Winter Landscaping Ideas for Commercial Property Managers

Landscaping is just as important for commercial property owners as it is for homeowners. It can make your business more attractive, which helps provide a sense of professionalism and quality to existing and potential clients or customers. If you want to add some interesting landscaping but you aren’t sure where to start, check out the ideas below for some inspiration.

Keep Your Evergreens Trimmed

Whether you have evergreens on your commercial property in the form of shrubs or trees, winter is the perfect time to keep them trimmed back and pruned – especially if you use a professional service rather than doing it yourself. Rates are typically lower in the winter due to the slow season. Trimming and shaping now will lead to a better overall season in the spring. What’s more, if you have existing perennials, most of them will actually fare better if you trim them back in the winter months. This is true for everything from peonies to daisies to hostas and many others.

Add Mulch to Beds

It gets downright cold in Chicago. In fact, it gets so cold that even some hardy plants are at risk when the temperatures plummet and the winds start to blow. Mulch can save these plants – including those that die back into the ground and those that simply lie dormant. For the former, spread a layer of mulch over the entire plant at least two inches thick. This will provide some insulation and prevent frost from permeating the plant’s roots. For dormant plants, do the same thing, but leave a gap of about an inch between the layer of mulch and the plant’s stem. This will help prevent rotting and better protect your plants.  

Stock Up on Burlap, Fleece, and Other Protective Materials

Depending on the season, it is not that unusual to see early bloomers like daphne and rhododendron just before another big freeze comes along – especially in late winter. Now is the perfect time to stock up on materials like hemp and jute cloth or even horticultural fleece that you can use to protect these fragile blooms through a cold snap. For especially fragile flowers, use some straw between the plant and the outer covering for extra insulation against the cold and the wind. Be sure to buy some gardening twine, too, to secure the cloth and prevent it from blowing away.

Plan for some Wintertime Color

Though the winter months usually mean bare trees and twigs in the Chicagoland area, there are some plants that can offer some serious color – even in the dead of winter – and truly stand out against the snow and ice. Ornamental varieties of popular vegetables like kale and cabbage can withstand cold temps and give you some gorgeous pops of pink and purple, and some Johnny Jump Up (also known as Viola tricolor) can offer some amazing yellow and deep purple in late fall and sometimes even in winter. Sweet Flag ornamental grass, which is native to Japan, is also ideal for Chicago winters, and it brings some lovely shades of green and chartreuse that are welcomed during the cold months.

A colorful, healthy landscape says a lot about your business. Though cold Chicago winters can strictly limit the plants and blooms that are available to you, there are still several options that can bring some unique architecture or bright pops of color throughout even the coldest winter months.

Expert Tips on How to Maintain your Outdoor Plants during Winter

The most important part of maintaining your outdoor plants during the winter involves choosing plants that are designed to withstand the cold Chicago-area temperatures. However, even the hardiest plants may still require some maintenance. Below are some of the best expert tips available for maintaining your outdoor plants throughout the winter and ensuring their beauty for many seasons to come.

Plan Ahead

Like most other things, prevention is the best medicine when it comes to landscaping and gardening. The USDA’s Plant Hardiness Zone Map is an excellent way to choose plants that are more likely to survive a harsh winter outdoors. Zones do change from time to time, so be sure to check it each year, and check it again each time you plan any changes to your landscaping.

Other ways to plan for a cold winter involve keeping more fragile plants out of the wind and using mulch to your advantage. For woody plants, use a layer of mulch at least two inches thick, and be sure to leave an inch of space between the mulch and the plants’ main stems. If you are using mulch for perennials that die back every winter, simply cover them with two inches of mulch to serve as insulation.

Overwinter Your Plants

Overwintering is a process that involves bringing plants that are not hardy enough to survive a cold winter into your home (or another climate-controlled environment) during the cold season. Many people prefer simply replacing their annuals each season, but it is possible to keep them alive and healthy by bringing them into your home, garage, or even greenhouse where they can receive ample sunlight and warmth. If you have the room, and if you’ve planned for overwintering by keeping plants in pots and/or hanging baskets, it can save you time and money.

