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Patio, pergola, retaining wall project


This post is officially just to tantalize you and inspire you to get on the ball! If this kind of project is in your spring plans, better start planning now. 

This project unfolded as a multi-step project; it was phased in. There have been different installs on different parts of the property. Their house is a wooden, Colorado-style cabin and the landscape we installed there is low maintenance, blooming and evergreen shrubs combined. Not many forbs or perennials, not many full size trees. This property is on a wooded site, so keeping things natural and open, yet well maintained is necessary. 

For the hardscape elements, the family wanted more outdoor space that was civilized! They got a grill kitchen, pergola and stone patio that fits the bill. They also have an uncovered patio section that is backed by a lovely retaining wall that we've begun to plant. This creates a sense of enclosure and also deals with the steep slop that used to be back there. 


The biggest practical hurdles were drainage related. There was a lot of water runoff onto the driveway and we put it on a very deep gravel base to encourage drainage. We were working to move larger quantities of water down the slope and away from the living space. There is also a homeowner installed irrigation system which had to be expanded and updated. However, the homeowners are knowledgable about plants and fun to work with! That makes it all better. The really like their flowers and containers... and they look great on the patio, don't they?





Retaining wall – Higgins Stone 14” Ledge Rock

Pergola – Treated Pine lumber and stained to match the Log cabin home.

Kitchen – Chocolate color/ matte texture concrete. Matte-finish sealer with no gloss, just to make color darker. Minnesota blend cobble stone veneer to match the existing home. The stone veneer is Minnesota blend. 

Lighting -  Kichler LED path, under cap (under bar), up and down lights in and in front of trees and on pergola.

Patio – Black Hills Rustic flagstone with pea gravel between the joints for better drainage and possible future perennial plants added into the joints.

Irrigation – Hunter I 20 lawn rotors and Rainbird  drip valve, pipe and emitters.

Fire pit - Higgins Stone 14” Ledge Rock with Kansas river rock in center.

January landscape chores- oh yeah!


Although it's subzero outside and I'm sure you don't want to be out right now, there are a few things you can do to 1) prepare for the madness of spring and 2) help your new landscape survive this rotten winter!

1. February is when we really start cleaning up the landscape beds. We will be cleaning out perennial foliage, pruning roses down, cutting all the ornamental grasses to 18", and more! But what can you do now? 

lawn landscape maintenanceIdentify what you have to do and when to do it. You have to get the leaves out of your beds, prune perennials and grasses. But you don't want to do it until the worst of winter is over. Not now. How is your lawn faring?  Where will your lawn be in the spring? Where will your new garden beds lie? What do you HAVE to change for your mental health?? The time to talk with a professional designer is now. The time to list your priorities and changes for the next growing season is NOW! If you want a beautiful lawn, now is the time to consult with Professor Chas about lawn applications (fertilizer, herbicide, reseeding/ sodding) and identifying potential problems. Something I notice about lawns, if it was a problem last year, it will come back to haunt you this year! I suggest, too, that if you have too much shade to grow a great lawn, consult with a great landscape designer. Your choices are either to acquiesce to having not a great lawn and finding a shade-friendly alternative (ground cover, shade beds, mulch beds, etc).Or you must decide to change your shade situation! If you want to take out a "bad" tree (damaged, poorly grown, old), winter is your best friend! Call your arborist/ tree service and make some plans! 

2. How can we help our existing trees and shrubs survive winter's grip?? WATER. Once a month, give the newly planted trees and shrubs a long, long, slow drink. 

tree gator resized 600This is where these Gator bags come in handy. For more than one tree or shrub, you simply fill the bag and move to the next one. If you dont' have these, use a hose on a low drip and let it sit for an hour or so per tree. The low pressure allows more water to absorb, rather than run off. Clearly, you want to pick a WARM day (ha ha ha). This weekend should be mid 40 degree temperatures and 28 or so at night, warm enough to water. 

