It’s that time of year when it feels really good to get your hands dirty planting a container of beautiful summer annuals. (Summer officially starts today!)
Browsing through a garden center and walking among all the annuals can be inspiring, but it can also be a bit overwhelming. So, that’s why Topiarius is providing you with a free planting plan! You can enjoy the beauty AND know exactly what you need to buy.
This plan is for a 4′ x 16″ planter, but the quantities can be modified to fit another size container. We L-O-V-E our plantings to be lush instantaneously so we make sure to have enough plant material on-hand. Additionally, these plants do best in part sun/part shade.
A few tips for planting:
Make sure your container has drainage holes.
Use potting soil (not Chicago clay soil).
Compact the soil a bit before and while planting so that after a few days the roots aren’t exposed as the soil has settled.
Remember to water immediately after planting then regularly.
Choices and options can be amazing, right? But when you’re trying to make a simple choice and you’re faced with endless options, it can stop you before you begin. Finding the perfect grill is no different. So, rather than getting lost in the possibilities, I had a conversation with Zac Selleck from Chicago Gas Linesto help me sort through all the chatter and make this process easy.
What is it you love cooking?
There are no longer distinctions between what you cook inside and what you cook outside. From being able to boil water, fry an egg, bake a pizza, sear steaks or tuna, smoke ribs, bake potatoes, grill vegetables, rotisserie cook a chicken . . . it is all possible. Because you don’t have to limit your options, what are you truly desiring to cook outdoors? Maybe it’s just a few options or maybe you’re saying yes to all of the above.
If you’re interested in pancakes, a hash, grill cheese, or bacon? Then, skillet cooking is an option. If you’re interested in being able to sear proteins like steaks and tuna then look at infrared grills; they will allow you to cook at a higher temperature in half the time. Or if you prefer the slow cooking process of smoking ribs, pork belly, or roasts because the beautiful smoke ring is the only thing that matters, then smokers are your focus.
What will fuel the grill?
Grills measure their efficiency in BTU’s. British Thermal Units are a “measurement of how much heat a grill generates at its maximum output. If you think of BTUs like your car’s fuel efficiency or MPG (miles per gallon), BTUs measure your grill’s fuel efficiency or OPB (output per burner) as well as all the burners combined.” 
While each grill will operate with its optimum BTU, depending on its make and model, all grills operate more efficiently when they are fueled by a direct gas line providing consistent and dependable fuel. When there isn’t a direct gas line, options are propane, charcoal or pellets.
Often exterior gas lines are added after home construction. It is only a recent phenomenon that home construction will include these lines to outdoor spaces. While it is most often feasible to retrofit a line to your grill, it isn’t always possible.
What size are you looking for and where do you want it located?
Grills come in many sizes from 21” – 54” widths, but 36” is the most common. Many companies have other appliances that they offer too, such as side burners and refrigerators. The additional options make it easy to get the exact configuration you want.
If you have an outdoor kitchen design, you will want a built-in grill. If you do not, then you’ll need the additional cart for a free-standing set-up.
Now that you have answered these 3 questions, here are the TOP grills on the market right now. All of them will make your outdoor cooking and dining amazing experiences.
According to Zac, the best grill on the market right now is LYNX. They were bought by Viking about 2 years ago, so as LYNX they continue to bring the high-end quality they’re known for and are backed by a recognizable brand name of VIKING.
The 36” gas grill from LYNX begins at $5,800 (without stand).
Not only is the Hesten Aspire another excellent grill, you have the added dimension of being able to choose from 9 different color front panels. If you’re looking for a way to reflect your personality in the design of your outdoor space, then Hesten is a great place to start.
The 36” Hesten Aspire begins at $3,500 (without stand).
If you’re looking for a grill that is straight-forward and uncomplicated, then Broilmasteris the option for you.
The 36” Broilmaster begins at $2,200 (without stand).
We’ve designed many outdoor kitchens to include the Green Egg, so it’s worth mentioning here. It is an all-in-one grill that grills, smokes, roasts, and bakes while using natural lump charcoal. But, know it may take you some time to learn how to maximize its power. It is a grill that relies heavily on air intake and when there is a slight 10-15 mile per hour wind, the grilling process can easily become more challenging and make cooking inconsistent.
To see more designs of grills in outdoor spaces, visit our Pinterestboard.
Topiarius Gardening on RooftopWhen it comes to growing vegetables on your rooftop, there are very few limitations. As long as you have sun for most of the day and a consistent watering system/schedule, success is practically guaranteed.
In addition to the raspberries, dill, tomatoes, and peppers, the above rooftop includes carrots, lettuce, and herbs.
Photo Credit: TOPIARIUS
This rooftop garden is nestled into the full design of the whole space. It is on the perimeter next to the kitchen. In addition to the cherry tomatoes and eggplant, there are squash and cucumbers.
There are both cool and warm season vegetables that can be planted throughout the growing season. In early spring think spinach, snap peas, beets, and kohlrabi. Once the weather heats up you can plant those tomatoes, peppers, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, beans, zucchini, butternut squash . . .
If you are just looking to stick your toe into vegetable gardening here is a mix that as easy to care for and provides that big bang of fresh garden flavor: Patio Hybrid Tomato, Italian Basil, Fairy Tale Eggplant, Mint, and Rosemary.
