Update Your Outdoors for Entertaining

Can you believe we are already gearing up for Labor Day weekend? Families with children have the school year just getting started and gradually cooling temperatures of autumn are right around the corner. This is our last weekend of summer! Traditionally many people leave town for Labor Day weekend, but celebrating at home has been a growing trend for several years.

There's no better way to enjoy this holiday than with a backyard party! If your yard is looking a bit tired after a long, hot summer, you might want to spend a little time on an instant outdoor face-lift. As you take in the last breath of summer this weekend we have some tips to quickly spruce up around your outdoor spaces for those shindigs at home!

solar 1
solar 1
  • Lighting

When the temperatures begin to go down, you will want to enjoy extended time outdoors.  However with the cooler weather, we get an earlier sunset. Therefore lighting is one of the most important elements in outdoor entertaining. Solar-powered lights are considered a temporary fix, but are a quick and easy way to lighten up outdoor spaces. Arrange them to create dramatic lighting for a particular tree or element in your yard. Solar powered flickering tiki torches are a quick addition to a backyard and give dusk to dawn illumination. You can also light up the night by running strings of miniature lights around your entertaining area. They come in many fun shapes and are wonderfully festive. Outdoor lighting will keep your guests from heading indoors after dark.

  • Fire Up

We know that cool weather is coming and sitting around a fire at night is really never out of season. So why not go ahead with a fire pit for your outdoor space? A fire is a comforting addition to your lighting efforts that offers a beautiful glow for your outdoor events. Purchasing a pre-made pit guarantees that it may be moved around your space at any time.

  • Furniture

Give your outdoor furniture an overhaul! A fresh coat of waterproof outdoor paint, especially in vibrant colors, will transform any tired-looking things. Add decorative accents, such as outdoor cushions and pillows, in coordinating colors or patterns. If you don't have enough time left to paint, then get creative with the things you do have. Big, vibrant beach towels can casually be tossed across chairs and chaise lounges to hide many flaws!

  • Inside Out

Don't have that outdoor furniture you wanted to get or want to add a touch of formality to the weekend bash? Bring the inside outdoors by using your indoor furniture for the occasion. Take your kitchen table and chairs outside instead of sitting on folding chairs around a picnic table. Any tables, dressers or accent furniture you enjoy in your home may be taken outside and placed around the yard so your guests have a spot for their drinks and eats.

design home ideas

design home ideas

  • Shade

Spending extended time outdoors during the day calls for a structure to give outdoor shade where there isn't any.   A conventional fix would be to add a permanent gazebo, but on a time or budget crunch you can opt for one of the quick pop-up tents. Ask a friend or family member attending your soiree to bring theirs if you don't have one. The canopies allow you to hang and decorate with objects like lights and ornaments to add pizzazz!  Large umbrellas also provide ample shade and can be used in many creative ways.

country living

country living

  • Bugs Away

There are several plants that naturally help ward off bugs and insects around your yard that you can plant into the ground and or in decorative containers. Basil, citronella, catnip, lavender, lemon balm, lemon grass, marigold, peppermint and rosemary all work as natural repellents. Instead of going the chemical route you can take a more ecological approach by filling your yard with varieties of these plants to help ward off pests. ( A large fan or multiple fans placed outdoors in the areas you hang out in will direct air flow, helping push bugs away. Yard guard foggers applied outdoors before hand manage to keep bugs out for up to 6 hours.  Also be sure to have spray repellent handy. You don't want your big outdoor bash to be shut down by little bugs!

  • Reclaim

Consider items around your home that you can re-purpose and use as decoration in your own backyard… and add a touch of whimsy! An old mirror is a fantastic piece to be hung on a fence or patio as it creates an illusion of more space. Have a wagon that is worn-out, not being used and ready to throw out? This is classic for a planter or to hold small potted plants. Old chairs and benches are also easily re-purposed as planters that can make a colorful splash in your yard.  Shutters, wire racks and ladders are often used for climbing plants. Before you toss out something lying around the house, think about ways it could be reclaimed into something decorative and useful for your yard. A little internet research and creative thinking helps you with this type of project… fast and easy!

  • Plants

Hanging baskets and container plants are nifty options to add versatility and color into your outdoor decor. Hanging baskets liven up the corners of any yard. Chrysanthemums, marigolds and zinnias are in season now and give a refreshing pop of color. Pots are an all-around good addition as you can place and move them wherever you wish. Greenery can be added as well, such as potted ferns. A trip to your favorite local nursery, which probably has a big Labor Day Sale anyway, will help you select what is gorgeous now. let's hope the weather permits...and you have a good menu in mind!

Labor Day weekend doesn't necessarily mean that everyone will head out-of-town for the last hurrah of the summer. Surprise your friends and family with a fresh, new look for a memorable outdoor gathering this weekend! Living Expression Landscapes is happy to help you update your lawns, gardens and outdoor spaces.  We hope you have a wonderful holiday!!

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Light Up Your Outdoors: "Nightscaping"

"Nightscaping" outdoor spaces, becomes a great addition to your home.  While it's often an afterthought, it's actually one of the most important aspects of your landscape.  Nightscaping helps make your outdoor living space:

  • More comfortable, safe and inviting when its dark out.
  • Increases the time available to enjoy your yard.
  • Illuminate paths, steps, architectural features, and landscape elements, such as fountains and statuary.

When designing your 'Nightscape', it's important to remember that the shadows are just as important as the lights.  The purpose of Nightscaping is not just to make a dimmer version of your daytime landscape.  You have opportunity to create a completely different vista both physically – as in the case of illuminating a seating area for use, but also visually – by adding depth to your view after dark from inside or outside your home.

