Serving the Naperville Community
It’s easy to see and appreciate all of the most beautiful parts of a landscape such as flowers, waterfalls, and patios. However, there’s one landscape feature that has the ability to not only stun with its beauty but also provide an essential structure that helps shape the landscape. A retaining wall should be a part of any sloped landscape or any outdoor living area that is in need of a division of spaces. As you decide what your landscape needs next, here’s why you should consider a retaining wall as part of your Wheaton, IL landscaping project.
Related: 6 Ways You Can Include a Retaining Wall in Your Landscape Design in Naperville, IL
The biggest threats to a landscape are the massive geological processes that shape our natural world. Rain runoff can quickly erode topsoil and damage a landscape beyond recognition. A retaining wall will do the essential duty of physically holding back soil, which will dramatically reduce the harm done from erosion by diverting the water to where it can be safely extracted. A retaining wall is useful on any steep slope with poor plant cover, with soil that tends to hold moisture; but the best way to determine whether you need a retaining wall is to consult with a landscape professional.
Dividing Spaces of Use
Though the retaining wall is generally a fairly low landscape feature, rarely rising above 4 feet and often even lower, it does prove to be an effective physical barrier. If the retaining wall is along the property perimeter, it can do double duty as a fence; and if it’s more centrally located, it can help to divide your backyard into various spaces of use. For example, the upper part of the slope could be reserved for outdoor living, while the lower part could become a play area for the kids.
If your slope is particularly steep, a series of terraces could be used to shape the land and create more usable space for gardens and outdoor living.
On perfectly flat properties, a low seat wall could be used to divide the space between a front entry walkway and the landscape, to define the space and give a warm “embrace” to visitors.
Housing Light Fixtures
The essential difference in your landscape between night and day is whether or not your friends and family will feel safe and welcome. Some great lighting strategies can greatly enhance the beauty of your landscape. Integrating light fixtures into the retaining wall creates a clutter-free landscape, enhances the textures of the wall at night, and provides visual depth to the space.
A retaining wall can become a great place to integrate seating. A low retaining wall can have a few casual partygoers sit on the capstones and enjoy some drinks and a friendly chat. A taller retaining wall can feature an integrated bench that allows for a comfortable place to appreciate the view. A rounded retaining wall can create a big semi-circle seating area surrounding a fire pit. Integrating seating into a wall is another way to reduce clutter in an outdoor living space while providing necessary overflow seating.
Apart from its endlessly practical physical presence, a retaining wall also has the opportunity to become a beautiful focal point. The masonry used to make a retaining wall is one opportunity for creative expression. A retaining wall establishes a strong vertical presence and increases visual interest: and the choice of natural stone, decorative concrete wall units, or veneers give you endless design choices.
Related: Choosing the Right Look for a Retaining Wall That Will Be Part of Your Brick Patio Design in Hinsdale, IL
If you have a new brick patio or you’re planning to install one, you may be wondering how to showcase it using your landscaping. Here are 4 landscape design tips for drawing attention to your brick patio in Naperville, IL.
Related: Choosing the Right Look for a Retaining Wall That Will Be Part of Your Brick Patio Design in Hinsdale, IL
Brick is a timeless building material that comes in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. Mostly, when we think of brick, we picture the traditional bricks we see on walls and sidewalks; but brick pavers can also be square, large, and they do not have to be reddish.
Brick is a versatile material that will bring visual interest to your outdoor living space whether you use traditional clay bricks (which are more limited in choices) or concrete bricks, which are available in many more styles and colors since they are not tied to the colors of the clay used in the making of clay bricks.
The first decision to make is whether you want your landscaping to contrast or complement your patio. Whether you want it to be a dramatic focal point or whether you prefer that it blends in, you can draw attention to the patio with color.
A light-colored patio will stand out more in any landscape, but especially so in a wooded landscape or in a setting that doesn’t receive much sunlight. In bright, sunny areas, a light-colored patio will instantly grab your attention. A mid-toned patio won’t stand out as much as a light-colored patio, so here you could use interesting laying patterns and textures to make an interesting space. A dark-colored patio (such as granite- or limestone-inspired pavers) will blend in even more with the surroundings, but will also give your outdoor space an elegant look very much worthy of a second glance.
Nature is filled with textures so to make your patio stand out, you could create a contrast. That doesn’t mean the pavers have to be smooth, or that you should avoid texture altogether. Here are a couple of ideas. You could use smooth patio pavers to provide a contrast to a more textured seat wall that softens the transition between the smoothness of the pavers and the varied textures of the natural surroundings. Or, your patio could feature moderately textured brick pavers in a lighter color that will help it stand out. Or, you could embrace the natural visual texture of traditional brick pavers (which is due to their small size and the many joints between them) but use laying patterns to keep the eye engaged in the patio.
3. Vertical Elements
The eye is less interested in flat planes than dynamic spaces filled with a variety of horizontal and vertical elements. You could bring attention to your brick patio by surrounding your patio partially with a seat wall; adding a fire pit or outdoor fireplace; by cladding the walls of your outdoor kitchen in brick pavers; or by using brick pillars at the base of the wooden supports of a pergola.
