Category Archives: Landscaping

flower-beds

How to Prep your Flowerbeds for Spring Showers

Are your garden’s flowerbeds your pride and joy? If so, you’ll want to ensure that they are as protected as possible before the arrival of the spring rains that could see delicate blooms being damaged or even washed away. Below are some handy tips that will provide just that little bit of additional protection to your flowers. 

Remove any Dead blooms and Debris

Over time, debris such as twigs, leaves, and dead flower heads will accumulate among your prized flowerbeds and these can cause a fair bit of damage when the heavy rains arrive. Ensuring that all accumulated debris is removed will help prevent it from becoming tangled among your flowers and damaging them or worse – uprooting them. 

Ensure Adequate Drainage is Available

Water that accumulates around your flowerbeds can quickly cause plants to drown, so proper drainage is essential. Ensure that there is proper runoff available that slopes away from your flowerbeds and that nothing is blocking it. 

Support Taller Plants

If you have taller plants among your flowers, it’s strongly recommended that these be given a little additional support before the spring rains arrive. This can involve pushing items such as metal supports, wooden stakes or virtually any other long, sturdy item into the ground next to these plants and tying it onto the longer stems. Doing this will prevent the longer plants from being washed over and causing damage to the flowers below them. 

Provide Root Protection

Your flower’s roots will need to be protected during heavy downpours and one of the best ways to do this is by mulching around them. Mulch should be approximately two to three inches thick, but at the same time, it must be kept away from the flower heads and leaves. 

Turn Off Sprinkler Systems

If you have an automated sprinkler system throughout your yard and garden, you may want to consider turning it off before the heavy rains arrive. Flowerbeds that receive too much water will result in plant roots becoming waterlogged – which will cause them to die. 

Enlist the Help of Professionals

If all of the above advice is leaving you feeling overwhelmed, there’s no need to worry because professional help is at hand. We have experienced gardeners and landscapers available who will be able to prep the flowerbeds at your home, condo block, or office park and ensure that they remain looking attractive all year round. 

Our team of professionals will not only be able to help you prepare small and large flowerbeds for rainy weather; they can perform a host of other gardening and landscaping services at residential and commercial properties as well. 

If you would like to learn more about ensuring that your flowerbeds are adequately prepared for the upcoming spring rains, get in touch with our team today. We’ll be able to provide advice regarding the best types of flowers to plant on your residential or commercial property and if required, a long-term care and maintenance contract can be drawn up for you as well.

chicago-flowers

These 4 Flowers are Great for Chicago Springs

As a Chicago homeowner, chances are that you’ll want your garden to look as pretty as possible by the time spring arrives, and what better way to do this than by planting flowers that are not only attractive, but that will also be able to withstand the weather conditions associated with being situated in hardiness zone 5. A few examples of flowers that will do well in this region are mentioned below. 

What does Hardiness Zone 5 Mean?

Various hardiness zones are basic guidelines released by the USDA with regards to the types of plants that will be able to survive and even thrive in a specific part of the country. Chicago is classified as zone 5, meaning that plants in the area will be able to withstand winter temperatures that are no lower than -20 degrees Fahrenheit. Plants that are deemed to be hardy in zones 5 through 8 can be grown in zones 5, 6, 7 and 8, but would most likely not survive the colder temperatures experienced in zone 4 areas or lower.

Creeping Phlox

These flowers produce a colorful display of various pastel shades and very little expert knowledge is needed to care for them. If you’re looking for a cascading plant option or something that can act as a groundcover, look no further because Creeping Phlox can be grown over rockeries as well as in challenging soil conditions. 

Wild Violets

This is another plant that will virtually be able to care for itself after being planted and watered occasionally. Although the most common of these plants has purple-blue flowers, some varieties are known to have yellow or white blooms as well. In some areas, wild violets are considered as being annuals or biennials. However, they are known to self-seed and come back in various unexpected locations throughout your garden.

Hollyhocks

These pretty flowers have been known to reach heights of up to 9 feet tall, so they have the ability to provide a unique vertical element to the rest of your garden. Hollyhocks are a fairly short-lived perennial flower, so most varieties will only be in your garden for about two to three years at most. However, if they are thriving in your garden, they will easily reseed over time. 

