All Blog Posts Archives

Sedona Water Features

The term water feature typically refers to an assembly of natural materials including boulders, stones and gravel to mimic a form of a stream or waterfall you would see in nature. Fountains are usually more formal style structures that create a jet or stream of water from a decorative piece or nozzle.
Natural water features use various types of stone and river rock. Here in Sedona, we have an abundance of what everyone calls “red rock”. It is a type of sedimentary rock formed by layers of ocean bed over millions of years. Sedimentary stone is not unique to Sedona, however the red color is due to the presence of iron oxide.

 

sedona waterfeaturesSince the local red boulders are so readily available as a local resource, they are relatively cheap compared to another kind of natural boulder found outside of the Sedona area and is a type of granite, which is heavier. Boulder types are named from the area where they are mined, such as Hasayampa Gold. Boulders that come from Sedona are simply called Sedona Red. Since everyone in Sedona loves the red rocks, using the red rock boulders of Sedona are the most popular choice for water features.
Another type of natural stone that is used in Sedona water features is called Moss rock which is typically a type of sedimentary stone that has surface growth of moss and lichens and is usually hand harvested since these boulders are located on the surface of the land. They are also weather eroded from water and wind giving them uniqueness quite different than the red rock.
The third type of rock used in Sedona water features is known as river rock and is commonly found in our streams, rivers and washes. It is smooth and rounded and comes is screened to produce sizes ranging from ½” pebbles to large boulders. River rock is typically used to line the underwater portions of the water features, especially along the stream courses and the basins. Since river rock does not stack very well nor does it look natural when stacked, it is always used under the water where it mimics its natural condition.

 

hillside waterfeature in Sedona
How Are Sedona Water Features Built?

Most water features are dug into the ground in which a rubber liner is placed to contain the water. The type of liner most used is called EPDM rubber and typically 45 mil thickness. The liner is placed on top of an underlayment fabric that helps prevent any damage to the liner from rocks, soil and roots, etc.
The plumbing components consist of a skimmer box inside of which the pump is placed. This works just like a swimming pool filter and has a weir that draws in the water at the surface level. Inside the skimmer box is also filtration screening materials that can be accessed for periodic maintenance.
The pump pushes the water up through a “return line” to the highest point of the water feature where either the simple end of the pipe discharges water or it can be plumbed to a “waterfall box” that has various widths of the lip opening for different effect on the face of the waterfall. The waterfall box can also be the location for a biological filter and contain media to help colonize good bacterial that keep the pond aspects in balance. A water feature that does not contain aquatic plants or fish does not need a biological filter.

 

Key Design Tips for Sedona Water Features

1) Natural. The whole point is that the water feature looks like it belongs where you are building it or at least integrating it the best you can in your man made landscape. Not everyone has a perfect slope of red rock formations ready to be used for a water feature.
2) Elevation change. Water flows downhill so naturally the end of the pump’s return line must be higher than the pump at the low point. The more the elevation difference, the more cascading drops and sheer drops you can create with the arrangement of stone.
3) Avoid artificial mounds. On a flat property, it is tempting to bring in a pile of dirt to create a mound so you can artificially create the necessary elevation drop. This is the number one mistake made by amateurs and the reason such water features tend to not look natural.
4) Use different size boulders. Depending on your access to heavy equipment to lift large boulders, varying the size of boulders is important rather than using uniform size stones.
5) Create pockets for plant material. Plant material close to the edge of the water feature in strategic locations using appropriate plants will enhance the natural appearance. Envision the kinds of shrubs you are going to place as you are creating the pockets.

 Maintaining Your Sedona Water feature

For water features that contain no plants or fish, cleaning the filter screen in the skimmer box is required. Also make sure the automatic water leveler fill valve is operating properly and is not stuck which could lead to over flowing the basin. A well designed water feature will have a pipe situated a bit higher than the desired water level in case the basin is over topped due to a stuck valve or inordinate amount of rainwater.
If algae becomes a problem, there are products sold that will control the algae and clarify the water. Do not use chlorine or bleach as this can damage the pump components.

