LANDSCAPING by fjhuangjun

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Backyard paradise
Story by Jerri Brouse
Photos by Seth Hoover




F
            or Dan and Pat Spano, few things
            are quite as satisfying on a hot
            summer’s night as grabbing a cool
            drink and slipping into their back-
            yard swimming pond.
   “It’s almost like being in a hot tub,” Dan
said. “It seats about 15-20 people and is only
4 feet deep in the middle so it’s just enough
to get wet in the summer.” The Spanos, who
live in Elysburg, Northumberland County,
are one of the many families who are part of
a growing trend — instead of spending time
and money traveling to find peace and quiet,
they’ve chosen to instead create a serene
getaway in their own backyard.
   “We are outdoor people but we wanted
something more than just mulch and rocks
and plants and that’s what we have — an
outdoor sanctuary,” Dan said.

           Beyond the basics
   What the Spanos have done goes far be-
yond adding deck and some outdoor furni-
ture. Together with Don Wert, lead designer
and founder of Creative Plantscapes in Lew-
isburg, and Mike Derk, president and current
owner of the company, they’ve created an
outdoor living space complete with a 50-foot
stream, a 3-foot waterfall and an old-fash-
ioned “swimming hole.”
   “It’s nice to be able to sit on the patio and
enjoy the scenery and the sounds of the run-
ning water and waterfalls,” Dan said. “Even
just being able to look out the window and        Mike Derk, president and currrent owner of Creative Landscapes in Lewisburg,
see the stream and pond is soothing.”             shows off the outdoor living space his team designed in Elysburg. The yard-
   As guests enter the Spanos’ backyard,          scape comes complete with a 50-foot stream, a 3-foot waterfall and an old-
they walk under an arbor and down a stone         fashioned swimming hole.
pathway that leads to a large patio. The patio,
stream and swimming hole are flanked with colorful plants and relax and enjoy themselves … to kick off their shoes and not do
flowers. The swimming pond and entertainment area are high-        anything,” he said.
lighted with special outdoor lighting so the family can enjoy the     Pauline O’Brien agreed. O’Brien and her husband, Bob
space well into the fall months when it gets dark earlier.         Kafafian, live in Paxinos, Northumberland County, and spent
   For some, it might seem a bit indulgent, but Derk believes as   months revamping their own backyard last spring and summer.
time goes on, more and more families are going to be looking          “Traveling is just getting to be more and more of a pain and
to invent their own outdoor oasis.                                 is more costly,”O’Brien said. “This way we get to spend time
   “These days, people are seeing their backyards as an exten-     ‘getting away’ more than just once a week on weekends … we
sion of their house,” he said. “There is so much you can do        have the entire summer to enjoy (our backyard).”
nowadays … it’s amazing. We’ve gone far beyond the days of            O’Brien spent years looking at an empty backyard before she
just adding a deck.” Derk said since the attacks on the World      decided what she wanted to do with the space.
Trade Center in 2001, a lot of people are choosing to stay home       “I’ve had a vision a long, long time ago of something like
instead of travel.                                                 what we’ve built,” she said. “I started with that basic idea and
   “And when they’re at home they want to be able to sit and       just kept expanding on it.” To find exactly the right design, she

