SOUTHERN MARYLAND — Backyards are often a neglected area in many homes but can add immense value to a property. Blake Gross has made a life out of helping people get the most from their landscapes.
The owner of Seasonal Elements in St. Leonard says improving your yard not only adds monetary value to your home but improves the quality of your at-home life.
“The investment has a reward,” Gross explained. “The yard becomes an outdoor room. Projects like a paver patio will increase your home’s value.”
Blake says hardscape improvements like patios and pergolas bring both curb appeal and increased value, adding that trying times have helped people refocus on the value of outdoor space at home. “With people stuck at home during COVID, they’re seeing how nice it is to relax at home.”
Highlighted below are four types of projects that will take your outdoor space to the next level.
Paver Patios and Walkways
Adding a patio is like adding another room to your home. “It’s perfect for entertaining and outdoor dining or just to relax and enjoy nature. Pull up a chair and read a book on a weekend. It’s really more usable than a kitchen table. Our patio at home, I think we spend more time out there than inside the house.”
Blake says correctly installed concrete pavers will last a lifetime. “You might have to pressure wash every five years if you’re in a shady area. There’s no shifting. No sinking. Practically no maintenance.”
Whether you choose to construct a fire pit from natural stone or precut concrete, Blake says you create a relaxing oasis. “Friday evening, you can come home from work, have the neighbors over and enjoy a beer while you decompress. Who doesn’t like sitting in front of a fire?
He says a lot of people choose to add a fire pit when they install a patio. “You extend the outdoor season. With a fire pit, it’s all year long in Maryland. Even if it’s 35 degrees, you get that fire going and there’s enough heat to relax and enjoy your outdoor space.
Natural stone, whether it’s in the form of boulders or river rocks, brings something special to landscapes. Blake says he wishes people used it more. “It intensifies everything and makes your landscape more significant. The coloring, the different minerals, textures, and sizes… every stone is unique. Large boulders make a powerful design element.”
Even better, natural stone will last pretty much forever. Blake says there are lots of uses. “I incorporate it in walls, stepping stones, dry creek beds, and more.
“Landscape lighting opens up a whole different realm of your yard,” Blake says. Lighting elements make your patio useful at night. “You can entertain and not worry about tripping or fussing with tiki torches.”
And don’t forget the safety element. “You don’t have to worry about tripping. You can also see what’s going on outside at night without dealing with a bright and overpowering security light.”
Blake says a lot of customers worry about dark walkways. “Lighting makes it much safer and also more beautiful. You can spotlight your trees and vegetation.”
Blake says his interest in the outdoors began early. “I always enjoyed being outside. When I was little, I remember digging holes and moving plants.” When he got older, he moved onto various construction jobs but found them monotonous. So he went back to school in Washington State and earned a degree in landscape installation and eventually an ICPI certification in hardscape construction.
After working for a large landscaping company for several years, he opened Seasonal Elements six years ago.
In addition to hardscape projects like walkways, pergolas, and water features, the company also offers planting, spring cleanup and mulching, container plants, sod, and other services.
“I love that every job is different. I work with each customer to find the right plants, textures, and colors. There are so many preferences and elements.”
Blake says no two jobs ever look the same. “It’s not cookie-cutter. I’m a small contractor. I love what I do. I’m not in business to become a millionaire, but I wouldn’t mind. I do landscaping because I love it.”
When asked to name his favorite project, Blake says it’s impossible. “The list would be too long. When I go back to do cleanups and I look at the jobs… I say, “this thing is beautiful. This is just awesome.”