Outdoor decorating for the holidays doesn’t mean you have to go overboard, like Clark Griswold in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. In fact, there are lots of relatively simple – and very elegant – ways to compliment the natural beauty of your yard and create a festive mood. Here are eight of our favorite (and easy) holiday landscaping ideas:
Fill those planting pots. Take all those summer planting pots and fill them up with winter bouquets made of evergreen boughs, dried branches, ribbon and berries. Utilize any natural elements from your own yard, like pine branches or needles, pine cones, boxwoods, dried hydrangea flowers or leftover seedpods. Place larger pots alone, or cluster varied sizes together to highlight your walkway, door or patio.
Add mood lighting. Illuminate some of your existing elements in the yard by adding spotlights with colored lights. Or wrap branches or trunks with strands of lights or garland, and add waterproof tubed lighting to sidewalks, under porches, or on other structures in your outdoor space.
Don’t forget the door. Doorways are perfect canvases for holiday spirit. Purchase a couple of smaller trees (like a Frasier fir or Alberta spruce), set them in containers and cover the edges with decorative garland or pine needles. Place them on either side of the entry or front porch (and when you’re ready to take down decorations, plant your new trees in a special place in your yard). Additionally, embellish fresh, pre-made evergreen wreaths with ornaments, ribbons or natural elements like pine cones or dried flowers. Frame the doorway with garland and twinkling lights.
Highlight your mailbox. Wrap garland or tie swags of pine in layers with wire around your mailbox to set a warm or whimsical tone. Add ornaments, ribbons or other items available from your local craft store.
Take it to the next level. If you already have boxwoods, smaller potted arrangements or evergreens in your yard, add seasonal elements that can be changed from fall to winter. Pheasant or peacock feathers, gourds, corn stalks and tree branches are perfect for late fall. Switch to holly, winterberry and velvet ribbons for December. And then add glitter sprays, shiny objects or sprinkle waterproof confetti to bring in the New Year.
Dress up outdoor seating. Benches or built-in seating areas are perfect places to add clusters of holiday greenery, gazing balls, wooden signs or baskets of pine cones. Cruise the aisles of your local nursery or home improvement store to find interesting items that will add color to outdoor tables and chairs.
Switch it up. Look around your storage shelves for any interior design pieces that can be taken outdoors. Plastic fruit, for instance, can add color and warmth to outdoor bushes, trees or containers. Or maybe you have a plastic bin full of old, dried flowers that are begging for attention. Add them to some of your outdoor decorations for color and texture.
Recycle and create new masterpieces. Take your family on a treasure hunt to a nearby Goodwill and rescue wooden signs or frames, old sleds, baskets or other decorative elements that can be embellished and used outdoors. Even a pair of worn boots or ski poles can be the foundation for unique holiday creations. Make it a family event and enjoy the process.
You don’t have to spend a fortune or blow the fuses to show your holiday spirit. But if you are ready for larger landscaping projects, or you want to give the gift of a new patio, fire pit or pergola to your loved ones for the holidays, give us a call at (317) 259-9222. We can help you with that.
Some of the most often-asked questions we get from homeowners as cooler weather approaches tend to revolve around outdoor fire pits: what type or style is best, which kind would work with our back yard, and are they safe?
Backyard fire pits have become increasingly popular over the years, as property owners realize how the element of fire can enhance outdoor living spaces, provide added ambiance, and serve as a natural gathering place for friends and family. In fact, fire pits serve to extend the use of your outdoor area beyond spring and summer, and well into fall and winter.
The bonus? Because outdoor fire pits vary so much in styles, sizes and structure, you can find one to fit almost any budget. Here are some factors to consider when deciding what type of fire pit you want:
Play by the rules
Check to make sure you understand your local ordinances regarding open fires on personal property. Some municipalities ban open burning of any kind.
Consider your budget
Fire pits can cost anywhere from under $100 to upwards of $10,000 (or more), and everywhere in between. Basically, the sky is the limit, depending on your vision and budget. You can dig and build your own or have one built as part of your landscaping design.
