Landscaping As A Career – Breaking Out

The “Career” of landscaping has evolved so vastly during my own experience. In Vancouver, in 1971, “landscapers” were literally not a recognized trade at all in that town. Of course, in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Florida and other Sun-friendly environments, “landscaping” was a long-respected trade. But in more Northern climates, these persons were more commonly referred to as “gardeners” – and not particularly respectfully. Things then changed because budgets began to include the inclusion of the outdoors in building plans - and they became  mandatory. A 5% principle attached soon and the trade swelled with participants.

As time has gone on, many projects included much more elaborate gardens and outdoor premises as Landscape Architecture also began its own forward march in expertise and ability. An entirely new range of materials began competing and technologies of irrigation and waterproofing became essential findings which allowed a near-exponential expansion of “the possible”.

Pretty cool place to make, eh?

Once we’ve covered the “hard” portion of the trade, as was done so last post, we come to the nexus where someone seeks to improve his position in life. No one will or should impair a young person’s urge to uniqueness and achievement should they get restless about their lot in life. We tend to underestimate the peer-pressures facing 20-somethings as friends and acquaintances apparently pass them by on the graded social scale. They hear it from home, at pubs and on the job maybe most of all. Facing a gigantic pile of rocks in a driveway, scheduled to be relocated by 4 PM on a 100 degree day, is not the same as a vacation in January in Lahaina, Maui.

This is the point at which I ask anyone just how serious they are about a career. It might be the single most opportune time to ask one’s self the same question. In the end, serious movement requires serious actions. What I offer here is a rough guide on how to accomplish the next step for those who wonder. There are just a few tactics available, the truth is, and taking them seriously is what this is all about.

Take the trade seriously

Our minds don’t automatically cease operations simply because we have a wheelbarrow in our hands. (While tempting and oddly satisfying for its simplicity). The purest path to advancing in any trade is to acquire knowledge about it. In landscaping, this opens up far more realms of study than one might believe. For example, relevant Electrical aspects of landscaping include Low Voltage Wiring from Hot Voltage Transformers; waterfall/swimming pool/to tiny electrical bubble rock pumps; the timers, moisture sensors, irrigation valves and even audio aspects of patios and back yard privacy enclaves. All of these items and concerns have been at least parts of landscapes I have designed and installed, if not most of them included on every single one.


The term is a latter-day term describing the constructed structural elements of landscapes, from patios and walls to gazebos and fencing (carpentry). Owing to the outdoor nature of the work and the search for durable products and materials where landscaping resides – in the weather – cement products are often a huge feature, representing an outsized group of products requiring certain inescapable preparations. The entire notion of “Compaction” – as well as the quite specific materials and tools to complete their installations – figure largely here, even for carpentry projects. I have seen projects and even companies rise and fall over their comprehension of the entire premise of “compaction”.

Plants and Trees

It’s too easy to say plants are an essential part of any good landscape because it’s not always the case. Many landscapes any more have taken on spare-looking/minimalist characteristics not just attributable to our unique position as serious water-users for gardens, but also attributable to a tangential notion of some very creative designs. There is incentive – yes – in designing a less water-hogging landscape. It is a responsible move in the face of our looming water scarcity issues. But many of these edifices stand on their own as gorgeous landscaping – just without plants.

And having said all that, a thorough knowledge of plants, plant behavior and their afflictions and favorite moments is an absolute must for any landscaper. Here such concepts as ideal soil conditions, shade, traffic and the acidity produced over time from rooting and the breaking down of leaves or needles all converge with water needs and even drainage to produce a world-view of plantings at a basic level.

And even this disregards the even-more-essential elements of blooming, leaf structure and color, shape and eventual size. In fact, when all is said and done, we will forever and always return to these basic factors of any plants we use. Expert choices make expert results.


To a certain degree, we have already addressed this above. But it well behooves avid students of landscaping to try and understand the reasons for certain design elements. “Foundation planting”, “mass planting”, “specimen-planting”, the use of grass, hardscapes, lighting, water in a landscape all have a certain place which should fit with the rest, no matter the current fashions.

