Pro Tips with Jamie Snyder

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Swimming Pool Landscaping for a Cleaner Environment

Posted by Josefine Koehn on Sat, Jun 16, 2012 @ 30:09 PM

upstate_fiberglass pool_nyWhile you certainly should plan on some space for deck chairs around your pool, you should also consider the greater swimming pool area, when installing a swimming pool. Well-planned landscaping can positively influence the microclimate around your home and will also help to create a cleaner environment.

Sunny and Protected Location
First of all you should choose a sunny and protected spot for your pool. Direct exposure to the sun will lower the heating costs; protection from wind will cut the water evaporation. If you can’t find a spot, which provides both, use landscaping to improve the location. Plant shrubs and bushes to use as a windbreak, they don’t have to be too close to the pool.  This way you don’t have to worry about leaves to clog your drain. A living windbreak can reduce wind speed for a distance of as much as 30 times the windbreak’s height.

Positive Impact of Trees
By simply planting trees and vegetation you will make a positive impact on the environment. Trees and vegetation control erosion, provide food, create habitat for wildlife, and clean the air by absorbing CO2 and releasing oxygen. According to the National Academy of Science the planting of 100 million trees would equate annual energy savings of 50 billion kilowatt-hours in the US. This would reduce the carbon dioxide emissions of electric power plants by 35 million tons annually.

And here some numbers, of what you can safe individually: The U.S. Department of Energy estimates, that the proper placement of only three trees can save an average household between $100 and $250 in energy cost annually. The reason is, that you need less air-conditioning when the walls and windows on the sunny side of your house are shaded. Windbreaks on the other hand will help you safe on heating costs when the harsh winter north winds blow over your property.

Do you need more reasons to be persuaded why the landscaping of your greater swimming pool area should include some trees? Trees are perfect to hang up a swing. They provide shade for a sitting area or a sandbox. And don’t forget to plant two trees close enough together, so that you can relax in a hammock after your swim.


Natural Landscaping Ideas

Posted by Josefine Koehn on Tue, Jun 05, 2012 @ 44:12 PM

natural_landscaping_upstate_nyBy landscaping your backyard in a smart way, you cannot only create an environmentally friendly and  wonderful habitat for insects, birds and native plants, but also reduce cost for air conditioning and heating.

According to a study of the Syracuse SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, “the right tree combination could reduce carbon dioxide by fifty-seven-percent by the year 2046”. The group suggested a combination of 31 different types of trees, including dogwood, red hickory and hawthorn. By planting those in your backyard you can help to reduce the amount of CO2 in our atmosphere.

Plant a butterfly garden
Butterfly gardening has become very popular in the last few years. It is just beautiful to see those fragile creatures flitting through the garden. While a butterfly garden is educational and interesting for the little ones it also adds some magic to any landscaping project. To successfully attract butterflies you have to provide food sources for the larva and pollinating plants for the butterflies.

Here are some plants, butterflies like to lay their eggs on: milkweed, blueberry bushes, birch, willow, oak and dogwood trees, lupines, violets and meadowsweet. Great nectar plants are: bee balm, black-eyed Susan, butterfly weed, lilies, purple coneflowers, the new England aster, sunflowers, wild bergamot, rhododendron and spicebush shrubs.

Please plant your butterfly garden in the sun – and avoid using pesticides or herbicides.

Plant Windbreaks
Believe it or not: Natural windbreaks can reduce your heating costs considerably. If you plant evergreen trees to the north and northwest of the home, you can block and deflect the wind over your home and prevent not only some of those naughty drafts, but help the house to keep its temperature. Do not plant evergreens to close to the south-side to not block the few warm rays of the winter sun.

Shade Plants
You may have noticed, that it is much more comfortable to spend a hot summer day in a park under a shady tree, than out on the city streets. The same principle can help you to safe big on air-conditioning. Plant deciduous trees with high, spreading crowns to the south of your home to provide shade for the roof during the hot summermonth. As the trees loose their leaves in the fall, the warming sun can come through in the winter month.

Plant hedges or a row of shrubs along your sidewalk or patio to shade the ground. This will reduce heat radiation and will cool the air before it reaches your home’s walls or windows. And last but not least: Use a trellis for climbing vines to shade your outdoor sitting area.