As you envision your fire pit, think about if you want it to be permanent or portable. Do you want a built-in structure that can also serve as a focal point for your yard? Or would you rather have a portable, lightweight option that you can move according to where you are gathering? Or do you want both?
If you decide on a permanent fire pit, there are lots of options, including DIY kits or basic designs that can be made with supplies from your local big box store. Professional, custom-built fire pits come in limitless designs, and can include built-in seating for as many or few as you want. Custom designs can also incorporate materials that compliment your home and existing design elements.
No matter which type of fire pit you choose, make sure you use appropriate stones and materials, while also choosing a style that is proportional to the size and shape of your yard. And while custom-built fire pits are more expensive, when installed by a professional, they will last longer and require less maintenance or repair.
Choose your fuel
Do you want the smells and sounds of wood as your fire pit fuel of choice, or do you prefer the ease of gas? Obviously, wood requires some effort to keep those flames burning – and to make sure they don’t escape. You’ll also need a healthy stock of firewood.
You might prefer the use of gas or propane for an instant fire, (sometimes even including a remote control starter), even if it’s not as hot as a wood fire. Some designs can actually incorporate both, if the added cost isn’t a concern.
Choose your location
Remember when we mentioned the importance of knowing your local fire ordinances? Most communities require fire pits to be a minimum distance from your house and neighbors’ yards. Some don’t require a permit if the fire pit fit is smaller than a specific size, while others might require a site inspection from local fire officials to make sure your proposed location is safe (away from structures, fences, overhanging branches, etc.). And, some communities have outright bans on open fires. Remember to check with local officials before you do anything.
Give us a call
Outdoor fire pits can be just the thing to compliment your outdoor living area and bring together your friends and family for endless hours of fun. We would love to help bring your landscaping vision to life. For a free quote or more information, give us a call at (317) 259-9222.
It isn’t unusual for homeowners to look out at their lawn during the early days of fall and think, “What am I going to do with this space next year?”
By the end of summer, many feel weary and a little “over” landscaping maintenance – especially when wilting plants and faded mulch have replaced the perky, colorful flower beds of spring. The good news is that fall is the perfect time to make plans to reenergize your outdoor living space. And landscaping rocks can play a big part in giving new life to tired beds and boring or troublesome areas. But where do you begin?
Start with a Good Choice
Landscaping rocks vary in size and color, all of which can compliment your existing plants or lawn features and set a specific mood for your garden. For example, earth-toned beach pebbles can add warmth to a stark corner, while white marble chips can bring light to a shady patch. Black lava rocks or terracotta stones can add a tropical feel, but might look out-of-place next to a Cape Cod-inspired home. Because rock is durable and will last for years to come, it’s important to consider the type and color that will support your current and long-term landscaping vision.
Use Rock Instead of Mulch
Using rock for groundcover instead of mulch is an alternative for those who want low-maintenance landscaping. Although rocks are more expensive, they are durable and don’t have to be replaced every year. In fact, not only can they provide contrast, texture and dramatic color, they will last the lifetime of your garden. Rocks also discourage weed growth, especially when coupled with a weed barrier.
Create a Rock Garden
Installing a rock garden – especially near eyesores or awkwardly shaped areas – can bring artistic elements to any outdoor living area. Rock gardens work especially well in sunny spots. Start with two or three medium to large rocks, and layer with smaller rocks or pebbles. Add low-lying flowers or ground cover, filling in gaps and creating an inviting and beautiful attraction.
Make a Dramatic Statement
Instead of a rock garden, you can just go with one large boulder and create a dramatic focal point – a natural art sculpture. For optimum effect, choose an uniquely shaped or colored boulder, and use it as a centerpiece much like you would an ornamental shrub. These can be particularly useful along monotonous hedges, borders or fences.
Border a Pond or Water Element
Large or medium-sized rocks can enhance water elements and help camouflage pond liners or fountain gear. Remember that natural shapes and sizes (versus pavers) will blend in better with plants and surrounding features, maintaining an organic look and feel.
Create a Path or Walkway
If you have a shady or well-worn area that is challenging for plant or lawn growth, make a path or walkway by using a combination of flat stones and surrounding pebbles. This not only brings color and beauty to an otherwise bland section of your outdoor space, it can also increase accessibility and safety levels on treacherous or uneven ground.