Differences in design are as numerous as differences in their purposes. Back Yards are often the result of a search for privacy and contemplation.


Public spaces, on the other hand, are nearly the opposite – with celebratory edifices such as public fountains, prominent features like statues and art works and even especially riveting sculptural/landscape elements built together to simply draw attention and interest, supplying something unique and impractical for our everyday lives. In public space, predictability is over rated by a huge amount. People seriously want to share amazement – most truly amazingly beautiful things are simply designed to share.



Lovejoy Fountain



Meat and Potatoes

Here are other categories it well behooves an aspiring landscaper to appreciate:

Soils -

Machinery -

Labor Relations -

Client Behavior -

Maintenance -

Sales  and Customer Satisfaction -

We’ll address these next time.





What Is Landscaping Like? Is It Like Work?

This is a recirculation of a post I made a couple years ago. Posts explaining what we do as landscapers are partially intended to inform any potential client of what to expect when a crew arrives at their home and begin tearing it all up. This is highly unsettling to anyone with a heart, and especially if they are super invested in years being used to their home.  ;-)

My sis in law, Lisa, once visited a site we were working at, in such beginnings and immediately opined: “Good God, I could never do that!” The place in question was a perfectly nice landscape the client wanted to upgrade with more interesting stuff. We were at what was probably the ugliest part – it was pure destruction. There are no delicate touches at that stage, lol. We are uniquely qualified to tear stuff up. Hey – we’re guys, mostly. It borders on fun!

Anyway, another aspect I write to cover is what young people might expect who are considering the field itself from any angle. Every field has an entry point and even designers gain immensely from spending a year or two “in the trenches” so to speak.

So below is a peek at what we do.

I was asked recently by a high school kid whose Dad I played softball with how I chose to do landscaping. He is a senior this year and he is facing those major questions regarding his own future. I had him work for me a while back – nearly 3 years ago – and he was a willing and hard worker. There was a lot of banter between some of the older guys and he – the old “age smack” trash talk thing – which was hilarious. He even “won” a few. He was not afraid to speak his mind for which he was highly regarded among much older guys. His Dad was proud when I mentioned he was missed and that my crew asked about him often.

Doug and Ed 005

It made me think. I could see that this was a question which wanted as close as I could get to 360 degrees of an answer. It would not do to present half a picture. Truth be told, my route is not necessarily the one I would advocate for anybody – not whatsoever. The fact is, I stumbled upon it. However, one thing I have found is that landscaping does indeed suit a particular personality. This personality would be willing to wake up at 6 AM every morning for an 8 hour day of lifting, raking, carrying, wheel-barrowing and – in the end – of making things. In the end, this is what we do – we make things.

The Reward – Of all the rewards inherent in doing good landscaping – aside, that is, from the daily dose of endorphins and great sensations at the end of a day – the one primary reward can often exist in revisiting the project later and telling the company you are with – “I made that!”. Seeing a tangible result is a reward pretty much only for those who do make things – typically people in construction but also in art, in fabrication and manufacturing, and particularly in such pastimes as knitting, sewing, forming things from something else – and the tangible product tend to be their own rewards.


The Chores – So we wake up early and drive to work. Typically, on my projects, I tried to get the hardest work done in the morning. It is a truism, proven by studies of productivity, that nearly 75% of the day’s accomplishments all happen before lunch. I have found this to be nearly completely true on average. In fact, I planned around it when it was possible. What this means is that one stretches a little bit, early on, then goes for it. The quiet mornings are full of the odd grunt and fewer complaints than those you hear later. In my experience, mornings in landscaping are the fastest moving times ever. Next thing you know, it’s lunch time.