Swimming Pool Landscaping: What plants to avoid

Posted by Josefine Koehn on Sat, May 19, 2012 @ 36:08 AM

swimming_pool_landscaping_nyThe Landscaping and plant life around your swimming pool can have a big impact on your backyard oasis. When you discuss the different options of the right swimming pool for your needs, don’t forget to consider the surroundings.

First of all, there are certain trees and shrubbery that you should avoid. Think of falling leaves or pine needles, which will make the pool cleaning really hard. Some fruit- or berry-bearing shrubs will lead to staining and thick spreading roots can even lead to structural damage. Some trees to avoid for their extensive root system are Mulberries, Willows, Silver Maple, and American Elm trees. The Arbor Day Foundation is a great source to research different trees.

Another bad choice are pollinating and fruit bearing trees and shrubs, which will most probably attract bees and other unwanted insects.

In order to keep the maintenance low and avoid possible filtration repairs, it is best not to plant blades of grass, acorns, pine needles, oak leaves and especially any kind of berries around your swimming pool. Pine needles and small leaves might slip through your simmer net and any kind of organic debris will add phosphates to your pool, which can lead to algae and problems with the water balance.

Jamie Snyder from The Albert Landscaping Group recommends keeping it clean and simple. A stamped concrete or any other non-organic surface around the pool is safer, cleaner and requires much lower maintenance than any kind of splurging greenery.

Integrate flowerbeds in the retaining wall. Choose daylilies, zinnias and ornamental grasses or low maintenance bushes. Contact Jamie Snyder to discuss the best landscaping options for your backyard oasis.

Swimming Pool Options for Small Yards

Posted by Josefine Koehn on Fri, May 11, 2012 @ 35:07 AM

swimming_pool_dealer_chester_nyJust because you have a small yard, you do not have to write off the installation of an inground swimming pool. There are various ways to change your small backyard in a wonderful oasis. Backyard pools might even be one of the most productive ways to make even a small yard look luxurious.

Think of fountains, lights, a small waterfall, lush green landscaping and planters filled with colorful flowers. Those are just a few options to increase the aesthetics of even a small inground pool. It is even possible to integrate a small jacuzzi or spill over spa on one end of the pool. Does that not sound more inviting than just a sitting area around the bbq?

Vinyl, Concrete or Fiberglass?
You might think it might be easier to accommodate the space with a concrete or vinyl liner pool, which can be shaped the way you like, but today’s fiberglass pools come in so many shapes and sizes, that there will be probably exactly the one which would fit your yard.

Jamie Snyder of Albert Group Landscaping generally recommends fiberglass, because fiberglass pools will be easier to maintain. Vinyl pools generally require liner replacement after about ten years, which can be a hassle, especially when the yard is small. Concrete pools are the hardest to maintain on a seasonal basis and require more chemicals and cleaning than the other two options. If you are wondering if the pre-shaped fiberglass shell will fit around your house, rest assured. The shell can simply be craned over your house and placed in the prepared hole.

Which shape should you choose for your pool?
Since every backyard is different, the shape of the pool depends on the available area and your preferences. One important thing to remember is, that curvy pools, like kidney shaped inground pools, might loose some water space, but will allow for more patio space. Do you just want to have space for a lounge chair or do you want to fit a table with chairs next to the pool?

Vanishing Edge
Vanishing edge pools are best suited for small yards with a steep drop-off. Those pools are often built in breathtaking locations, where one end of the pool seems to meet with the sky. They usually have a rectangular shape, since just two or three sides are on ground level and give you access to the patio. Vanishing edge pools can also be designed in a curved shape. Be aware that vanishing or infinity edge pools require extensive structural work.

Whatever inground pool you decide to get, all styles offer a huge variety to landscape a patio, deck and garden around it. Let us inspire you!


Retaining Walls: How to integrate them in your Swimming Pool Area

Posted by Josefine Koehn on Tue, May 08, 2012 @ 02:09 AM

retaining_wall_landscaping_nySince there is no such thing as a flat yard, the first thing, when building a pool is to think of where and how to create a flat level surface. Although there are a few different ways to create a flat area for your swimming pool, we want to focus in this article on different options for retaining walls and how to best integrate them in the landscape of your back yard.

