Building a Bluestone Patio

There are two primary types of bluestone flatwork, flatwork referring to the stone being set on grade as a walkway, patio etc.  Arguably, the easier and more straight-forward style is with dimensional bluestone.  Dimensional bluestone is processed at a quarry, and cut into square and rectangular shapes measuring 12”x12”, 12”x18”, 18”x24”, etc so that all the pieces work and fit with one another when laid into a large area such as a patio.  This type of bluestone is generally considered more formal in appearance.  Many of our landscape customers in the lakes region prefer a less formal and more rustic style.  This is when we usually suggest a walkway or patio constructed with irregular bluestone, installed in a mosaic fashion. 

My preference of the two is certainly the mosaic style.  I love the irregularity of shapes, and also the cleft texture of the stone which you don’t get with thermaled dimensional stone (although you can get cleft dimensional as well).  Of course, the difficultly with a mosaic patio is the pieces are not cut for you.  Further, the thickness of the stone is much more variable than processed dimensional stone.  In order to lay a patio with tight consistent joints, it is necessary to cut EACH AND EVERY STONE.  In order to set each stone, it is necessary to shim or remove shim (sand or stone dust) beneath each stone to set it at grade.  People look at our mosaic installs and will often say “It’s like putting a puzzle together”.  Well, not really.  It’s more like building a puzzle.  We can’t take all the stone off a pallet, and assemble the patio without extensive work to each stone.  That’s the only way to get each stone to match up perfectly with one another.  This is done with diamond blades mounted on grinders and large demo saws, and also with carbide tipped chisels specifically manufactured to work with stone.  Once we are done, you could pick up every stone, put them in a giant cardboard box, and then reassemble it (although I wouldn’t want to).

I’ve included a time-lapse video of a mosaic bluestone patio we installed late 2013.  This customer specifically asked for small stones in the patio.  I generally prefer larger stones, but I have to admit that I loved the look after it was done.  It also made setting the stones much easier.  Usually setting to grade on stone dust or sand is a two-man job due to the weight of the stones.  In this case, the lovely and talented Tammy was able to do all the setting alone after the stones were cut and fit into place by the stone mason.

The mosaic bluestone has also been a very popular choice for permeable applications on several waterfront projects we have completed the past few years.  For more bluestone project photos, please visit our website.  If you are considering a patio, walkway, or just want to chat about stone, feel free to call Mark at (603) 387-7885.

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Lakefront Step Projects

One of NH’s greatest treasures is its abundance of beautiful lakes.  They allow us year round enjoyment and opportunity for valuable family time.  However, one of the greatest disadvantages of lakefront property here in NH is the hilly and sloping terrain so frequently associated with these properties.  But, we must embrace these challenges, for without this topography these lakes would not exist!

As a landscape contractor located in the NH Lakes Region, it seems we are tasked at least a few times a year with a challenging lakefront project, usually involved with creating access from the top of the property to the bottom.  Often, these properties are difficult to work on with steep terrain, tight boundary lines, natural wooded buffers we don’t want to disturb, minimal space for staging materials, and erosion control concerns to keep disturbed soils out of the lake. 

These projects take a great deal of planning, talent, experience, knowledge of NH DES limitations, and the right equipment to perform the work safely and create a functional and aesthetically pleasing finished product.   For several years now, we have been installing steps, landings, pathways, patios, walls, and drainage systems on NH lakefront properties to make them more functional and useful.  We can help our clients from the initial conceptual planning, through the surveying and permitting, and finally with the project execution and completion. 

If you have a lakefront project requiring experience and skill, we encourage you to call us for a consultation.  Put our experience to work for you and enhance the functionality of your challenging lakefront property.

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Is a Perched Beach Installation the Solution to Your NH Waterfront Conundrum?

The perched beach is quickly becoming the new beach for New Hampshire lakefront owners. With strict rules imposed by the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, getting permission to install an old-fashioned beach with sand up to and into the lake is nearly impossible.  Why you ask?  Well, for one, sand material added to a constructed beach area will generally be pulled away by wave action.  Further, added sand will settle through into the natural lake bottom.  Although it may take hundreds or thousands of years for a lake to ‘fill-in’, it is a reality that must be faced and considered to prevent a lake from eventually becoming nothing more than a marshy wetland.