Landscaping consists of some very redundant and basic tasks, in many cases:

Dirt Work:

Moving dirt around is the landscaper’s lament. Move this dirt over here. Dig a hole and replace the hole with better dirt and lose that stuff over there. Then rake it out. Rakes and shovels are the trade’s primary tools, along with the ubiquitous wheelbarrow. Learning to load, carry and empty wheelbarrows, believe it or not, are “musts”. In fact, learning to shovel is one as well. There are ways to involve the back somewhat organically, to help with the work by bending knees in coordination, just as there are ways to insure shoveling will be your worst nightmare.


Shaping the terrain is what we do. It is nearly always first, sometimes following what amounts to a clean up of impediments or the trashing of a landscape which we are changing. Bottom line – We move dirt to where it will be a permanent medium for everything else that follows. Everything happens on top of that. Having said all this, we are helped, as often as possible, by the use of machinery.

Bobcats, mini excavators, larger stuff all reduces the body impact of doing the work by hand, just as teams of mules and horses once did for those land-shapers in England and all the many spots in the world who landscaped large swaths of land. The varieties of tools and equipment for landscaping goes back 1,000’s of years, actually.

Now, since I have lived in dry climates, irrigation is installed typically at the original dirt-moving time. Trenches are dug, cleaned out, pipes installed, heads inserted and all the rigmarole involving irrigation is dealt with very early on. It won’t do to try and irrigate retroactively, at least not when grass or sod is involved. Drip irrigation is different but even drip needs a supply line established under the ground.


Anyway, so we shape the land to conform to the original design. Next, there are any number of directions to go. The original shaping could have left room for paving materials for patios, walkways or patios. We could have carpentry projects where the carpenters are busy forming up their gazebo, fence, trellises or whatever. Hopefully, they work with us in what almost always tends to be a crowded space. Otherwise, we often resort to beating them up. It’s tough out there, I tell ya. ;-)

If indeed we are paving, obviously there is a need for different materials to provide the sub-base materials for compacting. Dirt just won’t do. So guys bring in the base material, rake it out and compact it – either by machine if access is good or else by the handy old method of wheelbarrow. Since a wheelbarrow of base material weighs about 200 pounds, and the site of even the smallest patios or walkways require tons of material, this is a chore not to be sneezed at. It represents lots – and I do mean lots – of trips, back and forth.


We then arrive at the point at which we install those paving items.  This involves and immense amount of carrying. The pavers need to go near the spot they were designed to go and they often require selective delivery, owing to the many different sizes and shapes and patterns they require. The onus is then upon the carrier to get it right. There is always a dude or two on the ground to put them in place and a crew ahead preparing the strata for laying.


Once the patio is near completion, we work on what we call “finishing”. The soil is in place – perhaps needing amendment – and the “hardscape” is complete, so we can consider things like planting and installing grass and maybe edging materials, if required. So we order up our plants and we plant them, usually – in fact always – (except in the case of monster trees which we often dig by excavator) use shovels for this. Planting can be tough, too, depending on the native soils. Often times we need the help of picks and mattocks to get the hole to a decent enough size to handle the plants and trees. After planting, those familiar with drip irrigation know this is the time we run our feed lines to all the plantings. Oftimes, we will cover them up a few inches deep as well, particularly when no mulches are called for.


Having completed the planting, we move to laying the grass. Since each roll weighs about 20-40 pounds, depending on the weather and the amount of clay they were grown in, this is another extremely tedious chore. There is that satisfaction, however, in laying grass, of such an immediate impact, aesthetically. Everyone picks up on it, invariably. There is something extremely satisfying in laying grass. The change is so quick and so total. But it, too, is tiring.

After all this, we move to the “real” finishing which involves laying in mulches where the planting beds are and depositing art works or thrills into the landscape accordingly. Once we clean the place spotlessly, we are basically done. It’s pretty much beer-thirty.