Coral Bells

If a splash of vibrant color is what you’d like to see in your garden, these flowers will help you achieve this quite easily. Also referred to as alumroot, coral bells can be found in a number of colors such as pink, white, deep red and light coral. After being established, these flowers require little maintenance with the exception of being watered from time to time.

If you would prefer to have your garden set up by professionals, our team will be able to assist you – regardless of whether you’re a homeowner or you’re in charge of managing and maintaining a larger apartment or office block. Contact us today to learn more about the landscaping options we can provide.

grass types

What Types of Grass are Great for the Illinois Climate?

Is the grass around your home or commercial property looking less than its best? If so, this could be due to a lack of care and maintenance, or in some cases, the incorrect grass varieties may have been planted in your yard. With Illinois being classified as a zone 5 growing area, it’s essential that the correct grasses be planted if you want them to look lush and green. Below are some of the best types of grass to plant in the Illinois area. 

Kentucky bluegrass

This is by far one of the most popular grass varieties being used in many parts of Illinois, mainly because it’s extremely hard, highly appealing to the eye and it recovers quite quickly. Most varieties of Kentucky bluegrass will however require fairly high levels of maintenance over time in the form of fertilizing and regular watering, and while many varieties of this grass prefer full sun, a few of them have been known to tolerate light shade.

Buffalo grass

Buffalo grass forms quite a dense turf and thick sod and it is known to spread quite extensively by means of its horizontal, root-forming stems. One of the main advantages of this grass is that it requires very little watering and fertilizing – too much of either of these will in fact encourage weeds to grow. Although standard Buffalo grass often has a fairly short growth period in zone 5, newer varieties have since become available that are able to establish themselves quicker.

Perennial ryegrasses

These are bunching varieties of grass that are compatible with bluegrass, don’t form thatch, are considered to be drought-resistant, and have quite good tolerance to heat. Although these grasses are best suited for full sun areas, they have been known to tolerate small amounts of shade. Perennial ryegrasses provide an aesthetically appealing dark green color to yards and its fine texture makes it easy to mow and maintain.

Purple Love grass

This native bunchgrass forms tight, neat clumps and it spreads by means of underground rhizomes and the sheer amount of seeds that it drops onto the ground. Purple love grass is finely textured and remains green throughout spring and summer while becoming covered with purple seed-containing plumage. When fall arrives, its leaves change color to purple and the flowers to white. This grass prefers full sun exposure but has been known to grow in partial shade as well. 

Caring for your Grass

Most grass varieties will require watering and fertilizing from time to time, and property owners who aren’t sure how to best maintain the grasses they have should consult with a professional gardener or landscaper. This will help ensure that they receive the correct advice, which will in turn provide them with the beautiful gardens and yards they desire. 

 

Are you a homeowner or property manager who is keen to learn more about caring for the grass and plants that have been entrusted to you? If so, contact our team today. We will be more than happy to assist you in any way possible.

 

Don’t Forget to Cut Back Your Perennials Now

In gardening terms, “cutting back” refers to reducing the size of a plant. Some perennials fare better through the winter when they are trimmed back prior to the colder months. Others rely on their foliage for protection, so they should be trimmed only in spring. Below, you can learn more about which perennials should be cut back in the springtime to ensure their health and create a beautiful home garden.

What Does “Cutting Back” Really Mean?

Cutting back is the act of reducing the size of a plant for various reasons, including to help promote better branching, to control the plant’s size, or even to help a plant rejuvenate and become healthier. When it comes to perennials, the act of “topping” – removing material down to two inches above ground level – is ideal, but only for some plants. Though some perennials fare better when topped in the winter, there are some – including asters, black-eyed Susan, campanula, foxglove, hostas, and more – that should be left alone in winter and trimmed back in spring. 

Which Perennials Should Be Cut Back?

