who, or what, you’re up against. Take some time to do research about the pests in your garden. Are you dealing with deer, who graze on everything? Or maybe you have rabbits eating your beans. Perhaps slugs are chomping the leaves of your beautiful plants. The point is, different pests call for different strategies. Unfortunately, there isn’t a set, cure-all plan in keeping your garden pest free. But once you figure out the main source of the problem, there are several defenses to keep critters away.

Use repellents

Repellents are a highly suggested way to keep your garden free from pests. Once you’ve figured out which animal is your priority, choose a specific repellent to address the problem. Garden-pros advise against using harsh chemicals and poisons, especially for gardeners with children and pets. However, there are several, less severe options for a pest free garden (besides ordinary insect repellent). Fox urine may sound gross, but it’s quite effective in keeping rabbits away and can be purchased from your local gardening or hardware store. Try using visual repellents for birds (such as a fake owl or foil strips that wave in the wind), who are known for their flighty nature. The flashing of the foil in the sunlight and the movement will scare off your winged foes. If you need a more blanket approach to this issue, pepper-based sprays are also a popular method for deterring several types of pests, such as rabbits, squirrels, deer, and even insects or pets. Remember, repellents are not permanent. If you choose to go this route, you will have to reapply them frequently to keep pests away for good.

Make your garden ugly

Ugly to pests, that is! Your garden should be beautiful for visitors, but that doesn’t mean it needs to look great for garden foes. Thankfully, the two have different definitions of a “good” garden. Make your plant paradise unattractive to critters by eliminating food supplies such as excess birdseed and compost areas. Also, clear out brush and other hiding places. Make sure there aren’t any potential nesting areas for long-term residents. Maintaining a well-groomed garden can be an additional assurance that pests are not hiding somewhere in your shrubs.

Make the area difficult to reach

 If the thought of surrounding your masterpiece with a fence doesn’t make you cringe, then this can be one of the sure-fire ways to keep pests out. Once again, it is important to know what kind of critter you are dealing with before you take steps to block off your plants. Deer can jump pretty high, so fencing will have to accommodate for this trait. If putting up a fence does sound horrible, there are other barriers you can put in place instead. For rabbits, consider elevating your plant beds; these critters can burrow under fences anyways! Netting can provide a more universal defense, deterring rabbits, deer, and even birds. Some garden experts also suggest placing thorny plants around enticing areas to keep pests and pets away.

If you have pests in your garden, don’t fret. Take a deep breath, put the BB gun down, and try out one of these tips first. Soon, your masterpiece will be pest free, and you’ll be telling friends about how you won the Battle of the Shrubs as they fawn over your gardenias. Carry on soldier, and good luck!

Do you have more suggestions for keeping pests out of the garden? Share them in the comments, and help a fellow gardener out!

Product Spotlight: Aqua Bric Pavers

Ah, the rectangle. So simple at first glance, but trust us, this seemingly plain shape offers much more than meets the eye.

Take our Aqua Bric pavers, for example. The stones feature clean lines, subtle yet attractive colors, and superior ease of use. But it’s our Aqua Bric’s surprising versatility that makes it such a popular choice with our customers.

Its basic shape allows it to adapt to an incredibly diverse range of design styles and patterns. Lay them in running bond, herringbone, basket weave, or a pattern of your choosing for a totally unique look!

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And did we mention that these are some of our most durable and environmentally friendly pavers? Meticulously engineered to reduce water run-off, our Aqua Bric pavers are ADA compliant for Floor or Ground Surface Standards. So you’ll never have to worry about wear and tear on your hardscape or yard.

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The bottom line? Aqua Bric pavers are a perfect fit for any hardscape. They’re versatile, durable, environmentally friendly, and ready to help bring your dream design to life.

To get some inspiration for your next project, download your free Idea Book today!

Summer Recipe: Salted Caramel Ice Cream

The salted caramel flavor train is sweeping the nation and its next stop is right in your kitchen! Last month we gave you a skinny margarita recipe, and now that summer’s here it’s time to indulge. You’ll need an ice cream maker, so if you don’t have one, see if you can borrow one from a neighbor or friend! Here’s our recipe for homemade salted caramel ice cream:

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Equipment

  • Ice cream maker
  • 10-inch heavy skillet
  • 2 medium-sized bowls
  • Small, heavy saucepan
  • Whisk
  • Wooden spoon
  • Instant-read thermometer
  • Fine-mesh sieve
  • Large bowl
  • Airtight container

Ingredients

  • 1 ¼ cups sugar, divided
  • 2 ¼ cups heavy cream, divided
  • ½ teaspoon flaky sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3 large eggs

Step One: Heat 1 cup of the sugar in a dry, 10-inch heavy skillet over medium heat. Stir it with a fork so that the heat distributes evenly. When it begins to melt, stop stirring and cook it by picking up the skillet and swirling it around so that it melts evenly. When the sugar takes on a dark amber color, it’s time for Step Two!

Step Two: Add 1 and ¼ cups of heavy cream to the sugar (this might spatter, so be careful!) and cook until all of the caramel (AKA dark, melted sugar) has dissolved. Move this mixture to a bowl and then stir in the ½ teaspoon of sea salt and ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract. Pro tip: if you don’t have two ½ teaspoon measuring spoons, use the same spoon for dry ingredient first, then the wet ingredient last. That way you’ll end up with the right amounts of both.

Step Three: Bring milk, the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream and the remaining ¼ cup of sugar to a boil in a small, heavy saucepan. Stir occasionally.

