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Bringing Florida to Ohio
February 2016 LC/DBM Hardscapes

By Nathan Graham, Designer, Hedge Landscaping and Alli Rael, LC/DBM


The owner of this residence in Upper Arlington, Ohio, asked Hedge Landscaping to create a full sun backyard getaway for his second home, reminiscent of his home in Florida. The only shaded area is the covered patio directly adjacent to the home. Silver select travertine pavers were chosen for the patio surface because they stay cooler on bare feet during the spring, summer and fall, when this home is primarily occupied.



The center of attention of the backyard is the firepit and waterfall feature. A series of Allan Block retaining walls, including an 8' tall 'Europa' wall and a 6' tall 'Olde Courtyard' wall, both in the color 'Stonecreek,' were used to retain the slope and construct the waterfall. Each wall has an 8" compacted gravel base and 18" of backfill; packing peanuts (inset) were used with the backfill to help alleviate pressure on the smaller wall. Decorative gravel 3" deep was placed on top of the backfill between the two walls. The waterfall was carefully designed for minimal splashing of the seatwall, eliminating the need for patio furniture in this area. The planters on top of the three main columns have recently been planted with boxwood hedges, which will mature into the scale of the columns.

To create an outdoor living space that would impress a homeowner in the Columbus, Ohio, area and his friends and family, Hedge Landscape crafted a contemporary design with a unique flame and water focal point, and a full sun backyard to emulate the owner's home in Florida.

When entering this Upper Arlington backyard from the side privacy gate, the first sight is the centralized waterfall and firepit. The waterfall feature required the use of two different wall systems, both manufactured by Allan Block. The eight-foot tall back wall, of which only the top two feet are visible, is from the 'Europa' series, while the six-foot tall waterfall wall is from the 'Olde Courtyard' series. As they are both the color 'Stonecreek,' they blend well together. The taller back wall retains the hillside with an interlocking system with six-degree batter. As the second wall has no batter, it is ideal for the sheer waterfall system. The back wall has 14 courses, three of which are visible above the waterfall wall. Every two courses have a geogrid tie back for reinforcement; three of these go through the waterfall wall as well. Both walls have an 8" compacted gravel base and 18" of backfill.

A large French drain system was installed between the two walls, and the empty spaces were filled with packing peanuts to alleviate pressure on the front wall. The space between the upper wall and the waterfalls is filled with decorative gravel 3" deep. The waterfalls were designed to minimize splashing onto the seatwall, thereby eliminating the need for outdoor furniture around the natural gas firepit. To create a natural looking flame, the firepit uses a 36" steel star-shaped burner. The seatwall has Kichler lights mounted under the wall caps, and the waterfalls are uplit with underwater spotlights from the same manufacturer. The planters on top of the columns of the smaller wall were recently planted with boxwood; the hedges will soon mature to fit the scale of the columns and planters.


To the right of the fire and water feature, a grill is built in to the lower side column, blending it into the overall appearance of the landscape. The landscaped areas on either side of the firepit and waterfall have terraced sandstone "planting pockets" that contain blooming perennials. The left side contains a path of steps and patios to the upper level of the backyard, which is level with the top of the taller retaining wall.


The upper patio area, where the pool and lawn are located, is accessed via the travertine steps on the left side of the lower patio. The deck around the pool was kept to a minimum, with bump-outs only for the bistro table and lounge area. This was done to maximize the lawn area, which is used for relaxing on the hammock or playing badminton. A garden of red drift roses was planted next to the top of the retaining wall, serving as a contrast to and a transition from the perennials on the terraces.

Further down the seatwall to the right, a grill is built in to the lower side column, blending it in to the overall appearance of the landscape. Above the seatwall and grill, a terraced sandstone outcropping is planted with perennials. To the left of the firepit, the owners have a hot tub, the placement of which was softened with transplanted azaleas. The patio next to the hot tub, on the path to the upper patio, is elevated for the ease of entering and exiting the spa. The entire back garden is surrounded by a hedge of arborvitae for privacy.

The patio areas are paved with silver select travertine, chosen because it stays cooler on bare feet than regular pavers. Since the homeowner wanted to emulate the sunshine of Florida, the only shaded spot in the backyard is created by the home's extended roof over a small part of the patio. Additionally, no shade trees were installed in the garden because the homeowner asked that there be full sun wherever possible in the yard.

Continuing up the stairs from the first elevated patio, on either side of the waterfall, "planting pockets" were created with natural sandstone from northeast Ohio, and filled with geranium 'Rozanne' and sedum 'autumn joy,' amongst others. The residence is primarily used from spring to fall, so very few evergreens were selected for winter interest. The very top tier is planted with red drift roses adjacent to the pool, and a variety of grasses on either side of the rose garden.

The uppermost patio was designed to have a different feel and function than the lower garden. Different plant materials were used to further this concept while smoothing the transition from the tiered walls of the lower patio. The pool deck only bumps out where necessary for the bistro table and the lounge chairs. A large lawn spreads out beyond the pool: the limited pool deck maximizing the available space for badminton, hammock lounging, and other activities.

Hedge Landscaping designed and built the backyard with the vision that it would be a getaway reminiscent of Florida for the spring, summer and fall. The primary challenge was the grade change between the upper level patio and the lower level patio, but the installation of the retaining walls, planting pockets, and tiered patio steps helped ease the transition. It took two to three members of Hedge Landscaping's crew a total of seven months between October 2013 and May 2014 to complete the project.

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