Stones, rocks and pavers can create a beautiful, low-maintenance environment and give new life to your property. Whether it’s with small additions or big landscaping overhauls, we can help you transform your end-of-summer blues into an outdoor dream. Give us a call at (317) 259-9222 to find out more.
Maybe you’ve spent hours gazing at design ideas for your outdoor living space and wistfully thinking, “If only.” Perhaps you’ve dreamed of cool evenings by an impressive fire, snuggling in a blanket and gazing up at the stars with friends. Or you might have perused countless Pinterest posts with gorgeous back yard settings just calling your name.
Fall is the perfect time to start making all those landscaping dreams a reality. Whether it’s a larger patio, more seating or a complete and dramatic transformation, you can bring new life right up to your very own back door. Here are our top outdoor living design tips for the season:
There are so many easy and cost-effective ways to spruce up your landscaping and introduce a beautiful array of fall color to your porch, deck or flower beds. Start by freshening up your existing containers, or plant new ones with mums, cora bells, asters and other fall favorites. Consider adding evergreens in areas that typically become dull and bland during the winter months. Or add new beds in areas that border your property or are “trouble spots” – where grass doesn’t grow or eyesores distract your view.
Outdoor Living Spaces
Property owners often express frustration to us that they have wide expanses of blank yard only serving as wasted space – simply because there’s no seating and nothing appealing about it. By creating areas that are inviting, functional and comfortable, you will increase your available living space along with the value of your property. And you’ll instantly have a place where your family or friends can hang out and create long-lasting memories. The most popular elements that provide instant gratification include: fire pits; a pergola or arbor; walkways; defined patios or sitting areas; water features; and built-in kitchens.
Pavers & Patios
By using pavers to create patios, sitting areas and walkways, your back yard will transform into a bona fide living space providing hours of pleasure to friends and family. Paver colors and designs are as varied as your imagination. Some of the main types include:
- Brick Pavers – Used on decks, driveways, walkways and patios, these are relatively lighter in weight but are strong and easy to install. They withstand the elements and look earthy and rich.
- Concrete Pavers – While very versatile, these are often used for pathways and driveways or other open areas. Many are designed to interlock, and are placed on top of compacted sand. They are excellent for high traffic areas, in particular.
- Natural Stone Pavers – There is so much color and versatility available in this organic type, and come in irregular or smooth finishes. Set in mortar or concrete, they are great options for around swimming pools or other water features. They can also be used for beautiful visual elements in landscaping and flower beds.
- Tile Pavers– Tile pavers provide a different look, and are often preferred for cleaner, more modern lines. They are long-lasting, and can be smooth or textured. They are gorgeous on patios, decks or other outdoor elements, and can effectively compliment natural stones for contrasting designs.
If your home is built on a hill or slope, or you need definition between different areas of your yard, retaining walls might be your answer. They can be both beautiful and highly functional, depending on your needs. Your design will need to accommodate a number of elements – including the slope of the ground – and a professional will need to determine the wall size, height, width, depth and ground pressure.
Fire Pits & Fire Boulders
Adding the element of fire to your outdoor living space can bring instant fun for your family or friends. Fire pits and fire boulders can be as simple or elaborate as you want. You’ll need to consider whether you want a portable or permanent installation, and whether you want a wood burning or gas fire pit. By using high-quality materials that are rust resistant and can tolerate flames and heat, your fire pit and surrounding boulders will be the center point of your outdoor gatherings for years to come.
Outdoor Landscape Lighting
By adding lighting to your landscape, you can enjoy your outdoor living space well after dark and show off your best features. Strategically placed lights can not only highlight seating areas or focal points, but also the architectural design of your home or other areas of interest on your property. Lighting schemes can be subtle, dramatic, or anything in between, and can truly transform your outdoor area into a magical retreat.
Ready to Get Started?
We’d love to help make your outdoor dream a reality. Give us a call for a free consultation today, at (317) 259-9222.
