Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Mild March Madness

Did you know that this was the first March in recorded history that Minnesota (and parts beyond) did not receive a single flake of snow? In fact, we have not officially had any snow since Valentine’s Day (which I remember vividly as I drove through it on the way back from a nice date with my wife in St. Cloud.) But other than that, it has been a rather unique and unseasonable March, in a good way, that is.

At least, that's how it has been for us up here on the northern hinterland. Judging from the Facebook photos I have seen from my relatives as far south as Arkansas, Missouri, and even in other places around of the Southeast, they all got their fluke“snowball’s chance in h*ll” snowstorm once, twice, or maybe even three times this year, with the last one being in March. Go figure.

Well, most everyone who filled out an NCAA bracket probably saw their bracket crumble, and may have scored their all-time lowest point totals in recorded history at the hands of the UNI Panthers, Butler, and St. Mary’s.  Now, the Final Four has been set and we enter into April tomorrow with 77 degree temperatures. It is time to start preparing for getting the spring landscape up and ready to grow.

There are a few items that could be looked at and addressed in promoting healthy lawns and gardens this April, and help them to get off to a good start and look their best in 2010:

- If you are inclined, dethatch and remove the old leaf litter, infected lawn, and any debris from the previous season. Go ahead and overseed if you would like. Aerate if you would like.  If you are overseeding and want to stop crabgrass, you must use a special type of pre-emergent herbicide called Treble, which won't harm the good seed. Otherwise, you can apply a pre-emergent Crabgrass herbicide with fertilizer to lawns to control annual crabgrass, usually around mid-month when soil temperatures reach 55 degrees and Forsythia is in bloom.

- Dig the mulch from around your perennials a little and watch them come through. Consider adding some compost or organic matter around them. You can Apply Preen or Treflan, or use Corn Gluten Meal if you want more of an eco-friendly choice, to the landscape beds to control annual weeds. Existing weeds can be pulled, or sprayed with Round-up (make sure to follow manufacture's instructions).

- Go ahead and fertilize trees, shrubs, and evergreens.

- Go ahead and spray fruiting trees, like crabapple and hawthorn trees with dormant spray.

Get ready to watch the leaves bud out, and the flowers, bulbs, and spring bloomers come out and bloom.

And, if the NCAA Brackets are at all salvageable, or if you feel the same way I do about college basketball..... please, please, please don’t let DUKE win the NCAA Championship this year!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Spring Things – Beyond the Spring Equinox

Happy Spring!  The dirty brown piles of snow are all but gone.  The sun now rises just after 7 AM and sets just before 7:30 PM.  The robins have returned. The red maples are blooming. The crocus flowers, tulips, and other spring bulbs are showing signs of life to make their appearance for a brighter spring. All things begin anew in the landscape. The Minnesota Twins are playing ball in Fort Meyers. Joe Mauer is secured to an 8-year contract extension. The chalk lines on the green grass of the new ballpark are about to be set. The landscape trucks have removed their snow plows (hopefully for good) as they prepare for the coming season. The new season is drawing near.

In preparation for the new growing season, and as landscaping season begins, here are some tips on things to do in the yard as you go outside to get some fresh air:

- Prune trees and summer-flowering shrubs (flowers on new growth after mid June) while still dormant. You have about a week to prune oaks, if you absolutely must, before the running the risk of oak wilt, although it is much easier to identify the dead wood to prune in the late fall.

- If needed, rejuvenate prune shrubs such Japanese and bumald spirea varieties, honeysuckle, smokebush, red twig dogwood, burning bush, and a few others within the next week or so.

- Cut back ornamental grasses to 3” and clear other perennial remnants from the fall, to clear the way for the new growth of newly emerging perennials.

- Plants to refrain from pruning until after bloom: azalea, rhododendron, bridal wreath spirea, crabapple, lilac, chokeberry, magnolia, serviceberry, mockorange, forsythia, sandcherry, and most hydrangeas.

- Rake the yard when it is dry enough, and inspect it for evidence of ailments such as snow mold and lawn fungus, and remove the residues of your beloved pet. Consider the need for dethatching, aerating, and needing to patch or reseed lawn areas as the overnight temperatures continue to rise toward 45-50 degrees. Consider whether to apply a type of pre-emergent or post-emergent weed control measure as you head into the month of April, whether you need to re-seed parts of your lawn will help influence this decision on when and what to use.

- Begin your landscape plans!

(cue the segue…)

It is a good idea to have a landscape professional consult with you, as you review the needs of your property and consider all of your landscape’s potential for 2010. Landscape Design can bring your property to its fullest potential and achieve its fullest value, and maximize the enjoyment that you, your friends, and your family will have at your home. It adds “virtual square footage” to your home and provides a custom outdoor setting where you can experience three of Minnesota’s best seasons in the beauty of the outdoors.

Once again, that’s what Jack and I at Landscape Design Studios are here for. We have the tools and the skills to show the full potential of your own outdoors, and we have a group of amazing professionals to make this potential a magnificent reality.  Please call us and let us show you what we can do to customize your outdoor experience.  Visit us at

…And I certainly look forward to doing this over the next 8 years while watching Joe Mauer batting for the MinnsesotaTwins in their new magnificent, custom outdoor ballpark.