It is important to bear in mind that most homes will not provide enough sunlight to outdoor plants, though there are exceptions, such as homes with large, heated sunrooms or greenhouses. It’s also important to remember that you must control the humidity as well as the temperature in order to successfully overwinter your plants.

Wrap Pots and Plants

If it isn’t possible to overwinter your plants, you may be able to successfully save them by wrapping them appropriately. Potted plants can be wrapped in bubble-wrap (or hessian made from jute or hemp) to prevent frost from penetrating the pot and potentially killing the root system. You can wrap the plants themselves, too, in materials like horticultural fleece. This will not only reduce frost penetration, but it will also protect your plants from the wind. If the plants are especially tender, consider utilizing some straw between the plant and the fleece for extra insulation.

With both methods, it is imperative to secure your wrappings with garden twine to prevent the wind from carrying the hessian, bubble-wrap, or fleece away. Tie the twine tightly enough to secure the covering and keep any straw inside but be sure that you don’t tie it tightly enough to break the tender plants inside.

The most important thing you can do to keep your landscaping looking amazing year after year involves choosing the right plants for your climate and zone. Aside from this, overwintering certain plants, wrapping others, and utilizing mulch as an insulator can go a long way toward keeping plants alive during the winter months.  

Even with Bare Trees and Snow There are Ways to Make Your Outside Landscaping Look Pretty

For many homeowners, the idea of keeping their landscaping pretty and pristine throughout the winter months seems futile. After all, with bare trees and snow on the ground, landscaping is a moot point – or is it? Believe it or not, there are several things you can do to help keep your outdoor landscape looking amazing despite the bare trees and snow.

Use the Visible Bark to Your Advantage

Though there’s no doubt that deciduous trees will lose their leaves throughout the fall and early winter, you can actually use this to your advantage. Many ornamental trees have bark that is interesting and pretty, including varieties of birch and dogwood. Japanese maple is incredibly popular among homeowners who want smaller species of trees that keep some interest throughout the winter with its unique branch architecture, and certain varieties of cherry trees have deep burgundy bark that stands out against the snow to provide contrast.

Berries Add Color

Another option is to utilize plants and trees with berries that offer a pop of color throughout the winter. Holly and hawthorn are excellent examples of relatively hardy plants that will produce bright red berries that look amazing against a snowy backdrop. Even crabapples can be a welcome sight in the winter since they hold their fruit tightly despite snow, ice, and even wind. If you’re a birdwatcher, you’re in luck – these plants are an excellent source of nutrition, and they’ll bring some colorful visitors to your yard even in mid-winter.

Plant Evergreens

Rather than relying on berries and bark alone to make your yard look impressive this winter, consider adding some evergreen trees and shrubs here and there. Despite their name, they come in many different colors ranging from deep pine green to yellow, blue, and more. They come in various sizes, ranging from huge fir trees to the smallest dwarf spruces, which means you have some flexibility in your design. Try to incorporate at least one evergreen into each bed to keep things interesting throughout the year.

Test Your Hardscaping Skills

Winter is a great time of year to focus less on foliage and more on your hardscape. In fact, for many people – and even for landscaping professionals – winter is one of the best times of year for truly critiquing a hardscape and discovering its missing pieces. Things like benches, trellises, and even garden sculptures can all bring some focus and a pop of color to an otherwise dull winter landscape. You can even use your existing summer containers as homes for winter plants like rhododendron, holly, and more. Even simple twigs and boughs arranged in interesting patterns can enhance your outdoor landscape.

Bare trees and snow don’t have to signal the end of your gorgeous landscaping. In fact, they can present the opportunity to create a unique look. Plan ahead by installing some evergreens and deciduous trees with interesting bark and branch structure and consider things like berries and fruit that will last throughout the winter months. All of this will go a long way toward ensuring your home or office’s curb appeal throughout the year.

