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   

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