Here are some of our favorite places to purchase organic seeds and starter plants.
Are you thinking of postponing the renovation of your outdoor space? Then, you need to keep reading.
Topiarius is offering, for the month of May, our Outdoor Stimulus Package. If you sign a designer retainer with us for $5,000 or less, you will be reimbursed 100% with a signed installation contract.
Contact us either through our website, phone, email, or click on the below graphic. We’ll connect you to one of our designers. They will spend some time with you discussing your project and determine if a complimentary on-site meeting is the next step.
The signed design retainer contract must be signed and paid in May 2020.
The 100% reimbursement applies when the retainer total is a minimum of 5% of the installation contract total.
No partial reimbursements.
The installation contract must be signed and deposit paid in 2020.
Every year Pantone* picks a color (or colors as is this year) that launches new trends in fashion and design. For Pantone it is “a symbolic color selection; a color snapshot of what we see taking place in our culture that serves as an expression of a mood and an attitude.”
This year Pantone chose two shades, Rose Quartz and Serenity, which got us thinking. Since we’re always looking for new ideas we thought it’d be fun to create a spring annual garden using just these two shades. The combination of these annuals creates a beautifully fragrant, textural display. If you love the two-shades but want to add a little more, try white blooming plants for evening interest or greens for a springtime feel.
Muscari armeniacum is a spring flowering bulb that stands about 6-10” tall that will begin to bloom in April. This bulb does well in in Chicago and should be planted in the fall for spring blooms. Or, it can be purchased in bloom for instant planting. It comes in shades of blue, purple, and white.
Hyacinthus orienatlis is one of the most fragrant flowers of the spring and does not disappoint. In Chicago, hyacinth bulbs can be planted in the fall for spring blooms or can be purchased in bloom for instant planting. The plant will grow 10-18” tall. The flower heads do get top-heavy, so be ready to stake them or just enjoy their arching habit.
Pericallis hybrid is a cool weather annual that looks a lot like daisies. Its blooms are about 1.5 -2” and the plant height is about 12″. There are a total of 12 available colors in shades of pinks and purples!
Ranunculus asiaticus is a cool weather annual in Chicago. The paper-like petals create a beautifully layered bloom that is from 1 – 3” in diameter. Plant height is from 12-16″ tall. Colors range from yellows, pinks, oranges, reds, whites , greens, and purples. Die-back will be its most serious problem when the temperatures heat up.
Lobelia erinus is a trailing variety that provides a beautiful edge to containers and landscape beds. The blooms are about .5” in size and thrive in cool temperatures. Die-back will be its most serious problem when the temperatures heat up. Colors range from whites, blues, and purples.
Antirrhinum majus is a common spring annual that is planted either in ground or in containers that stands about 12-18” tall. It comes in a variety of colors from whites, yellows, oranges and pinks which makes it a fun pop of color.
Pantone LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of X-Rite, Incorporated, is the world-renowned authority on color and provider of color systems and leading technology for the selection and accurate communication of color across a variety of industries. The PANTONE® name is known worldwide as the standard language for color communication from designer to manufacturer to retailer to customer.
If you’ve ever watched the television show Mythbusters, you’re familiar with its premise. The team challenges various rumors and urban legends to see if they are confirmed, plausible or busted. Here at Topiarius we are often asked to design a “maintenance free garden.” While we’d love to do this for you we are unfortunately going to declare this a busted myth.
Nature operates without us. This means there will always be work to do in your garden and outdoor spaces.
Weeds will grow wherever there is soil, sunlight, and moisture.
Lawns will need to be mown even if you choose not to edge, fertilize or over-seed.
Corners and hiding spots will need to be cleaned and cleared of debris – both blown in by the wind and brought in by our animal friends. Birds will fly overhead, squirrels will scrounge, and rodents may nest and there is little that you can do about it.
Painted or stained surfaces like decks, fences and furniture will need upkeep. Water and sunlight will continually wear down outdoor finishes.
All trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals grow. This means that branches are going to break or die, deciduous plants will lose their leaves, flowers fade and plants die back each fall. In order for your plants to be at their best, they will need regular care.
Patios and walkways are also vulnerable. Tree roots push, freeze/thaw cycles heave, foot traffic compacts and dirt is always with us!
While outdoor fabrics are designed to not degrade as quickly from sunlight and water as traditional fabrics, they still need to be cared for while they are outdoors.
Even materials like composite (i.e. Trex) decking or porcelain pavers need care. While they resist rot, won’t warp or splinter and never need staining or painting they can still get stained and dirty.
Don’t be discouraged yet! While a completely maintenance free garden isn’t possible, you can still make wise choices that REDUCE the amount of maintenance you’ll have to do.
Making wise material choices is your best bet to getting a low maintenance landscape.
Choosing the right plant is a good start. Take into consideration the amount of sun or shade, the type of soil and the growing habit of the plant before you make a purchase.
Low maintenance hardscape materials that are rot resistant and clean easily will help your garden last a lifetime.
Maybe the most important advice to a low maintenance garden is to do it right the first time. Follow proper installation instructions, get advice from qualified sources and, if you are worried you can’t do it yourself, hire a qualified professional!