Monthly Archives: December 2021



Just because the holidays fall during the winter season, it doesn’t mean that you have to settle for having a garden and yard that looks gray and barren. In fact, there are several holiday plants available that will be an excellent addition to your outdoor décor.

If you’ve been considering sprucing up your yard for the holidays, but haven’t been sure which plants would survive the cold Chicago climate, the list below will help get you started:

Holly Shrubs

Choosing this plant for your garden will certainly allow you to deck the halls boughs of holly during the holiday season. Once holly shrubs have established themselves, they will be able to provide a number of cuttings that can be used for decorations.

Holly shrubs will thrive in partially shady areas and the female variety will produce bright red berries that will add color to your garden. Planting male and female holly shrubs relatively close to each other will ensure that proper pollination occurs – which will allow them to produce the foliage, fruit and flowers that make them a favorite plant during the holidays.

Ivy Vines

Ivy is not only a traditional Christmas plant; this vine makes a great addition to landscaping under trees where shade makes it challenging other plants to thrive. Its variegated leaves create visual interest and many gardeners use it as groundcover in areas where preventing soil erosion is essential. Ivy tendrils also look lovely when trailing from window boxes and plant pots, and they can be used to make a number of different holiday decorations.

Blue Spruce

This hardy pine tree is often labeled as the perfect holiday plant because it can be strung with lights to complement your holiday décor or even trim a few of its branches to use as decorations inside your home. An added bonus to doing this is that they provide a lovely natural fragrance.

Blue Spruce trees require very little care and maintenance, but they will provide outstanding color in your yard during a time of year that most gardens look dull and bleak.

Yew Bushes

Branches from the yew bush have been used as traditional holiday decorations in many countries for centuries and they also make for a lovely evergreen hedge – many gardeners take delight in trimming these into various shapes for the holidays.

The yew tolerates bugs, drought and disease really well, not only making it a good base plant for your garden; new plants can be propagated from cuttings quite easily as well, making it easy to share with family, friends and fellow gardeners. Branches can also be brought into your home and used as decorations year after year.

Planting the above-mentioned trees, flowers and shrubs will not only allow your home to look festive during the holidays; your garden and yard will continue looking great during the rest of the year because of some of them being evergreen as well. If you’re keen to spruce up your yard and garden before the holidays and aren’t sure how to get started, contact our landscaping team today.



Have you been considering adding a few shrubs to your Chicagoland yard, but haven’t been sure which varieties would thrive in this zone 5 gardening region that can experience pretty cold winters? Shrubs perform quite a few important tasks such as attracting pollinators and providing privacy, so it’s essential to add a few to your landscaping if you would like your entire garden to thrive.

Below are some varieties of shrubs that will add the perfect finishing touch to the rest of your yard and garden:


These shrubs are available in various shades ranging from pale pink to deep purple and they provide a lovely fragrance in your garden. Lilacs can make a fantastic hedge and they are known for attracting butterflies as well. Some of the new varieties are more compact, but will still provide you with a lovely array of color when they start blooming.


If a specific part of your yard doesn’t ever receive full sunlight, this shrub will provide a lovely spring show of flowers in different hues of pinks, purples, yellows and white against their deep green foliage. Although some of the new varieties of this shrub are more tolerant to cold, it’s recommended that they all be planted in areas that offer partial shade.


Specifically recommended for cold climates like Chicagoland, this shrub comprises beautiful arching branches that are speckled with clumps of creamy white flowers that appear during late spring. Keep in mind though, that this plant is quite fast growing and it can get rather large – so it will either require a lot of room to thrive or you can obtain dwarf varieties if garden space is limited.


If it’s low maintenance that you’re looking for in garden shrubs, Spirea definitely fits the description. Many new varieties are known to maintain their rounded shape with very little to no pruning required and they produce clusters of white, pink or red flowers against a backdrop of lime green, deep green or even gold foliage, depending on the variety.


This is one of few shrub varieties that can be grown in virtually any climate, making it ideal for planting in your zone 5 garden. After planting this, you’ll be rewarded with bright and cheerful flowers during the summer months, slightly faded floral tones during fall and dried blooms that will linger on the plant throughout the colder winter months. Different varieties of hydrangea are available, so it’s recommended to check with your local garden center or nursery regarding those that will thrive between your existing landscaping.

