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  1. bigstock-132133316

    The various species of the ancient boxwood family have become so familiar to us that it’s hard to imagine a border or garden bed, whether traditional or modern, without at least a few of these beautiful shrubs. Being evergreen, they add a touch of color during the long winter months; slow-growing, they become beloved members of a familiar landscape.

    Hence a new enemy in the form of boxwood blight has become a cause for considerable concern. This virulent fungal disease made its first appearance in the 1990s in Great Britain and quickly spread to Europe and New Zealand. It has since arrived in North America and Canada, first cropping up on the east and west coasts. It seems quickly to be moving to the Midwest; Ann Arbor Michigan had been spared as of May 2015, but this fungal blight is still a real cause for concern.

    What is Boxwood Blight?

    Cylindrocladium buxicola (the “buxicola” name speaks volumes: it means “living on boxwood”) first becomes apparent in the spring when new growth ensues. Small brown spots appear on a plant’s leaves, which quickly yellow, wither, and drop off. The spots then appear on the stem. Young plants die quickly; older plants may succumb; all are severely disfigured. The fungus that causes boxwood blight spreads through spores remain on the dead leaves. The spores can be scattered further by wind and rain, by animals and people brushing against them, and by infected plants not yet displaying the symptoms of the blight introduced to the garden.

    Is the Blight Dangerous to the Landscape?

    Fortunately, the extent of the damage caused by Cylindrocladium buxicola is limited to boxwood. The natural plant life in the area is not harmed by the fungus. But gardeners and horticulturists are rightly concerned, as are home gardeners who rely on boxwood hedges, topiaries, and other garden elements featuring many of the beloved boxwood species.

    Is There a Cure for the Blight?

    Not really. Massive doses of a general fungicide may retard its spread among individual plants. So far the Ann Arbor MI horticultural authorities have been concerned primarily with detection and quarantine.

    What Can Gardeners in Ann Arbor Michigan Do?

    There are a number of steps the home gardener can take to prevent the spread of the Cylindrocladium blight. Here are some important ones:

    Vigilance is the key word. If boxwood species make up any part of your landscape, keep a close eye out for the symptoms of the disease. If you have a substantial portion of your yard and garden planted in boxwood, arrange with a professional landscaper in Ann Arbor MI offering winter services to inspect your plantings.

    Be especially attentive to yellowing leaves. Don’t let the blight masquerade as ordinary winter damage; again, contact a professional in the Ann Arbor Michigan area who offers winter services.

    If you’re buying boxwood, be sure that you’re dealing with a licensed nursery. Isolate new plants for at least a month to be sure that you won’t introduce the blight into your garden beds inadvertently.

    Contact Twin Oaks Landscape today if you have the slightest suspicion of an infestation in your garden.

  2. img_8026Home patios seem to really shine their best during the fall, most likely due to the vibrant colors, cooler atmosphere and shorter days. On the other hand, fall can pose a few problems for one’s patio, including a pile of leaves, overgrown weeds, stained surfaces and other things of the like. Check out these five great fall patio maintenance tips to get the patio looking back to its best.

    1. Weed Removal

    During the spring and summer, weeds grow at their fastest rate, leaving a mess in the patio by the time fall comes around. Fortunately, a majority of these weeds should die off by the first frost. Better yet, spray some weed killer to prevent future weeds from growing. However, don’t wait until then, as removing the weeds now will leave room for an awesome autumn patio.

    2. Damage and Misalignment Repair

    Continuous freezing and thawing in the Fall causes bricks and concrete to warp. In many cases, one’s concrete patio floor will become warped and distorted, due to the ground freezing and expanding. A permanent fix for this would be to create a solid border around the perimeter. This way, the ground won’t have any room to move and warp. This border can be constructed out of strong wooden planks. Shattered bricks, on the other hand, will need to be replace entirely.

    3. Surface Cleaning

    Because leaves drop most during the fall, all surfaces, including concrete floors, become stained in a matter of weeks. In some cases, moss may develop. Fortunately, a solution of bleach and water will kill all algae and other fungus. As far as dirt stains go, a strong solution of water and soap should do the job. For really heavy stains, one can use a strong acid, such as hydrochloric acid. Do be careful with this stuff though, as it’s really corrosive.

