A Rose By Any Other Name Still Smells as Sweet

Enhancing Your Hardscapes with Elegant Perennials

Nothing says “beautiful” like a colorful perennial garden. Webster refers to perennials as “being happy again and again”. The word perennial describes a plant that generally lives for two years or more while annual describes a plant that may have a one-year or single season life span. When choosing perennials, you are actually creating a look in your garden space that you can cultivate year after year without the continuous pocket drain and effort.

When looking for pops of color, many people opt for annuals, but there are so many ways to create a colorful garden from perennials. One of the perennial favorites many of us know and love is the rose. The rose is one of oldest flowers in cultivation with hundreds of different varieties. When choosing a type of rose, you might gravitate to the more fragrant varieties. As the weather warms up, you will likely be spending more and more time outside in your backyard. Now that you have created or are in the process of creating your dream backyard, why not surround yourself with the fragrant smell of roses that comes back year after year?

Getting Started

Select a sight that gets at least six hours of sunlight per day with good drainage. Roses succumb to root rot easily. They grow in all types of soil, however they do appreciate a plethora of compost or manure mixed in. When planting roses, never let the roots dry out completely, make sure to soak the entire plant overnight before planting. The canes should be about two inches below the ground in a warmer climate zone and at least four inches in a colder zone to protect from freezing. Mounding up the soil at least six inches around the root of the plant. Using mulch will help to protect your roses from both bug infestations and disease.

Companion Plants

Companion plants such as marigolds, mint, and geraniums are great because they help to keep a wide variety of pests away, as well. Be careful with the mint though; it can be invasive.

Plants in the Allium family such as garlic, shallot, and chives are a nice addition to any rose garden. It has been said that Alliums help to enhance the roses’ perfume quality. That alone is a reason to choose them. The flowers tend to be spherical and can produce pink, purple, white, and yellow flowers that are sure to add that extra pop to any garden. In addition, many are edible for humans, as well as butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds. The Allium family is also a helpful mole control.

Other possibilities you might consider when planting and creating a rose garden will depend upon your goals. Plants like larkspur, lantana, and lavender will help to attract butterflies, add a multitude of color, and help to fill in the areas surrounding the roses. There are also many long blooming flowers that serve well as cutting flowers, ferns, ornamental grasses, and of course the classic boxwood.

One thing to remember is to choose flowers and plants that have similar soil and water conditions as roses. Roses love water, but need to have well-drained soil. You can groom and shape your roses to take on any look, or you can let them grow with wild abandon. If you treat them right, they will be back again next year to make you happy “again and again”.

Quick and Easy Backyard Fiesta

iStock_000023365878_MediumCinco de Mayo is on a Thursday this year, which may make you inclined to think that it will be a little hard to pull together a fabulous celebratory backyard bash. After all, it’s been a crazy week with a mile-long to-do list, plus all of those end-of-school-year activities. All the more reason to take a deep breath and relax with a mid-week margarita!

Here is a list of some easy tips for pulling off a casual backyard Cinco de Mayo fiesta like a pro — with nothing more than a quick trip to the grocery store and a peek inside the back of your hall closet.

Decorations

Ok, so you’re the type of person who typically likes to channel your inner Martha Stewart when it comes to preparing for a party. Well, it’s doubtful you’ll have time to make your own paper maché piñata in time, so it’s time to get creative with existing supplies. Unless, of course, you happen to have an old piñata in the back of your closet, in which case, dig it out!  For other decorations, think in terms of earthy textures: wooden items, wool blankets, burlap sacks left over from the 4th of July sack race (which make excellent table drapes)…you get the idea. Fruits and vegetables also make festive table decorations — for example, a glass bowl or trifle dish filled with limes, avocados, or tomatoes.

Menu

When planning your menu, think dishes with minimal prep. A slow cooker and a packet of taco seasoning can come in handy for making “crock pot chicken fajitas” or “pulled pork tacos”. Another idea is to turn meal prep into a party activity by making Mexican pizzas on the grill. For a quick-and-easy “homemade” salsa recipe, throw a large jar of cheap salsa, a can of mild Rotel, and some fresh cilantro into a food processor. Spice it up with a little cumin and garlic powder, then puree everything together. It looks and tastes like restaurant quality, and they’ll think you whipped it up from scratch.

Beverages

Of course, let’s not forget the best part of Cinco de Mayo celebrations! Obviously, you will add Mexican beer to the grocery list. But for a perfect pitcher of homemade “top shelf” margaritas on the rocks, forget the bottled mixes — instead buy frozen limeade. Mix the limeade per directions, replacing one can of water with gold tequila. Add a healthy splash of orange liqueur (like Triple Sec), salt the glass rims, and you’re good to go. If you want to add a pitcher of mojitos, use rum instead of tequila, and grab some mint from the garden for muddling in each glass as you serve it. If you want to get really fancy, muddle in some strawberries, too. For kid-friendly versions, just make the limeade per package instructions, using water only, then garnish with salt (or mint/strawberries) and lime.

