Change Your Gardening Game with a Micro-Sprinkler System

by on Jul.11, 2016, under Irrigation, Planter Beds, Planters

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Watering a lush, ornamental landscape can be very time consuming and expensive.  Large scale sprinkler systems are very helpful, but they are also very expensive.  Thanks to companies like Rain Bird and Orbit, homeowners can reap the benefits of more costly systems by using a timer/controller on their municipal water supply.

Controller Assortment

Timers can control up to four zones, and can be set to custom intervals that optimize watering for a wide range of plantings.  The timers can be mounted directly to the hose valve or to a nearby wall.  The units contain a single inlet and up to four outlets.  The inlet is 3/4 inch female hose thread (FHT) which will connect to your outside faucet, and the outlets are 3/4 inch male hose thread (MHT) which will take a standard garden hose.


Hoses and Tubing

hose types

Two sizes of tubing are available for these types of systems.  The larger diameter tubing is used for long runs and is ideal for high volume with lower pressure.  The smaller tubing is for branching off to each individual mister, bubbler, or dripper.  The volume of water flowing through the smaller tube increases in pressure and allows the sprinkler head to work properly.  The hoses and tubing are stiff but pliable.  It takes a bit of work to connect fittings, but the connections are tight-fitting and leak-proof as a result.


The fittings for making the pipe/pipe connections are mostly “barb” type or hose thread.  The smaller 1/4″ tubing has fittings that are slightly different, but work on the same principle as typical barb fittings.  You simply cut the hose to length and shove the fitting into place.  Very simple and very fast.

Sprinklers, Misters, & Drippers

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There are a few basic types of micro sprinklers: sprayers, misters, drippers, and bubblers and they can be placed in beds, hanging baskets, or planters. There are many benefits to watering with this type of system.  Large volume sprinklers soak everything, including your house and hardscape surfaces. Keeping the water source near the plants and low to the ground eliminates over-spray and excessive evaporation.  More water settles into the soil and reaches the roots.  Run-off is also reduced, which means valuable nutrients and organic material stay in your soil.

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Many of the sprinklers currently on the market have adjustable pressure valves to help regulate the spray intensity. There are also retro-fit regulators available as well.  Some come with a stake built into the unit, while others consist of a separate sprinkler head, stake, and a short run of tubing.  Simply stab them into the ground, then couple them to the main pipe with a section of 1/4″ tubing.

When it comes to irrigation in NC, the difference in a great system and a good system is far less than having a system or none at all.  During the hottest parts of Summer, water can quickly evaporate from a plant’s leaves and the uppermost layers of topsoil.  For a fraction of the cost of a high-end system, these small systems can save a lot of money and time.  We are happy to consult with you regarding watering needs or the design of a drip-irrigation system for your home.

For more information please visit: Rain Bird, Elnor, or Orbits.

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A Walk-Through for the Drive-Through

by on Nov.20, 2015, under Hardscapes


Despite the best planning, people will discover better/faster/safer paths. This restaurant’s grass was showing some wear from foot traffic coming from a nearby parking lot.  When the parking lot filled, cars begin to park in the areas flanking the restaurant.  The shortest path to the door is a slightly angled approach to the existing sidewalk…which encouraged customers to step over the nearby grass.  Employees delivering special orders to the waiting zone also used stepped off the path in order to reach the customer’s window.  Naturally, a new path was the solution.

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It’s not hard to imagine people scurrying in front of the traffic exiting the drive-through. A larger landing offers a wider target when in a hurry.

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The existing sidewalks were all concrete, but we wanted to use something different. It seemed a good opportunity to bring in some of the colors and textures of the restaurant itself.  Doublin Cobble by Belgard complimented the brick facade and provided contrast to the surrounding gray tones.  Now special orders can be delivered without walking through the grass and customers have a convenient new path to the parking area.


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Low-Profile Patio Expansion

by on Nov.19, 2015, under Hardscapes, Patios


This patio was installed near a common space between several homes. It needed to remain relatively low, in order to preserve sight-lines, and it should compliment the nearby architecture. The home’s existing patio was recessed under a cantilevered roof, and featured a gentle curve across the front. The area was wide, but not deep enough for a table and chairs. The homeowners wanted to expand the area as much as the neighborhood association would allow.

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We set to work with the association and worked out a plan that would suit the needs of the homeowners and the neighborhood. Our new design featured eight additional feet of depth, a low-profile sit wall (18″ high), and the same shallow curve of the existing patio. This increase in size doubled the square footage and provided 20 linear feet of built-in seating. The sit-wall not only provided depth and functionality, it served to minimize the amount of furniture needed.

