Lawn and Garden

Spruce Up Your Outdoor Space

Can you believe we are already gearing up for Labor Day weekend?  There's no better way to enjoy this holiday than with a backyard party!  If your yard is looking a bit tired after a long, hot summer, you might want to spend a little time on an instant outdoor face-lift.  We have some tips to quickly spruce up around your outdoor spaces for those shindigs at home!

Reclaim

Consider items around your home that you can re-purpose and use as decoration in your own backyard… and add a touch of whimsy! 

  • An old mirror is a fantastic piece to be hung on a fence or patio as it creates an illusion of more space.
  • Have a wagon that is worn-out or not being used? This is classic for a planter or to hold small potted plants. Old chairs and benches are also easily re-purposed as planters that can make a colorful splash in your yard.  
  • Shutters, wire racks and ladders are often used for climbing plants.
  • Before you toss out something lying around the house, think about ways it could be reclaimed into something decorative and useful for your yard.  
     

Lighting

Do you want to enjoy extended time outdoors?  Lighting can be one of the most important elements in outdoor entertaining.

  • Solar-powered lights or flickering tiki torches are considered a quick and easy way to lighten up outdoor spaces. Arrange them to create dramatic lighting for a particular tree or element in your yard. 
  • You can also light up the night by running strings of miniature lights around your entertaining area. They come in many fun shapes and are wonderfully festive.
  • Inexpensive lighting fixtures probably won't last for more than a season or two.  Consider a long-term solution like the state of the art, low-voltage lighting systems we install.

Fire Up

Fire Pit By  Jason Thompson

Fire Pit By Jason Thompson

A fire at night is really never out of season.  It's a comforting addition to your lighting efforts that offers a beautiful glow and entertainment for your outdoor time.  You could purchase a pre-made pit, build one of your own or allow us to design and install a custom-made fire pit for you.

Refresh Seating

  • Give your outdoor furniture an overhaul!
  • A fresh coat of waterproof outdoor paint, especially in vibrant colors, will transform many tired-looking things.
  • Add decorative accents, such as outdoor cushions and pillows, in coordinating colors or patterns.
  • If you don't have enough time left to paint, then get creative with the things you do have. Big, vibrant beach towels can casually be tossed across chairs and chaise lounges to hide many flaws!

Inside Out

Don't have that outdoor furniture you wanted to get or want to add a touch of formality to the weekend gathering? Bring the inside outdoors by using your indoor furniture for the occasion!

  • Take your kitchen table and chairs outside instead of sitting on folding chairs around a picnic table.
  • Any tables, dressers or accent furniture you enjoy in your home may be taken outside and placed around the yard so your guests have a spot for their drinks and eats.
  • An outdoor rug gives feeling that your space is just an extension of your home.
  • A bar and bar stool seating are popular choices, making entertaining easy.

Shade

Spending extended time outdoors during the day calls for a structure to give outdoor shade where there isn't any, especially here in Texas.  A conventional fix would be to add a permanent gazebo, but on a time or budget crunch you can opt for one of the quick pop-up tents. The canopies allow you to hang and decorate with objects like lights and ornaments to add pizzazz!  Large umbrellas also provide ample shade and can be used in many creative ways.

Bugs Away

  • There are several plants that naturally help ward off bugs and mosquitoes around your outdoor spaces that you can plant in the ground and/or in decorative containers. Basil, citronella, catnip, lavender, lemon balm, lemon grass, marigold, peppermint and rosemary all work as natural repellents.  Click here for more info at our Mosquito Repelling Plants Blog.
  • A large fan or multiple fans placed outdoors in the areas you hang out in will direct air flow, helping push bugs away.
  • Yard guard foggers applied outdoors before get-togethers manage to keep bugs out for up to 6 hours.  However these also kill beneficial insects and bees.  Mosquito sprays tend to be greasy, pore-clogging, & sometimes downright dangerous for us. Click here for the list we have compiled of alternative, environmentally friendly methods and products of deterring mosquitoes.
  • A few pennies in a zip lock bag filled with water will keep the flies away.  There is no scientific evidence why, but I have personally been to an outdoor 4th of July party where the hosts had hung zip lock bags filled with just water, and it truly appeared to keep the flies away from the tables and areas where they were hung.

Plants

By Living Expression Landscapes

By Living Expression Landscapes

Hanging baskets or planted containers liven up the corners of any yard and pots are an all-around good addition as you can place and move them wherever you wish. Greenery can be added as well, such as potted ferns or a trellis with climbing ivy.  A trip to your favorite local nursery will help you select what is gorgeous now...

