Author Archives: Chris Hock

10 Steps When Considering a New Patio:

12As the saying goes, there’s no place like home and the Harrisburg, Lancaster, and York region of Pennsylvania with the Dutch country’s pastoral fields, the clip-clop of horses’ hooves, and fiery sunsets is a great place to enjoy the outdoors. One way to do that is with a new or refurbished patio. Today, your local landscape design/build company can give you many options to choose from when considering a new outdoor living space. Patios can be anything from a small nook for one or two people to a space accommodating a large gathering for dinner. It can be transformed into an outdoor living room, complete with comfortable outdoor furniture, a fire pit, and a TV. The possibilities are limitless and you’re in control of your patio’s design, functionality and look.

Here are 10 considerations when thinking about your new patio and how to add pizzazz to your outdoor living space:

1. Sky’s the limit: Patios come in all varieties and can be custom built to your dreams, desires, and needs. They come with many options of bringing your indoors (think kitchens and living rooms) outside so you can spend most of the spring, summer and fall outdoors in your new living area.

2. Customized to your needs and desires: First thing to do is decide how your patio will be used. Will you cook on a grill, in a pizza oven, or cook the food indoors to bring outdoors? Do you want to gather around a fire on cool evenings? Will you be entertaining guests? Do need spaces for young children? Patios designed with multiple uses expand the functionality of your outdoor space.

3. Decide how big your patio should be: Some people want a patio that’s big enough to host a large group while others want their patios to be cozy and small for just the family to eat dinner outside. Maybe you just want a space to curl up with a book and a cup of tea. Your family, friends, and your entertainment needs all determine the size of your patio.

4. Determine your style: Are you looking for a formal, elegant layout or do you desire a more casual atmosphere? Do you want a bistro-style patio—that includes two chairs and a table enclosed by lots of plants and wind chimes? Do you want a more open concept near your pool that allows you to host dinner parties under the stars? Think about your style and tastes or the overall feel you want to achieve and tailor your space accordingly.

5. Think about shape: You can choose from a traditional square patio, to a relaxed circle, to a unique freeform patio flow. Shape in some cases can influence style. Square and rectangular shapes tend to imply a more formal feel while curvilinear shapes lean more toward informal. However a rectangular patio can be made informal with the choice of materials and layout of plantings. Before you start building, make sure that you’ve left enough room in your design for people to comfortably sit and walk throughout your new outdoor room.

6. Choose your location: Think about the ideal location to place your patio. In most cases this would be immediately off the rear of the house but don’t overlook other areas of your property. Perhaps a small patio in the front of the house would make an ideal area to visit with passing neighbors or a patio in a secluded back corner of the yard would be an ideal location for privacy. A comfortable outdoor space can be created almost anywhere so don’t be afraid to think “outside the box”.

7. Adding amenities: You may also want to consider adding a pergola, an arbor, a water feature, or lighting to go with your patio. These extra amenities provide shade, relaxation, and ambiance to enhance the overall feel and mood of your space.

8. Turn to the professionals: Once you’ve given some thought to the patio’s size, functionality, shape, and location, you need to hire a trusted landscape designer to bring it all together. A good designer can translate your ideas, desires and needs and help guide you towards a design that works best for you. He will know what questions to ask and depending on the answers, bring new ideas to the table. He will also be able to suggest the best materials to build your new patio and make the addition look seamless with the rest of your home in color and design.

9. Personalize it: Once your new patio is built, you can decorate it with various plants, furniture, pillows, birdfeeders, etc. Maybe adding a walkway will be the final touch to complete your project. With the products on the market today there really is no limit to creating an outdoor space that is truly unique to you.

10. Renovate instead of replace: Perhaps you have an existing patio space that just needs a little T.L.C or a face lift to make it feel new again. Many of the ideas above can easily be incorporated into an existing patio without going to the expense of building an entire new one. A good cleaning and sealing can go a long way to revitalizing a older patio. Resurfacing is also an option for creating a new look to your outdoor space.

So, are you ready for a new outdoor living space? Give River Valley Landscapes and Pools a call today at 1-800-455-8666 or fill out their contact form at


Is Your Outdoor Living Space Ready for Summer 2014? 4 Reasons You Need to Plan Today for Your Next Project


Believe it or not, we’ll be celebrating Memorial Day at the end of the month. The spring has been cold, so it’s hard to imagine bringing indoor celebrations to the outdoors, but the weather will soon warm up to enjoy the time outside.

It may be too late to add a fireplace, pool, wall, or outdoor kitchen to your landscape in time for Memorial Day, but right now is the perfect time to start planning a hardscape project for completion by 4th of July or Labor Day.

A landscape design-build company can help you make your outdoor living dreams come true. But first, you need to do some homework to figure out what you really want in your outdoor living space:

  1. Observe: Keep a diary of your observations when you watch HGTV; when you surf on Houzz; when you read Better Homes and Gardens; and when you visit your neighbor’s house. What parts of their outdoor living space do you love? What parts don’t you love? What is the purpose of your outdoor living space? Write down what you like when you have the opportunity to visit someone’s home.
  2. Brainstorm: Write down what features you want to add to your outdoor living space. Do you want a total renovation where you’ll add a pool, fireplace, kitchen, and living area? Or will you only be adding a patio with a fire pit? There are so many possibilities to choose from, such as outdoor kitchens, retaining walls, fireplaces, water features, patios, steps, and outdoor lighting.
  3. Think about your entertainment needs: Do you love having people over for a barbeque? Or do you prefer a quiet dinner with a couple of close friends? Will your children be celebrating milestones where you’ll host big, lavish parties? Or do you have small children and need a place for them to play? Think about your entertaining needs so a space can be created to accommodate those needs, and maybe make you the envy of the neighborhood.
  4. Hire a landscape design-build company with 3-D design capability: 3-D design is all the rage now in outdoor living design. A landscape designer can take your ideas, along with your house’s measurements and lot dimensions, and put them into an interactive software program. Your designer can actually walk you through your design so you can add or delete features to meet your needs and dreams.

