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Native Elements: Building a Better Residential Landscape

How much thought have you given to the stride, comfort level, and evenness of a cobblestone path? How about what the optimum tread/riser ratio for a set of stairs leading to a brick patio should be? I can’t say I’ve explored these design concepts to any great depth, but it’s a science that Tom Mekus (above) of Native Elements knows inside and out.

The home base of Native Elements.  The mixing hopper of the former concrete plant and the rail signal at the Boylan Wye can be seen in the background.

When Tom first started his landscaping business near the NC Fairgrounds back in 1991, most of his work was in a suburban setting. Since relocating 10 years ago to Boylan Heights (behind Ant Farm and a few dozen feet from Matt McConnell’s Studio), his client base has shifted mostly to the downtown area.

Some of the trees in Tom’s nursery, with the BB&T building in the background

At first, his business focused exclusively on planting trees and shrubbery. Later, a friend taught him the elements of working with stone and brick, and now installing patios and walkways are an integral aspect of his landscape projects. Since then, Tom has also incorporated specialized Bobcat work in grading and leveling in a residential environment. This also includes clearing the project site of weeds, vines, and other non-native plant material. The trees and other plants that he incorporates in to a project are native or naturalized to the Triangle area.

Tom on location of a current job site

When it comes to a brick or stone walkway, Tom explains why function supercedes appearance:

The most important thing about a pathway is that it easy to walk on. It must be aesthetically pleasing while being as functional as possible, with functionality being the most important factor. If it’s not comfortable to walk on, people will walk around it and rejoin the path later. It’s definitely a balancing act between aesthetics and form.

The process of designing a project goes far beyond how comfortable it is to walk on or how visually appealing it is, though. Crucial factors such as where rain water will drain out to, the level of a patio or deck area in relation to the walkway, the slope of a yard, among others, are all important to consider when in the design process. After all, the path you take from your car to your house is one you’ll be taking many times–you’ll want it to be perfect. Otherwise, you’ll be reminded of the flaws every day.

If you are looking for someone who has well over a decade of experience and has the attention to detail necessary for work on something as important as your outdoor living space, get in touch with Tom Mekus at Native Elements. He can help you build a better residential landscape.

301 Kinsey Street

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