Another tip, work on your pruning during warm stretches in February. You can (but don't have to) prune your roses and other summer blooming shrubs. The dormacy is the safest time for them to be pruned. Don't prune lilacs, forsythia, crabapple trees or other early bloomers- you will prune off their buds/blooms. They bloom on last year's wood. Therefore, only prune those after blooming. 

Fertilizing won't begin (on your landscapes) until late February and March. So just sit tight there!

Here are the services we provide the Lawrence area: irrigation design, install, repair, lawn maintenance, tree injections, landscape design and install, container design and install, hardscape design, maintenance and install. We do it all from walkways to patios to firepits to fugicide! Give us a call (785) 843-4370.

Early spring landscaping... ideas and tips!


End of the Winter Blahs! (3-2-13)

shovel clean resized 600 

-Sharpen and clean your tools. Using wire brush and steel wool, clean the rust off any of your spades, shovels, etc. Remember to wash off the soil after every single use!!

- Spread compost or organically rich material (Chicken/ cow manure, great topsoil) on your vegetable beds. Yes, it should have been put on last season. BUT it will still help your garden soil!

- Establish where you will mulch and add soil this spring. Measure out the length and width of the beds (multiply this = it is the area of the bed). Then take that square footage (length x width) and multiply it by the DEPTH of soil or mulch you want to add. 3” of mulch is NOT multiplying by 3—it is ¼ of 1 foot. So you multiply by .25 for the cubic feet. Then divide by 27 for cubic yards. This cubic yards is how much you purchase. Got it?? Same process for both soil and mulch.

Think about adding Early Spring Ephemerals to your gardens: 

describe the image

Early spring ephmerals are those harbingers of spring that assure us that the season is, in fact, changing. Ephemeral means they don’t stay around long- they bloom and usually just keep moving on. They give us hope and inspire us to garden or landscape, yet again. Even in the face of uncertain odds, bad weather and certain drought, these little plants give us hope!! 

The crocuses will start to peek out, with their strappy, grass-like leaves.describe the image  Expect this in about a week- really! The galanthus or snow drop pictured above left is likely to poke its little head up IN the snow (thus the name).


describe the image Already my daffodils have greened up and are pushing up. This is a prime time to fertilize- I use a bulb-specific fertilizer that is all natural not chemical. Try Bulb-Tone by Espoma; works great for garlic and all tubers as well (hello potatoes!). I follow instructions per the square footage for the correct amount.

It’s important to remember that ephemerals are not enough to make a landscape or garden interesting. They are a design element and a gardener’s pleasure because they are perfectly timed to make us smile and sigh and keep going. They are not shrubs or trees. They aren’t permanent (I mean they are perennial) but their foliage yellows and must remain to give nutrients back to the plant for next year. Interplant them with great ground cover like lamium or pachysandra. Use them at the base of trees. Leave their foliage on for 6 weeks if you want to see them next year. Either using a professional designer or when you are DIY, remember the bulbs. You will be rewarded!

Trees and shrubs that offer great early spring POW:

All of the trees and shrubs I mention below are available at the Lawrence Landscape Tree Farm. Go here for more info on our tree farm!

Redbud, Whitebud- 20’ H x 25’ W.whitebud-tree-tree-farm

Forsythia- 5’-7’ H x W. Can require LOTS of pruning to keep tidy. So plant it away from your house- its vibrant color will inspire you on early, grey spring days!

spring-quince- tree- farmBlooming Quince- 4-6’ H X W. Amazing coral red color and thorny shape, very Asian. Great border shrub (on the alley, property line, etc).

Star Magnollia shrub- 4-6’ H xW. Early spring bloomer will astound you with its glorious, southern, frilly white blooms. It blooms before it leafs out and has a nice shrubby/ small tree stature. Under used! Old tree- farm



Tips: don’t try to shake or beat the snow off of your trees or shrubs. You may do way more damage. If you have a small tree (like my blue arrow junipers that are 5’ tall, conical), I can gently shake them. You don’t want to uproot smaller shrubs or knick, break larger ones. The snow won’t really damage a healthy tree!

