Wednesday, 10 August 2016 09:35

Hot Outside, Design a Landscape for Cooling

Summer is a good time to plan for a yard that will bring temperatures down, says Falon Mihalic, a contributor, and we agree.  Mihalic continues, The dog days of summer are upon us. With intense sunlight streaming over our gardens, we’re reminded of just how brutal August can be in the heat. The tricky part is that spots in the garden that are hot now may be less so at different times of the year. Good landscape design understands these seasonal aspects of the garden and plans accordingly.



Schmechtig Landscapes HGTV Project - Outdoor Dinning with Pergola for Cooling and Shade

There are three main things to consider when designing a garden that’s cool in the summer: Maximize shade, use light-colored materials and increase airflow. Look at your landscape now to understand where the hottest areas occur so that you can plan a garden that creates long-term shade for the summers to come.  How to's and ideas here:


Winnetka, Illinois Patio Design with Pergola for shading, Schmechtig Landscapes

Published in Landscaping
Friday, 01 July 2016 10:41

Hardscape your Landscape

"I want the patio to look great, but I don't want it to be expensive."  This is sometimes heard from our clients that want any alternative to expensive stone.  Natural materials, such as flagstone or bluestone, are very attractive but they are costly because of the production processes. Fortunately, other materials exist that are both aesthetically-pleasing and economical.  One of these alternatives is pavers. Pavers, both concrete and clay, are available in a variety of colors and textures.  The blending of earth tones create a mottled quality in concrete pavers revealing diverse coloration and creating texture.  Clay's uniform color exhibits a consistent surface displaying a smoother appearance. Texture in some concrete pavers is actually formed by molds mimicking stone's natural appearance. Some pavers are tumbled, eliminating their sharp edges and softening their appearances. This process gives them a subtle character, blending them into the landscape.  Innovations in color and texture have allowed pavers to become a versatile hardscape option. By exploring the variety of these materials, a patio or walk can be impressive without being expensive.



Front Entrance Walkway using pavers, Schmechtig Landscapes in Glenview, Illinois

Published in Landscaping
Monday, 27 June 2016 10:43

Rock your Backyard!

Rocks and gravel serve a purpose whether in your backyard landscaping or your total landscape design. Here's what Jenny Peterson,
a Houzz Contributor, has to say about rocks in the garden..."give your garden design some textural bam with pebbles, granite, river rocks and other permeable materials"...enjoy!


Using Stone in your Garden, Schmechtig Landscapes, Glenview, Illinois

5 Gravel and Stone Types for a Rocking Landscape:
I love rock in the garden, but I particularly love gravel and other small rocks. I work them into nearly every design I create for my clients, as well as in my own landscape. Why the love affair with gravel? It serves many purposes, from solving drainage issues to lending textural appeal; it crunches under your feet; and it comes in many different colors and forms. Check out my favorites and see which one will work for you in your landscape. click here to read more on Jenny Peterson's thoughts:

Courtesy of and Jenny Peterson - Houzz Contributor, Landscape Designer and Freelance Garden Writer

Published in Landscaping


Open up to outdoor living with 8 garden shade strategies says Courtney Olander, a Houzz Contributor. Courtney continues, maximize your outdoor time this summer by incorporating shade into your garden. Not only does shade make an outdoor space more comfortable, it also protects from the sun’s harsh rays.   Designing for shade also incorporates an often overlooked element of landscape design: the ceiling plane. No matter how solid, transparent, large or small, a ceiling plane helps to create a sense of enclosure, intimacy and privacy. Here are eight ways to add shade to your garden this summer. Read and see more:


Patio Shade - Umbrella Glencoe, Illinois, Schmechtig Landscapes



Landscape Design Creating Shade with Pergola and Ivy, Winnetka, Illinois Schmechtig Landscapes



Landscape Design Creating Shade with Pergola and Ivy, Winnetka, Illinois Schmechtig Landscapes



HGTV Landscape Design, Schmechtig Landscapes, Pergola Shade Feature



Glencoe Patio with Umbrella Shade Feature, Schmechtig Landscapes



Landscape Design Schmechtig Landscapes in Winnetka, Illinois  Outdoor Living Rooms - Patio, Outdoor Kitchen, and Pool

Published in Landscaping

As the main outdoor living space for this classic Glencoe home in Illinois, the bluestone and brick patio and adjacent plantings were the impetus for this design project. The new patio became the focus of this project as an extension of the kitchen and living room interior spaces. The patio affords easy access to the vast rear lawn. Using both formal and informal design themes.  The plantings around the patio and annual area were placed along the central axis of the design offering a feeling of enclosure while maintaining the yard vistas. The beautiful trees will provide and frame the yard.



