Design Philosophy: Love Your Front Walk by Brooke Hansen

It's February and I thought this would be a great time to talk about an area of the yard that you would assume gets a lot of love, but most of the time doesn't - the front walk.

Now you'd think it wouldn't be so poorly neglected right?  It connects right to the focal point of most houses, which is the front door.  So why is it that we usually end up with a skinny little "J" shape between the driveway and the front door?  It's not because the homeowners have bad taste and it's not because that's the only option - most of the time it's because of code.  They won't let you move in until there is hardscape access to your front door, and if you're in a hurry (which pretty much everyone is) you will likely end up with something quick, cheap, and purely functional - thus the skinny little "J".

So how can you, as someone building a new house, avoid this?

And get this something a little more like this...

The main thing you can do is to be proactive and ahead of the game!  Find examples that you like and show your builder and then make sure that they know that you have an opinion and it's just not "whatever".  Just doing that can save the aesthetics of the front of your home AND a lot of grief. 

And of course, if you are in a position to do so, get a landscape designer or architect on board early to ensure that your vision for the exterior of your home becomes a reality - that is their job after all!

Botanist Moment: Root Pruning Your House Plants by Brooke Hansen

Have you ever had a house plant that is doing great and then, out of nowhere, just tanks for no apparent reason?  You've been watering it the same, treating it the same, but all of the sudden it just goes downhill.  What gives right?  Chances are that the plant has actually outgrown it's container and has become "root bound" underneath the soil.  And the good news is that to solve the problem you don't have to go buy a whole new bigger container, you can just root prune!

I know it sounds counterintuitive, but when a plant is confined to a container, root pruning can actually be the best thing for it.  It'll put the pep back in it's step, and - ultimately - save it from choking itself out.  So scroll on to get a quick and easy guide to root pruning.

You will need:

  1. Pruners
  2. A wooden pencil (one you don't care too much about)
  3. A waste bin
  4. Potting soil
  5. Gloves (unless you like dirt under your nails)

 

Here's my red-margined dracaena tree.  It doesn't look bad really, but it has looked a lot droopier than usual so I figured I better check the roots.  This will work a million times better if your plant is pretty dry so don't try if you've just watered it.

Here's my red-margined dracaena tree.  It doesn't look bad really, but it has looked a lot droopier than usual so I figured I better check the roots.  This will work a million times better if your plant is pretty dry so don't try if you've just watered it.

To get the plant out of it's container you can wiggle it around or if your container is flexible you can squeeze the sizes of it to loosen the soil up.  Gravity can help too, so turn it on it's side or slightly upside-down if you are having a hard time.  

To get the plant out of it's container you can wiggle it around or if your container is flexible you can squeeze the sizes of it to loosen the soil up.  Gravity can help too, so turn it on it's side or slightly upside-down if you are having a hard time.  

NOTE:  If it seems like the plant and dirt are going to fall apart when you are trying to get it out, it probably isn't root bound.  Root bound plants usually come out, soil and all, in one mass.

Root bound!  Just as I suspected.  An easy way to determine if you really need to root prune is if the roots have started growing in a circle on the bottom and are growing into each other.  

Root bound!  Just as I suspected.  An easy way to determine if you really need to root prune is if the roots have started growing in a circle on the bottom and are growing into each other.  

Now take your pencil and "comb out" the roots so that they are hanging down instead of wrapping around.  You might break some roots in the process, and that is a-ok.  Tough love is encouraged.

Now take your pencil and "comb out" the roots so that they are hanging down instead of wrapping around.  You might break some roots in the process, and that is a-ok.  Tough love is encouraged.

Here's where the love gets really tough: clip those roots you combed out right off using your pruners.  Please be careful and don't clip off a finger.  You can clip off as much of the roots as you want as long as you're leaving 3-5 inches attached.  

Here's where the love gets really tough: clip those roots you combed out right off using your pruners.  Please be careful and don't clip off a finger.  You can clip off as much of the roots as you want as long as you're leaving 3-5 inches attached.  

Now that all those roots are out of the way, use your pencil to poke the bottom of your root mass for an aerating effect.  

Now that all those roots are out of the way, use your pencil to poke the bottom of your root mass for an aerating effect.  

Now you can repot.  You can totally use the soil that was already in there, however you will still need some new soil to fill up the space you just created by clipping off all those roots.