Does this snow mean we are out of the drought? Sadly, no. The ratio is variable so it’s hard to nail it down. But 10” of powdery snow equals about 1” of rain. If the snow is wetter is can be a 1:4 or 5 ratio. However, if the ground is very solid and the snow is iced over, most of the water will run off and not be absorbed. I don’t think this is an issue in our case, due to the warm winter and soft ground. But we probably only will get a couple inches (maybe 3?) out of this snow.  


Winter landscape projects


Winter Gardening Tasks

In the winter, gardeners and homeowners often just forget their garden and landscape. This, however, is a perfect time to check in with your structural plants (your evergreens, trees and shrubs) and make sure all dead branches are removed and cleaned up. If you feel abmitious and it is a nice day, you can prune shrubbery. One issue: you must know what you are pruning- do not prune spring blooming plants, as they have already set blooms. If your summer blooming shrubs need a trim up, thin out, do so. While plants are firmly asleep or in dormancy, it is safe to prune them. 

We are 17" below average on our rainfall this year. There are two or three storm systems moving our way but the likelyhood of getting more than a trace of precipitation is unlikely. Sad times for trees and plants. On a warm day, like the next few days, it is totally acceptable to give trees a long drink. Plants use less water when it is cold outside, so we only need to water once or twice during dormancy. Frank Male, our fearless leader, gives this advice: water every major holiday from Thanksgiving- St. Patrick's Day. So that means T'Giving, Christmas/ New Year's, Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day. I'd advise an Easter watering, too this year. 

How should you water? Basically, you shouldn't water any tree or shrub by holding the hose in your hand and letting the water fall down on the plant. Just put the spout at the base of the plant and walk away. Thirty minutes to one hour is acceptable for a shrub or tree. Smaller plant: less water. Larger plant: more water! 

 columnar white pine resized 600This is a columnar white pine that is thriving on the KU campus. Obviously I took this image in spring since the viburnum are in bloom behind it! But I'd like to remind all of the landscape conneiseurs out there that planting evergreens, while expensive, is a rewarding choice! There are white pine beetles and pests that can attack. But keeping your evergreens in good health with yearly fertilizing and regular water (not allowing your tree to become stressed by drought), keeps pests away! It's just like our immune system. When we remain low-stress or stress free, we are much less likely to catch a nasty cold or flu! 

Bringing the Garden Insideafrican violet resized 600

As I dream of spring, that next garden bed and which new plants I will experiment with, something that keeps me warm is my African violet collection. I saw a post on Facebook where a designer was recommending decorating with these lovely little plants. Although they are simple. Here are a few tips to make you more successful:

1. African violets love the cool. While they don't want to be in a drafty situation, they will start to put on blooms at the coldest and darkets time of year. That's good news!

2. They love a comfortable east window the best. Again, they don't need tons of light but do best with a morning sun- the east window. Put yours on a table or shelf in front of your east exposure. Southern windows seem to be too intense, as the leaves can scorch. 

3. They love company. One of the most helpful things I ever learned (from Martha Stewart, naturally): keep them with other plants. Group all these beauties together, since the air inside is very very dry and plants all need higher humidity than most houses can offer. When you put your violets (along with jade plants, philodendron and other non-fussy, medium light loving houseplants) together, they keep the air more moist. 

4. Put them on a bed of rock and water the rock saucer. I use a big pie plate, pea gravel and put two little pots in it. I always water from the bottom- no long nosed watering can. Any water on the leaves of these violets cause spots and rot. Once in awhile, I'll water from the top to change it up and push some of the white salts down out of the bottom of the pot- but not very often. 

November Garden Chores- tools, tree watering!


It's wonderful outside; here are some garden chores that will help you in the next growing season.

Plant Bulbs- there is lots of time left for this!

I chose to plant a wild, species tulip mixture this year. Last year I planted an extensive amount of daffodils (thanks, honey for the help!)! It was such a wonderful sight. Wow- bulbs really give it back to you!!

Don't bother to fertliize them until they start to push a little green in the spring. Just dig a hold that is deep enough (twice the depth of the bulb) and pop the bulb in pointing up. That pointy nose is the top!

