Recent Landscape Projects by Renz Landscapes

Creating Curb Appeal for the Hodges

“A less is more”, landscape theme that respect a beautiful, contemporary home!

The Hodges had moved into a beautiful, white and gray colored, contemporary two story home in Cary NC.; however the view from the street was hidden by a mass of trees, plants and vegetation. The clients decided to remove most everything to open the view, except a lovely dogwood located in front of the living room window. With the help of Monster Tree Service of Cary, trees were removed and stumps ground, a new roof with gray architectural shingles was added. What was left was a beautiful home that needed some landscaping, but this time the landscaping would work in concert with the home not ignore it. The landscape needed to not only be designed from a plan view, but more importantly the view from the street. Plants were chosen to echo the colors of the house, frame the view of the home, and lead the eye from the street, to the home, to the front door.

There was one important problem hat needed to be addressed, saving the dogwood and building a Belgard segmented retaining wall on the right front side of house, to elevate the land so plantings could properly frame the house and eliminating a “dropping off” look. To do this a stepped, curving, wall built with Belgard’s Celtic wall units, graduating in height from 4’ to 1’ was constructed. A Christmas Jewel holly anchored the corner of the house, and framed the living room window. A landscape with a simple design, but sculptured and colored with carefully chosen plants to compliment the house and maintain the view. A drought tolerant Zoysia Compadre lawn, was installed in the spring of 2016. If the Hodges ever decide to sell, a buyers going to love house the minute they drive up. Curb appeal, as real estate agents like to call it. Good design matters!

The Jones’s Terrace

A blend of hardscaping and landscaping that tested all our landscape skills

The Jones’s are asking for a shaded terrace that would be both private and quiet for dining and grilling with family and few friends, so a few seating walls would be nice for additional company. An avid golfer, the terrace and the plantings should link closely with Joe’s favorite wish, an irrigated fescue lawn.

The Site

The terrace will sit at the back of the home, next to a sunroom on a quiet street in the Preston neighborhood of Cary, NC. To the north, a neighbor’s home faces directly toward the Jones’s backyard creating privacy issues. An old hedge of Photinia plants, riddled with blackspot, tries to separate the two yards.

There is an additional problem with drainage. During storms, a high volume of rainwater flows from the nearby golf course, flows through a neighbors yard into a low area which unfortunately is the ideal location for the terrace. As with any landscape project, drainage is always the first issue that needs to be addressed.

The Design

The six most important issues of the project:

• Create a more elevated terrace to shed rainwater away from the house and sunroom, and enhance the view of the landscape with the terrace’s vantage point.

• Resolving all drainage issues

• Creating privacy from the neighbors and the street.

• Design a landscape that shades the terrace and complements the terrace’s form and colors.

• Use a limited number of complimenting colors in the terrace and landscape, such as slate blue, grays and beige as base colors and compliment with touches of pink, shades of blue and purple and white. And the always present color…green.

• Layout an attractively shaped lawn that interplays with the patio and plantings; along with irrigating the, needy in the summer, fescue lawn and drip irrigating the plants.

• Outdoor lighting to enhance security, safety, and visual appeal in the evening while entertaining.


The project began with clearing the backyard of an existing sidewalk, unwanted trees and shrubs, the Photinia hedge and stumps, and installing catch basins and drain pipes to the downspouts.

With a detailed plan, including elevation measurements, drawn by Curt Renz, construction started with a retaining wall running along the garage portion of the back of the house and along one side of the sunroom, the concrete block wall would help to raise the final level of the terrace. The wall would sit 3’from the house, allowing for a planting area about 30’x3’, the 8” wide wall, would continue within 1” of the side of the sunroom and then continue in front of the sunroom to hide the crawl space. Built and capped with Techo-bloc’s Manchester 8”x 12”x4” wall units, the wall height would range from 1’ to 3’ in height.

After the wall was built and grades were checked, a geo-textile fabric was laid over the tamped existing soil to prevent any base material from working its way into the existing soil and causing possible settling of the patio. The base material, crush and run (CR) also called ABC, is a mixture of 1” gravel and triangular shaped granite screenings, and was backfilled to within 3” of the final grade of the terrace. At this point, with the help of a lazer level, it was critical to get the terrace’s elevation correct, relative to connecting elevations and patio’s slope correct, so it would and shed water properly (about a 2% slope) and without too much slope that an outdoor table would feel level.

The base was compacted with a mechanical tamp, in layers, to eliminate any settling. Next, Techo-bloc’s Aberdeen 2 ½” thick, slate blue (azzurro), colored slabs, in three different sizes was laid in a random pattern on a compacted 3/8” thick bed of granite screenings. After the slabs were installed, polymeric sand was swept into the joints, and dampened. The sand helps to lock the patio in place, prevent weeds from growing in the joints and gives the patio a finished look.

Sitting walls and pillars were built with Techo-Bloc’s Champlain grey, tumbled, mini-creta wall units. The grey and beige overtones echo nicely with the patio and retaining wall units. The sitting walls were capped with Bluestone to match the terrace and the pillars capped with Techo-bloc’s Stonedge pillar caps. Lighting fixtures were built into the seats and pillars, casting a soft glow over the terrace in the evening. An antique, has always been in the family, water fountain adds ambience and drowns out neighborhood noises.

A Landscape to Create Privacy and Compliment a Beautiful Terrace

In conjunction with the Jone’s terrace, a landscape was designed to complement the house and terrace, and create privacy for the homeowner. First up, was providing privacy and screening between the client’s sunroom and terrace, and the front of a neighbor’s home less than 200’ away. Diseased photinias and stumps were removed along the back property line, and replaced with a 60’ row of 7’x5’ Cleyeras, an evergreen plant that enjoys part sun and makes for a dense hedge. The privacy has immediate.

An arching, deciduous, Green Vase Zelkova tree planted close to the terrace will create summer shade, vertical excitement and a canopy for the terrace. The tree’s less aggressive root system is the perfect choice to provide shade without damaging the terrace, the plantings and the lawn like other trees such as maples and oaks can with their stronger surface roots.

Between the house and elevated terrace a sunken planting area, 3’ x 30’in full shade needed evergreen plants to fill the space between the imposing red brick wall of the house and a 3’ wall built to elevate and retaining the patio. The left side, of a bluestone walkway leading from the driveway to the terrace would be planted with a colorful annual bed of pansies in winter and various, colorful annuals, of the client’s choice, in summer. Contracting nicely in height and color to the annual bed, a nicely textured podocarpus 10’x4’, popular in Charleston SC but well adapted to our Triangle climate, was planted to balance a stone pillar on the opposite side of the walkway, marking the entrance into the terrace space. 7 evergreen Gardenia ‘Frostproof’, with their mounding shape filled in the sunken plant bed created, by the raised terrace, between the house and patio and would bring fragrance to the terrace in spring. The gardenias will eventually fill the bed eliminating the look of a “hole”, a ornamental, 3’ high, wrought iron may be added later. Oakleaf hollies screened the street and various low growing plants that complemented the colors of the patio while not hiding the sitting walls and pillers.