Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Happy Holidays!

At the holiday season, 
our thoughts turn gratefully to those who have made our progress possible. 
It is in this spirit that we say... 
Thank you and best wishes 
for the holidays and happy New Year.

happy holiday.png

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Holiday Lighting, How to spend less and get more.

According to Home Advisor the average holiday lighting installation nationally is $774. This may not seem like a huge investment to spread a little holiday cheer in the neighborhood right? How about after 5 years at an average of $3,870? Does it still sound like a good investment? Are you also putting up orange lights for Halloween? What about your summer landscape lighting, how much do you spend maintaining old light bulbs and replacing transformers?

What if we can combine all of your seasonal lighting with your summer landscape lighting? Using the Luxor ZDC we can accomplish this and even more. With a few swipes on your smart phone you can instantly dim and change colors of each light individually. At Christmas time you can change your lights to red, green and white without ever leaving the house. No more climbing trees, messing with tangled wires or falling off a roof. Having a Green Bay Packer party this Sunday? With some simple programming, you can click on your previously programmed GO PACK setting and instantly your lights turn to green and gold. Badgers are on tonight? Click your BUCKY program and go red! Once installed, you are set for every event, holiday by using your existing landscape lighting.

Learn more on our website or complete the contact form here.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Dummies' Guide to Winter Ponds in Wisconsin

It's getting to be that dreaded time of the year again in the Madison area. A few months filled with angst wondering if your finned friends will emerge from winter unscathed. Hopefully you have taken some recent steps to ensure that will be the case. You stopped fertilizing the plants long ago and you haven't fed the fish since the water temperatures went below 55 degrees. You have cut back the plants and either netted the pond or have removed any fallen leaves that worked their way into it. Take advantage of the video I posted above to learn more. In the meantime, here's a quick reference list provided by Aquascapes:
  • To shut your pond down, first unplug your pump and pull it out of the water. The pump should be stored in a frost-free location, submerged in a bucket of water to keep the seals from drying.
  • If you have fish, a small re-circulating pump that bubbles at the water surface is necessary to oxygenate the water. In all but extremely low temperatures, the bubbling of the pump will also keep a hole open in the ice to allow for a gas exchange, keeping your fish alive. It is not necessary to oxygenate the water or keep a hole open in the ice if you don't have fish.
  • If your area experiences long periods of extremely cold weather, you may consider adding a floating de-icer. Controlled by a thermostat, the unit only runs when the water temperature is at or below freezing, heats the water to just above that, and then shuts off again. Ask your installer or local supplier for products to help your pond during the winter.
  • If you use a floating de-icer, place it away from the bubbler. The movement of the water can move the heated water away from the de-icer, making it run more than necessary.
  • You can also choose to keep the waterfall running. This will require a little babysitting to make sure an ice dam does not form which could cause water to run out of the Pondless® Waterfall/ Pond basin. You will also still need to replace water loss so the pump can continue to function properly (see "The Water Level" above). This extra effort during the winter will reward you with the most beautiful ice formations and patterns around the falls and stream beds.
If it all sounds like too much this year complete this all in one step by signing up for Pond Shut Down Services!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Fall Clean Up Tips for the Madison Area

If you haven't signed up for fall clean up services, it's time to dust off your rake. Other than removing all the leaves, what else should be on your checklist?
  1. Winterize your lawn - Think of skipping this step as like sending a bear into hibernation without any stored fat! I'll discuss more on this next month.
  2. Watering shouldn't stop. If you have recently planted or potted plants, continue to water them. The easiest rule of thumb here is to water until you have to shut off the spigot for the winter.
  3. As mentioned in previous posts Thatch & Aerate
  4. Cut back and divide. Fall is a great time to tackle division of grasses, hosta, day lily, and other overcrowded plants.
  5. Lower your mowing deck again for a slightly lower cut.
  6. There's still time for fall planting as well.