Now you can repot.  You can totally use the soil that was already in there, however you will still need some new soil to fill up the space you just created by clipping off all those roots.

And viola, you have successfully root pruned a plant.  You're a regular Katherine Esau!  Now water your plant generously, remove any dead leaves or other material, and give yourself a high five.

And viola, you have successfully root pruned a plant.  You're a regular Katherine Esau!  Now water your plant generously, remove any dead leaves or other material, and give yourself a high five.

Looking Back: Holiday Planters and Wreaths of 2015 by Brooke Hansen

It's November!!!  Which (in my brain) means it's officially time to start thinking about the holidays!  Notice I said thinking about the holidays, no need to bust out the blowup snowmen just yet...or ever...  

Anyways, if you are looking to give your home that extra "oomph" this holiday season, I would highly recommend getting festive with your outdoor planters.  "Winterizing" your planters with some twinkle lights and some pine or spruce can really add to your home, just like filling them with annuals in the summer can.  Plus, if you don't have outdoor planters, here is yet another excuse to get them.  

Here are some of the planters we made a little more merry last year:

Plant Spotlight: Boxwood Varieties by Brooke Hansen

Boxwood.  It's pretty, evergreen, versatile, and classy.  My mom loves them too, and when they put in their yard a few years ago, they were planting some nice new boxwood along their front walk and a neighbor came over and said, "Oh yeah, I've tried those plants a handful of times...they never last."  And then he just walked away leaving my mom standing there with all her new plants.

Sadly, I think there are a fair amount of people that think that about boxwood.  Usually, they have tried them a number of years ago and they were a total flop.  However there are new varieties that have since come out that are great and tough enough to survive!  So here's your official list of "Boxwoods to Buy" if you live in Cache Valley or somewhere with a similar climate:

Green Mountain Boxwood

http://betweennapsontheporch.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Container-Gardens-with-Boxwood-Topiary-in-a-Pyramidal-Shape.jpg

http://betweennapsontheporch.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Container-Gardens-with-Boxwood-Topiary-in-a-Pyramidal-Shape.jpg

Green Velvet Boxwood

http://www.saundersbrothers.com/_ccLib/image/plants/DETA-720.jpg

http://www.saundersbrothers.com/_ccLib/image/plants/DETA-720.jpg

Winter Gem Boxwood

https://i.ytimg.com/vi/C0Ub25aRLjY/maxresdefault.jpg

https://i.ytimg.com/vi/C0Ub25aRLjY/maxresdefault.jpg

Chicagoland Boxwood

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/564x/35/a8/28/35a82808dc27ddc7e6a6fd776be11d7b.jpg

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/564x/35/a8/28/35a82808dc27ddc7e6a6fd776be11d7b.jpg

Plant Spotlight: Flower Carpet Groundcover Rose by Brooke Hansen

Feast your eyes upon the flower carpet groundcover rose!  It was the most pleasantly surprising plant we used last season.  The description said this plant had a long-blooming season and they really weren’t kidding.  Every time I drove past I thought that maybe they’d be done, but they just kept flowering well into fall.  So basically, if having roses all season with little to no maintenance sounds like your kind of thing, look no further.  

http://www.monrovia.com/plant-catalog/plants/1229/flower-carpet-amber-groundcover-rose/

http://www.monrovia.com/plant-catalog/plants/1229/flower-carpet-amber-groundcover-rose/

https://www.flickr.com/photos/tesselaar/510584179

https://www.flickr.com/photos/tesselaar/510584179

http://www.plantclearance.com/rosa-white-groundcover-rose-5-gallon/

http://www.plantclearance.com/rosa-white-groundcover-rose-5-gallon/

 

Exterior Hardware: Address Markers by Brooke Hansen

For as long as I can remember, I have always been acutely aware of house numbers and address markers.  I don't know why, but I alway notice and evaluate pretty much every one I see.  Unfortunately most of them look a little something like this:

Could that look any more underwhelming?! 

Luckily, even the big superstores like home depot and Lowes have started carrying more options for address numbers and that gives me hope that I am not just crazy and other people agree.  After all, your address is often times the first thing visitors will see!  Here are some examples of address markers that would make a great first impression.

http://www.penick.net/digging/?p=23787

http://www.penick.net/digging/?p=23787

Apollo Marconi USA Inc.