Patio Design Ideas, Glencoe, Illinois, Schmechtig Landcapes



Patio Ideas, Winnetka, Illinois Schmechtig Landscapes

Published in Landscaping
Monday, 20 April 2015 09:18

New Front Yard Landscaping Ideas

The best front yard landscaping draws the line of sight to the front door and features eye-catching color and textural combinations along the way, says Roseann Foley Henry. Here are a few simple but effective tips for boosting curb appeal with trees and bushes, your driveway and walkways, and more from Roseann Foley Henry and

First and foremost, don’t hide your door behind large shrubs and trees. You want your landscaping to sweep the eye up to the door, not block the view completely. Position larger plants and trees off to the sides, says Roseann, and keep them trimmed back to allow a full view of the door.


Front Yard Landscape Design, Winnetka, IL.,  Schmechtig Landscapes


Henry's second tip, don’t skimp on foundation plantings. A typical two-story home should have a bed about eight feet deep around the front to soften the view. Use plants of varying heights, different shades of green, and different textures to create an interesting mix. Use containers on the front steps and walkway to add variety and color, but not so many as to make things look chaotic. Keep it simple and elegant.


Front Yard Landscape Design Ideas, Glenview, IL., Schmechtig Landscapes 


Finally, Roseann says, don’t forget your hardscaping—that is, the walkway, driveway, and other hard surfaces. Little things like changing a straight walkway to one with a little curve or flair, or allowing plants to drape over a wall, can have outsized effects on your entry.


Lake Bluff, IL., Front Landscape Design Ideas with stone, Schmechtig Landscapes

See more photo ideas of front landscape design in our website and in Roseann Foley Henry's article:

Courtesy of  Roseann Foley Henry's  and


Published in Landscaping
Wednesday, 04 February 2015 10:20

How to Hire a Landscape Architect

Find the best fit for your landscaping project with this guide to evaluating and selecting a professional landscape company from Falon Mihalic, a Houzz contributor.  Each neighorhood has a landscape that stands out, with lush manicured green lawns, colorful container flower pot displays and gardens that are meticulously maintained and catch your eye.  Think about the possibilities for your own home's landscape. Do you need a full-service landscape company, who will be your one-stop shop sprucing up and maintaining your landscape weekly with lawn care and garden weeding and edging, including all irrigation, lighting, lawn fertilization, plant fertilization, pruning, tree care and more? Here are Falon's thoughts on how do you know if a landscape architect is right for your outdoor landscape project and how do you hire the best landscape architect design company for you?


Backyard Landscape Design Including Outdoor Kitchen, Outdoor See-Thru Fireplace to Outdoor Dinning and Living Room, Schmechtig Landscapes HGTV Award


When Do You Need to Hire a Landscape Architect?

There is a lot of discussion on Houzz about the differences between landscape architects and landscape designers. The skills and expertise of designers and landscape architects vary widely, so I will stick to defining them based on legal definitions.

The difference between the two, by law, is that a landscape architect is regulated and licensed. There are times when you must hire a landscape architect to comply with local regulations.

