Monday, June 01, 2009

Our New Landscaping

Alaska LandscapingI know I gave you pictures of our house last winter when the remodel was finished and snow was everywhere but this past week I've been working on the last few pieces of the project that had to wait until spring.

If you're looking for some landscaping ideas here are three things that have put that final touch on the project.

Exposed aggregate
You see here the front steps? They were designed and finished last fall in three separate concrete pours and the designer specified exposed aggregate which was a stroke of genius.

Alaska LandscapingRegular concrete is grey and smooth (not that there's anything wrong with that) but with the exposed aggregate you get the lovely texture and surface you see here which is not only very forgiving of things like chips and scratches but it's good as a non-slip surface.

Concrete (and please don't call it cement--I come from a family of civil engineers, my Dad's specialty is fancy concrete mixes so calling it cement would get you put in the corner) is made up of rocks and sand and particles called "aggregate" and typically when you have a concrete pour they finish the surface and let the whole thing dry nice and smooth.

However, for this look after they finished the surface they covered it with a solution of sugar water which prevented the topmost layer from drying.

When the steps had set they rinsed off the solution which took with it the top layer of cement that hadn't set, exposing all the aggregate in the mix and giving it the lovely pebbled look you see here. We've had so many people comment on our front steps that I figured it was worth an explanation.

Modern planters
For our new look I wanted to put planters on the three steps but I was pretty specific in what I was looking for. Not only did I want something very contemporary but I wanted it to fit with the house without competing with the design.

One of the not-so-nice things about living in Alaska is that we don't have access to things like this locally and even when I went online looking for sleek planters the cost of shipping was more than the cost of the remodel practically. No, seriously, I found small planters 10-12 inches in diameter that I liked that were selling for about $50 each then the cost of shipping (if they shipped to Alaska at all) was nearly another $50. Per planter.

Of course this was all extremely irritating as many of these online stores were offering free shipping to people "in the continental U.S." Because Alaska apparently isn't on the North American continent. We're just kind of hovering there out in the ocean void between Russia and Hawaii. Our own private vortex or something. But I digress.

So I was looking at about $300 for three planters. Not going to happen.

Which is when I had my own stroke of genius. I bought three plain black plastic tubs for about $2 each, the kind that shrubs come in at the local landscaping nursery, and planted my flowers in those. Then I went down to Western Sheet Metal and asked if they'd fabricate three cylinders to slip over the pots as a metal sleeve.

I had the option of going with aluminum or a galvanized finish and while I preferred the aluminum (which matches the aluminum around our front door) it was more expensive and would have required riveting rather than a simple weld to hold it together--more labor to complete and not as pretty as a finished product.

In about a week they made three 13-inch by 13-inch cylinders for about $20 a piece. And what was also nice is that the plastic tubs I used were too short so I was able to buy some $.60 bricks which I put under the tubs to boost them up and make them as tall as the cylinders.

I put the metal sleeve over the tops of the plastic tubs sitting on bricks and got a cheap and pretty garden solution to the "Why can't I find a contemporary planter in this entire city?" problem.

Alaska Landscaping"Grasscrete"
I don't know if you've heard of this before but there is this great new trend/product called "Grasscrete" which sinks concrete stones in the ground then fills in the surrounding dirt with grass seed so that grass grows up inside and around and between the concrete blocks.

Why? Well it's strong enough that you can drive on it or park on it yet still beautifully green. It is especially good for areas where erosion is a problem or for making gorgeous green driveways--that you have to mow (the downside I suppose).

When we had the first design for our remodel it called for enlarging our driveway and paving a path from the front steps down to the street and while I admired our architect I refused to pave over more of the property. I love green and didn't want to see our yard shrink as the asphalt crept farther and farther from its boundaries so as a compromise it was suggested we go with Grasscrete, the name for the original product I've just described above.

The only problem is Grasscrete tends to be rather expensive. I believe for larger areas they have molds they set into the ground then fill with concrete which requires all sorts money. I think the quote for that little stretch we have was about $2000. Ouch. So instead we went with our own plan. We got the landscaper to level the area out then we set our own pavers ($3 each at Home Depot) and planted around them with top soil and seed and the grass is just starting to come up.

The new grass is still rather yellow and the driveway is wet from the recent watering but you get the idea. That original area of grass was the natural footpath between the street and the house and had become so compacted over the years the lawn wouldn't grow well there but now with the homemade grasscrete we should be able to keep the green, keep the design and avoid problems with compacted soil. Brilliant!

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42 comments:

Mike said...

Wow. Really.

Mike
http://somethingaboutparenting.typepad.com
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Jolanthe said...

You are ever-so-creative. Shocking to you, I know. :) We are needing to redo our backyard from the constant trampling down of many small children...I wish we could use that idea, but we are right under a tree and those roots are everywhere!

Jolanthe

Mrs. Ohtobe said...