    4. Filling the Gaps

    This fall patio maintenance tip goes together with the weed cleaning tip, due to the fact that grown weeds tend to leave gaps between bricks and other concrete structures. However, this can easily be fixed by filling in these gasps with either concrete or some other filler. Fortunately, there are plenty of gap fillers on the market today to choose from.

    iStock_000013954017_Large5. Sealing

    Sealing will go a very long way in preventing future damage to concrete and brick floors. Adding an acrylic sealer to a cement floor will prevent all water from seeping in, effectively preventing damage caused by freezing. On top of that, it will block UV rays from the sun.

    Verdict
    There are plenty more things that one can do to improve the appearance of their fall patio. However, following just these five fall patio maintenance tips will make a drastic difference in the overall appearance of one’s patio. Above all, make sure that these tips are done well before winter starts, as it’s very hard to do any maintenance during the harsh winter.

  3. IMG_5750When it comes to keeping rising waters out of your home, whatever surrounds your house often is just as important as the building itself, which is because your common basement flooding issues may stem from your landscaping plan. Below are seven lawn care tips to stop basement leaks before they start.

    1. Change the grade of your slope
    To stop basement leaks before they start, make sure the surrounding soil pitches away from your house, sloping at least a quarter of an inch per foot to ensure water drains towards your yard and not the foundation. You can change the gradient of your slope by adding soil and raking it smooth until the grade at the perimeter of your house is higher than the rest.

    2. Keep trees in check
    Your basement might develop leaks as a result of cracks in the foundation of your house. To protect the structure and avoid such cracks, plant every tree that has aggressive roots such as silver maples at least 20 feet away from your house. Comparatively smaller species such as white fir require 10-15 feet of clearance.

    3. Grade your lawn in the most suitable direction
    Landscape slopes running towards your house as opposed to away from it usually result in basement leaks. To fix this issue, you can dig a dry creek in your yard and fill it with cobblestones or river rock, allowing the water to bisect your lawn and then flow around the sides of your house instead of towards it.

    4. Leave a gap between siding and mulch
    Because moisture usually wicks up from mulch beds to rot the siding, it is important to keep the mulching materials away from your siding and leave a 6-inch gap when mulching your landscape. Your mulch can touch blocks or bricks, but not the siding.

    5. Use grass barriers to redirect the floodwaters
    Go outside and examine the basement when it’s raining to determine where the leaks originate from. Because the overflow into a nearby ditch might not be enough to prevent flooding, you may see pools of water, a clear sign of drainage problems. As such, you can build grass barriers to redirect the floodwaters away from your home. You can also create a drainage path for the water.

    6. Direct downspouts away from your house
    To keep the water farther away from your house, extend your downspouts away from the structure. If you have the room, allow at least 20 feet from the house and ensure the gutters are clear so that water flows through the downspouts. Some yards still get erosion whenever gutters fail to handle the water volume even with redirected downspouts. In such cases, you can use decorative rocks such as river stone to ensure the water hits and splashes instead of digging holes in the soil.

    7. Install a French drain
    If you do not necessarily want to splice your yard, you could install a French drain, in which the water will flow into a gravel trench and then a pipe. In addition to a French drain, you should also ensure your sump pump runs far enough away from the house. If it does not run far enough, you should extend the drain lines from your sump pump and downspouts.

  4. Lawn Care Riding MowerYou are probably not thinking much about your lawn with winter fast approaching. However, autumn is the latest time you can perform lawn rejuvenation. With its considerably cooler temperatures and occasional rainfall, autumn is the perfect time to prepare your garden for spring.

    Although you might think your garden requires less care in fall since the grass grows slowly, just the opposite is actually true. In preparation for the usually dormant winter season, grass absorbs energy, moisture, and nutrients during autumn. By giving your lawn a little attention in the fall, you will most likely have a lush, healthy lawn come spring. Below are steps to ensure you properly rejuvenate your lawn this autumn.

    Keep mowing
    You should keep watering and mowing your lawn throughout autumn. However, dropping the blade to the lowest setting towards the end of the season for the year’s last two cuttings is important. By cutting low, you allow more sunlight to reach the crowns of your grass. However, you should not trim off more than a third of the grass blades at any given time.

