Neighborhood receives landscape makeover

The Extreme Green Community Makeover took place July 17 and 18 in Sugar Grove, Ill., during Aquascape’s 10-year anniversary Pondemonium, an annual training and networking event. The green makeover was the brainchild of Aquascape’s chief sustainability officer, Ed Beaulieu, and his wife Ellen, employee development coach for Aquascape.

Hundreds of contractors signed up to participate in the Extreme Green Community Makeover. The event allowed them to get hands-on knowledge of sustainable services they could add to their business.

In an effort to provide hands-on training for sustainable landscape projects during Pondemonium, Ed and Ellen looked no further than their own backyard. Residents of the Lakes of Bliss Woods development in Sugar Grove, Ed and Ellen approactitle their neighbors with the concept of an environmentally friendly community. Armed with enthusiastic feedback from a few inquiries, the Beaulieus sctitleuled a green community meeting at their home and invited everyone in the subdivision to attend. The response to hold an Extreme Green Community Makeover at Lakes of Bliss Woods was overwhelming.

Further consultations with neighbors ensued, and planning took shape on projects that included subsurface rainwater harvesting systems, rain barrels, permeable paver patios, rain gardens, LED lighting, ecosystem ponds, pondless waterfalls, decorative fountains, native plantings and an aeration system for the neighborhood retention pond. In addition, the Conservation Foundation agreed to be on-hand to certify yards that qualified for its Conservation @ Home program. The Extreme Green Community Makeover became a reality when the village of Sugar Grove extended its seal of approval for the project.

If you plan it, they will come

Neighbors were assured the project would be finistitle as quickly and painlessly as possible. The current economic slump was a source of worry as many contractors have had to tighten their travel and training budgets. Nevertheless, hundreds of contractors turned in their registration forms claiming they’d been looking for sustainable services they could add to their business.

A 500-gallon RainXchange System paired with five Mongolian basalt columns provide a stunning fountainscape and added immediate curb appeal to this home.

Ed and the construction crew at Aquascape performed preliminary excavation work on all the landscape projects and performed heavier rock work on the larger projects before the actual day of the training event. This allowed the training to focus on the actual installation of sustainable products and ensured the neighborhood would experience minimal disruption.

One of the more challenging projects facing the contractors was a homeowner who was plagued with a serious stormwater drainage problem. His two-story home sits on a sloped lot that allows for a walkout basement to open onto a concrete patio. Rain hits the three-story back wall of the home and saturates the ground near the base of the house where a 3-foot strip of soil was the length of the wall. The original proposal to help control the stormwater problem was to add 3 feet of pervious pavers around the perimeter of the concrete patio. In addition, a 500-gallon RainXchange rainwater harvesting system would be installed adjacent to the patio and paired with an above-surface decorative fountain to further aerate and filter the collected rainwater.

A crew uses AquaBlox while constructing a reservoir underneath a permeable patio.

After considering the initial plans, the homeowner chose to tear out the concrete patio and replace it entirely with a permeable patio. When excavation was performed under the removed concrete patio to accommodate the rainwater storage system, the construction crew exposed what appeared to be a swamp as opposed to rich, compact Illinois soil. The decision to replace the concrete patio with permeable pavers also led to the decision to increase the capacity of the rainwater storage system to 2,000 gallons. AquaBlox were assembled and placed into the 4-foot-deep reservoir underneath the patio. The topmost section of the AquaBlox was 20 inches below the patio, allowing void space with open gravel for additional water storage.

Three Mongolian basalt columns provided an aesthetic fountain near the base of the homeowner’s deck. Driftwood was added to the water feature to portray the concept of fire and water.

A family affair

One of the larger projects at the makeover involved an entire family. The young homeowners wanted to beautify their backyard, and they requested an interactive water feature for their small children. A 20-by-14-foot ecosystem pond with a vanishing edge and 30-foot stream was designed for the family.

A natural slope in the yard allowed for four waterfalls to be incorporated into the stream. Four small pools within the stream allow places for the children to enjoy a lazy summer afternoon. A small waterfall next to the home’s patio cascades into a 4-inch deep splash area. A stepping stone path across the water feature leads to a small flagstone seating area on the peninsula that dissects the pond and stream.

