This Is What Happened . . . When I Worked With Topiarius

Topiarius may not have the reach and influence of Martha Stewart or Chip and Joanna Gaines (yet!) but what we do have . . . is one AMAZING referral network of AMAZING clients and partners.

And this network has got some AMAZING things to say.

So . . . let me introduce you to Shellane.

Craig and I started working with Shellane and her family in 2012. We have landscaped the parkway, front yard, back yard and rooftop of her former home and have completed her garage rooftop and back yard of her new home. (Front yard is getting worked on as we speak!).

Let’s get started:

Topiarius: What was happening with your home landscape/outdoor spaces when you first decided to hire Topiarius?

Shellane: Every time I have decided to hire Topiarius, it has been because I am obsessed about our outdoor spaces. I grew up on a farm. My dad had flower beds everywhere, and in addition to the crops he grew, his flowers were his passion. They were so beautiful, and I knew having flowers in my life, even in the city, was going to be absolute.

So, in 2012, we bought a new house and the backyard was functional, but it wasn’t pleasantly functional. It was not useful in a way that would make it so that I could be outside as much as I wanted to. I knew I needed to hire someone to help me with that and I received a referral for Topiarius from a friend.

In our development plan, we started with the front yard first because it was terribly pedestrian and the part of the house that everyone sees, that was my first priority. We developed the rooftop next and finally, we developed and refreshed the backyard.

And then? We promptly moved to a new house around the corner and started all over again. (Bigger house because more and bigger kids!) That’s the fun part, right? In developing the property at the first house, I learned some things about what was valuable to me, and that knowledge actually helped me select a different type of property the second time. For example, I thought I would love a deck on the very top of my house! I ended up not really loving a deck on the top of my house. So. Many. Stairs. And its really hot up there!

Topiarius: What was your experience of working with Topiarius like? What would you rate as 5-star?

Shellane: Let’s start with the last question.

I like a small family-owned business. That’s definitely a me thing.

The other 5-star quality for Topiarius is they always fix their mistakes. I love that. And there’s no question about it. If I have something that is going wrong, I reach out and you guys are out there within a week fixing it. I like to think I’m a reasonable customer and not particularly needy, but if equipment isn’t working, that can be frustrating for me.   I reach out and Topiarius Is there to help fix whatever is going wrong. A more concise way of saying it is that you stand behind your work.

The other part of the question? I feel the relationship between Topriarius and me is such that you’re part of my family. (I know this sounds hokey.) You’re part of the group of people that help me do everything I want to do and have a beautiful house.

Every single time I walk out into the backyard or up onto the roof of my garage deck, I’m happy. Being outside just makes me happy. You guys are worth every penny, but it’s an investment. And because it can be such a big financial investment, I have worked with Topiarius over a period of years at each house to develop in phases of our property.

In addition to being influenced by my dad growing flowers everywhere, I was also influenced by the fact that my parents had parties all the time.  They loved to entertain.  Therefore I love to entertain.  And I am continuing to do that at my home with my family – we’re having parties six and seven times a year. As I mentioned previously, when we developed the outdoor space at our first house, I learned some things, my priorities changed.  I wanted my entertaining space done!

At our first house, we started with the front yard because it was what everyone could see from the street and that was important to me then.  When we bought the house, the front yard was grass and boxwood – not beautiful, but good enough.  This time around in my development plan, it was more important for me to be able to entertain outdoors in a living space for my family, especially for my older kids who are more independent. They want to be able to watch TV outside and sit outside to listen to music and all that kind of stuff.   So we focused on that aspect of the house first and the front yard came last.  (I’m on the schedule for the end of June and I can’t wait!)

Topiarius: What was the impact of working with Topiarius on you and/or your family?

Shellane: We are outside all the time. I mean, we would be anyway, but now we’re outside and comfortable and happy. This past summer, the kids were outside more than they had been previously. We installed an outdoor TV on our garage rooftop deck – it got installed kind of late in the season last year (due to it being backordered and us being in North Carolina for six weeks) but the impact of the installation was big. We started using it immediately. The kids would have friends over and they would watch Disney movies.