    Aerate the soil
    Autumn is also an ideal time to aerate your lawn, which ensures oxygen, water, and fertilizers reach the roots of your grass easily. You can use a gas-powered, walk-behind aerator to quickly punch holes into the soil in your yard and extract plugs of dirt. You can hire the machine if you do not have one or engage the services of a landscaping contractor to aerate the soil in your yard.

    Gardening JobsRake the leaves
    Removing fallen leaves from your yard as soon as possible is important, which means you should not wait until all the leaves fall from the trees before you start raking. If you wait, the fallen leaves will most likely become wet from morning dew and rain, sticking together to form an impenetrable mat that can suffocate the grass or breed fungal diseases if left unmoved. You can also use a lawnmower that features a collection bag or vacuum system. Regardless of method, ensuring you remove the fallen leaves before they turn into a soggy, suffocating mess is important.

    Fertilize to ensure future growth
    If you only fertilize your lawn once every year, it is best to do it in autumn since although the rhizomes and roots of grass continue to grow at a rapid pace, grass blades grow at a much slower rate as the weather turns cool. Applying fertilizer in autumn ensures the availability of essential nutrients, which allows the grass to grow deep roots now while preserving nutrients for a healthy start come spring. It is best to wait until mid-to-late autumn to apply a dry lawn fertilizer, being careful not to miss any area. Although using a walk-behind drop spreader takes a little more time, particularly on hilly yards, it is the best way of applying an even and consistent layer of fertilizer.

    Fill in any bald spots
    Autumn is also the best time to fix any bare or bald spots. Using an all-in-one lawn repair mixture is arguably the quickest and easiest way to fill in bare spots. This ready-to-use mixture contains organic mulch, grass seed, and a special quick-starter lawn fertilizer. Using a garden rake, scratch the soil at the bald spot loose and then spread a thick layer of lawn repair mixture over the area. Thoroughly water the area after you lightly compact the mixture. Keep watering the area every day for two weeks.

    Weed control
    Autumn is also the perfect time to fight back any weed that might have taken over your lawn. Like most plants, weeds enter the energy-absorbing mode in the fall, and they take in everything they come across, including weed killers. Applying herbicides in autumn ensures weeds do not return come spring.

  5. Maple tree foliage in autumn.Depending on the particular individual, the goal of incorporating both flowering and non-flowering trees and plants of all sizes, also referred to collectively as softscapes, might be the simple desire for beauty or to provide a challenging hobby like topiary or fruit production. Not all of these softscape projects will have widespread appeal if the home ends up on the market. Many people prefer landscaping that doesn’t have a lot of work attached to it. To get an idea of which additions fill this description, check out the list below.

    *Shade Trees
    *Ornamental Trees
    *Rain Gardens
    *Native Flowers

    Shade Trees
    So long as the numbers are limited to a couple or three, full-size trees add quite a bit to the resale value of a house. The presence of a tree in the front lawn breaks up the horizontal lines of the home and routine hardscape assets like a walkway, fence, and driveway. The practical value of trees come from the cooling shade they provide and their ability to absorb excess rainwater. They also help reduce the impact of high winds sweeping through the yard. The basic rule anywhere in the county is to select native trees since they need the least amount of maintenance and po
    ssess the greatest resilience to the local climate. They’ll also have an historical and cultural importance that non-native trees lack. In the Ann Arbor MI area, maples and oaks stand out as favorites.

    Ornamental Trees
    This term provokes the image of small flowering trees, but a noted exception would be evergreens like the eastern white pine. As the official state tree of Michigan, this species supplies a distinct pyramidal shape. Among flower trees, dogwoods can succeed as well as crabapples thanks to the somewhat mild climate of the Ann Arbor MI region. While dwarf fruit trees might seem like they could fill this description, keep in mind that most people don’t want the required upkeep. They also won’t look forward to the rotting fruit strewn on the lawn.

    Garden Pond With RaindropsRain Garden
    These softscape features are gaining in popularity due to their practical side. With or without a tree or two included, masses of shrubs and flowers are placed in a low spot in the yard where rain and snow melt normally collect. This arrangement will only work if the plant choices involved are perennials and have deep root systems. Rain gardens allow excess water a place to settle instead of flooding into storm sewers or the home’s basement. In the process, the extensive root systems help filter the water to keep contaminates from finding their way into the groundwater supply.

