Posted on April 5th, 2013 No comments
We’re proud to announce the release of our new and improved website, www.naturesperspective.com.
While this online newsletter shares timely information on new plants, products, projects we’ve undertaken and such, our website shares more details on what our company is all about, and features more photo galleries for landscape design ideas.
You’ll find more information about our services, service area, how we work and the design process, the many ways we take part in green solutions and more.
Our portfolio has been updated to include more recently completed projects. It has six categories: Entrances, Gardens, Hard Surfaces, Structures & Accessories, Water Features and Maintenance. You can read about landscaping challenges we met and addressed in the Case Studies section, which features before and after photos.
We hope you enjoy our new look (and possibly discover your own garden featured in our website)!
Posted on February 18th, 2013 No comments
The recent Chicago Auto Show showcased a dazzling variety of cars in all kinds of price ranges. Some visitors may have been there looking for a new car, with a budget in mind, while others went to dream about the possibilities.
Since spring is only a few weeks away (and you’ve found yourself reading our blog), you may already be thinking of landscaping your property this year. If you are considering using a professional for installation or maintenance services, it is helpful to think of budgeting for a landscape investment in a similar way to budgeting for a car.
There are times when you know you need to put some money away to maintain or purchase a vehicle. Maybe your worn-out sedan is crossing the 200,000 mile mark, or your family just outgrew the minivan. In determining your goals, you need to decide if you are going to downsize from the minivan you have been driving since the last millennium… or maybe it’s time to consider the sporty coupe you have been eyeing for years. Whatever the reason for your being ready to shop, you have to consider a budget range before shopping.
Considering maintenance? It is no different than when speaking with a landscape consultant. It is important to look at your needs in the same terms as spending money on your existing car. Are you looking for an “oil change”, “new wiper blades” or “transmission flush”? These are necessary periodic maintenance visits, with relatively small monthly costs involved. $0-$300.
This is similar to your typical landscape maintenance visit. These services involve mowing, pruning, fertilizing and spring/fall clean-up visits. These services can be presented in a seasonal cost, or spread out over a number of months.
Thinking of making small improvements to your vehicle to make it last a bit longer? Maybe you are not budgeting for a new car, but need to spend more than the typical maintenance costs to extend the life of what you have. The same principles exist your with your property. If you have made the decision to live in your home for years to come, landscape enhancements are often considered to update the look of your property. Consider improvements in your landscape in the same budget range as what you would spend on improving and extending the life of the car you are driving.
These enhancements are typically small plantings, hardscape projects, installing landscape lighting or possibly a small water feature added to the garden. $500-$3,000.
Or, are you considering purchasing a new car? If you decide to buy a new car, you have to decide on a feasible price range. Most people realize the price difference between a GM sedan and a BMW sedan, and know which one they will be able to afford.
This is a harder distinction to make when developing a landscape plan. Just like buying a car, it is important to set a realistic budget. You may not know what landscaping costs, but you know what cars cost. The two costs are very much the same. Some comparisons:
A nice landscape project can be accomplished for the price of a used car. $3,000-$15,000.
A complete landscape design and installation is about the price of a popular new car. $15,000-$35,000.
The larger and more detailed your project, the closer you get to the price range of premium class luxury cars. Upwards of $35,000+
A Budget Refines Your Project
It is important that you provide your designer/salesman with a price range so that they can realistically propose concepts that you will be able to conceivably purchase.
You won’t be interested in the economy car, when you have the budget and desire for the luxury car (or vice versa).
Some base models may be $40k, but you might be test driving the one that is $60k. Plan a budget range and discuss it with your landscape designer. With this guidance, you will be presented with a design that will fit your expectations and not one that will break the bank.
Allow your designer to conceptualize with a budget in mind. Your time spent in the preliminary stages of design will be much more effective and productive if you are on the same budget page.
Whether you are going to the mechanic, dealership, landscape designer or maintenance manager, it’s going to be an investment in time and money to find the best fit for you. Be open and honest with your designer, and they will strive to build you the best project within your budget. In the end, a good full-service landscape contractor aims for complete satisfaction with your landscape investment, and will strive to keep it looking great for years to come.
Posted on January 16th, 2013 No comments
Our clients purchased this charming 1920’s Dutch colonial house with plans of making it their own.