Why Now is the Time to Find a Commercial Snow Remover for Chicago’s Tough Winter

With summer officially being over, now is the time to start dealing with the snow that is falling around your commercial property. Although it may sound depressing to have to think about snow removal, it is still not too late to secure the services of a reliable commercial snow remover for your business property.

1. You will have More Time to Obtain Snow Removal Estimates

Although it is not recommended that you obtain an estimate from dozens of snow removal contractors, it is a good idea to request a few. Obtain a full property assessment from each of them and inquire about how they will be able to cater to your unique snow and ice removal requirements.

2. Visibility for assessing your Property is Better

If you wait until the snow has become too deep, it will not be that easy for contractors to fully identify all areas of your property that will require removal. It is also far better to inspect the property before too much snow has fallen and it makes it easier for contractors to identify potential safety issues that will need to be addressed when performing snow removal in Chicago.

3. Secure your Spot on the List

Regardless of the size of a snow removal company, their equipment and time are all limited – meaning that there are only so many clients that they will be able to service each day that it is snowing. Reputable companies will normally have client lists that fill up quickly, with repeat clients usually being given priority. As a result, it is recommended that you search for and hire the services of a snow removal contractor before they will actually be needed.

4. Inquire about Securing Salt and Having the Necessary Resources Allocated to your Property

Before signing a contract with a snow removal contractor, it’s recommended that you inquire about the type of equipment that will be used on your commercial property. Also ask whether they will have the crew capacity to service your property as the need arises – after all, you want to ensure that they will be fully prepared to handle your snow removal requirements with ease, especially now that it has started snowing.

It is also essential to have your chosen contractor confirm whether they will be able to secure the supply of sufficient amounts of salt and ice-melting products to suit a property of your size.

In Chicago, it is not a matter of ‘if it is going to snow,’ it’s a matter of ‘when it will snow’ and how much snow will fall. This means that as a commercial property owner or resident, you should start having this service performed right away. If you would like to obtain an estimate from us for snow removal, get in touch with us as soon as possible. You certainly don’t want to wait too long into the snowy season and not be able to secure the services of a contractor.

Want to Ensure that your Property Survives the Deep Winter? We Can Help

With winter having arrived, many homeowners will be thinking about cozy evenings by the fireplace or being able to enjoy hearty meals with family and friends. However, this is also the time for them to be preparing their yards and outdoor spaces so that they will be able to withstand the harsh winter weather conditions as best as possible. Below are some aspects that we can assist you with that will help prepare your home to withstand the cold weather.

1. Planning Ahead and Getting an Early Start

The earlier you get started with winterizing your lawn, other plants, trees, shrubs, and irrigation system, the sooner you will be able to have your yard looking good when spring arrives. Your lawn and plants will also be able to absorb more nutrients this way. Waiting until there is snow on the ground to do this could result in your lawn and plants looking less than their best later on, or even dying in some cases.

2. Finding the Right Lawn Winterizer

Your lawn and garden will more than likely not survive the harsh winter months without having the correct winterizing products applied. Although most winterizing products contain similar ingredients to those found in other lawn food products, it is essential to obtain a product containing the correct ingredient ratios for your lawn. Our professionals will be able to advise you regarding which products will be best for your lawn and plants.

3. Removing Plant Debris

When left on your lawn for extended periods of time, leaves and other plant debris will cause dead and dry spots to develop. Allowing our team to assist you regularly with raking everything off your lawn and removing it from your property will help ensure that it remains aesthetically appealing and healthy.

4. Covering Flower Beds

While preparing your lawn to survive the cold winter months, it is recommended that your flowerbeds be covered with burlap sacks or fabric. This will provide your plants with much-needed protection against the cold and if you have not already done this, you should do so right away.

