Thursday, October 6, 2016

Fall Maintenance for Patios, Walkways and Driveways

As those fall colors in the trees begin to flutter to the ground, try to remember to regularly blow or sweep the surfaces of your driveway, patio and walkways.  While autumn leaves can be quite beautiful, cool nights and warm days will cause condensation which, when mixed with leaves, can stain your concrete pavers.  In addition to leaves, certain trees, like the glorious maple, have whets called samaras (aka ‘helicopters’) which can be very abundant, particularly after higher stressed seasons.  In order to promote seed growth, Mother Nature designs samaras to dissolve with only small amounts of moisture; the downside is that they can stain even more easily than a leaf.
Besides sweeping the surfaces of this debris, sealing paver surfaces can also help stains from penetrating too deep into the surface of the stone, making them easier to clean.  If you have not already sealed your paver project and live in an area with an abundance of leaves, you may choose to consider sealing.

As patio season winds down you should also consider removing any furniture, planter urns or barbeques from your patio.  While some of these items may be marked as rustproof or ‘exterior grade’, it only takes one screw, bolt or nut that wasn’t rust proofed to cause an unsightly stain when subjected to the rigours of winter weather.  If you do find a rust stain on your pavers, it will be a little harder to clean off but not impossible if you use a rust remover specially designed for pavers.
A well installed paver driveway, walkway or patio is designed to stand the test of time.  With just a little proactive maintenance these paver surfaces will continue to look great for many years to come.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Aquartisan - The art of building waterfalls

The crown jewel in both form and function of any water feature is the waterfall, doing it correctly takes a lot of experience. It is very easy to spot a pond built by a contractor who has little to no training or experience. We call them "dump truck ponds", they appear as if a hole was dug and a pile of cobblestone was dumped in. Another common mistake is the "pearl necklace". This is a consistent ring around the water made of small cobblestone. I've included several simple rules below to prevent these unfortunate outcomes.

                                                      Scale is Everything
Beware the dreaded volcano falls. The waterfall should blend into the surroundings seamlessly. If you aren't building into an existing slope, for every foot up you go, you should be at least 2 times that in width on each side of the falls. For example, if we are building a two-foot high waterfall we step the grade down slowly and extend 4' or more on all three sides. This means your total footprint is a minimum of 10' in width. Rarely are we setting the biofall or wetland filter directly in the middle of this area. Typically, the side furthest from the viewing areas will step down faster but will extend out further. This way we can counter mature plant heights with the finished grade allowing space for a taller upright plantings in the backdrop.

Bigger is Better
Using larger boulders takes more time and even more heavy equipment. These boulders must be strapped and placed individually. It is the first and most obvious difference you will see when comparing a seasoned professional pond builder to a novice. Think about what happens in natural environments, where are the small cobblestones? The water has washed them all downstream! Large boulders should always be used on the waterfall in particular. These are called the framing rocks. How you want the water to flow will determine placement. Are you building rapids or sheet falls?

Less is More
We use considerably more total tonnage than a novice builder, but the difference is how that weight is distributed across boulder sizes. Unfortunately, most contractors are primarily going to use cobblestone with the largest boulders being maybe 16". This means they have to stack small boulders on top of each other in order to get the height they need. Use fewer, but larger boulders on the falls and vary your sizes on the edge treatments. There should be less than 2 framing rocks around the initial falls. At least one of them should be set so the tops are above the waterfall weir. While we are using more tons, we are still using fewer boulders.

Groups of Variety
Whether setting outcroppings on a slope or large boulders around a water feature you should be paying attention to groupings and the horizon view. Most of the boulders should be placed at different heights but on a parallel plane (level head). Rock layers are typically stratified so if you are using a dimensional stone you should be setting a minimum of a third of the boulders with a "level head". When grouping, these should alternate with each group containing an odd number of boulders possibly with one vertical boulder. The history of this placement goes all the way back to early Zen gardening and is called classic triad rock composition. The arrangements original design was to represent Buddha and his two attendants. This follows the same design philosophy as plantings. When installing an upright, oval shrub or small tree (focal point) you will offset a shrub about half the height to one side and then underplant the canopy of the focal point. The underplanting is typically on the viewing or "business side" with a ground cover. The same premise applies to boulder placement. That doesn't mean you shouldn't group three boulders at a similar height or the same direction. Doing this takes some practice and a good eye for negative space. It is usually accomplished by horizontal slate stacking between the grouped boulders. Even number groupings can also be successful, but are reserved for combinations such as a tall vertical and a reclining boulder or a short vertical and a flat rock. More on this below.