Crystal Springs March 3 09 268

So a review of all this activity reveals a couple of things: One, that the work is hard work. It requires a body that is either strong already or one which can get that way. This is not the toughest thing in the world, by the way. Every year, once Winter ended and the work> started really getting underway, it took me a week or two to get into what I call “landscaping shape”.  It is no different for anyone. By the way, I have seen many women coming into the field and it is a good thing for all. While strength is not presumed to be ladylike, the interesting fact is, it is pretty attractive, actually. The female influence on a crew can also be a wonderful addition, the truth is. It tends to keep things decent in terms of language and even in terms of behavior in general. And they seem to enjoy it as well. Here is the one cardinal overlooked fact of a hard day at work:

The endorphin count is out the roof. The satisfaction of a full day’s labor – while hard – can have its biggest reward in how good the body feels at the end of a day. This is not small, either. There is something to be said about getting legitimately “high” at work and this is exactly what happens. The other benefit is in the benefit offered to anyone who works hard – I personally believe you live longer and that those efforts which maintain a pretty awesome physical tone impact a person fantastically well. I used to play ball games after work. I lived for it.

Advancing In The Field - But this should not keep one from advancing further in the field, either. This is the second phase of a trip through any successful landscaper’s journey and one which I will resume next post.

Doug and Ed 021


  1. Hey Steve
    I loved this post. “A day in the life” of a landscaper. The photos all show a little progress each day and this is what we landscapers can appreciate. Sometimes our clients don’t “see” the everyday progress if the day has been spent doing “underground” work- drainage, sprinklers, sleeving, but we do!Excellent landscaping resource. Have you moved yet?
    shirleyComment by Shirley Bovshow “EdenMaker” — October 14, 2009 @ 11:25 am
  2. Yes, Shirley, I am now almost two full weeks into life in Louisville. It’s been an easy transition and an especially rewarding one so far, being with family again on a daily basis. I have also been approached for landscaping, lol.I knew this one would be one you might enjoy. Next, I’ll take a trip through the ranks. But I will also include a safety section.Comment by Steve — October 14, 2009 @ 4:03 pm
  3. Steve, that’s a great meditation on how you got to where you ended up, at least for a while. There are lots of great ways to be creative, and working with your hands seems to be one of the most rewarding. I’ve been doing a several weeks’ worth of pretty hard physical labor around the house after the day job is done, and I sometimes wondered if I’d have had a more satisfying life if I’d done some of the outdoor things that really satisfied me instead of doing all the desk job things that people kept telling me I should be doing. The day job has its satisfactions and pays the bills, to be sure. But how many of us don’t think every now and then about paths not taken? That said, you’ve definitely been clear about what isn’tso fuzzy and wonderful about the field, and to that I suppose you could add dealing with all sorts of people, many of whom will be terrific and a few of whom will never be satisfied. None of these big life decisions are easy…Comment by lostlandscape(James) — October 15, 2009 @ 12:25 am
  4. James, maybe I’m just lucky or maybe I have selective memory about events and relationships, but my relations with people in landscaping– and let’s speak 360 degrees, here – from the guys who I have worked for, and from those working for me and the abundant suppliers and clients, both residential and commercial, made it all just that much more rewarding in the end. The knuckleheads can hurt you – bad – and, to be honest, every now and then you make mistakes and must pay for them – (you being the knucklehead) – but they are outnumbered by a long way by the pleasantest relationships (outside of romance and family) that are possible for a human to have. In many ways, I regret nothing. Even the pain was worth it.Comment by Steve — October 15, 2009 @ 6:28 am
  5. Steve- it is so strange for me to see your workin the “wide open” plains surrounded by mountains. I am from New Jersey where it is totally different….. Super interesting to me…Comment by New Jersey Landscape Architect NJ & Landscape Designer — October 17, 2009 @ 9:43 am
  6. It’s why they call it Big Sky Country, lol. And, Lord knows, it’s the truth. When thunderstorms course through, once or twice a Summer, you can see the storm’s lightning lighting up clouds 100 miles away.Reno – where much of my work took place – is incredibly gifted, believe it or not. Having the Sierra Nevada Range basically mere miles away – including Tahoe – offers something you don’t see many other places. You still get the Big Skies but you also get a mountain show and all that ice cream snow-capped stuff. If you’re really lucky, you can get caught in one of those storms up there!They got 10 feet in one night once up there, 19 feet in two days. Reno got 4′.