While Indiana might not exactly be the hottest place in the world, our humid summers can certainly feel sultry and wreak havoc on plants and landscaping. As the rising temperatures take their toll, it can be frustrating to watch your well-tended lawn or garden turn brown and wilt.
The good news is that there are simple things you can do to get your vegetable gardens, perrennials, annuals, lawn, shrubs, and trees through stretches of extreme Midwestern summer. Here are our top tips for plant care in extreme heat.
In extreme heat, move your annuals and perennials that are in containers or hanging baskets in the shade (even if they are “full sun” varieties). Most pots are unable to retain moisture very long, due to their limited size. Water them daily, at minimum, and twice a day if temperatures rise to the high 90s or above. In addition:
- Water shade-loving plants like impatiens and begonias twice a day.
- If plants wilt at the end of the day, even if the soil is moist, lightly sprinkle them with water for a quick cool down and refresher.
- Hot soil is not healthy for plants, so apply mulch to keep the soil cool and moist.
There is little you can do to provide extra shade for your garden beds, so the best alternative is to keep your soil moist. If the soil remains moist at the root level, even if the surface is dry, your plants can survive. Make sure the layer of bed mulch is adequate (up to but no more than 3 inches). You can use wood bark or chips, compost, lawn clippings or leaves. Be aware that raised beds or sloped areas will dry out more quickly than level ground. Other tips include:
- Water even your shaded plants once a day.
- Watch closely for even the slightest of wilting, which is a sign that stress has already taken place.
- Water only in the morning or evening.
- Even heat loving plants like tomatoes or geraniums need to be protected. Rapid growth in extreme heat does not indicate that the plants are not stressed. Again, keep the soil moist and cool.
- Avoid applying fertilizer in heat, which can result in burned plants. If you must fertilize, use a fish emulsion applied when watering.
It’s a myth that you should just allow your lawn to go dormant during the summer. While the grass itself might revive once it cools down, heat- and drought-tolerant weeds will thrive. In other words, you’ll just end up with a very weedy lawn.
Hopefully you are already keeping your lawn strong and healthy with fertilizer. In the beginning of summer, you can apply a light dose of lower nitrogen fertilizer just before a good rain or watering. In addition, you can:
- Raise your lawn mower blade as temperatures rise, usually two or three times in stages during the summer.
- In peak season, maintain your grass at 3” long, which helps shade the soil, keeping it cooler and moist.
- Water your lawn, but avoid waste. First, target full-sun areas, slopes and grass that touches hot surfaces, like pavement, stones or blacktop.
- Water enough to soak the roots (an hour of steady sprinkling should penetrate the soil as much as 3-6”.
- Water early in the day to avoid evaporation that will cause wilt or burn.
- Avoid night watering, as plants stay wet longer, which can lead to mildew, pests and disease.
- Always follow any local drought and watering restrictions.
Taking care of your lawn and landscaping is crucial during summer months, especially during droughts or stretches of high heat. If you would like to know more about this topic, or if you need help, contact us. We can keep your outdoor space healthy and looking great.
Whether you’re an amateur landscaper or serious gardener, spring is an exciting time full of life and potential. Flower pots and beds are surely calling your name, while weekends and evenings become irresistible get-your-hands-dirty invitations. As you prepare your outdoor space for color and growth, a good seasonal cleanup is in order. Take a look at our top ten tips for spring landscaping preparation.
Prune. While most of your perennials can be cut down to the base, you’ll need to leave a little growth leftover on some of them. If you’re not sure, do some online research to find out what’s best, or give us a call for help. Don’t forget to lightly prune your shrubs and trees, too.
Weed. Pull or destroy any remaining weeds out of beds and around plants or trees. Also, remove any damaged, diseased or dead branches.
Rake. Once your beds are cleared of weeds and dead branches, rake thoroughly to further remove all that leftover winter debris. You can save this material for your compost pile if you have one. Otherwise, to help prevent the spread of any potential diseases, dispose of it properly.
Edge. Edging will create a clearly defined definition to your beds and landscaping. This will not only help give your lawn a well-maintained look, it will also help prevent your turf from creeping into mulched areas.