Listen and Prepare your canvas
When asked about the placement of specific boulders most pro's will tell you the boulder told them where to put it. It might sound funny, but it's true. While we do pick out specific boulders and driftwood at the supplier for specific locations, we also walk around the boulder pile on site for a considerable amount of time before we even start digging. Certain boulders will jump out as to where they should be set and which side is up. We can then set them aside and excavate specifically for that boulder. Inexperienced builders are excavating the same concentric rings at a set depth and then trying to fit random boulders in. An experienced builder have excavated the soil so once the liner and boulder pads are in, a specific boulder will set perfectly into place. "Listening" to the boulders takes some experience and background knowledge. Japanese gardening contains very specific rules that are still generally followed in today's landscape practices. Boulders are classified as tall, vertical, low vertical, arching, reclining, or flat. Each category and subcategory have a set of rules on how the setting should be accomplished. For example, a leaning stone should never be placed without a supporting stone. One of my favorites is called the nameless boulder. This is reserved for a boulder that normally would have been cast off as a reject. It differs from a focal point or "specimen" in that the boulder itself has little beauty. It is a seemingly random placement in the landscape that is both unexpected, yet feels balanced. It forces contemplation by the viewer as you wonder why it is there, but also feel it is necessary and should not be removed.

Go with the Flow
Flowing water is not just for the aesthetic value. It plays an important role in the acoustics, filtration and oxygen levels of the water feature. The height, flow rate and splash zone of the falls will determine the both the aesthetic and acoustic value. If the client requested a babbling brook, you are probably going to make up for a lack of aeration and flow with a combination of aerators and subsurface jets. Aesthetically, you don't want to go below around 2,000gph per foot of waterfall. This has to be balanced with the turn-over you require. Smaller ponds require the water to be turned over more frequently. As long as you have enough plants and aren't overstocked with fish, the more volume you have, the less turn-over you will require. You can create echo chambers in the splash zone to create more sound or a pooling area to dampen it. Use waterfall foam to keep the water flowing over the rocks and not between the voids. You also want debris to go with the flow and flush down to the skimmer or intake bay, not get lost in the voids. Speaking of going with the flow, water takes the path of least resistance which is rarely a straight line. Be sure to twist and turn the waterfall and streams. My best advice is to get out to some natural streams and waterfalls and watch them with a new-found appreciation. Where does the water turn? Most likely it's where it hit a large rock and eroded its way around it. Mimic this in your stream construction. the outside of a turn should have an anchor boulder that appears to have forced the water to turn. The inside of the turn is more likely to be a great place for smaller boulders or stone with a ground cover to soften the edge.

Find out more

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Light it up with full color spectrum LED

Full-color zoning and dimming is now an available option thanks to the Luxor ZDC. I previously wrote about this one of a kind system as an option for seasonal, game day and other holiday lighting, but how does it stack up against other summer led lighting options?

The short answer is, it blows them away. Without getting overly technical, FXLuminaire continues to push the outdoor lighting envelope with new fixtures and new feature offerings. While they may be known more recently for technological advancements, they've built their reputation on premium materials, durable and serviceable equipment, and excellent support.

In addition to releasing the Luxor ZDC, the Luxor CUBE can now allow the control and dimming of low and line voltage fixtures. What the heck does that mean you ask? It means we now have the ability to control existing lights, water feature pumps, automatic gates, and any other item with a relay input all from your smart phone.

Do you have a fountain that you'd love to add to an automatic timing system? How about some bistro or pillar lights that aren't currently part of your low voltage system? Now you can skip the electrician and add these components to the smart phone app. See how it works below!

Interested in more information? Give us a call or complete this form to schedule a consultation.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Outdoor Kitchens - No Reservation Required

The history of grilling dates back some 500,000 years. It wasn't until the 1950s though, when George Stephen took controlling share of Weber Bros Metal Spinning Company, that backyard grilling was born. Stephen cut a harbor buoy in half, added a grate and cut in holes to control temperature. At the same time, World War II concluded and as Americans migrated to the suburbs backyard cooking would never be the same.

We have come a long way from a charcoal grill being our only option in the backyard. Eventually, larger grills with more prep space and a side burner became available. Soon after outdoor refrigerators and tiki bars were all the rage. As we progressed into a more full-service outdoor kitchen and bar options, they were typically built with a footing and masonry. Masonry outdoor kitchens were cost prohibitive and found only in the most expensive of homes. This was still the era of vacation homes and time shares after all.

Staycation wasn't a word found in our vernacular at the time. Since then both spouses began to work at full-time careers, the time share or family cabin became too time-consuming or expensive to hold on to. While we certainly still enjoy a trip to somewhere tropical during our time off, more and more Americans are investing a would-be vacation fund right into their own backyard. Here, the expense is a real estate investment and memories are made right at home.

Today's outdoor kitchens offer enough options to overwhelm any consumer. The best designs are as functional as an indoor kitchen eliminating the historical back and forth from one to the other. With modular systems like necessories outdoor living kits, the design can be as simple as a grill and table, or as elaborate as a full kitchen with an oven, prep station, refrigerator, sinks, warming drawers, fireplace, outdoor TV and more.

