Scott Rudolph is a water feature expert at Eichenlaub:
Scott Rudolph is a water feature expert at Eichenlaub:
Many of the plants on display are early spring blooming and once the warmer weather starts later in the spring many of those plants tend to burn out or head into a summer dormancy period and not look great again until the next year. Sure you can buy them if you like, just realize many of those plants will be a “Flash in the Pan” bit of color and then nothing the rest of the growing season.
Best advice is to have a well thought out plan before you go shopping and make sure to address all seasons to be sure your garden looks good at every point of the growing season. This might mean buying plants with just a few scant leaves early in the spring. Have faith and know these plants will come into their own when the season is right for it. In the early spring when you are tempted to buy only what is in color you will probably end up with one season of bloom. A good example of this is Hibiscus moscheutos, the Rose Mallow. This is a hardy form of perennial Hibiscus most noted for its very large (up to 12”) red, pink, or white blossoms. The Rose Mallow at that time may just appear as a container with a small amount of cut off, dead looking stems. Rose Mallow usually doesn’t start growing actively until well into May so if you just shop the dazzling color on display early in the spring you will miss planting for late summer and early fall, the season when the Rose Mallow is at its finest.
This is just one of many, many examples of plants that may not look like anything when you are eagerly plant shopping in the spring especially when you are comparing them to the early spring flowers of Ranunculus, Phlox and Rockcress.
Plan and do the research, better yet work with an experienced professional who knows about plants and design. Do not be afraid to by the pot full of dormant (but healthy) looking stems or buds it may surprise you later!
Eichenlaub can help you design, install, and maintain plants that you will love all season! If you have any further question about selection and design of an “All Seasons Perennial Garden” just let us know!
– Kevin Anthony Prall
Kevin Prall is a landscape consultant at Eichenlaub with a degree in ornamental horticulture from Colorado State University.
Water features can be rewarding enhancements to a landscape. Before breaking ground, consider these 5 common mistakes people make when installing a water feature. Here is what we found after many years:
Lack of Proper Filtration: Inadequate filtration can lead to disappointment in water quality. Sometimes this shows up in the form of “pea-soup” water. Many times this causes pond owners to overcompensate with chemicals; this can be costly and will ultimately throw the ecosystem “out of whack”. Do-it-yourselfers and “part time professionals” sometimes purchase inadequate filters or will purchase components “a la carte.” It may be cheaper to purchase the items piecemeal, but it’s challenging because different manufacturers use different fittings and they need to be modified to work together versus having everything matched and designed to work as a unit. Efficiency and simplicity will create a better system for your pond.
Wrong feature type: Nowadays there are many different water features to choose from. It is not one size fits all. Different water features have different levels of maintenance. Sometimes people choose to install a pond without understanding that it will require ongoing maintenance. If you have a busy lifestyle, either you can choose to have a professional maintain your water feature, or you can consider a lower maintenance option. For example, a pondless waterfall looks like a natural waterfall but it does not have the pond or fish that require a higher level of ongoing maintenance. Always think through your maintenance plan when designing your water feature. Eichenlaub can help you with this.
Poor location: Start with a well thought out design. Ponds are too often placed in an unused area of the property or in a low spot that collects water. Both of these locations cause problems. Unused areas of the landscape are unused for a reason and it is a waste to put a key feature in an area that will not be seen regularly. Out of sight, out of mind … meaning nobody will care for it or enjoy it. Low spots that collect water are challenging to build in (high water table) and water quality can suffer from too much runoff and pollutants entering the pond system.
Too Small: A small pond is easier to construct (less digging and rock placement) but it is actually harder to maintain. A small feature is less stable than a larger volume of water and most people end up reconstructing the water feature to make it larger because they not only love it, but their plants and fish outgrow a small feature. A well-designed water feature really needs to fit the space! Eichenlaub can help you design a water feature that will be right the first time.
Improper Use of Rock and Stone: A typical feature will use several tons of stone to give it the desired naturalistic appearance. That can be a lot of wear and tear on the family minivan! Many do-it-yourselfers will decide this to be too much effort and they will choose small, manageable stones that are easy to move and place. This is also where many landscaping companies will cut corners and miss the mark. While the work might be easier, this results in the pond falling short on aesthetics. In addition, the pond loses the structural importance provided by the larger, more difficult-to-move boulders. In some cases, the novice pond installer will just eliminate the stonework altogether. This can look artificial. Without rock and gravel, the system fails to function properly because stone not only lends to the aesthetics of the feature, but it also functions as a habitat for colonization by a variety of organisms from bacteria to crustaceans -all critical to the success of the feature.