Now…make a quick grocery run, and get ready to enjoy your fiesta!

Utilizing Retaining Walls in Poolscape Design

Dimensional multi-level design is one of the hottest trends in modern poolscapes. Belgard segmental retaining wall products make an outstanding medium for dimensional poolscape design. Here are some inspirational ideas of how segmental retaining walls can be used to enhance a poolscape:

Multi-Level Decks and Sunken Rooms

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Steps and Columns

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Dimensional Gardens and Planters

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Built-in Seating, Water Features and Fire Features

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Adjoining Kitchens and Bars

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Parapet Walls and Fencing

Beyond the Water’s Edge

Trends in Modern Poolscapes

To create a modern poolscape, not only must you think about the design of the pool itself, but the surrounding environment as a whole. Modern pool designs incorporate a cohesive look that flows through the entire back yard—from the back door to the outdoor kitchen, garden retaining wall, outdoor fireplace, pool and the surrounding patio.

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Celtik® Wall and Dublin Cobble® pull this multi-level poolscape together into one cohesive design. The Dublin Cobble extends from the pool deck into the outdoor kitchen and outdoor living room. Celtik Wall is used for the pool coping, steps and surrounding retaining walls.

“Countless pool designers and contractors prefer our paver products for pool decking because of the versatility and ability to create an entire environment that all works together as one unified and gorgeous design,” says Ken O’Neill, Executive Vice President of Belgard.

The options for creating a cohesive pool design scheme are endless. Gone are the days of the standard blue rectangle with a wrap-around concrete deck. “I grew up in the pool business, and concrete decking was always a necessary evil. But, the durability and look of pavers has revolutionized how we do business,” said Danton Townsend, designer with Leisure Pools in New Braunfels, Texas. “Almost 100 percent of our pools now use paver decking. Customers love the look, the warranty and the maintenance-free aspect.”

In addition, the versatility of Belgard products enables multi-dimensional designs that are as unique as the individual owner. “Belgard’s products allow us to build a pool with a lot of different elevations with walls, steps, raised decks and multi-level seating areas,” said Townsend.

The same products used to create the pool decking and coping can also be used in the surrounding poolscape design to create that cohesive look. “A multi-step water feature can be built right from the decking into the pool, a fire box can be added at the edge of the water feature, and the same products can be used to build a retaining or garden wall,” added Curt Mansfield, hardscape designer with Stone Deck in Austin, Texas, who has often worked with Townsend on hardscape installations for his pool designs.

To continue the cohesive design to the rest of the outdoor living area, the same hardscape products used in the poolscape can also be used to build an outdoor kitchen, a custom fireplace, seat walls, patios, walkways, column wraps, and more. The end result is an elegant resort-like environment that is an extension of the homeowner’s personal sense of style, whether a classic tailored look or a backyard oasis.

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This poolscape uses a variation in paver style to help define separate rooms. Mega-Bergerac® defines the pool deck, and Mega-Arbel® defines the outdoor living room, but is also used as accents throughout the design to tie everything together. Weston Stone® is also a cohesive design element with its use for the column wraps, outdoor kitchen and surrounding garden walls.

“Many people today are trending towards a very natural look,” said Mansfield. “Belgard offers a number of products that look so natural, you get the look and feel of a lagoon that was chiseled out of European stone, but with the benefit of a manufactured product that has a lifetime warranty. Natural stones can get brittle or crack and just don’t hold up to a salt water system.”

Although creating a cohesive outdoor living environment and poolscape from scratch is a simpler process, there are also a number of techniques that can be used to keep a pool renovation or addition from looking like an afterthought to an existing design.

“Once the poolscape is designed, you can easily work the new hardscapes into the pre-existing living areas in the form of seat walls, planter boxes, trim, and various embellishments,” says O’Neill. “We also offer a number of products that can install over an existing concrete deck, like Lafitt™ Rustic Slab, Lafitt™ Grana Slab or Mirage® Porcelain Pavers.”

Bullnose Coping and Mega-Arbel® pavers were used in unique ways for this modern poolscape. Instead of a traditional wooden porch, the design uses Mega-Arbel to create a raised paver porch, which is tied into the look of the pool by edging it with Bullnose Coping to mirror the pool edging. To expand the design, Weston Stone®, used to build an outdoor kitchen could be used as another design element elsewhere in the poolscape, for example a fire pit or seatwall.

Instead of a traditional wooden porch, this design uses Mega-Arbel® to create a raised paver porch, which is tied into the look of the pool by edging it with Bullnose Coping to mirror the pool edging. To expand the design, Weston Stone®, used to build the outdoor kitchen could be used as another design element elsewhere in the poolscape, for example a fire pit or seatwall.

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Click the video image below to watch a dramatic poolscape makeover using Lafitt Rustic Slab.