Depending on the complexity of your vision the completion of your outdoor kitchen can be a daunting task. Here are some tips to guide you through the process:

  • Function
    • Traffic flow
      • Do you prefer one large open space or dividing the yard into sections such as the kitchen, living room, bar, and fire pit area?
      • How will you entertain? 
        • How many people overall would you host? How many children or elderly guests would typically attend? This may change your flooring choices.
    • Scale
      • If you have a small backyard, don't overdo it. Sometimes the best option is an all-inclusive grill island where the grill, prep and bar are all in the same place.
    • Mechanics
      • The mechanics of where water will flow and where electric and gas run will play a role in the functional design. You don't want to spend a lot of time designing something that becomes physically impossible, not permittable, or cost prohibitive.
      • What distance from the house should the kitchen be? You don't want to be too far away, but you also don't want the grill filling the house with smoke either.
      • Sinks
        • Will you hook up to water from inside the house or just a seasonal connection?   
    • The Working Triangle
      • Just like an indoor kitchen, consider the relationship between prep, grill and storage spaces. 
  • Budget
    • Will you complete the entire project at once? Today's modular options mean you can complete the project in stages if needed. You'll want to have a solid plan in place for the finished product and ensure you don't end up spending more just to stage the process out.
    • Once of the greatest expenses will be the appliances.
      • While it pays to buy quality outdoor appliances, do you really need the largest available? If you don't plan on large gatherings, get smaller appliances. This will save you money on reduced counter space as well.
  • Ambiance
    • Unlike indoors, you are typically entertaining while working in the kitchen outside. Be sure to include areas where guests have access to you while you cook. Don't forget about setting the mood by incorporating optional features like:
  • Weather
    • So you are all set to have the party of a lifetime and its raining and cold outside! Be prepared by planning for the worst.
      • incorporate a pergola or arbor
      • patio heaters
      • outdoor Fans or misters
      • insect screens
Find out more

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Making memories

Whether it's poolside, pondside or fireside, create your own place for your staycations.
Creating Outdoor Memories | Greenscapes | Madison, Wi -

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Unilock Authorized Contractor

Extraordinary Projects Start With An Extraordinary Contractor

When planning a landscaping project, there are dozens of important decisions - among them: choosing the right colors and style. The most important decision of all is choosing the right contractor for the job. The truth is, even the best designs and materials can be ruined by poor installation and workmanship.

Quality Workmanship - Guaranteed
Unilock Authorized Contractors are part of an elite group whose work and business practices have met demanding standards. Unilock conducts on-site inspections of the contractor's work and conducts client satisfaction reference checks before a contractor is considered for the program. Once Unilock Authorized Contractor status is granted, these inspections continue annually, and the contractor must re-affirm that they will continue to:

  • Construct all projects in accordance with the Unilock Installation Standards
  • Follow the Unilock Authorized Contractor Code of Ethics
  • Participate in continuing education courses
  • Offer a minimum two-year workmanship guarantee

Expect More
Unilock Authorized Contractors are true professionals who are experienced in proper site preparation, grading, base materials and compaction so you can rest assured that your project will look great and structurally perform for years to come. But that's not all - with a Unilock Authorized Contractor you can expect:

      • Knowledgeable design advice
      • A comprehensive estimate
      • Quality base materials and installation practices
      • A great looking project that stands the test of time

Peace of Mind
Unilock believes so strongly in the Authorized Contractor Program, that should an AUC be unable to fulfill their warranty obligations, Unilock will step in and repair any major structural failures of projects due to workmanship where Unilock product was installed residentially, for a period of two years from the date of installation.

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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Curb Appeal

All curb appeal design relies on the size and shape of the house. This is the canvas on which you apply your function. If the house is very tall and a great distance from the road, it doesn't matter how much you like annuals as you will never see them from the street. That doesn't mean you can't incorporate an annual bed, but you may have to consider some islands or raised beds to break up both the horizontal distance and the vertical space. Use massings and repetitive groupings as individual specimens will not be viewed by passers-by. Consider where larger shade trees and foundation anchor selections will be placed first. The larger trees and shrubs should properly frame and/or accent the lines of the house. Hardscapes can further break up vertical lines and shift focus. use raised beds, pillars, large pots or decorative fountains to set up your functional spaces.

In many Madison area neighborhoods, the front yard functions more like a typical back yard. While it may be due to the small size of the backyard, it's commonly a desire to attain a shorter social distance to nearby neighbors passing by. In today's landscape designs expanding front walkways into full-fledged patios is more and more common. Your first consideration should always be how the space will be used. Is this just an entrance or do you want space for a small bistro table to have your morning coffee at? In the end, all curb appeal design is about leading you to the front door but this doesn't necessarily mean the shortest and most direct route.