Make it Look Great
Walls can be an eyesore and make the space looked close up, especially if they are too high and do not offer some attractive edge. The Albert Landscaping Group works with Stonemakers’ Concrete, which is versatile and easy to work with. Thanks to the special mixture, it is very strong and durable. Another plus for great-looking landscaping projects is, that Stonemakers’ product can easily be shaped and will look like natural stone when we are done.

Use it the Smart Way
There are also a few design tricks to integrate a retaining wall in the whole landscaping project. First of all: Do not build too high. If the slope is too steep, use grading and filling up in addition to the retaining wall. Also think of the wall as part of your living space. The wall does not have to look like the “Berlin wall” and just act as a divider. Why not build in a patio surrounded by a seat wall? The perfect place to gather after a dip in the pool. Plus: You do not have to gather dozens of chair to provide seating for your friends.

If you love to garden, you can easily add a beautiful flowerbed surrounded by a retaining wall. Did you look for a good place for a sandbox, a play area for your little ones or a BBQ-spot? Voila, here you are. There are plenty of ways to use the area enclosed by a low retaining wall.

Add Water Features
If the height difference between parts of your yard is significant, you can even use the elevation change to integrate a waterfall. The extra plumbing won’t make a big difference in the overall cost and you will add an eye-catching feature to your outdoor living space. The retaining wall does not have to be just functional; it can add beauty and space. Contact Jamie Snyder about the different options for your swimming pool project.


Swimming pool buying advice - Download our free e-book now!

Posted by James Snyder on Sat, Mar 19, 2011 @ 16:03 PM

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  • See the to 15 Lateset trends in Swimming pool options

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Click the image Below to download your free e-book.

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5 ways StoneMakers retaining walls have changed the industry FOREVER

Posted by James Snyder on Wed, Feb 23, 2011 @ 40:11 AM

StoneMakers retaining walls have changed the industry, that's a fact! Here are 5 examples of things that retaining walls can do now that were unthinkable before StoneMakers hit the market.

  1. StoneMakersSPEED - Build a 75' long by 4' tall retaining wall in 5.5 hours. That's not an exaggeration, it's actually an understatement. Just so you understand what used to take me THREE DAYS now takes 5.5 HOURS. You know what this means for the consumer - BETTER PRICES!
  2. VALUE - Make a retaining wall that looks like natural stone, but is stronger than stacked stone or stacked block for that matter. Put simply - you cannot get a stronger or better looking wall for the money.
  3. COLOR THEORY - Block retaining walls come in few colors. Some companies have more than others but the reality of it folks is that most companies hover around 6-7 color choices. StoneMakers has 33 colors! And to top it all off you never use just one, which would not look natural. To make our retainer walls look like natural stone we blend the StoneMakers colors. In the end we have an infinite number of colors to choose from.
  4. MONOLITHIC - Back in the day - say 2009 - If I wanted to make a wall look like natural stone I had two choices. Buy natural stone or use cultured stone as a veneer over some type of concrete wall. This wall could be block or poured but the outcome was the same. Sure cultured stone looks fine if done right. Done wrong it looks like the wall has zits. Either way it's nowhere near as strong as a monolithic (one continuous piece) wall is. And Natural stone is flat out expensive.
  5. ENVIORNMENTALLY RESPONSIBLE - No forms mean no waste. Even if every contractor recycled their forms the wood wasted is staggering. A small retaining wall may have a few hundred pounds of wood used as forms. Multiply that times the number of jobs that contractor does a year and you can see how that ads up. With StoneMakers there is ZERO wood to throw away.

Want a professional to come to your home or business and give you a free estimate for your StoneMakers project? CLICK HERE!

A dozen spring plants to make your flower garden explode with color!

Posted by James Snyder on Tue, Feb 15, 2011 @ 25:02 PM

As the snow starts to melt for however brief of a time I am reminded that spring is right around the corner. And for me that means 2 things spring cleaning and spring planting.

For the sake of this conversation I’ll be talking about bulbs, annuals, perennials and flowering trees.  Landscape designers throughout Orange County NY know to stick with tried and true plants to guarantee success. A simple way to know you are buying a plant intended for this area is to buy from a local nursery. To avoid complaints they only stock plants that work here in Orange County  – Zone 5. If you are in Westchester County NY zone 6 will be more appropriate. To find your zone check out the Arbor Day Foundation’s Hardiness Zone Map by clicking here.

