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  • This three-tiered pool accommodates a 26' elevation change. Cascading water drowns out noise from a nearby highway.
  • The column-like stones are being installed in a vertical arrangement to mimic the cliffs of the Hudson River.
  • The stone used for the spa has a veneer of 2-inch limestone capped with template-cut Tennessee Crab Orchard flagstone.
  • A kitchen/bar, koi pond, fireplace and ample seating on the dining patio provide a comfortable space for entertaining.
  • All across the hardscape, landscape plantings create a natural setting for the waterfalls.
  • Echoing the stonework in the backyard, the front driveway is also accented with boulders and terraced plantings.
  • The design plan for this project.

This upscale estate-style home was built with two primary landscaping goals in mind: provide a water feature that would help drown out the noise of a nearby highway and create a luxurious outdoor space for entertaining. Initially, that doesn't seem like a tall order. But there was one big hitch: a 26-foot elevation change from a slope in the backyard down to the level of the home. The innovative solution employed by landscaping design-build firm Cipriano Landscape Design was to use column-like pieces of stone to create a multi-tiered landscape with two 7-foot waterfalls, one that flows into the swimming pool and another that flows over a vanishing edge down to the home's patio. This plan not only accommodated the steep elevation change, it also integrated the hardscape seamlessly into a natural setting. "In addition, the homeowners enjoy views of the waterfalls and natural vanishing edge from every vantage point," says Bill Moore of Cipriano Landscape Design, the landscape architect for the project.

Project Highlights:

  • Location: Saddle River, N.J.
  • Intended use: As a private retreat and as a luxurious space to entertain large gatherings of people.
  • Features: Two 7-foot waterfalls, vanishing-edge swimming pool, spa, flagstone patios, outdoor fireplace, full-service outdoor kitchen, koi pond
  • Amount of stone used: 1,000 tons
  • Landscape architect: Bill Moore, Cipriano Landscape Design, Ramsey, N.J.
  • Awards: New Jersey Landscape Contractors Association Residential Design-Build Achievement Award, New Jersey Nursery and Landscape Association Award of Excellence, Northeast Spa & Pool Association Design Award, Association of Pool & Spa Professionals International Award of Excellence, Mason Contractors Association of America TEAM award (Tribute to Exemplary Achievements in Masonry)

Key Design Strategies:

  • Use the landscape to integrate the hardscape seamlessly into a natural setting.
  • Get inspiration from the surrounding topography, and incorporate those ideas into your landscaping plans.
  • Balance natural beauty with sophistication.
  • Use plants strategically to soften large expanses of hardscaping.

Design Goals

The inspiration for the vertical arrangement of the stone came from a boating trip Cipriano Landscape Design owner Chris Cipriano took on the Hudson River. "I noticed the verticality of the outcroppings on a cliff overlooking the river and came up with this idea for the pool's waterfalls and vanishing edge. With a picture as proof that the results would look outstanding, I proposed the idea to the homeowner, and we were on our way."

The homeowners also wanted to create a space large enough to entertain large groups of people. So in addition to the tiered waterfalls, the landscape plan includes a spa, an outdoor fireplace, a full-service kitchen and bar, a koi pond, and a large dining patio. "The spacious dining and outdoor kitchen area balances the exhibition of nature with a slightly more refined style that fosters luxury entertainment for friends and family," says Cipriano.

Project Challenges

"Our main concern as we completed the hardscaping was the tremendous amount of stone used on the project (approximately 1,000 tons). The homeowner shared this concern with us, but we convinced him to wait and see how the landscaping affected the appearance," says Cipriano.

Another challenge was how to use plantings to "soften" the 1,000 tons of stone. "When you're working with massive amounts of stone, the landscaping is crucial to blend the structure into its surroundings. Without a full, diverse landscape, this pool's waterfalls and natural vanishing edge would look like a backyard rock quarry," says Cipriano.

Installing the huge pieces of stone for the waterfalls and natural vanishing edge was also no small feat. "They were difficult to lift because of the awkward shape. Their height and lack of width forced us to make sure that they would not tip over during construction. Usually large, heavy boulders are pretty secure once they hit the ground, but these stones took more careful consideration," says Cipriano.

Landscaping Solutions

Hundreds of blooming perennials and ornamental grasses were planted to contrast the stiffness of the stone with soft, flowing texture year-round. "Our primary concern was to balance the earthy colors and rigid structure of the stone with vibrant colors and soft, wispy textures," says Cipriano. "As water flows over the stone outcroppings, beautiful plantings fill each and every crevice of the stone, weaving in and out to balance the landscape with the hardscape." The plantings include irises, Black-Eyed Susans, hostas, salvia, and ornamental grasses. The natural swimming pool and terraced plantings also integrate nicely with the tall trees behind the waterfalls.

To mimic the natural outcroppings of the Palisades overlooking the Hudson River Cipriano Landscape Design used real Palisades stone and Pennsylvania chunk sandstone for the waterfalls, setting the stones vertically. The spa adjacent to the pool patio has a veneer of 2-inch limestone capped with template-cut Tennessee Crab Orchard flagstone. The patio is paved with the same flagstone, set on a 6-inch engineered concrete slab with a pinning system that prevents vertical movement.

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