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A Walk on the Hard Side--Heffernan's Hardscapes

By Stephen Kelly, regional editor

In my capacity as a regional editor, I cover the Los Angeles beat and a mishmash of states--Alabama, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, New Mexico, South Carolina, Virginia and Washington state--I "traded" New York to Leslie McGuire for Washington, she being a N.Y. native, but I did get her future #1 draft pick).

In my travels, in this case "virtual," I came across the great design/construction work of Heffernan Landscape Design of Chicago, Illinois (heffernanlandscapedesing.com). Carol's work could apply to a number of our themed issues, but here we are viewing some of her hardscapes in the residential settings. This is a pictorial presentation. I'll let her work speak for itself, while filling you in on some of the nuances of the design and construction. Let the walk begin!








This project began with breaking out the old patio and constructing a 135' long concrete patio along the side of the home, with two semicircular patios (bluestone, crushed bluestone and Brussels Block(R) edging--irregular-shaped tumbled pavers) at either end of the residence. The patios are joined by a 40' reflecting pool with a crushed bluestone path on either side. The spillway is constructed of N.Y. bluestone, joined with concrete adhesive and masonry screws countersunk, covered in mortar (there is a biofalls inside). There are two skimmers at either end of the pool to pull off water evenly at both ends, with a 50 gpm Tsurumi pumps in each. A grid of fountain grass decorates the lawn side of the pool, with lotus and hardy water lilies in the pool.








The existing wood deck, 24" above grade, was replaced with a large patio, a water feature and built-in BBQ grill station. Concrete foundations and an 18" retaining walls was built around the perimeter to hold the tonnage of gravel that raised the patio area to the necessary elevation. It required 30 yards of #14 gravel, about 37 tons, which were compacted in increments with a vibratory drum roller.

The view of the back of the retaining wall is the foundation for the water feature and abuts the heavily wooded area that surrounds the house. This area was regraded and topsoil/compost added. Cornus mas 'Golden Glory' and Pachysandra groundcover went in each niche, visible from the patio. Spirea betulifolia 'Tor' (birchleaf Spirea) is visible as the grade rises around the sides of the foundation and recedes into the ground by the side stair.

The hardscape for the patio is Unilock Stonehenge laid on a bedding course of torpedo sand. The wall is Quarrystone with lilac bluestone coping.

The water feature foundation, part of the wall foundation, continued around all four side to form a shell. This was filled with compacted gravel to bring the elevation up to a little over two feet. A concrete slab was then poured to form the bottom of the lower pool. The pool walls dovetail into the seatwall, both constructed of Unilock Brussels Dimensional stone. The pools interior shells received a stucco coat of waterproof concrete to seal the gaps in the segmental stone. After curing, the concrete took a coat of rubberized sealant used in water towers, just for insurance. The coping and weirs are 'lilac' bluestone mortared in place. The pump is a 1/4 hp generating 90 gpm.




This tiny city courtyard is bounded on all sides by the building. The walkway is composed of black and white granite, with Mexican pond pebbles for the path.

The plants are Phyllostachys nigra (black bamboo); 'Goldhenge' tufted hair grass (Deschampsia caespitosa); Heuchera 'Plum Pudding' coralbells; hosta 'Blue Cadet'; Hydrangea 'Endless Summer'; Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Gold Mop' falsecypress; and Lavendula munstead English lavender.




The man eating euonymus groundcover strikes again. Acres of euonymus were torn out of this front yard. The client wanted shrubs and perennials and no lawn. Carol Heffernan decided to establish a "sense of order in a field of plants" by designing a small, circular lawn area surrounded by an edge of uneven slabs of limestone drywall to draw attention to the garden. "I wanted stone with a fairly thick depth, and some uniformity to the pieces, yet with a bit of irregularity to give sort of a rustic crenellation to the shape," explains Ms. Heffernan. The longer stones are full pieces of drywall; the shorter ones were scored and broken to give a rough edge. "Plants were arranged in a hierarchy around the circular focal point to draw the eye away from the neighbors," she adds.

The plants are Cercis Canadensis; Magnolia 'Yellow Fever'; Hydrangea arborenscens 'Annabelle'; Hydrangea 'Endless Summer'; Itea 'Henry's Garnet'; Rosa 'Knockout'; Weigela 'Wine & Roses'; Helictotrichon sempervirens 'Sapphire'; Heuchera 'Plum Pudding'; Aster 'Purple Dome'; Chrysanthemum 'Becky'; Various Peony; Iris ensata 'Variegata'; Euphorbia myrsinities (donkeytail spurge); and Miscanthus sinensis gracillimus.


This rustic walk through the garden in a small city side yard was used by the former owners as a dog run. The objective, says Carol Heffernan, was to "evoke the feeling of a little winding stream." Newly manufactured Phoenix brick is flashed and irregular. "We cut it with a hand chisel to keep a rough look to fit around the larger stones," notes Carol. Large Sandy Creek flagstone and river flats accents the river rocks at the edge of a stream. The plants are Hydrangea quercifolia; Spirea salicifolia; willow leaf spirea; Viburnum 'Juddii'; and Galium odoratum.


A driveway of Unilock Brussels Block with a pattern set delineates the side entrance of the house. A poured concrete curb contains the slightly higher elevation of the opposite side. The pavers are in two standard sizes, full-stone (6 3/8" x 8 1/4") and half-stone (6 3/4" x 4 1/8"). The stones were cut where one pattern meets another.


Heffernan Landscape Design (HLD) has been in business since 1994, with over 10 years experience in the landscape industry. Carol Heffernan, principal, is a designer, plant enthusiast, artist and is active in the Midwest horticultural community.

  • The firm does the design and its own construction and planting, with an eye for quality control. HLD designs/builds patios; walks; driveways; retaining/seatwalls; pergolas; arbors; fences; gates; and treillages. Its water features include natural ponds and waterfalls, formal pools and low-voltage lighting.
  • HLD employs one salaried, year-round construction foreman with a full-time seasonal crew of 4-5 men. The firm is all design/build, not maintenance, excepting spring and fall cleanups for clients.
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October 20, 2019, 8:11 pm PDT

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