I want to talk with you today about one of the sexiest topics I know about. (Irony is dripping off me like a waterfall.)


In 2020, Chicago held the title of the rattiest city in the US for the 6th straight year. (I mean if that’s not the ultimate title, add to it that in 2021 Chicago made it to the number one spot for bed bugs too!)

So, friends, suffice it to say rats are here and in your yards and in our yard. Just ask Craig about the nest in his sweet potato bed a few years ago.

Okay then . . . what can we do about them because we want you to live beautifully outdoors?

The name of the game is to make your yard inhospitable. If anyone promises an 100% guarantee that they can keep rats out of your yard, they’re lying, particularly if you live near restaurants. But don’t be dismayed, there a few things that can be done to help.

  1. Make sure you have a clean and tidy yard. Not only because this looks better, but because you will have a better chance of seeing any holes underground or in raised planters. These guys like to burrow. And holes can be filled!
  2. Keep your trash can lids closed, especially if your bags are filled with food. Rats are master dumpster divers.
  3. Dog poop. Seems the jury is still out on this urban myth. According to Steve Dale, pet expert, he says that “Steve Sullivan, senior curator of Urban Ecology at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum… [has] never seen a peer reviewed study to confirm that rats relish dog feces.” But either way, just pick up your dog’s poop. Right?
  4. Rats have a hard time finding consistent water sources. So if you have a water feature like a pond at grade or lower (i.e., same height or lower than your soil line), you will attract rats especially if it is not properly maintained. Instead make sure the basin of water has an edge and sits above grade. Or even better use a water feature that has a covered basin that can be installed below or above grade. Consistent cleaning and monitoring are key!
  5. Install an underground barrier deterrent. And this is where we come in.

Underground barriers work like this:

  • Along a fence or a foundation, we will excavate down 18″ – 24″, install galvanized ¼” wire mesh (hardware cloth), back fill the trench with lava rock, and cover with soil.

Like I said there are no guaranteed solutions, these steps can definitely make living beautifully outdoors in Chicago a fact and reality.

Sara “there’s always a solution” J-S

P.S. I’ve provided you with free plans to see exactly what a below-grade rat barrier is and what it looks like. (I know . . . I told you . . . real sexy.)

P.S.S. To our friends who don’t live in Chicago, please don’t be grossed out and not come visit. While we may have these two titles, we’re actually quite clean and beautiful. Pinky swear.

We Are Coming With You!

As of May 2021, Topiarius is expanding our services in SW Michigan and Indiana coastline communities!

Do any of these frustrations resonate with you? The company that services my home in SW MI / IN is unreliable, their design aesthetic doesn’t fit my personality, and it’s difficult to find any alternatives.

As we’ve worked with clients over the past few years, these statements are repeated again and again.

Our goal, as your trusted provider, is to bring our exact same work ethic and reliability to your doorstep in MI / IN. We already know what you like and can easily adapt it to any home design and style. You trust us to be in and around your home; we’re going to take care of it better than our own. And, we will be your one continuous service line. There’s no longer any need to keep coordinating between multiple providers.

If this sounds amazing . . . it’s because it is! We’re thrilled to be able to offer our services in these communities where your home is located.

From Team Topiarius – 

Craig, Me (Sara), Chris, and Craig N.

Team Topiarius
2021 Harbor Country magazine launch party in Three Oaks at Journeyman Distillery.

No Maintenance is a Myth

I’d love for this to be an April Fool’s joke.

But it’s really more like the time I was on a tour in Israel and Jordan. Our group was touring biblical sites and we stopped in Bethlehem (a.k.a. Jesus’ birthplace). I had been taught that Jesus was born in a stable. A stable. A wooden structure with hay and animals. (The place where any woman would love to give birth.)

I didn’t realize that this “crucial” nugget of belief would be rocked like it was when our guide pointed to a cave as the location of Jesus’ birthplace. A cave!

Honestly, how after ALL THESE YEARS did this fact not get communicated to me?! I mean . . . the felt story board that Mrs. Anderson used could easily have had a cave on it! The betrayal! 

Which is why, as your tour guide for all things beautiful outdoors, I don’t want you to feel the bait and switch of being told one thing and then shown another!

So, I’m here to tell you THE best kept secret in landscaping: there’s no such thing as a no maintenance landscape or outdoor space.

And this is why we are doing our final 2021 spring webinar this Thursday (aka April 1st).

We want you to be as confident as possible about your luxurious outdoor landscape investment before you finalize your design. You have every right to know what your maintenance costs will be.

Even something as bland and simple as a slab of concrete will need to be swept and washed off. Weeds around the perimeter will need to be pulled. You may even have to patch it once the cracks start to show.

In our designs we love to layer textures and materials to provide the most interesting and inviting spaces possible. This means that even if our design didn’t include plants, there would still be some maintenance to do.

But this is not a call to not have a luxurious outdoor space. This is a call to understand your options BEFORE you finalize your design.

If you understand various aspects of hardscapes, softscapes, and lawn you will be equipped with information and feedback for your designer who will then produce a stronger outcome for you.

It won’t take long on Thursday for us to cover the items. We’re planning on 45 minutes – from 1 – 1:45 p.m. CT. Enough time to give you what you will need and get some good conversations going.

After all . . . you are going to want your investment to last for years to come.