5. Taking Small and Fragile Plants Indoors

Some herbs, smaller pants, and delicate bulbs may not be able to survive to be out in the cold. Our team will be able to help you move these indoors so they can continue growing. However, you will need to act quickly if any are still outdoors at this time.

6. Preparing your Irrigation System

Chicago’s winter temperatures often drop to well below freezing, meaning that any water remaining in pipes, valves and other working parts of your irrigation system can suffer substantial damage if they are not correctly drained. In most cases, they will also need to be blown out with high-pressure air to ensure that no water remains anywhere. We will be able to advise you in this regard or perform this service on your behalf.

Our team is committed to helping you to keep your lawn and garden looking beautiful all year round. If you would like to find out more about the various landscaping and other services we offer, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team today. We look forward to hearing from you.

5 Plants that Can Survive a Chicago Winter

Although the weather is turning colder, it doesn’t mean that homeowners in Chicago are going to abandon their gardens during winter. Quite the opposite in fact – more property owners than ever before are learning about the different types and varieties of plants that will be able to not only survive, but also even thrive, during winter. Below are just five examples of plants that are suitable for this part of the country when the weather turns cold.

Echinacea (Coneflower)

Although these flowers do not keep their stunning coloring during the coldest parts of winter, it will easily recover when spring arrives – provided that they are correctly cared for. These flowers enjoy some direct sunlight, meaning that they should always be planted where they will be exposed directly to it. Once these flowers have gone dormant, it is recommended that dead stems be trimmed and stabilized with one to two inches of mulch for some added protection.

Blue Spruce

These trees are an ideal option if you are looking to add a little picturesque appeal to your Chicago yard during winter. Keep in mind that these trees also enjoy full sunshine and they can act as an excellent barrier for sound, wind and visual disturbances. These trees are sensitive to insecticide products in that they have been known to remove the coating on the needles that gives them their unique color.


These tiny flowers have quite a shallow root system, meaning that, while they will survive a cold winter, they will require a little mulch for added protection. These flowers prefer to be exposed to areas where there will be light shade for them, so they should not be planted in direct sunlight.


When these little plants start popping up during the late winter months, they are indicating that spring will soon be on its way. An added advantage of snowdrops is that they tend to require little to no costly or time-consuming maintenance. They also have the ability to spread quickly, especially if their bulbs are lifted and divided right after they have bloomed.

Evergreen Holly

The red berries and dark green leaves on these plants bring a bright and cheery feel to virtually any garden during winter. Evergreen holly plants are not only attractive; they are extremely hardy, meaning that if enough of them are planted, they will be able to provide you with a lovely natural privacy barrier. It is important to keep in mind that if you would like these plants to sprout berries, a male and female plant will be required.

Choosing the right plants to survive a Chicago winter will not only help improve your home’s overall curb appeal; it will ensure that you don’t have to deal with dying shrubs, flowers or bushes during the coldest time of the year. If you would like to find out more about choosing the right plants for your winter garden, speak with one of our experts today.

5 Ways to Make your Home Stand Out in the Fall

Now that summer is over, several property owners are starting to focus on getting their homes ready for the coming days that will be shorter and cooler. If you have been looking for inspiration with regards to getting your home ready for this cozy time of year, the tips below are sure to help you on your way.

1. Clean your Yard

This is probably the best way to get your home ready for fall. Start by roping everyone in the family in to help rake leaves, pick up twigs and broken branches and collect any trash that may have accumulated in your yard. Trim bushes and shrubs that have grown out of control during summer and that are looking shabby, and ensure that grass or other plants are not growing over walkways or preventing any natural light from entering your home. After all, with the days being shorter, you will want to take advantage of as much sunlight as possible inside your home.

2. Get those Windows Cleaned

The heat of summer combined with the demise of the many bugs that have flown into them results in your home’s windows looking streaky and grimy. Although you may not notice how dirty your home’s windows are at the moment, you will definitely see a substantial difference after they have been cleaned. Be sure to clean the window screens as well.