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The Secret to Perfect BBQ Ribs

BBQ Ribs on the Grill

For those who subscribe to the “Hail to the Pig!” philosophy, there is nothing more fabulous than perfectly cooked ribs. Many people shy away from cooking them at home, instead preferring to trek to their favorite local BBQ joint, knowing the ribs there will be perfectly seasoned and fall-off-the-bone tender. After all, cooking ribs is a science that can’t be mastered at home. Home-cooked ribs are typically tough and lack flavor, right? Wrong! Read on to learn the secret to cooking perfect BBQ ribs at home.

STEP ONE: THE RIBS

There are a number of different cuts, but if you’re cooking at home, your best options will be spareribs, St. Louis cut ribs or babyback ribs. Babyback ribs are smaller, leaner and include delicate loin meat, which makes them a little pricier. Spareribs are cut from the ends of babybacks down to the breast bone. The flavor of the meat is typically richer because of increased marbling, but the texture is less delicate. St. Louis cut is simply spareribs with the rib tibs cut off, which can be a little more manageable for both cooking and eating.

STEP TWO: THE RUB

Lay aluminum foil on a baking sheet — at least double the length of the rib rack — and place your ribs meat-side down for rubbing. There’s no one recipe for a good dry rub. In fact, feel free to buy a prepared rub or experiment with different flavor profiles. The key is to use only dry seasonings and use way more than you think you’ll need. Liberally coat both sides of the ribs and pat it in. For a basic foolproof homemade rub, try sprinkling salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin and coriander on your ribs. You CAN overdo it with the salt and cayenne pepper, but be generous with the others. For best results, sprinkle all seasonings on the underside, pat everything in at once, then flip and repeat. Remember…use lots of rub!

STEP THREE: THE WRAP

Completely wrap your ribs in the foil. Now do it again. Now a third time. Why so much foil? Simple — you want to tenderize the meat by allowing it to steam in its own juices, so a tight wrap is important to the process.

STEP FOUR: THE BAKE

Nope, that’s not a typo. You will finish the ribs on the grill to get that smokey flavor, but first you want to cook them low and slow in the oven. Bake them at 325 degrees. The time will vary depending on the type and quantity of ribs. Babybacks will cook more quickly, and a single rack will usually be ready for the grill in about 1.5 hours. For two racks, you might want to add about 10-15 minutes. Spareribs or St. Louis ribs will need to cook for about 1.75 hours for a single rack, adding 10-15 minutes for a second rack. To test the ribs, unwrap a section and test the meat with a fork. You don’t want it falling off the bone yet, but it should be fully cooked. The meat should be firmly attached to the bone, but tender.

STEP FIVE: THE SEAR

Unwrap your tenderized ribs and transfer them to a hot grill for about 10 minutes on each side. Whether you’re using charcoal or gas, you’ll want to add wood smoke, if possible. Cherry or pecan, in particular, will add an excellent flavor. Sear both sides of the ribs until you create a nice brown outer layer on each side. If you like wet ribs, coat with your favorite BBQ sauce before the last five minutes of cooking time. Otherwise, leave them dry and serve the sauce on the side for those who like to dip.

STEP SIX: THE MEAL

Remove your ribs, slice and serve with your favorite fixins. You’ll never go back to that BBQ joint again.

Preplanning for Future Improvements

Bluprints

Sometimes it’s just unrealistic to build everything you want at one time. However, you can still save yourself a lot of money and headaches by planning ahead. If you have an overall vision for your backyard that you plan to build out in phases, below are some questions you’ll want to consider before beginning the process.

SHOULD I HIRE A PROFESSIONAL DESIGNER?

If you’re talking about a large scale makeover, it’s often a good idea to enlist a landscape designer to design your completed makeover, even if you don’t plan on doing everything at once. For example, if you plan to install a pool now and an outdoor kitchen down the line, you’ll need to know where the gas and electric lines will need to go, as well as footings for any heavy items, such as a porch post or a fireplace. The added cost of a professional design can save you from having to rip up and replace sections of a patio or pool deck later.

WHAT FUTURE IMPROVEMENTS SHOULD I KEEP IN MIND?

When you’re planning an outdoor living space, think of what you would plan for an indoor living space. Think lighting, music, televisions, gas or electric appliances. Consider your local climate and think about ways of keeping warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Installing junction boxes or live outlets where you may need electricity later will make a huge difference. Just remember that everything will be out in the elements and needs to be outdoor-rated with safety in mind.

DOES BELGARD OFFER DESIGN SERVICES?

Yes, working with a Belgard Authorized Contractor gives you access to the Belgard Design Studio, which offers over 50 free 3-D design templates and can also create custom designs with fly-through animation. However, your contractor may need to consult with a professional plumber or electrician, as needed, to plan for immediate or future utilities.

Future PhasesThe multi-faceted design above (created by the Belgard Design Studio) represents the perfect opportunity to plan a phased project. Phase I could include the patios, walkways, and fire pit. Phase II could include the outdoor kitchen’s grill station and brick oven. Phase III could include the outdoor fireplace and bar. Phase IV could include embellishments like the arbor, seat wall, TV stand, pillars, and hardscape lighting. In order to phase this out properly, before installing the patios, all future utilities would need to be run, and placement of future heavy elements would need to be fortified with the proper footings.