Many people underestimate the amount of thought and labor that it takes to build a water feature. I cannot count how many times we have been asked to finish a pond where the homeowner has dug an unfinished hole in the ground or to re-work a water feature when a novice landscaper has come up short. Eichenlaub has the experienced professionals who will help you design install and maintain a water feature that will look great and function long term.
Contact us with questions!
Scott Rudolph: email@example.com
Scott Rudolph is the water feature specialist at Eichenlaub.
The biggest mistake we see people make when ordering outdoor furniture online or even when purchasing from a store is buying the wrong size! The last thing you want is a dining table that takes up the entire patio space. It is critical to take accurate measurements when selecting furniture and to be very clear on the dimensions of the product you are buying. Rule of thumb: Measure twice, order once!
The second biggest mistake is underpaying or overpaying for furniture. It is important to buy a high-quality product that will last but you may not need to pay for a fancy brand name or from an overpriced store. It is important to work with someone you trust. Someone who will help you make the right choice for your needs.
Finally, if you plan to sit or lay on your furniture, make sure it is comfortable! This might seem obvious but it is not uncommon at all to buy a beautiful outdoor couch online, then when it arrives, you cannot bear to sit in it. You should be enjoying your outdoor living space in comfort. If you must order something online, be sure to read the comments. If it is uncomfortable, people will usually comment about it.
Eichenlaub can help you with your outdoor furniture selection. We will make sure your furniture fits your space and you get a good value. You can “test drive” some comfortable furniture pieces in our Outdoor Living Studio. Email us with questions or to set an appointment to come see us:
Outdoor furniture will be Clean- Contemporary – Conversational in in 2017.
Clean and contemporary means more sleek powder coated metal and dark synthetic resin frames with simple, sometimes bold color cushions and pillows. Quality powder coated cast aluminum and synthetic resin furniture are lightweight, durable and very stylish. I see these materials being in style for a long time. Conversational means comfortable furniture laid out to allow for relaxing conversation with family and friends. People are creating outdoor spaces that they will use. Today’s well thought-out patio and furniture layouts include unique spaces for enjoying each other’s company and creating memories.
Email us with questions or to set an appointment to come see us for more outdoor furniture ideas: firstname.lastname@example.org
Working in the Landscape Horticulture profession for over 30 years I have heard one question asked more often than any other- When do I prune?
One thing to note before we dive into pruning: If you are just beginning to plan your garden-, make sure the plant you are choosing will fit the space you have planned for it over time.
Many plants will benefit from pruning them at the appropriate time to help keep them healthy, structurally sound, increase flower and bud formation as well as fruit production.
When it comes to most plants common in our landscapes the general rule of thumb is to prune early blossoming trees and shrubs immediately after they bloom and well before they have a chance to set flower buds for the following season. Good shrub examples of this are the Mop Head and Lace-Cap Hydrangeas, Lilacs, Azaleas, Rhododendron and certain species of Spireas such as Bridal Veil Spirea. I mentioned to prune immediately after flowering as in many cases the flower buds are set by mid-summer.
During the “Polar Vortex” winters of 2013-14 and 2014-15, many of our local Hydrangeas had most of their flower buds “naturally” pruned of due to the extremely low temperatures. Many frustrated gardeners wondered why their Hydrangeas did not bloom those following summers. In fact many Hydrangea stems died clear to ground level.
New variety of Hydrangeas have both buds that form on previous year’s wood and also flower buds that form on current year’s wood which just about guarantees yearly blossoming. “Endless Summer” Hydrangea is one of these newer cultivars of Hydrangea.
Trees and shrubs that flower on current seasons wood includes familiar ones like Rose-of-Sharon, some Viburnums, Spireas such as Gold Mound and Little Princess, Smokebush and Panicled Hydrangeas (white, cone-shaped flowers) and Golden Rain Tree. You can prune these shrubs and trees at any time before they leaf out. If they have leafed out, pruning the new growth could sacrifice blossoms later in the summer. Generally, late winter is a good time, as the plants will heal quickly from the pruning cuts.
If you have doubts when to prune be sure to do the research so you will not be disappointed later in the growing season.
Eichenlaub can help you with your landscape design, installation and maintenance needs; just give us a call or send an email to set up an appointment to meet with one of our consultants.
Contact me if you have any further questions.
