Knaak Design Group in Bonita Springs has made a name for itself for outdoor spaces that don’t sacrifice style for function. Principal Robert Knaak, a registered landscape architect and certified building contractor, believes in alfresco rooms marked by natural, low-maintenance materials that can put up with whatever the Florida weather throws at them, and styles that favor a clean modern aesthetic that can be updated without starting from scratch. Here, he shares some insight on four of landscape design’s most popular and important features.
“These days clients are asking for pergolas, pavilions or shade structures where they can entertain in inclement weather more and more,” says Knaak. “Louvered pergolas have been very popular in Europe for some time, but only recently have they been engineered to withstand hurricane winds, making them a game-changer here in Florida. These bioclimatic structures are a great way to add more usable space to the backyard and provide protection from the rain and the sun.”
There are multiple ways to add visual interest at ground level, and often times, pavers and hedges are the way to go. “There are many different types of pavers, from natural stone to cement-based, but porcelain pavers have really taken off,” says Knaak. “Over 90 percent of our projects use them because they are resistant to mold and mildew and make great non-slip surfaces.” For homeowners who don’t mind the upkeep, hedge mazes may be the way to go. Popular in formal gardens, parterre box hedges are separated by gravel and sometimes surrounded by flower beds.
Pools & Plant Life
When it comes to green life around a pool, low-maintenance varieties that can withstand the Florida sun are key. “Grasses such as Chinese fountain add a bit of whimsy thanks to its white, silvery bottle brush that sways in the wind,” says Knaak. “Ground covers such as perennial peanut or beach sunflower in lieu of turf are good staples. We also try to incorporate species that are not as abundant, like Copernicia alba palm, which has an interesting diamond trunk and compact palmate fronds.” In terms of hardscape and extras, Knaak relies on proven winners: a pergola for shelter from the sun, non-slip surfaces for pavers, and a firepit for nighttime use.
Lighting Makes Perfect
Enjoying our gardens and outdoor spaces once the sun goes down all has to do with proper lighting. “You have to find the right balance of lighting that accentuates the landscape and provides safety without overdoing it,” says Knaak. “You don’t need to light every tree on your property, but it should be evenly balanced throughout. We use a patent lighting system that does all its research and development in the Florida Keys and is meant for harsh marine-type environments.”
Text by Christopher Day
Photos courtesy Knaak Design Group