    Native Flowers
    As part of the local ecosystem, native plants offer the best chances of success with the least amount of work. They can thrive in the regional climate and handle native pests and diseases. This isn’t always the case, so a little research should be done before choosing. These selections are also appealing because they tend not to be invasive.

  6. Lighting_largeMany homeowners give little to no thought to their outdoor lighting. However, this is an aspect you should give considerable focus to, as the lighting to your yard area can serve a few important purposes. Outdoor lighting added to your Ann Arbor, MI home can make all the difference in the world. Think about how it can add to your property.

    Safety

    Safety is one of the most important things to consider when it comes to adding outdoor lighting around your home. Adding lights along the pathway leading to your door as well as porch lights creating a well lit area can make all the difference in the world. It keeps things illuminated enough that you are able to see where you are going after dark, allowing you to avoid any obstacles that might be in your path.

    A lit pathway that leads to your door can also add safety for anyone who is visiting you after dark who is not fully familiar with the landscape. It looks great but also gives your guests a warm and welcoming feeling.

    Security

    Every home should have outdoor lighting for the sake of security. Having a timer on your lights or a sensor that detects the movement of passersby can created an added sense of relief in the event an intruder tries to approach your home. You may even find that a would be burglar would prefer just passing your home by instead of attempting to break in when there is sufficient outdoor lighting as it can make them that much more noticeable.

    Entertaining

    Outdoor lighting is the perfect addition to your home when you plan on entertaining outdoors on the porch or in the yard. Perhaps you would like to have a barbecue after dark and eat on your patio — this is far more affordable than going out to dinner to a restaurant, not to mention much more comfortable. In addition, you can take pride in showing off your home to your guests, and what better way to do that than with outdoor lighting that showcases the landscape? If you have a pool, you will certainly want to add some lights around it, even if you aren’t inviting guests to take an evening dip.

    Front paver walkway with garden and lighting.

    Landscaping

    Finally, a big reason to have outdoor lighting set up on your property is for landscaping purposes. In addition to the landscaping you do that involves plants, lighting is a great way to beautify the exterior of your home, and it can even help to increase your property value. Landscape lighting can highlight specific plants in your front yard or garden, making them appear even more beautiful and lush.

    With outdoor lighting, it is important to select just the right type of lights for your home. You will want to ensure that you don’t choose lighting that is too harsh, but at the same time, avoid lighting that is too dim as well. You may also want to purchase all new lights for the exterior of your home instead of keeping whatever the previous homeowners had. Fortunately, there are many options available, so be sure to do your homework before undergoing your lighting project.

  7. Backyard Oasis

    Technically, hardscapes are just about anything in the yard that’s not alive. These are the wood, concrete, and masonry additions that complement the flowers and other organic parts of the yard. They all have an aesthetic purpose, but not all necessarily include a functional side too. Given that even modest hardscapes require a financial investment, it would be twice as nice if they offered both these features. With that in mind, here’s a list of hardscape ideas most likely to be functional and beautiful while being well-suited to the Ann Arbor MI region.

    *Walkways
    *Patios
    *Outdoor Rooms
    *Retaining Walls

    Walkways
    These stand out as one of the basic and useful hardscapes anyone can place in their yard. The choice of materials used for construction is extensive with such things as brick, stone, concrete, or wood. Some people have even built permanent paths using glass bottles of various colors inserted upside down in the ground to form a mosaic. The functionality of these structures comes from providing a safe surface that gives observers access to assorted garden highlights without the risk of slipping on wet grass or caking shoes in dirt and mud. They also give the lawn a break from having erosion-prone paths worn into it.

    Patios
    This group includes both patios and decks. Both hardscapes allow people an opportunity to spend time outdoors with each other or simply enjoying the spectacle of nature in the backyard. At a minimum, these structures offer the same advantages provided by walkways. These are also the logical locations for the ubiquitous outdoor grill. They can take more elaborate forms if the homeowner is willing to put more money into the project. Some include built-in extras like benches, fireplaces, railings, and cooking centers.