44 I N S I D E Pennsylvania March 2008
cut pictures out of magazines,
watched HGTV and scanned
other people’s homes when-
ever she was traveling.
   “I definitely knew what I
wanted,” she said. “But we
had to go through three or
four plans before we found
the right one.” Wert and Derk
were cooperative and easy
to work with when it came to
finding just the right design.
   “They made sure they got
it right,” O’Brien said. “They
spent hours just working on
the lighting.” The end result,
she said, “wowed” both she
and her husband.
   At the O’Brien-Kafafian
house, Creative not only
made a stream and pondless
waterfall, it expanded the
couple’s outdoor living space
by building a pavilion with
an outdoor kitchen, complete      “It’s great to be able to go outside on a Saturday morning and sit with a cup of coffee and look
with a sink, built-in grill and   at the pine trees,” Pauline O’Brian said of her Paxinos backyard.
refrigerator. They’ve even got
cable so they can sit outside     the running water and it’s just   he said. “And you can do          through the stream splash into
and watch football in the fall    so relaxing.”                     these features in any back-       the pond below.
while a fire burns nearby.          Pondless waterfalls, streams    yard, whether you live in the
   “It’s great to be able to go   and swimming holes are some       country, on a wooded lot or in         Ponds vs. pools
outside on a Saturday morn-       of the most popular trends        a residential neighborhood.”         “The swimming hole was
ing and sit with a cup of cof-    popping up across the nation,     The Spanos can attest to that.    the perfect alternative to a
fee and just look at the pine     Derk said.                        Once faced with an uneven,        traditional pool,” Dan Spano
trees,” O’Brien said. “Even         “There are so many ways         grassy lot, they now enjoy lis-   said. “We had a pool at our
if I’m in the house I can hear    you can design a backyard,”       tening to the water meander       former house and the thing
                                                                                                      with pools is that you can only
                                                                                                      use them for a small amount
                                                                                                      of time and then you have to
                                                                                                      close them up for winter. With
                                                                                                      the swimming pond, we can
                                                                                                      enjoy looking at it all year
                                                                                                      long.” The swimming pond is
                                                                                                      easier and cheaper to main-
                                                                                                      tain, too. All the Spanos have
                                                                                                      to do is toss in a few chlorine
                                                                                                      tablets and they’re done.
                                                                                                         “The other thing that makes
                                                                                                      a big difference is that in the
                                                                                                      pool you have to have a filter
                                                                                                      running constantly to keep
                                                                                                      things moving — and even
                                                                                                      then you’ll end up with algae
                                                                                                      growing in the corners,” Dan
                                                                                                      said. “With the pond the water
                                                                                                      is always moving and the algae
                                                                                                      don’t have time to grow.”
                                                                                                         Dan said he gets more use
                                                                                                      out of his swimming pond
                                                                                                      than he would have if he’d
                                                                                                      chosen a small pool. “Many
                                                                                                      evenings in the summer it
                                                                                                      just gets too chilly to go into
Ron Derk scans the swimming pond designed at the Spanos’ estate. Dan Spano noted the                  a pool. With the stream and
pond is easier and cheaper to maintain than a standard swimming pool.                                 pond, the water runs over

46 I N S I D E Pennsylvania March 2008
At the O’Brien-Kafafian house in Paxinos, Creative Landscapes expanded the backyard living space by building a pavilion with
an outdoor kitchen, complete with a sink, built-in grill and refrigerator.


the rocks, which are warmed         “We can create a pondless
by the sun, and it brings           waterfall that has all the same
the water through and stays         features minus the pond at the
warmer.”                            end,”Derk said.
  It’s so relaxing, he says, that     Derk said any size or shape
he can spend hours sitting and      lot is a candidate for these
soaking without even real-          and other features including
izing it.                           another “hot” new trend – the
  Of course, not everyone           outdoor fireplace or fire pit.
wants to swim in their pond.          “Outdoor fireplaces are
In that case, Derk said plants      really catching on,” he said.
and fish can be incorporated        “People just love them be-
— and you can still expect the      cause they are a whole new
same low maintenance.               avenue for entertainment.
  “What happens is a regular        They’re fun and relaxing.”
pond will create its own, natu-       And that’s what it’s all
ral ecosystem,” he said.            about, after all.
  If you like the idea of a           “Everybody is so busy these
meandering stream and the           days,” Derk said. “They need
sound of running water but          a place where they can go
don’t want a pond, there is the     out and enjoy themselves and      Mike Derk, left, and his father, Ron, explain work done at the
option of a pondless waterfall.     relax with their families.”       Spanos’ estate in Elysburg.



                                                                                               March 2008 I N S I D E   Pennsylvania 47

								
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