– Kevin Anthony Prall
Introducing The Outdoor Living Studio. A place unique to Pittsburgh, where you can experience the finest outdoor living elements. Browse elegantly designed and expertly hand crafted stone, wood, copper and other timeless materials and understand how these different materials and colors complement each other. If you are searching Pinterest, Houzz and other online picture sites for landscaping and outdoor living ideas, The Outdoor Living Studio is your next step. It is an indoor facility where you can interact with outdoor lighting styles, planters with different color and texture arrangements, patio layouts, outdoor furnishings, natural stone wall materials, fire features, pergolas and more. Visiting The Outdoor Living Studio will help you confirm your ideas, material selection, and style before making a major investment in your home’s landscaping. Brought to you by Eichenlaub.
To learn more or schedule a visit please contact us at:
517 Lincoln Ave, Millvale, PA 15209 (behind Pamela’s)
Recently and unfortunately, the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee has become the first bee in the continental US to be listed as an endangered species. This unfortunate event has spurred me to write this blog post since my day to day experience as a landscape consultant can frequently involve decisions that can either be a detriment or benefit to our local bee population. I hear regular requests for plants and landscapes that avoid overly attracting bees because they are thought of as a nuisance. Often times these “nuisance” insects are wasps or hornets that disrupt our picnics and make nests in the eaves of our homes. While it won’t be discussed here, these insects do actually provide beneficial services to us and our home gardens. They do this with pest control and some pollination but their biggest offense is to make us fear all flying insects that resemble them, such as relatively harmless honey bees and other bees like the rusty patched bumble bee. These bees, and flies that look like bees, are absolutely critical to the survival of our ecosystem and subsequently our survival. Their pollinating activity is the lynch pin to the continued growth of a substantial portion of our food crops and favorite landscape plants. Unfortunately recent news and studies show a continued decline speculatively from certain pesticide uses and lack of diversity in their environment and diet. As humans will continue to change an influence the ecosystems we are members of, we must consider how our actions (or lack of) affect the species critical to our own survival.
The majority of our homes, whether urban, suburban, or rural, involve some type of “landscape”. We use this landscape to make our home and property more attractive and a as a place to recreate. Whether you extensively garden or take a minimalist approach, there are things we can all do to help support the local pollinators and ultimately benefit the ecological web we are all members of. These benefits can be accomplished through an aesthetic approach with plants or through some changes to our maintenance practices. As humans we primarily approach the landscape from an aesthetic perspective, the following sections will identify some key plants for each season that could fit a range of landscapes to support bees. Finally a brief discussion on some changes to our maintenance practices will identify some methods to reduce our impact on bee populations.
Late Winter/Spring: As we awake from a cold dark slumber, desperate to escape our homes and once again enjoy the warm sunshine and the first emergence of spring foliage, bees are also desperate to begin recovering from winter. Honeybees have spent the winter consuming stores of honey to use for energy and keep their hives warm to prevent them from freezing. As warm spring and late winter days present themselves they are desperate to forage for any nectar and pollen sources they can find to help bolster and replenish their stores. Other bees have it much harder as they live solitary lives over winter and must begin their food searches immediately as the weather breaks to ensure their survival. This is a critical time of year to provide nectar and pollen sources for bees.
Late Spring/ Summer: Bees and other pollinators are flying high in summer. This is the peak of the nectar flow from trees, shrubs, and flowers. As we get closer to the hot doldrums of late summer the nectar flow from plants begins to shut down. It is critical for bees to build their stores and produce future generations to continue their life-cycles. As late summer moves in, the hot doldrums coincide with a shutting down of nectar sources until fall. Not only is this the boom time for bees but also the season with a lot of aesthetic potential for our gardens.
Perennials could be an exhausting list but the following are commonly found growing in our area. Keep in mind some will overlap with late summer and fall as well due to prolonged bloom times.
Annuals– A lot of landscapes lack diversity when it comes to perennials. There is only so much space in most yards and not everyone is willing to invest in substantial amounts of plant bed space. From a style perspective, not all landscapes visually work with an eclectic mix of perennials either and require a more simplified plant or color palate. This is where annuals really shine providing large masses of summer color and interest. They also tend to bloom for a longer period of time where perennials require layering to get continued color. The right selections here can also be pollinator magnets. The only downside is they have to be replanted every year and some will require more watering and maintenance compared to established perennials. (p.s. we can plant and maintain annual beds for you *wink *wink).