Surprise your friends and family with a fresh, new look for a memorable outdoor gathering!  Living Expression Landscapes is happy to help you update your lawns, gardens, and outdoor spaces.  We hope you have a wonderful summer!!

Make Your Own Worm Farm!

Make Your Own Worm Farm!

Build a worm farm and have an excellent organic form of fertilizer for your plants, as well as reduce the amount of waste going into a landfill.  It's easy!  Find out how here...

Read More

Chic Gardening Tricks!

Chic Gardening Tricks!

From moss graffiti to hanging herb gardens made from a shoe organizer - we share with you the coolest gardening ideas here!

Read More

Extend Crape Myrtle Blooms

The summer beauty of all the blooming Crape Myrtles is everywhere.  Wouldn't it be lovely if we could enjoy these blooms year round?  Although that's not possible, there are some ways we can prolong the crape myrtle's blooming season.  Here are some tips...

  • Now is the time to deadhead it (cutting off the dead blooms and seed heads as soon as they fade), which can often make it bloom again.  Don't confuse developing seed heads with seed heads though because they can look very similar.  Keep in mind this can be done anytime throughout June and July.
  • After deadheading, try to boost the blooms by feeding your Crape Myrtle with a water-soluble, bloom-booster or even Miracle Gro.
  • Avoid pruning in the fall, since pruning can stimulate new sprout growth that may be killed by the coming cold weather.
  • Remember the best time to prune crape myrtles is in February, since this is when the fully dormant Crape Myrtle's naked branches give you a view of its structure and frame.  But definitely avoid the "Crape Murder" trend of your neighbors!

Living Expression Landscapes is a full-service landscape design and maintenance company.  Call us to take care of all your year-round landscape needs, including pruning and fertilizing, so your yard always looks at it's best!

By Living Expression Landscapes

By Living Expression Landscapes

Light Up Your Outdoors: "Nightscaping"

"Nightscaping" outdoor spaces, becomes a great addition to your home.  While it's often an afterthought, it's actually one of the most important aspects of your landscape.  Nightscaping helps make your outdoor living space:

  • More comfortable, safe and inviting when its dark out.
  • Increases the time available to enjoy your yard.
  • Illuminate paths, steps, architectural features, and landscape elements, such as fountains and statuary.

When designing your 'Nightscape', it's important to remember that the shadows are just as important as the lights.  The purpose of Nightscaping is not just to make a dimmer version of your daytime landscape.  You have opportunity to create a completely different vista both physically – as in the case of illuminating a seating area for use, but also visually – by adding depth to your view after dark from inside or outside your home.

There are many lighting options which have different effects that allow you to utilize or highlight important areas in your yard.  Here are some ideas to consider with outdoor lighting: 

Paths, Sidewalks, Steps or Driveways – Lights help you get safely from one place to another; mix up the fixtures along these areas. You can use down-lights from surrounding trees, a few lights along a pathway, and also up-lights to help light up your steps. The idea is to light an interesting area or feature close to the walk or drive and allow the light to spill over to light your way – avoiding the runway look.

Entry Ways – The walkways to your home.  They should be lit with right amount of light to create a warm, inviting welcome and allow you and your guests to see where you are going.  Make sure lights won't shine in eyes either coming in or going out the door.

Trees & Shrubs – Up-lighting creates bold shadows or silhouettes in the landscape that can make a dramatic, yet elegant effect.  Down-lighting mimics the effect of moonlight forming soft, diffused shadows in your yard.

Decks, Patios, Gazebos – Lighting these features creates an inviting ambiance allowing more time that can be spent outside enjoying life after the sun goes down.

Water Features – Lights in ponds or on fountains highlight the rippling water and make your water feature a focal point, even from indoors.  During the day you are drawn to the sound and appearance, while at night the lights will enhance the presence of your water feature.

Architectural Features – Lighting pillars, stone and veneer make shadows and cast light into your landscape.  Using lights in this way makes your home more interesting and inviting.

With shorter days coming soon in the Fall, now is an excellent time to plan your outdoor lighting project.  You will need to make a few decisions before you get started. Anyone can install the plastic lighting from the big box stores and have inexpensive lights the same day. You shouldn't expect those lights to last more than a season or two at most.

Professional fixtures and transformers are guaranteed for many years, but they do cost more.  You will also need to decide between halogen lights and LED lights.  Halogens have been used for many years to create a golden glow with a warm and cozy light effect.  However, they need larger amounts of energy, have a limited life and should be installed by someone who understands voltage drop.  The bulbs can be costly to replace.  LED fixtures and lights cost more than halogen, but most professional grade manufacturers guarantee them for up to ten years.  LED lights have a long life, are very energy-efficient and durable.  If you consider the time and money involved in purchasing and changing the halogen bulbs, LEDs might be more cost-effective in the long run.