4. Laying Patterns
You can create a stand-out patio with more structured patterns. If you’re using traditional bricks, then either herringbone, running bond, or basket weave patterns provide a sense of order. If you’re using larger square brick pavers, laying them end-to-end also provides an eye-catching contrast to the softer elements in the landscape, even in a formal landscape where plants are precisely located in symmetrical patterns.
Related: 5 Landscape Design Ideas for a Modern Permeable Driveway in Wheaton, IL
Retaining walls provide both practical and aesthetic value to a home. If your home is on a slope, you might be interested in learning about the 5 benefits of having a retaining wall near your driveway in Naperville, IL.
Related: 7 Landscape Design Ideas That Include a Retaining Wall in the Hinsdale, IL Area
1. Drainage and Erosion Control
On any sloped property, managing the flow of water and preventing the movement of water-laden soil is a top priority.
If your driveway cuts across the slope of the property, you may notice water, mud, and/or debris flowing across your driveway after a heavy rain: not only is this unattractive, but it can cause serious damage to downslope vegetation. Sliding debris can also mar the surface of a paver driveway, as dirt and rocks act like sandpaper that will damage the pavers.
One solution is to install a retaining wall on the upslope side of the driveway. The height of the wall will depend on the steepness of the slope. On a gently sloped property, the wall could be lower than three feet. The wall will need to be engineered if it exceeds three feet in height. Taller walls could also be constructed as terraced walls, which offer an opportunity for creative landscaping.
If your driveway goes directly up the slope, then retaining walls along both sides can help prevent water and debris from flowing off the landscaping into the driveway after heavy rains.
2. A Mellower Approach To the Home
Some driveways can be very steep and scary on icy, wintery days. A retaining wall can help create a mellower, easier approach to the home, and give you more space to drive and turn around. Depending on the need, there are two types of retaining wall: cut, or fill. A cut retaining wall is literally cut into the side of a slope to give you more room to drive and turn around. A fill retaining wall builds up your driveway to compensate for a slope that’s too steep or too shallow.
3. Elegance and Landscape Protection
Whether your property is sloped or pancake-flat, you could give a long, winding driveway an estate feel by adding a low wall along one side (or both sides).
Aside from the wonderful Old World aesthetics of placing a retaining wall along a driveway, there’s a practical side to it as well. A retaining wall will help protect your landscaping from errant snowplows and from deicing salts.
4. Landscape Lighting
While this isn’t the primary function of a retaining wall, a retaining wall is an opportunity to install low voltage LED landscape lighting. This is especially welcome on a long, winding driveway, giving visitors a warm welcome from the moment they enter the driveway.
5. Beautiful Plantings
Any retaining wall has the potential to become a botanic gardens-style feature. Adding plants that drape over the top softens the look of the masonry and adds wonderful color and fragrance. Plants you can drape over the retaining wall include Creeping Phlox, Clematis, Lobelia, Creeping Thyme, Virginia Creeper, Dichondria “Silver Falls,” and Golden Creeping Jenny. Climbing plants such as roses, wisteria, or ivy do the same from the ground up.
Planting a row of cypress along the wall will give your driveway the wonderful appeal of a Tuscan villa. Or, plant flowering trees such as cherry; or maples with their spectacular fall foliage for a colorful welcome every time you come home.
On a steeper slope, terraced retaining walls are an opportunity to showcase beautiful plantings while preventing erosion. You could even place statues and other ornamental features on these terraces, for dramatic effect.
Related: 4 Landscape Design Ideas for Tranquil Landscaping in Hinsdale IL
You want to enjoy your landscape as much as possible and proper lighting is absolutely essential. The lighting strategies you decide to use in your landscape can turn an unwelcoming area into the most fun place to be after the sun sets. Today’s lighting designs are a far cry from the single house-mounted floodlight of yesterday. Here are some outdoor lighting trends to consider for a Naperville, IL brick patio.
Related: Extend Your Wheaton, IL, Patio Time With These 6 Outdoor Lighting Ideas
Taking Down the Floodlight
A single light source is the worst choice for illuminating an outdoor living space. In order to spread the light across the entire area that you want illuminated, this single source needs to give off an incredible amount of light. Anyone who looks at it will be temporarily blinded by the glare. Any interruptions in flat terrain will cast harsh shadows that can cause accidents. As well, what isn’t illuminated stands out as “pitch black” by contrast.
A Modern Approach
The technological advances in lighting have allowed light fixtures to be placed in much smaller and harder-to-reach places. Traditional light bulbs need to be replaced often, which is not only an inconvenient but expensive and wasteful way to keep your backyard illuminated.
Today’s light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are the most efficient bulbs in energy consumption and longevity. Their size, brightness, and longevity means you can get very creative with placement and effects.
