Landscaping stonework at the Regency Hillcrest

Custom landscaping for your custom home.

In the beginning stages of building a custom home, landscaping is not what you would usually be talking about. But at Regency Builders, we like to bring landscaping to the table as early as possible. When we start developing a plan, especially with an exposed foundation, we owe it to our client to build their new home to the grades that best fit their lot. In other words, the new home should conform to the lot, the lot should not conform to the home.

By evaluating the exposure upfront with a landscaper, soil engineer, architect, and civil engineer, we are better able to show the exposure details on the plans. Why is this important to our clients? Most exposed homes, especially in a tear down situation, require a lot-specific grading plan proving the new home will not have additional water shed onto neighboring lots. Next, we try to minimize retaining walls. This will happen by planning up front. Lastly, if you do not show the proper exposure, you may receive extra exposure cost that may not be anticipated. The mason may charge more for exterior stone veneer if more stone veneer is needed due to grade changes. That holds true with extra foundation, wall height, siding, windows, and more.

Nearly two years ago, Corey Nelson from Nelson Landscape met with us to discuss the plans and ideas needed for the Hillcrest home on Pewaukee Lake. What exactly would our homeowners want? Extensive retaining walls for the sloped lot? A spa? A luxurious patio for entertaining? All of the above? A lot goes into the exterior hardscape design of a new home – that’s why we have Corey here to talk about the process and how important it is to work with a landscaper from the very beginning.

Developing a Plan

Working on Pewaukee Lake, we knew we would need to incorporate the narrow plot of land, water frontage, sloped grade, and current landscaping and trees into the design. Involving Corey and his team early in the discussion ensured that the elevations, access, and exterior features were part of the landscape plan that was years in the making. “We had to propose ideas for where people would park, how the driveway would flow, even down to the plans for the lower-level walkout,” Corey shares. When it comes to designing a custom lake home, important steps regarding landscaping take place from the very beginning. Meeting with the county and DNR to verify we have all the working permits, reviewing shoreline zoning, and routing a path for stone water drainage underneath the patio are all considerations that must be discussed prior building.

As you may recall from the soil engineer blog we wrote regarding the Hillcrest, that home has a mud dam with drain tile below the footings and outside that go to the exposed grade. Nelson Landscape developed a grading plan to prevent ground water from flooding the basement, which is high priority when it comes to this exposed lower-level lake lot.

Regency had a client that moved into their home, and three years after occupancy, the driveway started to chip and crack. This was caused by a failure from the previous concrete company. Nelson Landscape replaced the driveway at their own expense and worked it out with the previous concrete company.

Unique landscape decisions impact the construction process as well. In the case of the Hillcrest, Nelson Landscape coordinated with the stone mason to ensure that the selections used in landscaping worked with the products used on the exterior of the home. In fact, extra exterior stone used on the home was ordered and stored for Corey’s team to later build a custom spa surround that blended in perfectly with the home. Other examples of why it is important to discuss landscaping early in the process include water and gas line access for future irrigation, fire, and grill systems. In edition to this, we need to think about electric and water going out to the boat house and pier.

Once construction has started, Corey will meet with the client to finalize the softscapes for the design. The owners of the Hillcrest were looking for low maintenance shrubbery, bright-colored flowers, and mosses and plants that help their retaining walls appear to be part of a natural hillside. This personal experience brings together the landscaper’s recommendations with a client’s vision for their beautiful new yard.

Landscaping work at the Regency Hillcrest
Landscaping stonework at the Regency Hillcrest
Nelson Landscape Inc truck at the Regency Hillcrest

Tons of Materials at the Hillcrest

With nearly 300 tons of wall stone and 50 trucks of gravel, Nelson Landscape had their work cut out for them at the Hillcrest. The retaining wall stone used along the sides of the property gives a natural yet rustic look by using two different types of stone. As requested by the homeowner, traditional fieldstone retaining wall rocks were paired with round boulders to create a natural look. This is a style Corey and his team had not worked with before but were up to the challenge and it turned out beautifully! Walkways and exterior stairs have an incredible “wow” factor with the unique styling and patterns used throughout the property.

Landscaping Your Home

Plant selections aren’t what they used to be. Gone are the days of limited choices and colors. New plant varieties are created around the world every year by breeders, which gives us the option to try something new at every home.

At the Hillcrest, Nelson Landscape stuck to softer colors and textures throughout the yard. The use of grasses gave it a simpler look while peonies gave the space a pop of color. The shrubbery and flowers along the back of the house gave an elegant look while being low maintenance. Lush ground covers are used to fill in the crevices along sidewalks and stairways to add texture and color to the garden, keeping with the theme of minimum maintenance.

Seed installation is one of the last steps during the landscaping process. First, the yard needed to be prepped by removing the old weeds and lawn as well as grading and leveling the land. The following weeks are all about maintenance – watering, cutting, and fertilizing.

Nelson Landscape and Regency Builders

As a custom builder, Regency knows that each home we build is as unique as the person it was designed for. Nelson Landscape has been a partner of ours for 45 years. They embrace the custom concept, while creating beautiful and elegant designs that are just what our homeowners want. It is rare for us to call Nelson Landscape and not get a response. That helps show the dedication they have towards their work and shows why they are one of our most hard working and trusted partners.

“Working with Regency, we know we will get a quality start-to-finish job. Other builders think about hardscaping last, resulting in improper grades, difficulty accessing the backyards, and concrete driveways of uneven or poorer quality.” Corey describes working with Regency, “We know exactly what to expect with Regency. The level of communication is like no other and they are always willing to give a helping hand. Regency is the only builder we will work for because they think of everything in advance. We recently finished a home built by Regency where the client referred us to a friend that chose another builder other than of Regency. They built the new home without considering a utility easement that was on their lot. The builder did not take into account the elevation changes, and because of this, the driveway was going to require retaining walls to hold it up. You cannot build a retaining wall in a utility easement. We chose not to provide a service for this new referral.”

It is very common for a landscape company to take a 50% deposit, park a grading vehicle on-site, and slow a project down by only having a team of 2-3 people…taking months to complete the process. When Nelson arrives, they come with an army of 20 employees with Corey working on his computer on-site. Since the jobs can be complicated and he designed the plans, having him onsite helps make sure the implementation of the designs are not flawed as they work quickly and efficiently. After all of the landscaping is completed, they reach out to Regency for full payment.

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About Nelson Landscape Inc

As a third generation family company founded in 1959, Corey describes what it’s like working day-to-day at Nelson Landscape. “My dad, Dale, is out in the field every day at 4am, and it’s been that way for 45 years. You don’t do that unless you love what you do.” Corey handles more of the sales, design, and planning, with his degrees in business and marketing along with another in landscaping. His brother, Jesse, also has a business and marketing degree, overseeing the day-to-day operations, crew management, and installation departments. But, of course, we all know the heart and soul of the company goes back to Debbie, the matriarch of the Nelson family, who works in the office, managing the administrative needs of the organization.

With a crew of approximately 20, Nelson Landscape prides itself on the relationships they have built along the way. “We have contractor relationships that have lasted 40-50 years. We trust who we work with because we’ve developed such a great relationship with them,” Corey explains. From large scale commercial buildings to residential properties, they focus on speciality and design builds that add the perfect characteristic to each space.

Nelson Landscape Location

P.O. Box 823
Waukesha, WI 53187