If you live in the Lancaster, Harrisburg, and York regions, and you want to bring your indoor living outside, sit down with Brad Groff of River Valley Landscapes and Pools. He will meet with you to discuss your ideal project. His team will then design it in 3-D; build it; as well as provide maintenance services once the work is complete.

5 Reasons to Add Native Plants to Your Landscape

003 (4)Native plants add rich color, texture and dimension to your home’s landscape and living in the Harrisburg, Lancaster, or York are of Pennsylvania there are plenty of choices. Not only do they beautify your property, but they benefit the local ecosystem’s sustainability.

Here are five reasons why you should add native plants to your south central Pennsylvania landscape:

1. You’re helping the local ecosystem. Native plants existed in Pennsylvania before European settlers arrived to our shores. And these settlers brought their European native plants with them to the New World. Yet, the wildlife in our area depended on, and still does depend, on our local plant life. Matter of fact, you could look at the ecosystem as interdependent, meaning that native plants depend on the local soil to grow, the local wildlife depends on the native plants to feed them, and the local wildlife feeds the soil with its waste.

2. You’re adding natural beauty to your landscape. No one can deny that native plants come in a variety of shapes, sizes, dimensions, colors and scents. And by adding them to your landscape, you’re adding interest to your property that your guests will be awed by every time they visit you.

3. You can be a part of saving bees and other pollinators. The bee population is in crisis with dwindling numbers. Many people will think, “Okay, we won’t be stung as much.”

However, bees are vital to our food system. If bees aren’t thriving and pollinating our plants that are needed for our food sources, such as clover for cows to munch on, then we could be endangering our food supply.

4. You can dig into your Pennsylvania heritage. Even if you’re not a born and bred Pennsylvanian, you can learn a lot about the people who settled in Penn’s Woods. There are even Pennsylvania museums that still grow natives as a teaching tool. So, not only can you include natives in your landscaping, but you can also join other networks and visit places to learn more about this type of plant media.

5. You can create a place of interest and education into your backyard. Do you have grandchildren? Are there birdwatchers in your social circle? A great way to engage different age groups and people with varied interests is to create a native garden that brings a large diversity of bees, birds, and other wildlife to your patio while you’re hosting an intimate dinner.

There are a wide variety of Pennsylvania native plants available in Dauphin, Lancaster, and York Counties. River Valley Landscapes has been a leader in incorporating native plants into people’s gardens for over 20 years. Matter of fact, they used the economic law of supply and demand with local nurseries to bring in more Pennsylvania native plants. Now, native plants are a hot commodity in today’s garden centers and nurseries.

If you would like to learn more about adding native plants to your landscape, call River Valley Landscapes at 1-800-455-8666 or fill out their contact form at


3 Reasons to Hire a Landscape Designer for Your Outdoor Lighting Project


You’re planning on expanding your backyard this spring to include lighting, hardscape features, and plant media, but you don’t know where to start when it comes to designing and planning the project.

A landscape designer is trained to take your dreams and turn them into a living space that you, your family and friends will enjoy. If you’re planning on adding outdoor lighting or you want to include outdoor lighting with your overall plan, you need someone who can envision the entire scope of the project. A hardscape project is more than the sum of its parts. For example, a designer knows that your lighting system needs to match your hardscape exteriors, as well as where to place the lighting’s wiring within the architecture of your outdoor rooms for safety and functionality.

Here are three reasons why you need to hire a landscape designer for your outdoor lighting project:

1) A landscape designer knows horticulture and he knows how to integrate lighting and plants together for maximum impact. For example, a landscape designer would use plants that are slow growing around lower path lights. If he installs bollard-style LED lights, your designer knows that taller grasses and flowers would fit better with that design. Additionally, a landscape designer can envision how the plants will look in six months, a year, and five years, as well as how to prune them to grow in a particular direction.

2) A landscape designer knows architecture and can design your entire outdoor living project into one, fluid, open area. For example, a designer knows what wattage light goes best with your entire hardscape and landscape plans. He can create your design and incorporate the following effects of LED lighting into your outdoor living space:

  • Up lighting
  • Down lighting
  • Path lighting
  • Silhouette  lighting
  • Focal Point Lighting

3) A landscape designer knows LED technology. He is capable of installing the entire electrical system during construction of your patio, deck, and other outdoor living spaces which may save you money compared to hiring subcontractors for each part of the construction process. And if you’d like to add outdoor lighting to your current hardscape, a landscape designer can also install the electrical and lighting systems even after construction is long finished.

A landscape design firm is considered a one-stop shop for all of your outdoor living needs. Designers are trained to incorporate plants, lighting, and other hardscape features into one continual space. They’re also able to handle the technical side by installing electrical and lighting wiring during the construction phase of your outdoor project.

Are you planning on building an outdoor oasis in your home this spring or summer? Or is your hardscape already finished, but you want to install a LED lighting system to your outdoor space?

River Valley Landscapes and Pools provides landscaping services to the south central Pennsylvania area. Call today for all of your outdoor living needs at 1-800-455-8666 or fill out the contact form.