A Room with a View
Consider all of the viewing points, not just the view from the curb. If you plan on a small patio area you may want some screening. What rooms have windows facing the front of the house, do any of them need screening? Perhaps you want to include an offset island planting on which you can plant an annual massing visible from inside the house. While your goal is curb appeal, don't forget your view is most often from the inside.

Don't Over Do It
Design and install only what you know you can take care of. You don't want to create a monster you can't keep in control and you don't want to turn off potential buyers when it comes time to sell. Buyers want to see beautiful entrances yes, but you don't want them to interpret it as a maintenance nightmare either. Most importantly, don't forget about the house! Complete all facelift work on the house first and then finish the landscape. I can't tell you how many costly repairs and replacements we have made after home improvement contractors damaged the landscape trying to complete their work. Maybe it is a fresh coat of paint, new siding or some planter boxes, shutters, gutters or replacing some windows. No matter what it is, it will require free access to the front of the home. Always complete this work first

Friday, April 22, 2016

Celebrate Earth Day with Permeable Pavers

The first Earth Day took more than forty years ago in the United States with more than 20 million Americans participating in coast-to-coast rallies to raise awareness for a healthy, sustainable environment.  Now, April 22nd is celebrated as Earth Day in more than 184 countries around the world.
Here in North America, Earth Day coincides with the time of year when homeowners return to their gardens.  For those homeowners who are considering changes to their outdoor living spaces, many are looking for ways to ensure that these changes are as environmentally friendly as possible.  One approach, worthy of consideration, is permeable pavers for patios, driveways and walkways.
Did you know that many urban areas face problems of excessive storm water volume and poor water quality due to runoff?  When we replace natural vegetation with impervious pavements, we reduce Mother Nature’s ability to naturally infiltrate rainwater, which can contribute to flooding and pollution of natural water systems.  While traditional methods of dealing with this problem include redirecting excess runoff to detention ponds, a permeable paver system offers a more efficient solution by treating rainwater at the source and reducing storm water runoff.
Permeable paver products such as Eco-Priora™ and Eco-Optiloc™ from Unilock (pictured above) are designed with space in between the paver units that allow rapid penetration of rainwater into the sub-base and subsoil.  This space is filled with clear, fine stone chips which allow rainwater to flow through the pavement surface and ultimately back into the natural water table rather than off the pavement and into municipal storm water management systems.
Design options for permeable pavers have never been better.  While permeable pavers were initially designed with utility in mind for large scale commercial projects, this has changed.  Permeable pavers are now available with premium finishes, like Unilock’s Town Hall pavers which are cast from original brick street pavers for an attractive, time-worn appearance.
 Many homeowners choose permeable paving because they want to make a positive impact on their own environment, but others are considering it because they live in a city where new legislation limits use of impervious surfaces on residential properties.  Even if a homeowner’s city hasn’t yet set these limits, in order to maintain maximum flexibility for future projects, it makes sense to consider permeable for projects today.

For more detailed information on permeable paving, follow this link: Permeable Paving

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Busting 16 Common Pond Myths

I hear it all the time, "We have this low spot here and thought it would be perfect for a pond since water pools there already". 

This is the worst location, all the run-off will flow into your pond creating an inflow of nutrients, debris and other unwanted additions to the pond. There is a substantial different between a retention system and a water garden.

I have to drain it on a regular basis!

Every spring a natural body of water has an influx of fresh rain and turns over as the less dense water on top of the pond warms up. The result is a uniform water temperature at all depths and a higher dissolved oxygen level. Once a year you accomplish the same result by completing a spring clean out. That's it, once a year! In fact, you will do more damage than good my draining the system more often than once a year. Your aim is to build up a balanced, healthy ecosystem, excessive cleaning can be counter productive to reaching this goal.

The more filtration, the better the pond.

Believe or not, you can over-filter a pond. If you can see a dime on the bottom of the pond, then the water clarity is just right for your fish and filtering past that create headaches. When properly designed and constructed your pond has a flow rate the is specific to the pond volume, filter sizes, projected stocking rate, and turn-over volume. The goal is to create a more balanced ecosystem and your flow rate plays a role in this. Overfiltering leads to increased maintenance and other issues.

I have liability or safety concerns!

If you have children or pets that will visit and interact with the pond, the shelving will be designed to step down slowly to 2' of depth. Specific areas such as a river stone or sand beach can be incorporated so the water access areas are safe and easy to spot. We do recommend that you make your neighbors aware of the water garden and educate your own children and friends about the safety of any body of water. If liability is a true concern, consider the option of a Pondless® Waterfall.
 Your pond must be at least three feet deep in order to keep koi.
There are thousands of two-foot deep ponds around the country, full of happy and healthy koi. The water in a two-foot deep pond will generally only freeze eight inches down, even in the coldest of climates. A floating de-icer and some aeration will keep a hole in the ice and allow the ammonia to escape over the winter.

