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CP Complete design this dream backyard in Laurel. (Credit: Stacy Wickham Photography)

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Our Dream Series has explored the most exquisite designs on the North Fork. From a thoroughly modern chef’s kitchen in Cutchogue to rustic-meets-chic décor in Riverhead, there has been plenty of inspiration to ignite interior design aspirations.

But this time of year — no matter how beautiful the inside of a home is — there is no better place to be than outside. These three yards on the North Fork and Shelter Island create an oasis of summertime living.

Enchanted garden in Cutchogue

The pool area. (Credit: ©Anthony Crisafulli)

Landscape architect Stacy Paetzel has been in the design industry for 20 years. As the founder and principal of Marshall Paetzel Landscape Architecture in Mattituck and Amagansett, Paetzel and her team — which includes husband and fellow veteran landscape architect Jonathan Paetzel — specializes in creating functional, beautiful and sustainable land-use solutions.

But when it came time for the couple to design the gardens of their own Cutchogue home, it was admittedly “much harder” than an average project.

“Since we’re both designers, we had to agree on all the details,” Stacy explained.  “However, we always say, when both of us agree, we know it’s just right, so it’s worth the extra time and effort.”

The couple lived in the house for several years before installing the pool, which created a unique set of challenges for the designers, who became accustomed to the backyard being open.

“I was really concerned that the pool would make the yard feel small,” Stacy said. “The backyard has two flat areas with a slope between. We decided to put the pool right in the middle of the slope, and create retaining walls above and below it.  It was ideal because the slope was a part of the yard we really couldn’t use anyway.”

The Paetzels planted a dense border of perennials and grasses between the pool and vegetable garden, which adds visual interest in all seasons. For color, the designers incorporated lots of blues and purples from Joe Pye Weed, Sea Holly, Russian Sage, Lavender, Ornamental Oregano and several varieties of Alliums.

“It hides the pool in winter, and in summer it makes the pool feel like a private oasis,” she said. “When you’re lounging on the sofa, you can’t even see the house.”

Stacy’s personal favorite aspect of the yard, an antique iron kettle in the gravel courtyard, is a nod to the property’s history as a former sheep farm.

“ We found the kettle in the woods when the property was cleared,” she said. “It was full of water, so we decided to try a few small fish and aquatic plants in it, just for fun.  We loved it so much [that] we moved it front and center and built a garden around it.  It’s magical.”

You can’t see the house from the comfort of this outdoor seating area. (Credit: ©Anthony Crisafulli)
The yard has a special place for entertaining. (Credit: ©Anthony Crisafulli)
The Cutchogue backyard in the evening. (Credit: ©Anthony Crisafulli)

A gathering place in Laurel

CP Complete designed this dream backyard in Laurel. (Credit: Stacy Wickham Photography)

This resort-like backyard in Laurel was conceived with family and friends in mind. Chris Hall and Paul Guillo, of CP Complete in Calverton, focused the design on four criteria: a family friendly pool, a shaded area on the patio, a spacious spot for lounge chairs, and an open space for lawn and garden.

“Preserving open space for a lawn area, gardens and specimen trees was a major consideration,” Hall said. “The privet that surrounds the property acts as a perfect border and frames the symmetry and balance of the pool, pergola and patio.”

The pool was designed with stadium steps across the entire shallow end and bench seating in the deep end. The light gray color was chosen to blend into the landscape, as well as attract and retain heat to warm the pool water naturally.

The shaded patio area was achieved by installing a 20-by-12-foot pergola with a retractable canvas cover while the fire pit provides warmth and ambiance on a cool summer night.

The travertine stone patio bestows a welcoming rich color and remains cooler to the touch than other materials. As well as being attractive, it is a family friendly stone for small children as well as adults.

“It is an ideal place to soak up the sun or to enter the pool to cool off,” Hall said.

The shaded area on the patio. (Credit: Stacy Wickham Photography)
The lounge area by the pool. (Credit: Stacy Wickham Photography)
The design left plenty of room for open space. (Credit: Stacy Wickham Photography)

Rooted in nature on Shelter Island

This Shelter Island garden was designed around the home’s architecture. (Buttercup Design Group courtesy photo)

There is more to landscape design than aesthetics. It is prerequisite that a dream outdoor space is a sanctuary of beauty, but a garden that is in harmony with nature is a retreat where true peace of mind can be found.

The homeowners of this waterfront Shelter Island home were vested in more than curb appeal when they commissioned award-winning landscape designer Vickie Cardaro of Buttercup Design Group to reimagine their gardens.

Cardaro, the principal of her own Shelter Island firm, specializes in creatively defending landscapes from deer through beautiful and environmentally responsible design.

The plantings focused primarily on deer resistant and drought-tolerant turf grass like zoysia.

“We are very sensitive to water usage because Shelter Island has one aquifer,” Cardaro said. “The zoysia lawn is a good way to go because it doesn’t require fertilizer and it does not require irrigation. It is very responsible turf.”

The expansive gardens also include hundreds of drought-tolerant ornamental grasses and flowers like vibrant Echinacea, Magnus and green jewel.

“The way the colors worked together was something that went a lot into the planning,” she said. “That’s a good plant palette because the architecture of the house is black. I chose plant colors of purples, whites and chartreuse.”

Other unique features of the Shelter Island property are a pathway made of a combination of geometric slabs of Tennessee limestone bisected with African ironwood that was reclaimed from the South Street Seaport boardwalk after it was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy.

The rooftop vegetable garden is one of the latest additions to the landscaping.

“We planted tomatoes, a blueberry hedge, horseradish, cucumbers, various squash, every kind of herb imaginable,” she said. “They’re big cooks.”

Native grasses were included in the design. (Buttercup Design Group courtesy photo)
The vegetable garden. (Buttercup Design Group courtesy photo)
Drought tolerant turf grass was selected to help protect the environment. (Buttercup Design Group courtesy photo)