The list of perennials that should be left to go dormant in the winter and trimmed back in the spring is exhaustive, but some of the most common include:

  • Asters – Asters require a bit of work during the blooming season. They must be pinched and forced in order to get the gorgeous blooms seen on television and on magazines, so by the time winter rolls around, they’re best just left alone to rejuvenate. Come spring, they can be trimmed back to your liking.
  • Black-Eyed Susan – These are incredibly resilient flowers. While you absolutely can cut them back in the winter, many hobbyists choose to leave them alone because the seeds found on their heads are fantastic for feeding non-migrating bird species. If you leave the heads on during the winter, be sure to cut them back in the fall.
  • Campanula – Campanula is fairly fast-growing. Many gardeners find themselves tending to the foliage in the summertime to remove any dead or damaged leaves and encourage more blooming. But because campanula continue to grow through fall, it is best left alone in late fall and winter, and only trimming back in the spring.
  • Hosta – Hosta foliage is quite delicate. Leaving it alone through the winter for frost protection is ideal. In the spring, trim it into the desired shape. Remove any dead or damaged leaves.
  • Mums – Leave the foliage alone through the winter; it will do an excellent job of protecting the crown.
  • Valerian – Valerian is a beautiful addition to any garden. If you’re going to cut it back, it’s best done in late summer months. Then, leave it be through winter. Valerian struggles in colder zones, but if you can avoid cutting it back once fall rolls around, it’s much more likely to survive.

Understanding which perennials to cut back in spring is sure to help you enjoy your garden all throughout the year. Of course, you may also prefer to leave your grasses, foliage, and blooms to expert professionals who can provide all the services you need to keep your garden looking fresh throughout the year!

Ornamental Grasses that Grow Great in Winter

Did you know? The Chicagoland area falls within the USDA’s Plant Hardiness Zone 5, which is one of the cooler parts of the United States. Though some plants certainly struggle to thrive outdoors, particularly in the late fall, winter, and early spring, others will thrive year-round – including ornamental grasses. Below, you can find some of the best and most beautiful wintertime ornamental grasses for your landscape.

Preparing for Ornamental Grasses in Your Landscape

Before you plant ornamental grass in hopes it will thrive in Chicago’s cold winters, it’s important to understand these plants’ typical requirements. 1. They prefer to be rooted in soil that drains very well and is low in nutrients. 2. You’ll want to look for cool weather grasses that can withstand subfreezing temperatures, layers of ice and snow. (If you need some help choosing a grass to start with, you can always find native options in your local nurseries and home stores.)

Non-Native Ornamental Grasses that will Thrive in Zone 5

If you don’t like the look of native species, or are ready for the “next adventure” in ornamental grasses, there are plenty of non-native ornamental grasses that will absolutely thrive in Zone 5. These include:

  • Japanese Silver Grass – This is an Asian transplant that offers gorgeous, clumping, silver plumes. You can find several varieties, including some that have pink and/or reddish flowers in the warmer parts of the year.
  • Purple Fountain Grass – Fountain grasses form beautiful “balls” or “mounds” when trimmed appropriately, which makes them truly unique, ornamental pieces for your landscape. Purple fountain grass shows reddish hues in its leaves and flowers, and grows to about four feet tall.
  • Ravenna Grass – Though most of the Pampas grasses won’t survive long in the harsh Chicago winters, Ravenna grass is an unusual variant. This grass can survive (and even thrive) all the way up to Zone 4. This is a huge grass; in its foliage phase, it can reach five feet. And when the flower stalks start to grow, it can grow as high as 12 feet. This is phenomenal for corners, as it fills in the space, and can be used to provide privacy.
  • Miscanthus Maiden Grass – Finally, there are several miscanthus varieties. These are well-suited for year-round beauty in the Chicagoland area. They range in color, from bronze to deep burgundy, and can grow as large as 10 feet tall by six feet wide. This is an excellent choice for containers, or hard clay soils, where other grasses may not grow well.

As you can see, despite Chicago’s freezing temperatures during winter months, there are several beautiful ornamental grasses that will thrive in winter’s frost. Japanese silver, purple fountain, Ravenna, and miscanthus maiden grasses are all phenomenal choices. For assistance with planting these beautiful grasses, guidance in landscape design, or even year-round care and maintenance, contact a landscaping professional.

Winter Landscaping Tips to Get Your Property Ready

Spring is just around the corner; that means your foliage will soon start coming back to life, and early bloomers will show their colors for the world to see! Maximize the beauty of your landscape by following these simple winter landscaping tips below.