3. Add Some Outdoor Decorations

Consider placing a fall-themed wreath on your home’s front door and add a few pumpkins next to your doormat as added decorations. If you would like to preserve the wreath and pumpkins to ensure that they last throughout the season, spray them with good quality lacquer spray before placing them outside.

4. Plant a Range of Fall Flowers

A great way to make your home look attractive during the fall months is to plant a range of fall flowers. These can include mini sunflowers, marigolds, pansies, snapdragons, chrysanthemums, sweet alyssum, Michaemas daisies and goldenrods. Be sure to space the plants out a little so that they don’t overcrowd each other when they start to bloom.

5. Complement your landscaping with Hardscaping

After deciding which bushes, shrubs and flowers to plant, consider adding new stone walkways, rock decorations, stone retainer walls or even water fountains and fishponds to complement them. An added advantage of having one or more water fountains installed is that they can help to block out noise from heavy traffic that may pass by your home. Before purchasing fish, it’s essential to see which varieties will require the least maintenance – koi are usually an excellent option for garden ponds.

If you are unsure about the type of landscaping upgrades or garden changes that will look great on your property, we have experts on hand who will be able to assist you. Get in touch with us today to find out how we will be able to assist you with choosing the best garden and landscaping solutions.

Why You Should Always Use A Professional Landscaper


You have two choices when it comes to setting up and maintaining your lawn: You can either choose to hire a professional landscaper or you can do it yourself. While many people think doing landscaping themselves is a promising idea, the intricacies of the task easily overwhelm those attempting to get any meaningful landscaping work done.

Landscaping consists of a unique combination of science and art. There exists a lot of room for mistakes for the untrained individual, and those mistakes can lead to a number of issues. Unless you possess extensive experience with plants, you should always use a professional landscaper. See the below discussion for just a few of the important benefits you could reap by contracting a professional.

Visual Appeal

The most obvious benefit to hire a professional is visual appeal. A landscaper will ensure your lawn is mowed the right way, so that the grass lays right. Clippings will be taken care of, and areas near sidewalks or buildings will be edged.

A landscaper will also know how to put together an overall design that compliments your home’s exterior. They can match plants which will both look beautiful together and thrive in the same environment.

Reduce Risk of Lawn or Plant Damage

Each different type of grass and unique plant species requires specific care. Failing to plant it where it will get the correct amount of sunlight, watering too much or too little, or mowing it the wrong way can all lead to significant damage.

While the aesthetic problems are obvious, your landscape serves functional purposes, too. With dead or dying grass, for example, your lawn will absorb less rainfall during storms. This could result in a higher flood risk. Trees provide shade which can help to keep cooling costs down if planted where they shelter certain windows from the sun’s direct light.

Benefit from Their Experience

Professional landscapers know what will or won’t work. Among other things, their experience lets them know:

  • Which plant species are native to an area. These, of course, will grow the best and be the easiest to keep healthy.
  • Which plant species, native or not. will grow in your yard.
  • The amount of care required for specific types of plants or grass.
  • Which grass types thrive in your unique climate and situation – such as how often you make use of your lawn and under what circumstances.


Simply said, hiring a landscaper is more convenient than doing it yourself. Not only is creating a beautiful landscape and maintaining it so it can thrive difficultly, but a lot of learning and experience is needed. By the time you consider the hours spent educating yourself and those spent creating the landscape of your dreams, it would often be more economical to hire a professional.

There are many reasons to always use a professional landscaper for your yard set up or maintenance. Not using a professional could result in considerable damage to your yard. Plus, it’s much more convenient, and significantly less stressful, to hire someone who knows what they are doing.

Fall Landscaping Tips to Start Thinking About Now


As is the case with spring, the fall season is a one of change and transition. Whereas in spring the weather turns from cold to warm and all things blossom, fall is the opposite. In fall, all things shed their foliage and prepare to hibernate through the winter.

