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Repeat Performance
By Mike Dahl, Editor LC/DBM with Dan McClaren, APLD, Impullitti Landscaping, Inc.





Shortly after the first set of assignments was finished, the homeowners brought back the design/build firm to add a horse and rider resting area. For this installation, indigenous stone was used for the columns, and reclaimed granite cobbles, believed to have originated in Belgium, were used for the pavement.





The equestrian enthusiasts at this residence in Gates Mills, Ohio, commissioned Impullitti Landscaping, Inc., to complete a number of hardscape installations including this vehicular courtyard made up of 2,200 square feet of Pawnee paver clay bricks dry-laid over a concrete base. The eight-foot inlaid horse is made of a dark gray brick.


Companies usually jump at the chance of new business from old customers; especially when it involves high-end work. The owners of this expansive residence in the historic village of Gates Mills, Ohio, twice commissioned Impullitti Landscaping, Inc., to upgrade their property with a number of features that certainly did not turn out run of the mill.

The work included designing and building a chip and seal heated driveway, a formal knot garden, a heated brick vehicular courtyard, and, in a show of the owners' love of animals, a pool for their dogs and a resting place and watering hole for theirs and their neighbor's horses.

First Stage
Impullitti Landscaping is a design-build company that handles commercial and residential installation and maintenance. According to Dan McClaren, the company's director of design, they blueprinted and installed this part of the project in a year and a half. "The house was simultaneously undergoing a major renovation," says McClaren, "so orchestrating the logistics with all of these different trades, equipment, people, deliveries, our subcontractors and ourselves, was not unlike a well choreographed dance."




This pond was built specifically for the owners' dogs. The patio is made of "broken glass" reclaimed sidewalk stone, Belden Brick pavers and natural river stone. An Ipe hardwood deck provides a launching pad/dock for the canines. A three-ton flat rock was placed in the pond atop a concrete pedestal. The rock cantilevers over the pedestal on all sides so the pedestal is not visible. The top of the rock sticks out of the water about two inches.





A reclaimed broken glass sandstone walk with a brick soldier course leads through, and circles the knot garden. A twin pair of custom circular stone benches with round hand-cut and chiseled bases completes the circular theme.





A six-foot tall monolith, a tapered piece of barn stone, is set in a circular bed of broken glass sandstone, bordered by a rowlock of brick. A metal sculpture of veining branches and leaves wraps around the stone. A living vine also grows up the sculpture.


McClaren recites the dance steps:
The Dog Pond: We designed, installed and now maintain a swimming pool/pond. A broken glass reclaimed sidewalk stone patio for observers to relax and share the experience with the dogs flanks the pond. Our lead foreman for this project, Mike Paul, enjoyed the pool project the most. We placed a three-ton flat rock on top of a concrete pedestal for stability. The top of the rock sticks out of the water, which is handy for the dogs to stand on.

A Brick Vehicular Court Yard: Arrival to the home is announced with a 2,200 square foot vehicular courtyard. Pawnee clay bricks are dry-laid over a concrete base. This area is heated. The house and garage provide enclosure to two sides of this area. Approximately 700 face feet of dry laid briar hill sandstone peppered with reclaimed barn stone tame a four-foot cut into a hillside and provide enclosure on the third side of the courtyard. Intricate soldier courses break up the vast area, while a subtle dark gray brick inlay in the shape of an eight-foot horse reminds the client of their hobby.

Front Walks: A crab orchard sandstone walk connects the garage to the house. The front walk is made of the same materials and both are heated like the driveway. A Belden Brick soldier course around the front walk transitions into the driveway.




The retaining walls, which emulate one existing wall, are veneered with a natural river stone. Brick complements the river stone on the lower terrace and reclaimed sandstone curbs provide a staircase to the lower ponds, with a barn stone bench half way down. The landscape lighting is controlled via a computer from the home.





The new 400-ft. plus chip and seal pea gravel drive meanders through the woods up a 40-ft. incline. Swales lead excess rainwater to drains. Extensive boulder walls retain necessary cuts in the hillside. Heavy Ohio snowfalls are not a problem, as the entire drive is heated. A pair of hand-hewn cedar gates with hand-painted and antiqued bark-finished spindles is set between stone veneered columns.


Formal Knot Garden: A reclaimed broken glass sandstone walk with a brick soldier course takes visitors through the knot garden, or around it in a complete circle. A twin pair of custom circular stone benches with round hand-cut and chiseled bases completes the circular theme.

Stone/Metal Sculpture: A six-foot tall tapering piece of barn stone was brought to the site, not knowing exactly where it would wind up. After setting it in a circular bed where four walkways converge, it needed something to be a truly unique focal point. A metal sculpture was designed and fabricated, complete with veining branches and leaves. A living vine growing up the sculpture provides the right finishing touch.

Patios and Terraces: A series of terraces located on three different elevations work in unison to provide traffic flow, outdoor cooking, entertaining, private contemplation and exploration. The retaining walls, which emulate one existing wall, are veneered with a natural river stone. A cedar arbor provides shade over the main patio.

