Change by the Yard

Men laying new hardwood flooring

Some renovation projects have absolutely nothing to do with hammer and nails. In fact, some of the most dramatic changes to a homes appearance can be made with plants, water and stone. These projects show what a difference new landscaping can make.

Create an intimate outdoor spot to entertain guests


When Bruce Miller and his staff at Miller Landscape were called to this home in Duluth, they were charged with the tasks of improving the existing deck, increasing the value of the house and creating a shield from the sun.
[The homeowners] wanted a place where they could entertain guests and enjoy their backyard even if the weather were bad, Miller says. Miller Landscape tore down the existing deck and in its place built a stone patio out of crab orchard patio stone. They then built a pavilion with an arbor structure, which made that part of the patio available, even during inclement weather.
The walls surrounding the patio were built using Tennessee fieldstone and other stacked stone. To complete the backyard patio the homeowners desired, Miller Landscape created an outdoor fireplace constructed out of mossy builder stone.
The result of the five-week project is a much-improved backyard, with more versatility and added value to the home. Added value comes from the addition of stone to the home and the outdoor fireplace, which is one of the latest trends in landscape construction, according to Miller. By changing the design of their back porch, the homeowners are now able to enjoy their yard in a way that wasnt possible before.
Millers advice to those who want to start a landscape project is to have a landscape design done prior to starting the quoting process. A landscape design takes the ideas of the homeowner and puts them in a format that contractors can use to competitively quote the job needed, he says.


Tore down the existing deck

Built a stone patio

Built a pavilion with an arbor structure

Created an outdoor fireplace

Turn a steep hill of dirt into a lush California-style garden


For Steve and Kaye Gillis, California gardens were the inspiration when they moved into their brand new Marietta home and looked out onto a backyard of dirt.

There was that steep hill of dirt and we had no idea what we could do with it, Kaye says. The Gillises liked the natural look of the yards they had seen when they lived in California, with the big stones and lots of greenery. And they knew they wanted a waterfall. But other than those few details, they were unsure of what to do.

Going on a referral, they contacted P.O.P.S. (Professional On Property Services) Landscaping in Marietta, who came out, surveyed the backyard and immediately came up with a plan. To begin, P.O.P.S. had to do something about the biggest challenge, which was working with such a steep hill. To combat that issue, P.O.P.S. brought in dozens of loads of fill dirt, which created a flat-topped mountain.

We needed to sculpt the lay of the new landscape, says Kym Gatti, CFO of P.O.P.S. We re-graded the soil terrace style and compacted it as we went.

They also installed a drainage system to work with all the proposed water.

P.O.P.S. also brought in plants, both perennials and annuals, in order to add plenty of color and beauty.

P.O.P.S. installed a cascading waterfall, which flows into creeks and pools. The creek is about 60 feet long and winds its way down to several pools. The entire yard is accessible thanks to the hardscapes P.O.P.S. installed, which consist of boulder walls, fieldstone walls, flagstone patios and stepping stones. All of the stone was set in a natural-dry method.

Natural-dry is when we dont use any mortar or cement to set the stones. Its all done with aggregate, Gatti says. The Gillises are especially fond of all the stone. I love the stone walls and I like all the pathways in the backyard, Kaye says. Both natural stone and water have been huge trends, Gatti says. Splash pools and fireplaces are also huge.

Generally, most people want outdoor living spaces that can be used to entertain or to be outside comfortably with all the conveniences of an inside room, she says. As a form of entertainment, P.O.P.S. installed a hot tub recessed into the bank on a dock-style platform.

The yard was irrigated and night illumination was installed. The lighting allows the Gillises to enjoy their garden and backyard at night, without worrying about falling or stumbling. Overall, the Gillises were blown away with the results and the speed of the four-week project.

They listened to everything we said we wanted and we were so pleased. We still are, Kaye says. Every time we go back there, we just love it. The kids love to take their prom pictures in our backyard because its so beautiful, she says. The Gillises also have improved upon the design. We now have goldfish in the pond and a nice swing where we can sit and talk.


Created a flat-topped mountain with fill dirt

Re-graded and compacted soil

Installed drainage system

Planted perennials and annuals

Installed a cascading waterfall

Installed hardscapes consisting of boulder walls, fieldstone walls, flagstone patio and stepping stone, and fish pond

Irrigated yard

Installed night illumination

Installed hot tub

Seamlessly connect a hot tub to the bedroom for a private spa retreat


When Maureen and Larry Neal of Marietta decided they wanted a hot tub as part of their home, privacy became their main concern. We wanted the hot tub connected to our bedroom, which is at the front of the house, Maureen Neal says.

Their desire for a convenient hot tub seemed like it clashed with their desire for privacy, but after meeting with Eric King of Piedmont Landscape in Tucker, they knew they had hit on a winning solution. He was right on track, she says. His ideas were right in line with what we wanted and what we already had.

What they already had was a 24-year-old home on 7 acres, complete with a very rustic, natural design. King decided to stick with that and the Neals agreed to ditch their decaying railroad ties and have the front steps redone. Piedmont Landscape then brought in more than 80 tons of boulders to create a retaining wall. It took twice as many boulders than I thought it would, King says. But once we starting placing them, [the Neals] got really excited about it. When we had done about one third of the wall they could step back and see how it changed the space.

After the boulders were brought in by tractor loads and placed by hand to fit, the flagstone concrete steps were put in place. And, of course, a privacy wall was built around the hot tub, complete with lighter color wood and old, rusted tin.

This landscape incorporated a lot of stone, which is one of the reasons it stands out. Its a one-of-a-kind project, a real collaboration. Those are the best projects: involved, but flexible. Thats the reason this came out so well, King says.

The collaborative efforts of Piedmont and the Neals resulted in a project that everyone is happy with. Everything is so natural; Im really happy with the way it came out, King says. It really fits this site.

Maureen agrees. Were very pleased with the results. We use the hot tub twice a day.


Built privacy wall around hot tub

Created retaining walls with boulders in garden

Put flagstone concrete steps in place

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