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Best Flowers for the Ultimate Curb Appeal during a Chicago Summer Heat

With summer fast approaching, many property owners will be keen to get their yards and gardens looking lush and attractive again. However, knowing which flowers to plant in your specific growing zone to ensure that they will thrive can be tricky – especially where intense summer heat is going to be experienced. Below are some of the flower varieties that will not only add to your home’s curb appeal; they will thrive during zone 5 summers as well.

The Butterfly Weed

Don’t be fooled by this flower’s name. This perennial produces bright orange clusters of flowers on top of its stiff green leaves. Although the Butterfly Weed requires full sunshine to thrive, it is extremely tolerant to drought and very little watering is needed to keep them looking good. 


Also called the Purple Coneflower, Echinacea is in fact native to the Illinois region and it produces cheerful-looking flowers that will attract butterflies and bees to your garden. These flowers are low maintenance and live for quite a long time. 

New England Aster

These flowers are native to most of North America, with the exception of some Southern states and their purple-pink blooms return year after year without much effort being needed. Although moist soil is recommended when growing these, they don’t require a lot of watering and they will also attract bees and butterflies to your yard. 

Campanula (Pink Octopus)

This is another flower that is easy to care for and they are a great choice for planting along garden borders. It blooms with Japanese lantern-like buds that open with an intense pink flower and they drop down from upright flowering branches. 

Wild Quinine

Wild Quinine will perfectly complement any other bright and colorful flowers in your garden with their white buds. It does best in areas of full sunshine and requires just enough water to keep the soil around them damp. Beetles and bees will often feed on the pollen from these flowers as well.

Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia Goldstrum)

These flowers are extremely showy and colorful and they can grow in sunny or partially shady areas of your garden. They bloom for a long time and their golden yellow flowers have dark brown cones in their centers. 

Garden Phlox

Garden Phlox are known for growing extremely well all over the Chicago region and they prefer to be planted in sunny areas with soil that’s quite damp. These light purple flowers will often be seen blooming well into October. 

Having even a few of the above-mentioned flower varieties planted throughout your Chicago garden will ensure that it looks bright and cheerful – even on the hottest of summer days. If you would like to get your garden looking good for summer, but aren’t sure where to start, get in touch with us today. We will be able to provide you with the advice you need or even the team you require to landscape your garden to perfection. 

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Questions to Ask before Hiring a Residential Landscaper

Once you’ve decided to have landscaping performed in your yard, it will be time to choose a company that will not only be able to provide you with what you’ve requested, but that will also be available afterwards to keep your property looking good. Keeping the aspects below in mind and asking the right questions will help ensure that you choose a landscaping company that is reliable and well known for providing excellent customer service.

Are you Insured and Bonded?

Landscaping is extremely labor-intensive work, meaning that specialized equipment and a number of employees will usually be needed to get the job done. As such, you will need to know if your chosen landscaper or company is appropriately insured.

Any reputable landscaping company will carry general liability insurance that covers mishaps or accidents that cause damage to your property. In addition, they will need to provide proof of having workers’ compensation insurance for any employees that will be working on your property. If they cannot provide proof of these forms of insurance, you’ll be better off working with another company.

How Long have you been in Business?

It’s crucial to ensure that the company you’ve chosen has the required manpower, experience and skills to see your project through to completion. You don’t want to be stuck with a project that has been partially completed because of an insufficient number of employees or a landscaper that has taken on more than they can cope with.

Although there is nothing wrong with hiring a relatively new landscaping company, keep in mind that those that have been around for more than a decade or two must be providing clients with excellent end results if they’re still in business.

What is your Lead Time on my Project?

It’s essential that you know when your chosen landscaping company will be able to start your project. While many companies may promise to get started ‘right away,’ they sometimes end up putting your project on hold to go and work elsewhere because they’ve over-committed their services to too many clients at the same time.

