02 Dec 2018

Winter Landscaping

Ah, Winter. It is that time of year that we see our beautiful landscape transformed by the snow and ice, leaving a sense of longing for the Spring when we can start the planting season again. Despite the season, there are a number of things we can do to stem the “Winter Blues” and keep our landscaping looking top-shelf. Barbara Pierson, nursery manager at White Flower Farm in Litchfield, Connecticut offers a few tips to “make you love your yard in every season!”

Originally Posted in Home and Gardens: By Kelly Roberson, https://www.bhg.com/gardening/landscaping-projects/landscape-basics/winter-landscaping-tips/

1. Focus on bark. Sure, deciduous trees lose their leaves in wintertime, leaving their branches and trunks in focus. But that can be a good thing, Pierson says, “if you have any interesting ornamental trees that have really visually distinctive bark, which will end up adding winter interest.” Many of those trees and some shrubs are smaller, meaning they’re easier to find spots for in the winter landscape. A few of Pierson’s favorites include dogwoods and birch trees, great for both texture and color.

2. Include berries. Many trees and shrubs have berries they hold onto during fall and winter, and those can provide food for birds overwintering in your area. “Crabapples hold their little fruit,” Pierson says, and they make a great addition to the winter landscape. “A holly with berries is really beautiful,” she says.

3. Remember evergreens. Evergreens are great in the winter landscape for many reasons. First, there’s color: Evergreens are not just green; they’re available in yellow, such as Gold Thread false cypress, and blues, including dwarf blue spruce, and all colors in between. And evergreens just make good design sense, Pierson says. “They are really important for a winter landscape, but they make good focal points all year-round,” she says. “I always like to have at least one or two evergreens and work a border around those. When you are planting a new bed, you always want to have at least one evergreen.”

4. Rely on your hardscape. Winter is a good time to critically assess your landscape, figuring out where it’s missing focal points. The solution to enhancing your winter landscaping might not be a plant at all. “Winter is the best time to consider hardscape,” Pierson says. “A trellis, a bench, an arbor, even a garden sculpture are really essential.”

5. Adorn your summertime containers. Window boxes, hanging baskets, winter-hardy containers: All are indispensable for winter landscaping. Miniature dwarf Alberta spruce and broadleaf evergreens, such as Japanese Andromeda, holly and rhododendron, are perfect for wintertime, but they all have to be watered during dry periods. You don’t have to spend money on plants, Pierson says. “Fill containers with evergreen boughs of different textures and colors and interesting twigs,” she says, “anything with color in it.”

6. Stick with four-season perennials. Some perennials have evergreen foliage — ornamental grasses, hellebores, even dianthus with its beautiful low-creeping foliage — making them great for winter landscaping, Pierson says. “Make sure to read the plant label and find out if the plant has foliage in the winter, so you can see it year-round,” she says.

So, no need to dread the Winter season. We can enjoy the change of scenery and find ways to keep our landscaping love alive and well.

Also, you can schedule your Spring appointment with Serene Surroundings today, giving you something to look forward to in 2019!

Call today – (734) 416-9062

09 Nov 2018

Nature Can Improve Moods

We love sharing articles with our readers that demonstrate the positive effects of nature on people. Nature can improve moods and it nurtures our mental well-being. Many of our clients express that their own yards and landscapes are natural getaways from their daily stresses and anxieties. We love to provide serene surroundings to our clients; it’s not just a clever name!

Mood Enhancers: An excerpt from Landscape Architecture Magazine, June 2018

Byline: Joann Plockova

A Cross-Disciplinary Team Examines the Effects of Nature on the Urban Mind in Real Time.

According to the results of the pilot phase of a project called Urban Mind, nature does indeed nurture. Urban Mind uses smartphone technology to assess the impact of nature on mental well-being in cities, merging the immediacy of real-time data collection with a growing body of evidence about environments and mental health.