    Comment by Steve — October 17, 2009 @ 10:23 am


A Louisville Treasure – Hidden Hill Nursery

Bernheim Spring 181(click on any image to enlarge)

My good friend, the bacheloring and visiting Mike Sears, dropped in on me this weekend and we actually covered quite a bit of ground. But one of the nicest parts was hitting his junior high school Jeffersonville, Indiana days and those neighborhoods hard along the river. So we found ourselves very close to Utica and I decided to go see Hidden Hill. Mike was enchanted, of course and we got to see Bob who, as always, was as warm and engaging as ever. So I was going to just send this to Mike, but it’s been 4 years since this ran, so I’ll recirculate it a little.

Bob Hill spent 25 years or so working as a journalist for the  Louisville Courier Journal writing about diverse issues and subjects including gardening, society and historical facts about Louisville. He is enormously respected as a cool voice with a long view and deep, caring insight.  As a book writer, he penned one of my personal favorites: “The Crack Of The Bat”, the definitive history of the world-famous ‘Louisville Slugger’ baseball bat, a tool yours truly has used to good effect and also has broken into varied pieces many, many times as a baseball mutt in an earlier era. A modern day Luddite like me longs for that sound when I venture out to my favorite Spring pastime, sitting as near as I can to Muhammad Ali and watching the University of Louisville “ping” the opposition to death with their metal bats. ;-) Bob also wrote a true crime book called “Double Jeopardy”, a local crime which leads him to authoritatively comment and which was featured on the National TV show, Dateline, a couple times and which I read years ago. It is the definitive book on that tale as well, sad as it may be.

Bernheim Spring 191

Well, Bob Hill is as nice in person and as creative as ever. In fact, he may be doing things that make “unique” look normal. He owns and operates Hidden Hill Nursery, a fascinating, whimsical spot and a must-see on the garden traveler’s road map which also doubles as a nursery, selling exotics. “It’s my niche,” he says with a smile. Bob has most definitely NOT seen the last of me. I am involved in a small project even now which could use a few of his big old Yellow Magnolia’s. He welcomes – for the record – landscapers and designers at almost any time for purposes of sales. He does, after all, run a business in his nursery as well as present a marvelous jaunt amongst his various treasures.

Anyway, so my Mom and I took a jaunt on an unseasonably hot Autumn Day on Sunday, attempting to finally make it to this gorgeous garden on it’s final Open To The Public day of the season. We had spoken of it many times and I had heard rumors of it’s fascinating properties from the sports fans I hang out with at a local sports message board, Inside The Ville, a site dedicated to Louisville sports.

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Inasmuch as the nursery and garden was compiled around his own home, Bob’s efforts over a long period of time have produced a totally delightful trove of small pleasures and simple beauty which reflect to a real love of the soil and the respect for Nature Herself which Bob gladly and openly brings to the game. Bob Hill is an obvious appreciator of artistic talent and a very non-shy exhibitor of just that. Pssssst…….he has pink bathtubs.

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He also features exhaust pipe lizards and a junkyard dog – in a hat no less! – who absolutely reflects that in reality, seen here overlooking a peaceful and gorgeous small waterfall which begins a coursing creek in an outstanding water feature under a cool, shady canopy smack in the middle of the Gardens.

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Like everyone I know, of course, Bob also features a very outspoken “oxygen tank duck”:

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We were also relieved to find directions posted on some nearby trees,  subtle, yet still effective:

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As far as this pair of pants (below) is concerned, I mentioned to Bob and his crew who were relaxing nearby that these overalls could “probably walk to get themselves washed”. Thank God they laughed.

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Butterfly chairs abounded!

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And as fun as all this was and is, Bob Hill is also a serious cultivator and appreciator of gorgeous plants and stunning beauty – all in a variety and diverse number of settings one has to get close to in order to truly appreciate their scope.