Although you may sometimes wait a little longer for some companies to start your landscaping project, it’s better to know that it will be worked on from start to finish without standing for long periods of time in between.

What will Happen with Outdoor Pets while Work is being done?

Owing to the fact that many homeowners have pets living in their yards, it’s crucial to inquire what your landscaping company’s protocol will be in this regard. However, in cases where significant changes are going to be made to the yard, or where there’s a chance of pets escaping out into the street, it will be better to have them staying elsewhere until the project has been completed.

If you’ve been considering having your yard landscaped and would like to obtain a professional opinion or even an estimate of the costs that would be involved to do so, contact us today to set up an appointment.


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How to Pair the Right Plants, Shrubs, and Hedges with Your Home’s Exterior Design

Your home’s exterior design is what provides its curb appeal and makes it attractive to others in the neighborhood. Pairing different types plants, shrubs, and hedges with your home exterior can create a more cohesive look and amplify your style. Below are the most important factors to consider when making sure the plants you choose are right for your home.


One of the first things to consider is the height of the plant or shrub when it is fully grown. Depending on your home’s architecture, placing taller plants near the entrance or at the corners can help provide a more natural, purposeful look. If you live in a three-story Victorian home, for example, you can choose plants that grow as high as eight to 10 feet for this purpose. On the other hand, if you live in a ranch-style home, plants of that size would look out of place. It’s all about ensuring that the height of the plants or shrubs complements the height of your home without dwarfing it.


Many homeowners utilize specific color schemes in their home exterior design. Many prefer to keep the colors of their siding and roofing relatively neutral but use lawn décor and floral accents for pops of color. If your home’s exterior is gray with dark gray trim, for example, you might choose to plant flowers that offer bright pops of red and yellow for a pop of color contrast. You might even opt for some flowering shrubs at the corners of your home to help bring it all together. Another option involves choosing flower and shrub colors that complement your exterior design for the front yard but allowing yourself to enjoy the full spectrum of color in the rear.


Plants come in a wide variety of shapes and styles, so taking the time to plan ahead will help you achieve better pairings. Grasses, for example, can grow in a variety of different shapes. Some may be almost spherical while others are almost all height and virtually no width at all. Look at the front of your home from the street or the curb – or use a high-resolution photo – and try to visualize different shapes in different areas. Exterior design is all about catching the eye, so try to think of different ways to create focal points with plant and shrub shapes.


Last, but most certainly not least, homeowners should always consider the functionality of anything they plant in their yards. A beautiful oak tree is certainly a sight to behold, but it’s much more than just aesthetic. An oak tree can provide shade in the summer that makes your backyard more comfortable for children and even reduces your energy bills by deflecting direct sunlight. A tall hedge is more than just a statement piece; it can provide ample privacy in lieu of a traditional fence. In both cases, these options can provide homes for local wildlife and make your lawn a much more interesting place to spend time.

Choosing the right plants, shrubs, and hedges to pair with your home exterior design doesn’t have to be tricky. It’s all about choosing things that appeal to you and perhaps even provide some functionality or benefit while creating focal points with height, shape, and pops of color. A landscaped lawn is much like a work of art, so be sure to look at plenty of inspiration, decide what appeals to you, and then allow your creativity to flow freely.



Irrigation will be Important with the Summer Heat – Try Following These Watering Tips

Of all the things you do to take care of your garden, watering may seem like a no-brainer. Now that summer is in full swing, irrigation is more important than ever – especially if you live in a drier part of the country. Below are some watering tips from the pros that will help you improve your yields and blooms throughout the season.

Only Water When Necessary

This may seem simple enough, but the truth is that many people water their gardens automatically – without even thinking about it – whether or not the soil is actually dry. The best way to determine whether your plants need water is to use your finger to test the soil. The top may appear especially dry, but if you feel moisture in the top two inches, wait another day before irrigating. You should also pay close attention to the weather and avoid watering if good soaking rain is in the forecast within 24 hours.