Our long, hot summer will be behind us and we'll want more time outside enjoying our wonderful fall weather... Lighting up your outside world is a great way to improve your home and now is the time to do it!  Living Expression Landscapes can help make it a reality, either full design and installation or consultation on a DIY job – just give us a call at 281-681-8715

Get Your Irrigation System Checked This Summer!

Summer's heat is here and water prices keep going up.  If your irrigation system isn’t running at it’s best, you could lose key plants or damage your lawn.  Don't wait until plants are stressed to have your irrigation system check-up! 

A well-designed and functioning irrigation system is key to maintaining a beautiful and efficient landscape. Water pressure that is too low or too high, broken sprinkler heads, malfunctioning rain sensors, leaks, etc. are all issues that can cause you to overwater or underwater your lawn and landscape plants, which can also waste a lot of water, money and plants.

Not only do we service all existing irrigation systems in place, but installing state of the art irrigation systems is one of our specialties.  Living Expression Landscapes uses only the highest quality professional materials for irrigation system design and installation.  A good irrigation system that uses the right equipment makes all the difference when it comes to plants thriving rather than just surviving. 

*We also offer drip irrigation systems, which have many advantages.  When a drip system is used, water is released slowly and steadily, plus directly to the root zone, so it's never wasted through evaporation or runoff.

How do you know if your irrigation is in need of repair? Look for these signs:

  • Has your water bill been steadily increasing even though your water usage has not?  There could be a leak in your irrigation system.
  • Are areas of your landscape bone dry or too wet?  You could have a leak, or zones could be set improperly.
  • Is water just trickling from sprinkler heads?  You might not have enough pressure to the area or there could be a leak.

Don’t wait until your lawn and landscape is already taking a summer beating; get a jump on irrigation repairs and updates now so you can keep your property healthy through the heat.  Give us a call today for an appointment!

 

 

Sago Palm: Beautiful But Deadly to Your Pets

While the Sago Palm is a beautiful, low-maintenance, heat tolerant addition to your yard, it is severely toxic to pets and humans.  Sago Palms contain cycasin, which is the primary toxic agent resulting in severe liver failure, and can quickly take the life of your beloved pet.  Unfortunately, these plants are not usually sold with warning labels so buyers often don’t know that they can be deadly if ingested.  There have even been reports of people using the seed pods as fetch toys for their dogs! 

Sadly, many dogs, cats, horses, and a multitude of other animals find Sago Palms delicious!  In fact, some veterinarians think that dogs are particularly drawn to these deadly treats.  All parts of the Sago Palm are considered poisonous, but the seeds are the most toxic and easy to ingest. 

If ingested, Sago Palms can cause the following effects within 15 minutes to several hours:

  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Unusual accumulation of fluid in the abdomen
  • Loss of appetite
  • Jaundice
  • Black (bloody) stools
  • Seizures
  • Weakness
  • Tremors
  • Severe liver failure
  • Death

**If you suspect your pet has ingested, or even licked or chewed on any portion of a Sago Palm, call your veterinarian or the Pet Poison Hotline at 1-800-213-6680 immediately.  Aggressive treatment will be required to save your pet’s life, if it can be saved.

If you have a Sago Palm in your yard, make sure your pet cannot access the plant, or remove it completely.  Call us to suggest a better plant, or to design and install an improved landscape centered around your family and lifestyle.

THE NATURE OF COLOR: Yellow

Awareness, Cheerful, Warming

Yellow is the color of the sun, we find it uplifting and illuminating as it relates to the mind and intellect which is warming. This color resonates with the left logic side of the brain and inspires inquisitiveness. Yellow, one of the primary colors, is highly visible. Like all warm colors it advances to the eye and is easily noticeable.

The color yellow is cheerful and lifts spirits around the home. Many people like yellow in the kitchen, since it provides a brightening effect, while others use it in any small room to increase a sense of space. It is often used in children's rooms to promote happiness and liveliness. Yellow shines with optimism and will advance from surrounding colors in a home to also spark creative thoughts.

Used outside, yellow radiates and draws the eye. A narrow side yard or dim courtyard takes on a bright new look when it features flowers and plantings with yellow hues. Baskets, window boxes and containers with splashes of yellow flowers provide a friendly element.  Lemon trees, such as meyer lemon, grow in areas with full sunlight and make for a beautiful, fragrant natural yellow large shrub or small tree.

There are a multitude of yellow flowering plants and foliage to choose from, that can be planted at different times throughout the year. So if you want a cheery and vibrant essence added to your outdoor spaces, plant lots of yellow flowers and foliage.