The existing landscape consisted of a traditional front lawn with overgrown shrubs and a scattering of perennials. Our clients wanted to simplify the maintenance, add curb appeal and create a garden for all to enjoy.
After remodeling the home’s façade, they were ready for a fresh look for the front yard. We removed the lawn and plantings, saving some perennials to transplant. Removing the overgrown plant material revealed a beautiful stacked limestone retaining wall. A new paver sidewalk and sitting area were installed to provide a place for the homeowners to enjoy their garden and chat with passersby. Stepping stones tie the areas together and allow one to meander through the lush cottage garden. A mixture of evergreens, hydrangeas, roses, grasses and perennials were added to create a year-long showcase and welcome birds, bees and butterflies. Containers of colorful annuals, landscape lighting and drip irrigation complete the garden rejuvenation.
Posted on July 19th, 2012 No comments
What is a dwarf conifer? A conifer is technically a plant that produces cones… pine cones immediately come to mind. Most conifers are evergreen. Dwarf conifers are cone-bearing plants that are smaller in size than their straight species. They are not plants that have been severely pruned or stunted with poor nutrition or difficult growing conditions; rather, when full grown they will be mature trees that have been selected for their small size. They have the same needle color and branch characteristics as their larger cousins; they just don’t get as big.
This can be a real asset for our urban properties. The small stature of dwarf conifers enables them to fit into most landscape situations. Most properties don’t need a 60-foot tall evergreen to screen the neighbors when one that matures at 20 feet tall will do.
With today’s busy lifestyles, adding dwarf conifers to the landscape is a great way to reduce overall maintenance while adding year-round interest. Perennial gardens are lovely, but take a great deal of time to maintaim. The addition of a Globe Blue Spruce or a Golden Mops Chamaecyparis will fill the space and reduce the number of plants needing regular deadheading, staking and pinching. They will provide interesting color, texture and structure to any garden bed. In winter, after perennials have died back and deciduous shrubs have lost their leaves, these small evergreens hold the bed together and provide winter interest.
One note of caution: we don’t recommend Dwarf Mugo Pine. Although they a beautiful dwarf evergreen, they are very susceptible to Pine Sawfly larvae. When they are attacked, they can be completely stripped of last year’s needles within a day or two. This damage ruins their form and makes them unsightly.
These are a few of our favorite dwarf conifers:
Dwarf Globe Blue Spruce Picea pungens ‘Glauca Globosa’ has a rounded shape with a flat top. Silver-blue needles look especially blue when they first emerge in spring. Deer and rabbit-resistant. 3-5’ tall x 4-6’ wide. Full sun.
Fat Albert Blue Spruce Picea pungens ‘Fat Albert’. Unlike its awkward name suggests, this showy, blue-needled evergreen actually has a refined pyramidal shape, and its taller height allows for more landscape uses. Deer and rabbit-resistant. 10-15′ tall x 10′ wide. Full sun.
Bird’s Nest Spruce Picea abies ‘Nidiformis’. Small and squat, with a hollow center, this little evergreen with bright green needles looks like its common name suggests. Deer and rabbit-resistant. 2-3′ tall x 2-3′ wide. Full sun.
Dwarf Hinoki Cypress Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Compacta’. A distinctive pyramidal evergreen with coiled, deep green branches that are reminiscent of corals. Perfect for the Asian-themed garden. Best in a location protected from wind and salt. Deer and rabbit-resistant. 6-8′ tall, 3-5′ wide. Part shade.
Fernspray Cypress Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Filicoides’. An upright evergreen with an open, irregular habit, and unusual sprays of lush, fern-like foliage. Also perfect for an Asian-themed garden. Deer and rabbit resistant. Best in a protected location. 6′ tall x 4′ wide. Full sun-light shade.
Little Mops Cypress Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Mops’. Dainty and delightful, this low-mounding evergreen is also called Threadleaf Falsecypress. It has a very fine texture and brilliant yellow, scale-like foliage. Grows slowly to 5′ tall x 5′ wide. Full sun-part shade.
Fire Chief Arborviate Thuja occidentalis ‘Congrabe’. A unique selection with green needles that have orange-red tips. Best color in full sun. 3-4′ tall x 3-4′ wide. Full sun-light shade.