Water Early in the Morning

Watering your plants in the heat of the day can do more harm than good. Water droplets amplify the heat of the sun, which can actually burn your plants and have a drastic impact on their beauty or their ability to produce fruits or vegetables. The best time to water your garden is early in the morning. This way, the water has the opportunity to evaporate from leaves and soak down into the soil before the sun rises too high in the sky. Watering at night can be problematic, too; if there’s no opportunity for the droplets on the foliage to evaporate, fungus may develop.

Water More, Not More Often

When your plants do need water, make sure that you’re thoroughly soaking the soil around their roots and not just dampening the ground. After all, the water needs to get to the plant’s roots, which are often just as large as the plant itself. Though aiming the hose directly at the root and soaking the soil definitely works, it may save you time to utilize a soaker hose or drip irrigation system, instead. Ideally, with each watering, you’ll want to moisten the top five to six inches of soil.

Stop Watering if the Edges of the Foliage Turn Brown

Finally, if you notice that the edges of your plants’ leaves are starting to turn brown, this is a surefire sign that you are overwatering. Usually, when a plant’s leaves begin to turn brown, people believe this is due to lack of moisture. If entire leaves are turning brown and wilting, this is true; however, if it’s just the edges of the leaves that look brown, this is a sign that there is too much water. Remember that plants take in nutrients through water, and if those nutrients are too diluted, the plants won’t be as healthy and strong.

If you want to get the most out of your flower or vegetable garden this summer, it’s important to follow these watering and irrigation tips carefully. Water your plants only when the first couple of inches of soil feels dry, and make sure you’re watering during the early morning hours when you do. Rather than watering a small amount daily, give your garden a good soaking every few days as needed. These things all work together to create a beautiful, bountiful garden. 



Why Now is the Best Time to Put Together a Springtime Landscaping Plan

If you’re dreaming of longer days and warmer temperatures, you are certainly not alone. Winters in the Chicago area can seem endless, but spring is here. In fact, if you haven’t put together your springtime landscaping plan, now is the perfect time to do so. Here are a few reasons to start now along with a few things to consider.

Determine Who Will Do the Work

One of the first things you should think about early on is how you will establish your springtime landscape. Do you want to make only a few small changes, or will you completely redesign things from the ground up? Are you familiar enough with the area and landscaping as a whole to design it yourself, or would you be better off calling a professional to help you with design, implementation, and maintenance? If you decide to hire a professional, calling early in the season is by far the best way to make sure you meet your landscaping goals on time.

Establish New Plantings & Germinating

When you start planning early enough in the season, it’s possible to have your plants established at the perfect time to put them in the ground. This is especially true if you’re thinking about growing certain flowers or vegetables from seed; it can take some time to germinate them, and in many cases, doing so indoors is the best way to protect the plant from the possibility of a cold snap in the early spring months.

Consider Your Maintenance Needs

If you have a fairly solid idea of what sort of things you want to plant for the upcoming warmer months, then you can also take the time to plan a maintenance schedule. Think about things like the number of plants you will have – trees, shrubs, flowers, and vegetables, especially – and then determine the work that goes into caring for them throughout the season. You also have the ability to call on a professional landscaping team to help you maintain your landscape if the yard of your dreams turns out to be more work than you anticipated.

Get Your Orders in Early

Unless you plan to grow everything from seed, late winter is the best time to put your order in with a local nursery. Decide on the type and quantity of plants you want for your landscape, then call or visit your local nursery to place an order. Though you can wait until you are ready to plant to take a trip and browse the selection, once the warmer months have arrived, there’s no way to guarantee that you’ll be able to find the pink pansies you really had your eye on. If you want specific plants, early orders are best.

Springtime landscaping can be a lot of fun whether you choose to do it all yourself or hire a professional landscaper to help you design it. Either way you go, it’s always best to plan things early so that you have everything you need to get the job done when the time comes.


