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Omaha Magazine

Backyard Mountain Retreat

Jun 23, 2020 01:12PM ● By Katrina Markel
backyard waterfall into pool

With its attractive tree-lined streets, well-manicured lawns, and upscale homes, Huntington Park is a lovely enclave in northwest Omaha. But passersby might never know that tucked into one of these suburban lots is an outdoor entertainment area fit for a mountain resort. 

The backyard oasis, ideal for a summer in quarantine, was nonexistent in 2017 when the homeowners moved in. In fact, the lot was downright boring. So, they solicited the help of Elite Landscaping, who designed and installed the yard’s lush landscaping, as well as hardscapes and pool design.

 “There was just a flat yard all the way to the fence, and now look at the depth and the elevations and the trees and the plants,” the homeowner said. “It was a complete transformation.”

“Hardscaping and swimming pools are my personal passion, but since I’ve had the company so long, I really have a lot of knowledge about plants and trees and shrubs, so it’s really easy for me to add that into the project,” said Jason Decker, Elite Landscaping’s founder and a landscape designer for 20 years.

As the Huntington Park homeowners researched companies to build their backyard escape, Elite Landscaping and Decker really stood out.   

“[They had] just a different level of expertise,” said the homeowners, who knew they wanted a grotto included with their pool design and started a search based on that. The family, which includes five children between the ages of 11 and 20, knew they wanted space for family entertaining and a rustic feel as well.

“We went with more of a natural look,” Decker said. The landscaping crew planted spruce trees along with maple and birch to add privacy. They also included ornamental grasses, daylilies, black-eyed Susans, and other perennials. Juniper plants were added to pockets in the waterfall and will creep around and over the rocks. 

Decker said “the Colorado” is a commonly requested style, probably because it’s the closest mountainous state.

“To me, this has a little bit more of a Tennessee vibe to it,” said Decker, who seeks inspiration when he travels. 

Access and logistics were the biggest challenges on this project, Decker said. It was important not to block the busy suburban street or inconvenience neighbors. 

“We were trying to put a pretty complex project in a pie-shaped backyard,” he said. 

The hardscaping materials included weathered sandstone from Oklahoma and mossy mountain boulders from Arkansas. A few of the boulders weigh between 4,000 and 6,000 pounds, and one was turned into a natural gas-fueled fire pit. 

“That will become kind of a centerpiece for family gatherings, and it’s amazing,” said the homeowner. 

The fire pit and a stand-alone hot tub will allow the family to use the backyard most of the year. A swim-up bar with a granite counter and a refrigerator, cooler, and trash receptacle help keep the activity outdoors, and wet feet out of the house. Patio areas were tiled with natural travertine pavers.

“This has a lot of prettiness to it and kind of looks like petrified wood,” Decker said. “I think a man-made paver would have made it look not as natural, for sure.” 

Stone steps lead up to a raised patio, which is integrated with the undulating landscape and a stone waterfall that pours over the grotto and into the roughly 650-square-foot pool. The pool floor is finished with a black plaster that catches the light and sparkles. 

Decker said that he wants people to see how much can be done with a typical residential property, “We want to make every project magazine-worthy.” 

This article was printed in the July/August 2020 edition of OmahaHome. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.