Developed in response to an open call put out by the Van Alen Institute, the research project and open source app were created by a cross-disciplinary team including the neuroscientist Andrea Mechelli of King’s College London, the artist and researcher Michael Smythe of Nomad Projects, and the landscape architects Johanna Gibbons and Neil Davidson of J & L Gibbons. It’s one of several smartphone-based studies, including LondonMood and Mappiness, that explore the effects of the environment on mental well-being, but Urban Mind is distinguished by its cross-disciplinary team and the inclusion of specific types and amounts of nature—sky, trees, birdsong, and so forth. “We’ve had a long-standing interest in how nature and landscapes influence our health,”

Davidson, a partner at the London-based firm, says. “In regard to mental health, we always had a sort of instinct of how important it might be, but there’s been a lack of robust scientific data to support that hypothesis.” As a member of the mixed team of academics and practitioners, “we saw some benefits in the different disciplines challenging each other’s preconceptions,” Davidson says. J & L Gibbons brought a knowledge of city planning, a strong interest in research, and a decade of experience working with the mayor of London on a policy framework project focused on the city’s green infrastructure plans. “We think landscape architects are quite well placed across a lot of disciplines to see where there might be opportunities to connect the dots,” Davidson says.

A serene patio by Serene Landscape Group

Preceded by a baseline assessment that included demographics and trait impulsivity (an indicator of those at greater risk of mental health issues), the app poses a series of questions that asks participants about their current environment (Can you see trees? Can you hear birds singing?) and mental well-being in the moment. Prompts were sent to participants seven times per day over a period of one week. Data was collected in real time using a technique called ecological momentary assessment. “So as you’re walking around the city or in your office, the questions you’re asked require a response within a fairly limited time frame,” Davidson says. “What that means is that the responses you are getting are without bias.”

Results, published in January in BioScience, showed that exposure to natural elements such as trees, sky, and birdsong positively affect mental well-being in the moment, but also that those effects linger beyond the moment. And for people with more potential to develop mental health issues, those benefits were even greater. “In real terms,” Davidson says, “this might inform the work of landscape architects to inform a frequency and a distribution of urban nature interventions that can lead to the improved long-term well-being for urban communities.”

16 Aug 2018

How You Can Help Save the Honey Bees

Why Are Honey Bees So Important?

A decrease in the honey bee population means a decrease in the number of plants pollinated, which, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), is about 75% of the fruits, vegetables, and nuts in the United States. This means that 70 of the top 100 human food crops would become scarce. Without the work that honey bees do, humans would not only lose many fresh foods but also many meat and dairy products as well. This is because without the crops that honey bees pollinate, livestock would starve. In summation, the entirety of humans’ diet relies upon the wellbeing of honey bees.

In addition to a drastic increase in food scarcity, a decrease in the population of honey bees would also lead to a large reduction in the Earth’s biodiversity and natural beauty. Honey bees are a keystone species to many habitats, such as “tropical forests, savannah woodlands, and temperate deciduous forests”. These habitats attract other insects and small animals, which in turn draw in larger animals, thus creating larger, more complex and beautiful ecosystems. Without these tiny pollinators, these habitats would collapse.

Honey Bee

What Can You Do to Help the Honey Bees?

There are many ways to help the honey bees!

