Monday, May 12, 2014

Ideas & Inspirations for Small Spaces

A small space means different things to different people. For me, an apartment dweller, a small space means the 4’ x 4’ concrete stoop outside my door. No matter what “small” may be, small does not equal disadvantage. Small spaces are a chance to create magical places with elements that would otherwise be lost in a larger landscape. The following are 10 simple steps for making the most out of a small space:
1)         Create Depth. Layering plants creates depth, and causes an area to appear larger than it really is. Color also helps to achieve this affect; placing brightly colored plants in the front of the border draws attention, making everything else recede into the background, once again creating depth and the illusion of a grander scale.
2)         Borrow from Your Neighbor. If the guy next door has some good looking plants that are readily visible, don’t be afraid to take advantage of them. Strategically placing plants to frame the desirable views from the neighbor’s yard and block out the undesirables will make the yard seem to extend further than it actually does.
3)         Outdoor Rooms. This may seem counter intuitive, but dividing a small area into different “rooms” prohibits the eyes from taking in everything all at once, making it seem larger than it really is. A couple of ways to incorporate this would be to construct walls or seating walls, use walkways, plants, and contrasting textures to delineate rooms.
4)         Focal Points. Sculpture, fountains, unique plants or interesting views are all examples of possible focal points. Positioning one or all of these throughout the garden will provide interest to draw a visitor through the garden, once again making the space appear to be not quite as small.
5)         The Magic is In the Details. Small spaces afford the opportunity to use plants and materials that would otherwise be lost in a larger setting. These areas are perfect to exhibit plants and flowers that have a more delicate or refined architecture, fragrant flowers, or paving materials that are a little more exquisite. Materials that would otherwise be too costly to use on large scale projects can be showcased in these cozy little spots.
6)         K.I.S.S. That being said about how wonderful details can be, it is also very easy to get caught up in them and lose sight of the big picture. Simplicity through rhythm and a set palette will yield much better results than a scattering of one of everything.
7)         Double Duty. Get more bang for your space by using a planter that doubles for a table, a bench that doubles as a planter, or patio furniture that transforms into sculpture.
8)         Scale. Always know the mature size of a plant before it goes into the ground- it will save a lot of time, expense, and heartache later on. Even if the plant does not get so big for the yard that it needs to be cut down, it can still restrict beneficial views, or simply make the garden look out of balance. Properly planned average to large plants can create a cozy space; otherwise, there are many dwarf varieties that were bred just for these kinds of situations.
9)         Seasonal Impact. Containers are great for small spaces, especially if having a lawn area is required for children or pets. They are easy to relocate to accommodate extra seating for larger groups, easy to keep weed free, come in many different colors and textures, and easy to switch out to provide season long impact. Containers are also great for planting edibles; imagine walking out the door to pick some fresh veggies for dinner!
10)     Go Vertical. Make the most out of the yard by selecting plants that have more upright and columnar forms. There are also many containers that go vertically instead of horizontally, and climbing plants that can be trellised along walls. Trees can even be trained to grow flat against a wall; this is called espalier. Living walls are works of art that can be placed inside or out, providing beautiful plants and excellent discussion pieces.

Small spaces can be a lot of fun and hold substantial potential. The only thing limiting them is our imaginations and misconceived notions.

By Anne Reyes

Photography Tips

Monday, March 31, 2014

Awaken Your Landscape

For years I was in the home building industry and came away with a lifelong fascination of noticing every application of crown molding, tile and recessed light fixture.  I can proudly name door hardware and sink faucet models.  When sitting in a restaurant, I dwell on poor grout joints and bad miters and take note of any and all details that the architect so carefully specified.

Now, after 11 years in the landscape industry, I drive down the street and see a world that needs a landscaper.  I pass tired walks, overgrown shrubs and damaged lawns.  I dwell on a lack of color, poor spacing and too many solar path lights purchased at the garden center.  The homeowner couldn’t possibly understand the power of the outdoors and have a yard so unkept. I think about providing services that treat tired souls.

Our job, no matter what role we play, is to rejuvenate, invigorate and awaken people’s lives through their gardens.  What a satisfying profession we have all chosen.  From a single container with herbs to a full blown makeover, we educate our client about the benefits of being outside and enjoying their natural surroundings.

