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
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
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.
Several years ago I read in the Farmer’s Almanac that viewing the sunrise on the Summer Solstice would bring good luck for the year. Whether that was true or simply an old Farmer’s tale, I figured I could use a little extra luck, so why not give it a try? It was quite a task getting myself up and out. Did you know the sun rises at 5:15 am on the Summer Solstice? It’s true. That means in order to get down to the beach from my house (a twenty minute drive) I had to get up at 4am, shower, dress, get my son up (he was 7 at the time and really wanted to go), prod him through eating and getting dressed, stop at Dunkin Donuts for coffee and hot chocolate and finally be on the way. We arrived at Gillson Park a little before 5, spread out the blanket and sat down to await the sun.
The interesting thing about the sunrise is that everything lightens up well before the sun actually makes its appearance over the horizon. So we sat and watched the sky lighten up, turning shades of grey, blue, pink and orange. We listened to the waves of Lake Michigan lapping at the shore. Quiet, peaceful, rhythmic. Sitting on the beach below the sand dunes with the lake spread out before us and the sky going on for miles, it felt like we were cocooned, set apart from the rest of the world. That we were in a little oasis, far away from our regular lives. When the sun finally appeared like a ball of fire over the horizon, it was breathtaking. My son was awestruck. He couldn’t believe how huge the sun was when it was fully over the horizon, or how orange, how bright. It only took minutes from the first flickering flames to the full circle being visible, but it was well worth it. We’ve now made it a tradition to see the sunrise every summer solstice since then.
Except this year. This year we missed it. And not for any good reason except I was just too tired. Work, life etc. it all gets in the way. We’re all so busy, working, being social, rushing from one thing to the next, connecting with everyone and anyone on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, whatever. It can get so overwhelming that the thought of having to get out of bed even one second earlier than is absolutely necessary becomes abhorrent. So we missed it. And to be honest, I’ve regretted it a little bit ever since. Not that I couldn’t have gone any other day, seen the sunrise, felt the peace and enjoyed the serene beauty, I could have, but it wouldn’t have been quite the same as going on the Solstice. Until the Autumn Equinox on Wednesday. This felt like another purposeful chance to see the sunrise. The greatest part about it? On the autumn equinox, the sun doesn’t rise until 6:39 am. So off we went, with our coffee, hot chocolate and donuts this time. I was happy to be there, to see the sand, the broad expanse of sky, to hear the waves, to feel the world recede and experience the calming effect of my surroundings.
And as I sat there, it occurred to me that this feeling is exactly what our clients have been raving about for years. I hadn’t really understood that until now. We do an outstanding job of designing the landscape. We choose beautiful plants and flowers. We have incredible teams of people doing amazing things during the installation. And we provide an incredibly high level of care to each property that we maintain. But the real magic of Scott Byron & Co. is the ability to manipulate that landscape so it creates a feeling. The feeling that you’ve stepped into an oasis far from the chaos of your regular life. A place of quiet beauty that envelopes you with a sense of peace and tranquility. A feeling created right in your own backyard, so you can enjoy that feeling every single day. That’s the magic. How does your backyard make you feel?
Last Saturday, approximately 80 Scott Bryon & Co. employees bused ourselves over to Hyde Park Elementary School in Waukegan to help clean and fix-up their school playground. It was amazing in many ways; not only did we have the chance to give back to the community, but we also had a chance to work alongside other members of the SBC family that we wouldn’t normally interact with on a day-to-day basis. I’m really fortunate to have the coworkers that I have, you couldn’t ask for a better group to work and hang out with for an afternoon.
Starting with a hearty doughnut breakfast, we loaded up on yellow school bus around 8 am and quickly devolved into kids, laughing and joking while debating the merits of the window lines (how critical is it to not open the windows too far?). It’s amazing how even people who don’t identify as morning people were able to rally for a great cause. After a little hi and hello from the principal (who later came out to move some mulch with us) and a group photo we were off to our designated areas. Removing and redistributing existing mulch, pruning vines and shrubs along the borders, planting new trees, scraping and painting existing play equipment, attaching basketball hoops and assembling picnic tables, and spreading new rubber mulch. I’m exhausted just remembering all the work accomplished. I was introduced to muscles I didn’t even know existed and by how sore they were I can only assume that they are rarely used (I’ve always been an indoor chore kind of girl, you know).
It was exhausting and sweaty work, but it was amazingly fun. I think it’s easy to get caught up in the insanity of the planting season and in our own office dramas of getting designs and proposals out to the clients. Tempers flare and you gradually become more and more annoyed as the season progresses, but then you come together for an event like this and you realize how fortunate you are and you also come to appreciate all the remarkable qualities of your coworkers. It feels good to joke around and enjoy the company of your coworkers, but it feels great to be able to do that while doing something for others.
It was an amazing day and we hope that the children of Hyde Park Elementary School and the community enjoy the using the playground as much as we enjoyed revitalizing it.
