We may have to say goodbye to white attire, but Labor Day weekend does provide one last reason to celebrate outdoors before the start of autumn. If your backyard leaves something to be desired, engulf yourself in these beautiful gardens and breathtaking pools before bringing in the professionals. By this time next year, you could have the party-ready oasis.

Danny Mee, Frisella Nursery

Stone staircase. “The natural stone steps lead to the flagstone patio,” Mee explains. “The whole point was to tie into the woodland setting.” Going in the opposite direction, the stairs take the homeowners across a small bridge and down to the additional patio.

Four-season space. “What we try to do with all designs is play with color and texture to have a variety of plant material,” Mee says. “You want the landscape to be a design for all seasons, where there is always something growing.”

Constant color. Coreopsis adds a bright yellow color, while the hinoki cypress brings weight to the garden even during the winter when the perennials die. The varying shades all complement the home’s exterior.

Bob Graeler, Chesterfield Valley Nursery

Sloping beauty. “The backyard is a steep slope area that is relatively unusable as any family activity area, so it was very practical for a natural garden,” explains Graeler. The finished look is manicured, yet clearly at home in its wooded habitat.

Stepping stones. Running through the backyard are natural slab, black hills rustic steps. Surrounding the stairs are walls made of weathered sandstone in similar hues.

One with nature. The landscaping blends nicely into the surrounding area, Graeler notes. “The homeowners were very interested in maintaining the natural feel.”

Richard Poynter, Poynter Landscape Architecture

Lovely louver. “A louvered-roof pergola is about having dry space, sunlight and shade, and still having the sky as your ceiling,” Poynter says. “You can see the sky right through it, but the louvers are set up where you stay dry underneath.”

Rustic touches. “This site was a little rustic, so we were using a more rustic stone and rustic masonry technique,” he says, of the stonework around the pergola and in front of the pool.

Fabulous fountain. The wier directly underneath the pergola recycles the pools water and provides an enjoyable sound, Poynter says. “The volume of water that comes out of there can be varied; you have control over whether it dribbles or pours out as a sheet, as it is here.”

John Jacobsen, Liquid Assets

Superb stone. Natural elements—as seen on a the tumbled limestone steps, coping and tanning ledge, as well as the Missouri fieldstone boulder—help to unite the pool with the surrounding area.

Room to lounge. The tanning ledge provides more than a comfortable place for adults to cool off. “If you have younger kids, it’s an easy way to transition into the pool—it’s usually between 6 to 12 inches of water,” Johnson says.

Fun for all. For family fun, a basketball hoop and volleyball net can be slipped into place near the pool. Because they are anchored into the pool deck, they are sturdy—but still removable for adult get-togethers.

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