Backyard paradise

Landscapers share fountain of knowledge

Local landscaper Ron Monagos says outdoor living spaces, such as this covered patio with an outdoor fireplace by his company, are increasingly popular in Chico.

Local landscaper Ron Monagos says outdoor living spaces, such as this covered patio with an outdoor fireplace by his company, are increasingly popular in Chico.

Photo By Ron Monagos

Fountains, pools, ponds, arbors and outdoor barbecues: Chico is a landscaper’s paradise. Hot summers keep Chicoans outside in their backyards, looking for a place to cool off. If you are considering upgrading your yard, or just bought a new house and need some inspiration, here are some words of advice to keep in mind, courtesy of local landscapers.

Start planning early and think ahead. Do some research and contact the designer, contractor or landscaper you want to work with as soon as possible. They can only work on a limited number of projects each season and Chico’s rapid growth only means more yards to develop. So make sure to get on their list early or you may have a long wait.

“There’s a building boom,” Ron Monago of Monago’s Landscape Design warns. “There are more homes going in than we can keep up with. Everyone I know is swamped. It’s the same thing in Oroville.”

At the same time, Monago, who has been landscaping for 11 years and does everything from waterfalls to carpentry, recommends shopping around even if you already know who you want to do your work. “Generally, I encourage clients to get other bids, because [different landscapers] might have other ideas,” Monago said.

Checking out other offers also helps the landscapers stay competitive, he said. But look out for companies that have rock-bottom prices, or you might get low-quality workmanship. “You want to stay between the high and low bids. There might be a really low bid, but there’s a reason it’s so low,” Monago said.

Ask to see photos of a landscaper’s prior work. You can see their design style, what they specialize in and at the same time see the newest trends in landscaping. Monago, for example, has recently noticed a high demand for outdoor living spaces—dining areas with outdoor barbecues, arbors and built-in benches, lighting and fountains.

The cost of labor is a main factor in landscaping projects.

Photo By Ron Monagos

“Water features are extremely popular,” he added, but that shouldn’t surprise veterans of a Chico summer.

It certainly doesn’t surprise Bob Hill, of Robert T. Hill and Associates. A Chico State grad, Hill established his business specializing in custom-designed homes and pools in 1979. Hill’s pools reflect a growing trend in what he calls naturalization—pools and waterfalls that look more like Upper Park than a standard plaster pool. “People like a big cliff look in their back yard,” he said. “It’s creating something that appears somewhat natural.”

Hill achieves a natural look using Gunite, a cement mixture sprayed on rock-shaped rebar that can be sculpted and colored to match the surrounding environment. This technique, often combined with real rocks, can make water features look more like natural formations, he said. It’s all in the design.

When considering a company to work with, Hill says to look for one that does both your design and its construction. Often, he says, plans by landscape architects who don’t build are difficult to translate into reality. “Design and build is a more realistic approach,” he explains. “You get the full service.”

Most importantly, the more you know, the better. “Check out the person doing your building,” Hill says.

Your diligence before the landscaping begins will pay off in the results and hot summer afternoons in your back yard will never be the same.



Cantilevered edges prevent splashes on this pool by Robert T. Hill and Associates. A Pebbletech, rather than a plain plaster, finish makes the water a more inviting natural color.

Photo By Alexis Harmon














Kids cool off in this large pool with a gunite waterfall and built in slide. Gunite is a special process where landscapers spray cement over rock shaped rebar, allowing the landscaper to sculpt and color them like natural rock formations

Courtesy Of Mancinis














A Japanese-style garden featuring a pond, small footbridge and natural rock pathways provides a tranquil, alternative use of backyard space.

Courtesy Of Ron Monagos














Gunite waterfalls like this one provide extra creativity in the design process. Each rock is sculpted to direct the flow of water in order to closely resemble a natural rock formation

Photo By Alexis Harmon