We also have a dining table up on the rooftop deck that I had actually planned for it to be in our lower backyard, so it would be closer to the kitchen and back door of the house. I showed Craig J-S how I was going to lay it out and he’s like, “Nope, that’s not going to work. You don’t have enough room. It needs to go up top.” I was not happy about that, but I trust Craig.  When we installed the planters and the plantings were completed, I realized there was no way that the dining table would have fit. Craig knew better than I did.   He was totally right.  (Is he reading this?)

This past fall, as the weather turned colder, my husband, my mom, and I would often play cards on Sunday nights up on that deck at that table. All warm and snug under our infrared heaters.   My friends and family love the space. Because it has been thoughtfully planned, the space draws people into it, like a magnet.

Topiarius: Let’s say I’m a super skeptical person and I am not quite convinced that Topiarius’ services are worth it . . . what tangible results did you experience as a result of working with Topiarius that would convince another person to choose us?

Shellane: Before I hired Topiarius, my backyard was just cement pavers and dark gray siding. Literally just walls, cement, and an empty sad space. Sure,  I could have just put some furniture out there and been done with it, but the space was hot and sterile and not a place that you want to go sit and read a book. But, by developing the backyard and garage rooftop deck, we have greatly increased the living space in our house. And the cost associated with that has been worth it to my family.

Now, I have a soft, cozy couch with a TV I can turn on if I want to, under warm heaters if it is too cold, and a louvered pergola to close and ceiling fan if it is too hot. I have a wall of hydrangeas that provide  privacy where I see flowers and butterflies. It’s inviting and cozy and meditative. It just makes me happy. But that is me, I’m happy outside.

But a side note, I’m not as happy as Craig J-S is outside in the winter. I hate to be cold.  But, as soon as possible this spring, when it finally starts to warm up, I will take our blue tarps off the furniture and open up the space from its hibernation so we can start feeling and smelling the outdoors.

 – Thank you, Shellane! You’re the best!

Refer/Earn is Our Referral Program That Pays You Back!


For every person you refer you you could earn endless credits! It’s like FREE money!

The Best Paving Options

If you want the best look, the best longevity, the best variety, then you will want to use: CLAY, STONE, or PORCELAIN products. Below are examples of projects where we’ve used these 3 options.

Reclaimed Clay Pavers and Flagtone
Clay Pavers and Bluestone
Clay Pavers and Bluestone
Bluestone and Clay Pavers
Bluestone and Clay Pavers
Porcelain Pavers
Porcelain Pavers
Porcelain Pavers

For your complimentary overview of the  above products, click below.

3D Renderings

If someone talks to you about designing your living space (indoors or outdoors) and they say to you there’s going to be a door here, a wall here, and there’s going to be Water’s Edge blue paint on the wall, and your couch will go here, and . . . and . . . and . . . and . . . can you see it all happen?

OR is your head dizzy and you’re like WTF (at least in your mind)? Do you hear the wah wah wah wah adult voice from Charlie Brown?

I get it. Topiarius gets it. Not being able to see something out of nothing is VERY common and there is nothing wrong with you. Pinky swear.

So this is exactly why I have just posted 3 new projects on our website AND most importantly, they’re all 3D renderings!

We get that living beautifully outdoors is an investment and if you don’t understand what we’re talking about, there’s no way you’re going to move forward with us. (As you shouldn’t.)

Our design contracts include 3D renderings so that you can fully understand how your brand new or updated outdoor space is going to be transformed.

So please take a look and get inspired.

Contact us now so we can get started on your project. We promise we’ll turn the wah wah wah into wow wow wow! 

P.S. If you haven’t heard yet, when you refer Topiarius you can totally earn lot’s o’ credit dollars for yourself? Seriously. Check it out.

Connecting Outdoor Spaces

What if all the hallways in your home were left unfinished? So there were just studs and subfloor. No lovely hardwood floors with carpets or walls to display your amazing art collection or family photograph. I mean this would never be allowed! Rightfully so.

So it is with connecting outdoor spaces. Not only do connections between outdoor spaces give direction they also enhance the experience.

Below are a collection of images exhibiting the ways outdoor spaces can be connected. They range from elevated walkways, aggregate paths, mown grass, mulch, to built paths of concrete, stone, or clay pavers.