5 Quick Tips About Fall Planting in Dane County

"Fall is for Planting" isn't just a marketing slogan. In fact, marketing and impatience is why most consumers complete planting in spring. Fall planting is the best way to get the highest rate of return on your investment as possible. Temperatures are mild, which mean woody plants and perennials will root faster. The typical droughts of August have passed and the cool nights of fall mean turf will establish quickly as well.

Follow these tips for fall plantings success:

  1. Whenever possible buy flats or in larger groups. Nurseries and Greenhouses do not want to carry the remaining stock over the winter. The more you buy, the more you save. Look through their inventory and consider completing borders and mass plantings with remaining plant stock. 
  2. Check the roots. When choosing perennials and smaller shrubs, pop the pot off and take a look at the roots. Often, staff has been cut down at this point and plant stock may not have been potted up. Fall sales might specifically include root bound plants as it is cheaper to discount them than it is to pot up a size this late in the year. 
  3. Have a lot of trees to plant? Consider bare root. We've planted hundreds of bare root trees for long term privacy screens, shade, or wind screens. If you are not in a race to get the largest tree possible, Check online catalogs with excellent customer reviews. Soak them in water for 24 hours as soon as they arrive and then plant away.
  4. Pick the plants who have current interest. We tend to shop on impulse and by sections of the yard we are trying to improve. I typically recommend clients complete tasks one a time rather than improving specific areas. Why spend money on a bed edger 5 times? Put in all your beds at once even if you won't plant them all right away. Pay attention to seasonality by shopping for only plants that have current seasonal interest. By only spring flowering plants in spring and buy plants with fall interest in fall.
  5. It's ok to go small. Save more money by choosing smaller plants in fall. As mentioned, the larger plants may be root bound anyway. Since you are planting in fall, you wont have water, nutrient and other competition issues with weeds. Most the weed seeds are now dormant and shouldn't be a factor. By the time they are competing with your smaller plant selections, it will already be established and adapted to its new habitat.

Read on

Monday, August 31, 2015

Why We Love September (And You Should, Too!)

September is derived from the latin Septem as it was once the 7th month of the old Roman calendar. We all know 7 is a lucky number. There's 7 wonders of the world, we describe ourselves as being in seventh heaven. Even though it became the 9th month of the year (thanks Caesar?), if you ask me, September is the best month of the year. We kick it off with a three day weekend that signals us to get outside and enjoy the final weeks of summer. It has the best weather of any month and that's true pretty much no matter where you go in the US. Football has reclaimed its rightful place at the helm, and kids are off to school again.

Summer goes by in the blink of an eye and September seems to be a month where we can slow down a little, take a deep breathe, and enjoy. Take stock of what you have accomplished since the snow melted and make a plan to complete what simply fell off the plate. All too often, we don't appreciate being healthy until we get sick. It won't be long before you are relegated to staring into the backyard from your kitchen window dreaming of the perfect weather and green grass. Well guess what? The grass is green and the temperature is perfect. Take a long nap by the pondless waterfall, invite some friends over for a barbecue, or gather the kids by the fire pit for some s'mores this weekend. Make some memories you can call upon this February from that kitchen window.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Aeration: How to Cure Hard-Core Lawns

I hear a lot of people talk about aeration as if it isn't really part of necessary lawn maintenance. It is only for golf courses and the guy who wants the best lawn on the block. You might even have this gentleman as your neighbor. He's the guy you see in his yard at 5:00 in the morning with a dandelion puller while you have your morning coffee. You have already conceded to Mr. Jones and determined since you won't be pulling weeds at 5:00 with him, you probably don't need to aerate like he does either. While Mr. Jones might be completing aeration twice a year, how do you know if and when you should be?
  • Typically a compacted lawn is thin. If you haven't changed any other lawn care practices recently and the lawn seems to be getting thinner every season, it's time to aerate. 
  • If you now swear that fertilizer is also a waste of time and money, it's time to aerate. Mr. Jones lawn looks great after he fertilizes right? It must be the brand he is using! Fertilizer won't do you much good over compacted soil as it can't penetrate it. The nutrients simply wash away and never reach the roots.
  • You seem to have more wash outs than normal after rainfall. Again, if you haven't made any changes to the grade or surrounding area and suddenly mulched or other areas are washing out, it's time to aerate. Just as compacted soil won't allow nutrients to reach the roots of your turf, it won't allow water to infiltrate either.  Not only does this create more runoff, it also forces the turf into drought stress earlier than it normally would.