Step Four: Lightly whisk eggs in a medium-size bowl, then add half of the hot milk mixture in a slow stream, whisking constantly. Pour it back into the saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until a custard-like consistency appears and coats the back of the spoon, registering 170 degrees Fahrenheit on an instant-read thermometer. Do NOT let the custardy mixture boil!

Step Five: Pour the custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl and then stir in the cooled caramel. Chill the custard, stirring occasionally, until it’s very cold – this will take between 3 to 6 hours. Freeze the custard in an ice cream maker (it’ll be soft), then transfer it to an airtight container and put it in the freezer to firm up.

This recipe will last you a whole week, so once you’re done be sure to save some to show off what a cooking maestro you have become!

Need more inspiration? Check out our Idea Book and learn more about how to take your hardscape to the next level.

 

Planning Ahead for Summer Outdoor Parties

School’s out for the summer and it’s the perfect time to make the most out of some good weather and the great outdoors. Summers are chock full of opportunities to throw a party – it seems like every week there’s a new reason to celebrate! Graduations, holidays, you name it. But party planning isn’t all fun and games. It can take a lot of hard work and preparation to keep the chaos at bay.

With that in mind, we’ve got some tips and ideas on how to celebrate the most important days of summer.

Have the Best Hydration Station in the Nation

Whether you’re planning a party for the Fourth of July, National S’mores Day, or Labor Day, you’re going to need to keep your guests safe from the summer super-villain known as dehydration. You’ll be everyone’s favorite host or hostess if you keep cold refreshments outdoors in several easy-to-spot locations. Clear containers with metal spigots are cheap, attractive choices for self-serve drink dispensing. Plus, everyone will be able to avoid passing out from heat stroke before the fun starts.

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Trust us on this – everyone will thank you for using the ancient art of peer pressure to stay hydrated. It sounds basic, and even obvious, but millions of Americans are chronically dehydrated. It’s not just from lack of water consumption; popular beverages like tea, coffee and soda dehydrate you more than you might expect. With busy day-to-day lives, it’s easy to forget the basics sometimes and it helps to be reminded. So whip up some fresh lemonade (with real lemons and even some mint leaves if you’re feeling decadent) to keep your guests happy, healthy, and full of energy to keep partying. If you’re hosting the Fourth of July get-together, bonus points if you make strawberry lemonade (because it’s red, of course).

It’s All Fun and Games

The thrill of playing games isn’t just a great way to avoid awkward conversations with your friend’s great-uncle’s boss about politics. They’re a wonderful way to bond and have fun with people you love (and get to know new people). For a Fourth of July or Labor Day party, break out a game like Apples to Apples or Pass the Popcorn (this one’s especially great for movie buffs). These kinds of games are the perfect party game: they’re low-stress and minimally competitive. You don’t want to be the party thrower who gets everyone embroiled in a friendship-ruining game of Risk or Monopoly.

You can play Apples to Apples outside, but if you really want to take advantage of the green grass and summer sun, play a game of kickball or four-square. These kinds of games are fun for young and old alike, and there’s a reason kids love them so much. Children are certified experts in fun. According to the U.S. Department of Fun, you’re going to have a great time. Okay, that department isn’t real. Yet.

Unwinding

If you’re having a low-key get-together, these tips are for you. The Fourth of July is about reveling in freedom and relaxing underneath a canopy of stars and fireworks with people you care about. Not much of a party planner? No problem. You don’t have to turn your house into a public park to have a good time. Try coordinating a trip with your friends to go to the nearest fireworks display. Have everyone meet up at your place then carpool to the festivities. Make sure you have a designated driver and then relax, thinking about the kitchen you won’t have to clean up tonight. When you get home, everyone can curl up around the fire pit and roast s’mores together.

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If you’re not much for hosting parties on the big days, try something new this year and celebrate National S’mores Day! It’s on August 10th and it’s our new favorite excuse to eat the celestial combination of marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate. If you’re a homebody or a camping fan (or fanatic) here’s our suggestion for celebrating this day of deliciousness. Plan a backyard camping ‘excursion’ for you and the kids or some good friends, tell spooky stories and feast on s’mores to your heart’s content. Buy all different kinds of chocolate: exotic flavors, flavors you’d never think to combine, flavors you’ve never heard of.

Life is better when you’re having fun and making good memories, and there are endless ways to make each day memorable. How do you plan on celebrating these holidays? We’d love to hear all about it in the comments!

Product Spotlight: Anglia Edger

So you’ve got your pavers picked out. You’ve found the perfect retaining wall. Your visions for your own backyard paradise are finally starting to take shape.

Now what?

Now it’s time to put the finishing touches on your hardscape project!

Released in 2012, our Anglia Edger is the perfect product to give your yard the polished, professional aesthetic you’re looking for. Use it to cleanly separate your gardening handywork from your walkways or lawn. Its natural chiseled finish and tapered ends accentuate the natural texture and flexibility of the curb unit. Available in two colors – Cotswold Mist and Gascony Tan – the Anglia Edger compliments driveways, patios, walking paths, and small planning areas.

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The large multi-size units of the Anglia Edger create a natural looking curb with a minimal number of joints. That means installation is clean, simple, and efficient! Not to mention cost-effective.

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Proper edging is the key to making your hardscape really pop. It’s also critical to keeping grass and weeds from disrupting your garden. Our Anglia Edger brings you a stylish solution that’s easy to install and easy on your wallet.

If you’re interested in learning more about how our Anglia Edger can tie your hardscape together, contact us!