This being said, fall is as vital for your landscape, just like spring. This season is an opportunity to do three things: clean up your yard before the winter snows begin to fall, protect your landscape in winter, and, believe it or not, prep your yard for the coming spring season.

Below you will see easy tips to help you implement each of these three vital tasks. You should begin thinking about these things even now, as summer ends and autumn may be in the air but is not quite here just yet.

Yard Cleaning Tips

  • Get rid of any dead or dying annuals. These will not sprout again the following year and are an eye-sore throughout winter.
  • Rake all leaves. Though tempting, leaving them until the coming spring could result in mold spores, bug infestations, and slipping hazards throughout winter.

Winter Protection Tips

  • Mulching your flowerbeds in fall is a more promising idea than waiting for spring because it will help to protect your plant’s and/or flower’s roots during frosts.
  • Cover small plants with overturned flower pots.
  • Wrap large shrubs in burlap to protect from ice or heavy snow.
  • Place thick layers of shredded leaves around vulnerable trees. This is not necessary for hardy tree species, however. Alternatively, you can use wood chips or shavings, like mulch. Aim for two to three inches of coverage.
  • If you use an irrigation system, remember to drain it completely. This includes your hose! Any water that is left inside irrigation systems will freeze when the temperature drops low enough. Frozen water expands, thus causing significant damage to systems.

Prep for Spring Tips

  • Early fall is the perfect time to plant small shrubs or trees, as this season is easier on them than the harsh summer. Even better, nurseries will be emptying their shelves, so you could pay a fraction of the cost you would in warmer weather.
  • If you don’t have at least one or two already, now is the perfect time to consider planting an evergreen tree, shrub, or plant species. This allows for just a small splash of color in your yard during the stark winter months.
  • Fertilize your flowerbeds in early fall to allow for healthy roots and seeds come spring.
  • Don’t allow your lawn to get out of hand during fall! This is a common mistake for homeowners. While your lawn may not need weekly mowing like it does in the summer, you should continue mowing your lawn as needed. This may range from once every week to once every month during the fall, depending on the type of grass.

Implementing these tips can help you make the most of your landscape in the winter months. Cleaning up and protecting your landscape against the harsh winter while also preparing for spring can easily be all completed and covered by the end of the fall season.


Three Landscape Designs for Every Size of Backyard

Your landscaping is one of those things you want to be proud of when it comes to your home.  It is the first thing people notice about the property. Homeowners spend thousands of dollars and countless hours creating the perfect backyard. One that can be enjoyed for years to come.

Backyard landscape design can also be tricky, too.  It can be hard to scale the project to your size lawn.  Go too big and things can seem overcrowded. Go too small and you are left with a boring view outside.

Martin John Company has become the Chicago expert at both small backyard landscaping and large-scale projects.  And many of our backyard landscaping ideas often can be perfect for those big and not-so-big properties.

Below are three landscape design ideas ideal for any size backyard.

Water Works – Water is one of the most relaxing features you can add to a backyard space. A koi pond, small fountain or large pool all create that soothing atmosphere only water can provide.  Consider how much upkeep you want to take on and go from there when planning your own water feature.

Covered Spaces – Pergolas, terraces and small pavilions can be a great way to beat the heat while creating an architectural feature in the yard.  A small covered trellis can even be used in tighter spaces to create both height and interest.

Conversational ‘Rooms” – Every backyard needs a place for people to talk and enjoy each other’s company.  Whether it’s a little bench tucked in a nook or a large patio set, creating a conversational space is so important.  

Not sure how to landscape a small or large backyard?  Don’t worry – you don’t have to! The experts at Martin John Company offer our clients backyard landscape design services that meet their exact needs.  We help create warm, welcoming spaces you can enjoy all year around. Find inspiration for your own backyard renovation by visiting our online portfolio.


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Contact Info
To contact a landscape company who raises the bar of service and design, you can call Martin John @ 847.634.2184 .

507 East Park Ave.
Libertyville, IL 60048

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