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Budget Conscious Landscaping Ideas for the Front of Your House

When it comes to first impressions, the front yard is where it’s at when it comes to your Chicago home’s curb appeal. It can either make your property a stunning masterpiece or one that sticks out like a sore thumb. While creating an attractive landscape design is important, it also shouldn’t break the bank. There are many landscaping ideas for the front of the home that add that outdoor appeal while still being cost-conscious.

Here are some great budget-friendly front yard landscaping design ideas:

  • Go vertical with your design. Creating height with your outdoor design can instantly make it appear more high-end. Add tiered planters or rows of flower boxes to enhance the appeal of your front yard.
  • Fill in with evergreens. Evergreens such as boxwoods keep your home full of color all year long. They can be a great way to add texture and vibrancy without the upkeep of planting flowers annually.
  • Add a pathway using pallets. Reclaimed pallet wood can create a striking pathway between two points of interest. It can also add both function and beauty to the front yard.
  • Invest in landscape lighting. Good lighting isn’t just important for the inside of the home. It can also be an essential design element for the exterior too. Lighting adds security illuminating pathways while also highlighting your front yards existing architectural details.
  • Create landscape art. Landscape art can vary from large, all-encompassing designs to smaller pieces dotted throughout the yard. These features are a fantastic way to add unique features to your home that your guests will notice.

What to Avoid – Keep the landscaping ideas for the front of your home budget-friendly by also knowing what to avoid. First, steer clear of plants that require high maintenance such as frequent watering. This can really rack up the utility bill. Also, most water features are affordable enough to upkeep but you always need to consider replacement cost down the road. Lastly, don’t fall into the trap of believing that a DIY project is always the cheapest route. Hiring a professional to help design or install new landscaping can often save you time and money with many different types of projects.

When crafting a front yard landscaping design, there is always a lot to do. Seek out the help of a local Chicago landscaping contractor such as Martin John. We can lighten the load by creating the perfect plan for any size budget. From landscape design services to basic upkeep and care, our team helps your Chicago property shine all year long. Contact us today to schedule your consultation.

Lawn Fertilization

The DOs and DON’Ts of Lawn Fertilization

Most landscaping experts would tell you that one of the best ways to maintain a healthy, lush lawn is with good fertilization.  Being consistent in feeding your plants and grass ensures your vegetation is receiving the nutrients necessary to thrive.

While many of us have fertilized before, we often don’t consider what we can do to increase our chances of success.  In fact, there are many different ways we can either help or hurt our lawns when it comes to fertilization.  How you approach this outdoor chore can mean the difference between a flourishing, beautiful backyard and one that is just so-so.

Here are some of the DOs and DON’Ts for better lawn fertilization:


– DO consider a slow-release fertilizer. This type of formula breaks down nutrients more slowly allowing you to space out applications.

– DO check out your fertilizer package label. Each bag of fertilizer will have three numbers – one represents the percentage of nitrogen, one for phosphate and one for potassium.

– DO follow the directions for watering. Watering is essential for allowing the fertilizer to penetrate the soil.  Make sure to include a good soaking.

– DO overlap your application strips slightly so you have an even application.


– DON’T fertilize too often. If using a regular fertilizer, every four weeks is sufficient.  If using a slow-release formula, you can space it out to 6-8 weeks.

– DON’T go with the cheapest fertilizer you can find. Like most things, you get what you pay for when it comes to your lawn care needs.

– DON’T over or under water your lawn before or after fertilization. The right amount will provide the moisture necessary to break down the granules.

– DON’T miss any areas of the lawn during application. This could result in “dead spots”.

There are few things more important to a healthy lawn than the benefits of a good fertilization.  For help in taking care of your property’s landscaping needs, contact the team at Martin John Company.  We provide both our residential and commercial customers the expert care they are looking for.  Let us help give your grass, garden beds, and flowers the attention they deserve!