Here at Living Expression Landscapes we love to help our clients choose plants that work best for them. We are happy to recommend yellow plants and flowers that will attract the eye, keeping your spirits high and work well in our area.

Daisy 8-18-08 05.JPG

Plant Pest and Fungal Problems

Along with the wonderful warm weather of Spring, we are also seeing damaging fungal diseases and pests emerge on plants.  If left unchecked, these fungal diseases and pests could get out of hand and cause long-term damage to your lawns and landscape plants. Below are just a few to watch for in the Houston area...

Crape Myrtle Bark Scale (CMBS)

Crape Myrtle Bark Scale is a small insect that appears as a white or gray felt-like encrustation sticking to the bark of Crape Myrtles.  They might be found anywhere on our beloved trees, and often appears near pruning sites and branch crotches of more mature wood. It causes extensive honeydew deposits and the growth of black sooty mold, blemishing the beauty of the Crape myrtle.  Although heavy scale infestations are seldom fatal to the Crape Myrtle, the aesthetic impacts are significant. 

Often times, the first sign of CMBS is that black sooty mold on the tree bark, however aphids can also cause this black sooty mold symptom so a close inspection will determine which pest is present. Unfortunately CMBS can be a difficult pest to control and it may take multiple years of treatment, as opposed to the easier controlled aphids.

Bark Scale

Bark Scale

Prevention and Treatment for CMBS

- Before buying crape myrtles, inspect the nursery crop carefully for signs of CMBS infestations.  Avoid crape myrtles with significant damage.

- At any time if you notice Crapemyrtle Bark Scale you can mix dishwashing soap with water and scrub the branches with a soft bristle brush.  This will remove many of the female scales and egg masses, making insecticide control more effective.  Washing will also remove much of the black mold that builds up on the bark of infested trees.

- As the crapemyrtles begin to really bloom, drench the soil around the drip line of the affected tree (where the feeder roots are) with an systemic insecticide such as an Annual Tree & Shrub Insect Control.  Just correctly mix with water and apply in a 3-4 foot band from the root zone in towards the tree trunk all the way around the plant.  The best control was achieved between May and JulyWhen drenching the soil with a systemic insecticide, allow several weeks for the product to reach the plant.

- Winter is an especially good time to treat for scales because the Crape Myrtles are in their dormant season and a higher application rate can be used without damaging the plant.  Cover the tree thoroughly with pesticide during the dormant season, especially when using horticulture oil.

Black Spot on Roses

You may begin to see dark spots on the foliage of your roses during the Spring, which eventually become yellow and drop.  The spots can be very small or large enough to cover the entire leaf.  This problem is called Rose Black Spot and it's caused by fungus.  Some plants can handle the defoliation, but if a newly planted or young specimen loses all of its leaves too early in the season, it could be a lost cause.  It’s best to diagnose early and treat the plant if needed.

Rose: Black Spot by Scot Nelson

Rose: Black Spot by Scot Nelson

Treatment and Prevention of Rose Black Spot

- Remove infected foliage and twigs. Fungal diseases are easily spread from plant to plant and from one leaf to the rest of the leaves. When detected early, removing infected plant tissue is a great way to protect the healthy plants and foliage.

- Keep foliage dry.  While rain is unavoidable, you can control your irrigation system. Always water at the soil level, not on top of the foliage.  Adjust or replace sprinkler heads that spray water into the air and on top of your plants,  Otherwise, water early in the morning so leaves have the daytime to dry off versus watering at night because fungal diseases thrive in the cool, dark night much more than in the daytime.  Or consider having us install a drip irrigation system for you, if you don't already have one, since there are many advantages to that. 

- Fungicides: In some instances, fungicides might be an appropriate treatment.  Early detection and treatment is best.  In the early spring when the leaf buds on the rose bushes first start to push out the little leaves, spray all the rose bushes with a black spot treatment fungicide.  Repeat every 3 weeks during the blooming season.

- If a plant is heavily infected, fungicides may not always solve the problem and you should remove the infected plant so as to protect the rest of your landscape.

There are many other pests & diseases that are prevalent around the Houston area as well.  Prevention is key.  Healthy, well-maintained plants will have the best chance of deterring fungal diseases.  Need help this spring maintaining your landscape?  Not only do we maintain landscapes, but we also keep an eye out for disease and pest problems that might arise.  Living Expression Landscapes can provide you with prompt detection, diagnosis and treatment!

Design, Installation, & Maintenance by Living Expression Landcapes

Design, Installation, & Maintenance by Living Expression Landcapes