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Laying The Groundwork

How to Lay Concrete Pavers; Trends in Houston Hardscaping
By Marsha Canrigh

Hardscaping, the part of the landscape that isn’t planted in the ground, is one way to create a balanced, livable exterior.

It’s the built environment: the walkways, the water works, the decks, patios, pergolas, sculpture, wide wooden fencing, even retaining walls and raised beds.

Blending wood, water and stone; new designs are transforming outdoor living spaces into eco-

friendly retreats just in time for the fall months when being outside is more welcoming.

“Balancing non-living elements with the living part of the landscape can create a beautiful design,” says Russell Bundick, with Creative Contours Landscaping Co.

Trends in Houston Hardscaping

“The shape, the curve, the texture of materials all play a role in making your landscape interesting and useful as an extended living space. Here’s what’s trending in Houston:

1. Material Matters: Stone and other natural materials are consistently in demand in area landscaping. Bluestone, limestone, and reclaimed brick pavers are paving paths across Houston. Also popular are durable ceramic tiles in multiple patterns and colors.

Still, the top trend is permeable paver.

“Permeable pavers allow rainwater and storm water to infiltrate the soils,” says Mark McKinnon, a landscape architect and principal of McKinnon Associates.

Pavers come in many styles and can be grass or interlocking, he adds.

“If you have an area that requires detailed water management and drainage, needs to withstand heavy traffic and abuse, and doesn’t need to be aesthetically exquisite, grass pavers (also known as turf pavers, pervious pavers, and porous pavers) may be the best choice for you. The grass paver differs from concrete pavers in that they are hollow and “grid-like,” according to Concrete Pavers Guide


McKinnon is also keen on gravels, which come in many sizes and textures, and facilitate water absorption.

Other good choices include stamped and stained concrete, available in many patterns and colors, and natural stones like Travertine and Cantera, says Wes Hackney of Native Texas Landscapes.

“Travertine is a natural stone with a warm feel and costs less now than it has in the past. I especially like the Versailles pattern, which is a combination of squares and rectangles,”

he says.

Cantera is a natural stone imported from Mexico and laid like pavers. “There is a limited assortment of colors, but it has an Old World feel and should be used more often,” he says.

2.Water Wise: The greatest drawback to hardscaping is that it can cause additional runoff and exacerbate drainage problems.

“Not good for low-lying Houston. However, runoff can be limited by careful planning,” says McKinnon.

Using but not losing water resonates with Houston homeowners and landscape architects, reflecting a nationwide trend.

An interest in conserving water ranks high at the national level, according to the 2015 survey by the American Society of Landscape Architects.

The organization found that consumers are most interested in permeable pavers, low maintenance landscapes, drip and water-efficient irrigation systems, native and drought-tolerant plants, and rainwater harvesting.

3. Zero-Lawn Xeroscapes by David Morello, Garden Enterprises, and other local landscapers, has a following in The Heights, West University and other Houston neighborhoods inside the loop. No-lawn designs may include such elements as a water feature to serve as a reliable source of water for wildlife, a stone terrace for entertaining, or raised beds for plantings.

4. Bringing Indoors Out. Creating a focal point, a seating area, and a respite from the sun, additions like arbors, covered decks, and pergolas with canopies are in demand for many built-in backyards. These may be an adjunct to a swimming pool or stand-alone structures for reflection and outdoor entertaining.

“Fountains, boulders, and structures, such as cabanas or pergolas, statuaries too, all can be a successful focal point,” Hackney explains.

“Probably the best are fountains. They arouse the senses of both sight and sound and put us at ease,” he says.

Fountains can be simple or elaborate and there are many styles to choose from.

“When you consider a water feature, keep in mind that the pump should be easily accessible when replacement is necessary,” Hackney adds.

5. Hotspot. Not new to the mix but with a stronger showing in 2015 is the desire for wireless, Internet connectivity in outdoor areas.