So how is one still able to enjoy their waterfront property with toes in the sand or lounging on a chaise?  The answer is likely a perched beach installation.  A perched beach is one that is constructed and elevated above the high water mark.   A perched beach installed on a NH waterfront shoreline is generally achieved through the use of stone walls at the water’s edge, with the beach area behind the wall.  Often, access is granted to the water through the use of integrated steps within the wall. The perched beach method eliminates most of the physical, biological, and chemical impacts sand replenishment would typically have on the lake ecosystem when placed directly on grade with the lake.

Check out the video and pictures below for a quick tour of a perched beach installation we performed during lake draw-down on Great East Lake.  Also included is a brief synopsis of NHDES regulations on Perched Beach constructions and regulations.

If a perched beach is the answer to your waterfront problem, be sure to call us for a consultation.  We have the expertise to install a beautiful and functional beach area for you, and also handle all permitting with NHDES for a pain free installation.

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Perched Beach Stone Wall with Granite Steps Perched Beach Stone Wall with Granite Steps Perched Beach Area Permeable Stone Patio Integrated with Perched Beach

The Best NH Landscapers Reside Here! John Chamberlin

So I know that I promised to highlight all of our employees several weeks ago… and I've done two.  Oops.  I guess I have once again fallen into my consistent inconsistency with my blogging.  In an attempt be more consistent, my new plan is to blog shorter and sweeter and maybe that will make it easier…. maybe.

So back on course with gushing praise for another phenomenal employee:  John Chamberlin, otherwise known as Burley.  What can we say about Burley other than we LOVE him?!?!  He is the kind of worker that every boss, supervisor or project manager would love to have on their team.  Only downside of course, is that Burley is eventually going to be in those supervisor shoes.  At that point, we can only hope that he'll get the kind of effort out of the crew working for him as he gives to us.

So what does he give us?  Where should I start?  A great machine operator, a great hustler, picks up fast on everything we teach him, retains what we teach him, is always staying busy and getting ready for the next step, and when it comes to laying sod…. well, the only time I have seen sod go down faster was when it was rolled out with a machine!  Really.

At only 21 years old, Burley dispels the popular notion that "kids don't want to work today". His youthful enthusiasm, willingness to work hard and great attitude is refreshing and appreciated, especially by some of us older crew members!  If I've said it once, I've said it a hundred times — if only we could clone him.  We may not be able to do that, but stay tuned for my next post; I think we may have come close!

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NH Landscaper Greg Hutchins Achieves NHCLP Status

Congratulations to Greg Hutchins, Partner and Manager of Seacoast Division, on achieving New Hampshire Certified Landscape Professional status. 

The NHCLP test consists of two parts: 1. Plant identification 2. General Landscape knowledge to include hardscape, botany, soils, turf, fertilizer, and practical methods and techniques. As expected, Greg performed well on both portions of the exam and will receive his certificate at the New Hampshire Landscape Association annual meeting in March. 

Greg joins Dan Felix and Mark Arsenault as the third Certified Landscape Professional on the Green Monster Landscapes staff.  The certification program is voluntary, and allows landscapers to separate themselves from the competition, and show their customers that they are educated and commited to professionalism in the trade.

Greg and his company, Terraventures Landscaping merged with Green Monster Landscapes in 2011. After an eight year relationship as colleagues, and collaborating on projects together, Greg was a perfect fit and addition to the Green Monster team and blended seamlessly. Greg brings great problem solving skills with his engineering background, and also great ‘Green Industry’ knowledge coming from a family of horticulturists and landscapers. Greg is not only a great landscaper, but he’s also a great carpenter who has built stunning outdoor wood structures for us. The addition of Greg is allowing us to better serve customers in the Seacoast and Southern NH from our Barrington, NH location.

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The Best NH Landscapers Reside Here! Dan Felix

In my continued series of highlighting each of our employees, today I'd like to introduce Dan Felix.  Dan joined us about 4 years ago, relocating from his home state of Indiana.  Dan has been landscaping and slinging rakes since a very young age, and then completed his degree in Landscape Management from Purdue University (or as JD affectionately likes to call it, 'Chicken School').