While many seasoned gardeners will be comfortable choosing and planting various shrubs in their gardens themselves, others may feel like they need a helping hand to ensure that their chosen plants will thrive. If you would like to obtain expert recommendations regarding the types of shrubs that will be best for your specific garden and yard areas, contact our experienced landscapers today.



Many homeowners think that they will need a large backyard area if they intend on creating a cozy and inviting outdoor living space. However, some fantastic outdoor living areas can be created, even if your property is smaller than average. Below are just a few ideas to help get you started on creating the ideal outdoor living space for your family to enjoy.

Brighten Up your Yard with Plants and Greenery

Your home’s outdoor living space can be spruced up beautifully by incorporating various plants and greenery in various ways. For instance, a trellis can be threaded with blooming vines; a bare wall can be brightened up with small pot plants mounted to it or you could even get adventurous and create a completely vertical garden that will provide your yard with a focal point as well as pops of color when everything starts blooming.

Don’t Be Stuck Inside While Everyone Else is Outside – Add an Outdoor Kitchen and Bar

No outdoor living space can be considered complete without some form of outdoor kitchen and bar being included. This will provide the ideal spot for grilling up your favorite foods and having easy access to cold drinks. An outdoor kitchen also allows you to stay connected with your family and friends while preparing the meal.

When considering appliances and surfaces for an outdoor kitchen, ensure that low maintenance finishes are used – along with appliances that will be able to withstand prolonged outdoor exposure. Flooring in this area should also be concrete or sealed pavers – these will show the least wear and tear over time.

Create a cozy atmosphere for those cool evenings

Having a fire pit installed can add a stunning focal point to your outdoor living area. Before deciding where to put this feature, check the local wind patterns to ensure that it won’t create a smoke issue for the rest of your yard. Ensuring that ample seating is available around your fire pit will allow it to become a favorite gathering place for friends and family.

Another option is having a brick or stone fireplace erected which provides a stunning feature to your outdoor living space. Regardless of the time of year, a fireplace provides the perfect atmosphere for gathering with family or friends or even just enjoying a good book while curled up under a snuggly blanket.

Be the Entertainment Destination on Game Days and for ‘Must-See” TV Shows

Does your family enjoy watching various sporting events on TV or have ‘must-see’ shows everyone watches? If so, consider incorporating a TV into your outdoor living space with comfy couches. This will not only allow your family to enjoy every moment of watching the latest game or show; your home will become known as ‘the destination’ to be at whenever popular sporting events or shows are on TV.

Outdoor Lighting is a Must

If you intend on enjoying your outdoor living space after the sun has set, you’ll need to include some good lighting in this area of your yard. Basic porch lights should be included to provide easily visible access between inside and outside, while outdoor kitchen areas will require good task lighting over the grill and working surfaces. Solar powered accent lights can be used to illuminate walkways, while dimmable lighting can be placed around lounging areas.

Include some Privacy

Your outdoor living area will feel more like an oasis to escape a busy day if it has a sense of enclosure. Although garden walls and fencing can help provide this, landscaping, pergolas or even lattice can be used to block the view of neighboring properties as needed.

Leave Enough Room for a Functional Patio 

While designing your ideal outdoor living space, be sure to include a functional patio area that contains dedicated spots for an outside lounge and dining area. This will allow you to truly make the most of any time being spent out in the fresh air – regardless of whether it’s to enjoy a meal or to simply just gaze at the stars with your kids on a clear evening. Some soft lighting can be added to these areas to make them more enjoyable as well.

Creating a living space your whole family can use to the fullest will ensure that as much time as possible can be enjoyed outdoors at virtually any time of the year. Contact us today to meet with our design team to create the perfect outdoor living area for your family.



Although October brings a definite chill in the air to many parts of the country, it doesn’t mean that gardening season is over. In fact, a number of perennials and annuals actually bloom during the coldest months of the year – sometimes when there’s still snow on the ground. A little planning now in your garden will allow you to enjoy a few bright spots of color when it’s needed most during a gloomy winter.

Here are just a few of the flower varieties that will be able to survive through October in your zone 5 garden:


With the right level of care and maintenance, these flowers can grow to an incredible eight feet tall in some areas. Although they prefer well-draining soil and full sun to grow, they are known to thrive in zone 5 gardens as well. Their height makes them an excellent plant to have at the back of your garden area.


