Give Your Yard a Face-lift
Why the time is now to invest in your landscaping needs and wants

Last year I visited the local garden center and bought everything I thought I needed to turn my backyard into a flowering paradise. And, just like every year since I’ve owned a home, the result didn’t quite live up to my expectations. My backyard will once again need a face-lift, but where to begin?

Laurie Lamm McGraw of Lammscapes says I’m not alone. “We hear that (story) from people all the time,” she adds. “To help, we first need to establish the customer’s level of commitment. We have the DIY person who just needs some help with the overall design. For them, we recommend that they bring in some pictures and measurements, and we’ll make some quick design sketches and help them pick out the plants and accessories that they then install. For people who would like a more detailed (approach), we send a designer out to take measurements and pictures and then put together a proposal. They can then purchase a design drawn to scale with a 3-D computer landscape design (program) and do it themselves, or we can do it all, from start to finish. It really depends on the customer.”

Jeff Hershberger, a landscape architect with David J. Frank Landscape Contracting Inc., says the first step is to set up a simple Q&A session with the client. “The idea is to find out the customer’s likes and dislikes,” he explains. “Color preference? Formal or informal? Straight lines or curvilinear? Traditional or contemporary? Plant material likes and dislikes? Level of maintenance they are willing to assume?”

Understanding these components is key to delivering the right design for that individual. “After this (Q&A session), we do a site analysis to find out what could stay, what needs to be removed, and how it will all tie into the existing style of the home and surrounding areas. We also look at available light or shade. Once these are determined, we can start incorporating the client’s wishes and putting a plan together.”

“I’d start by asking several open-ended questions, with the goal of understanding exactly why they are currently disappointed,” says Andrew Herndon, a landscape designer at LandCrafters Inc. “For example, many clients are not satisfied with the size and quality of their existing entertaining space. The space lacks the charisma and charm of themselves and their home. By carefully choosing materials and developing shapes that reflect the client’s personality and their home’s quality, we take the intangible and make it a reality.”

“Before we can begin, we need to establish a budget,” notes Gary Urban of Hawks Landscape Inc. “This is often a very hard question for clients — one they don’t like to answer. But the design of the space, to some degree, is dictated by how much a client is willing to invest. Once we know what the client is looking for, we can begin putting rough numbers together for their wish list. This is a good way to narrow down what they really want and what they want to spend. Clients often underestimate what quality landscaping really costs; it is an investment in their home. This process really helps everyone get on the same page.”

The good news, I assume, is that we still have plenty of time, right? “Wrong,” says McGraw. “Winter is probably the best time for planning and designing. It is not as busy, so designers have more time to help make plans and get materials ready so they can start as soon as the weather breaks. Taking time to plan properly and get things ready will help you enjoy your garden this summer.”

Hershberger says the sooner you start, the better. “Waiting until spring to start the planning process will likely push your project to mid- to late summer,” he adds.

“Don’t wait,” encourages Herndon. “I think of it like a new year’s resolution to dress better and be more stylish. If you have been continually dissatisfied with your look and how that reflects on who you are, making a change cannot happen soon enough. The same is true for your landscape.” M

Now Trending
What’s hot in outdoor living for 2018


It may seem far off, but summer is just around the corner. It’s time to start planning for its arrival now. From patios to plants and pools, here are this year’s top five trends in backyard design.

Patios and Decks
“This year, once again, people want spaces that all work together — dining area, cocktail or casual areas, intimate areas, such as fireplaces or fire pits,” explains Jeff Hershberger of David J. Frank Landscape Contracting Inc. “They also want areas of full sun and shade. Lighting is an extremely important aesthetic element and can dramatically impact the area. It sets the whole atmosphere and mood and always results in higher usage of the area by the client.”

For decks, the big trend is an increase in choices for the customer, says David Guthery of LandCrafters Inc. “Color choices alone have gone from four or five board colors less than a decade ago to well over a dozen now — and all with different degrees of graining,” he adds. “Last year’s big trend was toward darker deck boards with a contrasting white skirting and posts. Railing choices are much more (varied) as well, with cabling, glass, aluminum balusters and varying types and colors of pickets and caps. The same is true for paving materials for patios and walkways.”

Green and Growing
More people are adding sustainable, eco-friendly elements to their garden design, with xeriscaping taking stronger hold in Wisconsin. Originally developed for dry areas, xeriscaping refers to the idea of conserving water through creative landscaping. This mainly takes the form of using materials like permeable pavement, adding efficient and time-controlled watering systems, and incorporating indigenous and drought-tolerant plants that naturally adapt to the landscape. Other steps include substituting areas of turf grass for mulch, adding rain barrels to capture drainage from gutters, and using bioswales or indentations in the landscape to steer the rain where it is needed most.