  • Plant bee-friendly flowers in your lawn or garden. Examples of perennial flowers that are good for bees are: Agastache, Allium, Asters, Bee Balm, Catmint, Cone Flower, Coreopsis, Hardy Hibiscus, Joe Pye Weed, False Sunflower, Lavender, Poppy, Sedum, Tall Phlox, and Turtlehead. Examples of annual flowers include: Ageratum, Clover, Dahlias, Gaillardia, Gladiolus, Nasturtium, Pentas, Petunias, Sweet Alyssum, Salvia, Sunflower, Verbena, and Zinnia. Honey bees are also very fond of fruit, vegetables, and herbs like: Blackberries, Raspberries, Blueberries, Strawberries, Cucumbers, Garlic, Pumpkins, Squashes, Peppers, Dill, Fennel, Parsley, Sage, Thyme, and Rosemary. Flowering bushes such as Honeysuckle, Butterfly Bush, Sweet Pepperbush, and Viburnum. A simple Google search will also help you find bee-friendly plants that suit your lawn or garden!
  • Make bee-friendly choices in your lawn or garden. Here are some key tips: Avoid hybrid flowers, which may be sterile and have little or no nectar or pollen, skip the double flowers, which lack pollen, make sure you’ll have blooms for bees year round, plant flowers in patches – bees like to focus on one flower type at a time, and leave an undisturbed plot for ground-nesting bees.
  • Avoid using too much fertilizer and pesticides. Research shows that neonicotinoid pesticides linger in the nectar and pollen of flowers, where bees are most likely to come into contact with them. These treatments weaken bee immune systems and make them more susceptible to disease and infestation by pests. If you do decide to use chemicals, follow the instructions carefully on the package. People should apply chemicals early in the morning when bees and other pollinators aren’t around. Also, do not use chemicals while the plants are flowering and don’t spray them in other places where pollinators may land.
  • Create a bee bath. A fun activity that can also help save the bees is creating a bee bath. Fill a shallow bird bath or a small dish or bowl with clean water, and arrange pebbles and stones inside so that they poke out of the water. Bees will land on the stones and pebbles to drink the water as they take a break from foraging and pollinating.
  • Don’t panic if you see a swarm of honey bees on your property. Swarming is a natural process that occurs when colonies of honey bees have outgrown their hive. If you see a swarm, contact a beekeeper’s association; many bee-conscious groups will collect swarms to keep or relocate them to a safer new home. Honeybees in a swarm are very gentle and present very little danger, but can be made aggressive if disturbed or sprayed with water. Just leave them alone and wait for help to arrive.
  1. Jorgenson, P. (2015, September 25). Why Are Bees Important? 33 Reasons to Care About Saving the Bees. Retrieved from http://www.lifebasicsorganics.com/blog/why-are-bees-important  
  2. 5 Ways Bees are Important to the Environment. (2018). Retrieved from http://www.pthomeandgarden.com/5-ways-bees-are-important-to-the-environment/
  3. English Gardens. (2018). Pollinator Friendly Plants. Retrieved from https://www.englishgardens.com/pollinator-friendly-plants
  4. The Honey Bee Conservancy. (2018). How to save the bees – easy ways to help the bees today. Retrieved from https://thehoneybeeconservancy.org/how-to-save-the-bees/
  5. Help Honey Bees. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.planetbee.org/save-honeybees/
  6. Rossman, S. (2017, June 23). Honeybees are in trouble. Here’s how you can help. Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2017/06/23/honeybees-trouble-heres-how-you-can-help/419062001/
13 Aug 2018

What is this White Stuff on my Plants?

Lately we have gotten quite a few calls about a white substance on a wide range of plants. This white substance is called powdery mildew and our recent weather conditions have created the perfect environment for this fungus to thrive. Powdery mildew thrives in hot and humid weather, especially if the weather conditions persist for more than 3 days in a row.
powdery mildew on plant leaf
Powdery Mildew
  • What does it look like and how do I know if I have it?

Your plant will have a white powdery substance on the top of the leaf. The leaves may also start to curl and twist in affected areas.

  • What plants commonly get powdery mildew?

This fungus is one of the most widespread and common diseases in plants. Some of the more common infected plants are Roses, Lilacs, Bee Balm, Serviceberry, Crabapples, and Burning bushes.

  • Are my plants dying?

No, this is purely aesthetic and only grows on the surface of the plant. Powdery mildew does not infect the tissue and is not killing the plant. With that being said, the plant my drop its leaves early if it fully covered.

  • How do I get rid of it?

Trim the areas of the plant that are affected by the powdery mildew and remove the debris from the area (do not compost this debris). Do not use overhead watering. Place the hose at the base of the plant instead when watering. There are also multiple chemical sprays that can be purchased at home improvement or garden centers that will help resolve the problem as well. For a more naturalistic approach, baking soda mixed in water may help solve the problem as well.

01 Jul 2018

Help Your Plants Beat the Heat this Summer!

The summer sun has come out full-force recently! High temperatures can reek havoc on your plants and yard without some additional care. Check out these tips to keep your plants healthy and happy in these high temperatures.

  • Watering- Keep soil evenly moist in order to protect your plants root systems and provide moisture. Use an irrigation system or drip hose to keep the top 4 inches of soil damp. Using drip hoses or an irrigation system can help keep your plants happy and you free from watering multiple times a day.
  • Mulch- Beyond being decorative, mulch provides many benefits for your garden bed. In the summer, a thick mulch dually protects from the sun AND helps the soil retain moisture and nutrients.
  • Weeding- Weeds compete with your plants for moisture and nutrients in soil. High temperatures also dry out soil, leaving it hard and robbing it of even more nutrients. Give your plants a leg up by removing as much of the competition you can and keep your beds weeded.