These flowers are known for being able to withstand colder nights and even light frost in many cases. They will also bloom continuously until such time as a hard freeze arrives, providing excellent value for money. Snapping off the seed heads once they’ve bloomed and dried and saving them will allow you to plant again when spring arrives.


It’s recommended that these flowers be planted during fall if you would like to enjoy an early spring show of them in your garden. They usually look best when planted along the front of border areas or in rock gardens, and are known to even start blooming when there’s still snow on the ground.


Also known as Lenten roses, these perennials tend to make their appearance during mid to late winter, depending on the species chosen. Although these flowers may look and feel delicate, they’re in fact one of the tougher plants around that should thrive in your zone 5 gardens during cold snaps.


These gorgeous blooms are known for making their appearance when virtually everything else in your garden is starting to fade away for the winter. They are available in shades of lavender, blue, purple and pink, so they will provide a beautiful pop of color to your garden.


Also called coral bells, this perennial is extremely cold-tolerant. It’s available in several different shades and colors and the frilly leaves will provide a lovely show of color in your garden long after any other annuals may have already faded for the winter.

Choosing the right flowers for your Chicagoland garden will help ensure that they not only survive the colder winter months; you will be rewarded with a beautiful show of color at a time when most other plants have gone into hibernation as well. If you would like to find out more about the various flowers and plants that will thrive in your garden during a cold winter, get in touch with our landscaping team today.



Summer may virtually be over, but this doesn’t mean that your yard deserves to be neglected once the weather starts turning colder. In fact, there are some landscaping tasks that need to be completed at this time of the year to ensure that your garden looks its absolute best by the time spring arrives.

Cleaning and Maintenance

Now that temperatures are starting to drop, it makes working in the garden just that little bit more comfortable, providing you with the perfect opportunity to start cleaning up your yard and garden beds. Decomposing debris provides an ideal environment for harmful insects to lay eggs and for plant diseases to take hold, so it should all be raked up and cleared away before the first frost arrives.

Other maintenance tasks to focus on now include:

  • Turning over compost piles one last time before cold weather hits
  • Cleaning up flower beds, trimming off dead vegetation and trimming perennials back that have finished flowering
  • Take cuttings from plants that you’d like to propagate
  • Spending an hour or two weeding each week – this will prevent weeds from going to seed and multiplying as soon as it gets warm again
  • Raking up fallen leaves – these can be added to compost or used as mulch for garden beds

Get Planting

This is the ideal time for planting trees and shrubs because they will experience a lot less planting stress than during any other season. Even though temperatures will drop soon, their roots will continue growing underground – which will be a tremendous help if summer drought occurs.

Now is also the time when any spring bulbs should be planted as well because it will provide your garden with an array of vibrant colors when spring arrives.

Get that Mulch Down

After a long, hot and dry summer, chances are that any mulch you may have placed in your garden beds will be thin and virtually non-existent. Placing a new layer down will protect plant roots from the cold winter, while also helping to keep your yard looking great. It’s recommended that mulch layers not be thicker than about two to three inches though.

Continue Watering

Although it may look like your plants are going into hibernation, their roots will still be actively growing during this time of the year. Shrubs, trees, evergreen perennials and anything else you may have planted recently will need to be watered until such time as the ground officially freezes for the winter. If the area you live in receives decent amounts of rain during fall, you may not need to water that often. However, if your area doesn’t receive much rain during this time of the year, it’s recommended that you water deeply approximately once a week.

Getting the above-mentioned tasks completed before the first frost arrives will help ensure that your garden will be able to not only survive the winter; your plants, shrubs and trees will look absolutely fantastic when spring eventually arrives.



Many homeowners believe that the end of summer also means the final days of being able to enjoy outdoor parties, BBQs and casual get-togethers. However, this need not be the case if you decide to convert your backyard into a cozy outdoor living space. In fact, including these aspects will allow you to make the most of this part of your property all year round.

Outdoor Heaters

As temperatures start dropping with the approach of fall, outdoor heaters can provide a great solution for friends and family to stay warm while enjoying some time outdoors. These units are available in various sizes, meaning that there will be a few options available to suit your outdoor living area – regardless of its size. Another advantage of these heaters is that they are portable, so it’s easy to store them during the warmer months.

