Team Great Lakes Discuss: LANDSCAPE STRUCTURE AND STRUCTURES

Landscape designer, Jeremy, and landscape stylist, Alicia, discuss landscape structure and structures! Included are things to consider when planning your landscape, ways to create separate spaces and privacy beyond a simple fence, and more.

Team Great Lakes Discuss: WATER FEATURES

This is the first installment in our new series of Team Great Lakes discussions! Team Great Lakes sits down to discuss: WATER FEATURES. Including choosing a water feature that’s right for you, maintenance, and the benefits of bringing a piece of nature to your own home.

For more information on calculating how many fish you should have in your pond etc, check here.

Juicy Custom Pots!

Click here and like us on Facebook, and share if you feel so inclined! We’re always posting a variety of images from jobs we’ve completed, updates from past jobs, landscape tips, and more! Because who doesn’t want MORE? We take pride in bringing our clients closer to nature whether that’s via beautiful images or in their own backyard. This image is from just a few of our Spring/Summer pots from this past season. So juicy! Just a little over a month before we begin the Fall pot season.

© Great Lakes Landscape Design, 2014

© Great Lakes Landscape Design, 2014

Landscapes New & Old – Maintenance & Care

Your landscapes will always require some form of care, there is no such thing as a care free landscape. A landscape will require frequent weeding, trimming, and the occasional dividing of your perennials and ornamental grasses, to maintain the original design intent of the landscape.

© Great Lakes Landscape Design, 2014

© Great Lakes Landscape Design, 2014

When a landscape is originally installed, thoughts towards what plants will go in will determine what level of care the landscape will require. Hedges will require regular pruning or the hedges will become unruly and can overtake the surrounding plants. Plant selection can help reduce pruning frequencies for example; if you are looking for a small evergreen hedge that you wish to stay small, you want to choose a plant that will not mature to a large size. This will reduce pruning frequencies. This same practice can also be applied to flowering shrubs. The industry as of late has started to develop plants that have a much smaller mature size such as Little Lime Hydrangea. These smaller mature sizes can reduce pruning times and are great for smaller spaces that cannot contain its larger counter- part; Limelight Hydrangea.

© Great Lakes Landscape Design, 2014

© Great Lakes Landscape Design, 2014

The same thought in pruning goes for well-established landscapes. Older landscapes unfortunately do not have that luxury, but the use of chemical growth inhibitors can be implemented to reduce level of pruning.

Weeding is universal in all landscapes, if weeding is not done nature will reclaim it; extreme vigilance is necessary when the wind, birds or other animals deposit weed seeds within your landscape. There are many methods used to try and reduce weeding such as Preen, which only prevents weed seeds from germinating, it does not stop weeds that already exist, which is a common misconception. Another issue that most people do not know is that Preen can also inhibit your groundcover from spreading. A second chemical application used is Round Up, this chemical is a non-selective herbicide that will kill almost everything that it comes into contact with. Yes, there are plants out there that can understand such an assault, so even Round Up is not the complete answer. Round Up is a great product, and when used as directed it can be a great tool to help reduce weeds within the landscape. A physical barrier is also frequently used, which is great if you are trying to smother existing weeds that are a nuisance, but the usefulness ends there. What most people do not understand is that organic matter will end up on top of the barrier. Whether you use mulch (which will break down to become soil) or any other type of organic material, soil will eventually end up there via wind, birds etc. The best way to combat weeds is to plant a landscape that can help smother the ground reducing that competition. Plants such as Hostas and other ground coverings cover the ground, reducing the spaces in which weeds can grow. Planting such plants, again, is not a guarantee that weeds will not grow. They need to become established first, maintaining a weed free zone until that time. Once these plants have become established your weeding frequencies will be greatly reduced.

© Great Lakes Landscape Design, 2014

© Great Lakes Landscape Design, 2014

Another great way to help reduce weeds within your planting space is to provide a 3” layer of mulch that has a great matting capacity, this means the fibers fuse together. This matted layer not only provides a great level of water retention for the soil, but creates a thermal barrier that helps prevent weed seeds from growing. Again this is not a guarantee that weeds will not grow, sometimes just physically removing them is the best option.