Take these automobile-sized leaves, for example, stuck hard solo under yet another cooling canopy -

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Since I am not at all certain this picture does justice to the sheer magnitude of these monster leaves, here is another cluster, battling it out with a giant Banana Tree in a sunnier location on the site -

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Make no mistake, designers and landscaping aficionados have much to delight their own senses, aside from the whimsical stuff. There are small features throughout the place, well-designed and gorgeous constructions in their own rights. Take this splendid courtyard as an example as we examine it from various views, including closeup pictures of the simple profusion of the prettiest plants in Nature. This “hot” little Chrysanthemum fronts a serene and exceedingly well-designed small patio/coutyard:

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Another few views:

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A detail I adored -  a small, shady perennial Paradise:

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This one………………the one below. I had to stop and look twice. Please enlarge.

This is a sculpture whose sensuality belies its metal composition. It plain looks good enough to eat.

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This small setting below may say more about this splendid garden wonderland than anything I could have imagined. We happened onto this on our way out – it is across from that splendid pink bathtub!

I have no idea of the purpose of this little clearing – if one exists. But I can aver that this reveals a factor of the epitome of excellent landscape and garden design which shows the invitation and the promise which are the rudiments of the most mysterious and excellent designs in the world. When perception rules in the fields it belongs in and the eye becomes trained to accept mystery and to drink in beauty like a fabulous natural drink, then gardens such as this will be everywhere.

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Bob Hill, we absolutely loved our visit. You did real good in my book and my Mom agrees.

That’s unanimous, then. :-)

Brick Pavers As A Product and Installation Issues

“Pavers”, in the sense we refer to here are compressed concrete bricks, perfectly formed to interlock initmately, forming a non-moveable structurally road strength surface. The “compression” comes from the manufacturing process, where the paver forms are filled, then shaken to void out air holes and to better distribute the cement itself. They end up being somewhere in the vicinity of 8,500 PSI (pounds per square inch). To get an idea of how hard that is, your standard concrete walkway downtown is about 4,500 PSI. A patio out back in your yard will usually be in the vicinity of 3,500 PSI. Thus, these are harder than ‘normal’ cement products. They are being used in many newer applications, including city streets. 5 million square feet of the Honk Kong Airport’s entire runway and general tarmac is composed of these little beggars, as well.

The concern in Hong Kong dealt with the massive rains of the Monsoon Season and the tendency to flood. Brick pavers offered a drainage solution which intrigued the planners, who still produced plans containing ample numbers of catch basins to conduct water throughout the airport’s tarmac. Later tests revealed the incredible infiltration of water between the actual cracks of the pavers themselves, producing very nearly zero work for the planned catchments.

Pavers, simply by their segmented nature, allow water to pass directly down between one another, as this picture shows in more detail.

(enlarge any picture by left clicking)

Another recommendation they carry with them is the fact that they are somewhat flexible. In this, I refer to the component factor: it takes a lot of brick pavers to contribute to a driveway. Whereas a cement driveway will develop cracks atop shifting bases, or can collect water underneath and thus heave, where the concrete structure will crack and split and then deteriorate further with time, pavers will heave just like the cement, but will not have some monolithic break. They will ride the heave and stay intact. Thus freezing and cracking may well be the least of worries. The actual fact is, those who prepare the base are the stars of this particular show. Proper preparation below any surface yields much less trouble, later.


Under any surface, cement, asphalt, or brick pavers there needs to be a compacted base consisting of some sort of compactable material. Typically a mix of small rocks and “fines” from the same rock created at quarries do the trick. The fines do what we indicated above with the forming of pavers in the mold: they fill in totally and thus ensure, upon being squished with some titanic and compressing machine, that the subbase is going absolutely nowhere. When covered, there should be no voids to collect water where freezing can affect the ultimate size and cause breaks or heaving. A compacted base would also solve a lot of cement problems regarding breakage and deterioration but it seems not all contractors take the time for this hard and time-comsuming work.