Clean Up

One of the best things you can do to keep your property looking beautiful into the spring months involves keeping it clean. Use a bag to pick up any twigs and debris that may have accumulated around your lawn during the winter. Rake dead leaves and, either compost them, turn them into mulch, or throw them out. If you have an air blower, first move the leaves into a manageable pile. It’s always a good idea to clean up, to eliminate rot, and so that fertilizers and nutrients you may apply will penetrate the ground more readily.

Apply Your Lawn Treatments

Late winter and early spring are great times to apply fertilizers, pre-emergent (if necessary or desired), and herbicides (for weed prevention). Some weeds, such as crabgrass, are easier to prevent than they are to kill. You may often find these products in combinations, designed to make them easier to apply. Always feel free to call a professional, who will apply it for you in just the right amounts.

Choose a Mulch

After you’ve treated your lawn (and mowed, if appropriate), now is a great time to focus on your flower beds, dead shrub branches, and mulch. You’ll want to spruce up your edging, and then carefully trim back any dead or out-of-place branches on shrubs and bushes. Choose a nice, heavy mulch, made of hardwood if possible. Though it will cost more, it will also last far longer, and provide a much better aesthetic look.

Get Your Trees Trimmed

In late winter, it’s often difficult for you to really determine which branches are dead and which are dormant, so this is a job that is almost always best left to the professionals. It’s also one of the most important tasks on this list, since dead branches can pose a safety hazard to residents and passersby. Most professionals recommend pruning for safety once every couple of years. These experts tend to agree it’s best to conduct these pruning sessions before the leaves sprout, since it’s easier to find branches that have broken away from the tree.

Don’t Seed Yet

It’s very, very tempting to get out into the lawn with a bag of grass seed to cover up any bare or brown patches. But seeding your lawn is a fruitless endeavor if you’re applying lawn treatments. They simply won’t allow the new seed to germinate properly. Focus on fertilizing for now. There’s a good chance that, over time, the brown or bare spots will fill themselves in. Or, rather than seeding, consider sod for the especially bare or brown areas.

Preparing your landscape in winter will ensure your property looks beautiful and fresh for spring. Though property owners and their maintenance crews typically can handle some of these tasks on their own, it is best to leave some – such as the application of lawn treatments – to the experts for safety. Happy landscaping!

A 3-Month Landscaping Plan to Get Ready for the Spring

Preparing for the spring thaw (and subsequent bloom) requires a bit of a plan. It’s important to keep up with your landscaping during the winter months – or hire a landscaper to do it for you – in order to really reap the benefits. Here’s what you should do in December, January, and February to ensure that your landscape is beautiful and bountiful this spring.

December

December often marks the first major snow for most people in the local area, so it’s important that the following tasks are completed beforehand:

  • Mulching beds and tree roots – This will ensure that frost cannot penetrate the stems of small plants or into tree roots, causing serious issues when springtime returns.
  • Moving plants indoors – If you haven’t already, this is the perfect time to bring plants that are hardy but cannot tolerate long periods of cold indoors.
  • Pruning – Trim your trees and shrubs of old-growth or dead limbs so that you can make way for beautiful new growth come springtime.
  • Mow the lawn – December is also the perfect time to ensure that you’ve mowed your lawn to a length of 1” to 2” (or even 3” for some less tolerant species). This will keep the grass healthy, but it also prevents pests from calling your lawn their home.

January

January is all about keeping up with anything you did during December and the previous fall, but it also adds in a few tasks that help to ensure a better spring. They include:

  • Checking mulch depth – Every month or so, be sure that you check the depth of the mulch in your beds and around your trees. It should be at least 3” in the wintertime to provide ample insulation from the cold.
  • Watering at above 40 degrees – If it hasn’t been snowing or raining much, wait until the temperatures are above 40 degrees for a time and water your grass, trees, and plants Even though it’s cold, they still get thirsty.
  • Give your mower a tune-up – Finally, if you mow your own lawn during the warmer months, there’s no time like January to give your mower a tune-up. You can do it yourself relatively easily, but if you rely on a pro, they won’t be very busy in January – and you may even get a discount because of it.