Fertilize. Your plants need nutrients! Consider applying fresh compost or fertilizer around all your plants to support health and vibrant growth before you layer on fresh mulch.
Weed control. While treating weeds won’t eliminate all your weed problems, it will make a huge difference by acting as a barrier (germination prevention) to any weed seeds existing in your beds. Apply weed control before you mulch in the spring, and continue throughout the summer as directed.
Mulch. A healthy layer of mulch helps your landscape look clean and tidy, and reduces surface evaporation from the soil. It will also help moderate soil temperatures, and improve water penetration and air movement. Just be careful not to exceed a 3” maximum layer. If you have existing mulch from the previous season, remove as needed.
Plant. With the spring temperatures still at a comfortable level, it’s the perfect time to add new plants, as it allows them time to adjust to their new environment with minimal stress from heat and drought.
Transplant. This is the perfect time to take care of those existing perennials that have become unruly or overgrown. Divide, move and transplant them to another area of your garden, or give them away to friends as special appreciation gifts.
Enjoy. Preparing your outdoor space is hard (and dirty) work! Take the time to sit back, relax and enjoy your efforts. Have friends over, throw parties and revel in your handy work.
While these top tips should be on your spring landscaping prep list, we know that not everyone has the time or energy to garden or properly maintain beds and other outdoor elements. Give us a call – we can help find solutions for your spring cleanup needs.
As we look out the window and see the snow, it’s hard to imagine that we will soon be planting our annuals but know that Spring is just around the corner!
Here is a countdown to the first day of Spring, which will be Friday, March 20, 2015, as well as a gallery of annuals that we have planted in the Indianapolis area. Enjoy!
Countdown to Spring 2015
Make your dream landscape design part of your New Year’s resolutions with these five easy steps.
It’s that time of year again … when you countdown to midnight on Dec. 31, and then write down all those things you want to do in the New Year. You know the drill … lose weight, exercise more or maybe spend more time with family.
But what about all those landscaping projects and renovations that keep calling your name every year? They need some attention, too! In fact, now is the perfect time to take stock of your outdoor living space and plan for the year. And we’re here to help. Take a look at our Landscape Planning Guide for 2015.
Assess your needs. Get started by identifying what you want from your outdoor living space. Do you want to be able to entertain guests and accommodate large groups? Are you a gardener, and will you want to cultivate flower beds and plants, or would you rather have low-maintenance features? And what about open spaces – do you want areas in which to exercise, meditate or just sit back and look at the stars? These are all things to consider as you create your landscaping plan.
Dream big. Most homeowners have specific beds, trees or existing landscapes that they love. And then they have areas that they just can’t stand or are in great need of attention. Take stock of what it is you like (or can live with), and what absolutely has to be changed, improved or destroyed. Then list, in order, what your dream outdoor living space would include. Even though you might not be able to afford to make all the changes on your list immediately, it will help to know where you should concentrate your efforts first. Some of the features you might want to consider include:
- Pavers, natural stone, retaining walls
- Landscape installations
- Water features
- Irrigation systems
- Designer art sculptures and elements
Develop a budget. This is probably the hardest thing for most homeowners to do, as it’s difficult to even know where to begin. Of course, landscaping costs vary greatly by markets and size of projects. According to the American Society of Landscape Architects, a ballpark figure for larger projects is 5-10 percent of your home’s worth. Keep in mind that a professional landscape design can add as much as 15 percent more value to your home, when compared to other properties in your area.
Consult a professional. While there are plenty of projects that you feel you can do yourself, consulting a professional will help you realize the possibilities (and limitations) of your outdoor space. Our experienced team members will create a custom design that can be done all at once, or in phases to fit your budget and needs. We will take into consideration your lifestyle and priorities in order to provide a comprehensive plan to suit your personality and property.
What do you think?
While focusing on self-improvement is a given during this time of year, developing goals for your home – and your lawn and garden in particular – can improve your quality of life and the value of your property. This is the perfect time of year to get started.
We’d love to know more about your landscaping resolutions. What features are on your wish-list, and what areas do you find more challenging or overwhelming? Leave any comments or questions below.