Urbanites and countryside dwellers alike cherish their outdoor space – living, eating, and socializing alfresco – in the open air. A quick look above the clouds, and you’ll find the next big trend in luxury living. Rooftop decks are “private vacations” that practically extend from the design and luxury of the home, and with the arrival of warmer weather, you will want to spend as much time outdoors in these natural living rooms. Read More
The Windy City is known for its towering skyscrapers, extensive suburbs, and urban landscape, but a recent trend brings Chicago back into the environmental spotlight. Over 500 buildings have invested in green roofs, building rooftops that are covered with vegetation. The lush and vibrant plants are not only aesthetically-pleasing but come with multiple social, economic, and environmental benefits for the urban and suburban homeowner.
Green roofs are an extension of the original roof with additional drainage systems to allow for the growing of plants. It is a unique element of a home or building rather than an interactive living space. Roof decks and roof gardens are outdoor living and working spaces with a design build. They are similar to outdoor terraces that are used for relaxation, social gatherings, and family time.Read More
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
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
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.