Winter preparation can be an intricate part of your landscape maintenance. Being prepared can be a difficult thing to adjust for, one cannot know what kind of winter we are going to have. Your best way to assure that most of your plants will make it through the winter is to make sure you select plant material that grows well within our growing zone. Zones are based on low temperatures throughout our county. Choosing plant material that is on the boarder of the zones can leave you a little heartbroken if the winter’s low temperatures dip too much lower than those plants tolerances. Winters with a great deal of snow can be very good to retain soil temperature by creating an insulating layer, while winters with little snow and a great deal of cold can wreak havoc on all of your landscape plants. Broad leaf evergreens are extremely susceptible to winter desiccation. This is when a plant tries to draw moisture from the frozen earth and there is nothing to draw from or when there are high winds that pull the moisture right from the leaves causing the plants leaves to fold in and turn brown. How to prevent this is to either physically adding something around the plant to help protect the plant from the damaging winds and to shade the plant when there is a great deal of sun during those late Indian Summers that we are known for. Another option to help reduce this is to add a chemical application called an anti-desiccant which will help close the plants pores and help prevent water loss. Perennials can also be susceptible to harsh winter weather that can not only cause them to be stunted for the season but also can cause them to parish. To assist this adding mulch to help insulate the soil is a great deal of help and if you have a particular sensitive perennial that you are growing that is on the boarder of our growing zone you can place straw on top of them to help keep them for the winter. A winter like the one that we have just had is something that no one can prepare for, no matter how far within the tolerances you are with your plant material, temperatures fell far below what we have seen in many decades so remember mother nature can be very unpredictable and we must be prepared for almost anything.

Once your landscape has become established, your bed maintenance should be greatly reduced, granted that you do not have a hedge filled formal garden. The general removal of the occasional weed, along with seasonal pruning and the occasional dividing of perennials and ornamental grasses should be all that is needed to maintain a healthy and well-kept landscape. Keep following our future blogs on tips on transplanting and dividing.

© Great Lakes Landscape Design, 2014

© Great Lakes Landscape Design, 2014

Are you ready for your outdoor parties?

Preparation is everything when it comes to a big event at your home, so begin preparing for your parties early. Whether it is a graduation party, Bar Mitzvah/Bat Mitzvah, Wedding or your seasonal 4th of July party; you do not want to be caught at the last minute scrambling to get on the schedule to finish that paver project, or new landscape, or just a touch up of your existing landscape. Another thing that you may want to consider is the general maintenance of your outdoor kitchen. After many seasons of use your grill should be gone over with a thorough cleaning and general review to make sure that all systems are working at peak efficiency. Nobody wants to have a grill malfunction in the middle of barbequing for all of your guests. Please call us so we can get you on the schedule and make sure that your landscape is in order for any of your upcoming events.

© Great Lakes Landscape Design, 2014

© Great Lakes Landscape Design, 2014

If you do not have an outdoor kitchen and you are looking at getting one, there are many options to consider when deciding on materials to construct it. Materials that can be considered are: pavers, stone veneer, house brick or even stucco. These materials can be used to either blend in with existing materials to make it look like it was always there, or you can go with a material that will pop and draw attention to the space as a focal point. Just as if it were part of your home, counter tops are also a very important part of the decision, but one must consider durability because this space will be exposed to the elements year round. Material options to consider are; granite, concrete or natural stone. Finishing touches will be determined by the needs of the client; how large of a grill is needed, how many cabinets, drawers, burners, whether or not running water is needed etc.

© Great Lakes Landscape Design, 2014

© Great Lakes Landscape Design, 2014

If grilling is a passion, nothing beats a custom outdoor kitchen that you can entertain guests around and have as a great focal point in your back yard. Call us today for your consultation.