The past few weeks have been an exciting time to be an American…
Supreme Court rulings, talking about reestablishing embassies with Cuba, and advancing to the finals in the Women’s World Cup. Hurray, U.S.A.! Whether you agree with the rulings, relations, or sporting results, I hope you are at least admiring our American democratic process and our amazing athletic abilities. Bonus for us Chicagoans, and all Blackhawks fans really, for having a winning team. All this makes us proud to be an American! Life is good.
At Scott Byron & Co., we have been working tirelessly to complete a number of projects for our clients so that their gardens are ready for the 4th of July. No amount of rain, and it has certainly been abundant, has been able to thwart our efforts. The deluge of rain has meant significant plant and lawn growth, which is amazing to have, but also to a surge in weed growth, which is less amazing. No matter, our diligent Property Improvement team has kept on top and ahead of these potential issues. Working together, we’ve managed to keep more or less on schedule with mowing, pruning, and planting annuals. When deadlines seem impossible and even the weather refuses to cooperate, that’s when we really shine.
We hope that your 4th is filled with friends and family, Frisbees, water balloons, sunshine and cool breezes, burgers, hot dogs, potato salad, jello jigglers, taco dip, lemonade, deviled eggs, strawberry shortcake, root beer floats, and s’mores. That’s basically my dream list, so you may add and subtract as needed to make your own perfect holiday weekend. Be safe, be happy, and be well. Happy 4th of July!
Memorial Day is a very complex holiday to me. On the one hand, we celebrate the unofficial beginning of summer; on the other hand, we express our immeasurable gratitude to the people who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our welfare. Somehow, those two meet and we end up with a holiday weekend that, I think, ultimately celebrates life.
When I originally began thinking about what to write for today’s blog post, I was going to talk about memorial gardens…and I still am, I guess, but in a different way than I thought I would. You can search for memorial gardens and find any number of websites that will direct you to a list of plants, each with a specific meaning. But memorial gardens are so personal, so specific that it’s hard to know if that’s the right approach. Should you stick with the traditional plant palette of forget-me-nots (memories), rosemary (remembrance), yellow tulips (friendship), oak (strength), etc…or should you plant their favorite tree and flowers. I don’t know. That’s a question no one can answer for you, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t help.
Over the years, Scott Byron & Co. has done a fair amount of designs and installations of memorial plaques, trees, gardens, family cemetery plots, and even the layout and gardens around the mausoleum at Memorial Park Cemetery in Skokie. Everyone has their own idea for what they’d like and we’ve done our best to express a delicate design touch that recognizes the peace found in quiet spaces and the joy and comfort found in living trees and flowers. What is right for one family may be wrong for another, and it’s not something that can be prescribed by an internet plant list.
I don’t mean for this to turn into a depressing post and so I will leave you these interesting tidbits…As I was looking up plants and their meanings, I ended up going down an internet rabbit hole trying to figure out why yews are so prominently associated with cemeteries. What I can tell you is that nobody knows. There are a number of theories, but nothing that definitively says “We plant yews because XYZ.” Some texts speculate that they are appropriate for cemeteries because either yews represent immortality/the transcendence of death (because of their longevity) or because their leaves are deadly poisonous and their wood was used to make longbows. So they either represent life or death, depending on which side you believe.
Another thing I learned was that some early chapels were built inside hollow yew trunks and that a few could hold up to 30 people! It seems that we have always been as interested in death as we have been in life.
We hope you have a great holiday weekend that’s filled with love, friends, and family and we extend our love and gratitude to all the veterans who have done so much for us all.
The North Shore certainly does not have a shortage of landscape architect firms, so why decide to hire Scott Byron & Co. to design, build, and manage your property? Who are we, roaming around the North Shore and Chicago and into Wisconsin and Michigan?
We are a full array of people, both in front of you and hidden behind the plan and proposal before you. We walk the property with you, discussing improvements; we answer your call and direct you to an employee best suited to help you; and we install the designs to bring your garden to life. Designs are like living documents, always evolving based on specific site features. Our strength is understanding the design intention and client’s goals and interpreting them on site to make sure that your thoughts, transferred to the development officer and then to the designer, are installed as imagined.
For some of us in the office, you may never hear our voices, see our faces, or know our names, but we have come to know yours. We have trekked your property while surveying and inventorying; we have deciphered your municipality building and zoning codes; we have reveled in the joy of design (and the anguish of being stuck); we have discussed details with build teams; we have estimated and proofed for accuracy; and we have assembled with hope and pride a presentation package for your review. Your property is our labor of love.
Recently, Scott sent an internal SBC newsletter of sorts that spoke of the importance of customer service. Who are we, if not stewards for our clients and their property? You entrust us with your dreams and visions and, with each team’s success, we return them to you in finished form. We interpret, analyze, and re-imagine them, and then ultimately we make them work. Clients pick Scott Byron & Co. for our unwavering commitment to excellence. Our passion for our work translates directly to your property and we couldn’t be more excited to work with you and fulfill your dreams.
