Category Archives: RESIDENTIAL

chicago landscaping

Landscaping Trends for People that Live in Chicagoland Area

Over the past few years, landscaping trends have shifted considerably. Although aesthetically appealing layouts have always been popular, more property owners than before are realizing that this is no longer the most important aspect to consider. Here are a few new urban landscaping trends that are being seen more and more often in the Chicagoland area.

Multi-functional Spaces

With property sizes becoming smaller in many areas, optimal utilization of all available space is a must. Instead of having only a lawn in the backyard, property owners are including comfortable outdoor living areas that include fire pits, outdoor furniture and kitchens and even TVs in some cases. This enables them to make the most of their outdoor spaces for entertainment or even working from home.

Native Plants

More homeowners than ever before are realizing how much their actions affect the environment, and as a result, they are choosing to use drought-tolerant and/or native plants. In fact, several lawns are being replaced with native plants nowadays because they will require far less watering and general maintenance over time than non-native plants and grass. Common plant options these days include various succulents and cacti.

Low Maintenance

Homeowners – especially those with young families – are busier than ever, meaning that they have less time to spend on yard work and maintenance. This has resulted in many of them not only choosing perennials instead of annuals; plants are being grouped together in yards according to watering and maintenance needs, enabling them to save time on yard care. Trees or shrubs that provide little to no ecological benefit are also being removed, especially if they require a lot of care, and automatic irrigation systems are being installed to save time, effort and water. All of this enables homeowners to enjoy their yard space instead of always having to work in it.

Growing Food

Homeowners are quickly discovering that it’s possible to grow surprising amounts of food – even in the most limited of yard spaces. Pots are being added to porch areas, while planters are hung by kitchen windows or from eaves. Vertical planters are being mounted to indoor and outdoor walls to grow a variety of herbs. Possibilities are endless in this regard.


Apps are used in almost all aspects of people’s lives nowadays, and landscaping is no exception anymore. The app called iScape can be used to help property owners visualize how plants or trees will look in their yards before buying and planting them. A photo is taken of the yard pace, uploaded to iScape and different pavers, plants and other landscaping elements can be added to see what the end result would be if used.

The above-mentioned trends prove that even yards and gardens in the Chicagoland area can look fantastic all year round. If you would like to learn more about landscaping your outdoor space, contact us today.


5 Plants that Look Great in Any Residential Landscaping Project

If you’re a homeowner, you know that it can be tough to find time to do your own landscaping. Hiring a residential landscaping company is often an easier option than trying to handle it yourself. Because of this, it is a good idea to invest in plants that look amazing and provide plenty of color throughout the year. Below are five plants that you can use to make your home look amazing.

#1 – Hydrangeas

Hydrangeas, sometimes called “snowball bushes” depending on where you’re from, are an excellent choice for residential landscapes. They grow quickly, they thrive in part shade areas, and they can even provide screening if you want to separate the property of your home from the surrounding properties. Birds love hydrangeas, too, which means you can listen to their songs while you’re sitting on your porch. Your family will appreciate the ambiance, and the pop of color will add some serious curb appeal. 

#2 – Chokeberries

Chokeberries are another shrub that grows exceptionally well in the Chicagoland area. They are interesting in every single season, and they are perfect for full-shade areas that seem to be missing color. They bloom in spring, turn a deep shade of green in the summer, and display their gorgeous colorful berries in the fall. The best part is that they retain their berries even into the winter months, and they look amazing against a backdrop of snow.

#3 – Salvia (Garden Sage)

Salvia is a perennial that will continue to provide you with excellent foliage whether you plant it in the ground or in a container. It grows to about two feet tall and two feet wide, which makes it excellent for lining up under windows, too. It’s especially fragrant, which can be pleasing coming in and out of your homes open windows. Garden sage is best planted in areas that get full sun, and while they do best with regular pruning, their size and shape make maintenance simple.

#4 – Topiary Trees

Flowers, shrubs, and foliage are beautiful, but topiary trees offer a different interest that you simply cannot get any other way. They’re great for containers, too, so you can even choose species that need to come indoors during the colder months. Topiaries are available in balls, spirals, cubes, and any other shape you can imagine so you can give your home’s property some serious personality.

#5 – Peruvian Lily

The Peruvian lily is an excellent choice for Chicago, especially if you plant it in areas where the soil tends to stay relatively cool. You can find these lilies in several unique shades of purple, and the dark flecks toward the center leaves make them incredibly interesting. They grow to three feet tall, and you can keep the blooms coming for weeks on end if you twist off the shoots at the base when they begin to wilt.

As you can see, landscaping your home does not have to be a difficult task, and there are many excellent plant choices that require very little in the form of maintenance. If you do not have the time to plant, trim, shape, and prune on your own, call us, and we can help.

Spring Is Here! 5 Plants That Will Thrive Through the Summer

The arrival of spring brings with it many signs of new life, especially for gardening enthusiasts who want to keep their yards looking attractive. If you have been keen to start working in your garden, but haven’t been sure what to plant, the list below will be a great help in getting you started.

1. Common Foxglove

Although these will require two full growing seasons before flowering, the Common Foxglove’s stunning and vibrant petals will add a flamboyant appearance to what could otherwise be a dull and mundane garden. They will thrive in soil that has a high pH level and require partial shade to bloom at their full potential. Flowers may be yellow, white or purple and they reach heights of between 18 and 60 inches on average.

2. Yellow Sundrops

Sundrops will add a brilliant splash of yellow color to a garden and added bonuses include the fact that they are able to tolerate relatively poor soil and they are quite drought-resistant. However, it is crucial to ensure that the ground they are in can drain well and that they will be planted in an area that provides them with full sun exposure. These flowers grow between 18 and 23 inches in height and they are known to keep deer out of gardens – definitely an advantage in some areas of Chicago!

3. Knock Out Roses

Not only are these lovely and fragrant, they are also fast growing and extremely hardy. Knock Out Roses are also resistant to disease and able to thrive in areas where full sun is experienced. When fully grown, they will be approximately 4 feet tall and there are several different colors to choose from such as purple, pink, peach, yellow and white.

4. Yarrows

These flowers start blooming during late spring and will continue doing so throughout summer and they are known to attract several species of butterflies. A distinct advantage of yarrows is that they can tolerate poor soil and they will also bloom at their best in areas where full sun is experienced.

5. Salvia

This is part of the mint family and it works well in gardens or containers because it only reaches about two feet high and two feet wide when fully grown. Regular pruning will be needed to keep Salvia looking beautiful and it will thrive in areas of full sun. Some of the more common colors of these flowers include scarlet, purple, light pink and lavender.

Planting even a few of these flowers in your Chicago garden will not only provide your yard with a splash of color; you will be able to feel good knowing that butterflies and other insects will make themselves at home among the plants as well. If you would like to find out more about how you can have a summer garden to remember, contact our offices today. We have several team members who will be most willing to assist you with choosing the right plants and caring for them afterwards.

Spring Landscaping

With Spring around the Corner, it’s Time to Start Thinking about Spring Flowers

You’ve heard it said that April showers bring May flowers, and even though it’s only January, it’s never too early to start thinking about your spring flower beds. For many homeowners, half the fun of landscaping in the spring is the planning, and there’s no better time to start.

Bulbs are Your Best Friends

If there’s one way to make sure that your spring gets off to a colorful start this year, it’s by planting new and colorful bulbs. In fact, with a bit of research and planning, you can control the entire color scheme of your landscaping for three out of four seasons with bulbs alone. To make things easy on yourself, choose bulbs that “naturalize” (come back each year) to prevent buying and replanting your bulbs each year.

Some options for you to consider include the ever-popular tulip and daffodil, but if you want to step outside the box, consider options like allium (otherwise known as the flowering onion) and glory-of-the-snow, which brings a star-shaped bright blue blossom early in the season to contrast against any lingering snow. The latter is hardy in zones 3 through 8, so it does exceptionally well in the Chicago area.

Try a Simple Scatter and Let Nature Take its Course

Though it may be too late in the winter season to utilize this tip this season, be sure to file it away for next fall. Many seeds require a good winter before they’ll take hold and sprout, and these include everything from foxglove to hollyhock and even corn poppies. Many of these seeds will self-sow once they’ve been established, and they’ll offer plenty of pops of color all throughout the spring once they do. Just head outdoors at the end of the growing season and scatter each seed where you want it to grow. Nature will handle the rest.

Give Perennials and Biennials a Head Start

In the Chicago area, you’ll need to wait until the official start of spring to get your perennials and biennials in the ground, but they should be among the first things you plant each year. Peonies, foxgloves, pansies, and other bare-root perennials should go in the ground in early spring in order to give them time to establish their roots. If you’ll grow your perennials and biennials in containers, which is always a great idea in the northern Midwest, you can plant them as soon as the ground thaws.

Shop Online

Spring is still a few weeks off, and that means you have time to order plants from just about anywhere in the world. If you want something different for 2019, check out offerings from countries like Holland or Google international flower catalogs. Sometimes the best-looking flowers at the best prices are available online, and with the USDA’s zone chart and a bit of research, it’s pretty easy to plan your Spring flower garden.

Avid gardeners await spring like small children await the holidays; the excitement of seeing a year’s worth of prep and labor come to fruition is incredible. It may not be spring quite yet, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start getting things ready now, whether you opt to shop for bulbs, check out some catalogs, or start putting a few perennials and biennials in containers.

Winter Curb Appeal

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.

Plants for Chicago Winter

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.

fall time curb appeal

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.

Fall Leaves

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.


Pool and Grass

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.


Backyard in Lake Forest

Landscaping Ideas to Maximize Any Small Front Yard

Just because you have a small yard doesn’t me you need to stay away from a beautiful landscape design.  A tinier space can actually be the perfect setting for creating gorgeous curb appeal. The trick is to maximize what you already have to its fullest potential.

Below are Martin John Company’s best small front yard landscaping ideas:

Making Your Pathway Amazing – It doesn’t matter how short a pathway is, it can be a great asset to any front yard.  But you want to stage it for success. Adding smaller blooms such as miniature roses, small shrubs, and other plants closer to the ground can help set the scene.  Additional gravel or stone in-between can enhance the pathway’s appeal even more!

Use Massive Blooms – Planting large and long rows of hydrangeas or lilacs can be a smart way to utilize that front yard space.  Both add beautiful color and amazing aromas. They can also both create additional privacy for homes close to streets and sidewalks.  Placing a small fence in front of them can provide them with additional support while also keeping them contained.

Consider the Dwarfs – You don’t want to overcrowd your front yard with large, ominous trees. Choosing smaller-sized options is one of the best small yard landscaping ideas.  Dwarf and semi-dwarf species can act as a focal point without overstepping their bounds. You can scale up or down when choosing your size to fit your unique property.

Every lawn deserves to be beautiful and enjoyable.  Our goal at Martin John Company is to help customers with properties of all sizes design an outdoor oasis perfect for their unique needs.  From drafting practical hardscape plans to adding in luscious greeneries, our team is here to help. Let us dream-up the best small front yard landscaping ideas for your home.

To learn more about Martin John Company’s small yard landscaping services, contact us or call 847-634-2184.