March Is About More Than Waiting

If I had to pick any month to epitomize waiting, it’d be a Chicago March.

It’s not winter (really) and it not spring (really) . . . it’s a whiplash of temperatures and light. I’m craving summer and I’m mourning winter because each is so clear on its intent. For example, I know exactly how to dress for each season. (And this is molto importante!)

I started Googling how many hours we humans spend waiting.

  • According to thefactsite, the average person spends five years throughout their lifetime waiting in lines and queues.
  • According to a survey Timex completed (businesswire), it revealed that on average, people wait seven minutes for a cup of coffee, 20 minutes a day in traffic, 20 minutes a day for the bus or train and 32 minutes each time they go to the doctor.
  • According to the AAA (finance.yahoo), the average American spends 17,600 minutes driving each year. That’s 3,520 minutes, or 6 hours, spent waiting at red lights every 365 days. 

My research methods probably need to be refined, but all this to say, it’s not difficult to find out that “waiting” is a THING and often presented as something WRONG because it takes away from fully living.

Our crews take pictures of their work on each client’s site and upload them to our shared folders each day. The past couple weeks have been spring clean-ups and all we see are images of brown landscaping with the intermittent evergreen (thanks, evergreens!). When I look out my window at home I see brown perennials, brown Sweet Autumn Clematis, brown trees, a lawn that is 50% brown. It feels like nothing  is going to change and become beautiful. It doesn’t feel like the garden is fully living.

But, here’s what I’ve concluded: March is the deep breath between big moves.

When I take a deep breath, I’m actually still in motion and living. Big inhales and exhales are calming, provide oxygen for energy, clear the mind in order to focus. In a state of waiting I can do the foundational work needed so when the big moves occur, I’m really ready and can really enjoy it.  

As our crews clean off the remnants of winter and prepare gardens with fertilizers, mulch, and irrigation, gardens are really taking a deep breath so that in another month they’re going to be amazeballs. 

And this is why I’m coming around to liking and appreciating (dare I say, needing?) March. March teaches me a personal lesson. When I’m actively waiting, I’m using that space to do foundational work that’s only going to make me stronger and more brilliant for what’s coming next. March is the deep breath necessary between big moves.

I’m curious if the seasons have taught you any life lessons. I’d love to hear all about it in the comments below.

Sara J-S

CEO / Co-Owner

P.S. Speaking of spring clean-ups? Has yours been scheduled yet? Contact your sales person at 773.944.5400 or online.

Spring Shrubbery

What’s the deal with Minnesotans and their love for Lilacs?

I’m married to one (i.e., a MN not a Lilac) and I know a whole lot more and they all have great memories associated with Lilacs. And, they L-O-V-E to tell you about them! Just ask Craig and you two will have an honest to goodness moment together.

While I love to tease, Minnesotans are definitely on to something. They understand the potency of spring blooms. Not only do they smell fabulous, they also evoke lovely heart-warming memories.

Each spring when the Lilacs bloom thoughts and sensations return. I mean if I had to translate this into today’s context – they’re like the 1-year ago reminders on your Facebook feed.

While Lilacs top the list for favorite spring blooms, here are 2 more that are worth knowing about because they too have the power to create connection and memories.

Cheers to plants and memories!

Above: Rather than the common lilac, Syringa vulgaris, Craig recommends another variety for small yards: Miss Kim Lilac, Syringa pubescens subsp. patula ‘Miss Kim’.
Above: Korean Spice Viburnum, Viburnum carlesii. If you see this one, please stop and smell. It’s delicious!
Rasberry Bloom
Above: Raspberries, Rubus idaeus.

Favorite 3 Spring Perennials

I’m seriously jonesing for hot weather, longer days, and my outdoor shower, but I’d miss out on this trio of perennials if I fast-forward too quickly.

These 3 lovely ladies (yes, my plants tend to be female) are worth your attention.

They’re worth your attention cuz they got personality and energy and will make your garden sing.