Through the use of perennial plants and composting, xeriscaping also has the added advantages of lower maintenance and less need for the use of pesticides and fertilizers.

“We have seen an increase in the number of pools being built,” says James M. Drzewiecki of Ginkgo Leaf Studio. “Pool projects are normally driven by whether a family has children older than grade school. Homeowners should be aware that there are many associated costs with a pool that aren’t always discussed up front, such as gas and electric utilities, the paved surface around the pool, and the myriad add-on options that can make the overall pool cost go up quickly.”

“Pools are great, but too many people start with the hole in the ground first and then consider what’s going on around it,” cautions Hershberger. “I always explain to my clients that the highest consideration should be given to the areas surrounding the pool, as they will be spending more time around the pool than in it. Pools and water features can create beautiful focal points in the yard, but also provide pleasing views from inside the home.”

“We are putting more pools in now than ever,” says Peter Kudlata of Flagstone Landscaping Inc. “The trend is toward auto covers and dark bottoms and sides. The darkness provides a better reflection of surrounding plants and a more subtle look.”

Outdoor Kitchens
“Outdoor kitchens often now have additional cabinet space, a mini-fridge or cooler and (a) sink with running water. The latter items don’t always work well with Wisconsin winters, so we suggest that the client invests in a high-quality grill island with counter space on either side,” says Drzewiecki. “My advice is that if you are going to make the investment into a full outdoor kitchen, then be prepared to cook year-round to make it worth the money.”

“In addition to the gas grill, the trend seems to be more toward barbecue and smoking meats with different woods, lump coal or marinades. Smokers and units like the Big Green Egg are gaining popularity, and pizza ovens continue to be in greater demand,” says Hershberger.

This year, we will continue to see a rise in the number of gardens that incorporate edibles into the landscape — varietals that not only taste good, but look great too. Some of the best to plant for this double duty are purple eggplants, red or yellow peppers, rainbow or bright lights Swiss chard, purple ruffles basil, or edible kales like Scottish redbor or red Russian. Blueberries are not only delicious, but they burst into color in fall and make great shrub borders. When left to flower, artichokes and chives have beautiful purple blooms. Consider planting more than you plan to eat so that you can leave some to bloom.

As more and more zoning laws allow, Milwaukeeans are also incorporating beehives and chicken coops into the design of their backyards. Many of these urban farmers then create communities to share and exchange their harvest, which includes both honey and eggs. M

Outdoor Living Resource Directory
M’s resource guide to creating your perfect outdoor space


Celebrating 60 years of irrigation excellence, Acme Systems is your full-service provider for all your irrigation needs, including design, estimates, professional installation, maintenance and repairs for all residential, commercial, athletic fields, golf courses, green roofs and drip/micro spray systems. The team installs systems to new as well as existing landscapes, while Acme’s experienced service department maintains all types and brands of residential and commercial systems.

6101 N. Flint Road, Glendale 
(414) 351-8866 | acmesystems.net

David J. Frank Landscape Contracting Inc. is an award-winning company that provides design-build, maintenance, irrigation services and more. Experienced professionals welcome projects of all sizes, residential or commercial, throughout southeastern Wisconsin.

N120 W21350 Freistadt Road, Germantown
(262) 255-4888 | davidjfrank.com


Flagstone Landscaping will create customized outdoor environments utilizing an array of high-end and natural elements. From patios to pools and everything in between, Flagstone Landscaping aims to perfect your environment, which is why their staff is intimately involved in each project — from the very first sketch until the final stone is in place.

1840 Lakefield Road, Cedarburg
(262) 377-7627 | flagstonelandscaping.com

Stunning landscapes begin with exceptional design. That’s Ginkgo Leaf Studio’s expertise. At Ginkgo Leaf Studio, the staff designs both residential and commercial landscapes, from intimate gardens to large estates and businesses. Twenty-nine years of experience in both the architectural and horticultural fields inform and inspire Ginkgo’s matchless style — landscapes with strong geometric lines, bold flowing curves and innovative architectural components, enhanced by beautiful and unexpected plant compositions. At Ginkgo Leaf Studio, the dedicated staff believes exceptional landscape design follows nature’s inspiration.

W63 N672 Washington Ave., Cedarburg
(262) 376-5050 | ginkgoleafstudio.net

Ground Affects Landscaping is an award-winning, design-build landscape company servicing both residential and commercial clients. Their staff offers design services, hardscape installation, planting and softscape installation, and complete lawn care services as well as a host of other landscape elements. With a reputation for superior craftsmanship and outstanding customer service, they are able to accommodate projects of all shapes and sizes. Rated A+ by the Better Business Bureau.

