The Biggest Mistake with Winter Displays

If you’re looking to avoid the biggest mistake we see in winter container displays then all you need to do is read this.

Let’s just say team Topiarius is a bit more aware of this mistake around this time of year. We see winter container displays almost everywhere we go, and while we do not want to dismiss the efforts of others to engage in the festiveness of the season, we also know that we all have a growing edge(s).

Thus . . . the biggest mistake we see is when there is not enough material (a.k.a. evergreens, berries, branches, birch logs, and accents) for the size of the container.

It’s like having your house painted but there’s not enough paint to do the job so you water it down and give yourself a whitewash. The house has technically been painted, but the goal wasn’t accomplished.

Likewise, you can put some beautiful materials into a container, but if you don’t have enough . . . yes, it looks ridiculous. It’s a party fail, y’all. There, I finally just came out and said it. 

So, here are 3 options to solve this:

  1. Reduce the size of your container and keep the same amount of greens/décor you have. Even if it’s smaller overall, it will be magnificent because it’s packed full.
  2. Buy more greens and décor and don’t resize you container. Invest some more dollars into the display and you won’t be disappointed. 
  3. Edit your materials. For example, If you love red twig dogwood, then invest in it. You are going to need A LOT to make it look fabulous. Five twigs poking out of a mass of greens just doesn’t work; they are hard to see and it honestly screams novice. But, if you don’t want that expense, then ditch the idea all together! Seriously! Rather, buy multiple types of greens and mix them together for a festive and LUSH presentation. No one is going to even miss the dogwood.

Keep in mind that simplicity is not in this same category. You can have one beautiful boxwood shrub with some greens draped around the edge and it can look amazing. (Just make sure the boxwood and the container are in good proportions.)

To see what I’m talking about, download our 2021 Winter Color Inspiration Guide. There are 11 different designs that range in sizes and styles. Each one is a great example of how to have plenty of materials in a container for a professional display.

P.S. Have you signed your 2022 Fine Gardening Contract? Reach out to your sales person if you’d like to. I know that Chris Walsh and Tyler Klivickis are ready to connect.

Spring Trend: Fall Bulbs

Fall Bulbs in Spring

Raise your hand if you like waiting?

Exactly. No one likes to wait. I for sure don’t like waiting.

Yet . . . waiting is interwoven into the reality our daily lives. (Clearing my throat and choking out C O V I D.)

That’s why this spring trend is going to blow your mind.

BECAUSE you cannot have it immediately. But you can see them now! (This is turning into a great riddle!)

The hottest spring trend right now is waiting until fall to plant spring flowering bulbs.

As you walk around your neighborhood or through parks you will see gloriously blooming Daffodils, Tulips, Muscari, Scilla, and more.

Here’s the deal: these blooms were planted in a previous fall. They were dug into the ground, covered with dirt, and hidden for 3-4 months. Some seriously delayed satisfaction.

YET they are the first to declare SPRING! They are the ones that we get to enjoy FIRST!

Sure, we love planting (and are doing so now) forced bulbs for spring displays. But we couldn’t start planting them until this week and next, well after you’re already enjoying bulbs that were planted last fall.

Capitalize on your current inspiration and book your fall planting of bulbs now.

By this time next spring you will be so thankful you did.

Winter Windowbox

Last weekend as Craig and I were laying on our roof (on my old foam Pilates mat) hanging over the edge, zip-tying lights onto eye hooks, neighbors (and great clients – haaay!) walked by and shouted up a hello. 

They commented on our hard work getting our house to look festive for the season. Jokingly – really not joking – I said this is why I pay people to do this for me. 

As fun as it is to be a DIY-er, which is at core who Craig and I both are, paying someone else to do the work is magical

Listen, we do love designing and creating. It brings us joy; it’s balm for our souls. It’s the fuel that got us started. But, I know it’s not everyone’s jam. So my fellow DIFY-ers. Do It For You folks we’ve got your back. 

Before we slide into 2021 (can . . . not . . . wait !), we still can and want to help you with your winter décor and lights. 

You know as well as I do that these next few months are going to be cold and gray with a few doses of sunshine. Add to it the lingering effects of COVID and we’ve all got plenty of reasons for a beautifully inspiring winter display and a house covered in lights (okay that’s our house, but we can brighten up yours too). 

Let me cue this up for you. I have been listening to a book recently and it’s overall theme is about transforming your body and feeling unstoppable. One of the key aspects that the author says affects us is how everything in our home is influencing us in some way.  Right!? I thought, is she speaking directly to me! 

If you’re walking up to dead summer annuals or a rotten pumpkin at your front door or if you’re looking out a window into your back yard that has a bare tree, then the perfect combination of greens and accents in a container and a tree covered in white lights (or colorful ones), is the solution! These changes will influence you in a positive way. 

The best part is . . . the only finger you need to lift to make this happen is the one to pick up the phone. We do all the work and you simply enjoy!

– Sara (an aspiring DIFY-er) J-S

Free Fall Display Plan

Yes! Be THAT House . . .
that has an amazing front entry!

Our Fabulous Festive Fall Display Plan Free to You 

Fall Planting Plan

We love this design. 
3 reasons you’ll love this design too.

  1. You don’t have to have an internal dialog about buying too much. You can have all of the gourds and pumpkins you love!
  2. You NEVER have to water!! (Well, if you do use the Ivy, you probably should water some. Otherwise, replace the ivy with more moss.)
  3. Your home will be amazing! It will be the kind of amazing that people will take pictures of as they walk by.

Let’s live beautifully outdoors!

Spring Annuals On Trend

Chicago Spring Annuals

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.

Grape Hyacinth.


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.

Photo: http://www.steenvoorden.nl/Catalogus/?group=14


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.

Photo: http://www.7flowers.ru/catalog/Bulbs/professional/Hyacinth-Marconi.jpg

Senetti Baby True Blue.

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!

Photo: http://www.powerflowers.com/


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.

Photo: http://www.thedailybeast.com/galleries/2011/05/03/top-selling-flowers.html


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.

Photo: http://www.bloomsbythebox.com/blog


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.

Photo: https://www.mainwholesaleflorist.com/


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.

“A Maintenance Free Garden” – Confirmed, Plausible, Or Busted?

Gardening Maintenance

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!