Monday, December 19, 2011

Tasty Containers - Just Add Edibles!

Container Gardening With a Tasty Twist - Mix Fruits and Vegetables With Flowers

With a new year approaching, we’re talking about what’s new in landscaping, and one answer is good enough to eat! Edibles in containers will be hot this spring but you can start now if you have a sunny window ledge, a few pots and some seeds.

Zach Lieven, landscape architect and maintenance specialist at David J. Frank, reports that more and more plant growers are including fruit and vegetable plants in their container “recipes” and also developing compact hybrids that do well in small growing environments. Forget the sad-looking upside down tomato plant; new varieties and combinations are making container gardening a tasty, rewarding and beautiful option.

Some of the most attractive containers are those with plants of differing sizes, colors and textures, and edibles fit well into these combinations when combined with colorful annual flowers. Think about the tall, fern-like foliage on a carrot, the interesting twining habit of grape vines or bright bunches of hot peppers – these and other edibles have unique foliage or fruit that works well with annual flowers. The result is a big statement in a small space – a dual purpose container that appeals to the eyes and the appetite.

Start with the right container – large enough for a healthy root system but not so big that you can’t move it if it needs more sun later in the season (six or more hours a day) or if it’s threatened by frost. With fresh potting soil and good drainage, you’re ready to plan and plant.

 With some thought to selecting bush or dwarf varieties, almost any vegetable can be adapted to growing in a pot. Vegetables that take up little space, such as “Spacemaster” cucumbers, green onions, baby carrots, radishes, pole beans or loose leaf lettuce, or crops that produce for a long period of time, such as cherry tomatoes and hot peppers, are perfect when paired with bright annuals. Easy care, attractive herbs also work well in containers with vegetable and/or flower containers. Rosemary, purple basil, garlic chive and more look and smell as wonderful as they taste.

Don’t stop with vegetables when fruit also grows well with flowers in containers. Mix red annuals with strawberry plants to enjoy both blossoms and fruit, or plant a glossy, fragrant dwarf lemon tree in a container for easy over-wintering. Another hot fruit plant is the blueberry; it has pretty blue-green foliage and white spring flowers, then yields a huge crop of tasty berries for easy summer snacking. When planted with white or purple annuals, blueberries make a beautiful, bountiful container garden.

Make the most of your sunny space and get more from your containers. Planting edibles with your annual flowers is a smart, beautiful way to utilize small spaces and a practical choice for anyone who appreciates the flavor and convenience of homegrown produce.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Growing UP...with Green Roofs

milwaukee green roofIn urban developments where most of the land is covered with bricks and asphalt, landscaping has only one place to go. Up. All the way to the top, with green roofs becoming a popular and important part of the new Milwaukee landscape. And David J. Frank is at the top of this trend, offering a full range of sustainable and environmentally friendly services. Jeffrey Miller, a landscape architect and project manager with David Frank, recently completed the largest green roof on any public building in Wisconsin – the new live roof at UWM’s Golda Meir Library.

green roof buildersCollaborating with the construction team and university officials, Miller (right) supervised the installation of nearly 50,000 square feet of green space atop the Library. Far more than just a layer of plantings and soil, a green roof is a complex environment that includes a waterproofing and root repellant system, drainage system, filter cloth, lightweight growing medium and plants like sedum. More intensive designs can include traditional garden elements, like raised vegetable beds, annual pots or perennial flowers, walking paths, seating areas, rainwater harvesting systems and more. Regardless of the scope of the plan, every green roof must be painstakingly designed and installed within specific weight and water management criteria for safety and sustainability.

golda meir library roof
planting on roof

According to Miller, the benefits of this and other green roofs easily justify the investment. Incentives for building owners and developers include:
- Energy savings through a reduction in AC use and costs;
- Storm water management by reducing storm water run-off and incidences of combine sewer overflow;
- Improved air quality by reducing air borne pollutants;
- Mitigation of the Urban Heat Island Effect for more efficient use of energy with fewer emissions;
- Positive perception of the facility as environmentally friendly makes the building/business more marketable.

The green movement at UWM is largely credited to Jim Wasley, Associate Professor of Architecture. With his students, he developed a Stormwater Master Plan to minimize the amount of polluted rain water that was pouring off roofs, over pavement and into Lake Michigan in the heavily developed campus community. Today with the help of the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District and David J. Frank, Wasley’s ideas are growing – literally – and expanding the role of landscaping in areas where there is little land.

To date, David J. Frank has brought its environmental expertise to more than a dozen major green roof projects in the Milwaukee area, including those at Bayshore apartments, Park LaFayette, Landmark on the Lake and MillerCoors. Watch for more great projects and landscape innovations in 2012!

bayshore apartments green roof green roof by fish wall
park lafayette rooftop garden landmark on the lake roof

Each week, staff members from David J. Frank's six branches and specialty divisions all meet to discuss the latest company and green industry news. This green roof is one of many special projects managed by landscape architect Jeffrey Miller, who just returned from the 2011 CitiesAlive conference in Philadelphia and welcomes your questions about green roofs and walls.