Late Summer/Fall: As the seasons wind down bees and pollinators like many other animals and insects are making a last push to build stores or are preparing themselves/future generations for winter. This is the time, after the slow nectar period in late summer, to help bolster the seasons harvest with late season nectar sources. Flowers during this season also help you prepare for winter by stretching every bit of enjoyment and color we can get from our landscapes.
Finally a word on best practices that we can implement to help provide a friendlier environment for pollinators in regard to maintenance. If I had to choose one thing it would be to reduce the use of certain pesticides for controlling insects. Easy, right? In my opinion, this is actually one of the harder things to accomplish in a home landscape and still have it meet our expectations. The key is to make proper plant selections for our climate and specific site conditions. Proper plant in the proper location should result in a healthier and stronger plant. These plants, for the most part, have evolved alongside insects and are adapt at surviving minimal infestations. That certainly doesn’t mean plants can’t be overtaken during particularly difficult seasons of drought or years that are more conducive to the rapid expanse of a particular problem. In these situations it is important that you or your reliable maintenance provider are monitoring your landscape for changes and making adjustments to treat or prevent severe problems for gaining a foothold. This can be done with preventative dormant oil sprays in spring for certain plants and pathogens, minimally treating spot infestations throughout the season, proper fertilization and watering supplementation to help plants grow through infestations, and proper disposal of landscape debris in the fall to reduce overwintering potential of a disease.
If you are designing a new landscape or want to bolster your existing landscape, with a few well planned additions you can go from a pollinator desert to a pollinator destination. Not sure where to begin with your design or new maintenance program? Eichenlaub has the experts to help.
Contact me at: (412) 767-4769 or
Ben Simpson is a landscape consultant at Eichenlaub.
The days are short, nights are long and most days here in Pittsburgh tend to be cloudy, rainy or snowy. There is light at the end of the tunnel! We all are craving for the longer days of spring and summer and are counting the days until we can get out into the garden again. There are two harbingers of spring just about to start the show here in the Pittsburgh area.
The Lenten Rose or Christmas Rose (Helleborus species) is a wonderful perennial that should be a staple in all gardens. Its evergreen foliage providing substance in the garden during the winter season; holding well throughout the winter season. Multitudes of white, purple, reddish, pink and/or speckled blossoms begin to appear very early in the year, at times even through the snow.
Resistant to both deer and voles, they are long-lived and provide wonderful blossoms at a time when flowers are a scarce in the garden.
The other plant with remarkable winter interest are the many cultivars of Witch Hazel (Hammamelis vernalis).
Blossoming as early as February in the Pittsburgh area, they bear very fragrant, yellow, orange to burgundy blossoms appearing on bare, leafless stems. Most can get rather large; easily 10-12 feet high and wide so give them room. Once you see Witch Hazel blooming you know spring is getting close.
If the gloomy days of winter are wearing on you, think of introducing either or both of these terrific plants into your landscape. They will brighten up any garden.
Eichenlaub can help you with your landscape architectural planning, planting and other installation needs; just give us a call or send an email to set up an appointment to meet with one of our consultants.
Contact us if you have any further questions.
– Kevin Anthony Prall
Take advantage of shorter winter days and create beautiful views with outdoor landscape lighting.
It’s cold outside and with winter’s shorter days it is dark in the morning and before dinnertime. Many features of the outside of your home are probably not looking their best right now. You may not realize the wonderful opportunities outdoor lighting can provide this time of year. By focusing on the inside out, you can create inspiring views at night.
Up-light key trees. Trees look great when up-lit and those with interesting bark and textures look particularly nice during the winter months. Up-light trees that you can see out of your windows at night. This will create a new dimension and feeling in your interior space. It will be like adding a new, one of a kind piece of fine art to a room!
Add depth. By adding three or more levels of lighting to say a backyard view, you can create artful depth to the scene. For instance, up-light a small tree close to the house (foreground), down-light a section of lawn behind that (middle ground), then up-light three large trees at the back edge of your property (background). This will create a beautiful “scene” with a greater sense of depth. In addition, by varying lamp (bulb) wattages you can add additional depth and drama.
Let it snow. The best part about outdoor lighting in the winter is the views can significantly change with the weather. Snow is the most dramatic difference. Different types of snow events will create different views. Wet snow will be different from dry snow for instance. Rain creates more glare on trees. Fog adds mystery.
Think about these things when designing your outdoor lighting and you will have a completely new appreciation for your winter landscape!