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Rob Morris
Rob Morris

MAGNIFICENT MAKEOVERS - Making Your Home an Oasis

Mar 08, 2022

As the Oklahoma winter loosens its chilly grip across Moore and South OKC, homeowners begin that annual process of dreaming about upgrading their yards. Dreams of trees, gardens, pools, and fire pits take shape in their minds. That means right now is the perfect time to turn to some area experts for advice on plants, water features, and "hardscapes."




Bill and Cherie Marcum founded Marcum's Nursery in 1975, and it is still a family-owned business today. Kelly Marcum and his brother Monty took over when Bill retired and run the third-generation business with a passion for unmatched plants in Oklahoma. Marcum says trees are always an important starting point for homeowners looking to improve their living space. He and his staff are still hard at work helping homeowners and businesses replace trees and shrubs damaged by the epic ice storms of the past few years.


"The trees that are probably the most we sell right now are probably maples," said Marcum. "There's two or three of the maples that we have here that can take the heat, and the great thing about maples is they give you that really true fall color.


Another trendy tree among Oklahoma homeowners is the Chinese Pistache. In addition to also providing vibrant fall color, Marcum says it's a tree that thrives in Oklahoma.


"It's very southwestern and geared for Oklahoma," said Marcum. "There's not a whole lot of pests or anything that get on it."


Redbuds and crabapples are two flowering trees that remain favorites of folks looking to add color to their yards in the spring. Marcum says they're hard to beat, especially if you're looking for something more ornamental.


Marcum says people still have their favorites even if those favorites didn't do well in the ices storms when it comes to shrubs.


"The hollies took a little bit more of a hit than many other plants did," said Marcum, "But the boxwoods are plants that came through it all pretty well. It's really comforting for folks to know those plants can handle that kind of cold."


But one of the hottest trends for homeowners in the wake of the COVID 19 pandemic is gardening.


"Folks love having fresh vegetables over which they have more control," said Marcum. "It's all fresh and healthy, and they know what's been put in the soil and why has it been in the soil."


Equally important, says Marcum, is the therapeutic effect of just getting out in the back yard and working a garden.


"There's just an enjoyment of being in a situation where your hands are in the dirt there, and they see the fruits come in from your labor," said Marcum. "It's kind of like fishing. Even if you don't catch anything, there's still the joy of being out on a lake. Gardening is the same way. Even if your garden doesn't give you exactly what you want, spending time out in nature is refreshing. That's why they call it 'gardening' and not 'growing.'"


Marcum has some helpful suggestions for the first-time gardener hoping to produce a successful crop. The most important one is, to begin with, good soil.


"We have a custom compost we make here called Redbud Compost," said Marcum. "When you add that into your soil, it makes it alive again and helps break down the soil and make the nutrients available for your plants."


Marcum also advises homeowners to understand that every home presents a unique garden situation.


"It can vary from house to house, even on the same block," said Marcum. "The wind hits a certain direction at one house and differently at another. It's wetter in this spot than that spot. More sun here than in other places. It can be very challenging in a lot of ways."


Once you've good soil and a good location, the next most important thing for the novice gardener is planting the right plants.


"The easier things to grow would be your cucumbers and peppers," said Marcum. "Squash would be one of the harder because of the pests that like to eat those. Tomatoes are kind of in the middle because they need a little bit more calcium."


Marcum's final advice on all plants starts with the hardier plants.


"The hardier plants make it easier and less maintenance," said Marcum. "It helps knock down the insect population, which always go to the weak unit and take them out. So, the stronger your plants, the stronger your soil, and having it all in the right spot, you will have less trouble."





Everyone who lives or works in Moore will recognize the familiar sight of the Garden Ponds Unlimited vans tooling across city streets with the bright orange koi floating over the roof. Mike Lucas, the owner and manager of the business for 22-years, says they're always busy helping customers install unique, custom water features at their homes or businesses.


"We do everything that has to do with water and ponds," said Lucas. "We have a retail store that sells pumps, skimmers, filters, and fish water plants. Then we also have a construction crew that installs the nice koi ponds, backyard waterfalls, and fountains."


Lucas says waterfalls are enduringly popular with homeowners for a variety of reasons. Primarily, people love the sound and visual beauty of a waterfall or a fountain, especially if it masks the sounds of nearby traffic. They love them so much that they often try to install those features themselves, only to realize it's more complicated than they thought.