  • Bulbs are awesome. Some varieties will give you dramatic color when nothing else will.  And most bulbs make great cuttings to bring into your house. Try these 3 bulbs – Tulips, Crocus- Daffodils -  the next time you plant for spring to enjoy the early color. Don’t get upset if the deer eat them though, that’s just part of it.

Tulips, Orange County NY landscape contractor


Daffodil, landscape gardener monroe nyDaffodil

Crocus, landscape designer orange county nyCrocus peeking through the snow

  • Annuals take over where blubs leave off to continue the wave of color in your gardens. Consider annuals an easy way of updating your garden all year long. Used in accent areas of your garden or in hanging baskets they allow you to easily make a change without breaking your back or the bank for that matter. If they start looking shabby just pull them out and change them.

Begonia, landscape contractor goshen ny


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Pansies landscpe contractor orange county nyPansies


  • Perennials will be with you for a longer amount of time, so picking them out should require a little more planning. What size will they eventually get to? Do they have maintenance characteristics that match my lifestyle? Will they be suitable for my soil, water, light and wind conditions? Will they be next to the street? If so will they tolerate the salt from the plows? What about deer. As you can see there is a lot to think about. But right now I’m just thinking about early bloomers. Look up these three and see if they fit your needs.

Phlox landscape gardener in fishkill ny


Shasta Daisy landscape contractor in wappengers falls nyShasta Daisy

Dianthus landscaper in monroe ny



  • Flowering trees are some of the most fickle of the flowering plants. Known to sometimes just not flower at all if the conditions are not perfect makes seeing them flower that much more rewarding. Although they are only in bloom for a short period of time flowering trees are so beautiful that the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington DC receives more than 700,000 people each year!

National Cherry Blossom Festival Washington DC, green meadows landscapingNational Cherry Blossom Festival Washington DC

Snow fountain weeping cherry tree landscaping monroe nySnowfountain Weeping Cherry

Crape Myrtle landscaper monroe ny

Crape Myrtle



It’s been fun discussing some of my favorite spring plants. To have Albert Group Landscaping design or renovate your gardens click here.

Top 5 questions people ask when buying a retaining wall.

Posted by James Snyder on Mon, Feb 14, 2011 @ 15:01 PM

As a retaining wall contractor I get all sorts of questions. Below are the 5 most common questions I am asked about building retaining walls.

1.       What type of material should I make my wall out of? These days there are 2 basic choices block or concrete. The railroad tie or plain old wood tie walls are a thing of the past and rightfully so. They don’t last. If you are building a wall now - SRW (segmented retaining wall) blocks or concrete is the way to go.

retainer wall cornwall ny

Old "Railroad Tie" wall

Retaining wall cornwall NY

New retaining wall made from SWR (segmented retaining wall) block.

2.       I’ve heard all about these new types of walls without forms – what are they and are they any good? The new walls you are referring to are StoneMakers retaining walls. These walls are not only good they are the best! It’s everything a homeowner could want. Strong, beautiful and affordable. It’s only every so often a product like this comes along. If you have a contractor that is certified to do these you are sitting pretty.

3.       I have a lot of water issues, what can I do? Well seems like you already did everything you had to. Telling your contractor about water issues you know for sure to be a problem is essential. Keeping these things secret does no one any justice. Automatically your contractor should build your wall to NCMA specifications. But if he or she is not NCMA certified they might not even know about these specifications so helping them out by telling them about any potential problems is beneficial to all involved. Click here to learn more about the NCMA.

4.       Do I need a building permit for this? Well that depends on a few things. Your local building department will be able to tell you right away. Unfortunately every building department can make their own rules on this so guessing or saying “usually such and such can be done without a permit” is useless. Better to ask for permission than forgiveness.

