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You’re probably thinking this blog is going to talk all about why landscaping is a great investment and how wonderful it will look. But it’s really all about actual landscaping rocks. Rocks can be incorporated into landscape design ideas in many ways, adding texture or functionality. Take a look at some of these:

Pea Gravel

Small pebble-sized rocks make for a great element base or as low maintenance walkways.

Delaware Riverstone

A mix of smooth, 2″ to 6″ stones provide interest, especially when concealing a drainage area in the yard.

Fieldstone

Available in a wide range of sizes, small stacked fieldstone creates a beautiful wall or large fieldstone makes for great steps.

The post Landscaping Rocks! …No, Seriously. appeared first on D. A. Dunlevy.

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It’s wintertime now and it’s important to dress properly so that you can protect yourself from the elements. It may seem like a strange connection, but dressing appropriately for the cold reminded me of the principles that are applied when dealing with foundation waterproofing. Let me explain…

Protecting a foundation is a process completed in layers. Homes that are built today are equipped with substantially more layers than homes from 20 or 30 years ago. Compared to the homes of 60+ years ago (when basements were not designed to be living spaces) modern foundations look like armored tanks next to a Schwinn bicycle. Today, there are at least five layers of protection used to protect a home, each designed to keep water away from your interior space; these are standard to all new construction. When I engage in a water remediation situation (an existing home with a water problem), it is possible that the recommendation might include up to 9 layers of protection.

Each water remediation situation is different, each calls for certain layers of protection and deciding which layers you need is very similar to the way that you decide what to wear before you leave the house in the morning. Think about your decision making process when you pick out your clothing… if it’s 90 degrees you might get by with shorts, a tee shirt and flip flops. If it’s sunny you add sunglasses or a hat. If there happens to be a chance of rain you might ditch the flip flops for close-toed shoes… you might even take an umbrella. If it might go down into the 60’s you could take a wind-breaker or a coat… I think you see my point; each situation is different and each requires a different article of clothing.

So, here are the layers of protection that your foundation could need:

Solid Foundation Wall – This may sound obvious, but you have no idea how many foundations have cracks or pipe penetrations (for utilities) that allow water easy access to the interior space.

Cementitious Parge – If your home or addition was constructed with block, that block is porous. Cement is porous too, but it provides much more protection than standard block.

Waterproofing Membrane – This is a black, tar-like, substance that goes on top of the walls and is completely resistant to water penetration.

Interior Draintile –  This is a perforated pipe surrounded by gravel that provides a space for water to sit if it ends up under the basement floor.

Sump Crock and Pump – A sump crock collects water that finds its way into the interior draintile; a sump pump ejects the water from the basement to the ground outside the home.

Exterior Draintile – This is the same concept as the interior draintile (provides capacity for water storage), only on the outside of the foundation.

Drainage Board/Protection Board – Protection board is placed on the exterior foundation wall and protects the waterproofing membrane from rocks or roots that might puncture the finish. Drainboard does the same thing, except is has a plastic webbing that allows water along the foundation to quickly find it’s way to the exterior draintile.

Surface Drainage – Surface drainage is a broad term, but it is anything that is designed to move runoff away from the house quickly, thereby reducing the amount of water that actually finds it’s way to a foundation wall. It could be as simple as positive grading or as involve as yard drains and downspout extensions.

D & A Well and Exterior Sump Pump – A D & A well uses the same concept as the interior Sump Crock and Pump, only it is placed on the outside of the house. This is a technic that was perfected by our own Dave Dunlevy and is used only in extreme cases. It allows any water that reaches the foundation to be captured and relocated before it can penetrate beyond the exterior walls of a foundation.

So bundle up out there, you don’t want your basement to be underdressed if bad weather strikes!

The post The Principles of Foundation Waterproofing appeared first on D. A. Dunlevy.

