Winter Container


When designing the look for a winter container, one might assume the options would be much more limiting than those of the summer container. Ostensibly that may be true as the evergreen choices are not nearly as varied as the myriad of summer flowers. However that does not mean that one cannot exercise flair and creativity with one’s winter greens. I thoroughly love to play with texture, foliage and the subtle color gradations of the winter stems and branches. Here I used some silver dollar eucalyptus, huckleberry stems, red twig dogwood, shore pine branches, a couple different types of cedar and some pine cones. There are plenty of other options as well: variegated boxwood stems, curly willow branches, spruce tips, noble fir branches, and winterberry stems. As you will see the results speak for themselves.


Annual Container


The above photo diptych is an annual container I planted for a client earlier this year. The first photograph was taken the day the flowers were planted on May 30th. The second shot or the after photo was from September 18th nearly four months later. What a transformation took place throughout the growing season. The client maintains an automated irrigation system. As such the annuals are well watered and allowed to thrive.

A Patio built in the rain

What did you do on a rainy day? Merello-Sons Landscaping installed a new patio in Logan Square. Here is a nice tumble paver patio in sandstone with nice contrasting red circular perimeter. Stay tuned for the planted yard. Coming soon  a White Satin Birch, some prairie grasses, anemone, alchemilla, astilbe, an oak leaf hydrangea, and a Japanese Maple.

Time to start landscaping

I have been getting inquiries lately about whether or not we are behind schedule for our spring. The answer is that we are right on time. Yes winter seemed to drag on forever this year. Though we did not get huge amounts of snow, we were treated to long stretches of cold, cloudy gray days. Some people were probably too readily remembering last year’s bizarre arrival of 80 degree weather in March.

However, spring time in Chicago really does mean cool weather, with chances of frost and the odd snow shower through the first few weeks of April. So what can you do now? Get your spring clean up done so the yard has a good start for the warmth ahead. Do some cool weather annual containers featuring pansies, stock, ranunculus, primrose, forced bulbs and the like. Or meet with your landscape and create your battle plan for the planting season. Mid May is a perfect time to start to dig and plant.

First Containers of Spring

T’is the time to start installing cool weather annuals. Featured here is a nice assortment of annuals for your early season planters. We see ranunculus in yellow and pink, stock in a purple and red, primrose in a deep purple as well as a lovely orange and yellow melange. Pansies are available in numerous colors. Here we find them in purple and yellow with a nice distinctive eye. For height we have some spikes and pussy willow stems. For spillover, we have a cascading ivy. An early season container is essential in getting one out of the doldrums of winter and onto the cusp of the warm sunny days ahead.

A flowering tree for spring

Few ornamental trees pack the punch that Prunus serrulata or Kwanzan cherry does in the spring. This small Japanese cherry is regularly rife with beautiful double pink blossoms for almost two weeks in early spring. I cannot tell you how wonderful it is to first see the explosion of pink. Once in full bloom, the tree stands as almost an umbrella of dangling blossoms.

Kwanzan cherries are fairly trouble free compared to other cherries and often show very nice red fall color. Hardy to zone five, they can brighten even the smallest Chicago yard.

A Too Early Spring

Finally, the weather seems to have settled in to what spring weather should be, cool sunny days and nights. I know that the entire Chicago winter and March especially was plain strange. Never have I witnessed in my fifteen years here a winter so mild. Do not even begin to ask me to explain the summer we had in March.

With all the warmth and mild weather, the temptation has been to dive into your garden and start landscaping. I must preach caution as there are still frost and freeze possibilities. So I would not recommend doing any major planting or transplanting just yet.

What to do, you ask? Now is the perfect time for spring clean ups and spring containers. Cool weather annuals like pansies, primrose, stock, osteospermum and forced bulbs would be perfect to bright up a yard, porch, or deck. So give me a shout and let’s finally embrace spring.

A hydrangea in the fall

Hydrangea paniculata can certainly be a great addition to the landscape when properly sited and planted. I know there are some big name designers who find it to be coarse and unruly. I ask them to please take a look at this photograph and tell me this is not a joy to behold. I planted this hydrangea about four or five years ago. What a wonderful floral display it is putting on this fall.

I will have to admit that I do not remember the exact variety whether it be ‘Unique’ or ‘Pinky Winky’ or ‘Pink Diamond’. Rest assured any of those varieties are excellent choices. As depicted these hydrangeas provide lovely late season color. As tempting as it may be to trim it down as the color fades on the bloom, I encourage you to leave them be as even the faded blooms maintain nice winter interest through the blanket of snow that is inevitable here in the Midwest.


At this time of year forsythia really puts on a show. Typically flowering before many other spring blooming trees and shrubs like magnolia and cherry, forsythia stands out in the gloomy gray of April in Chicago. The waving, wispy golden yellow arms of the shrub really do seem to shine. The yellow flowers can be seen from blocks away beckoning and calling. For two weeks forsythia has few rivals.

Unfortunately, the other 50 weeks of the year, forsythia tends to be overgrown, leggy and uninteresting. As such finding a spot in the garden for forsythia is a challenge. Perhaps tucked in a corner of a bed or in the background of later season flowering shrubs and perennials. If you do plant forsythia, know that the optimal time to trim is soon after flowering as it sets the following years flower early in the season. Trim too late and you risk winding up with an uneventful show. Below are a couple specimens on view in Logan Square.

What to do on a rainy day.

So Spring in Chicago supposedly started on March 20. The weather has been quibbling with the calendar for the past two and a half weeks. The cold has lingered. Gray, dreary days have spread like a heavy cumbersome blanket. Days rarely fit for gardening or a trip to the nursery.

Well today, despite the cold drizzle and the brisk air, I installed some Spring annual containers. Time really is right for cool season annuals like stock, osteospermum, ranunculus, nemesia, pansies, forced tulips and daffodils. The colors are bright and bold, the perfect foil to Chicago’s current gray palette. Check out the photos below and give a shout. I’d be happy to jazz up your day.