Depending on the soils underneath, the base material should be at least 6 inches thick for drivweways and 4 inches for patios and walkways. In the absence of base material, or Class II Base as we call it, washed sand can actually be used as a base material.

In any event, for truly muddy or expansive type soils, one should overexcavate appropriately and add this completely new material. I once had a project, in Vancouver, B.C. where we were scheduled to install pavers aside a parking garage. The only problem was, there was this hole from earlier excavations about 12 feet deep and some 50 feet wide and it was full of water. This was exactly where the pavers were supposed to go.

I backed a line of trucks holding washed sand up and dumped them, pushing them in, finally, with my trusty Bobcat, bit by bit, allowing the water to escape from the rear of the hole, and succeeded in filling the hole in a day. Two days later, we were compacting and constructing and, 5 days later, we had made ourselves a brick fire lane, 20 feet wide, coursing over this former hole. It was actually sort of amazing, really, but I swear, that drive is at nearly the same level it was when we constructed it, today, some 22 years later. Here’s Nature’s bottom line: Nothing compacts like water!


For pavers, an extra step is typical at the end of the compaction drama: a one inch layer of sand is put in place at the exact level one desires the pavers to go. Eventually, this sand bed will allow a bit of movement as the pavers get compacted into place and grouted with yet more, and possibly other decorative, color coordinated, sand. What this achieves is some allowance for error, as well. Artists with a plate compactor can literally change a grade where necessary, by adding water and worrying a hump into submission by whacking it until it conforms. While this sounds inexact, the best operators can achieve a perfect grade. It’s what they are paid to do.


The job is almost done. I am being serious. There is some darn hard work, toting pavers over for placement and all, but establishing the base is always the big achievement. By the time your sand is screeded (levelled into place), laying the pavers is good old brainless work, in most cases. I advocate hiring the high school student for this phase, lol. (You know that saying, “Hire the high school student….while they still know everything?” oops, sorry, honey). I could not resist, sorry……now, where were we?

Establishing a laying pattern is mental. There are any numbers of patterns available, from Herringbone ones to Running Bond patterns and some extoic ones as well. Just the same, laying them becomes easier once the pattern is established and repitition becomes the norm. At this stage one fills in the blank area with bricks.


Finishing involves a few things: edges and retaining systems, grouting the pavers with sand and the final compaction. There is also sealing which I will also address elsewhere.

Edges and restraining: If curved, the edges of any paver edifice will require cutting. Many people use the “guillotine” method of pressing two sharp edges manually, thus cleaving the brick. I have seen projects done this way which worked well. Nevertheless, I always advocate cutting all pavers with a brick saw, using a diamond blade and water, thus getting a crystal clean cut at exactly the edge one desires. It just looks more professional, to me. Once in place, I restrain my bricks with either plastic or aluminum edging, complete with holes for knocking down some nice 8-10″ spikes and holding it tightly in place. The edges of all component structures are always the weak point, but with edge restraints, one can withstand tires and accidents alot better.

Grouting with sand: This implies spreading a layer of sand over the entire paver area, then sweeping and watering the sand into place inside the cracks of the pavers themselves. One also cleans when finishing with water. I like to compact the pavers one final time with a thin coat of sand over the bricks. The sand “lubricates” the passage of the compactor and the compaction process shakes the sand into those cracks. Then is when I typically wash, finishing the grout process and the project itself.

Essentially, that’s it. One can expect a lifetime’s worth of satisfaction from this stuff. Indeed, one may well expect generations to enjoy the fruits of this labor. Modern bricks are replacing city streets in many cities, especially those who experience rain problems, like Seattle, Portland or Vancouver, B.C. They add wonderfully to the resale value of a home, even aside from looking as good as anything out there can look. I will deal with the more artistic values of brick pavers elsewhere, but the color combinations, laying patterns and bricks themselves are mind boggling in their diversity and possibilities. They are a huge step forward in landscape technology and offer yet another wondrous and durable possibility for outdoor pleasure.