Some examples things that require using a landscape architect:
◦Grading plans and site drainage design. Landscape architects are licensed to draw grading plans and can submit sealed grading plans as part of a permit application package.
◦Retaining wall design. This also varies by location. A new retaining wall might require prior approval, and the drawings need to be sealed by a landscape architect, an architect or a professional engineer, depending on the height of the wall, footing type and soil conditions.
◦Landscape plans and drawings that require a seal by a licensed landscape architect for permit approval. Again, this varies widely, depending on local regulations.
◦Sensitive sites and special conditions. Another example of when a landscape architect should be involved is if your property is located within a floodplain or contains protected wetlands, or if the proposed work requires altering a public right of way. These special conditions usually have stricter regulations and are more likely to require landscape drawings that are sealed by a landscape architect.
This is not an exhaustive list of circumstances for hiring a landscape architect. Consult your local department of building regulations and your homeowner’s association rules to determine whether your project requires a landscape architect.


Landscape Design, Outdoor Sunken Patio, Lake Bluff, Illinois, Schmechtig Landscape


Why a landscape design-build firm may be right for you?
Define Your Project’s Parameters

Before you begin your search for a landscape architect, establish the parameters for your project. When you have a clear idea of what you want, you will be able to convey this to the landscape architect and choose the best professional based on your needs.

What is your budget? It could be $5,000 or $500,000. Be realistic about how much money you can spend on the project.

What is the scope of work? Are you imagining an entire overhaul, or do you want to focus on a particular area? It’s helpful to print out an aerial photo of your property or mark up a photocopy of your plat of survey (scaled drawing of your property) to outline a specific area for the scope of work.

What are your priorities? Think of the big-picture things you want to achieve with your project. You may want to increase your property value, change your space to accommodate a growing family or have the saltwater pool of your dreams installed. Make a list of your priorities and have them on hand to discuss with the landscape architect.


Winnetka, IL. Landscape Design, Outdoor Entertaining with Pool, Schmechtig Landscapes


What to know about the concept design phase in a landscape project?
Find the Right Fit for You

What do you value? Get clarity on your values so you can find a landscape architect who shares them and has an aligned design philosophy. Do you value high-end design and upscale materials? Native plants and drought-tolerant gardens? Edible landscapes? A funky, playful garden space for your family? There is a landscape architect out there who specializes in what you value, and your best bet is to find that person or company.

When researching landscape architects on Houzz and reviewing their websites, you will see the same lingo used by many people. Yes, many of us strive to create beautiful places that are sustainable and make our clients happy. Dig deeper and get to the root of landscape architects’ design philosophies by looking carefully at how they describe their work and background. Also spend time reviewing the project descriptions, and jot down a few follow-up questions for when you meet in person. The landscape architect will be pleased that you took the time to thoroughly research his or her work, and it will help to build mutual trust from the outset.


Winnetka, IL., Landscape Garden Design, Schmechtig Landscapes

Set Up an Initial Consultation

Most landscape architects will visit your property and chat with you about your goals and their approach to the work. This initial consultation, or interview, is often free. Know that the landscape architect is interviewing you as much as you are interviewing him or her. Pay attention to how well you communicate with this person. Is the architect a good listener? Do you feel comfortable discussing your project goals and scope of work? You will work closely and have several meetings, and exchange many emails, phone calls and text messages. Make sure you feel that the landscape architect is trustworthy, dependable and professional.


Wilmette, IL. Garden and Pond Landscape Design, Schmechtig Landscapes


Tips for a Productive Initial Consultation

Many clients feel rushed at these first meetings, because they are overflowing with ideas. Don’t worry; you do not need to explain your entire dream and all of the potential challenges at the initial meeting. The initial meeting is just to simply meet and talk. It’s an opportunity for the landscape architect to get an impression of the property, and the main focus is to discuss the kind of work to be done. Your desired outcome for the initial consultation is to determine if the landscape architect is the right person for the job. The dreaming, planning and scheming come later, once you’ve signed a service contract.

Here are some questions to ask the landscape architect at your initial meeting:
◦Have you worked on a project like this before? Look for relevant experience and project examples that are similar to yours.
◦How do you charge for your services? Services can be charged at an hourly rate, with a not-to-exceed amount, or as a lump sum based on the scope of work. A less common method in the landscape profession is to charge as a percentage of construction costs.
◦Can you provide client references? Call references and ask how pleased they were with the design. Also ask about professionalism: Was the landscape architect punctual? Were the lines of communication open? Were issues handled in a professional manner?
◦What do you see as the biggest opportunities and challenges for my project? This is an approachable way to understand the landscape architect’s initial reactions to the site. It’s also a great way to learn how the landscape architect thinks through design problems.
Ask to see a portfolio. The projects featured on a firm’s website are usually just a small selection of a larger portfolio of work. Ask the landscape architect to bring along a portfolio of project images. Review the portfolio together and ask questions about anything that catches your eye. Are there themes in the work that you like? Discuss them with the landscape architect and ask about the guiding design principles for the projects.