Apollo Marconi USA Inc.

http://www.anthropologie.com/anthro/product/home-hardware/33081969.jsp#/

http://www.anthropologie.com/anthro/product/home-hardware/33081969.jsp#/

http://www.houzz.com/pro/markbatson

http://www.houzz.com/pro/markbatson

Debora Carl Landscape Design

Debora Carl Landscape Design

http://www.purlfrost.com/house-numbers/#.VtYRDJMrJE4

http://www.purlfrost.com/house-numbers/#.VtYRDJMrJE4

http://www.hometalk.com/8862053/diy-address-plaque-planter-box

http://www.hometalk.com/8862053/diy-address-plaque-planter-box

Chris Cobb Architecture

Chris Cobb Architecture

Design Trend: Rock VS Bark by Brooke Hansen

Seeing rock used in planting beds as opposed to bark is becoming more common, so let's talk about why you would or wouldn't want to follow the trend.

Ag-Trac Landscape

Ag-Trac Landscape

ROCK

Pros

  • One and done - once you put in rock, it isn't likely to blow away or get shuffled around
  • Doesn't fade in color significantly
  • Easier to weed and maintain in general
  • Has a striking and modern look

Cons

  • Much higher up front cost
  • Heavier and more labor intensive to transport and put down

BARK

Pros

  • Less expensive up front
  • Lighter and easier to transport and put down
  • Has a soft and traditional look

Cons

  • Often times blows away and gets shuffled around - especially on a slope
  • Can fade in color significantly with time
  • Will eventually need to be replenished

When it comes down to it, both are good and realistic options.  It mostly depends on your individual situation and the look you are going for.  If you still are having a hard time deciding, here are some lovely examples of both that will hopefully help you decide what you prefer!

Folia Horticultural + Design

Folia Horticultural + Design

Ag-Trac Landscape

Ag-Trac Landscape

C.O.S. Design

C.O.S. Design

A Blade of Grass Landscape Design

A Blade of Grass Landscape Design

Ag-Trac Landscape

Ag-Trac Landscape

Ag-Trac Landscape

Ag-Trac Landscape

Deborah Nevins & Associates

Deborah Nevins & Associates

Plant Spotlight: Taylor Juniper by Brooke

evergreen

evergreen

Have I mentioned lately how much I love junipers?  But really, they are the perfect shrub or tree for our climate.  They do well here and I love what they add to those dreary winter months.  It's nice to see some green, amid all the brown and more brown.  Ick.

But that's not the only reason.  I also love these particular junipers because they have a great shape, tall and columnar, which gives them a  naturally formal look without all the effort.  The Taylor Juniper, especially, keeps a nice dense shape and is great for a privacy screen or just a tall dramatic entrance.  So stately. Ha!

It's a nice complement to any yard and worth a spotlight.

Design Trend: Herringbone by Brooke

Since spring is hitting us very early this year, at least in Northern Utah, I am feeling all sorts of pressure to get things going on all our upcoming landscaping projects.  Thankfully, I have had lots of great inspiration to keep me going.  

One of those new bits of inspiration I am loving is herringbone patios.

herringbone patio

source

Gorgeous, right?

I especially love it because it is a bit more interesting than a normal brick patio but still very classic and timeless.

Here's another one:

Herringbone patio

source

With flooring this interesting, you can go really simple with furniture and accents so that the floor becomes the focal.

 

And a close-up of the design.  Love the rustic look here:

herringbone pattern

 

source

More inspiration pieces to come!

 

Pretty Valentines by Brooke

Valentine's Day is the perfect excuse to decorate the house with beautiful flowers.  And for eating chocolate.  And all other types of candy.  But let's focus on the flowers, ok? Decorating with fresh flowers is one of my favorite things.  I especially love something simple, while being interesting.  I like an alternative to a dozen long-stemmed red roses.

I came across these and absolutely loved them.  Seems like you'd be able to throw some of these together pretty easily.

Orange and pink:

cactusflower

source

 

These I spotted at Target.  Love the colors.

clusterblooms

 

I like using bright vases.  Then, you can keep the flowers very simple.  Like, here.  (Also from Target, though I don't think they are selling the goblets anymore.)

colorfulflowers

 

These paper peonies are a fun alternative to fresh cut.  And will certainly last longer.

crepepeonies

source

 

A more formal look:

flowers source

 

Mint + hot pink.  How can you go wrong?

moreflowers

 

source

 

Happy Valentines Day!