Patio Roofing

Installing a patio roof is not only a great way to improve privacy in your outdoor entertainment area; it will be an absolute blessing on those days that the weather is unpredictable because you’ll still be able to entertain outdoors without worrying about your guests or food getting wet. Outdoor curtains can be installed on one or more sides if additional shelter or privacy is needed.

Outdoor Kitchens

Many types of food simply taste better when they’ve been grilled, regardless of the season. Installing a fully equipped outdoor kitchen in your backyard living space and under a roof will allow you to continue preparing meals and simply enjoying gathering with friends and family virtually all year round. Setting out weatherproof tables and chairs will provide a little extra comfort as well.


Having outdoor lighting installed in and around your outdoor living space will not only improve the overall aesthetics of this part of your home; it will make it far safer for you and your guests to spend time outside as it becomes darker in the evenings. Investing in waterproof LED and solar lighting fixtures will help provide the ambiance and lighting you need without having to worry about it having an effect on your electricity bill.

Fire Features

Whether you choose a fire pit, traditional fireplace, or fire table, adding a fire feature to your outdoor living space can help maximize the amount of time you spend entertaining outdoors. Adding a few little extras such as soft cushions, throws or blankets on a built-in bench around your fire feature will create a cozy feel all year round to this part of your yard area.

Setting up an outdoor living space in a way that makes it feel inviting and cozy will enable you to enjoy spending time outside entertaining friends and family all year round. If you would like to obtain recommendations for transforming your outdoor living area to maximize your year-round use, get in touch with us today to set up an appointment.



As fall approaches, many new gardeners may be feeling unsure of what needs to be done to prepare the landscaping on their properties – while those who are more experienced may simply be looking for new ideas. Implementing the following measures in your yard before the first frost arrives will help ensure that your landscaping looks spectacular when warmer temperatures make their appearance again.

Start Planning your Landscaping

September is the perfect time to compile a plan for your garden, so it will be a good idea to visit local nurseries to see which plants are available that will thrive in your yard. Spend some time in your yard to determine where the best places will be for planting specific flowers, shrubs and bushes – this will allow you to see which areas get the most sun, which parts of your garden experience good or poor drainage and whether any sheltered spots are available for anything fragile you intend on planting.

Get your Bulbs Planted

After determining where each new plant will be placed, it’s time to get started with planting a variety of spring bulbs. This will provide your yard and garden with a beautiful array of colors when spring eventually arrives. Examples of bulbs that can be planted include Daffodils, Tulips, Lilies, Hyacinths and Snowdrops.

Take Care of your Lawn

This is the time of year when your lawn will require a little extra care, so now is the time to plant grass seeds in any bare areas and ensure that everything gets covered with a dense layer of compost. The compost will not only encourage healthy growth when temperatures begin thawing; it will give your lawn the helping hand it needs to survive the cold winter frosts as well.

Mulch Over Perennials and Mud In Any New Fall Plants

Once you’ve placed each new plant in its hole, it’s recommended to water them a few times before adding the new soil around them – a combination of fresh dirt and compost is best for this task. Once the new plants have been completely buried, a little more water should be added to get the soil around them saturated.

Prepare your Winter Salad

As the colder weather approaches, the demand for green veggies often increases substantially. It’s fully possible to have winter salad growing during the colder months with a little upfront preparation. If you’re fortunate enough to have a cold-frame greenhouse, this will be the ideal spot to place your spinach and kale plants.

Although mulch can be purchased in bags from your local garden supply store or nursery, it will be more economical to purchase a truckload for delivery if the areas requiring it are excessively large. If you’re willing to put in the effort into your garden and yard at this time of the year, you will be rewarded with a beautiful array of color and healthy plants by the time spring arrives.



Landscaping can play a big role in raising your property’s value. Your yard is an extension of your home. Making it beautiful adds to the appeal of your home. Let’s talk about some of the ways hiring a professional landscaper can increase the value of your home. From gorgeous trees to garden pathways, well-designed and properly maintained landscaping adds curb appeal to your property.


A professional landscaper can design a layout for a beautiful herb and flower garden in your yard. They will help you choose plants and shrubs that help garden spaces stay as maintenance-free as possible. Hearty, perennial plants that are native to the climate require less care and maintenance than annuals and ornamental varieties. Peaceful garden spaces with low upkeep add charm and value to your home’s exterior.