W1526 Froelich Road, Sullivan
(262) 593-8400 | groundaffectslandscaping.com

The knowledgeable team of horticulturists and designers at Lammscapes will help customers on any level — from DIY projects to full-service landscape design and installation. Year-round care programs include landscape management, seasonal displays and snow removal services. Lamm Gardens offers a variety of plants, garden accessories, educational seminars and workshops. Seasonal events, including school field trips with nature education and a children’s garden area, are fun for all ages. Weddings and floral services are also offered in the beautiful gardens on the property.

2708 Sherman Road, Jackson
(262) 677-3010 | lammscape.com

LandCrafters of New Berlin and Wauwatosa offers the best value in landscaping, brick and stone masonry, tree planting and all outdoor landscape design and installation for the Milwaukee metropolitan area as well as the surrounding counties of Waukesha, Ozaukee, Washington and Racine. From a small, simple lawn installation in Milwaukee’s downtown to a 5-acre landscape design in Lake Country that includes landscape grading, stone paving, retaining walls, landscape lighting and tree planting, LandCrafters will provide you with unsurpassed landscape design and installation service at every step of the landscaping process.

7001 W. Center St., Wauwatosa 
(414) 897-8232 | landcrafterslandscaping.com

Mike La Rosa started La Rosa Landscape Company in 1989 with the idea of providing a new level of customer service and attention to detail not experienced in the landscape industry. From a small shop in Mequon to its current Cedarburg headquarters, La Rosa has grown into a full-service landscape company, providing services to both residential and commercial clients throughout southeast Wisconsin. Throughout the years, Mike has assembled a team of professionals who share the same commitment to customer service and quality as his own. This can be seen in every project and property, no matter the size. The company takes pride in its people, its equipment and in the level of quality its team members provide on every job. You will feel the value of their professional commitment in your landscape.

N144 W5800 Pioneer Road, Cedarburg
(262) 375-8900 | larosalandscape.com

Bring the outdoors in with Marvin Scenic Doors. The right doors bring the outdoors in by elegantly and effortlessly connecting your inside space with the environment found right outside your doors. From patio doors to oversized, scenic doors, Marvin Windows and Doors give you incredibly clean, unobstructed views with effortless operation. Find inspiration to frame the views of your landscape, creating elegant and functional indoor/outdoor living with Marvin Windows and Doors, at marvin.com/our-products/doors.

Milwaukee Lawn Sprinkler Corp. is a full-service landscape irrigation contractor. The company provides expert design, construction and maintenance exclusively for residential and commercial systems, serving all of southeastern Wisconsin since 1974. 

N60 W16180 Kohler Lane, Menomonee Falls 
(262) 252-3880 | milwaukeelawnsprinkler.com


Outdoor Accents is the premier designer and installer of landscape sprinkler systems and architectural and landscape lighting systems. The company designs, installs and maintains sprinkler systems and lighting systems for residential and commercial clients as well as athletic fields and rooftop gardens. Outdoor Accents has built its company around the importance of customer service, and that is one of the reasons the company currently provides services to more than 1,000 clients in southeastern Wisconsin.

PO Box 528, Thiensville
(414) 839-6530 | outdooraccentswi.com

Pool Park of Menomonee Falls specializes in above-ground, semi-inground and inground pools, hot tubs, service, equipment and an extensive offering of chemical systems. With in-house water lab, bench and field repair services, Pool Park has been serving the needs of pool and spa owners in southeastern Wisconsin for more than 50 years. Family owned and operated, Pool Park provides strong customer service and education and strives to maintain lasting client relationships.

N88 W15192 Main St., Menomonee Falls
(262) 255-3626 | poolpark.com

With more than 75 years of combined experience, Treetops Landscape Design’s staff of landscape architects is qualified to tackle any project. They take enormous pride in creating landscape plans for clients that fit their budget while satisfying their needs. Treetops Landscape Design’s goal is to design with purpose, meaning and sustainability. Once designed, the professional, courteous and meticulous landscape construction crews will install your landscape down to every last detail, with the quality you should expect from your landscape contractor.

2069 N. Port Washington Road, Grafton
(262) 375-0050 | treetopsinc.com

Whether you build new or remodel, Zuern Building Products has the experience and expertise to transform a house into your dream home. The showrooms feature the latest design innovations that combine beauty with functional solutions. Experts take the time to help guide you through products and elements that are right for you and your budget.

Allenton, Cedarburg, Franklin and Watertown
(800) 924-5551 | zuerns.com