Houzz Award 2015 by Brooke

Pretty exciting stuff happening!  We got the Houzz Award 2015 for Design a second year in a row.  It is a little bit cool (and a little bit humbling) to think our landscape photos are among the most popular viewed on Houzz.  Thanks to everyone!  Check out our press release below and follow our houzz profile, here.  

Ag-Trac Enterprises LC of Logan, UT Receives

Best Of Houzz 2015 Award

Over 25 Million Monthly Unique Users Rated Top-Rated Home Building,

Remodeling and Design Professionals in the United States and Around the World

Ag-Trac Enterprises LChas been awarded “Best Of Houzz” for Design by Houzz, the leading platform for home remodeling and design. This landscape design firm was chosen by the more than 25 million monthly unique users that comprise the Houzz community from among more than 500,000 active home building, remodeling and design industry professionals.

The Best Of Houzz award is given in two categories: Design and Customer Satisfaction. Design award winners’ work was the most popular among the more than 25 million monthly users on Houzz, known as “Houzzers.” Customer Satisfaction honors are determined by a variety of factors, including the number and quality of client reviews a professional received in 2014. Winners will receive a “Best Of Houzz 2015” badge on their profiles, helping Houzz users around the world who discover and love a professional’s work to learn even more about that business’ popularity and satisfaction rating among their peers in the Houzz community.

Houzz provides homeowners with a 360 degree view of home building, remodeling and design industry professionals, empowering them to engage the right people and products for their project,” said Liza Hausman, vice president of industry marketing for Houzz. “We’re delighted to recognize Ag-Trac among our “Best Of” professionals as judged by our community of homeowners and design enthusiasts who are actively remodeling and decorating their homes.”

 

Getting Organized by Brooke

Yes, the new year is here.  And, yes, I am committed to being more organized (again).  I had so many more Christmas ideas to share that will now have to wait until next year.  December always goes too quickly.  But in a way it is nice to have January and start getting back to "real life."  I am already busy, busy drawing up plans for upcoming projects this spring.  

And I am loving Snow and Graham's new calendar for this year and am hoping if I look at it long enough, it may organize and schedule my year for me.  Pretty please?  Oh well.  Still fun to look at, though.

calendar

Here's to a great 2015!  Excited to share some upcoming projects and to see what the next few months bring.

Winter Planters by Brooke

Of course, everyone thinks of filling their pots and planters in the summer time, but I think winter is my favorite.  There is nothing like beautiful evergreens and branches when everything else is covered with snow...or dead. This year, I have especially enjoyed putting these together.  Here are a few I've worked on.  I made the final touches on these a couple weeks ago and then took a few quick pictures with my phone.

A more traditional, classic design.  Here I surrounded the boxwood with blue spruce branches, arborvitae, holly, and seeded eucalyptus branches.

winter planter

They are nice and full, and I love the red from the holly.

 

More of the same on this one.  Plus I added reindeer moss to give it another pop of color.  Hard to see from this angle, but the reindeer moss is a perfect complement to the darker evergreens.

photo 5 (2)

A better shot here, though a tad blurry (darn those phones):

photo 4 (3)
And some front door garland.  So inviting.
photo 4 (5)
Love the festive look and the low maintenance planters.  They will stay looking good all winter long.
Happy potting!

Magnolia Wreaths by Brooke

   

Here are those pretty magnolia wreaths we hung last week.  I snapped a couple of quick pictures with my phone, but you get the idea.  They really make a statement.  We added some simple ribbon, and we were done.square magnolia wreaths

 

photo 4 (6)

 

 

 

Wreaths and Garlands by Brooke

I've been keeping busy this December prepping some beautiful homes for the holidays.  I have especially been loving all the greenery in the Christmas decor, both inside and out.  I think the wreaths and garlands in particular have been my favorite.  There is nothing like a beautiful green wreath, pulled up by a bow.  

Here is some of my favorite inspiration pieces for holiday greenery.  Maybe it will give you a few ideas.

 

Love this simple, classic bay wreath.  This would look great hanging from a front door.  Or really anywhere.  I love seeing wreaths in unexpected places, too.  Like on windows or walls or even propped up on a console table.  So festive and green.