"OK, OK I get it, but when should I do it?" If it has been awhile and/or you have never completed it before, aerate a few weeks before you fertilize. Then complete an annual aeration about month before our first frost.

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Jobs Done Right

As the saying goes, "If you think hiring a professional is expensive, wait until you hire an amateur."
My son had a recent experience that certainly taught him this. He just turned 16 and we bought him a car. He wanted to upgrade the factory stereo and purchased all the new equipment. Rather than hire a professional he decided it would be cheaper to have a "friend" install it all for him. His friend had "experience". Long story short, his $800 upgrade turned into a $3,000 bill for me. How? This "less expensive" installation blew out the electronic steering module, the head stereo unit, and the new amplifiers he purchased. The car also needed to be jumped every 6 hours with or without the now non-functional stereo connected to the battery. In the end he spent $800 and I spent $3,000 getting it all fixed. After taking his lumps and speaking with the professional who fixed it all he discovered it would have cost $1,700 for the same system he now has if he would have came to them in the first place. It is now professionally installed, warranted, and higher end equipment. To save money he spent $2,100 extra! Wait a minute, I guess I spent $3,000 extra!

I see this every year in the green industry as well. "That's more expensive, another guy proposed something different for much less". I tell all of our customers that 40% of our water feature division alone is completing rebuilds from either other companies or weekend warrior installations. Some people, like my son, just need to find out for themselves the hard way. When the job goes bad and we get a call to rebuild it, my price is now increased. "But some of the work is done shouldn't it be less"? No so fast, there is now more work to complete just to get the job back to a blank slate so we can build a quality feature.

This certainly doesn't mean the most expensive price is the highest quality or best company for the job either. Some businesses just price for higher margins. We pay benefits to our employees so we can retain an educated and dedicated staff. Our equipment is reliable and well maintained, we use higher quality products, we offer warranties, and we carry the proper levels of insurance and complete extensive training. These things cost money and the investment results in projects that exceed customer expectations. It should always be a question of value rather than price. Rarely do two companies propose the exact same design or materials. The question is what are you getting for your money? Two identical boxes can be certainly be priced the same, but one of them may be empty.

Read on

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

5 Facts About Rainwater Capture That Will Impress Your Friends

About 20% of my spring appointments are for drainage correction issues. A good portion of these properties either have an exposed basement where they really shouldn't or they are the lowest grade of the neighboring properties. There is often no simple surface grade adjustments we can make to alleviate the problem without working sub-grade.

This means we have to find a retention, storage, and/or reuse solution. The ideal solution however would happen "upstream". If a portion of the higher grade properties were also storing and reusing some of their rainwater, the downgrade property most likely wouldn't have a problem to begin with.

Prevention is the Key
As we continue to create more and more impermeable surfaces, rainwater collection and reclamation will become even more important. There are many options to choose from today. My favorite is the Rain Xchange System. Rain barrels are great, but let's be honest, even the terracotta colored plastic versions with formed planters are pretty unsightly. Rain gardens are functional, but they take up a considerable amount of space, don't allow the reuse of water, and in our climate they are attractive as a landscape feature for a very small window of time. The Rain Xchange system by Aquascape not only prefilters the water before capture, it allows for a decorative landscape fountain that is both functional and beautiful. It keeps the water recirculating and oxygenated all while providing visual and acoustic appeal. Add an optional booster pump and connect your garden hose right to the reservoir or even a float valve and water your vegetables or perennials with the stored water. Reduce your water bills, and enhance your landscape all while doing your part to conserve.