You can't be a koi hobbyist and a water gardener.

Ok, because carp are only found in sterile environments with no plants? You can raise koi and have a beautiful water garden. The koi can grow up to be just as beautiful and just as healthy as they are in traditional koi ponds. Not only are the plant attractive, they will be completing water quality maintenance for you.

Predators will eat all of your fish!

Raccoons generally don't swim. They can stand on the side of your pond and take a swipe at your fish. A properly designed system will provide a place for fish to swim deeper in a protected area when a predator is threatening them. The one predator with some decent fish-loss credentials is the blue heron. About 60% of the surface of your water should be covered in plants. Include lots of lily pads and fish caves so the fish have some cover and a place to hide. 

UV lights are the best way to keep your pond water clear.

UV clarifiers are one of the ways to keep your pond water clear, but certainly not the only way, and arguably not the natural way. The fact of the matter is that if you have a pond that's naturally balanced, in which the aquatic circle of life is rotating the way that Mother Nature intended, you don't need UVC at all. A naturally balanced pond is a low maintenance pond because Mother Nature is doing the maintenance work for you.

The presence of rocks and gravel make it difficult to clean your pond.

Rocks and gravel offer a natural place for aerobic bacteria to colonize and set up housekeeping. This bacteria breaks down the fish waste and debris that would otherwise accumulate in the pond and turn into sludge. You'll find that having rocks and gravel in your pond not only makes it look better, but it makes it healthier as well. 

You have to bring your fish inside for the winter.

Fish do fine during the coldest of winters as long as you give them two feet of water to swim in, oxygenate the water, and keep a hole in the ice with a de-icer, allowing the naturally produced gasses to escape from under the ice.

You can use a timer on your pond!

Your pond is a living, breathing ecosystem that needs constant oxygen. If you shut your system down at night, then you can never have sufficient growth of beneficial bacteria to fight algae blooms, and your finned friends will have a hard time breathing. You can shut down a Pondless® Waterfall system or decorative fountain because plants and fish are not depending on the circulation.

A pond in your backyard means you will have a lot of mosquitoes.

Mosquitoes typically only lay their eggs in still, stagnant water. In some aspects, your pond is a mosquito control method. If the mosquitoes happen to lay eggs in your pond and the mosquito larvae hatch, the fish in your pond will consider them a treat. Ponds will also attract more dragonflies who can consume hundreds of mosquitoes a day.

Koi can't be kept in a pond that also contains plants.

Again, fish feed on plants. As a result, the fish produce waste, which is broken down by aerobic bacteria on the bottom of your pond, which, in turn, is used as fertilizer by the plants to grow and produce more natural fish food. Plants play a key role in the balance, without them you are the one doing all of the work they would have done for you.

Your pond water must be tested on a daily basis.

Mother Nature never tests her water, and her ecosystem does just fine. Unless there is a major issue with water quality or fish loss, put down the water quality kit. The ponds we have the most trouble with are actually due to the owner obsessing over water quality rather than letting mother nature do her work. Fish kill calls are typically the result of the homeowner trying to adjust pH or other water parameters. These parameters test differently at different times of the day so you can see where constant adjustments can create chaos!

You cannot have a pond in an area where there are a lot of trees.

Yes, you will have more leaves in your pond in the fall but, by the same token, the shade provided by the tree(s) will help minimize the algae bloom in the summer. Furthermore, if you have a skimmer sucking the top quarter inch of water off the top of your pond, it will pull most of the leaves and related debris into the skimmer net. We will provide the alternative option of an intake bay rather than a skimmer if there is a lot of tree cover so it eliminates the increased need to empty your skimmer net..

Having a pond may decrease the value of your home!

Everyone knows when it comes to the resale value of your home, a swimming pool can be deadly. However, in the opinion of some real estate agents, ponds can be a great addition to your home that might even pay dividends. With water features becoming more and more popular, you can bet that the demand for them will get even bigger!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Myths vs. Reality: How to Get Your Lawn in Top Shape this Spring

Have you ever wondered when the right time to apply fertilizer to your yard is or whether it’s ok to cut the grass really short?

To help homeowners get their spring and summer lawn care off to a great start and to celebrate National Lawn Care Month in April, Greenscapes offers these myth-busting tips.

Myth #1: You can water your lawn and landscape any time of day.
Reality: Water is a valuable resource; make every drop count! Watering the lawn in the early mornings or evenings after sunset minimizes evaporation. It’s the best time for water to penetrate deep into the soil.

Myth #2: It’s ok to cut the grass very short.
Reality: Most landscape professionals advise against cutting more than one-third of the grass leaf at a time. Mowing at a finished cut height of 3 to 3.5 inches throughout the summer is generally recommended. The lawn will need less water, will be more resistant to weeds and will have a deeper, greener color. Use a sharp mower blade to prevent tearing grass blades. A crisp and clean cut will help prevent a “brown tip” appearance.