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One of our favorite parts of the holiday season is decorating! We love seeing the houses that are lit up with colorful lights, stairways draped in evergreen garland, mistletoe hung in the doorway, and a beautiful Christmas tree at the center of it all! When it comes to decorating, you can buy most anything at the stores, both live and artificial. But, creating your own genuine evergreen holiday decor can be a simple holiday craft (and cost effective!) using plants found in your own landscape. Gathering greenery from your garden will be more fresh than if you were to purchase it from a store. Using real plant material will also fill your home with that wonderful evergreen scent. Incorporating plants from your landscape rather than from the store ensures a longer lasting scent and greenery that stays fresh.

Before running out and cutting branches off your plants, keep in mind that when you do so, you are actually pruning them. Follow proper pruning practices and try to keep your cuts evenly distributed around the plant to preserve its natural shape. When cutting greenery, be sure to utilize sharp and clean sheers. Immediately immerse the cut ends in water and allow them to sit overnight before arranging them.

Below are some commonly used landscape plants and ideas to start creating:

Holly: perhaps the most traditional choice for holiday decor, this plant comes in both green and variegated. The female varieties grow pretty, bright red berries. Holly is perfect for creating wreaths, centerpieces, and garland.

Firs: These are a common choice for Christmas trees because they have soft needles, making them easy to work with, plus they smell great! Fun decorations to make out of Firs are swags, garlands, and wreaths.

Boxwoods: The smooth, rounded leaves of this plant provide a softer texture than the sharper leaves of the Holly or the pointed needles of the Firs. Boxwoods are great for wreaths and kissing balls.

Suggestions and Tips:

– Don’t forget to wear gloves when working with the trimmings; plants can be sharp, pointy, and sticky.
– Craft stores sell a fire retardant foliage spray that is a good idea if you plan on using candles in or around your decorations.
– Purchasing a wire or foam ring from the store is an easy place to start for your wreath, and a foam ball is a great option for you “kissing ball”.
– Pinecones and acorns gathered from outside make great accents to the greenery.
– Consider using fruit as an accent, such as whole apples, pears, lemons, limes, or even dried sliced fruits.
– Enhance your decorations with bows, ribbons, beads, feathers, ornaments & lights, glitter, or even candy canes to add color and shine to your decorations.
– Try using a basket or festive bowl to start your holiday centerpiece.
– Mix and match your greenery trimmings for new looks and textures. Try adding some fresh flower for more color too!
– Be cautious around pets and children as Holly berries can be poisonous.

Feature photo courtesy of DIY-Enthusiasts.com.

The post Happy Holly-Days appeared first on D. A. Dunlevy.

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Succulents have been popular since about 2010 and they continue to be a steadfast décor element in fashion, the wedding industry, interior design, and landscape architecture. There are so many reasons to love succulents! They are easy to maintain and require less fuss than most other houseplants. Plus, there are a wide range of succulent varieties, shapes, and growing habits for any look and feel. For instance, pairing cacti with kilim pillows, a crisp white wall, and a terra cotta pot easily creates a picture-perfect bohemian look. String of Pearls look phenomenal in a hanging basket in your favorite sunny window, and in that position they are perfectly out of reach from curious children and pets. Or consider the rosette shape of Echevaria for a more feminine approach to succulents. The typical red-to-green fade looks beautiful with pink décor elements (I mean, have you seen plantsonpink?).

Image from bevcooks.com

Furthermore, you can use flowering Sedum varieties and Hens & Chicks in your garden beds to get that beautiful texture and blue-green shade into your landscaping. No matter how you decide to use them, succulents can provide a graphic, botanical feel to any space.

Recently, we had a client request a succulent planter for their outdoor dining table and we were thrilled for the opportunity to work with these pretty plants. For this project, we chose the succulents based on their size and shape. We absolutely wanted to utilize the classic rosette shape of the Echevaria in some of the more blue-green varieties. We intentionally placed hanging succulent types near the edges to create a beautiful, natural flow and the sensation of abundance. In order to create this effect we used Stonecrop, Sempervivum Hens & Chicks, and Graptopetalum. The succulents were planted with room to grow, so these plants will have space to establish themselves. In a month or two, they will be growing into one another to create the desired fullness requested by the client.