Winterizing Your Sedona Water feature

About half of winter nights in Sedona experience freezing temperatures. Two or three of these, on average, drop down into the range of 11 to 20 °F (-12 to -8 °C). Lows in the teens can occur from November to March, but are most likely in December.
Is it necessary to take certain measures to protect the pump for a water feature in Sedona? Most pump warranties I have seen recommend removing the pump during freezing temperatures and storing the pump in a bucket of water indoors. There is also the argument that leaving a pump running actually reduces the likelihood of the water freezing because flowing water does not allow water pressure to rise when flowing through pipes. Typically, the surface of the pond may freeze and ice develops on areas where the water flows, but inside the skimmer where the pump is at is not at risk as much as the surface areas.
It is recommended to shut off the water supply line that controls your auto fill valve during freezing temperatures. Keep an eye of the water level and fill with a hose if there is some loss due to evaporation.

Raked Sand Garden in West Sedona

Raked Sand Garden in West Sedona

Just finished an Asian inspired garden for a backyard landscape renovation in West Sedona. The client had a large backyard with a lot of trees mostly evergreen conifers and several fruit trees. The rest of the land was dying grass and weeds, so it was a good starting point since it was nearly a half acre to work with.

She wanted a “Japanese Garden” but not the traditional style you would typically see with a pond, bridge, lanterns, etc. So it was a bit of a challenge for me to design it with an Asian influence, yet not obviously Asian. Hence I call it an Asian inspired garden rather than a type of Japanese garden.

My basic concept was to create a strolling garden making use of the large area so as to make the garden conducive to experiencing within rather than simply viewing it from the back porch. And since she wanted to have some grass, I created a large island of plantings around which the grass would symbolize a lake.

I also incorporated a Karesansui garden (dry Zen garden) of raked sand and boulders to contrast the otherwise “wet” strolling garden and make it a destination for the pathway. As a transition from the existing fence enclosed patio, I designed a Torii gate which has its own symbolism of separating heaven and earth or man and spirit.

This is not the first Asian inspired garden I have designed and built in Sedona. In fact there are several others I have yet to blog about. Each property and client is unique, so each Asian inspired garden is not the same, however, I do use several common elements that help to give it that Asian influence.

An Asian inspired garden not only consists of elements that are visually evident, but the unseen elements or symbolism that creates a subtle influence. The re-creation of the natural environment using earth, stone and water is the essence of a Japanese or Chinese garden. Variations on the basic theme are how the different styles came about. However, when Buddhism was brought to Japan from China, Buddhist principles were weaved into the early gardens. I have written about these different styles of Asian gardens as well as what constitutes a “Spiritual Garden”.

You can also view before and after pictures of this project at my Fliker page.

Sedona Hummingbird Gardens

Sedona Hummingbird Gardens are easy to create. You just need to include some of the hummingbird friendly plants that will grow here in Sedona.

 

Hummingbirds are fascinating birds that seem to mesmerize us while they suddenly buzz into our Sedona gardens and search out suitable flowers to feed on nectar. They hover like winged insects suspended in the air grasping at miniscule gnats in the air, but also require the nectar from flowers. This act of feeding on the flowers in our garden is what is so thrilling to watch. They dart from flower to flower with such speed and accuracy, if you are not paying attention, you could miss their visit.

 

Hummingbirds are different than most other bird species in that they feed primarily on nectar whereas other birds feed on insects, nuts, berries and seeds depending on their beaks. Hummingbirds, therefore do not compete with other bird species for food resources. They do however; compete with each other for territories that include adequate food, shelter and hiding places. Where there is adequate food sources such as a yard with multiple feeders hanging in the garden, there may be overlap to these territories since there is plenty to go around.

 

In Sedona, we have several species of Hummingbirds, the most common being the Anna’s Hummingbird which tends to be tolerant of cold temperatures and hangs around during the winter. Other species are migratory and tend to show up in early spring and peak out in midsummer. Because of the migratory behavior of most hummingbirds, they will tend to return to the same feeding spots every year. So having flowering plants and hummingbird feeders will keep them coming back to your Sedona Hummingbird garden.

 

When you understand that hummingbirds have the highest metabolic rate of all vertebrate animals with a heartbeat that can reach 1000 beats per minute, you will see why they are constantly feeding on nectar. The sugar is what they need to fuel their high rate of metabolism. Hanging a feeder is not frowned upon as the feeding of other animals species is. In fact, they need it and you are helping them to survive. Having flowering plants is just icing on the cake.

 

Do they really need red colored sugar water in the feeder? Hummingbirds are certainly attracted to the color red, but the nectar need not be colored with red dye. All hummingbird feeders are colored red as it is, so no need to buy that special hummingbird feeder mix.

