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.

Alternatives to Poinsettias

It made no sense to me. I was in charge of getting 5-8 senior highers to polish the donated box of Red (not) Delicious apples. They would then hand them out at the Christmas Eve service. No one I asked knew why this tradition had been continued for years.

Traditions can be amazing. Traditions can ground you. Traditions can remind you of who you are. Traditions throughout the year can provide you with an ebb and flow framework connecting you to friends and family.

But . . . when there is no identifiable meaning or reason they’re done or any kind of reflection upon continuing them, aren’t they just rote behaviors wasting time and money? Yes. Yes, they are.

In a year that’s made us all change (temporarily!! Go vaccines, go!) our holiday plans and traditions, we are looking for new ways to celebrate and decorate. We are looking for ways to not be boring and complacent!

(Listen. It may seem like a small “thing” or maybe not that important, but I thought those damn apples were a small thing until I suggested we shouldn’t hand them out anymore.)

So, if there is ONE holiday tradition worth exploring it’s the Red Poinsettia.

If you love them, GREAT.

If you buy them out of duty — fear not! There are some gorgeous alternatives. I strongly suggest you explore these three possibilities.

Cyclamen, Norfolk Pine, and herbs like Lavender or Rosemary.

Cyclamen come in multiple different colors, white, shades of pink and red. The blooms are gorgeous. They’re great for table tops because they’re much shorter than Poinsettias. I mean you can leave them on the table while you’re actually eating!

Norfolk Pine are an excellent evergreen that mimics the Christmas tree shape. In a lovely container, they can be placed on a mantle, shelf, or windowsill. Trees everywhere! Make your own forest display.

And using an herb plant, like Rosemary or Lavender (above), you know you’re adding to the overall ambiance with these great scents. They come in all sizes and shapes. Our favorite are the smaller topiary versions. The fresh scents of summer are magical, especially for us that experience winter. I know you may be thinking, “I have to have my Poinsettia!”
We are happy to provide that for you.

But what why not try something else? I know we’re capable.

Our brains can make new connections. We can change our patterns. Our brains are malleable! Just like our nervous system, our brains have been proven to have the capability to adjust and change with new experiences.

When we turn off autopilot and try something new, we see differently. We have the ability to experience multiple songs at the top of the pop charts rather than a one-hit wonder.

We want you to try something new. Not for the sake of it being the latest and greatest trend. But, because living beautifully outdoors (and indoors) should be purposeful, vibrant, zestful and have joie de vivre! Bottom line it’s not boring!

So rather than continuing the Poinsettia tradition because it’s what you’ve always done, our “fruit basket upset” (a favorite childhood game) world is the prime time for your winter celebration to include Cyclamen, Norfolk Pine, and an herb plant like Rosemary or Lavender.

Place Your Orders Today!

(And, yes, we’re still delivering Poinsettias too! No judgment.)

Triple Win

Winter Branch with Snow

Hippy Anniversary to me!

It has been just over a year since I (Craig) had my right hip replaced. 

Its made me reflect on how things have changed for me, and I’ve got myself a win-win-win:

Win # 1: Without the constant pain I have been able to move again! By moving, and managing what I eat better, I have lost 40 pounds this year. 

Win #2:  I am no longer a miserable person to others. The pain made me quite the curmudgeon, which I didn’t realize until people kept commenting on how much “happier” (i.e. less grumpy) I was after the hip replacement. (My wife confirms this.)

Win #3: It has been fun to come to work again! To all my clients over the last few years, I am sorry, you did not get the best version of me. The team had to pick up my slack (which they did magnificently) as I limped (literally and figuratively) my way through the work week. But this year I have had the most energy and clarity I have had for years and I have rediscovered that I love what I do!

I love the triple win!

As we move into winter, we have a triple win for you!
Winter landscape installations!

Chicago Downtown winter

Win # 1You get a major project completed during the time of year you are using the space the least. (Yess!)

2020 has shown us how important having a comfortable outdoor retreat is. Having that outdoor space to escape to has never been so meaningful. Getting the bulk of the project completed over the cold months is the best way to get back to that outdoor retreat as soon as spring arrives.

Win # 2You’re guaranteed excellent craftpersonship (Only the best, thank you.)

Laying down a bit of truth here: Winter work for our excellent team means that they do not get laid off.

For a small business like ours, with seasonal employees, the benefits of winter work means employee retention, satisfaction, and recruitment. With consistent work for staff (and their families) we are able to employ the highest quality employees, in both attitude and skill, that have proven they care about your home throughout the construction process.

Win # 3You benefit from savings! (A no brainer.)

Winter projects mean big coats, thick gloves, and less hours of daylight. Crews move slowly and work shorter days. But . . . on winter projects we do not pass along the additional labor costs to clients. 

What can be done? Almost everything except plantings!
If you have any above ground buildouts or paving projects (until the ground freezes) we can continue to work. 

If your project is one that cannot be completed over the winter, we still want to to get the ball rolling as we schedule our installations based on signed contracts.

Because our calendar is booked into January already, contact us NOW if you want in on this win-win-win with us.

Oh, don’t forget this incentive . . . I’ll show you how high I can kick my bionic hip! 

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!

Free Summer Planting Plan

Summer Annuals Free Planting Plan

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.

Sketch by Abe Kelly.

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.
  • For more information about these annuals visit Missouri Botanic Garden’s Plant Finder – it’s one of our favorite resources.

If you need more inspiration, you can see our other designs on our Pinterest board. 

And, if you love the idea of a summer annual planting, but have no time nor interest in doing the planting . . . give us a ring. We’re happy and eager to help. 

Photo Credits:  
A: https://susajja.com/ficus-black-prince-rubber-plant-burgundy/
B: https://www.devonpondplants.co.uk/product/lysimachia-nummularia-aurea/ 
C: gardenanswers.com
D: https://shop.romencegardens.com/coleus-solenostemon-hybrida-electric-lime-p215.aspxE: https://shopugc.com/annual-flats/

Now You’re Cooking! Find Your Perfect Outdoor Grill

Outdoor Cooking and Dining

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 Lines to 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.” [1]

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.

[1] https://www.charbroil.com/learn/what-are-btus/

TOP 3 Grills on The Market Right Now

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 Broilmaster is 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 Pinterest board.

Happy grilling and more!

Easy Vegetables to Grow on Roof Top Gardens

Topiarius Veggies Tomatoes

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.

Photo Credit: TOPIARIUS
Photo Credit: TOPIARIUS

In addition to the raspberries, dill, tomatoes, and peppers, the above rooftop includes carrots, lettuce, and herbs.

Topiarius Gardening

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.

Photo Credit: TOPIARIUS
Photo Credit: TOPIARIUS

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.

Outdoor Stimulus Package

Topiarius Outdoor Stimulus Package Incentive

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.

Complimentary Planter Plans

Complimentary Planter Plans

If you’re thinking about having your own vegetable garden this spring, but have no where to plant, Topiarius wants to help.

Why? Because we want you to love, as much as we do, being able to walk out your door and grab a fresh tomato and fragrant basil for pizza toppings. It’s so divine!

Our plans are free to you and free to share. If you have any questions about them, please feel free to contact us.  Enjoy!

Click here to download the plans.