We selected a long, black iron planter to run along down the center of the large rectangular table. The planter, measured about 3” wide and 3” deep. The width proved suitable for a standard dining table, with plenty of room for casual- family style place setting of plates, drink ware, and shareable dishes. The depth provided enough room to line the bottom with pea gravel in order to encourage drainage (as succulents prefer drier conditions). We topped the pea gravel with filter fabric and standard potting soil. The succulents were healthy specimen with plenty of off shoots that were waiting to dig into fresh soil.

We were so happy with the results, and the client was thrilled! She plans to use it on her outdoor table for the rest of the season, and move it indoors to enjoy it all winter long. We can’t wait to hear how the plants grow.

If you are interested in more succulent inspiration, check out our Pinterest board dedicated to the subject!

The post Succulents are here to stay! appeared first on D. A. Dunlevy.

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Summer is in full swing, and with July 4th quickly approaching, we’re thinking outdoor living spaces, barbecues, and beautiful fireworks! What better way than to celebrate the national holiday than by relaxing on your flagstone patio, grilling, and kicking back with family and friends?

Flagstone is a popular choice for patios, porches, and walkways because of its durability and natural beauty. But once your material is chosen, how do you decide what pattern to use? That determination will take into consideration the style of your home, but it will mostly be based on your personal preference. Here is a list of the most commonly used flagstone patterns:

  1. Random – A series of precisely cut squares and rectangles of various sizes arranged so that the joints are staggered and do not continue in a straight line for very long.
  2. Irregular – Utilizes the natural shape of the stone. The pieces are selected to fit together like a puzzle so that the stone doesn’t have to be cut. Stones and joint sizes vary.
  3. Stack Bond – Equally and accurately cut squares stacked in straight lines like a checkerboard. Joints are all of the same size and run in straight lines.
  4. Diagonal Stack Bond – Specifically cut squares, all of equal size, set on 45 degree angles to create a diamond pattern. Joints are all of equal size and run in diagonal lines.
  5. Herringbone – Accurately cut rectangles that are all the same size and set in a 45 or 90 degree interlock.

  6. Running Bond – Accurately cut squares or rectangles that are all of the same size and laid so that the joints are offset by exactly half the width of each stone.
  7. Tudor Pattern – Two sizes of specifically cut squares and one size of rectangle set in an alternating pattern. Joint sizes are all the same size.

The post Fireworks, Freedom, & Flagstone appeared first on D. A. Dunlevy.

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As you consider building or improving on your outdoor living spaces, remember that outdoor lighting is an essential part of the landscape. Outdoor lighting creates a “Wow!” factor when done correctly. Creating focal points and “layering” lighting can drastically change the impact of one’s property once the sun sets.

The primary goal in designing a lighting plan is to illuminate key elements of the property. Key architectural elements that should be considered include: entrance ways, peaks, columns, and stonework. Landscape elements that should be considered are: fire places, fire pits, pergolas, outdoor kitchens, retaining walls, water features, and focal points. Safety also needs to be considered when is comes to lighting. Steps, paths, and elevation changes should also be illuminated. Lighting plans can also increase ambiance in key areas, such as pool or outdoor dining lighting.

Plant material also creates a great impact when illuminated. Specimen plants should be illuminated, and the key is to highlight exfoliating bark, an interesting branching pattern, or colorful foliage. It is also important to use more than one light fixture on trees. Trees will look one-dimensional if only one fixture is used.

Light fixtures should vary in brightness, which creates a layering element. By creating a hierarchy of landscape elements, you’ll know which features should be more illuminated than others.