5.       I only plan on staying here x number of years more. Can this be built cheaper? Sure, but not by me. It’s my job to be honest and the problem here folks is that a wall can either be built to spec or not. The real issue lies in that no one has a spec for a wall built to last 3- 4 years. It’s either built to spec or it’s not, that’s it. I had a customer that had a wall built by another contractor and it lasted three days! Not 3 weeks, not 3 months – 3 DAYS! They were kind enough to open up their home to me one weekend and allowed me to interview them on camera. What they went through was horrible and for them to talk about it with me so that others may avoid their pain speaks volumes as to how caring they are. This video was taken about a year ago and I have since done more projects with them and have more planned. 

To have Albert Group come out and discuss your retaining wall project click here.

8 Tips to make your next paver job turn out great! Pavers done right!

Posted by James Snyder on Fri, Feb 11, 2011 @ 51:09 AM

We’ve all seen it, sometimes it’s obvious and looks horrible. Other times you can’t quite put your finger on it but something is off.  In either case it could have been prevented by following the steps below.  We’re talking about pavers that look bad.  So if you are about to try a paver project yourself or are new to the trade – follow these steps below for surefire success.

  • Dig deep because 4” of base just won’t cut it in cohesive soils. First how do you know if you have cohesive soil, easy bring it to get tested. For a small fee - around $200 - they will tell you the gradation and standard proctor density of the soil. Gradation is the makeup of the soil and standard proctor density is a measure of how “tight” they were able to compact the soil in the lab. If you have more than 1/3 clay it’s time to call a professional and have the soil amended by pounding huge chunks of stone into the soil to stiffen up the sub base.  And my company never uses less than 8” of base material, 12” for driveways.

  • Don’t use a demolition tool for an artist’s touch; pick them up to make them look right. From about 20 feet away they will both look the same but up close there is no competition. A demo saw is a quick and dirty way of cutting an edge or soldier course. I’ve seen it done time and time again by landscaping companies right here in Orange County NY. It sure is faster and that’s great but in the end I’d rather have quality - period.

  • A wedge is for holding a door open not for curves. This is got to be the king of being lazy, you need to make a soldier course around a curvy patio or coping on a pool so what do you do. On a curve the only way to make it look good is to cut EVERY one. Anything else will look chunky and you will inevitably be left with a tiny wedge that you need.
  • Go big or go home,  if you can lift it – it won’t compact anything. Compactors come in roughly 3 flavors vibratory, ramming and kneading. I have yet to have a soil gradation test come back where I was able to use my vibratory plate compactor. Rammers or “jumping jacks” as we call them and trench rollers are the only approved ways of compacting cohesive soils. One thing all the good compactors have in common is heft. The trench roller below weighs over 3000 pounds!

trench roller resized 600

  • I think it’s done. O.K. we talked a lot about compaction, but how do we know when we are done. The only real way is to test it. A simple Dynamic Cone Penetrometer will do the trick and save you the headache of re-doing things down the line. Industry standard is 98% Standard Proctor Density or a CBR (California Bearing Ratio) of 150. Let’s face it if you don’t test you are just guessing and you’re bound to guess wrong at some point.

dynamic cone penetrometer

  • Bond lines – don’t have them running or in a basket. They don’t call them interlocking for nothing. Pavers that have long continuous bond lines are prone to failure. That line is like creasing a piece of paper and is considered a weak point.  In a running bond or basket weave pattern there are loads of long straight lines. However much you may like that pattern do yourself a favor and stay away unless you pour concrete underneath.

         running bond  DSC 3782 (Large) resized 600

        Running bond on the Left, Modified Herringbone on the right, Both look great but the Modidied Herringbone is stronger!

  • You got to keep em separated. The base and sub-base that is. A geotextile such as Mirafi 500x will do just fine. This is basically a layer of tough fabric that keeps the sub-base from contaminating the base while allowing water to pass through.  Check out the PDF on it here.
  • Never lose your edge. Pavers need something at the edges to keep them from moving on the horizontal plane. You can use all sorts of things to do this. A house foundation will do just fine on a patio or walkway that meets the house. Belgium block set in concrete or just concrete by itself will also work great. If none of those appeal to you or are just not an option specialty products are available to do this. Paver edge is sold in either aluminum or some form of plastic. In either case use bright spikes not galvanized. You need the spikes to rust and “grab” onto the soil.

Paver edge

Here we used a retaining wall as one edge and aluminum edging where the pavers meet the gravel

There are countless other tips and tricks of the trade that I have learned over the years but these 8 should get you started.

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