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Sunday, May 31, 2015

Outdoor Living Trends

Have you taken notice of the tiny house movement? Consumers have spoken and bigger is not necessarily better. This is especially true when it comes to our outdoor living environment. Current trends don't point to scale, they point to detail, craftsmanship, comfort, sustainability, and convenience. Even in expansive outdoor landscapes, large spaces are now broken into several intimate areas used for different entertainment and activities. We are getting back to spaces where we can relax and reconnect. The word Staycation is now included by Merriam-Webster as "a vacation spent at home or nearby." The concept has now evolved to the point where we are constructing spaces for a daily retreat, not just a vacation at home.


I have been involved in landscape design and construction for over 25 years now. Through my work experience and education the most exciting and fascinating thing to me in all that time is water. Landscaping is a blend of art and science. To me, water is the perfect representation of this. Scientifically, it is the only natural substance to exist in all three physical states at temperatures that naturally occur on earth. It is the most important resource in the world, sustaining all life. Whether it is a natural lake, small reflecting pool, a decorative fountain, or a pond or pondless waterfall, we are captivated by it. We find solace and healing in the sound of flowing water and by the shimmering surface of our favorite lake shore. Perhaps this is a deep primitive connection as we know we can not survive without it. Or maybe it is simply beautiful. Either way, the incorporation if water into our living environments is becoming more of a necessity than a convenience.

Outdoor fire pits and seat walls became a staple of all well rounded outdoor living environments in the last few years. They provide the perfect evening gathering place for the family. Modular block and fire rated adhesives have now lead us right to the outdoor fireplace. After many years of push back I finally accepted a gas fireplace inside our house. While they are available, you won't find me giving up the smell of a campfire on my outdoor patio for an outdoor gas fireplace. That isn't to say a gas fire bowl is out of the question!

There are a lot of things in my field that excite me, but as I get older there seems to be fewer and fewer innovations that astound me. The Luxor system by FX- Luminaire did just that during the 2014 season. Elegance is the word the comes to mind first. The basics of lighting design remain the same, the difference now is that you can even program and automate alternating lighting design principles as the evening progresses. Light your patio table with an overhead light during dinner at 100%. At 7:00 as the party moves to the fireplace the seat walls and pillar lights increase to 80% and the table light slowly dims. As the party continues all backyards lights dim to 10% and the backdrop splash lighting increases to 60%. When the night is over all lights go dark except the pathway lights to the front gate. Better yet, lets say you came home early and the kids decided to have some uninvited friends over while you were gone. Pull out your smart phone, click your programmed "Party is Over" button and every light beams up to 100%!

Learn More

Thursday, April 30, 2015

These are not your Mom's Pavers

I laid my first patio over 30 years ago. My father paid me 1 cent per brick laid and I hauled them 10 at a time in my radio flyer wagon. I thought building a patio was the coolest thing a 10-year-old could do and I spent the entire summer doing it. By August, I'm pretty certain I didn't think it was that cool anymore. Naturally, the bricks were 4" x 8" Holland Pavers as this was the only option for nearly the next 15 years. There is an astounding variety of colors, we could purchase red, brown, or black. The next summer I was provided with gloves and a spray bottle and tasked with ant patrol and weed removal. Thinking back, I have no idea what was in the bottle, but it certainly didn't work. By the end of the summer, most of it looked more like a garden and the ants had turned it into a large encampment. When I was 13 Dad threw in the towel and once again paid me 1 cent per brick to dust of the radio flyer, take the patio apart, and stack them in the back woods. Between this and mowing our 3 acre lawn with a push mower, I was told I would be "building character instead of a patio". At the time, I wasn't sure what he meant by that. I certainly didn't refer to the giant brick stacks in the woods as a character? I came home after baseball one day and a new poured concrete patio had arrived. Dad was pretty happy the following summer and so was I. There were no weeds to pull and no ants to be found. That didn't last long as we had 3 sections repoured and several of the steps mud jacked through my high school years. As the saying goes, "There are only two kinds of poured concrete; brand new and all cracked up."