Have existing lighting? Consider upgrading your bulbs to high efficiency LED bulbs. It’s well known that halogen lights burn out quickly, compared to their LED counterparts, but what you might not know is that they also decrease the longevity of your fixtures. Not only do halogen bulbs burn hot, but the heat can often calcify condensation inside the fixture, causing corrosion of contacts and wire splices, while also leaving a white haze on the inside of the fixture lens.

While LED bulbs are priced higher than halogen bulbs, they pay for themselves within the first 25 replacements of your halogen bulbs. This cleaner, greener option allows for much better illumination of the intricate details of your landscaping. Your lighting hardware will thank you, as well. LED lighting uses much less energy, allowing you to install more lights on a single loop without the fear of overloading your transformer, fixtures, and wires.

Outdoor lighting is a great asset to your landscape. It increases your property’s value and really sets it apart!

The post Maybe It’s Time for New Outdoor Lighting appeared first on D. A. Dunlevy.

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Looking for a great way to kick off summer? Blooming Hill Gardens, located in Purcellville, Virginia, hosts their 3rd annual Lavender Festival this weekend.

Blooming Hill is a small lavender farm of four acres set in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The ‘farmlet’ boasts over 600 beautiful lavender plants in almost fifty different varieties and a gift shop with home grown lavender products. Lavender is a widely used herbal medicine, known for its soothing scent that can calm nerves or relieve anxiety. It can also help relieve headache, migraines, and insomnia. But it’s also a vibrant perennial that is in full bloom generally from June through August. Although usually associated with shades of blue and purple, plants are also available in white, pink, mauve, and even yellow.

At Blooming Hill, you can wander through purple fields swaying in the breeze and pick your own lavender. Bouquets are 15 cents/stem or $12.00/bundle of 75 stems. Make-your-own lavender wand is $10.0/person. The Lavender Festival boasts lavender-infused teas served in the gardens, tours, lectures, and vendors. Admission is free and the festival will take place rain or shine.  The festival runs from June 9 through June 10, 10AM to 5PM. You can also visit Blooming Hill anytime from mid-April to Mid-December on Fridays and Saturdays. It is a great day trip outside of the DC area for all types of garden enthusiasts and adventurers. For an address and contact information, visit Blooming Hill’s website.

Photo courtesy of Blooming Hill Garden.

The post Day Trip Series – Blooming Hill Gardens appeared first on D. A. Dunlevy.

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Mother’s Day is just about the only day that can rival Valentine’s Day in flower sales. And who doesn’t want the best for Mom? We’re here to provide a few tips on buying your mother flowers this year so that you can be the favorite child.

Historically, carnations were gifted to moms on Mother’s Day. Carnations had fallen from favor as a cut flower, but there has recently been a Carnation renaissance in the floral industry. Don’t shy away from this spectacular bloom; ask for “novelty” colors for a natural or pastel look. This bouquet includes a beige toned Carnation paired with Peonies and Queen Anne’s Lace for an upgraded look.

Photo courtesy of Vibeke Design

Alternatively, take inspiration from spring when placing an order with your florist. Consider requesting seasonal blooms such as Lilac, Ranunculus, Anemones, Tulips, Hyacinth, and Viburnum.

Photo courtsey of Floret Flowers

For a unique gift, hanging baskets are a wonderful gift to mom. We recommend Calibrachoa or Vinca for their beautiful, flowing tendrils and great variety in color. For a more natural look, try trailing succulent varieties. These floret-shaped little Cacti come in many different shapes and looks. Hanging baskets tend to dry out more quickly than plants planted directly in the ground, so you may find that succulents last better than standard flowers in these conditions.

Photo courtesy of Windowbox.com

For lasting appeal, pick up a medium sized Peony, Viburnum, or Rosebush, something that you know she enjoys. Plant the shrub together and every year when it blooms, she will think of you.

For more ideas on flower arrangements for Mother’s Day, check out our pinterest page to see what we’re getting our moms!

The post Flowers for Mom: Be Your Mother’s Favorite Child appeared first on D. A. Dunlevy.