Inspiration abounds! Connection is everything,

If you’re curious about what this could look like at your home, contact us now!

From gallery of Horizon House / Bauen. Photograph by Darío Mereles
‘The Cancer Research UK Legacy Garden’, designed by Tom Simpson. Photo: RHS / Neil Hepworth
Leiden Botanical Garden. Photograph © GardenVisit.com
Garden Design Magazine.
Old Oak Stouring Park. Posted by Camp & Glamp Glastonbury.
Pinterest image. Credit unknown.
PHOTO BY: Grant Harder POSTED BY: Dwell
Pinterest Image. Credit Unknown.
Zeterre Landscape Architecture. Posted on Houzz.

4 Ways Nature & Built Environments Work Together

We believe that great design incorporates the following 4 design concepts (to varying degrees) in order to maximize the relationship between built environments and nature.


Structures in the built environment can be designed to frame a view of nature (or skylines). Like the below photo, the entrance and hallway frames the view of the backyard.

Frame View_1
DWELL Magazine. POSTED BY: Kelsey Mulvey

Borrowing views is a concept that dates back to the 18th century in England. “The furniture and landscape designer William Kent is said to be the first to recognize that land outside a garden’s designed space could appear to be part of it. He understood that someone else’s fields or farmlands could be ‘borrowed’ visually to make one’s own lands seem larger.”  

Both images below borrow nature to make their gardens feel larger, whether the lake or the field.

Borrowed View_1
DWELL Magazine. POSTED BY: Frits de Vries Architects + Associates Ltd. PHOTOGRAPHER: Ema Peter
Photo: Patterson Webster. Garden: Glen Villa Gardens


Blurring the lines between natural and built creates a seamless transition that is more comfortable and inviting. Nature should creep in and built spaces should creep out. Feeling like you’re indoors as well as outdoors is the place of connection.

Photo: Cesar Rubio. Project by: Longwell MacDonald
DWELL Magazine. Photo by: Ema Peter


This concept is all about the outdoor room, which is a specific area with a specific function, such as seating area around a fire feature or even a vegetable garden.  Each area/room is positioned in nature, not to look like it magically appeared, but to have a sense of privacy and mystique. 

Photo by: Joe Fletcher. Architects: Feldman Architecture
Photo by: Saxon Holt / PhotoBotanic.com


Getting from point A to point B should not look like a sterile hallway in a hospital. With every turn and glance the experience should be enjoyable while creating anticipation of where you’re going. This is especially true if you’re walking from building to the next or from one point of your garden to another.

POSTED BY: Joanna Shaw. PHOTOGRAPHER: Jeff Roberts
Wallace Landscape Associates

If you’re interested in seeing the integrate of built and native environments for your own home, contact us today

City Soirée

Project Brief

Knowing their 2,043 square foot terrace rooftop in Chicago could be an amazing outdoor space, our clients had begun investing in upgrades before hiring us. But they quickly realized that their original vision wasn’t satisfactory. Upon engagement with us, we excitedly conceptualized how their wide open, unprotected space could fulfill their dreams to live beautifully outdoors.

For this couple, the ease of entertaining was key with space for dinner parties as their highest priority. This meant a dedicated space for their large dining table and multiple spaces for people to gather in – all enhanced by ambient lighting. Our clients were also concerned about privacy from a neighboring building that looked directly onto their space which was addressed through plants as screening and the pergola. The noise of the mechanicals needed to be damped. This gave us an opportunity to define separate areas so that we could play with different materials and level changes through decking. Along with privacy, the sun exposure made the space very hot on summer afternoons and they wanted to find a way to create shade that would withstand the punishing winds off the lake. While the custom panels are fixed in place, their design allows for dappled sun and wind movement. With the addition of heaters anchored on the pergola and a fire feature, the couple has a space for extended seasonal use. And, of course, they wanted plantings that would soften the space and invite you outside. By using/transplanting some of the trees and shrubs they had, and adding other shrubs, perennials, green roof trays, and containers for annual displays an urban garden oasis was created.

Their outdoor terrace went from a Hodge podge commercial looking space to a sophisticated, welcoming, relaxing space that make entertaining a piece of cake!