 

So ideally, it would be good to have both feeders and flowering plants since you may not have enough flowers blooming to support them. The sight of watching a hummingbird feeding from a flower that is in full bloom can’t be matched by the bird – feeder combination. It’s just not the same.

 

My Sedona clients often request a hummingbird garden, or at least some plants that will attract hummingbirds to their garden. It’s simple to just hang a feeder on your porch or outside your kitchen window, but better yet to wander through a thoughtfully designed garden and watch the hummers feed from your assortment of hummer friendly flowering plants.

 

What kinds of shrubs have flowers that will be attractive to your Sedona hummingbird garden the most?

hummingbird pomegranate

Photo credit: Nancy Buron

There are numerous shrubs that are named after their hummingbird attractiveness. Here are three examples of hummingbird bushes:

 

Agastache species (about 15 different species, also called Giant Hyssop, Hummingbird Mint)
Hamelia patens (Firecracker bush)
Anisacanthus quadrifolius (Flame Acanthus, Hummingbird Bush, Desert Honeysuckle)

But there are many more with different flowers that attract hummingbirds and not all of the flowers are red. Some are blue, pink, yellow or white.

 

[huge_it_gallery id=”2″]

Landscape Lighting Can Add Drama and Elegance
You’ve seen those million dollar mansions on the cover of the luxury real estate magazines. There is always a collection of design features that give it the wow factor. Building the wow factor into your landscape is no different. Here are five design features that give your landscape the wow factor.

Sophisticated Design

A well designed and professionally built landscape will exude a type of appeal that reflects the designer’s touch. Good designs follow the fundamental principles of design including balance, contrast, color, scale, movement, cohesiveness and focal points.

A well designed landscape will reflect the designer’s thoughtfulness represented in the way all the elements and spaces work together in a stylish yet uncluttered fashion. Each of the principles of design can be observed if one knows what to look for.

Elegant Simplicity (keep it simple)

Elegant simplicity is a term I devised for my design questionnaire in which I am attempting to appeal to those clients who prefer simple, unpretentious design. It is a type of look that is beyond the starkness of Zen or the staleness of contemporary mundane. “Less is more” is also known as understated, yet in order to rank in the wow factor category; it has to have something about it that gives you that stirring emotional response. This is often difficult to put into words or a finite set of guidelines since it has more to do with your reaction to the objects, their placement and the setting.

Unique and Creative (not cookie cutter)

There is nothing unique about having a cookie cutter kidney shaped pool built in the center of your backyard. This is the essence of having a customized design that not only is functional and serves your needs, but also is reflective of your personality and style. Unless you want to be like everyone else, why not add something unique and creative that is out of the ordinary yet tasteful? Sometimes creative features in landscapes are the result of “accidental design” often unique solutions to a problem on site. Not all creative and unique design features are thought about on paper.

Vanishing edge concrete pool designed by JSL Exteriors Landscape Design Build

Infinite edge pools add drama and excitement to the backyard landscape adding to the wow factor

Have you ever been to a garden that is like a paradise? What makes it feel like a paradise is the emotional reaction you have to the elements and spaces. The garden itself is not paradise; it’s the term you use to describe it in terms of how you feel.

Gardens also need strong visual components that keep you engaged and interested. It could be a focal point, the bold use of color, the fragrances or statuary that is symbolic of something profound.

Creative use of fire and water can add the element of drama that conjures up feelings of excitement or tranquility.

Another emotional component of a garden is whether you feel safe and secure or does it make you feel like you are on display? Are there private areas for seclusion? Does the whole garden give you a sense of sanctuary – protected, safe and secure free to let your mind wander or focus of friends and family?

All the Bells and Whistles – (the E-ticket ride)

Pools, spas, ponds, fountains, outdoor kitchens, gazebos, ramadas, fireplaces, fire pits, sculpture, artwork, accessories, synthetic grass and other amenities can all be designed into a backyard. If that is what you want or want to feel like you have your own resort backyard entertainment paradise, then you will have to have all the bells and whistles.

Of course, the available space must be able to accommodate all the elements so it doesn’t look crowed. It still must possess cohesive design so all the elements work together instead of appear like a showroom or some kind of garden Disneyland.

The key here is to design it in a way so that it does not appear cluttered with too many things going on. The mind’s eye needs to come to a rest at some point and not get a sense of chaos.