Fall is my favorite season and within it, October is my favorite month. There are many reasons for this preference (the cool, crisp weather; the fall colors; bonfires and s’mores; etc…), but one of them is because this is the prime time for apples. Sure, you can get the supermarket standbys like Gala, Jazz, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, and Granny Smith apples all year at your local supermarket, but during the apple season you can get more than your every day variety. Stayman, Empire, and Black Arkansas to name a few, as well as a number of other varieties that can be found at our local apple orchards and are ready to be picked and consumed by you. RIGHT NOW.
Maybe you’re reading this at 3am, just wandering the internet while sleep eludes you, and now you’re craving fresh, delicious apples, but the stores and apple orchards are closed. Why didn’t you buy apples during your last grocery store trip? So many regrets…However, just think if you had a small apple orchard in your garden. You could walk outside right now and, assuming they’re ripe, pull an apple off the tree and be enjoying it this very moment. Besides being able to immediately satisfy your cravings, I think apple trees are charming in the garden, especially as they age and become very architectural (i.e. gnarled and funky). As a bonus, you actually don’t need a lot of space to grow apple trees since they can be espaliered into a number of shapes which means you get food and beauty in one tree.
The growing and caring of apple trees are not without difficulties. Apple trees are notoriously prone to a number of diseases and insects – apple scab, powdery mildew, black rot, rusts, fire blight, aphids, apple maggot, codling moth, mites, and scales. It is critical to select diseases resistant varieties and to have good disease- and pest-management programs in place. Even resistant varieties are likely to require some amount of pesticide and/or fungicide application. Apple trees also require specific pruning so that the top branches to not overgrow and shade out the lower branches in order to have optimal fruit production.
Once you’ve determined that you are willing and able to maintain the apple trees as required, it’s time to pick your varieties. Apple trees are made of two separate parts, the scion and the rootstock. Since apples are not true to seed, all named cultivars are derived from one tree that has been cloned and grafted onto many rootstocks. The type of apple you grow is determined by the scion; the relative size of the tree you grow is determined by the rootstock. You can choose a standard, semi-dwarf, or dwarf root stock depending on the size of apple tree that you want. A standard apple tree will grow to approximately 20’ tall, a semi-dwarf tree will grow to approximately 15’ tall, and a dwarf tree to approximately 10’ tall. A semi-dwarf or dwarf rootstock is better suited for the residential setting. Also, apple trees are not self-compatible, so in order for apple trees to produce fruit you will need at least two separate cultivars that have viable pollen and bloom at the same time. In some instances, you may be able to find one tree that has two cultivars on the same rootstock. There are a handful of cultivars that are self-pollinating; even so, they will produce more fruit if cross-pollinated. If you don’t have two apple trees, all is not lost. Apple trees can also be pollinated with crabapple trees, as long as they bloom at the same time.
Apple trees require full sun and do not do well in heavy, poorly-drained soils and low spots. Placing a tree in low area not only leaves the tree in a location where water is likely to collect, but also potentially places it in a “frost pocket”, where cold air settles in low-lying areas. It is better to site your apple trees at a higher elevation that slopes away from the tree and away from wooded areas in order for cold area to flow away from the trees. If sited in a low-lying area, low spring temperatures can damage or kill the blossoms and developing fruit. Tree spacing varies depending on your rootstock, but can be anywhere from 4’-8’ to 15’-20’.
If you are limited in space, consider espaliering your apple trees. To espalier a tree means to train its branches to grow flat, often against a wall or supported by a lattice. The different shapes to espalier your fruit tree into are typically the horizontal cordon, fan, informal, Belgian fence, or candelabra shapes. Some espalier shapes are better than others depending on the cultivar you’ve chosen. For example, McIntosh apple trees tend to already be horizontally branching, so it will be easier to train it into a horizontal cordon shape. Espalier trees are beautifully architectural and offer year-round interest with its structure. They also tend to make the fruit more accessible to people.
Whatever your space, or apple preference, there is an apple tree for you. Let us help you select the right variety for your site and establish disease- and pest-management programs so that you get the most out of your apple trees. So consider adding apple trees into your garden and embrace the convenience and charm of your own personal orchard.
SIDENOTE: In the time I spent researching about apple varieties and the growing and care of apples, I came across a couple of articles that I feel are worth sharing. They talk about the loss and current gradual resurgence of America’s apple heritage. I feel a wistful nostalgia for the apple varieties that were once so well loved and are now barely more than memories. I didn’t even know the varieties they spoke of, but reading the articles struck me in a way that made me wish that I did know them and to plan a trip to the East Coast. One day I will make it out there and rather than a grand crab cake and lobster food tour, I will navigate the coast in search of these heirloom varieties and take a bite of apple history.
Why Your Supermarket Sells Only 5 Kinds of Apples: