It’s that time of the year again, the Masters at Augusta National are in full swing (ha! pun intended). Some people watch for the players and their amazing golf feats, but I tend to be more interested in the course setting. I longingly look at their blooming azaleas and dogwoods and wonder why I’ve committed myself to Chicago’s “winter-springs.”Read More
Sometimes the most complex project, or project element, springs forth from a seemingly simple question. That’s where the art of problem solving comes in. For this project, the question was “How can we get the client to the beach from their house at the top of the bluff?” A simple A to B problem that has many solutions (a funicular? a set of steps? a ramp? a slide?), but only one that worked for the client. Getting to that solution took a lot of discussion, concepting, trial and error grading plans, and most importantly a lot of collaboration between the architect (Dirk Denison) and the carpenters (Landek Specialties) and the railing fabricator (O’Brien Metals).Read More
Last Friday I had the pleasure of attending the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Landscape Architecture’s student career fair with my fellow designer, Kristi Krumtinger. Both of us are graduates of the program so it’s a special delight to go back and talk with the students about Mumford and TBH studios, shared professors, and shared experiences. The enthusiasm and passion pouring out of these students have yet to be dampened by budgets, committees, or zoning codes. Though these things all offer means towards creative solutions and collaborations, there’s something about a design that uses pure gold and black granite as design elements that makes me smile (as a classmate of mine had one proposed). The U of I students, both MLA and BLA, presented themselves beautifully with well thought out designs and innovative ideas. One student we interviewed proposed a tornado route that in theory could attract and guide tornadoes around a city. Even as real world limitations take their hold, I hope they always dream and plan as big as they are able. Let the mind of a student never be curtailed!Read More
Where does the time go? I think that the mild start to winter has somehow skewed my sense of time…the warm weather through December makes me feel that since there is now consistently “winter-cold” weather outside that winter is just now starting. Instead, the reality is that winter is nearly over. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. I walked around my yard the other day and saw just the very tip of bulb foliage peeking up through the mulch. The relief I felt was immense. Parts of winter feel like a trial, just a day-in and day-out struggle to not pack everything up and move to warmer state.Read More
It’s amazing how quickly time flies. Eternal summers and endless winter breaks have turned into mere blinks of an eye. One minute I’m complaining about how hot I am and the next minute I’m reminiscing about the joyful warmth of summer. There just doesn’t seem to be enough time and I became especially aware of that when I was asked what my New Year’s resolution is for 2016. I never even fully committed (or even decided) what my 2015 resolutions were going to be.Read More
Some say that this is the most wonderful time of year and since we’ve been spared the bitterly cold weather (so far) I am especially inclined to agree. Over the years, the most wonderful part of the season has evolved from presents, sledding down hills at breakneck speeds, baking cookies, listening to Ray Conniff’s Christmas albums…actually you know what, I still love those things. They’ve just become a mixture of seasonal traditions and holiday traditions. Decorated butter cookies don’t even taste right unless I’m singing Bing Crosby’s “Mele Kalikimaka” in my head.
I don’t know at what point something becomes a tradition. Does it take a dozen exactly repeated occurrences? A passing along to the next generation? Who knows, and it’s hard to know what thing will become a tradition. Growing up, my family dabbled in maybe-traditions, like eating rice pudding and whoever had the almond could open the first present. Nice try Mom and Dad, but present-opening cannot be moderated! Other things came and went and are now creeping back in to the fold, like using the fine china and polished brass flatware. Sometimes charm and traditions are sacrificed for the sake of efficiency and sanity, but I encourage you to hold on to your traditions as tightly and for as long as possible.
With as many long-term employees as Scott Byron & Co. has it’s no wonder that it has developed its own traditions. Over the years we have made pun-filled holiday cards, an end-of-the-year holiday party, various potlucks, dressing up for Halloween, and a summer BBQ all a part of the SBC life. And of course there’s our tradition of excellent service to our clients (let’s not forget)! This year I’m attempting to start a new tradition of exchanging cookies. If sugar and butter doesn’t win people over then nothing can, right?
If you have any favorite traditions I’d love to hear them and somehow make them my own. Happy holidays and I hope the season is filled with your favorite traditions.
It’s hard to believe that Thanksgiving is next week. Somewhere between the first new design of the year, back on January 9th, and the 108th design (our current number) the seasons have passed us by. 108 new designs, that’s amazing! It doesn’t even include all the revisions and add-ons to existing projects or most of the projects brought in by our Property Improvement group. So much to be thankful for – our clients, our subcontractors, and of course the employees of Scott Byron & Co.
Last month we lost a dear friend and coworker that had been here since the beginning of the company and he is remembered with such love and affection. His name is Don Shipley and we are thankful for the years we had to know him, whether 5 years or 35 years. His memory lives on in our hearts and in his stories that we still tell. Seeing the outpouring of love for Don really brought all the things in my life that I should be thankful for into sharp focus. Family, friends, coworkers (who are my second family), my health, home, and education are just the smallest sampling of things that I am thankful for each and every day. I can read my favorite books; I can talk to my parents and siblings; and I can safely walk around where I live. I hope you take the time to realize all the things you are fortunate to have and grab hold of them with fierce determination and love and affection and let them know how much they mean to you (assuming they’re people…or pets!). Take a moment to reflect on all the good things in your life, whether they were once here, are here now, and will be here one day in the future.