With Dan's extensive experience in the industry, he's a great asset to our company.  What I'm most appreciative for with Dan, is his ability to perform just about anything we might need him to do.  For me, being the guy that has to schedule jobs, resources, and people, having an employee with great versatility and flexibilty makes my job much easier.  Dan is or has become adept at everything we do; softscape, concrete pavers, retaining walls, stonework, irrigation, and machine operation.  Not to mention a good ability in the field to think on his feet, make field changes when needed, and fix machinery and tooling issues that always arise throughout the season.  What's even better, is the peace of mind I always have, knowing Dan will go out and perform the job the way it should be done.  Never do I have to worry about whether the job will be completed to the standards customers have come to expect from Green Monster Landscapes. 

Dan also has extensiveLandscaping Services in NH Lakes Region horticultural knowledge that he has brought to us, helping all of us become better landscapers, and introducing new planting techniques and procedures for improved plant health.   He has also given us the ability to offer more services to our existing customers for things such as fruit tree pruning.  Dan is a Certified New Hampshire Landscape Professional and we look forward to him receiving his NH Pesticide License in the near future. 

Thanks for your contributions Dan, we're lucky to have you on board!





The Best NH Landscapers Reside Here! Justin Douglas

Over the next week, I'd like to take the opportunity to tell you a little bit about each of our employees. If most of you follow this page, or have dealings with me in real life, you've probably heard me gush over the guys we have on staff. And even though the winter revenue doesn't really justify keeping our entire staff on board, we think it's important to do so. It ensures we'll have quality employees to start up again each spring, and it also lets them live a more comfortable, predictable lifestyle. Collectively, they are our greatest asset for success and we want them to stick around.

Because we value each one equally, I will do this in no particular order, but I'll start with JD Douglas, who has been with us the longest.

JD is a great guy toGreen Monster Landscapes have on the crew simply because of his sense of humor. Of course, we need more than that to make the day successful, and his biggest contributions come operating excavators and Bobcats. His ability to take on any equipment related digging or grading task without constant supervision is a dream for a boss. But to stop there would certainly be selling him short. JD spent a great deal of time with me last year, working on natural stone projects where he is also very skilled, and a great partner to work with. He has a great ability to look forward several steps into the process to the keep the job flowing, and he understands how important quality, detail and craftsmanship is to our final product. In a few words, "He gets it!". Never is there a worry sending JD out on his own to complete a job, to move equipment, to finish up on the final details, or to get a job back on track. In the upcoming season, we expect JD to take on a greater leadership role, helping to mold a few of our younger guys which I will spotlight later on. Thanks for all you do JD, your efforts are appreciated!


Pruning Shrubs in NH Winter

Really, it is.   And I’m not just saying that because we don’t have any snow to push.  Why prune deciduous shade and fruit trees in the winter?  Let me count the ways:
1. With the crown free of leaves, it’s far easier to recognize the structural flaws within the tree.
2. By pruning during the winter months, your trees are less susceptible to pests and diseases.
3. Pruning promotes vigorous growth when the spring season begins.
A bad pruning job is akin to a bad haircut.  Sure it’ll grow out, but I’m sure most of my lady readers wouldn’t have their husband give them a haircut.  If he doesn’t know how to properly prune a tree, I wouldn’t have him do that either.  While a bad prune job will rarely kill a plant, it can result in undesirable shape, poor structural form, and might leave your neighbors laughing at you for several years.  Ouch.
So what is pruning, and why is it necessary? 
In its most general terms, pruning is the selective removal of parts of a plant.  Why is it necessary?  In the horticultural trade, pruning is exercised for several reasons, including deadwood removal, shaping, improving or maintaining health, preparing plants for transplanting, or increasing quantity and quality of flowers or fruit.  In the general residential landscape, we are generally pruning for overall plant health and shape; increased flowering is generally a bonus side effect.  Fruit trees are in a class of their own, and have their own special pruning requirements to maximize fruit production.
Pruning might be the most misunderstood and improperly performed landscape task by the general homeowner.  With good reason, it's not easy.  With the science of pruning techniques and the special requirements of so many different plants in the landscape, it is difficult for anyone but a highly trained and experienced horticultural professional to posses enough skill, experience, and knowledge to not be dangerous. 
We commonly see pruning being performed at the wrong time of the year, with the wrong tools, with the wrong techniques.  My recommendation to the frugal homeowner is to invest your manpower into a task such as mowing the lawn or mulching the beds, and leave the pruning to a trained professional. 
I could go on and on about the process and techniques of pruning, but it is evident the internet is already bursting with this information (and I’ve already bored the average blog reader enough).  If it’s a chore you really want to take on by yourself, my best advice is to read up on the best practices for your specific plants, and to invest in the proper tools (which likely does not include gas powered hedge trimmers).  If you don’t want to tackle this task on your own, our tools are sharp and ready for action!