We introduce them to the scent of flowers and colors unlike anything they have indoors. We can create textures and patterns that couldn’t be drawn with a pencil and paper and sounds from water, fire and wind.  Wildlife such as hummingbirds gather and the homeowner begins to mark the calendar by their coming and leaving at season’s end.  They begin to notice cloud patterns, newly opening buds, insects and animal tracks.  They become alive in their garden and realize the power of their own land.  Their new landscape provides serenity and a place for relationships to be nurtured and expanded.

Jane Frank
Landscape Designer
David J. Frank Landscape Contracting, Inc.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Moving Your Indoor Plants Outside

Houseplants Love Patios:
Moving Indoor Plants Outside For The Summer

After being inside all winter, there's nothing like sitting outside on a warm day. Even houseplants enjoy the fresh air, sunshine and change of scenery but you'll need to take a few steps to insure a smooth transition. Timm Hahn, CLT and interiorscape specialist at David J. Frank offers the following advice for moving indoor plants outside for the summer ...
"Houseplants can be a great addition to a deck or patio, and most appreciate their time in a more natural setting. However, if you take a plant from an indoor environment and expose it to outside elements too quickly, the plant can very easily become stressed and go through varying degrees of shock ... or worse. Rather than rushing your houseplants into the great outdoors, help them adjust to their new environment. A gradual acclimation to outdoor conditions is the best way to lessen the stress and give plants a welcome summer vacation.

Light is one of the biggest factors contributing to plant shock. In fact, the intensity of outdoor sunlight is far greater than that found in the home, even in the sunniest of rooms. Although most houseplants are used to some natural light, it's difficult for them to go from one extreme to another. In order to make this relocation more successful, with the least amount of plant stress, you should not place any houseplant outdoors in direct sunlight. Instead, choose a nicely shaded area on your patio or under a tree, and allow your plants to take in the fresh air for a few hours each day. Then gradually move them to an area with a little sunshine and slowly increase their outdoor time and exposure a bit each day. After a couple of weeks, your houseplants should be well adapted to their outdoor setting and comfortable for the remainder of the season.

Once your houseplants have been fully acclimated to the outdoors, there are still a few considerations to bear in mind. First, houseplants will need more water and nutrients during the warmer months, so you'll have to increase their watering and feeding intervals. However, be careful not to over do it. Too much water or food can be just as bad for houseplants as too little. Secondly, they might be pestered by any number of pests. Inside, there are far fewer opportunities for insects to bother your plants, but be familiar with and prepared to take action against common insects if you move them outdoors.

The last and often greatest factor to consider when moving plants to a patio or deck is the wide range of summer weather conditions. Wind can be a huge stressor for houseplants as they are not accustomed to strong or sustained motion. Wind can also dry plants out, toss them about or knock them over at times. To prevent problems associated with wind, place houseplants in a well-protected area, such as near a wall. Rain is another potential hazzard: a light drizzle can provide a welcome drink, but downpours can have devastating effects on houseplants, beating their leaves, washing soil out of their containers and drowning their roots. Finally, remember that outside temperatures can vary greatly and change quickly, so be mindful of the forecast. Most houseplants originate from tropical-like regions so they will need to be brought in on cool nights or whenever the thermometer threatens to dip below 55 degrees.

Just like us, houseplants appreciate the fresh, warm air of spring after a long dreary winter. If you take the time to make their move outdoors a gradual one and protect them from extreme elements, they will thank you with healthy, vigorous growth and more beautiful blooms throughout the year."

Monday, March 17, 2014

Lawn Care 101: Aeration vs. Dethatching

If your lawn doesn’t seem to be greening up as you would expect, even when you fertilize, you may have other problems. If no disease or insect activity is prevalent, you should check the thatch layer and see if this is excessive (over ¾” to 1” thick). Excessive thatch is a common problem with thick, full-sun established lawns that are fertilized regularly. 

Thatch refers to the living and dead layer of organic material (grass clippings, dead sheaths, excessive surface tillers and rhizomes) which, if allowed to become too thick, can prevent proper aeration, water penetration and fertilizer uptake. 