Mr. Bowling Ball Arborvitae Thuja occidentalis ‘Bobazam’. A perfectly round, small evergreen with soft, finely textured, gray-green foliage. 2-3′ tall x 2-3′ wide. Full sun-light shade.
Compact Tanyosho Pine Pinus densiflora ‘Umbraculifera’. Also known as Japanese Umbrella Pine because of its shape, it offers striking orange bark and long, upright needles. Makes a very beautiful specimen. 8-10′ tall x 10-12′ wide.
Posted on September 9th, 2011 No comments
Labor Day, the traditional end to summer, has come and gone. For us at Nature’s Perspective, we have started the fall season. The cool weather has added to the feeling that fall is here.
Fall is a wonderful time to establish new plantings or reconfigure existing gardens. Warm days lead to cooler nights and rainfall becomes more regular. Trees, shrubs and perennials have started to slow down growth and begin their winter dormancy. The leaves are starting to change color and drop, but below ground the root system is continuing to grow, repairing any damage from transplanting or the harsh summer. This continues until the ground freezes. Even the Kentucky bluegrass lawns are responding to the cool weather with fresh green growth, a last hurrah before winter. However, at this time of year we should actually THINK SPRING! Spring-flowering bulbs can only be planted during the fall. Everyone is familiar with colorful, showy Tulips and cheerful Daffodils that are the mainstay of the bulb garden. There are many other spring-flowering bulbs that are not as well known, but definitely should be in everyone’s garden. We created a list of some lesser known bulbs that are also resistant to deer and rabbits! Think about the possibilities of adding small pockets or large swaths of color to your garden starting as soon as the snow melts in March with Snowdrops and Winter Aconite and continuing until the Allium finish the show in June.
Listed in order of their appearance, you can count on the following bulbs to bloom and perform beautifully in your garden.
Snowdrop, Galanthus nivalis, do well in our area and emerge very early. The small, three-segmented, drooping white flowers are 5″ tall and stand out dramatically above their silver-green foliage.
Winter Aconite, Eranthis hyemalis, is another early bloomer. The solitary, yellow buttercup-shaped flowers grow 6″ tall and are surrounded by bright green bracts that look like a collar around the blossom.
Reticulated Iris, Iris reticulata, has little vibrant purple blooms with a gold stripe appear above thin-straplike leaves. 8-12 inches tall.
Glory of the Snow, Chionodoxa, are low growing plants, reaching 4-6″ high with grass-like leaves that appear the same time as the flowers. Star-shaped flowers face upwards and last two weeks or more, and are available in white or blue. (March/April)
Scilla, Scilla siberica, also called ‘Squill’, has vivid blue flowers and stands about 5″ tall. You can see some strikingly beautiful and very large drifts in many North Shore gardens where they have been naturalizing for many years. Some varieties are available in pink and white, but the blues are spring time knock-outs.
Windflower, Anemone blanda, is a charming border plant with daisy-like flowers that comes in a variety of blues, pinks, violets and white. The foliage resembles parsley and the plant stands about 6″ tall.
Grape Hyacinth, Muscari armeniacum, is the largest of the minor bulbs with tiny deep blue flowers densely clustered, like miniature grapes, on a firm stalk. The flower cluster is about 5″ long and the plant grows to 7″ or 8″ tall. They bloom a long time and produce a striking effect when planted in drifts.
Species Tulips, Tulipa spp., bloom in early spring and are smaller in size than the better-know hybrid tulips. Growing only 4-12” tall, they nonetheless come in many shapes and colors, and naturalize better than hybrid tulips in the garden. T. greigii grows 8-12 inches tall and blooms in mid spring, and is available in pink, yellow, orange, red, ivory and peach. T. linifolia grows only 4 to 6 inches tall with vibrant red flowers.
Camas Lily, Camassia leichtinii, is a mid-sized plant that sends up slender purple, star shaped flower stalks atop its grasslike leaves. Plant these in an undisturbed area, and they will naturalize in your garden for years. Foliage dies back in early summer. 24-32”h.
Crown Imperial, Fritillaria imperialis, are large plants that send out stately, impressive 3-foot tall flower stalks. Nodding whorls of colorful flowers in red, yellow or orange red are topped by a crown of spiky, glossy leaves. Great for the back of the border or in a location you want to make a bold statement.