Back Yard Drop: The back yard falls off abruptly with a grade change of about 30 feet down to two existing ponds. This severe grade change was terraced and tamed with numerous truckloads (hundreds of tons) of natural sandstone boulders. A staircase created from reclaimed curbstones with a sitting bench halfway down provides access two-thirds of the way down to the ponds. A series of smaller steps and secondary gravel paths lead visitors to the pond's edge and back up to other areas of the property.

The Plant Palette: This amount of hardscaping needs a lot of softening. The extensive planting includes 57 shade and ornamental trees, (some spaded in with a 90-inch tree spade), 41 evergreen trees, nearly 1,000 shrubs, 1,600 perennials, 2,700 containers of groundcover and annuals for additional summer color.




Indigenous stone columns support the hand-hewn gate. Bent horseshoes serve as gate handles. The antique, hand-chiseled horse watering trough is believed to have been built in Northern France. It was re-plumbed with an old kitchen hand pump to a fresh water source. Climbing hydrangeas add to the intended timeworn appearance of this project.





The path leading to the house transitions from brick pavement to a gravel and stepping stone pathway. Reclaimed rooftop stone cap pieces from an old multistory house in southern Ohio anchor the site and serve as benches. The obelisk (top right) is a large piece of quarried sandstone. Plantings include Hakonechloa macra, Ligularia, Hydrangea paniculata 'Tardiva', Brunnera macrophylla, Cornus kousa chinensis, Fothergilla gardenii, rhododendron 'English Roseum' and Cotoneaster horizontalis.





The stone columns are uplit with KLV360 low-voltage well lights with FMW (wide flood) 36-watt MR-16 lamps from Kim Lighting. The uplighting under the stone bench used the same well lights, but with 20-watt MR16s with a 40? beam angle. The down lighting on the walls is 8.5-watt wedge base LEDs (1L6.XXX from Integral Lighting). Behind the wall, the Japanese maple is uplit with 20-watt MR16s with a 60? spread (Kim KLV205). The lighting was by Donavin Baumgartner of Vanderwist of Northeast Ohio.


Second Stage
Almost immediately after completing the initial work, the homeowner contacted McClaren and the Burton, Ohio landscaping company with new ideas. These included the relocation of the existing driveway to the opposite side of the property, temporary parking to prepare for the likelihood of seasonal flooding, and a wall to soften the view of the home from the road. In addition, the client wanted this to be an area where visiting neighbors, horses and dogs could stop and rest.

According to McClaren, Impullitti Landscaping embraced an "old school" mindset for this unique and challenging assignment.

It started with the complete demolition and removal of the asphalt driveway. Challenges at this stage included problematic grade changes and the necessity of wall footers due to existing large trees and their root zones that could not be disturbed. Keeping the environment in mind, the landscapers reused what they could of the old driveway as base material for the new one. For the stone wall that framed the view of the home from the road, Impullitti Landscaping put much effort into making it look as though it had always been there.

"The wall had to take a serpentine shape to squeeze it into the area with the grades and trees," writes McClaren. "To give the wall an organic look, parts of it are buried into an existing hillside."

He adds that the veneer is a natural stone that is indigenous to the area. Sandstone banding breaks up the veneer and ties in the cap and bench top.

To water the horses and dogs, they located an old hand-carved horse trough thought to have been created, based on the carving style, in Northern France. The landscapers plumbed an old kitchen hand pump to a fresh water source to fill the trough.




A curvilinear stone bench juts out from the wall. The wall's veneer is a natural stone that is indigenous to the area. Sandstone banding breaks up the veneer and ties in the cap and bench top.


As a flood control measure, Impullitti Landscaping excavated the area where the pond would overflow and built a deep dry-laid boulder well. The water now flows over the boulders and down into a concrete culvert that runs under the entire area. The culvert ties into a small swale/creek before eventually finding its way to the river.

A tall piece of quarried sandstone with a lot of natural character was used as an obelisk to signify the transition from a brick walk to a gravel and stepping stone path that leads up to the home.

The main pavement of reclaimed granite cobbles serves as a walkway and a gathering area and also allows for emergency parking when the roads flood. Great pains were taken to have it not look like a driveway or parking area.

The strategically placed low-voltage lighting highlights the architecture of the project and emphasizes the texture and natural beauty of the stone.

The plant palette for this portion of the project involved repetition of plant material from the prior installations. The area is predominantly shady, so Impullitti Landscaping planted a lot of ferns, trees and shrubs. Hydrangea anomala petiolaris vines were trained onto the walls to add to the desired aged effect.

Thoroughly pleased with the skillfully crafted and striking results accomplished in these two separate stages, the homeowners have since used Impullitti Landscaping for smaller installations and all of their exterior landscape management including; annual flower color, maintenance, fertilization, upkeep of the lighting, irrigation and water features, and more.








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October 15, 2019, 10:47 pm PDT

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