Existing Structure - Paver Patio 1 - Callouts

Existing Structure - Paver Patio 2

The column base was achieved by removing the PVC trim and cutting masonry blocks to fit as a veneer around the bottom of the post. A paved area was added for the grill as another way to minimize clutter on the patio itself. For additional color and depth, a mulch bed was placed behind the wall for ornamental planting. The finished patio provides ample room for guests or simply having a morning cup of coffee.


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Hope Farm: Pergola, Outdoor Lighting, & Deck Modifications

by on Jul.04, 2015, under Decks, Hardscapes, Pergolas & Arbors

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This project takes place at a home located on Hope Farm in Wake Forest.  The home features a second-story deck overlooking a pool.  The location of the deck places it in the sun for most of the day, which presents tough conditions for any type of wood. The surface wood was deteriorating and needed to be replaced. Fortunately, the lower structure remained in good condition and was able to be re-used.

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The existing layout for the stairs worked well, but took up a considerable amount of space and partially obstructed the view of the pool.  The homeowner also desired a low-level platform under the existing deck, which meant the stairs had to be re-designed.  This made the overall plan for the project clear… relocate the stairs, upgrade the decks, and add shade wherever possible.

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The finished project turned out great.  The new stairs are a huge improvement over the old design and the shade offered by the sun sails made it possible to enjoy the pool any time of day.  The pergola-style shade is a much needed refuge on the far side of the pool.

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The stairs are double cleated and extremely sturdy.  As an additional safety feature, the hand-rails were designed to be reachable by both hands as you walk up or down.

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The upper deck looks so much better with a fresh wood surface, and the sun sail keeps things shady into the late afternoon.  One thing to keep in mind when ordering sun sails for corner alcoves…make sure to get a Right triangle (90º corner), because an equilateral, scalene, obtuse, or isosceles will not fit properly.

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The view of the pool is now unobstructed by the staircase.  The newly installed pergola adds shade and a bit of balance to the far side of the pool apron.

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The lower deck was set into an area in the apron intended as a flower bed.  The soil was removed and the deck was set inside the existing concrete.  The lower deck is part of a planned outdoor theater.

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Below is a render of the proposed theater. This will make a great place to watch movies or play video games.

Projector Screen Outside 2



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Privacy Screen made from Fencing Panels

by on Jun.08, 2015, under Fencing, Hardscapes


A lot of time and hard work was put into the backyard of this Wake Forest home.  The landscape is very natural and is set within a very shady, mature stand of trees.  Overall, the back yard has a very private feel, except for an adjacent section which borders a nearby neighbor.  The homeowner wanted privacy in this area without disrupting the views so we designed and installed a short length of fencing that would serve as a privacy screen.  The original design called for an upper lattice section, but the owner opted for something a bit more simple after accepting an offer on the home.  Even without the added detail, the fence looked great.  We hope the new owners enjoy it!

Fence 2.2

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Reclaiming Back Yard Space with a Decorative Drain

by on May.28, 2015, under Drainage

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A downhill grade and slow-draining soils were causing water to linger in this client’s back yard for days at a time. The extended periods of saturation caused the lawn to become soft, patchy, and unusable.  The homeowner simply wanted her yard back!  A few ideas were tossed around, including a retaining wall and grade changes, but we kept coming back to the idea of using a drain.  The trick was to make it look much less like a drain and more like a decorative border.

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The drain was designed by Griffin Contracting Inc. and features an open drainage plane, otherwise known as a curtain drain. Like a typical French drain, it consists of perforated pipe buried in a trench of gravel.  However, instead of hiding the drain under the sod, we left the top open so water rolling off the hill would infiltrate directly.

French Drain 2.0 - Coram Fields

Rather than leaving a swath of gravel through the lawn, a decorative paver border was used to contain a more expensive, decorative stone.  The pavers are RumbleStone Mini (Sierra Blend) by PaveStone and the pea gravel is Delaware River Stone.  The pavers were placed on top of six inches of crushed stone and held in place by ICPI approved edge restraints.  The entire drainage bed was also encapsulated in permeable geo-fabric and the pipe was fitted with two clean-outs to prevent clogs.

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The drain functions as a wonderful transition between the upper-tier tree bed, and the lawn lower down.  In fact, you would likely never suspect that it was a drain at all!  The drain exits into a gentle spillway of rocks and river stones.  Building a spillway added visual appeal and helped to slow exiting water which would cause ruts and washout in a heavy rain.  This project was a lot of fun and we really enjoyed the challenge of making something so practical and utilitarian into something beautiful!