Ornamental Onion, Allium spp., is naturally deer-resistant and comes in different forms and sizes. Purple Sensation Allium has 2? to 4? diameter purple globes on sturdy 24-30” stems in early June. Globemaster Allium is a tall and architectural plant, with, huge, globe-shaped purple flower heads on 3- to 4-foot stems. Beautiful next to peonies and irises.
Posted on July 26th, 2011 No comments
Many gardens in the areas we serve have two factors that can make gardening difficult….deer and shade. If you love the look of ornamental grasses but thought they couldn’t possibly survive in your shady, deer-troubled garden, think again. There are actually a number of beautiful ornamental grasses and sedges that not only tolerate shade, but seem to be resistant to deer. They would make an unexpected yet wonderful addition, with their fine texture playing off other plants that typically inhabit a shade garden, like hosta and fern.
These are our favorites:
Carex elata ‘Bowles Golden’, Bowles Golden Sedge, is a beautiful sedge with vivid yellow foliage that seems to glow in partial shade. This plant grows in a tight, densely tufted mound and is somewhat upright in habit, and would thrive in a water or woodland garden or moist location. 12-18” h.
Carex hachioensis ‘Evergold’, Evergold Sedge, has thin, creamy leaves edged with green margins. More fountain-like and delicate looking than ‘Ice Dance’, it creates a striking, whorly mound that, when massed, lights up dark corners of the shade garden. 8-12” h
Carex morrowii ‘Ice Dance’, Ice Dance Sedge, is a small, somewhat upright sedge with deep green leaves edges with distinct white margins. The foliage lasts well into winter. 8-12″ h.
Chasmanthium latifolium, Northern Sea Oats Grass, is a tall, bamboo-like ornamental grass with graceful arching stems with bluish green foliage and tolerates full sun to partial shade. Its flattened, saw-toothed flowers change in color from green in summer, to copper in fall and then tan in winter. Oat-like seedheads are great in dried arrangements. 36-48”h.
Hakonechloa macra, Japanese Forest Grass, is bamboo-like and noted for its movement in breezes, offering a cascading or an undulating behavior much like flowing water. The variety ‘Aureola’, with its yellow blades striped with green lines, is wonderful in shady areas or evening gardens, and complements dark leaved plants. Prefers moist, humus-rich soil. 12-18”h.
Deschampsia caespitosa, Tufted Hair Grass, is a clump-forming, cool season grass that sends out wide, airy panicles of subtly tinted, tiny flowers high above the plant, appearing cloud-like. It thrives in a moderately shady, moist location with organically rich soil. 24-36” h.
Hystrix patula, Bottlebrush Grass, is a medium sized, upright ornamental grass that is very shade-tolerant and native to the US. Leaf blades are a pretty blue-gray, but what’s striking about this grass are the beautiful, bottlebrush-like flower spikes it sends out in summer. Very deer- and rabbit-resistant. 36-48”h.
Luzula nivea ‘Lucius’, Snowy Woodrush, looks like an ornamental grass, with its thin, deep green blades, but it is actually a member of the Rush family. This plant is surprising in that it looks like an ornamental grass, yet it bears small clusters of fluffy white flowers in early spring and summer. If you have a moist, shady location you’d like to brighten, give this plant a try. 24”h.
Sporobolus heterolepsis, Prairie Dropseed Grass, is a clump forming, warm season native grass has with airy, scented spikes that hover over finely textured. hair-like medium green foliage. Its fragrance is likened to buttered popcorn, hot wax, and some say it has hints of coriander. Foliage turns a beautiful, golden with orange hues in fall, fading to light bronze in winter. A tough grass that tolerates a wide range of soils, including heavy clays, but it prefers dry, rocky soils. Can thrive in light shade. 18-24″h.
Posted on June 30th, 2011 No comments
Looking for a dramatic plant to serve as a focal point in your garden? Think Black. Black Lace Elderberry, that is!
Black Lace™ Elderberry (Sambucus nigra ‘Eva’ ppaf) is fairly new to the United States, introduced in 2006. One could easily mistake this plant for an exotic Japanese Maple, given its lacy, finely-cut leaves that are purple-black in color. But unlike a Japanese Maple, it is easy to care for and thrives in full sun.