Iris (despite her being bearded): she’s a proud hussy. She got so much beauty she ain’t embarrassed; she’s just gonna flaunt it for all to see.

Allium: she is a HIGH achiever with type-A tendencies. She keeps herself quite manicured and chooses to stand above the rest. You gonna notice this one.

Columbine: she possesses a delicate power. Her arrival is just like a Kim’s Convenience “sneak attack.” She stays a bit lower to the ground unlike the other two and plays her cards right. As all the other perennials are showing green, she’s like, “Damn, check me out.”

I’m guessing you had no idea that these perennials packed such a punch?

Alright . . . join me in this slow roll. Let’s enjoy these gals while they last.

Batik Bearded Iris
Batik Bearded Iris
Columbine - Aquilegia canadensis
Allium - Allium giganteum
Columbine - Aquilegia canadensis
Columbine - Aquilegia canadensis

Top 3 Spring Trees

As the saying goes . . . April showers bring May flowers! And – WOW – there are so many blooms bursting right now! 

If you want a piece of the action, these are the top 3 for your yard. 

  1. Redbud – Cercis canadensis
  2. Tina Crabapples – Malus sargentii ‘Tina’
  3. Serviceberry –  Amelanchier canadensis

The Redbud is a solid performer (as we like to say in the biz) and does very well in Chicagoland. It’s such a beauty with its bold color and unique flower. If you like a classic white, you’ll want Redbud ‘Alba.’

Tina – wow, is she tough, showy, and fragrant and will thrive in city conditions, particularly Chicago’s dense clay soil and air pollution. (I feel like she’s a soul sister of mine!) The small apples that are produced are rarely used in cooking but are one of the most compact nuggets of nutrients in the fruit world. They FAR out way any health benefits hybridized apples offer. 

Funny enough the name says it all. Serviceberry trees produce a delicious berry that can be eaten right from the tree or quickly turned into jams or used in baking. (Get it – they serve you – ha!) They don’t travel well which is why they’re not common in markets.

If you’re thinking about your rooftop, stick with Tina or the Serviceberry, but know they’re going to need some good size containers (i.e. lots of soil). 

Spring blooms are so refreshing after a long winter, so if you have the opportunity, soak them all in on your next walk. 

Sara J-S

P.S. If you’re interested in seeing what other trees work in small, urban gardens  download our PDF that outlines the best options. Topiarius Tall and Skinny Tree Guide.

Redbud - Cercis canadensis
Eastern redbud tree in full bloom with sprinkling of wildflowers in the surrounding grass.
Redbud - Cercis canadensis
Tina Crabapples - Malus sargentii 'Tina'
Sargent crabapple 'Tina' (Malus sargentii)
Tina Crabapples - Malus sargentii 'Tina'
Amelanchier lamarckii ripe and unripe fruits on branches, group of berry-like pome fruits called serviceberry or juneberry, green leaves
Serviceberry -  Amelanchier canadensis
Amelanchier grandiflora, Shadberry, June berry, Serviceberry  in permaculture garden.
Serviceberry -  Amelanchier canadensis

Spring Is Coming

Here’s why you should love nature and experience it regularly.

Nature, specifically spring, teaches us how to move forward.

This past year has been FULL of anticipation about moving forward.

Wikipedia has the best definition: “Anticipation is an emotion involving pleasure or anxiety in considering or awaiting an expected event.”  (I mean seriously, this could not sum up the last year for me more articulately!)

Because we’re still in vaccination land limbo – some vaccinated and some not – Craig and my solution this past weekend was to meet up with some friends at Chicago Botanic Garden for a walk.

We completely forgot you had to make reservations, so we were the cars pulled off to the side of the road trying to navigate the CBG website on our phones.

I chuckled because it seemed like a lot of effort to make an appointment for a walk through a garden that is totally spring brown with nothing blooming. (P.S. I get the reason for the appointments. I just like being snarky . . . a spiritual gift of mine.)