"One of the main reasons they call us is because they have an existing pond or waterfall," said Lucas, "Maybe they watched a YouTube video and went to Home Depot or Lowes, bought a bunch of the wrong stuff, and then improperly built it on their own or had it installed by an inexperienced lawn guy."


Lucas estimates that about 80% of their calls are from homeowners who have done just that and are now dealing with algae, keeping their fish alive or ponds that don't hold up to regular use. Once customers get a look at what a professionally-installed water feature can bring to a home, it often becomes an easy decision for them to let Lucas' crew either redo their project or build one from scratch.


"Sheet-style waterfalls are always popular and easy to build," said Lucas. "You can grind on a flat rock to create a custom look for those waterfalls, But one of the more popular trends is using large boulders to create a more natural look."


Another primary reason homeowners come to Garden Ponds Unlimited for help with water features is that they have a spot where they can't get grass to grow. Installing a pond with koi is an excellent solution to those unsightly bald spots in a yard. Most take one or two days to install and are built to the homeowner's custom specifications.


"Ponds can be tricky to install because koi need more than just a self-contained body of water," said Lucas.


The location for a successful koi pond needs the right amount of sunlight, a liner to keep the water contained, and a pump to properly filter fish waste and other contaminants from the water. It's a complex mix of factors that can be difficult to master. But when properly installed, koi ponds add an element of tranquil peace and beauty that are irresistible.


"If you create the right ecosystem, koi ponds are much easier to maintain," said Lucas. "When we install a pond, we do a walkthrough and give our customers an owner's fish health and care manual. The fish live year-round in the ponds, and during the winter, they just go to the bottom and hibernate. It's not a lot of work as long as a pond is built right."


Lucas says another hot trend right now is underwater lighting.


"It's pretty neat because you can program it to change colors on its own or lock-in on one favorite color," said Lucas. "There are some great color patterns that folks can check out in our store, but these are really popular.


Lucas says that one of the things he loves about having a physical location complete with displays that feature live koi is that people often come by just to feed the fish.


"Folks just really enjoy walking around and looking at the displays," said Lucas. "And once they get that image in their mind, they can see the benefit of a koi pond or waterfall in their backyard."




Brian Scroggins and his company, Outdoor Escapes, specializes in what is known as "hardscapes." He says that hardscapes are very popular features in a tremendous outdoor-living state like Oklahoma, where you have beautiful weather and plenty of opportunities to gather family and friends to watch football by the pool.


"We also do landscaping, but we call ourselves an outdoor construction company," said Scroggins, "Meaning we do everything from swimming pools to patios to outdoor kitchens and fireplaces,"


It's hard to miss the appeal of having a backyard location that feels a little like a small resort. Being able to gather outside with family and friends, grill or cook, or just sit around a fireplace or firepit is one of the things that homeowners prize.


"Especially these days, with all the pandemic stress we've endured over the last two years," said Scroggins. "With many people staying at home not taking travel and vacation, more people are building that getaway in their backyard."


More and more, homeowners choose to combine several hardscape features to create a kind of "ultimate backyard." high on the list of requested features are things like outdoor kitchens and fireplaces. But Scroggins says that swimming pools remain very popular.


"We've been doing the outdoor kitchens for at least ten-to-fifteen years now," said Scroggins. "It's incredible how much these get used by families over the year, especially for summer cookouts and fall football gatherings."


Scroggins and his team custom-build from scratch but can also build around existing features like a previously-installed swimming pool.


"Our design process begins with a detailed look at their backyard," said Scroggins, "We assess important things like where the gas connects are located, how the house is laid out, and how close they want the hardscape features to be near the kitchen."


The best hardscape construction uses brick, stone, or stucco to prevent concerns about wood rotting away in the future. Scroggins and his crew then typically use a lot of wood and granite countertops for a beautiful finish like the inside of a home.


And then there are appliances.


"We usually do stainless steel appliances," said Scroggins. "That can be anything from a simple grill, one of the Big Green Eggs or a full kitchen with grill, stove, sinks, and outdoor refrigerators."


Scroggins says trends do come and go, but the thing that remains constant among homeowners is creating an oasis that allows them to retreat from the rest of the world for a little while.


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