Myth #3: It’s best to water your lawn every day.
Reality: Watering your lawn every three days is better than daily watering. Deep, rather than shallow watering of your lawn is recommended to nurture the roots. An inch of water to 12 inches of soil is the preferred ratio for watering actively growing grass.

Myth #4: If you want to replace your lawn, you should do it in the spring when plants get ready to bloom. 
Reality: The best time to sow seed is in the late summer and early fall when the temperatures are more consistent and when highly competitive weeds, like crabgrass, are at the end of their life cycle.

Myth #5: Early spring is the best time to fertilize the lawn.
Reality: Since different species of grass prefer nutrients at different times of the year, be sure to use the correct fertilizer, at the right rate, at the right time, and in the right place. A slow-release fertilizer allows for more even and consistent feeding over a longer period of time than a quick-release fertilizer. And, remember to use fertilizers responsibly by cleaning up any that lands on streets, sidewalks or driveways where they can be washed into lakes, ponds, rivers and streams.

Myth #6: A garden hose is more cost efficient than installing an irrigation system.
Reality: Many landscape professionals recommend installing an irrigation system with smart controllers which have sensors that water when needed. Smart irrigation can offer a cost savings of 15–20 percent on water bills. Converting irrigation spray nozzles from sprinklers to rotating nozzles will spread heavy droplets of water at a slower pace, which makes them more targeted and effective.

Myth #7: You have to irrigate to have a healthy and beautiful lawn.
Reality: Grasses are built to endure long periods of drought by entering a state of dormancy..  When temperatures and moisture levels are at their extreme, the growing point of the grass plant, the crown, will shut off the grass blades, turning them brow. In almost all instances, once the heat and drought stresses have gone, the crowns will begin to send up new shoots. There’s nothing wrong with irrigating to avoid dormancy, but “embracing the brown” for a couple of weeks in the summer is just fine too.

For more helpful tips on taking care of your lawn and landscape, or to get advice on how to hire a landscape professional, visit   

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Attracting Wildlife to Your Landscape

If you build it, they will come

The size of a yard has little to do with how much wildlife it attracts. Creating habitats that meet basic wildlife needs is what will populate your yard with area wildlife. Your plan may be as general or specific as you desire. If the wildlife you are hoping to attract is something very specific, some research will be required. If you are trying to attract specific butterflies you will find that they feed on very specific host plants. For example, the Karner Blue butterfly is endangered and found primarily in Wisconsin. The caterpillar feeds only on native wild lupine. But wait, if that's all you plant the adult butterfly will quickly fly off in search of milkweed hosts to feed on. 

Some initial parameters to consider are your soil conditions, sunlight, and growing zone. Write a list of native plants that will thrive in the conditions you found in your yard. Includes plants in the aster family such as coneflowers and sunflowers. Dogwoods, serviceberries, and viburnums and mixed grasses should also be included. For more plant options search our plant gallery using the Attract Wildlife Category. While you do not have to stick with 100% natives, pay special attention to how non-natives spread. If it is listed as even mildly invasive or aggressive, I would choose an alternative species.

Food & Water

Nothing attracts wildlife like a water garden. If the budget is tight, consider a pondless waterfall or decorative fountain. Water is essential for drinking, bathing and wildlife reproduction. These types of water sources not only provide the water but an abundance of additional wildlife. The filtration and movement of the water in circulating systems will also reduce the mosquito population rather than add to it. 

Cover & Protection

It is important to mix the edge treatments of a water feature as different wildlife species will prefer different types of cover. Some prefer the canopy of shrubs while others prefer ground cover or grasses. While you can provide many places for wildlife to live using only specific plant selections, you may also want to create some yourself. Often these habitats can be found by mistake. A brush or compost pile, fire wood stack, or a dying tree can all provide excellent habitat. So before you rush to remove an old scrag, consider working it into the overall design. As far as some of your new friends are concerned, it is actually a 5-star hotel. You may also consider constructing some more formal housing such as a bird house or a bat house.

A Place to Raise their Young
It is important to research all phases of the life cycle when considering rearing habitats. This is another area where the construction of a bird house or nesting box may be necessary if other habitats can not be provided. If your lot has no mature trees, for example, a bird house built on a tall pole may be required until your trees mature. Consider masses of host plants, in which case you are making an "offering" to the caterpillar stage that you expect to either outgrow the consumption or replace the hosts each year.  You can look up specific host plants for butterflies here. As your plan progresses keep in mind the best thing you can do for all your new neighbors is to maintain the garden in an environmentally friendly way. 

