There’s something about green spaces – gardens, forests, prairies, etc… – that calls to us to approach, to touch, and to explore. They effortlessly hold our attention, while also setting us free of stresses and worries. There’s a theory called the biophilia hypothesis, developed by Edward O. Wilson, that proposes our love of nature and other life forms is part of our evolutionary history and genetic makeup. We are attracted to life (animals and plants) because they support our life and have historically suggested a potential for food. We have evolved over time with a deep connection with nature and though the industrial age has largely shifted us away from nature, we potentially still have this internal urge to connect and subconsciously recognize its benefits to our lives. It’s in an interesting theory and may explain why the rustle of leaves, the rolling waves, and the crunch of a path beneath our feet seem to inherently draw us outside.Read More
The title of this post is a bit of a misnomer since the real beginning of summer annuals is December 15th (which is when nurseries ask for next year’s summer annuals orders), though you could argue that it begins even earlier when our client relations managers are developing annuals contracts and forecasting their summer annuals sales. However, in terms of installation, May 16th is our official start of summer annuals. With the threat of frost largely behind us (although this past weekend was not indication of that), we begin rolling out the summer designs. There may be some fluctuation on this date based on weather, but by and large this is it.Read More
Earth Day is an opportunity to recognize the impact that we all have on the environment and the ways that we can protect and improve it. Gardens that are designed well using appropriate plant material, properly addressing water and drainage on site, and installed using best management practices are all aspects of a healthy environment (and a beautiful space). Even little changes can make a difference. Planting natives, or bee and butterfly attracting plants, and installing bird feeders or insect houses can be a small, but effective way to have a positive impact on the environment.Read More
Go ahead and hug a tree. Perhaps not a hawthorn tree with all those thorns, but a friendly maple or littleleaf linden would be nice.
Illinois celebrates Arbor Day today (April 29) throughout the state (and nation) where communities and homeowners plant, nurture and celebrate trees. Arbor Day traces its roots (ha! get it?) to 1594 when a small village Spain held the first documented arbor plantation festival. Arbor Day is a day recognized around the world, and is often celebrated with the planting of a tree. In fact, in Nebraska, in 1872, an estimated one million trees were planted in furtherance of the cause.Read More
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
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.
It’s hard to believe that the end of summer is unofficially here. Somehow, we’re already three-quarters of the way through the year. What happened?! Similarly, how did we have 90 degree weather last weekend and 70 degree weather planned for this weekend? Mother Nature needs to work on her transitioning skills, but this is still beautiful weather so I can’t complain and I’ll take what I can get.
More than just beautiful weather, Fall is also a season with some truly stunning perennials – asters, Japanese anemones, goldenrod, black-eyed susans, coreopsis, autumn joy sedum, and a variety of ornamental grasses. When summer favorites start fading these perennials burst forth and stay strong, filling the void the summer flowers left behind. Without their presence in our gardens, it can be a long and dull wait for spring (especially if you don’t have plants that provide winter interest or early spring bulbs). So pull out your long sleeves and sweatshirts and enjoy this cool weather and the perennials still out there blooming for you.
Have I told you recently about how much I love bulbs? Maybe I’ve mentioned it once…or twice…but I strongly believe that bulbs improve your garden (and your life!). I’m going to go as far as to unscientifically claim that as fact.
I’m taking the time to wax ecstatic about bulbs again because now is the time of order and schedule bulbs for fall installation. Perhaps this is the most wonderful time of year, when all that lay before you are possibilities. Grab a bulb catalog, consult with your project manager, and internally debate daffodils vs. tulips vs . crocuses vs. winter aconite (unless you’re me, in which case replace ‘vs.’ with ‘and’). And just so you know that I’m not practicing what I preach, let me tell you that in a moment of weakness and excitement, I ordered 700 bulbs. I regret nothing; however, come late October I may be singing a slightly different tune when I have 700 bulbs demanding to be planted.
If your garden is overrun with squirrels, deer, and rabbits you may want to reconsider planting tulips, or plant the in such quantities that after they’ve had their fill you’ll still have some left over for your own enjoyment. What’s the seed saying…four seeds in a row, one for the rook, one for the crow, one to die, and one to grow? Have a similar mentality when it comes to tulips and you won’t be disappointed. That’s a bit of an exaggeration and depends on how many squirrels, deer, and rabbits are in your area; what other food sources are available; and if your house is the only source for a tulip bulb feast. Some other bulb options, which are not on the preferred list for these garden intruders, are daffodils, winter aconite, alliums, Siberian sqill, snowdrop, grape hyacinth, fritillaria, and a handful of others. The variety of daffodils alone could fill a garden for months. Add some snowdrops and alliums and extend your bulb season into late winter and early summer.
Embrace the possibilities and let us know how we can help your bulb dreams come true.