NH Lakes Region Landscape Company Donates To Food Pantry

Wakefield NH Food Pantry ProjectEmployees from Green Monster Landscapes, LLC Worked for Three Days at Wakefield, NH Food Pantry

Recently, the employees from Green Monster Landscapes, LLC, a landscaping company in New Hampshire, had the opportunity to give back to the local community. The company donated time, equipment and landscaping materials to a construction project at the Wakefield Food Pantry.

For three days, the entire crew from the NH Lakes Region landscape company worked to complete all of the work. Green Monster harvested large pieces of hand-hewn antique granite from an old foundation that a local resident of the town donated.

The workers also installed an American Disability Act-compliant handicap entry using concrete pavers, and donated all of the trees and shrubs that were used during the project. The perennial flowers were donated by Van Burkem Nursery, another local business. The employees from Green Monster Landscapes finished their work just in time; shortly after completing the project, Hurricane Sandy hit the region.

Mark Arsenault, owner of Green Monster Landscapes, said that he was inspired to help the food pantry when he realized how many local residents struggle to make ends meet every month. Arsenault was touched by a local news article that said the Wakefield Food Pantry now serves 65 to 70 families a week, which is up from 19 families a week in 2004. In addition, last year the food pantry served over 1,300 people over the age of 60, compared to 2004 when 176 recipients were in that age category.

 “When I heard that the number of folks depending on the Wakefield Food Pantry was increasing, and a significant part of that number were elderly people who struggle to pay their bills every month, that hit home for me,” Arsenault said. “To work hard your whole life, only to retire on a fixed income and wonder if you'll have enough money for food for the month is just wrong. I realized these people needed our help.”

The fact that the crew from Green Monster Landscapes would work tirelessly in the rain to help others probably doesn’t come as a surprise to the many customers the company has served over the years. Since the day it opened for business, Green Monster Landscapes has strived to exceed expectations by creating incredible landscapes combined with outstanding customer service.

Janet Miller, President of the Wakefield Food Pantry, said she is grateful for the help that Green Monster Landscapes provided.

“The Wakefield Food Pantry depends on funds obtained through private donations, town funding, government programs and grants,” Miller said. “We have always run on a lean budget, but lately we have been strained even more because of rising food prices and the growing need in the community. This new facility is going to meet that need, and it has become a reality because of the generosity of people like Mark, Tammy and their crew. Green Monster Landscapes poured their hearts into this project to make our new building's landscape look beautiful. They went above and beyond what was expected and we are very grateful to them for that. It truly is inspiring to see how many lives are touched through such selfless giving to the community we live in.”

Barrington NH Office Opening

Green Monster Landscapes is pleased to announce the opening of its new landscaping office in Barrington New Hampshire. This new location will help us better serve our clients seeking a landscape contractor in the NH Seacoast.  The Barrington Office will be led by Greg Hutchins.  Greg and his company, Terraventures Landscaping merged with Green Monster Landscapes in 2011. After an eight year relationship as colleagues, and collaborating on projects together, Greg was a perfect fit and addition to the Green Monster team and blended seamlessly. Greg brings great problem solving skills with his engineering background, and also great ‘Green Industry’ knowledge coming from a family of horticulturists and landscapers. Greg is not only a great landscaper, but he’s also a great carpenter who has built stunning outdoor wood structures that have been incorported into our landscape designs.  Green Monster Landscapes