By Paolo Benedetti
There are all sorts of amenities associated with outdoor living that, taken together, conspire to create what I see as undesirable visual clutter.
This is why, when I approach any backyard project, I take my time in sizing up my clients and doing all I can to figure out how they’ll be using the space. If it’s to be an active, family-oriented play/recreational space, for example, I’ll start thinking about burying ice chests simply so these unattractive little eyesores will slide into the background instead of becoming intrusive deck ornaments.
If the space is to be filled with potted plants and planting beds, I start working toward hiding another of the most glaring sources of ocular noise, doing all I can to persuade my clients to create vaults for hiding hose bibs and hoses.
Hiding hoses is another simple concept that has all sorts of benefits. Lots of homeowners start with good intentions of putting hoses away when they’re not in use, but almost without exception, that soon becomes an unbearable hassle.
This is when I start seeing hose reels and wall hangars pop up around my projects. In the best of situations, perhaps I’ll note the appearance of special deck pots that serve as decorative hiding places for hoses. But none of these is a real solution: The hangers are truly ugly (Figure 1) and become less and less functional with time, and while the pots might successfully hide the unmentionable, they are no less intrusive on a deck than a plastic or aluminum ice chest (Figure 2).
This is why I suggest hiding them away more convincingly by burying them in vaults that conceal not only the hose itself, but also the associated plumbing connections. No fancy fabrication is involved: Standard utility vaults do the job well if you get one large enough to hold a hose of the appropriate length. These units are already equipped with the necessary cutouts, drainage holes and covers (Figure 3).
The best thing about approaching hoses with concealment in mind is that it also makes it easy to think about your clients’ convenience along with their basic need to have access to water. So instead of the standard single outlet hanging off the back wall of the house, we’ll often set up multiple buried vaults to put water where it will be needed.
We complement this approach, of course, with good irrigation systems that give plants the water they need, but there are inevitably occasions when some extra watering is required. If there’s a hose handy in that area, the homeowner won’t have to drag one hose from near the house, across the deck and all the way out to a back corner (Figure 4).
As I see it, this is a win-win: My clients enjoy convenience, and our work looks better because the hoses are hidden – right where they belong!
Next: Tips on working with potted plants.