Wisconsin granite and sandstone-based moss rock were used to naturalize the new ecosystem pond and stream into the surrounding landscape. Two Tsurumi pumps provide a flow rate of 11,000 GPH when both are running. A smaller pump runs the majority of the day for efficiency, but a larger pump, also known as a “party pump,” can be turned on when the family entertains, providing a more impressive waterfall.

Contractors from across the country installed rainwater harvesting systems and decorative water features during the Extreme Green Community Makeover in Sugar Grove, Ill.

The young children enjoy having grandma and grandpa residing just a few blocks away. The grandparents didn’t want the children to be without the joy of water when visiting, so they requested that a 500-gallon RainXchange rainwater harvesting system paired with a pondless waterfall be installed near their backyard patio.

Downspout filters were placed at the base of two downspouts running off the back of the house. The initial filter catches leaves and small twigs that might be carried off the roof during a rainstorm. The rainwater then travels through an underground pipe that leads to the subsurface reservoir. A Tsurumi 5PL pump is housed in a Snorkel Vault that sits at the base of the reservoir. The pump provides a 4,500 GPH flow rate for the 8-foot long waterfall and stream.

The yard slopes away from the home, providing a challenge in creating a pondless waterfall that would flow toward the home. Soil removed during excavation for the subsurface rainwater storage area was used to create a berm approximately 8 feet away from the patio, providing the necessary grade to create a 3-foot high waterfall. Ornamental shrubs were added to the berm to provide a privacy screen between the patio and nearby neighbors.

Wisconsin granite and sandstone-based moss rock were used to create the natural-looking waterfall and stream. A 6 to 8-inch pool was created at the base of the pondless waterfall.

The stored rainwater at the base of the pondless waterfall is aerated and filtered when running over the waterfalls. A booster pump was connected to the RainXchange System in order to provide enough pressure for the homeowners to irrigate surrounding shrubs, flowers and even the lawn.

One resident of the subdivision asked that their rainwater harvesting system be added to their front yard. A 500-gallon RainXchange System was paired with five Mongolian basalt columns to provide a stunning fountainscape that added immediate curb appeal to the home. Overgrown arborvitaes previously existed in this prime real estate spot, blocking the view from the dining room window.

Mexican River pebbles were spread around the base of the fountains, and new landscaping was added to naturalize the feature. The homeowners can irrigate their landscaping by using the booster pump that was connected to the rainwater reservoir.

Several other rainwater harvesting systems paired with a decorative water feature were incorporated in other yards by contractors from across the country. Some homeowners adding rain barrels, others had rain gardens added to their yards to help with runoff during storms. JFNew provided planting materials for the rain gardens and instructed contractors on the proper mix of plants and soil.

Rain barrels were added to some of the homes in the Lake of Bliss Woods Development. The water can be used to irrigate landscape plants and lawns.

In addition, JFNew taught a class on shoreline remediation to contractors in attendance and provided hands-on training when adding native plants to the shoreline of the
neighborhood retention pond. Approximately 280 mature plants were used over a 100-by-4-foot planting area. A c mix of erosion and herbivore control materials, such as erosion control blankets and temperate goose control netting were installed to keep natural risks at bay, allowing the plant materials to become establistitle during the first seasons.

AquaControl of Spring Valley, Ill., donated a lakebed aeration system for the retention pond. Contractors learned how to install the system, along with a fountain.

Caterpillar of Peoria, Ill., and Toro of Bloomington, Minn., were additional sponsors of the community makeover. Both were on hand and provided the equipment needed for excavation of the projects.

Ed and Ellen Beaulieu, already proud owners of an ecosystem pond in their yard, received a permeable patio from Unilock, and Kichler presented a class on LED lighting. Both conducted hands-on training sessions when completing the installations.

The Extreme Green Community Makeover was completed on time. The day came to a close with an outdoor barbecue held at a park within the subdivision for contractors and residents.

Jennifer Zuri is a marketing communications manager for Aquascape, Inc.