Landscapers can help you create unique, functional pathways throughout your property. The path up to the front of your home is the first thing people see and stand on when they approach. Pathways are a big part of the first impression potential buyers get when they walk up to the front door. Outdoor patios for entertaining and garden pathways can make good selling points as well.

Proper Lawn Maintenance

Landscapers know the best ways to take care of your property. They know exactly how to keep lawns looking fabulous. Professional landscapers are consistent and do their best to keep the grass in good condition. They ensure your lawn is trimmed properly and can even help you take care of watering and fertilizing the grass.

Create Structure and Flow

Professional landscapers can help you create the best design for your space. They know how to use landscaping to make a space feel more open. They can also use large rocks, shrubs, or hedges that are gorgeous yet add privacy to the space. These landscaping upgrades add value to your home.

Ponds and Fountains

A calming water feature makes a relaxing addition to any outdoor sitting area or garden. A clear pool with a little water feature creates serenity and can boost your property value. A professional landscaper can help you create the perfect small pond with a waterfall to bring some life to your outdoor space. Landscapers can install and maintain a water feature that beautifies your backyard.


Trees are a great way to add value to your property. They are good for the environment and help improve air quality. They create shady areas for comfort outside. They can also help provide privacy. Professional landscapers know how to choose the right kinds of trees for your space. They know how to plant trees properly and can help you decide on the best spots to plant them so they have sufficient space to grow.

Professional Landscaping Makes a DifferenceThe outside of your home has a lot to do with its value. Professional landscaping can make major improvements. Keeping the yard and property well maintained is important because it is the outward first impression visitors get of your home. Boost your property’s overall value by investing in professional landscaping service. Call Martin John Company now for all your landscaping needs.



When you’re shopping for the perfect plants, hardiness zones are important to understand. The Department of Agriculture assigns one of thirteen specific codes to different regions of the United States based on climate and geography. Hardiness zones are key to finding plants that will thrive in your region. Paying attention to which hardiness zone you live in can save you money, disappointment, and time when choosing plants for your outdoor spaces.

Weather Patterns and Seasonal Changes Affect Plants

A plant’s hardiness is determined by its ability to withstand extreme heat or cold. Each plant’s hardiness zone is based on its ability to adapt to local temperatures without harming or killing it. All plants thrive differently under different conditions so it’s important to understand which plants do best in your area. Weather patterns and seasonal variations have to be suitable for the plants you choose. Paying attention to the season-to-season changes will help you make the best landscaping choices for your garden.

Winter Temperatures Determine Hardiness Zones

Hardiness zones are determined to help us better understand which plants will best survive winters in that particular area of the country. These zones are based on average winter lows in the region. Perennials, trees, and shrubs can be fragile and die if low temperatures get too cold for them. Hardiness zones tell us how well a plant survives in colder temperatures. You don’t want to line your property with lush shrubs only to realize next spring that winter in your zone was too harsh for them to survive.

Determine What Zone You’re Actually In

Know and understand the climate you’re working in as well as you can. There is about a ten-degree difference in average temperature between each of the plant hardiness zones. Determining which zone you’re in is important to ensure you’re growing the right types of plants at the right time of year. You can use your hardiness zone information to figure out when it’s safe to start planting for the year. Planting at the right time gives you the best chance for growing success.

Find Plants That Thrive In Your Zone

Many factors affect the way plants grow, but making sure the climate is suitable for them is probably the most important. Overall climates can have a wide range so hardiness zones are helpful when learning which plants can withstand your local weather. This will help you make the most of your flower beds and maintain rows of gorgeous flowers and shrubs year after year.

3 Reasons to Pay Attention to Hardiness Zones

  1. Knowing your hardiness zone makes it easier to decide what to buy when you’re looking for new plants. This information helps you determine which varieties will grow the best in your area. This saves time and money wasted on plants that won’t survive.
  2. You can get creative and build a successful, thriving garden over time if you choose plants that do well in your region. When you know the plants you choose are suitable for your climate, you can count on them to return and grow each season.
  3. Grow healthier plants that have a better chance at survival by giving them the best environment possible. It will be easier to take care of landscaping additions that are suited for the conditions in your zone.

Take out the guesswork and leave it up to the professionals. Let Martin John Company help you choose the most suitable plants for your landscaping needs.