Monday, November 14, 2011

What Might Be Killing Our Trees ?

What do landscape pros talk about when they get together? This week at David J. Frank, we’re talking about tree-killing Imprelis herbicide...

Each week, staff members from David J. Frank's six branches and specialty divisions all meet to discuss the latest company and green industry news. This week, we received a special report from Nursery Manager Dave Grillaert. Dave has a degree in horticulture and environmental sciences, so when he talks, we listen ... and you should too.

This week we're talking about Imprelis ...

a DuPont-produced selective auxinic broadleaf herbicide that is proving to be even more damaging than initial reports indicated. Dave is quick to note this is NOT a product we have used here at David J. Frank, but we are feeling the repercussions and taking precautions on any sites where it may have been applied. Reportedly "gone rogue," Imprelis doesn't just poison dandelions, Creeping Charlie and other common weeds; it also attacks spruce and pines as well as firs, yews, arborvitae and some deciduous trees and shrubs in the vicinity of treated turf. And it's not just delicate young plants: mature trees – some up to 30 or 40 feet tall – are dying as Imprelis moves from turf to the soil around their roots. What's more, it is not yet known how long this herbicide remains active in the soil but experts have already advised against chipping affected trees for mulch because the residual toxicity in the dead wood may damage plants surrounded by the tainted chips.

The EPA, which approved Imprelis just over a year ago (October, 2010), has now banned further sales and use of this toxin but the damage has already been done in at least 22 states. Aggressively marketed as an environmentally friendly way to kill broadleaf weeds, Imprelis is even more aggressive in its attack on conifers (particularly Norway and Colorado spruce and white pines) as well as honey locust, poplar, willows and other deciduous trees that are dying after contact. DuPont claims the product had been through 400 trials before its release but the deadly impact on trees at homes, businesses, parks, golf courses and more is undeniable. A claim can be filed by calling DuPont at 866-796-4783 but the deadline is November 30, 2011 and requires documentation and photographic support.

We have certified arborists on staff who can easily recognize the symptoms of Imprelis damage, specifically browning and twisting of new growth followed by rapid dieback, and can remove and properly dispose of the ill-fated tree. For better lawn care options as well as professional tree services, trust David J. Frank Landscape Contracting. We welcome your questions about this and all your lawn and landscape needs.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

New Ideas From Our Nursery

A recent staff meeting included an informative walk through our tree nursery at the Germantown headquarters, led by Dave Grillaert. Dave is our nursery and facilities manager here at David J. Frank, and also a horticulturist with a background in environmental science. The purpose of his "tour" was to remind our landscape architects and designers that we have a great number of strong, healthy trees and shrubs readily available from our own 120-acre nursery, and that our selection is not limited to maples, spruces and other "standard" landscape plants.

Ours is truly a "signature nursery," with many uncommon specimen trees and plants available only to our customers. For example, you've probably heard of a Japanese Tree Lilac, but we also carry a Chinese variety that becomes more attractive as it ages, with interesting peeling bark and fragrant flowers. Nearby were slow-growing Kentucky Coffee Trees that, once established, look almost tropical.

chinese lilac tree
Chinese Tree Lilac
kentucky coffee tree
Kentucky Coffee Tree

Dave also introduced us to the funky specimen Threadleaf Arborvitae, the Heritage River Birch, which has the whitest bark in this family and the Three Flower Maple, which has three seasons of great color plus a cinnamon red bark that peels for about ten years then has a uniquely bare trunk. Also among Dave's favorites is the Seven Sons Tree, and for good reason: most trees flower in spring but this one is at its best in fall, with clusters of white, sweet blossoms that give way to pretty red fruit and bronzy leaves.

thread leaf arbor vitae
heritage river birch
3 flower maple triflorum
Three Flower
7 sons tree
Seven Sons

Other shrubs of interest were the Mariken Dwarf Ginkgo, with its bushy habit and unique curled leaves, the hardy Bayberry which is regaining popularity as more than just a holiday candle scent and the colorful Tiger Eye Sumac, which starts out chartreuse in spring, turns bright yellow in summer and finishes with scarlet-orange in the fall.

Dwarf Gingko
bayberry shrub
tiger eye cut leaf sumac
Tiger Eye Sumac

Among the flowering shrubs, Dave pointed out the new Bella Anna Pink Hydrangea, the Fairy Shrub Rose that is one of the most reliable producers of pink blossoms, a new variety of Weigela called Fine Wine and woody American Wisteria that flowers at a much earlier age that its predecessors.

bella anna pink hydrangea
Bella Anna

fairy pink shrub rose

weigela fine wine
Fine Wine

american wisteria purple flowers

We saw many other new varieties and old favorites during our one-hour tour, and could have spent much longer wandering through aisle after aisle of trees, shrubs and perennials. With so many plants at our disposal, it's no wonder we create some of the most interesting landscapes in the business.