IMG 1748 resized 600


Clean your tools

Why clean tools??

If you clean after every use, you prevent diseases, fungi,insect larva, weed seeds from spreading around your garden.  You also extend the lifespan when you removesoil after every use- soil encourages rust (through moisture) and will eat thesharp edge off of your tools! The sharper the edge of your spade, trowel, hoe, edger,the easier they cut. The easier they cut, the less muscle you have to put intothe project!

How do I clean them?

Hose off any tool that comes in contact with soil afterevery use. Use a garden hose set on maximum pressure or, with heavy clay soil,scrub with a bristle brush. DRY YOUR TOOLS- just like that nice sharp knife inyour kitchen!

For cutting tools with sharpened edges that don’t come incontact with soil (like loppers, clippers, axes, pruning shears, knives), wipethem down with a rough cotton cloth. The idea is to remove sap and gum from theblades. Use a little paint thinner on a cloth to remove really sticky stuff….Again, dry the tool after cleaning!

Prevent Future Damage

Steel tools are still susceptible to rust, even aftercleaning and drying. Note: the higher the grade of steel, the more vulnerableto rust. Use oil to repel dirt, dust and erosion. Interestingly, motor oil is touted as a great inexpensive rust preventer! They say, mix motor oil and kerosene in a 2:1 ratio(two part oil to one part kerosene). Put it in a sprayer for easy use. [Please dispose of it as you would motor oil and store in a safe way, away from heat sources]

Sharpen Tools
Sharpening is a bit more complex, but shovels, axes, trowels and hoes are easily sharpened by hand. Get an 8" long mill file with a bastard cut (that's straight dudes, not curved).  Mine cost $8.99 at the hardware store. Get one with a handle- you'll need it.

RULE OF FILE: Only draw the teeth one direction over theedge being filed. Sawing back and forth? Never. Ever. Hold the tool to be sharpened in a vise or some otherbracing system, so you can use both hands. You must maintain the same angle tothe edge as you push the file across it. To sharpen shears and knives, you need a vise and an oilstone. Like sharpening the good kitchen knife, go one direction and follow the instructions that your oil stone comes with!

Hang Your Tools

Really, fancy systems to organize your tools aren’tnecessary, unless you want them! Use a two-by-four with 10-penny nails as yourholder. Put the business end of your tool down, so as not to hit yourself orsomething else when you take it down. With wooden handled tools, just drill a hole in the handle of your tools (axes, rakes, shovels, etc.). Put a piece of leather through the end and Voila!


Random questions about tree care in cold months:


Tree Bags? Try a tree bag ( brand name Treegator) to help water correctly. It provides deep, root zone watering with no run off or evaporation. So if you choose to ignoremy directions about how to water, you can use this device! This is a goodsafety for newly planted trees and folks who have “brown thumbs”. Our opinionaround here: they should be one on every tree in every median, City of Lawrence.

Frank Male, our lovely production manager also reminds me of this: water every holiday through the winter. Water on Thanksgiving, Christmas,Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick ’s Day. This cold weather watering can really minimize winter damage and help trees survive and thrive in the spring.


Bark Wrap? Trees and shrubs can be damaged by sudden fluctuations of temperature (hello,Kansas!), prolonged periods of low temperature with no insulating snow andunexpected early/ late season cold snaps. Sun scald happens on the south,southwest side of an immature tree. It can heat up on a cold winter day,initiating cambial activity. (This means it starts to grow) Suddenly, the temperature drops and it kills the tissue. This means a big old wound, dead place and scar on your delicate new tree. Put commercial bark wrap on your tree to insulate and maintain a more even temperature. Paper or plastic work fine, as long as it’s put on in the early fall and removed in spring. Trees with thin bark who need this specialattention: cherry, crabapple, honey locust, linden, maple, ash, plum.

Since bark is much like skin, the wound can also heal. Take a sharp knife and cut out the wound in the same shape. Wrap in future winters to prevent more damage. Don't dress the wound. 