A garden with all the bells and whistles will naturally possess the wow factor; it just has to be toned down so it doesn’t become an “Oh my God!” factor.

Invasive Plants of Sedona

TREE OF HEAVEN

Tree of Heaven

There are two species of plants in the Sedona area that top the list for invasive species and they are the Tree of Heaven and Vinca which is a ground cover. The difference is that nobody deliberately plants Tree of Heaven, however Vinca is widely available at nurseries and is planted often.

Plants that grow out of control or spring up in unwanted spaces are a nuisance to the average gardener. Naïve homeowners who plant these species in the first place unknowingly are creating a potential maintenance headache. Some of these invasive species are so difficult to eradicate completely, that only containment is possible.

The Tree of Heaven or Alianthus is one of the worst culprits to fit the category of invasive plants of Sedona. It is also invasive across the entire United States and is extremely difficult to kill, let alone keep under control. It spreads from seeds that are so prolific and blow through an area, easily germinating in almost any conditions. Once it takes hold, it starts what is called a “colony”.

There are chemicals that are used to both spray the foliage as well as to inject or spray into a wedge cut into the trunk. Personally, I have tried using RoundUp on some small seedlings, but all that does it cause the leaves to wither and not really kill it down to the root. Best way to control young Tree of Heaven is to remove the entire plant. Knowing what these look like is important so if one pops up in your yard, you should remove it right away.

vinca major

Vinca aka Periwinkle

Vinca major, also called Periwinkle is an evergreen ground cover that likes shady areas and can be seen all over Oak Creek canyon under the shade of the Sycamores and Pines that line the canyon. In a garden, it can quickly take over by sending out new runners and rooting along the way. The good thing is the roots are not that difficult to remove and a patch out of control can be removed or contained provided you pay attention and spend the time to do it. 

Another invasive plant of Sedona that I see much of is the Trumpet Creeper. Having an orange tubular flower in spring and summer, it is a popular deciduous vine that clings to walls. The problem is it seems to like to spread underground as well. It spreads like it has rhizomes for a root system. Fortunately, Trumpet Creeper does respond to RoundUp. I would not plant this plant in the first place though. It is perhaps better used as a container plant against a fence or wall.

Bamboo Horror Stories

Bamboo is a type of grass spreading by rhizomes that stem out from the mother root rhizome mass. Some are considered “clumping” while others are “running” types. For a thick screen, many people opt to plant the running kind because it will spread and fill in gaps better than the clumping varieties. The problem with the running bamboo is when a shoot comes up in a spot you don’t want it to. But it can be controlled by simply cutting the rhizome. Enough space must be given to allow the running bamboo to spread. The problem is not understanding how bamboo rhizomes grow and not paying attention.

golden bamboo

Bamboo – you either love it or hate it

Typically, the only bamboo you will see for sale in the Sedona area is Golden Bamboo or Phyllostachus aurea which does well in our Zone 7 climate. Bamboo is usually planted to create a screen. Golden bamboo typically reaches about 12 feet high. Planted along a property line or fence can be risky if it is not contained with a rhizome barrier. You wouldn’t want it popping up in your neighbor’s yard and answer to their complaints.  Therefore, it is best to be prudent and do provide some kind of containment or barrier to the boundaries that you would like the bamboo to spread and cover. Thick plastic material that comes is rolls 24″ wide is available specifically for the purpose of containing bamboo or other root systems.  The key is to not ignore the growth of your bamboo, rather keep an eye on it so that you will notice any new shoots popping up where you dont want them and then can easily cut the rhizome. The reason bamboo is feared is that most people plant it and forget about it until it is too late to be easily controlled.

Heavenly Bamboo (Nandina domestica) is an alternative that does not spread and would have to be planted fairly close together to provide a screening effect. If you like bamboo because of its Asian theme, consider planting it in containers in groups, otherwise do use a rhizome barrier and keep an eye on it.

Research Before you Buy

Many homeowners may the common mistake of buying the pretty plant at the nursery because of its flower and general form whether it’s a shrub, ground cover, vine or tree. Think about this: why would a vendor selling a plant at a retail nursery put a description on the plant label that it is invasive? Of course it would put up a red flag and discourage the sale. Descriptions about the characteristics of plant growth are best researched online or in a good gardening book such as Sunset Western Gardening. There you will find objective useful information whether a plant is considered invasive or not.

 

 

 Page 1 of 10  1  2  3  4  5 » ...  Last » 
/* */