LED & Why

Your landscape brings a lot of interest to your home, so it would make sense that you would continue to enjoy it into the evening hours. There are many benefits to adding low voltage lighting to your landscape; added nighttime interest, accent to architectural aspects of your home, highlight particular features of specific plants within the landscape such as a water features or a piece of artwork that is being displayed. Other important factors to consider are for safety purposes; such as illuminating pathways and stairways which help keep people from tripping or to help guide guests to the front entry or to a designated location on site.

Landscape lighting can be an extension of one’s home with the numerous fixture styles, with bulbs that can be switched out to cast as much or as little light required for the location, material used to make the fixture whether it is cast dyed aluminum that can come in various colors to the high end look of brass, to colored lenses that can create the perfect ambiance for any occasion or holiday. There are many different styles of light fixtures that are on the market, each one has been developed to cast light in a specific way; bullet fixtures are used to accent items within the landscape such as specific characteristics of a tree or address sign, well lights are typically used to illuminate larger spaces such as large walls on one’s home or placed under larger trees, path lights are used to illuminate walkways and staircases. Once fixtures have been chosen placement can be decided upon. The saying that less is more should be heeded, placement should be far enough apart to avoid the “runway effect”, which is the result of too many lights, placed one right next to each other.

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There are various types of landscape lighting that are on the market; solar being very popular due to the fact that they are relatively inexpensive, easy to place, and cost to run them is free. The downside of using solar lighting is that the light output is typically not bright enough, the light fixtures have a tendency to have a relatively short lifespan and if your landscape is shaded, they are useless. Incandescent bulbs have been the main focus in the landscape for many years, the bulbs are relatively inexpensive to replace but due to the fact that the filament is very fragile and can be damaged easily you may have to replace them often. Within the landscape, these light fixtures can be bumped into causing the elements to break rendering the light bulb unusable. These bulbs are also susceptible to extreme heat transfer as these bulbs produce a great deal of heat, with light production and with this you have to be concerned with oil transfer when bulbs are switched out, oils from handling can heat up causing the light bulbs to burn out. Another downside of using incandescent bulbs is placement of the light fixtures, if these fixtures are not laid out appropriately you could be shorting out your system with too much demand or the light output will be limited.

The age of incandescent light bulbs is coming to an end, not only within your home but also within your landscape. Incandescent light bulbs are inefficient, short lived and outdated. As new technology surfaces the old goes by the way side. LED or Light Emitting Diodes have hit the market with a multitude of benefits. LED bulbs draw a fraction of the power and last a great deal longer then incandescent bulbs, and can save you up to 80%. As with any new technology when it first hits the market, the cost is of course greater than the traditional technology, but the more time in the market and the higher the demand the lower the cost will eventually be. Along with the benefits of longer lasting bulbs with less operating cost comes a great deal of labor savings from constantly change out burned out bulbs, along with the initial cost of installation. LED landscape lamps last up to 40,000 hours (that’s 21 years at 5 hours per day.) With incandescent low voltage lighting systems the power draw is a major consideration. Like water pressure, electricity acts in a very similar fashion when dealing with installation, voltage drops the farther it has to travel and the more light fixtures that are attached. With LED bulbs and fixtures the draw is a small fraction which allows you to add numerous lights on a single run instead of the multiple runs that a normal system has to be designed with, which allows you to use less wire and less time to design it and installing it. LED landscape lighting produces little heat in comparison to halogen lights which means less energy is lost through heat. LED bulbs are much more resilient when it comes to movement; they are less likely to burn out due to damage, halogen bulbs contain a filament that can be damaged when the fixture is moved or knocked around in the garden.

Pool Decks

Timing is everything when planning pool decks; spring time schedules fill quickly and it is usually first come, first served in this industry. Planning and development should start late fall to winter at the latest, this allows timing for changes. Michigan has such a short lived pool season and most pool owners will want to make the best of the time in which they have been given, so beginning construction as soon as the weather permits would be in their best interest.