Dethatching the lawn means utilizing a mechanical dethatcher that literally combs or rakes through the lawn just above the soil line with a reel of metal tines that pull the thatch out of the lawn. If this needs to be done, a remarkable amount of thatch can be brought up from the base of the lawn, sometimes as much as a two to three inch layer of material, which then needs to be raked or vacuumed up and removed. Dethatching has an excellent aeration value and “opens up” the lawn for excellent water and fertilizer penetration. As with all renovative procedures on a lawn, power dethatching should be completed when the lawn has good rejuvenative, recovery capability. In other words, my favorite months to do this are April, May and September. In many cases, I recommend an immediate fertilization and possibly overseeding. This is an excellent procedure to recommend if it needs to be done.       The fees for this are priced out on our lawn renovation pricing schedules. 

Aeration is a process in which the soil underneath the lawn is penetrated, either by a hollow tine that pulls out a soil plug varying in size from 3/8” to 3/4” and varying in depth from 2 ½” to 6” in the case of deep tine aeration. Aeration is sometimes accomplished with a vertical knife machine. This procedure is recommended in lawns which are typically grown in sunny conditions (not in all cases) that are suffering from over-compaction. This over-compaction might be caused by poor subsoil or it might be caused by excessive wear, such as in the case of an athletic field or golf course. In these more intensively used turf environments, it is not unusual to core aerate four or five times per year. Sometimes a light sand topdress follows the core aeration. This procedure is stimulative to the grass population as it allows air, water and nutrients to penetrate directly to the root zone. This can be thought of as a pruning of the roots. Just like pruning a hedge, the roots can rapidly regenerate – especially when the aeration (as we recommend) occurs during seasonal periods with the faster recovery. This is typically April, May and September. Following the aeration with fertilization and, as indicated above, a light topdress can also be recommended. It is always necessary to prepare the client for the appearance of the aeration. It is desirable and typical to leave the cores on top of the lawn. In many cases, we use a chain link drag to break these cores up which provides a nominal topdress of soil material on the lawn surface. Using a turf core puller to take three or four samples from the lawn and examining the subsoil can indicate the necessity of recommending core aeration. Indicators are poor root penetration toward the subsoil as well as a very dense compacted soil.

Joe Schmid
David J. Frank Landscape Contracting, Inc.

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Road to Becoming a Registered Landscape Architect

Why become a Registered Landscape Architect? A landscape designer does the same type of work, right? Wrong. If you make the decision to pursue a career in the landscape industry, becoming a Registered Landscape Architect (also referred to as licensed landscape architect) means getting to the head of your field. To become a Registered Landscape Architect (RLA), one must complete an accredited four-year college program. The national society, ASLA (American Society of Landscape Architects), has a rigorous set of guidelines to decide which college programs become accredited. An accredited program is one in which theory, engineering, mathematics, spatial design, human behavior/interaction and construction details are taught in depth. This four-year educational background is the fundamental difference between a RLA and a landscape designer. A RLA is trained to design aesthetically pleasing landscapes while creating spaces that promote specific behaviors/activities and interactions among people while protecting the health, safety and welfare of the public.

Once a person graduates from an accredited program, they must work under a RLA for a minimum of two years. After two years, they are eligible to take the national exam. After you have passed the exam, paperwork must be filed with the state where the tester wants to be licensed. The state will then issue the Landscape Architect their stamp with their license number.

The road to become a RLA is a minimum of six years and both challenging and fun. Each project is different and allows for creative thought and design. Knowing you have a part in creating spaces that people use every day is rewarding, especially when you see them enjoying it.

Michael Seaman
Registered Landscape Architect
David J. Frank Landscaping

Monday, February 10, 2014

Things to do in Milwaukee (Winter Edition)

1. Eat at Martino’s on Layton, a family owned restaurant for over 30 years featuring the “best Chicago style hot dog in the country”. Find every topping possible for your dog; featured on the Travel Channel’s “Man vs. Food”.

2. Drink (and Eat) at the tucked away Safehouse. A unique collection of spygear complete with hidden passages. Ladies, beware of Burt Reynolds. Password or shenanigans required for entrance!

3. Stargaze at UWM’s Planetarium on Friday nights for only $2. You can go to for a full list of events.

4. Laugh it up at the Comedy Café. Rated as one of the best in the country, it is located near the corner of Brady and Water Street.

5. Travel the world with Each collection of amazing pictures tells a story about a different region or culture of the world. Avid photographers can create accounts to display their talent.