    Outdoor Rooms
    This category is not always easily distinguished from patios and decks, but it usually includes free-standing structures like gazebos or bowers that are typically covered. The overhead protection might be limited to supplying shade or it might extend to providing shelter from rain, wind, and other harsh elements. Topped with a strong enough barrier, some owners have turned these structures into secondary rooms normally found indoors. Refrigerators and entertainment centers are among the more extreme additions to these peculiar sanctuaries.

    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

    Retaining Walls
    The rolling landscape around the Ann Arbor MI area makes retaining walls very practical in many yards. They provide a means for creating level surfaces on a hillside while guarding against erosion. They also have the additional benefits of acting as windbreaks as well as serving as a thermal mass. In this last capacity, they guard against late freezes that can harm early blooming flowers or fruiting plants while warding off early frost that can shorten the season for fruits and vegetables. These latter two qualities also apply to non-retaining masonry garden walls. These pieces of garden architecture also offer support for flowering vines, grape vines, or espalier fruit trees, so there’s no reason for any yard to do without such a highly functional structure.

  8. Winter Cleanup Concerns
    Winter can be the harshest, messiest times for landscapes and gardens. While the season in the Ann Arbor MI region is seemingly long and endless, there is a still a vital need to address seasonal cleanup concerns exclusive to winter. Homeowners and business owners in Ann Arbor MI try to maintain their lawns and gardens so they remain as attractive in winter as in other seasons. There are several seasonal cleanup concerns exclusive to winter to consider. These include:
    . Damage to trees and shrubs from high winds, ice and snow
    . Removal of buildup of fallen leaves on lawns and under trees and shrubs
    . Use protective mulch to avoid damage to flowers
    . Manage lawn, flower and garden bed overgrowth

    When sub-zero temperatures, high winds and ice and snow damage trees and shrubs, they tend to shed bark faster. A professional landscape will bigstock-House-Philadelphia-Yellow-Fall-23769386inspect trees and shrubs and remove the debris. Evergreens also shed their needles due to the formation of ice. This is another winter cleanup concern a landscaping expert will address.

    Removal of Buildup from Fallen Leaves
    Depending on the frequency of high winds, the last remaining foliage falls onto lawns and ends up beneath trees and shrubs. This creates an unsightly, unkempt appearance. A professional landscaper will remove this type of debris quickly and efficiently.

    Use Protective Mulch to Avoid Damage to Flowers
    Flower beds need protection to preserve the root systems for the next growing season. A landscaper removes windblown debris and covers the flower beds with attractive, protective mulch. Protective mulch is available in several colors to make a bleak winter landscape bright.

    Manage Lawn, Flower and Garden Bed Overgrowth
    Surprisingly, lawns do grow even when temperatures deliver a coat of ice or snow. In reality, the layer of ice and snow doesn’t damage grasses. Instead, these often provide insulation from damage by sealing in a certain level of heat. As a result, lawns may experience unruly overgrowth. This is also true of flower and garden beds, especially where vines like Clematis, English Ivy and Sedum tend to take over a good portion of garden space. As part of professional landscaping services, managing lawn, flower and garden overgrowth are one way to reduce seasonal cleanup concerns in Ann Arbor MI.

    The Work of Landscaping Doesn’t End in Autumn
    It may seem that landscaping work comes to a grinding halt when winter arrives. Professional landscapers are busy the year round providing top notch services. In winter, the big task is winter cleanup customers would rather leave to landscaping experts. Discuss an annual landscaping contract with your landscape consultants. They provide year round services that keep your home or business property looking attractive from one season to the next. It’s all in the landscape planning and design that landscapers customize especially for their customers needs. This leaves homeowners and business property owners with more free time and much less worry about cleanup in winter. Landscapers arrive fully prepared to tackle the biggest winter clean up jobs.

  9. Small Excavator Bobcat Working On The StreetAlways a beautiful location, Ann Arbor MI develops an especially alluring quality during winter. As temperatures plummet, a lovely winter wonderland greets many people when they step outdoors in the morning. One of the smartest steps a homeowner can take in this situation involves hiring a professional snow removal company, rather than performing this necessary function alone.

    1. Maintain Curb Appeal

    Clearing away piles of snow from drives and front entrances helps families maintain a welcoming, attractive environment. It makes very little sense to invest money keeping a front yard and a residential exterior in good condition, only to allow regular seasonal precipitation to obscure your home’s curb appeal for large portions of the year.