If you're adding to your landscape, new and unique plants maybe be as close as OUR backyard. Ask your David J. Frank architect or designer for a planting plan that includes something special from our nursery, and enjoy the look and feel of doing things just a little different ... and a lot better.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Summer Color.... Contained!

There's nothing like annual flowers for adding color to a patio, front yard landscape, storefront, office entry or any place that needs a seasonal boost.

And you don’t have to limit yourself to the selection of pots or hanging baskets at your local garden center or home store – container gardening is your chance to get creative and surround yourself with color and style that is uniquely “you.” With just a little work and imagination, you can make a one-of-a-kind elegant, eclectic, vibrant or subtle display that lasts all season.

Containers come in all shapes and sizes so choose whatever appeals to you; just make sure it allows for proper drainage. Punch or drill small holes in the bottom if necessary, or add a layer of gravel to the bottom of the pot to help maintain proper moisture. (Adding gravel also adds weight that can prevent pots from being blown over on a windy day, especially if tall plants make them top heavy.) Also using specially blended potting soil – most varieties include fertilizers and are formulated to hold moisture longer for the best result and more blooms.

More than just traditional geraniums, petunias or potato vines, try new combinations like hybrid varieties, flowering vines, multi-colored foliage, tropical plants, accent trees and ornamental grasses. Try several varieties in complementary colors or mix it up with contrasting shades, textures and heights. Maybe you’ll want to match the colors of your home, follow the color scheme of an upcoming party or try different arrangements for spring, summer and fall.

For more ideas or inspiration, check out our portfolio of annual arrangements or visit - a great source of “recipes” for colorful pots, raised planters or flower boxes.

Whether you buy them or plant them yourself, flower containers need ongoing attention, but the non-stop color is worth the effort. Most annuals come with an information tag that tells you about their height and growth habit as well as light and water needs. Generally, annual plants will require more frequent watering when in a container. Never let the soil dry out completely, and this can mean watering several times a week, or even daily during hot spells. Also consider “deadheading” – pinching off dead flowers so the plant’s energy is focused on forming new buds instead of supporting spent ones. Of course, you’ll need to pull any stray weeds – yes, weeds even find their way into flower pots – and use a “bloom booster” fertilizer as recommended.
Whether they stand alone, in groups to showcase flower varieties or are added to a garden design for special interest, beautiful flowers make summer special, so enjoy these and everything about this wonderful but too-short season!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Spring Ahead and Catch Up!

It's been an unseasonably cool season, but after a few set backs and false starts, Spring is finally here! Time to get out in the garden ...

After a very long Winter, your yard and gardens are going to need some work and you're probably anxious to get started. So anxious in fact that you've probably already been out in the yard in a knit hat and gloves, trying to get a head start. Good for you - we often seem to go directly from Winter to Summer, so you don't want to miss a single Spring day and Fall even further behind!

If you're just getting started, no problem: start with a little Spring cleaning. This means removing leaves, debris and soil mounds around roses, raking out areas of thatch and cutting back perennials and ornamental grasses. Cleaning also means taking inventory of your gardening supplies: toss any expired seed, fertilizers or pesticides and repair or replace necessary tools.

The next big step is to stay a step ahead of weeds. Professional lawn service (by David J. Frank, of course!) really is affordable when you consider the cost per bag plus the time it takes to research, buy and apply the right "weed 'n feed" product. Regardless of how it gets there, get pre-emergent weed control plus fertilizer on your lawn as soon as possible. If crabgrass and other nuisance plants get a comfortable start in your lawn this spring, they'll be with you all Summer.

Finally, it's still a bit early for most annuals but you can start seeds indoors. Cosmos, cleome, allysum, California poppies, bachelor buttons, blue flax, marigolds and sunflowers are all extremely easy to grow from seed and will be ready to add color as soon as Mother Nature adds a few more degrees to our now-chilly overnight temperatures.

Now's also the time to update some existing flower beds or design a new one – on paper. Depending on the size of your project, you may want to work with one of our landscape designers for a plan that takes into account light, soil conditions, plant height and overall harmony in the garden. Having a "shopping list" is also a good idea if you're just stopping at a local shop for a few things – like going to the grocery store on an empty stomach, visiting a garden center with a bad case of spring fever can lead to a car-full of beautiful but mismatched plants.

The next few weeks will be busy ones for gardens and gardeners alike. Just don't forget to slow down from time to time to enjoy the changing scenery!