6. Check out the historic North Point Lighthouse, located across the street from Bradford Beach on Lake Michigan. Original landscape design was done by Frederick Law Olmsted, designer of Central park and the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.

7. Learn more about Frederick Law Olmsted, the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair and America’s first serial killer in Erik Larson’s Devil in the White City, book that is not easily put down.

8. Tour homegrown Sprecher Brewery. Known for their cultivation of old world brewing methods/flavor and gourmet sodas.

9. Shop at Mayfair & Bayshore malls. Not only does DJFLCI install beautiful annual flower plantings at both of these malls, but our holiday décor at Bayshore is not to be missed.  Stroll at night and admire the 50’ lit Christmas tree.  It will surely put you in the spirit.

10.  Take a tour through the Nationally recognized Pabst Mansion.

Tips by Anne Reyes
Client Service Rep.
David J. Frank Landscape Contracting, Inc.

Monday, February 3, 2014

7 Ways to Alleviate Stress

We all deal with stress or anxiety during our daily lives, some more than others.  
However, do you ever wonder about certain people who just don’t seem to get stressed out? How do they do it? The following techniques may help you feel more comfortable when facing the challenges of your job, relationships, family matters or everyday life.

1. Communication 
A common problem for most of us is anxiety when dealing with communication.  The fear of speaking causes you to worry. Express your thoughts through other forms of communication – whether it is a phone call or e-mail.  No matter the outcome – you will feel better knowing that you have communicated, and now you can move forward.

2. Listen to Music 
I find music to be very therapeutic.  Music can make you forget your worries, lift your spirits and energize you.  When things get you down, turn on your favorite tunes and let the music carry you to your “happy place.”

3. Laughter 
This is a powerful tool to help fight stress.  Watching a comedic movie or TV show will make you smile and laugh resulting in a better state of mind.  

4. Massage Therapy
You will benefit from the relaxation of your mind and the stimulation to your body.  It can be a fun activity with a significant other. If you have never had a massage, go get one!

5. Don’t Procrastinate
One of my favorites.  Putting things off only to do them later in a rush often creates poor results.   Get ‘er done!!  You feel good when you finish what you started.

6. Exercise
A great way to make you feel better is to exercise.  This does not mean go run a marathon – 
a short walk or riding your bike can clear your head and give you inspiration to solve your problems.

7. Time Management / Planning 
When most of us think about stress, one main component is time.  You feel overloaded and become discouraged when you feel you don’t have enough time to complete your tasks.  Schedule time each day for planning and you may find yourself with less stress and more time.

“The truth is that stress doesn't come from your boss, your kids, your spouse, traffic jams, health 
challenges, or other circumstances. Stress comes from how you approach and handle it.”

Monday, January 20, 2014

Snow Work Process & Best Practice

 At David J. Frank it may seem like there is some down time during the winter, but in reality there is work going on every day to prepare for the next large snowstorm.  Throughout the year our team of professionals spends much time researching and planning to provide the best materials and the best service to our customers when the snow starts falling.  The time spent bringing this information together provides our clients with the best services when the winter weather hits.  Here are a few things that we consider every time it snows to keep our clients properties safe and usable!

 While we don’t have an on staff meteorologist on staff at David J. Frank, we do have the latest technology to update us on the current weather conditions in the winter.  When snow is on its way our management team of snow professionals considers many factors to determine how service will be completed at our sites.  Important things to consider with a storm event are the start of precipitation, type of precipitation, storm intensity, expected storm length, wind conditions, temperature, etc.  All of these factors have to be taken into account to make sure that the right amount of service is provided at the right time on each site.  Some sites may need more service based on the time of day and that also plays a factor in planning how to tackle a storm.  There is a huge amount of planning that takes place to be ready to clean up after a storm and all of the factors noted above are important to consider for all aspects of snow clean-up.

             Today we also plan ahead before a storm hits to prepare our sites and keep them safer ahead of time.  This includes the use of anti-iceing agents. Anti-icing can be a cost-effective strategy that optimizes chemical usage. It is a proactive approach that should be first in a series of strategies for most winter storms. By applying chemical freeze-point-depressant materials before a storm, you can prevent snow and ice from bonding to the pavement.  This can greatly affect how safe a property is during a storm and decrease liability for property owners.