Monday, March 21, 2016

Spring Maintenance for Paver Driveways, Patios and Walkways

It’s spring cleaning season and yes, even your outdoor living spaces deserve some TLC!  Here are some preventative maintenance steps you can take at this time of year to ensure your project continues to look great through this patio season, and beyond.

Inspect the perimeter of the project: Look for areas where the joints between the stones are getting larger (commonly referred to as “creep”). “Creep” can be caused by stresses of the winter months or heavy use that has caused the stones to push out. Be sure to lift any areas along the edge that need repair.  Usually, this is just a matter of a few stones along the perimeter.  Be sure to clean the sides of the pavers before reinstalling. If you do not remove the sand from the sides of the stones it will be very difficult to get them back into place properly.  If the joints were filled with polymeric sand you may find that it is stuck to the side of the paver.  If this is the case, wet the stone to help soften up the sand and then use a putty knife to scrape the material off the sides of the paver. If there is no edge restraint installed, you should consider installing some.  There are a number of great “invisible edge” restraints available that are easy to install and are just spiked down into the base materials.   It is very important that the edge restraint is sitting directly on the compacted granular base, not the soft soils surrounding the project, as the spikes will not hold in the softer materials.  If you do not have a good base to spike the restraint to, you should do a little excavation and install a good stable base.

 Inspect the surface for any dips:   Dips in the pavement surface are usually caused by base or sub base settlement; new homes that have had a lot of property grading prior to the building of the home are more prone to this. Settlement should always be addressed, as it can cause water to pool on the surface which can create a hazard (winter ice!) in the short term and will lead to deeper dips in the long term. Identify the area that has been affected and mark with chalk. The most difficult part of this job is getting the first stone out!  If possible, try to start at an edge and work your way to the problem area. If this approach is not practical then you can try a couple of screwdrivers down either side of a stone to pry it up. Blasting the sand out with a hose first makes this much easier. Always start with the smallest stone in the pattern, as it will be the easiest one to get out. Once you get the first stone out, you can get under the other stones and the job becomes much easier.  When you have removed all the stones, re-level the area with the appropriate amount of sand and reinstall the stones, taking care to clean side of all the stones. You can tamp the stones with a block of wood placed on the surface and hitting with a hammer.  Never strike the surface of the stone directly as this can damage the paver surface.

       Inspect the surface for stains: You will be surprised what a good cleaning will do after a long winter to bring life back to your paving stones! If there are no serious stains to address, then a good pressure wash will do the job. If a pressure washer is not available, use a bit of dish detergent in some water and clean the area with a stiff bristle broom. For stains, or a paver surface requiring more serious cleaning, consider using a specialized concrete cleaner.  The most import tip to remember with any concrete cleaner is to read the instructions. There are right and wrong ways to use these products. The wrong way will diminish the effectiveness of the cleaner and may even lead to discoloration of the paver. Test the cleaner in a small unobtrusive area to make sure you are happy with the results before applying to the entire surface.

4.       Inspect the Joints:  If there are small weeds in the joints remove them.  Weeds are caused when seeds blow into joints and then germinate; they do not grow from beneath the pavers. This is one of the reasons why it’s so important to ensure that the material in the joints is in good shape. If your project has regular, un-stabilized sand in the joints, you may need to top it up so the joints remain full. If your project utilizes a stabilized sand (Polymeric or Unilock Easy Pro for example), or if you have used a joint stabilizing sealer on top of regular sand, this is less likely to be needed.  However, if this type of jointing material is in need of repair the best approach is to remove all of the old material and start fresh with new material.

5.       Consider Sealing: Sealing a paver surface is not necessary, but some homeowners like the way a sealer can enhance the color of their pavers and provide some stain protection.  If you chose to seal your paver project, you will need to re-seal every 3-5 years. High traffic areas like driveways will need to be re-sealed most often, but you should never apply sealer more frequently than 2 years. When selecting sealers, you can choose between a high gloss sealer, which will enhance the color of your paving stones or a matte finish that will simply help protect the pavers. Also, if you are re-sealing it is very important to use the same sealant as originally applied, there are a number of different sealants out there all having their own formulas. One of the critical components of re-sealing is that the new coat should dissolve the first coat and bond together to create a consistent surface protection. If you apply different sealers, you may not get this bonding action or you may have a chemical reaction that will turn the sealant milky. If you do not know what sealant has been applied previously then do a small test of an obscure area of pavers and see how the new sealer reacts.

Following this little bit of preventative maintenance every year will protect your investment and keep it looking great for years!

Monday, February 29, 2016

Spring Bloomers

As you look out your window after another long cold winter in Wisconsin you're probably wondering when you will see the first signs of spring right? The best cure for cabin fever is a spring bloom and a properly planted landscape should absolutely include some spring bloomers that let you know warm days are just around the corner. It's best to distribute these early bloomers into the design with shrubs, perennial borders and/or groupings, and a few trees in the mix.