    2. Prevent Accidents

    An experienced snow removal company possesses the expertise required to clean away slippery patches of ice and snow from important walkways completely. Your home and business will benefit as a result. Every year, unfortunate accidents occur due to slips and falls during winter weather. While amateur snow removal may help reduce the hazards in snowy environments, relying on the experience of a professional enables many households to gain greater peace of mind. No one wants a visitor to sustain an accident because of unnoticed snow on the sidewalk.

    3. Use Specialized Equipment

    A professional snow removal firm usually maintains expensive equipment designed to expedite the snow removal process. By contrast, individual homeowners, or businesses that don’t invest in snow clearing machinery, find themselves at a disadvantage during periods of heavy snowfall. In this part of Michigan, the population often sustains very aggressive winter weather conditions. Employing the right equipment for clearing away snow makes a huge difference in the results.

    4. Ensure Completion

    Assigning someone in your household to clean snow from paths and walkways won’t always work well. Frequently, volunteers find themselves called away in the middle of an outdoor task to address other issues. A slowly starting vehicle, an unexpected phone call or a change in the daily schedule might disrupt snow removal. If you hire a professional snow removal company, you’ll gain the peace of mind that comes with knowing the job will continue through completion.

    5. Prevent Lost Income

    Perhaps one of the most important reasons for hiring a professional to clear away snow and ice in Ann Arbor relates to preventing lost income and minimizing absences from work. Uncleared accumulations of snow sometimes present a far bigger obstacle to drivers than many people appreciate. When temperatures drop significantly, most people must devote additional time in the morning to the simple process of warming up the car and clearing off the windshield. Having to expend additional periods of time shoveling out the driveway may take a big chunk out of a worker’s productivity. By entrusting your snow removal to experts, you avoid this problem.

    A Valuable Service

    Especially during this season, Ann Arbor MI sometimes sustains very heavy snowfalls. Retaining a professional to clear away the snow and ice provides some very important benefits!

  10.  

    Residential Drainage Final

    Clogged gutters and downspouts can cause a host of problems around your home. Gutters and downspouts that are clogged with debris won’t be able to properly drain during a rainfall, which can lead to water getting inside your home, either through the roof or around the foundation. And during the winter, clogged gutters can contribute to the formation of ice dams, which can damage your roof. The best way to protect yourself from these problems is to keep your gutters and downspouts free of clogs this fall.

    Trim your trees
    One of the best ways to keep your gutters and downspouts free of clogs is to trim back trees that are near your home. Trees and even large shrubs that overhang your gutters or are near to them will drop debris, including leaves, acorns and small twigs and branches. Keeping the trees and shrubs trimmed back so they don’t hang over your gutters will help keep debris out of your gutters and prevent your gutters and downspouts from becoming clogged, especially in the fall when leaves are dropping.

    Clean your gutters
    Another good way to keep your gutters and downspouts free of clogs in the fall is to clean them regularly. The longer you allow debris to build up in your gutters, the harder it is to remove. Once the tree debris gets wet and mixes with dirt, it becomes like a paste that will adhere to your gutters and downspouts and make it difficult for water to pass through. During the fall when leaves are falling from the trees, it’s a good idea to clean your gutters at least once a month; however, more often is preferable. You might want to think about cleaning your gutters every couple of weeks or even every week, depending on how much of a tree canopy you have. Cleaning should consist of removing debris both from your gutters and your downspout opening by hand and then thoroughly rinsing them out with a garden hose.

    Install gutter guards
    Probably the single best way to keep your gutters and downspouts free of clogs is to cover your gutters with a gutter guard system. These systems involve installing a screen over your gutters. Such systems have openings that are large enough to let rainfall through but small enough to keep out most debris. Such systems are not foolproof, however, and you still will need to inspect your gutters regularly and may even need to clean them occasionally. Gutter guard systems also will not prevent clogs at your downspout opening that form from debris on the ground, so you still need to be on alert for that issue. Gutter guard systems can be expensive, costing hundreds or even thousands of dollars, but they can be worth it to eliminate the need for regular cleaning.

    Using some or all of these methods will help keep leaves, sticks and even dead animals from clogging up your gutters and downspouts and increasing the potential for water damage in your home.