Look at the picture -- This is a downtown Lawrence tree (awesome lights!). Notice the bark wrap? Yup. But also, look at the stakes. It is really important to stake young trees. Most nursery men agree that stakes are very important for the first year. If you are planting a tree on a windy, exposed site, leave the stakes on two or three years. Please note that trees in their 2nd or 3rd year in the ground can really grow exponentially. Watch that any cables or ties are not cutting into the bark (cambium). 

bark wrap maple tree

 Winter Kill of Evergreens


  1. Winter sun and wind cause excessive transpiration (foliage water loss) while the roots are in frozen soil and unable to replace lost water. This results in desiccation and browning of the plant tissue.

  2. Bright sunny days during the winter also cause warming of the tissue above ambient temperature which in turn initiates cellular activity. Then, when the sun is quickly shaded, foliage temperature drops to injurious levels and the foliage is injured or killed.

  3. During bright, cold winter days, chlorophyll in the foliage is destroyed (photo-oxidized) and is not resynthesized when temperatures are below 28F. This results in a bleaching of the foliage.

  4. Cold temperatures early in the fall before plants have hardened off completely or late spring after new growth has occurred can result in injury or death of this nonacclimated tissue.

Foliar damage normally occurs on the south, southwest, andwindward sides of the plant, but in severe cases the whole plant may be affected.Yew, arborvitae, and hemlock are most susceptible, but winter browning canaffect all evergreens. New transplants or plants with succulent, late seasongrowth are particularly sensitive.

There are several ways to minimize winter injury toevergreens. The first is proper placement of evergreens in thelandscape. Yew, hemlock, and arborvitae should not be planted on south orsouthwest sides of buildings or in highly exposed (windy, sunny) places. A second way to reduce damage is to prop pine boughs or Christmas tree greens against or over evergreens to protect them from wind and sun and to catch more snow fornatural protection.
(thanks university of minnesota extension for the great winter kill info)

Summer in the Midwest: heat, bagworms and garden workhorses!


Bagworms!! It could happen to you...

            If you don’t have them now, then there is a good chance that you’ve seen them before.  It's that little worm that lives in a sack.  It seems to eat just about anything.  It looks like an ugly, brown Christmas tree ornament.  Bagworm 2 resized 600

Controlling bagworms can be as simple as plucking a couple bags or may entail hiring a professional for those hard to reach spaces.  Either way it is important to achieve very thorough control: missing even one bag could lead to a thousand more the next year. Teh most effective control is a spry for bagworms. Lawrence Landscape does indeed offer spraying services!

In mid-June, the bags start to become visible.  This is when the tiny worms begin to feed.  As the worm grows, so does the bag.  Feeding will usually cease in mid-August.  Even after feeding has finished, bags likely will remain on the host plant.  describe the image

 Bagworms are most commonly known for attacking cedar and junipers.  However this pest has shown itself NOT to be a picky eater.  Over the past few years, I have seen them attached to sycamores, locust, river birch, maple, white pines, oak, cotoneaster, spruce, roses, ornamental grasses, and pears to name few.  It is easy to see that a large portion of your landscape may be at risk.  Evergreens should be monitored more often, as they have a tougher time recovering from severe injury. 


Prairie Workhorses: beautiful, native (or semi-native) flowers that delight Midwestern gardeners. Any of these wonderful flowers will do well in full sun, not too much water and take on the June and July heat like a boss! Some reseed- so beware the volunteers next year. Or enjoy the volunteers next year, like I do!

butterfly mix resized 600

-Cosmos: reseeding annual

-Cornflower/ Bachelor Buttons: reseeding annual

-Sunflowers: reseeding annual

-Daylilies: perennial (pictured)

-Yarrow: perennial (pictured)

-Tickseed Coreopsis: perennial

-Butterfly bush: perennial shrub (pictured)

-Lavender: perennial

-Marigold (the old fashioned reseeding kind)

-Bee Balm (spreading perennial, watch out!) (also pictured)

-Hollyhock and Hibiscus

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