Creative Placement for Lighting Zones
Each area of your landscape is used differently, and therefore has different lighting needs. An outdoor kitchen needs brighter illumination than a fire pit aea, for example. Take advantage of the many types of fixtures and lighting strategies available with LED lights, to give each zone the perfect amount of light.
LEDs can fit in small places within existing landscape features such as retaining walls, which can be used to softly illuminate an entire patio without the sports stadium effect. For extra ambience, some LED fixtures can be programmed to change color and use timers to fit the mood for any occasion.
Giving your night time landscape a rich visual texture from different light sources will accentuate its beauty, and help increase depth perception for those that have trouble seeing at night.
Spotlighting is a lighting strategy that can be used alongside ambient light sources such as masonry-embedded lights and pathway lighting to create drama and add illumination. The strategy places lights at ground level under an object for dramatic effect; ambient light will bounce off and wash over the surrounding area. Spotlighting is used to highlight the textures of vertical elements such as retaining walls; brick in particular is well-suited to the dramatic effects of spotlighting.
One of the main pleasures of summer is hosting friends and showing them a good time. String lighting creates a festive atmosphere on your brick patio. Place the string lights high above the boundaries of your patio and people will automatically flock to the area. Relatively easy to install and maintain, today’s string lights don’t need to be reserved for the holidays. String lights are an inexpensive way to improve your party atmosphere.
If there’s a tree in the vicinity of your brick patio, consider using a lighting strategy called moonlighting. This tactic places a bluish/white light that mimics the bright moon, high in the tree. The light is pointed towards the ground. The resulting effect is soft light shining through the leaves or pines, that dances as the tree sways in the wind.
Related: Why Adequate Outdoor Lighting for Your Naperville IL Driveway and Front Yard Is So Important
How a New Landscape Design Can Better Incorporate Your Naperville, IL, Driveway with the Rest of Your Front Yard
Your driveway is one of the first things people notice about your front yard so if you want to add more curb appeal, it makes sense to think beyond boring asphalt. Making your driveway an attractive part of your landscape can be achieved with our tips on how a new landscape design can better incorporate your Naperville, IL, driveway with the rest of your front yard.
Related: 6 Inspirational Landscape Design Ideas to Elevate Your Landscaping in Wheaton, IL
Upgrade to Pavers
At first glance - and beyond - upgrading to a paver driveway could be one of the best ways to make your driveway feel like a deliberate part of the design and not just a purely utilitarian space to park the car. The driveway will look less like a means of getting from here to there, and more aligned with its surroundings and the home.
While the upfront cost can be higher, look long-term. Asphalt and poured concrete are a solid surface that will crack and heave over time. Patches look terrible, and the lifespan of these driveways isn’t very long. By contrast, a paver surface can last many decades with little or no repairs (should a paver get damaged, the individual paver can be replaced).
You can extend the life of your paver driveway even more by installing a driveway heating system, which virtually eliminates shoveling or plowing (and creates a drier, safer surface that won’t ice up).
Pavers can be made to resemble natural stone or clay brick so if these are part of your home’s façade, it’s a way to integrate the driveway with the home; or, if your landscape features prominent rock outcrops, your driveway can be made to match the colors and even the textures. The colors are natural, too, unlike black asphalt (and because they’re lighter in color and not a solid surface, they stay cooler on bare feet if your kids like to play in the driveway).
Finally, pavers are an opportunity to reduce runoff - which can be significant from any solid surface! The larger joints let water seep naturally into a special substrate, keeping your driveway drier and easing the load on the municipal storm drain system.
Many driveways are bordered by grass. This creates a distinct line that makes the driveway stand out. But you can take this approach to the next level by creating a strip of lawn or low groundcovers between “tire tracks” made using pavers and bordering the driveway with tall ornamental grasses. This is an incredibly elegant and formal like that will add an estate-like flair, especially to a longer driveway that is lined with trees or a low wall; and again, if you install a driveway heating system you won’t need to worry about landscape damage from snow plows.
Bordering a driveway with a living wall such as cypress also gives your front yard an exclusive feel reminiscent of luxury estates. Layering monochromatic evergreen trees and shrubs with deciduous shrubs, leafy plants and groundcovers results in a lush and inviting look that adds a touch of serenity to the landscape in summer… and glorious pops of fall color.
Vary the height of plantings along the driveway in a repeating pattern (tall deciduous tree, shrub, tall tree, shrub, and so on). It’s a formal look that can be softened by the shrubs’ natural shapes if left unpruned.
Blur the line with ground covers that spill over slightly onto the driveway, making way for a more layered landscape border before transitioning to a lawn.
Related: 5 Spring Landscaping Tips for Your Naperville IL Front Yard
It’s the perfect time to warm up your evenings outside with an outdoor fireplace! Outdoor fireplaces are a great alternative to a fire pit, since the smoke is directed up and away through the chimney at the top! This allows you and your guests to enjoy the heat and ambiance of a fire, without dealing with the pesky smoke! We can design a custom fireplace to perfectly suit your style, needs and budget! Give us a call and schedule your free consultation today!
Related: Best Summer Landscape Design Tips for Your Lisle Backyard