Love it all! If we were to do pavers like that they would have been all shades of cockawhammied. Good Job!

Shelly W said...

This is absolutely beautiful. I love it all! And I love seeing photos of Alaska in the summer--it looks so different than what I wold expect. Thanks!

Chele said...

It is beautiful!!! Great ideas!

Adventures In Babywearing said...

Wow- I LOVE THIS.

Steph

Kathy G said...

How creative!

(Although your planters sound like something I would have come up with--several years ago I made a "TV stand" with 4 food-service size cans and a thick piece of wood covered in material that coordinated with the family room.)

Kara said...

Wow - some really great ideas. I had no idea about concrete options like your stairs or the 'grasscrete' and you were SO creative with the planters. I might steal your idea someday...

Allysha said...

That looks FABULOUS! Really great, I love it!

Amanda @ www.kiddio.org said...

I love the 'grasscrete', and the planters were a stroke of genius. I love how easy that will be to change out. Nice!

xo, Amanda @ www.kiddio.org

tjhirst said...

Love the planters. Our modern home needs something like that. And I think the grasscrete could solve the four-year problem we've had on our slope where grass grows but not very well and we still need to get the lawnmower down. Good ideas I'm going to use.

Laura Moffitt said...

I love this. It looks great.

Kirby3131 said...

The grassscrete idea is something I've been thinking about doing at one of my rental properties - it doesn't have a driveway - just two tracks in the grass. I couldn't decide if I liked the look enough to do it -but after seeing yours, I think I have a much better idea!!

Love your planter idea - genius!

Amy said...

Great job. I love the stairs.

Randy, Ally, and Wes said...

I will definitely have to file these ideas away, for that wonderful day when my husband is out of school and we have our own place! Love the planters by the way. Very cool.

cndymkr / jean said...

You are a genius, those planters are fantastic. The house has really changed and I like it better now. It's very clean and neat looking. It's not just another plain jane house. Great job!

jubilee said...

So interesting. The landscaping fits perfectly.

And your solutions to costly landscaping are creative.

Kudos.

Janelle said...

I love the grasscrete! Very original, and funky. And way to do it yourselves!

Heart2Heart said...

Just wanted to wish you a very Happy Monday and give you a big surprise at my blog today, so stop on by!

Love and Hugs ~ Kat

Michemily said...

How is shoveling snow with grasscrete?

Scribbit said...

We don't shovel over that space--I try to keep our shoveling to a minimum if you know what I mean.

Lucy said...

I love the walking steps. I'm one of those people that like to walk on the grass so to put grass with concrete is ingenious to me. I'd love it.

Flea said...

I love it! So no Home Depot with galvanized buckets, huh?

fruitfulwords said...

3 great ideas to file away for when I have my own home. Your remodel sure pulled together nicely. Thanks for sharing your pix with us so we can enjoy it as well. :-)

Loralee Choate said...

I LOVE it. (I also love that your dad would freak at the use of "cement". It remind me of my own dad. Hee.)

ewe are here said...

It all looks really fantastic ... especially impressed with your improvising on the pots and drive!

Karen Olson said...

Absolutely love the planters. What a great idea! And I'd never heard of grasscrete before. That's really cool.

Summer said...

Well I like the exposed aggregate, though I'm afraid I don't share your taste for "grasscrete". :)

Heather said...

It all looks great and I love how you find less-expensive solutions. Smart woman!

Maddy said...

A bit sparse in the photography department but from those winkum dinkum little piccies it looks great!

I only learned about aggregate on arrival on these shores. I still have a lot to learn.
Cheers

Lisa said...

It looks great!

Melissa-Mc said...

Definite curb appeal!

illahee said...

lovely! i especially like your modern planters.

Nicole said...

I am so excited about the grasscrete!! That is exactly what I want to do now for my walkway!! It is the perfect accessory for your house by the way! Looks very modern! NICE!!

Jennifer said...

The grasscrete is super cool, sounds like something we could use more of in FL.

And as someone else said, it really does fit well with the rest of the house. Very modern.

mumple said...

I love the planters and the grasscrete. I like way you go the look of the grasscrete without the expense!

Stacy said...

Looks great! I love your idea for those ultra-mod planters. Clever!!

Janet said...

I love all of it. At first I thought you'd spraypainted silver on some paint buckets for the planters, but yours are much sleeker.

Stephanie said...

Your house is so modern and "futuristic." I'd love to see some "inside shots" sometime. :)

MoziEsmé said...

Great ideas - I love the reasoning behind them! Thanks for sharing...

RefreshMom said...

I'll have to keep that grass-crete stuff in mind. We have one of those awkward spaces next to the driveway that would be nice to have both green and parkable!

CasualFridayEveryDay said...

Okay, you're seriously one of the coolest people I know now. lol Your house and landscaping are so unique! Totally rad, for lack of a better word.

Nell