In early summer, creamy pink, domed flowers appear, contrasting beautifully with the dark foliage (the above photo was just taken in our nursery in full sun). The flowers will turn into black-red, edible berries in fall, which you can snack on, or leave for your birds to enjoy. An added extra is its deer resistance.
Black Lace Elderberry came to our nursery several years ago as a trial plant. It has proven to be very cold hardy. Its mature size is about 6-8 feet high and just as wide. It can be pruned yearly to maintain a preferred size, or trained into a tree.
Beautiful, easy to care for, adaptable as a focal point or a hedge and resistant to deer? Now that’s one plant you should know.
Posted on June 30th, 2011 No comments
Our crews at Nature’s Perspective have begun pruning small trees and shrubs at our maintenance properties. The record rains and cool temperatures, interspersed with a few hot days, has made for lots of spectacular growth. We like to wait until most plants have finished flowering and after the new growth has started to harden up. This makes for the most efficient and effective pruning. We try to prune using the plant’s natural habit as a guide so that when we are done, the plants look tidy, but not sheared nor sculpted. Here is some information on the how and why of pruning… if in doubt give us a call.
Proper pruning enhances the beauty of any landscape tree and shrub, while improper pruning can ruin or greatly reduce its landscape value.
The old saying is to “prune when the knife is sharp.” That means that the “best time” to prune is almost any time you and the proper tools are ready. This can be true, but there are some “better” times to prune. The only time you should not do a hard prune is late summer when rapid growth may be encouraged but will not harden off before winter. Dormant pruning is a term for pruning done in late winter or early spring before new growth begins. It is a time when the branch structure is visible (since leaves are off) and corrective pruning can be done easily.
Spring-flowering plants typically bloom on last season’s growth, or on old wood, and should be pruned soon after they bloom. This will allow for vigorous summertime growth and result in flower buds the following spring. Examples of this type of plant are Forsythia, Lilac and Viburnum.
Some shrubs that bloom after June usually do so from buds which are formed on shoots that grow the same spring, or on new wood. These shrubs can be pruned in fall or winter to promote vigorous shoot growth in the spring. Examples of this type of plant are Hydrangea, Summer Spirea and Rose.
It is important to know which type of shrub you have and which pruning time is best for your shrub.
Types of Pruning
Besides trimming to tidy the appearance of the plant and to control growth, there are two major types of pruning: gradual or renewal pruning and rejuvenation pruning.
In gradual renewal pruning, a few of the tallest or oldest branches are removed at or slightly above ground level annually. Generally one third of the plant can be should be removed each year, creating a fully renewed plant in three years. Removing these oldest largest stems allows light into the interior of the plant which stimulates new vigorous shoots to develop. Some thinning may be necessary each year to shorten long branches or to maintain a symmetrical shape. This pruning will help increase flowering and fruiting production, even on the first year of the pruning cycle.
Another type of pruning is rejuvenation pruning. This is the complete cutting of all stems to slightly above ground level (6 to 12 inches). This is a more drastic option, but is ideal if your shrub has become too large, leggy or has too many stems. Do not do this type of pruning during the growing season. A flush of new growth will emerge in spring. Similar to renewal pruning, some thinning may be necessary each year to shorten long branches or to maintain a symmetrical shape.
Use high quality tools designed for pruning, such as bypass pruners, pruning saws and loppers. Wear thick gloves. Sharp, clean tools are essential- and keeping a sharp eye on your work assures safety.
Posted on February 16th, 2011 No comments
We are proud to announce we have been recognized by the Illinois Landscape Contractor Association as a 2011 Excellence in Landscaping Award winner in the category of Residential Landscape Construction. This distinguished honor is unique because of its rigorous application criteria and that the judging is done by fellow landscapers throughout the industry.
A landscape upgrade for the salt-box style home fulfilled our clients’ desire for an outdoor entertainment space which harkened back to their New England roots. The small corner lot presented several challenges with regard to space allocation, site drainage, zoning restrictions, privacy needs, and providing universal access for friends and family members.
A full range of elements were brought into play to provide for the functional as well as the aesthetic imperatives of the renovation which included spaces for cooking, dining, entertaining, tool storage, trash storage, pet needs, alley access, screening views, flowers for cutting, a water element, and a traditional style— all within a footprint of approximately 3,000 square feet. Every aspect and system was removed, altered, or added, including grading, stormwater management, utility lines, structures, hardscape and softscape.
