Team Great Lakes Discuss: WINTER & HOLIDAY DECOR

Alicia and Jeremy of Team Great Lakes discuss winter & holiday decor, and the different directions you can take it based on how you celebrate the season. Also watch as they deconstruct the autumn display at the Great Lakes Headquarters and create our beautiful winter display!

Team Great Lakes Discuss: DECOR

Landscape designer, Jeremy and landscape stylist, Alicia of Team Great Lakes sit down to discuss decor. Listen and watch as they give tips on how to make your indoors flow to your outdoors and back again. You can also view the transcript below. All images are property of Great Lakes Landscape Design.

Alicia: Some people don’t even realize how important it is to decorate their outdoors. They don’t even realize it’s the first place you look at, it’s the first place you come to, it’s the place you leave from, and it’s almost more important than any room, I think, in the house. I think you can have outdoor décor in your front, I think you can have it in your back. I think you can use it as far as your mailbox can be part of your décor, your rug mat can be part of your décor, and your lighting can be part of your décor. There are so many things that can create a vibe from the outside that can give like a feeling of who you are on the inside.
Jeremy: It also shows that the home is lived in, and the space is lived in and well used. It gives the space personality, and the items that you can use range from rugs, pillows, any of the chotchkie material such as pagodas and sundials, bird baths; any of that stuff can be used as décor.
Alicia: And unexpected things too, things you don’t expect. You could have statues, you could put a mirror, I mean people think mirrors are like for bathrooms and bedrooms, they’re so not according to Feng Shui they belong outside. They create a whole bunch of vibe on what kind of house it is. And as Ivan Katz says: “They make rules to follow, and we at Great Lakes like to break them.”
Jeremy: Now things like planters can also be used as décor. Planters don’t need to be just clay pots, they can be glazed with numerous colors and shapes and styles, and those all lend themselves to the personality of that home owner, giving color and range. And then you can build on that with the plant material that goes in it.
Alicia: Completely, and it doesn’t necessarily even have to be like a real pot for planting. People use all kinds of stuff, you know, you make a hole in it and you can turn it into a pot, shoes, and different kinds of pots that aren’t necessarily clay pots for planting. You know, you can create all kinds of stuff, now anything is acceptable, really. You can go with the vibe of your house, or you can be eclectic and have one feeling outside and a different feeling inside.
Desiree: You even see people using old doors and old ladders, and stuff like that.
Alicia: Windows…
Jeremy: As trellises. I’ve seen ladders placed up against a home and then vines growing on them. But things like throw pillows and afghans, things like that on furniture.
Alicia: I mean really, it’s all about inside out and outside in.

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

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.

302756_10150375694227743_1151961711_n

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.

Spring Cleanups, Pruning & Mulching

Spring Cleanups are very beneficial for the health as well as the appearance of the landscape. Cutting back perennials that died to the ground over the winter allow for the plant not to have to fight through the old debris, allowing for more nutrients to get to the soil quicker than having to go through the decomposing remains of last season’s growth. The composted material that has been removed can be added back to the beds at a later date once all the larger material has been broken down to a usable material that the plant can readily pull up. Leaf debris also need to be removed as well, as it can smother your plants making it hard for them to develop and places a great deal of strain on a plant in the early spring. An example of this can be easily shown on your lawn when leaves are left on it for too long, the lawn will show signs of struggle with yellowing and browning, but unlike the rest of your landscape plants your lawn has the ability to quickly rebound. Plant development in the spring is very important, especially if the plant is not native to its surroundings. If a plant has to struggle in the early spring it could severely diminish its ability to grow, develop, and thrive throughout the season.

spring-cleanup

© Great Lakes Landscape Design, 2014

Pruning can be beneficial, but this will all depend on what plants are within the landscape. Plants develop differently from each other; flowering times, periods of sap production etc. Bud development is a very important key if the esthetics of the plant is the flower. If the plant blooms on old growth then spring time pruning would remove all the flower buds that were set last season. These plants will need to be pruned after the flowers are spent; plants such as dogwoods, crab trees, forsythia and rhododendrons all fall within this category. Plants such as paniculata hydrangea, spirea, rose of sharon along with roses, fall within the category of plants that bloom on new growth. Spring time pruning will not remove any potential flowers for the season and would more often than not benefit the plant by thinning the plant out, forcing the plant to develop new healthy growth. Particular evergreens such as boxwoods and yews can be pruned at any point to keep that tidy look (if that is the desired look.) Do it yourselfers should research the plants that are within their landscape, as improper pruning methods can have adverse effects not only on the appearance, but also their health.

pruning.jpg

There are many different kinds of mulches, each with their own unique qualities and benefits. Many types of mulch are just for the aesthetic purpose; while these can be visually appealing they do nothing for the health or longevity of your landscape, and can eventually hinder. Materials include decorative stone, recycled tire mulch, along with any materials that have no organic content. Inorganic materials may not have to be replenished annually, however in the long run can lead to the decline in your landscape. Stone mulch can increase the soil temperature, burning the root systems while also making it more difficult for moisture to penetrate the soil. Decomposition is the key to the health of your plants; as organic matter decomposes it releases nutrients that become available for the plant to pull from the soil. Organic matter also provides the soil with moisture holding capabilities, help keep the soil cool and provides a vapor barrier to keep weed seeds from germinating. Mulch should help accent the plants, not overshadow them, remember the plants are the focal point in the landscape.
Installation practices are also overlooked; mulch should not just be installed freely with no consideration to the plants. Without proper installation practices, you can end up harming your landscape in the long run by causing rot and suffocation. If mulch is placed too close to the base of a plant, the decomposition process along with its moisture holding capacity can start to decompose the plant. Mulch volcanoes are a common site and can cause the trunk of the tree or shrub to start to decompose, making it susceptible to a great deal of pests. The root flare of the tree should always be visible and mulch should be no thicker than 3” deep, this allows for proper gas exchange between the air and the soil along with moisture penetration. Mulching perennial beds can be just as helpful, the same practices should be performed, and these herbaceous plants can be affected much quicker than woody plant material. Mulching in the spring prior to the plants emerging is the best time (based on the ease of installation); this allows the plants to be able to push past the mulch, even though installing the mulch after the perennials have grown out allows for you to put less material down. Timing isn’t of a great deal of importance; just the fact that mulch has been installed is the important fact, the benefits of installing organic mulch surely outweigh the pros to using an inorganic product.

© Great Lakes Landscape Design, 2014