Thankfully, I didn't have to call my sons to arms with the same patio battle. With the introduction of polymeric sand, ants and weeds growing through the patio is ancient history. New glues allow us to provide bonding even stronger than mortar and paver colors, shapes, and patterns have evolved to allow us incredible design options. Professional grade pavers today can have a compressive strength up to 4 times that of conventional poured concrete. Mudjacking is not in my boys future either as repairing a paver patio is as simple as pulling up a few pavers, adjusting the base, and simply relaying them. Borders, accents and inlays allow us to include intricate details that move not only the eyes but assist in defining space and controlling traffic flow. In future posts, I'll discuss each of these topics and we haven't even mentioned permeable pavers, seat walls, fire pits, or outdoor kitchens yet!

Read on

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Complete Beginner's Guide to Pond Clean Outs

The snow has melted, early bulbs are starting to pop out and you can't wait to get your pond up and running for the summer.It is time for a full spring clean out to remove all of the debris build up on the bottom of the pond. Spring clean outs help keep the fish happy and the water clear. Complete your clean out before the water temperature climbs above 55 degrees.

Items you will need:

Once you have gathered the materials watch the video for step by step instructions. If it sounds like too much work complete the online request and we'll do it for you!

5 Reasons to Save Your Ash Trees

Emerald Ash Borer (Agrilus planipennis) was first found in 2002 attacking Ash trees in Michigan. It is estimated that 50 million Ash trees have been killed as the spread continues throughout the Midwest. Aside from the loss in aesthetic and monetary value of these trees, the environmental impact is nothing short of astounding. According to the National Wildlife Federation, the losses can potentially translate into an additional 33 million tons of CO2 in the atmosphere annually and an additional $4 billion in energy costs. A single acre of forest absorbs 6 tons of CO2 and releases 4 tons of oxygen. The US Department of Agriculture reports the net cooling effect of a single tree is equivalent  to 10 room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours per day.

So where do we draw the line in deciding to remove, replace, or treat our Ash trees? The Forest Service estimates that healthy mature trees can add up to 10% to a properties value. The bottom line is it will typically cost less to treat a mature tree than it will to remove and stump grind it. If the tree is less than 40% declined, it can be saved. The average cost of removal, grinding, and replacement is roughly $1,800. Keep in mind the replacement tree will only be 1-2" caliper. The average cost of annual treatment is $150. EAB is expected to move through a given area within 5-6 years. If we consider 7 years of annual treatment,  you are able to keep your large, mature ash tree for almost half the cost of removal. The most effective window of treatment is in spring while the tree is actively growing.

As you can see the reasons to save your tree are simple:
  • Aesthtic Value
  • Energy Savings
  • Environmental Impact
    • Reduced CO2 & Air Pollution
    • Noise Pollution Reduction
    • Soil Protection
  • Replacement Cost Savings
  • Property Value

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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Why the Next 10 Years of Landscape Design Will Smash the last 10

"Landscape Architecture" was first loosely tied to the relationship between built and natural forms in the early 1800's. George Oskar redefined the concept in the mid 1800's through his design of Central Park in New York. Not only did it then become a professional title, but it now referred specifically to the composition of landform, paving, and construction. While we tie the title and more "scholarly" applications to this more recent history, Roman Gardens have been around since 60BC. Originally born of necessity, these gardens were a function of life providing water, food and shade. The aesthetic aspect of gardening advanced rapidly in Japanese and Chinese Cultures with substantially different takes on design process. Chinese Gardens continue to be designed as natural, reflective and interactive environments. While Japanese Gardens are often designed for a specific outside viewing points, Chinese Gardens are meant to be viewed from within with centralized structures. The Renaissance brought the use of proportion and line to the private garden. Not surprisingly, this formal use of spacing was furthered by the founder of analytic geometry, Renee Descartes. The rich history of landscape architecture has provided design theories which we still use today. What has changed is the methodology and materials used in today's landscapes.