Red Maple Blooms.
Mad CAD skills.
Getting the big hits!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Big Thaw. Then...The Big Push.

Aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise of “Landscape Design Studios”, watching the slow and steady 40-degree rain melt away the snow. With the rain and “warmer” temperatures, my pristine 8.5’ mountain of snow off the driveway is now a dwindling, dirty-brown mound of about 3’ tall. It is amazing to see that the grass being revealed under the snow is already a pleasant shade of green. With some phone calls and emails going out to clients and prospects, as the glacier of snow over Minnesota melts away and the green grass is revealed, it will not be long before the “The Big Push” is on. It will be time to hit the thrusters and prepare for *warp speed*.

So far, my role involves writing thorough proposal descriptions for my clients, with lots of facts and adjectives on what I can and will do for them, on what their designs can be, and how I (we) can differentiate myself (ourselves) from the rest of the pack.  (There are clear differences on how we can be our client’s best advocate, and offer them great pricing.)

Also, as a Designer for my clients, I have been set with the task to “make the snow disappear” and clearly illustrate their landscape and remodeling ideas for them, in spite of the winter landscape. It requires some different techniques to make this possible. Sometimes, it is just as simple as a plan and a few good sketches. But I like to make things as vivid and illustrative as possible for my clients, whenever I can.

This can bring out the stubborn perfectionist and masochist in me. Kind of like when I was a kid in 2nd grade, when I had to spend a long winter inside with a broken leg.  (I broke my leg in a sledding accident, after building a "bobsled course" through the woods behind my house.  I flew off course and hit a tree, really hard.  Thus, ending my shot at a medal in the Olympics.)  With a cast on my leg, I would sit perched in front of my Atari system for hours and hours, trying to master Space Invaders or Asteroids, until I could get that score as high as possible to where I would finally feel content. Usually, that was also when my fingers and thumbs hurt, and my eyes ached from sitting in front of the screen for so long.

Now, I find myself sitting in front of my computer in the same pose, with the need to make a living and support the family, working meticulously through the design idea and creating the “scene” until it is reasonably “perfect”.   Usually, that is also when my fingers, thumbs, and eyes ache, and I need to finally get myself to bed.  (I knew that all of those Atari games I played as a kid would be good for something!)

The objective now is to help articulate the design as well as possible, and allow my clients to “see” their actual project, with their actual home, and with their actual landscape in some context of its full glory.

1. Here is an example of a front yard terraced hillside and planting design I recently finished. The goal was to remove the lawn hillside and most all of the lawn from their front yard, including the city right-of-way, and replace it with garden space. They want a small space to sit in their front yard, a functional lawn corridor through the landscape, and to have plenty of places to plant a lot of vibrant plants in somewhat of a contemporary style. So, this is how I revealed the landscape plan, in spite of all the snow cover.

2. Here is an example of an “up north” property that is to be remodeled and updated with a more beautiful and functional landscape, that takes it from a “2 star property” toward a “4 star property”. This one is still a WIP, and might be for a little while yet. But I am in the process of getting the “big picture” scene made, and getting the on-going dialogue with the client underway. (This seems like a really nice client, who I feel fortunate to have recently met. I love working for clients who are great people and make my work fun.)

I am ready to get to work.  Now, what can I do for you?!

..........…Oh, and where is that new Joe Mauer contract?!   (coming up next.)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

"Hitting the Ground Running"

This doesn't really follow the whole "launch into space" metaphor from the first post, but "Hitting the Ground Running" seems to fit appropriately. Maybe it should be "Hitting the Moon Running"? Or maybe the unexplored and new territories of Mars? This is all new and adventurous territory for us, being our own guys and making things happen.

Anyway, Jack and I had what seems to be a successful presence at the St. Paul Home and Patio Show, as well as the Minneapolis Home and Garden Show…which is great! It was good to meet new people, and  was absolutely great see some old friends and family passing through. It was fun to feel like spring is just around the corner.  Congratulations to Mr. Brudevold and Ms. Pampuch for winning free plans.

I am eager to get the spring season here, albeit a little on the gradual side, in order to ease into the demanding pace of dedicating ourselves to traveling for appointments and burying ourselves in designs and CAD drawings into the wee hours of the night, or maybe the early mornings in Jack’s case. It is always good to have spring come in a steady progression rather than just show up in the front yard one morning.

It is too early to tell, but 2010 and the pioneer voyage could be a fun and successful year.  As our motto goes: “Design is our passion. Service is our solution.” We are now ready to deliver the service we have aspired to this year for our clients, to save them time and money, and put them in very capable and considerate hands. The many pages of our business plan describe it, and now we’re ready to execute it.

First, I will try to complete the plans that I have donated to fundraisers for different worthy causes; the nuns and consociates at St. Catherines, and an orphanage in Rwanda, and hope to proceed to get one that is on the table ready to go first thing this spring. Then, I will proceed to work on the potential graduation party project, the new construction home full of weeds and dirt, team up with a couple of other colleagues on certian projects, and visit the others who had given us snippets of information at the home shows. And off to the races we go!

Here are some samples of one of those potential projects, somewhat of a simpler project on an existing home, which I have illustrated to show how these spaces will work together.

Here’s is to making it a great year, and a year for getting what you need and a good portion of what you had hoped for! Cheers!