Prunus Tomentosa

Prunus Tomentosa, The Manchu Cherry is one of the earliest blooming prunus; flowering before the leaves are even starting to develop. Manchu Cherry is extremely hardy, drought tolerant and matures to around 6'. As a gift that keeps on giving, the berries are edible and the exfoliating bark adds winter interest. Lilac, Juneberry, and Redbud are excellent choices as well.

Malus 'Louisa'

The Crabapples are probably the most common spring flowering trees. Similar to the Manchu Cherry, crabs typically begin to bloom before the leaves unfold. Blooms typically last several weeks. When choosing a crab, pay attention to resistance to diseases such as scab, mildew, and fire blight. Crab trees can be used for everything from screening to focal points as height ranges from 8' all the way up to 30'. Underplant with some late spring Anemone as a transition companion.

It is especially important to plan your perennial mix well as early spring bloomers often have little benefit once the bloom is complete. This can also be accomplished by choosing late spring bloomers and naturalizing or grouping bulbs for your early spring color. Many perennials, such as Columbine, should be planted with Huechera, Cranesbill or other low border plantings to assist in hiding fading foliage. Woodland natives such as Trillium or Foam-flower are a great choice for naturalized areas.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Greenscapes Again Earns Super Service Award in Multiple Categories by Angie's List

Greenscapes Earns Esteemed 2015 Angie’s List Super Service Award
Award reflects Greenscapes consistently high level of customer service

Greenscapes has earned the service industry’s coveted Angie’s List Super Service Award, reflecting an exemplary year of service provided to members of the local services marketplace and consumer review site in 2015.

"We are very excited to inform our staff that thier hard work and customer service has earned the Angie's List Super Service Award in multiple catergories for the second year in a row."

“Only about 5 percent of the landscape companies in the greater Madison area have performed so consistently well enough to earn our Super Service Award,” said Angie’s List Founder Angie Hicks. “It’s a really high standard.”

Angie’s List Super Service Award 2015 winners have met strict eligibility requirements, which include an “A” rating in overall grade, recent grade, and review period grade; the company must be in good standing with Angie’s List, pass a background check and abide by Angie’s List operational guidelines.

Service company ratings are updated daily on Angie’s List. Companies are graded on an A through F scale in areas ranging from price to professionalism to punctuality.


Angie's List helps facilitate happy transactions between more than three million consumers nationwide and its collection of highly rated service providers in more than 720 categories of service, ranging from home improvement to health care. Built on a foundation of more than 10 million verified reviews of local service, Angie's List connects consumers directly to its online marketplace of services from member-reviewed providers, and offers unique tools and support designed to improve the local service experience for both consumers and service professionals.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Greenscapes of Madison Awarded Best Of Houzz 2016

Remodeling and Home Design

Greenscapes of Madison
Awarded Best Of Houzz 2016

Over 35 Million Monthly Unique Users Nominated Best Home Building,
Remodeling and Design Professionals in North America and Around the World

Madison, Wi, January 10th, 2016 – Greenscapes of Madison has won “Best Of Customer Service” on Houzz®, the leading platform for home remodeling and design. The premier landscape design, construction, and maintenance contractor was chosen by the more than 35 million monthly unique users that comprise the Houzz community from among more than one million active home building, remodeling and design industry professionals.

The Best Of Houzz is awarded annually in three categories: Design, Customer Service and Photography. Design award winners’ work was the most popular among the more than 35 million monthly users on Houzz. Customer Service honors are based on several factors, including the number and quality of client reviews a professional received in 2015. Architecture and interior design photographers whose images were most popular are recognized with the Photography award. A “Best Of Houzz 2016” badge will appear on winners’ profiles, as a sign of  their commitment to excellence. These badges help homeowners identify popular and top-rated home professionals in every metro area on Houzz.

“Anyone building, remodeling or decorating looks to Houzz for the most talented and service-oriented professionals” said Liza Hausman, vice president of Industry Marketing for Houzz. “We’re so pleased to recognize Greenscapes voted one of our “Best of Houzz” professionals by our enormous community of homeowners and design enthusiasts actively remodeling and decorating their homes.”

About Greenscapes
Our team of professionals offer superior customer service setting a high standard for innovative design and quality construction. Greenscapes provides award-winning landscape maintenance for commercial, condominium, and residential properties. Our snow removal services for Commercial properties in the Madison area offer reliable care with an unmatched attention to detail.

About Houzz
Houzz is the leading platform for home remodeling and design, providing people with everything they need to improve their homes from start to finish – online or from a mobile device. From decorating a small room to building a custom home and everything in between, Houzz connects millions of homeowners, home design enthusiasts and home improvement professionals across the country and around the world. With the largest residential design database in the world and a vibrant community empowered by technology, Houzz is the easiest way for people to find inspiration, get advice, buy products and hire the professionals they need to help turn their ideas 

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