Landscapes of the past focused heavily on growth while the future will focus on sustainability. The future of landscape design will also continue to focus on our ability to blend. We blend art and science, morphology, size, the built and the natural worlds. The use of new products and technologies are not only changing how we design and how we construct, but how we live. The last 10 years have brought the indoors out with the evolution of outdoor living. While this has been profoundly focused on entertainment and comfort, it has included more shade structures, shade trees, permeable paved surfaces, and has effectively created spaces where we spend more time outside in the fresh air rather than in indoor, air conditioned environments.

The next ten years are filled with aesthetic awe and functional regeneration. The line between structure and environment will continue to be obscured. Slowly, you are already seeing the evolution take place all around you. Whether you installed LED lights in your landscape this year, visited one of the many green roofs in Madison, or took notice of the changes in parking lot design of newly constructed stores in our area. Plant selection, island layouts, and rainwater capture are drastically different from parking lots constructed even 5 years ago!

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Shaping Up for Spring

As we finally begin our transition from winter to spring it seems the days of fresh mulch and budding plants are still all too far off. As the snow melts our landscapes are initially a fairly sorry site. We start winter off  welcoming blankets of clean white snow and we bid it farewell with black and gray snow sprinkled with garbage and unsightly turf.

If you spent some time planting last fall you might be enjoying some snowdrops or other early bulbs as the snow melts away. Hopefully you completed a thorough fall clean up which will make spring seem a little less daunting. While we might have to wait until late March to actually get into our landscape beds, you can rest assured the mess that lays before you will patiently wait for you! While you wait to tackle the beds and turf, now is the time for planning and equipment maintenance.

It's best to turn to the largest pieces of equipment first as they may require more substantial repairs. Typically, this means the lawn mower. Some items to address:
  • Clean or replace
    • Spark plugs, air filters, belts, oil
  • Sharpen or replace the mower blades
  • Check the tires & tighten any loose bolts
March is the best time for planning and designing new additions to the landscape as well. You are anxious for warm days and cool nights in the yard and you are spending a lot of time looking out the window anyway right? It might be time for some new or updated hardscaping such as a patio, fire pit, or outdoor kitchen. Or perhaps a new vegetable garden or additional planting beds are in order. While you consider your options and budget it is a good idea to contact a professional early at this time as professional contractors will book their season quickly. At Greenscapes, our construction division is typically already booked out 2 months by March 1st. If you are considering landscape additions this year contact us soon!

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Friday, February 20, 2015

Madison Magazines Best of Madison

Discovering our superior customer service earned us the coveted Angie's List Super Service Award made for a fantastic February here at Greenscapes. To top it off, we were recently notified we also won the Madison Magazine Best of Madison Award. We are thankful to all of our customers who voted in the Madison Magazine Best of Madison Poll. Greenscapes is recommended by 97% of our reviewers and receives an A+ rating from 93% of our Angie's List Clients. 

Our staff is trained from their first day to treat every property as if it was their own. We have achieved rapid and sustained growth at Greenscapes for one reason, our staff. We believe you don't build a company and fill it with people. You build people by providing them the tools for success and, in turn, your people will build your company for you. We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our Greenscapes employees for taking ownership of their positions with us. Your continued dedication and commitment to being the best of the best in your field not only sustains our business, it inspires us to enjoy coming to work every morning and enables us to continue to raise the bar in our industry. A genuinely happy and enthusiastic staff fosters satisfied customers and allows us to continue exceeding their expectations. 

Thank you for your continued commitment and dedication to our vision!

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