Partner with nature to enjoy the great outdoors

By Pamela A. Keene
Photos courtesy Art of Stone
By taking clues from Mother Nature, you can enhance your outdoor living space and add value to your home and property for years to come. The internet’s lifestyle websites offer a plethora of ideas that can fit any budget.
“It’s important that you approach any landscape project by first examining the topography of the site,” says Jason Brosche, owner of Art of Stone Landscaping. “If you consider the existing natural elements, you’re ensuring a lifetime of enjoyment with very few, if any, upkeep and maintenance issues.”
One of the biggest challenges for homeowners who want to increase their outdoor living space is dealing with drainage and erosion issues. “Especially in and around Lake Lanier and in the rolling hills of this area; very few lots are flat, and that holds the potential of creating water-related problems down the line,” says Brosche, based in Dahlonega. “There are a number of creative ways to solve water issues that are appealing, look natural and add value to a home.”
From installing gently sloping outdoor steps to increase lake access to diverting rain-water runoff, dealing with varying terrain can exacerbate water-flow issues.
“Many lots are graded and trees are removed when prepping a site to build a home, and if the grade doesn’t conform to the natural slope of the land, it may result in damp basements and crawl spaces or issues with a home’s foundation,” he says. “When trees are removed, the land loses its natural resistance to erosion. The roots help disperse the water as well as keeping the soil from being moved around in heavy rain.”
Dry creek beds and retaining walls are often used to manage water run-off.
“Using natural rocks and digging a route that follows the natural flow, the water can be diverted away from certain areas of the landscape and directed elsewhere,” he says. Another option is installing a retaining wall of natural or man-made materials. “A retaining wall made of natural or man-made materials can delineate a section of the landscape or create a level area that can be used for gardening, a patio or even a firepit.”

Firepit trend heats up
Websites like Pinterest offer hundreds of design ideas for fire pits. “They’re becoming much more affordable,” Brosche says. “The styles and technology are constantly evolving as people become savvier about ways to use their outdoor space.”
A firepit can be as simple as a rectangular structure of stacked stone in the center of a patio or as complex as a part of a full-blown outdoor kitchen. Free-standing fireplaces and firepits with gas starters or powered by propane make frequent use more convenient throughout the year. They also add ambience and interest to a patio.
“Firepits and outdoor fireplaces work well in North Georgia,” Brosche says. “Lots of people use them year-round as a centerpiece for entertaining and some people even ask for metal swing arms so that they can use a Dutch oven to slow-cook a meal. And of course, there’s nothing better than making s’mores over the open flame, no matter what your age.”

Bringing the enjoyment of water to your property
Water features are another popular outdoor amenity that can take many forms. “From building a pond for koi and water-loving plants to using the natural slope of the land to add a stream or waterfall, water features can add value to your home,” Brosche says. “Not only do you bring an additional element to your landscape, you’re also creating a multi-sensory experience of sights and sounds to add another dimension to your yard.”

Adding moving water to your garden can be as simple as installing a self-contained fountain made from an oversized pottery jug to mapping out a series of ponds and terraces that can be interspersed with steps, seating areas and plants. “With today’s technology, the designs and materials are limitless,” he says. “The main thing is to ensure that your design works with nature to marry your natural landscape with other elements so that it looks like it was always there.”
Living on or near Lake Lanier opens a world of possibilities for enhancing outdoor living space. “By using stone and other natural materials, a brand-new patio or retreat can look like it’s part of the scenery,” he says. “In fact, the most effective additions are those that use elements that exist in the area and complement the natural attributes of the environment.”
For more information about outdoor living, visit www.artofstonegardening.com or call 770-519-6372.

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