Christmas Decor

source

 

Also love this square magnolia wreath.  I used two of these to hang from a client's front doors.  We ended up hanging them in as a diamond and I loved the end result.

Christmas Decor

source

And these are nice.  Used this for inspiration as well.

Modern Christmas Decorsource

I also love using garland.  It can really fancy up a mantelpiece, front entry, or window.  This simple boxwood garland is versatile and very pretty.

Boxwood garlandsource

And I especially love these glass globe string lights.  Wouldn't these look pretty over a mantelpiece with a fire below?  Perfect for nighttime entertaining.  Or even a cup of hot chocolate and a blanket.  Stunning.

Christmas Decor

 

source

 

It's been fun seeing some of these come together.  Come back next week for some outdoor, holiday planter inspiration and photos.

 

 

Junipers by Brooke

Just stumbled across an interesting article on Houzz last week about a great, versatile shrub--junipers.

I love this because junipers typically get a bad rap in landscaping design.  Lots of people think of them as outdated and ugly.  But when you use them right, they look really nice. Plus, they are evergreens and keep their color in the winter.  Which is perfect for Cache Valley.

 

Check it out.  See what you think.

 

Brick Wall by Brooke

   

We just had a few photos taken of a brick entry wall I designed for a lovely home.  Our client was wanting to have a more formal, established entryway.  Something to make an impact but still fit in nicely with the rest of the home.  I drew up a 3D model and then we went to work.

 

Here is the finished wall.CMP_9367 (Custom)

Isn't it nice?  And the lights give a nice evening atmosphere at well.

 

The brick wall gradually slopes up towards a small pillar on either side of the walk.

CMP_9375 (Custom)

 

A closeup of the brick detail:

brick wall

 

It is a beautiful home and the wall fits in nicely.  Glad to see it all come together.

Outdoor Lighting by Brooke

I love Fall.  It's a great time of year to drink cider, eat donuts, and consider changing up your outdoor lighting.  No, really.  So get a donut and take a walk outside in your yard.  It gets darker earlier so you really notice lighting in ways you may not during the summer months.  It's actually amazing the effect lighting can have on a home.  It can be very stunning.  

Here are a few options that we just put in on one of our landscaping jobs.

The first is perfect to light a path, walkway, or patio.

walkway lighting

This one is a great accent light to spotlight a special feature in your landscape.  Maybe a beautiful tree, statue or water feature.

outdoorlight

 

We used this last one to illuminate a low accent wall with house numbers.  It's small but has a great impact in the dark.groundlight

 

sources

Tudor Gardens Landscape by Brooke

   

 

 

I was thrilled to get some pictures back from a couple landscape jobs we've finished up recently.  This was a fun job for us, and the result is simply gorgeous.  Very traditional, secluded, but classic.  I love the secluded feel of the grounds and especially the pots and planters.  They fit the home perfectly, I think.

 

CMP_9197 (Custom) - Copy

 

 

CMP_9263 (Custom) - Copy

 

CMP_9244 (Custom)

 

CMP_9257 (Custom) - Copy

 

CMP_9219 (Custom) - Copy

 

Casey McFarland is our photographer and does such a good job of making us look good.  I really love how these turned out!

 

 

Japanese Gardens Hardscape by Brooke

Here's a few more images I have been collecting for our Japanese Garden project.  While the other images focused on the landscape, here are some for the hardscape, which is where you can get really creative and add a lot of interest.  

Some of my favorites:

This first one makes me want to take a rake to the gravel.  Work out some of that anxiety, right?  Really though, I love the textures and patterns here.

walkway

source

And some pretty cool water features.  Like this water wall.  Can you imagine having one in your backyard.  So cool.

 

 

waterwall

 

source

And this one from Restoration hardware.

 

 

cat3100004 (1)

source

I've used this Mexican Beach Pebble on other landscaping projects and really loved how they turned out.  They have great texture and a nice color.

 

beach pebble

source

And, well, if you are wanting to impress the neighbors, how about a private waterfall?

a722870e65feaed1869a42511880b32a

source

But really, recreating some elements of this on a smaller scale wouldn't be too difficult.  And the effect would be pretty awesome.

 

And, last, I like the clean, straight lines of this walkway.  Simple but still interesting.

 

43dc1be4a05a6cc034d0ae0ccda24373

 

source