My only goal was to catch up with my friend Jill as we walked, but something else also happened.

I was reminded of the pace with which spring enters center stage.

As expected, there wasn’t much in bloom. But when we passed the Witch Hazel I maybe hollered with glee. Loudly. (This is what it’s like to be in a garden with the J-S’s.)

And then probably a ½ hour later we saw the brilliant blues, purples, and whites of Snowdrops, Scilia, miniature Iris, and Crocus peeking through the brown ground. Yup, I hollered again.

Is it because Witch Hazel is so magnificent that it deserves such a response? Are these miniature flowers so gorgeous that I should feel such pleasure?

No. Not really. Even though I love their beauty and uniqueness, I recognized something bigger taking shape.

In “normal times” seasonal change is a pleasurable anticipation. Winter has been cold, wet, muddy, snowy, and while that may be novel in the beginning, we’ve begun to anticipate the coming change. We look forward with pleasure to all the spring blooms and green growth. It’s just the cycle we’ve grown accustomed to.

But in Covid world, there’s an added anxiety to this anticipation. The how and when of what life will be like when the pandemic is “over” is still TBD. I’m a glass half full gal, despite my snark, so I’m very very hopeful.

But check this out. As my awareness was heightened at the garden this weekend, I’m really respecting how spring shows itself slowly and doesn’t hurry. It takes its time. It literally starts small and then grows larger. It’s as if it can’t come all at once otherwise it’d be too much to handle.

Despite the winter, spring is reliable. It’s still going to show up. Yes, the change of season will happen.

And isn’t this like how our world is unfolding now? If we embrace taking the new normal slowly, we’ll actually be able to handle it and thrive at full capacity again.

This is why you should love nature. This is why I love nature. She’s got more wisdom in her little pinky than I know what to do with.

Nature . . . she’s just essential for you and me.

Time To Book When You See the Underbelly of Spring

After a long, snowy winter, Uptown was quite a sight when March rolled in. 

We used to live in Uptown in amongst many of the multi-unit buildings. And, like many, many residents in Uptown, we had a dog (two to be exact – Duncan and Pegi).

Not only did you see the mushes of grassy-mud, plastic bags and discarded wrappers, but you also had to navigate parkways of poop. I mean . . . do I get an AMEN from anyone?!  I bet I’d get some hoot and hollering if I bring up the rat nests . . . right, Lincoln Park?!

Winter’s underbelly is on full display in March. It’s as if winter is being submissive, laying on its back saying, “Please, I trust you now. I alphaed my way through the last few months and now . . . I think I’m kind of done.”

This is when the magic happens. Spring, sometimes gently and sometimes forcefully, will appear and all of the ugliness of winter dissipates. I begin to think, I love you, Chicago! (A bit of a Groundhog Day routine here.)

With respect to Mother Nature and her timing, the one actionable step you can take to catapult your March landscape into spring is to contact us to do the work for you.

I know in addition to being cooped up all winter with the extra layer of COVID, you’re eager to get outside and get moving. We want you to move and breath the fresh air by doing things that are fun. We are soo about you living beautifully outdoors.

So let us curate your landscape by raking, edging, mulching, pruning, sweeping, wiping down, power-washing, and fertilizing. We’ve so got this honey-do list done and done.

Think of all the beautiful living you can do without all the chores!

It’s way more fun to walk by the lake or through the forest preserve. How about having a picnic with your favorite deli sandwich and beer (yes, we all know how to sneak alcohol into the parks). I mean, time to kick the soccer ball around with your kids or toss the Frisbee with our pooch. Not having to do your landscaping chores is pretty priceless.

Here’s the deal: the sooner you book, the faster we can get your landscape spring-ready. 

Winter has given us the green light (a.k.a. poop piles on parkways), so give us a call or contact us through our website to book your spring cleanup now.

From this proud Chicagoan,

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.