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Using an Urn to Add Depth in an Ornamental Landscape

by on May.06, 2015, under Hardscapes, Planters

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This project was inspired by an article in the July 2014 Edition of Southern Living Magazine.  The article featured a photo of a small planter which had been filled with a number of decorative plants.  This Venetian urn was purchased from Market Imports (Near the Raleigh Farmer’s Market) and was quite a bit larger than the one in the article.

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It is important not to over-crowd the planter on the initial planting.  The plants will grow significantly once planted, so make sure to account for this.  Placing gravel, or some other well-draining material will prevent overly wet soil in the base of the urn.

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Horseshoe Pitching Court Built to Last

by on Apr.28, 2015, under Hardscapes, Outdoor Games

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This horseshoe court was designed to be rugged, so it would withstand years of fun.  It was constructed with salvaged railroad ties which will withstand almost anything you throw at them (including thousands of metal horseshoes!).  The court is laid out according to official guidelines, but the overall design is much more subtle.  The sand for the pit is a blue/gray screening from crushed granite and was a nice alternative to the typical stark white play sand.  The stakes are pitched at 12º and are 40ft apart.   This subtle, contemporary court will look great long into the future.

Horseshoe Pit 1

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A Path to the Pool Apron

by on Mar.12, 2015, under Hardscapes

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This home has had a number of recent upgrades, including a new walkway leading from the pool apron, around to the side-entry gate. In addition to providing a walkable surface, the path needed to accommodate a lawn tractor entering from the side gate.  Drainage was also a concern as the slope of the nearby terrain channels water away from the pool-apron and down the nearby hill.  Because of this, the path was designed to follow the existing grade and is permeable to facilitate infiltration.

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Site Photo and an early render of the walkway.

The final design is a paver walkway that extends to the end of the deck.  RumbleStone’s™ Mini Café was used because it is the same material as the retaining wall in the above pictures.  A small niche was left to allow a climbing vine to grow up the side of the lattice.

Scott Friedlund - Pathhway - Option 4 with niche

The pavers were laid on a 45° running bond and set within a border of larger material.  After finishing up, the pavers were compacted and  grouted with polymeric sand.

Once the patio was installed, polymeric sand was compacted into the joints.

The permeable section of the walkway was made with medium-diameter river rock from the Tennessee River.  The larger stones were chosen because they have a decreased tendency to wander into the lawn and they resist “rutting” from repetitive trips across the surface with the lawn tractor.  The bottom of this path was lined with a Geo-fabric to prevent the stones from migrating into the underlying soil.

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Pruning Pampas Grass

by on Mar.06, 2015, under Ornamental Grasses

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Pampas Grass usually refers to the species Cortaderia, but is also used to describe both Erianthus and Saccharum ravennae (sometimes called ‘hardy pampas grass’). These grasses grow in tight clumps called tussocks and the females produce tall, feathery flowers late in the Summer. In the early part of winter, the plants enter dormancy and become a golden, wheat color.  The leaves and flowers will remain attractive through the winter, but will become problematic when new growth begins. Removing the older growth allows sunlight to penetrate to the depth of new shoots growing at the base of the plant, and it reduces mold and insect activity by allowing moisture to escape the center of the tussock. While somewhat different biologically, these species all require the same type of maintenance in order to stay healthy and beautiful.

Before & After

Before & After

As long as their appearance holds up, ornamental grasses can be left intact late into Winter.  Single digit temperatures and heavy precipitation in winter (especially snow/ice) can destroy the uniform appearance of the dried out plumes.  Those planted close to roof-lines can become damaged by snow sliding off overhanging ledges, which may necessitate early pruning. The home pictured above features several remote beds that use tall ornamental grass as a soft background for the smaller foreground plants.  These plants were in good condition for late winter, but were showing signs of new growth.  When trimming plants, it is important to look for new growth, and take care not to prune lower than the tips of the green shoots.  Trimming only to the depth of the new growth will ensure the growing leaves aren’t damaged/blunted, which can stunt growth and introduce disease. This practice also guarantees that you wont scalp the crown of the tussock, which can cause a hollow center to develop, or even kill the plant altogether.

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Rake around the base of each individual tussock to remove rotting vegetation.  This reduces insects, moisture, disease, and simply gives the plant a clean start for the Spring.  Finally, be sure to rake the top of each plant vigorously in order to remove leaves and other debris.

Remove Decaying Debris Under Plants

Remove Decaying Debris Under Plants

Rake loose debris from the center of the plant.

Rake loose debris from the center of the plant.

After pruning and cleaning out each tussock, replace the mulch that was raked away from the base.  According to information published by NC State University, fertilization (although rarely necessary) should be done in early Spring.  Fertilize established plants with a balanced fertilizer such as 8-8-8 or 10-10-10.

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