February

February is often the coldest month, but it’s also the last full month of winter and the time when you want to make sure everything is ready for the big March bloom. You should:

  • Clean your tools – If you do your own landscaping (or even a part of it), then you likely have a collection of tools that you use for this very purpose. February is the perfect time to scrub and oil them (if necessary).
  • Plan your spring layout – The big thaw is coming, and that means it’s almost time to get your bulbs back in the ground. Take some time to look around your yard and figure out where you want various plants to go.

December, January and February aren’t quite as busy in terms of landscaping tasks, but there are still a few things that must be done. Use this handy list to keep up with them, or feel free to call a professional who will take care of it for you. In the end, a beautiful spring lawn with no dead grass and plenty of color is yours for the taking, but only if your winter maintenance is spot on.

Plants for Chicago Winter

How to Keep Your Landscaping Looking Nice Even During the Winter Months

During the spring and summer, landscaping is a big focus for many home and business owners. However, once winter sets in, this seems to change. You might think that making your landscaping look nice during the winter is impossible, but the tips below can do just that.

Don’t Stop Raking

If you stop raking for the season after the first snowfall, you certainly aren’t alone. However, even though there aren’t quite as many leaves on the ground during the cold of winter, that doesn’t mean they don’t exist at all. When snow piles on top of those leaves and dead plant matter, the resulting environment can breed mold and fungus. Fortunately, it’s easy enough to rake your lawn now and then – especially where you can readily see the buildup.

Wrap Trees with Thin Bark

Trees with especially thin bark are susceptible to damage in the winter. This applies not only to certain species of trees but also to saplings and very young trees. A phenomenon is known as “sunscald” is a very real thing, and it occurs when there are large temperature fluctuations during the late fall and early spring. Use a light-colored wrap – even burlap – to prevent it.

Cover Shrubs to Protect from Salt

If your home or business is close to the road, and if any of your shrubs or plants are in what is known as “high-traffic” areas, it is worth your while to cover them with a tarp or sheet to protect them from road salt. In fact, if you are going to apply salt to a sidewalk or walkway near your plants, be sure to use it sparingly, and avoid using it near tree roots unless there’s no other choice for safety reasons.

Mulch Your Beds (And Check Them Often)

Mulch is much more than just a means to make your flower and plant beds look pretty. In fact, it can go a long way toward preventing frost from reaching plants’ roots. You can choose mulch in any color you prefer, or, if possible, you can even use the leaves you collected during the fall as mulch. Make sure your mulch is at least three inches deep to really protect the plants.

Keep Your Grass Cut Short

If you haven’t already mowed your lawn for the last time this season, now is the perfect time to do it. Just be sure that you lower the blade on your mower so that grass is no more than 2” tall – and ideally 1”. Grass can get frostbite just like your fingers and toes, and this results in dead patches or brown grass in the spring. What’s more, keeping your grass short through winter can also prevent pests like field mice from calling your yard home.

As you can see, there are plenty of things you can do to make sure your landscaping looks nice all winter long. Though many of these tips aren’t directly aesthetic, they will protect your trees, shrubs, plants, and flowering plants so that when spring rolls around, everything blooms as it should and nothing appears brown or dead.

Winter Curb Appeal

Landscaping Mistakes Homeowners Make During the Winter Months

Homeowners have the best intentions when it comes to winter landscaping. In some cases, they just don’t want their lawns to look desolate and bare, but in others, they’re willing to accept a less-than-attractive winter lawn in exchange for bright green and beautiful blooms this spring. Below are five landscaping mistakes that many homeowners make during the winter months and some tips for doing the right thing instead.

Failing to Water the Lawn and Plants

Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean your plants won’t dehydrate. While they don’t need as much water through the winter months, they do still need at least some. Whenever your area isn’t getting rain or snow, and whenever the temperature is above 40 degrees, make sure that you are giving your lawn and your plants a good soaking water. They will thank you for it come springtime.

Skipping out on Raking

Homeowners think that once all the colors of fall have disappeared, they no longer need to rake. This is simply not the case. Though it may be tedious, and while it may not be your favorite job, it must be done. Mold and fungus can grow rather easily under leftover leaves and other debris, so be sure that you’re raking them up whenever you have the opportunity. Better yet, save them, and you can use them as free mulch! If you don’t feel like raking, you can always hire a professional to do it for you.