The sight and sound of water, as well as a source of shade, were pivotal to our clients’ enjoyment and comfort in their outdoor living space. Both of these elements were custom-designed and custom-fabricated to fit the compact space and to have particular performance features.
The fencing and the four support columns for the pergola are made of composite material to minimize maintenance. The flooring of New York bluestone and red clay paving brick has a warm color palette that marries well with the yellow frame house and imparts an east coast Colonial style.
A traditional picket fence replaces the old evergreen hedge and gives the garden the airier feel which our clients desired. It also freed up more space for flower beds which are filled with more than 170 perennials and 300 bulbs. The only remnant of the former landscape, a storage shed, was moved to a more discreet location toward the rear by the alley where it houses garden supplies. To address pet needs, a fenced dog run was installed in the back corner of the lot.
The paths and seating areas are set at the same grade and wide enough to maneuver mobility devices throughout. The old deck off the back door was replaced with a ramped surface of smooth clay pavers.
We thank our clients for allowing us to enter their project into the competition; our designers for their creativity and vision; and especially our foremen and crew members, whose hard work and attention to detail is unsurpassed.
Posted on November 12th, 2010 No comments
Summer’s splendor has come to an end. The lushness of lawns, trees, shrubs and flowers has faded, but a garden should be showing a quieter side just as beautiful as the previous season. Every garden should have its share of plants that provide interest during Chicago’s long winter season. Evergreens provide winter interest because they hold their needles through the winter months. They are, of course, the staples of the landscape; boxwoods and yews cover foundations with their green lushness. But evergreens come in all sizes, textures and colors, and can be used as specimen accents through the landscape. It’s fun to put a few small specimens in the perennial garden for a winter effect, or use a larger plant to add drama at the back of the bed. Here are a few of our favorites photographed up close, during a stroll in our nursery this afternoon.
Mops Golden Cypress Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Mops’ is a pretty little plant with a low-mounding, pyramidal form and brilliant yellow, thread-like foliage. Best color shows when planted in sun; it turns green in shade. 60″ tall x 36″ wide.
Hinoki False Cypress Chamaecyparis obtusa Some have described the way the needles are held on this unusual, slow-growing plant as resembling coral formations. Especially attractive in a Japanese garden. Its holds its dark green color best in part shade. 8’ tall x 4’ wide.
Sullivan Falsecypress Chamaecyparis lawsoniana ‘Sullivan’ has softly drooping branches that provide a semi-pendulous habit. This fluffy yet narrow evergreen grows well in sun to part shade. Tips turn a bright red-orange in cooler months. We feel it performs better in this area than a Canadian Hemlock. 15′ h x 8′ w.
Blue Star Juniper Juniperus squamata ‘Blue Star’ is a little plant with its fantastic, bright, steel-blue needles. Low-growing, slow-growing, mounded in form, it makes a great accent in a sun-loving rock garden, or as a low border plant. 24″ x 36″w.
Hetz Juniper Juniperus chinensis ‘Hetz Columnaris’ is tall and strong, yet delicately textured, with an upright, pyramidal habit and emerald green foliage. Dense, tight habit makes this plant useful as a screen. Best in sun. Blue fruit are very attractive in the fall, turning golden brown. Distilled juniper berries are the source of gin! 10′ h x 5′ w.
Globe Blue Spruce Picea pungens ‘Globosa’ is a bright blue dwarf spruce with a neat rounded habit, flat-topped and densely branched. A beautiful sun-loving specimen deserving of a place by the front door or a special spot in the garden. 36″ tall x 36″ wide.
Mr. Bowling Ball Arborvitae Thuja occidentalis ‘Bobazam’ is an delightful little plant that holds it attractive, unusual sage green color on soft, feathery leaves all year. This plant forms a perfectly round, compact globe. Who can resist its name? Loves sun. 24″ tall x 24″ wide.
Fire Chief Arborvitae Thuja occidentalis ‘Congabe’ is a little fireball, compact, and round, with distinctive foliage coloration of green and yellow with pinkish-red tips. Best coloration is achieved when sited in a sunny location. Never needs pruning. 36″ high x 36″ wide.