From the August/September 2019 Issue  

This Backyard Gives Us Vacation Vibes

Writer Marirose Krall  |  Photographer Heather Knapp  |  Designer Mitchell Knapp and Matt Jones, LLA, Tapestry Landscape Architecture  |  Builder Scenic Landscaping, Tranquility Pools  |  Location Wyckoff, NJ  |  Landscape Design Tapestry Landscape Architecture  |  Landscaping Scenic Landscaping  |  Swimming Pool Tranquility Pools

A raised planting bed breaks up the sight lines on the expansive patio. It’s filled with summer annuals: coleus, lobelia and New Guinea impatiens. The pool is bordered by barberry, iris, daylily, spirea, ‘Montgomery’ blue spruce and Russian sage. Behind the waterfall, ‘Tardiva’ hydrangea, miscanthus grass, roses, juniper and Japanese maple help to soften the profile of the stones.

In Wyckoff, New Jersey, a backyard transformation makes every day a holiday

The homeowners’ dream was to have a resort experience right in their own backyard. Mitchell Knapp, president of Scenic Landscaping in Haskell, New Jersey, explains that his clients—who entertain frequently and are avid cooks—thought, “Let’s get our privacy. Let’s put our paradise back here.”
The path to paradise, however, was overgrown and unkempt. “It was a wooded backyard,” Knapp says. “There was nothing else there except for some older trees that were not in good shape, a lot of logs on the ground and a lot of leaves.”

Clearing the land was just the beginning. To prepare for the extensive amenities the homeowners had planned, Knapp had to regrade the entire backyard. He brought in large amounts of gravel and stone. “When you’re working in a wooded area, it’s soft. It takes tons of stones just to get the sub-base prepared.”

Prepping the yard took an unexpected turn when Scenic Landscaping’s sister company, Haskell, NJ-based Tranquility Pools, began digging for the pool. “We realized there was an underground stream” on the property. That was a surprise for the construction team. It didn’t come up on the site plan.”
It was a bump in the road that was frustrating “when you’re in the middle of this exciting project and you’re digging for the pool and the water just keeps coming,” he says. The situation was remedied with a massive drainage system to control the water.

Lounge chairs resting on a sun ledge in the pool make a perfect spot to cool off on a hot day.

Once the water receded and the pool was constructed, the team was able to concentrate on the aesthetics of the flat backyard, which proved to be somewhat tricky. “Sometimes, when you have a lot of grade change, it’s easier to make the property look interesting,” Knapp explains, “but when it’s flat you have challenges. The landscape had to carry the hardscape to make this work.” Knapp’s solution was to “make our own grades and contours” to create “natural” breaks in the landscape.

One of those visual breaks is the waterfall into the pool. “The pool is very deep,” Knapp says. “The clients wanted their grandkids to have different diving platforms.” The waterfall structure, which includes lots of ledges and platforms for the kids, was designed to look like a natural element within the landscape. “A lot of times, when you put a waterfall onto a pool, it looks man-made. This one works,” he says.

The pool deck, along with other activity areas—including a basketball court and a pool table—are designed to complement the organic elements of the landscape. The various zones “wind through the actual garden,” he says. “It’s not like everything is hardscape in your face. There’s a natural feel to the landscape. It just kind of flows and goes, with color all during the spring, summer and fall.” The pool is bordered by a variety of plants and flowers. A raised bed helps to break up the large, walnut travertine patio.

Additional amenities include an outdoor kitchen, cabanas, lighting and a stereo system. “Everything was thought out in our master plan as architects,” Knapp says. And the master plan was a rousing success, providing the homeowners with exactly the type of backyard they sought. “You can entertain comfortably with 40 people,” Knapp adds. “It was built to entertain and have parties. It feels like you’re at a resort.”