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© Great Lakes Landscape Design, 2011

When designing your pool deck there are many options to choose from, concrete and pavers are two options. Cast concrete pavers can come in many shapes, styles, and sizes giving the home owner multiple looks to consider with just as wide of range of costs. Installation cost is also something that the homeowner needs to consider when dealing with pavers; pavers are more labor intensive to install than concrete.  Concrete is much easier to install and much quicker. Aggregate can be added to your concrete to give it a more modern look but will also add to the cost. Another option is staining your concrete to give you a custom look at a fraction of the cost of a high end paver.

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© Great Lakes Landscape Design, 2011

Good old fashion plain vanilla concrete is one option, and for variety exposed aggregate is a process where an additional stone element has been added. The aggregate can range depending on the look the homeowner chooses. The process for installation is basically the same as installing plain concrete but the final step is to wash off the top layer of concrete to expose the aggregate, hence the name. Once the aggregate has been exposed and the concrete has cured, the cuts and sealing can be performed.

Paver Maintenance

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© Great Lakes Landscape Design, 2013

You invest a great deal of money into your hard surfaces, remember to keep your surfaces looking new for years to come with preventative maintenance. Neglecting proper maintenance, your pavers will begin to fail due to multiple factors: natural erosion, weed growth and insects. Pavers are installed with a joint compound that is swept in the cracks. Joint sand is the final key to the interlocking pavement process. As long as the base remains intact, your pavers will maintain their integrity. Erosion can occur when constant water flow starts to wash out the sand from in between the cracks of the pavers; if this occurs the base can start to wash out and your pavers will begin to fail. Once the joint compound begins to fail it leaves the pavers vulnerable, and windblown soil can infiltrate the cracks of the pavers along with weed seeds. As the weeds start to grow the roots will start to compromise the base, forcing the pavers to shift.  The plants roots will start to allow water into the base, and during the winter this will start to accelerate the erosion process. Insects, especially ants, can wreak havoc on your paver base;  they can undermine your base from below and can also make your pavers look unsightly with all of those little mounds. Ants are extremely difficult to get rid of and chemical application may be necessary to remove them.

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© Great Lakes Landscape Design, 2013

Joint compound lasts about 3 seasons and then the compound inside the sand will start to break down giving way to natural erosion. Once erosion and weeds start to grow within the cracks they will need to be removed, this is where power washing comes into play. Power washing your pavers every three seasons will remove any debris that may have blown in along with any organic matter, allowing room for new joint compound. Power washing and resanding your pavers every three seasons will not only keep the integrity of your pavers intact, but will give your paver space looking new and clean.

Exposed aggregate concrete should be maintained and sealed every three seasons to not only keep that shiny glossy look, but also to keep the stone finish from chipping and wearing prematurely.

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© Great Lakes Landscape Design, 2013

Water Wins

While down spouts on your home are quite important, they can cause erosion if they spill out or if the grade is pitched negatively toward your home, most notably causing water issues at the foundation. Getting water as far away from your home is the most important goal. Installing underground drainage can transport the water far enough away to allow the water to naturally percolate into the soil, along with giving your home a much cleaner look.

drainageSump Pumps are often part of dealing with drainage issues. Depending on where the house is located and how much property the home is sitting on will negate what the options are for dealing with this issue. If property size is the issue then a subterranean plan may be the course of action; this involves digging a hole that is large enough to contain a PVC barrel that will allow water to sit. This is called a leaching system, and will allow the water to percolate naturally. If the yard is large enough, sump pumps can be dumped through the same process the downspouts are.

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© Great Lakes Landscape Design, 2011

Rain Gardens can be utilized for just about any water issue that you have ranging from downspouts, to sump pumps along with runoff. The main purpose of a rain garden is to keep the water on site allowing for natural percolation. This is accomplished by creating a basin where water can flow to via grade. This basin will hold the water until it is naturally absorbed into the soil. This process is aided by planting particular wet land and water loving plants that will absorb water along with recomposition of the soils to allow maximum retention of water.

 © Great Lakes Landscape Design, 2011

© Great Lakes Landscape Design, 2011