Not Checking Mulch Depth

Many plants struggle to tolerate subfreezing temperatures, and once frost hits the base of the stem or the roots, they may never recover. Building up mulch around these plants to a depth of about 3” is ideal. Though, between winter storms and wind, and thanks to your neighbors’ pets, you need to check your mulch throughout the winter, to make certain the depth is still correct. If it isn’t, just add more – or use some of the leaves you raked up! If you have a professional landscaper, this is something he or she should check for you regularly, too.

Forgetting About Pests

Homeowners mistakenly believe that when the cold air sets in, pests are a thing of the past. This isn’t the case, especially for rodents like mice, who rely on your lawn and, ultimately, your home to stay alive when it’s freezing outside. Keeping your grass cut short (1” to 2” – or a maximum of 3” for certain varieties) can prevent mice from nesting in your lawn. It will also keep them off your property altogether, so they are less likely to make their way inside.

In short, failing to water your lawn, skipping out on the raking, skimping on your mulch, or forgetting all about the existence of pests like mice can really wreak havoc on your landscaping. The best way to avoid these issues is to call a professional landscaping service who can handle these tedious tasks on your behalf and provide you with the peace of mind you need and deserve.

mulching trees fall autumn frost

Why You Need to Mulch the Base of Your Trees in Early Fall

Mulch is a staple in many Chicagoland gardens and landscapes, but the real purpose of mulch is often incredibly misunderstood. If you think mulch is utilized as weed control, or perhaps as a way to make landscaping look more appealing and refined, you will be surprised to learn these facts. The real uses and importance of mulch are much different than these. Below, you can learn more about mulch and why you should apply it to the base of your trees in early fall.

What Mulch Is Not

Despite the common belief that mulch is used to prevent weed growth, this is not the case at all. There’s a very good chance that you (or your landscaping company) spend some time fighting weeds that grow between gaps in your driveway or sidewalk. If weeds can grow in those locations, they can surely grow through soft organic matter, like mulch.

It would be incorrect to say that mulch is not a decoration, because it very much is. Numerous colors can be found at your favorite home stores; including red, brown, green, black, blue, and various other hues. This can create focal points in your yard, separate individual flowerbeds, and much more. With that said, mulch is not designed to prevent weed growth, but it can improve aesthetic appeal a great deal. This is not mulch’s primary use, however.

What Mulch Is Meant to Do

Three outstanding benefits of mulch for trees and shrubs include:

  • Providing Protection to Roots: When gazing upon a tree, you can tell what’s happening above-ground. You can observe the tree through its many stages, watching it grow from a sapling to a towering giant. What you cannot see is the root system. Now, imagine years of soil compaction around the tree’s roots, and you can easily see how a tree may not get the nutrients it needs. By removing the soil above the roots and laying down loose mulch instead, the entire root system – and therefore the tree – is protected.
  • Providing Protection to Tree Trunks, Bark, and Stems: Mulch can damage tree bark over time. Be careful not to make a huge pile around the base of a small tree. Tree mulch retains moisture, and it will ultimately cause the bark, stems, and trunk to rot. Piling mulch on top of a tree’s root system is no different than planting the tree far too deeply in the ground.
  • Defining the Edges of Beds: Finally, mulch is important for defining the edges of planting beds, as it allows excellent definition without incredibly deep cuts and edging that can cause lawn “scalping” during mowing season.

The Most Important Reason for You to Mulch Trees in Fall

According to the Arbor Day Foundation, a revered expert in tree care, proper mulching offers five very important benefits. First, it insulates the soil around the tree, which protects the roots from the cold of winter. Second, mulch retains rainfall and any moisture that may fall during autumn. This will supply a tree’s roots with moisture, even during the arid winter. Third, mulch slows the growth of weeds (to a degree), which reduces competition for nutrients and moisture. Finally, mulching your tree or garden will prevent the soil from being compacted and choking out the roots. It can even help you avoid damage to your (or you landscaper’s) lawnmower. (We appreciate it!)

As you can see, mulch is a highly misunderstood landscaping tool that is crucial to the health and longevity of trees in more ways than one. Mulching your trees in early fall will provide all of these benefits, and provide some aesthetic appeal on the ground – at least until the snow begins to fall.