Shade delicate flowers and vegetables against direct sunlight- A shade shield could be all your garden needs to beat the sun’s concentrated summer heat. A protective shade should be 3 to 4 feet away from the plants to allow for airflow. Using PVC, you can create a flexible structure to hold your shade in place that can later be removed when the temperature cools down.

01 May 2017

Spring in Bloom – Enjoy Our Photo Gallery

Between the morning showers today, the sun peaked out just long enough.   All of these flowers are at one home and were installed by Serene Landscape Group.  This shows how colorful one landscape can be if over time the correct bulbs, shrubs, and trees are added to the design.

Spring Flowers

If your landscape is only green and lacks any color, consider consulting with one of our professionals.  Color is a worry free way of beautifying a yard and making a home truly inviting.  Many homeowners are very busy and do not have time to work outdoors at home.  We understand!  We do all of the work and you enjoy the results.

 

28 Apr 2017

How to Widen a Yard with Landscaping

Urban living often times leaves homeowners with the same problem – How to make the best use of limited yard space?

Living in a residential neighborhood does not mean a homeowner must settle with the narrow front lawn of mostly grass and the standard barrier fence around the backyard. The right designer can make even the smallest space look spacious. Here are ten design tips for those looking to widen and extend their outdoor living space.

COLOR

Place warm colors such as red, orange, yellow, and pink near the entryway and place cool colors such as blue, green, and purple away from the entryway. Warm color attracts the eye’s attention, so it should be incorporated through flower beds and planters near the front entry. Additional color can be added by painting the front door a warm color or installing a color paver brick on the entry or around the facade. The cooler colors blend with the surroundings such as the sky and grass, so they should be positioned secondary from the entry. Cool colors are best by property fences and outer areas of the landscape. Evergreen bushes, perennials such as blue hydrangea, and green ground cover are examples of these cool colors.

TREES

In a smaller yard consider planting taller, slimmer trees and dwarf tree varieties instead of larger, rounder canopies.

LEVELS

For a small space, consider adding levels. This works great for confined spaces. The levels can be as simple as a raised patio and tiered planting beds with seat walls. Another leveling idea is to elevate the living area while creating steps down to an additional living area such as a sunk in paver fire pit.

DIVIDE

Divide the space to create more areas.  For example, create an inviting sitting area with a couple of lounges or a swing and draw the eye across the landscape by adding a winding path. Further divide the landscape by adding additional beds and garden areas around trees. This can transform a plain, small front or backyard. If the space is small and all grass, it tends to close-in even more.

FLIP-FLOP

Try to do a flip-flop. If the space is all grass then add pavers, and if it is all pavers then add grass. This concept works together with dividing the space.

DIAGONALS

When designing for a smaller space, lay pavers diagonally. A diagonal path tricks the eye and creates the illusion of an expanded space. This can be true for paver walks and paver patios. Diagonal pavers on a patio open up the space.

LINEAR LINES

Use linear perspective when adding pavers that must run vertical or horizontal from the house without a curve. It is the same as the very popular subway tile concept except with pavers. Long, vertical pavers running the direction of the path make the space appear to continue further than in reality.

FOCAL POINT

Use a dramatic focal point to draw attention away from the sides of a narrower space. A focal point can be a water feature, garden trellis, pergola, custom screen, or even a birdbath, mural, or sculpture.

FENCES

If possible, avoid installing a fence around a smaller yard. Not having a fence will make the space appear much larger. If there is a chain link fence, try masking it with climbing plants and/or planting green in front. The green screen will pull the eye from the grass and create an illusion. If the fence can be painted, consider a darker color such as gray or even black. This detracts attention from the border of the property whereas the white fences tend to draw attention to the edge of the yard and enclose the space even more.

PATHS

Use a winding path through a garden walk area or as an approach to an entry. This can be done with flagstone or cut pavers. Avoid straight paths in small spaces. Elongate the line by curving it and creating a longer path for the eye to follow.

If you would like us to widen your narrow yard, call (734) 416-9062 to speak with an Account Manager. We can help you to plan your next project! Our professional designers and expert team will transform your landscape into something to be admired.