             In addition to anti-iceing, we also pre-treat our salt in many instances to enhance its ability to melt snow and ice. Pre-treating is mixing a liquid into the stockpile of salt or sand before it is applied. Unlike pre-wetting, it does not require equipment changes.  We also use winter sand and other abrasives when temperatures are too cold for deicing chemicals to be effective. But be aware that sand does not melt anything. It provides temporary traction, and only when it is on top. Sand also clogs sewers, ditches, and streams. As a result, avoid sand use as much as possible. A salt/sand mix is generally not recommended. Salt reduces the effectiveness of sand, and sand reduces the effectiveness of salt. However, a salt/sand mix may be helpful in limited situations such as a freezing rain event where the salt is washed away quickly. A 25 to 50 percent sand/salt mix has been documented as effective in increasing friction by sticking the sand to the surface, like sandpaper.

            In the end, the snow professionals at David J. Frank are always preparing for winter.  We know in Wisconsin every winter is different.  With climate change looming who knows what this winter will bring!  When it comes to snow new ideas and new ways to keep our properties usable in the winter in South East Wisconsin is a priority at David J. Frank and we look forward to continue to be a leader in this part of our business for many years to come!

Zach Lieven
Landscape Architect

Monday, January 13, 2014

What is organic?

We have all heard the term “organic” tossed around but what does it really mean and why is it important? According to the online dictionary, organic means “noting or pertaining to a class of chemical compounds that formerly comprised only those existing in or derived from plants or animals, but that now includes all of compounds of carbon.” Basically organic means the plant, product or animal was grown without the use of any synthetic materials, genetically modified organisms, pesticides, antibiotics or growth hormones.

Why is it important? Well, because we all care about our future and the future of our grandchildren. The use of chemicals is forcing nature, including both plants and animals, to mutate around our chemical methods, thus creating hard-to-beat strains of bacteria, super-weeds and an imbalance of insects. We are also ingesting daily low doses of poison with the chemically grown food that we eat. Yes, it is less expensive at the checkout, but in the long run, the expense on our health, the land and the earth is priceless.

What can we do? First we need to change our perspective. We need to respect nature and let it be what it is rather than try to contort or control it. We need to see weeds or an overabundance of damaging insects or disease as a symptom of an imbalance rather than the problem itself. We need not to respond by relying on chemicals alone, but working to re-align that balance and using chemicals only as a tool to help us get there. We need to invest in healthy soil, use integrated pest management when presented with insect challenges, put the right plants in the right places and use a diverse variety of plants making sure to include native varieties. We also need to support the farms that are using organic and sustainable methods of farming, buy local and grow our own food at home.

Organic methods in the garden can be viewed as an investment for the future. They may not always offer an instant response that some chemical controls may present, but they are slowly adding to the health of your garden to have a wealth of balanced soil, flourishing plants, healthy animals, and a safe environment for everyone. Instant gratification can be enchanting while patience can be difficult, but it is important to think beyond the now and understand the effects of our immediate choices.

Why is healthy soil so important? Soil is the magical ingredient. Healthy soil is crucial, just like a good diet is vital for us to be healthy. Soil is the source of nutrients for plants, the breeding ground for micro-organisms that continue to enhance the soil quality and the source for water holding capacity. Without healthy soil, the success of plants is minimal. (I suggest watching “Dirt! The Movie” for further information and inspiration.)
What do we mean by the right plant in the right place? Set plants up for success by planting them where they will flourish rather than insisting that plants perform outside of their natural boundaries. Don’t plant full sun loving plants in part-shade or shade and vice versa and don’t plant monocultures (all of one plant). A diverse variety of plants means a diverse variety of insects which thus assists in creating a balanced environment.

Enough with the monocultures! We all love to play in the grass, but it has its place and its place does not need to be the majority of every home landscape. We tend to see grass as a single unit, but we forget that it consists of thousands of the same plant in a mass planting. Of course we shouldn’t banish our beloved turf, but we should keep it in moderation, designating it to the areas where we can use it and enjoy it and then fill the rest of the landscape with a variety of plants to include natives, vegetables and trees.

After a change in perspective and some habit adjustments, we can create healthier lifestyles for ourselves and our future. Let’s put change in the piggy bank to build toward a greater future filled with abundance and well being!

Erin Brophy
Client Service Rep.
David J. Frank Landscape Contracting, Inc.