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It’s that time of year again…

Springtime, of course – when everything is turning beautiful shades of green, including your lawn. Except you’ve noticed more than a few weeds budding, and they’ve got the munchies for your landscape. Let’s be blunt – weeds will quickly takeover and can be a real hassle to get rid of. Common spring weeds include clover, chickweed, dead nettle, bittercress, henbit, and speedwell. These obnoxious plants will have your allergies raging and your eyes red – from pollen of course.

Because spring annual weeds are so vigorous, they can overtake large patches of healthy turf very quickly. To help fight these pests, early spring fertilization will help jump start the desirable turf and reduce the likelihood of competition between the lawn and the weeds. Every lawn will inevitably have a few, which can be easily targeted with a spot spray of selective broadleaf herbicide. Selective herbicides will target only broadleaf weeds and will not harm the rest of your lawn. In worse cases, a broad cast application may be necessary. Pre-emergent applied on the entire lawn in the springtime can proactively combat grassy weeds (crab grass, goose grass, foxtail, and fall panicum to name a few) that come in summer. The healthier your turf is during the summer heat, the less likely it will get baked.

The best course of action for improving the health of your lawn and smoking out the weeds is to sign up for regular lawn treatments throughout the year. Regular visits are ideally timed to proactively treat your lawn and avoid weed takeover. Knowledgeable technicians can make targeted treatments to meet your turf’s individual needs. A healthy, green lawn is aesthetically appealing and less likely to have invasive insect issues.

If you’re not scheduled for regular lawn treatments, consider contacting us to start a regime at the beginning of this season. We’d like to get your lawn rolling and get rid of those weeds!

The post Horror Stories with Howie: Time to Smoke Those Weeds appeared first on D. A. Dunlevy.

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With the warm weather starting to roll in, now is a great time to start planning spring road trips! Plenty of flowers will be blooming shortly, and there are few better ways to enjoy the sunshine than visiting local gardens. The Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens was bought in 1955 by Marjorie Merriweather Post and opened to the public in 1977. Nestled in the hills of Northwest D.C., Hillwood greets visitors from all around the world. Whether you take a relaxing stroll or a full tour, there are many beautiful gardens to enjoy.

The Rose Garden was chosen by Marjorie’s daughters as her final resting place. In 1956, landscape architect Perry Wheeler adapted this formal and round space, which features a pergola and stone steps that lead to a putting green. Four rose beds are featured, each planted with a single cultivar of floribunda rose. The centerpiece is a memorial to Marjorie that houses an antique urn, engraved with the Latin phrase ‘In me mea spes omnis’ which means ‘All my hopes rest in me’.
The French Parterre is a secluded garden room set off by ivy-covered walls. Surrounding the pool, which is lined with Italian glass tile, are English boxwood hedges pruned into scroll designs. The French Parterre garden is intended to capture the feel of a small formal garden in the 18th century.
The Japanese Style Garden is a reflection of Marjorie’s love of collecting decorative items. Hundreds of carefully assembled stones design a subtle structure that adds calmness to the garden, while flowing water stimulates the senses of sight and sound. A magnificent pair of stone “foo dogs” sit at the top of the garden, which are meant to ward off evil spirits.
The Greenhouse at Hillwood is stocked with orchids, Marjorie’s favorite flower. When she purchased the property, there was only one greenhouse. She soon added 4 more on each side of the original greenhouse. Today’s Hillwood greenhouse contains over 2,000 specimens and hundreds of different varieties of orchids. Hillwood is one of the only public gardens in the Washington D.C. area to allow visitors daily access to a working greenhouse.

These gardens are just a few of the highlights that the Hillwood House has to offer. We highly recommend planning a trip during visiting hours, which are Tuesday through Sunday from 10AM to 5PM. For more information, visit their website.

The post Day Trip Series: Hillwood House appeared first on D. A. Dunlevy.

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