Talking about previous work with landscape architects is a great way to understand how they might approach your landscape. It’s also OK to talk about previous challenges and for the landscape architect to share stories about awkward or tough moments in a project. This can be enlightening for clients, because they can see how a landscape architect is a good problem solver.
Talk about money. This is one of the most important parts of the conversation, and sometimes people struggle with the best way to start the discussion.

Simply put your numbers out to the landscape architect. Talk about the amount you want to spend on the project and tie that to talking about your biggest priorities.

That way the landscape architect knows what you want and can respond to whether your scope of work is feasible or not with your budget.

Discuss the scope of work. Are you looking for a landscape site plan, a planting plan or someone to do the whole process, from concept design to construction administration? - a design build landscape firm


Front Yard Landscape Design and Construction Project, Wilmette, IL., Schmechtig Landscapes

Use a pencil to to define the areas on your property’s aerial photo or plat where you want to focus the project. This will be useful for your discussion with the landscape architect about the scope of work — especially if your property is large and you want to revamp only certain areas. If you want to include the entire property in the project, it’s still useful to have an aerial photo or plat on hand for your initial discussion.

Talk through which specific design services you want. The design services can be specified as phases, like concept design, or as the creation of specific drawings, like a concept-level site plan. The scope of work will be defined in the service contract in detail.

To read more of Falon's article click here:


Published in Landscaping

Hiring one company to do both landscape design and construction can simplify the process, says Falon Mihalic, a Houzz contributor.  Falon continues "For homeowners who are looking to get a landscape project under way, a landscape design-build firm streamlines the process. Using a design-build service may have pluses and minuses, depending on the scope of work and goals of the project. Landscape design-build companies are typically landscape contractors — some with a landscape architect on staff — who package a design service with installation." Read more of Falon Mihalic's thoughts on the pros and cons for deciding if a landscape design construction company is right for you:

Here are a few examples of Schmechtig Landscapes' Design Build Projects throughout Chicago's North Shore and Northwest Suburbs:


Backyard Outdoor Patio with Stone Fireplace and Pergola including Blue Stone and Pavers - a Schmechtig Landscapes Design-Build Project in Barrington, IL.


Historic Landscape Preservation in Wilmette, IL., a Schmechtig Landscapes Design Build Project


Backyard Entertaining and Backyard Family Retreat with Swimming Pool, Winnetka, IL., Landscape Design Build Schmechtig Landscapes


Outdoor Patio Landscape Design with Stone and Pergola, Winnetka, IL. Schmechtig Landscapes


Outdoor Patio with Blue Stone and Fire Pit Design Build, Long Grove, IL, Schmechtig Landscapes


Backyard Pool Landscape, Design-Build, Northbrook, IL. Schmechtig Landscapes


Pond Ideas for your Landscape Design, South Barrington, IL., Schmechtig Landscapes


Front Entrance Landscape Design, Schmechtig Landscapes, Winnetka, IL.

Published in Landscaping
Monday, 10 November 2014 10:30

These Are Not Your Grandparents Junipers

Dislike junipers? Jay Sifford, a Houzz contributor, says "Maybe it’s time to discover new varieties and new uses for this garden workhorse"
See and read more about the new varieties and which type will work in your zone:

Published in Landscaping
Monday, 13 October 2014 09:14

How Brick Fits Into Today’s Gardens

Natural brick is often considered a traditional building material. Frank Organ, a Houzz Contributor, shows us how people are using it in gardens in all different types of settings. See the the different patterns and inspirations:


Brick and Stone Patio Ideas, Glencoe, IL., Schmechtig Landscapes 

Published in Landscaping
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