Take care, be safe, and I hope you have a very happy (and thankful) Thanksgiving.
Starting on Friday and continuing through Monday, the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) hosted its annual convention at McCormick Place in Chicago. It was my first national convention and from what I’ve heard it has also been a record year with approximately 6,000 attendees. In comparison to architects and engineers, we’re a relatively small professional group so it feels like you’re never more than six degrees of separation from one another. Regardless of knowing the people sitting around me during the lectures and the tour of three cultural neighborhoods in Chicago (Chinatown, Pilsen, and Little Village), I had a great time.
There’s something very energizing about being surrounded by people who share your passions, speak your general professional language, and openly share their ideas and struggles with you. There were talks on gentrification and environmental justice, on designing the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, on coordinating and constructing Governors Island in New York, and a number of firm profiles that ranged from residential design, to commercial design, to international design, and all the way to eco-lodges with indigenous people. What a varied group!
I wasn’t able to take many pictures because the convention area was a no-photo zone, except for ASLA photographers, but I did take a few pictures from my tour of the Chicago neighborhoods that I am happy to share. We did a quick run through of Ping Tom Park and the Chinatown neighborhood. Bonus for those who go to the park, if you exit at S. Wells St, turn right down wells and look left (down the first alley) and you’ll see a house with beautifully painted railings and fence (black with gold accents). Of course I didn’t take a picture as I was trying to keep with the group and running to the next stop, but you should check it out. Let the mystery of what it looks like lure you towards Chinatown.
After Chinatown, we loaded ourselves onto the bus and headed to the Pilsen neighborhood to look at the ruins of the Zion Evangelical Lutheran Church and the community open space for its neighbors that was created by John Podmajerksy (whose family still owns the church ruins and all the properties surrounding the open space). It’s a nice open area that fosters art and creativity with its central stage. The stage could certainly use some maintenance, but it’s nice to hear that it’s being used instead of being torn down.
Afterwards we went to the Benito Juarez Community Academy (which I didn’t take a picture of) where there was an adjacent courtyard/park. It serves as a performance space, an area for the farmer’s market, and any number of other things requiring a large space. No pictures, but you’ll recognize it by the number of deteriorating bronze statues donated by Mexican officials. Pilsen has one of the lowest rates of open space so this is really a great amenity for the community.
The other day I was with a friend visiting her grandmother and was asked what landscape firms are doing now that summer is over. It’s a fairly common question and I understand why people believe that we are wrapping up for the year when all the garden centers are selling plants at discount and are shortening their work hours.
It may be surprising to you to know that while many of these garden centers are tucking in for the winter, we are ramping up to complete as many projects this year as possible. One of the limiting factors for smaller companies is the availability of plants to them. With our holding yards in Lake Bluff and Wadsworth, we are able to stock plant material so that we can continue our work for as long as the weather cooperates. The cooler fall temperature is gentler on newly installed plants and the soil is still warm, which allows for root growth. In addition to all the plants still going in the ground, we’re also installing fall annuals to take us through Thanksgiving as well as gearing up for winter interest planters and containers. Some summer annuals are still holding strong due to our fairly mild weather right now, but for those who have bloomed their last bloom we are switching them out for new flower displays
There will certainly come a time this year when planting is no longer feasible, but we are a little while away from that time. When we reach it we’ll switch gears to boulder work, retaining walls, grading and drainage work. At the moment though, we’re still enjoying the weather and the outdoors and spreading that enjoyment to you and our clients.
There comes a time when you look out your window to your garden beyond and think, what happened? Your once meticulously manicured garden had over time become overgrown, poorly maintained or pruned, or any number of other factors that may render your garden as less than ideal. It happens to all of us at some point. Plants have natural life spans that may be 20 years or 100 years. They may have been pushed to the edge of their preferred environment – maybe a little wetter or with a little more shade than the plant wants. They’re alive, but don’t thrive and it becomes apparent over time. Another situation may be that you’re garden has become a site for a number of singular plants (I am guilty of this). You go to a garden center, or a plant sale somewhere, and you see a plant that you love and you have to have it. You have no idea where you will put it, but you’ll find a place and make it work. The problem is that many plants simply don’t work as specimen plants that sit alone. And so you end up with a very random and incongruous arrangement.
Sometimes the issues with your garden aren’t the plants themselves, but rather the hardscape elements. After a while, your terrace may begin to have areas that buckle or sink, fences may begin to sag or lean, deck boards may begin to splinter and buckle, or masonry walls may begin to crack. These are all issues that should be addressed and sooner rather than later. You can correct these issues before they get out of hand and require reconstruction.
Regardless of how your garden has evolved into its current state, it’s never too late to evaluate and rejuvenate your landscape. We have amazing people throughout the company that can help you identify areas that may need a little (or a lot) of TLC. Some areas may need just a little help, perhaps some pruning and filling in, or thinning out, existing planting beds. Other areas may need some moderate work, maybe some lawn repair and removing and replacing struggling or dead plants. In the worst of cases, the area may need a full overhaul and need some attention from the design department. Whatever the situation, you can trust our team to give you honest and thoughtful advice.