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Ask the Expert: All Your Lawn Care Questions Answered

Lawn care may seem easy but it can be a daunting task for the average homeowner.  In fact, it can be downright intimidating.  There are so many different ways to even the simplest of chores from mowing to planting and even trimming.  It can be tough to know which approach is the right one.

At Martin John Company, we help commercial customers throughout the North Shore area address all of their landscaping needs.  And we often get the same questions time and time again. Want to know what the experts have to say?  Here are the top questions we get and what you need to know!

How do I know when my lawn needs mowing?

During the warmer months, the typical lawn requires mowing weekly. Of course, periods of heavier rainfall may increase the need to trim.  Where you set the blade on your mower is just as important as how often you mow.  Keeping the blade too low can lead to a yellow and dried out lawn. The perfect height is one which only cuts the top 1/3 of your specific type of grass.

When is the best time to plant my flowers and vegetables?

To find the answer to this question, you should reference the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone map. The Chicago-area falls into the “5b” zone.  This map will let you know when it’s best to plant hardy flowers, delicate flowers, and different varieties of vegetables.

How often should I water my lawn?

The right watering schedule does not depend as much on how often you do it but more about how you do it.  Most lawns require about 1 to 1 ½ inches of water to keep it lush and healthy.  Watering is best done in the morning between 4 am and 10 am when the air is cooler.  Fewer, deeper soakings are better than more frequent, shorter sessions.

What’s the best way to deal with pesky weeds?

Hands down the best way to handle pesky weeds is by stopping them before they grow.  Applying a pre-emergent herbicide prior to seed germination is a great first step.  A post-emergent herbicide can be used for those already invading your lawn.  As always, an expert landscaper can help you keep even the toughest of unwanted weeds from taking over your lawn.

With a little lawn care know-how and an expert landscaper such as Martin John Company on your side, you are sure to have one of the best lawns in town.  Follow these professional tips to get your landscaping headed in the right direction while the days of summer are still here. Contact our team today to learn more about Martin John Company’s many lawn care services.

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Just Moved? How to Get to Know Your Landscaping

The housing market is moving fast these days. People are buying and selling like crazy in the Chicago area. If you just moved into a new home, it’s never too early to get to know your landscaping. Whether you have a well-manicured property or one that hasn’t been touched in years, there are a few things you can do to help familiarize yourself with the new surroundings.

Start with these four tips to get your new Chicago home’s landscaping off to a healthy start:

Inspect the Property

You should always start by inspecting your new property. Check for dead trees and plants that may cause trouble during heavy storms. You also want to look closely at your hardscapes including driveways, decks and patios. Look for cracks or signs of damage. Determine what needs to be addressed right away and what you can wait on.

Pruning & Weeding

If you are moving during spring, summer or fall, take time to prune the bushes and pull any obvious weeds. This can help create instant curb appeal while taming down any invasive species. It also can breathe new life into overgrown shrubbery and plants.

Notice Sun & Shade Spots

Before choosing new plants, grass, and flowers for your Chicago landscaping, you need to know where your sun and shade spots are. Take a peek outside during various times of the day so you can familiarize yourself on where and when the sun hits your home. This will help to determine not only which plants to buy but also where to place them.

Learn Your Region’s Climate

If you have moved from one regional climate to another, you’ll want to research your new climate. Knowing when the first frost occurs and when the ground begins to thaw is critical to protecting both new and old landscaping. If you plan to garden, you will also want to know when to plant and harvest your vegetables.

Many Chicago homeowners find it helpful to hire a professional landscaper to inspect their newly purchased home. Martin John Company offers landscaping consultation services for homes of all sizes throughout the North Shore area and beyond. We assess both your softscapes and hardscapes to determine the best ways to take care of your new property. Our crew members can advise you on what needs to get addressed right away and what to plan for the future. For those moving in winter, we also provide reliable snow removal services.

Call us today to learn more about our Chicago landscaping services.