There are many lighting options which have different effects that allow you to utilize or highlight important areas in your yard.  Here are some ideas to consider with outdoor lighting: 

Paths, Sidewalks, Steps or Driveways – Lights help you get safely from one place to another; mix up the fixtures along these areas. You can use down-lights from surrounding trees, a few lights along a pathway, and also up-lights to help light up your steps. The idea is to light an interesting area or feature close to the walk or drive and allow the light to spill over to light your way – avoiding the runway look.

Entry Ways – The walkways to your home.  They should be lit with right amount of light to create a warm, inviting welcome and allow you and your guests to see where you are going.  Make sure lights won't shine in eyes either coming in or going out the door.

Trees & Shrubs – Up-lighting creates bold shadows or silhouettes in the landscape that can make a dramatic, yet elegant effect.  Down-lighting mimics the effect of moonlight forming soft, diffused shadows in your yard.

Decks, Patios, Gazebos – Lighting these features creates an inviting ambiance allowing more time that can be spent outside enjoying life after the sun goes down.

Water Features – Lights in ponds or on fountains highlight the rippling water and make your water feature a focal point, even from indoors.  During the day you are drawn to the sound and appearance, while at night the lights will enhance the presence of your water feature.

Architectural Features – Lighting pillars, stone and veneer make shadows and cast light into your landscape.  Using lights in this way makes your home more interesting and inviting.

With shorter days coming soon in the Fall, now is an excellent time to plan your outdoor lighting project.  You will need to make a few decisions before you get started. Anyone can install the plastic lighting from the big box stores and have inexpensive lights the same day. You shouldn't expect those lights to last more than a season or two at most.

Professional fixtures and transformers are guaranteed for many years, but they do cost more.  You will also need to decide between halogen lights and LED lights.  Halogens have been used for many years to create a golden glow with a warm and cozy light effect.  However, they need larger amounts of energy, have a limited life and should be installed by someone who understands voltage drop.  The bulbs can be costly to replace.  LED fixtures and lights cost more than halogen, but most professional grade manufacturers guarantee them for up to ten years.  LED lights have a long life, are very energy-efficient and durable.  If you consider the time and money involved in purchasing and changing the halogen bulbs, LEDs might be more cost-effective in the long run.

Our long, hot summer will be behind us and we'll want more time outside enjoying our wonderful fall weather... Lighting up your outside world is a great way to improve your home and now is the time to do it!  Living Expression Landscapes can help make it a reality, either full design and installation or consultation on a DIY job – just give us a call at 281-681-8715

Five Favorite Evergreens Keep Your Winter Garden Gorgeous

While winter may bring some chilly overcast days, we’re lucky here in Houston that our soils never freeze. That means we get to keep gardening all year-long, even in winter! While many plants will drop their leaves or die back to the ground in order to conserve energy through winter, many evergreen plants still grace the landscape with lush foliage and endless color. When designing a successful landscape, you always want to make sure to balance the foliage. Be sure to incorporate enough evergreens so that your landscape still has color and interest during the winter season.

Rosemary is both a beloved culinary herb and a workhorse landscape plant. This evergreen just never quits! Plants sport their fragrant evergreen foliage year-round and will sporadically produce tiny blue flowers through the seasons, even in winter. These flowers can be an important food source for honeybees when many plants are dormant. Keep in mind, rosemary is not a small plant. You’ll need to make sure you provide ample room for rosemary to spread, as it’s a quick grower. Upright varieties can grow to 5-tall and wide. Trailing varieties will stay shorter in height, but will spread to 5- to 6-feet. A full sun location and well draining soil is all this beauty will need to thrive. Once established, rosemary has low water needs.

Yaupon Holly is considered a small tree or large multi-trunked shrub. Not only do they sport small shiny leaves all winter long, but also bright red berries. These berries add a burst of beautiful color to the winter landscape and also a food source for local birds. Plants perform best in a sunny location. Take note: If you shear your Yaupon hollies regularly, you’ll lose out on all those beautiful berries. Tip-prune plant to keep to the desired size and you’ll not only have a more beautiful specimen, but you'll also get to keep those winter berries. Cut a few branches to add to holiday containers or indoor arrangements!

Texas Mountain Laurel is one of our favorite evergreen water-wise shrubs. This slow-growing, yet tough Texas native, has beautiful deep green, glossy round leaves that provide an impressive backdrop to other plants in your garden. In spring, they drip with cascades of purple flowers. The flowers have a distinctive fragrance; many describe it as grape kool-aid! Once you’ve smelled it, you’ll never forget it. Texas mountain laurel performs best in a full sun location, but can tolerate some afternoon shade. It does need well-draining soil to stay healthy and once established, plants need little supplemental water.

Mahonia ‘Soft Caress’ is the perfect evergreen foundation shrub for your shady spots. While related to the classic Oregon grape mahonia, ‘Soft Caress’ has a very different appearance. ‘Soft Caress’ sports delicate, feathery foliage that is deep green in color. In late-fall and early-winter, plants put out bright yellow blooms, followed by dark berries. This is a dwarf shrub, growing to only about 4- to 5-feet tall and about 3-feet wide. It’s perfect for smaller urban landscapes or for placing towards the front of shady beds. For the best impact, plant in clusters alongside ferns, lenten rose and coral bells.

Junipers, plants in the genus Juniperus, are some of the most naturally adapted of the conifers to our Texas climate. Junipers are available in both upright and prostrate forms and usually have a blue-green to gray-green color. Juniper ‘Blue Point’ has some of the prettiest blue-green foliage and is perfect for growing as a large accent shrub, landscape topiary or container specimen. Plants grow naturally in a pyramidal shape and require little pruning to maintain their form. Growing to about 12-feet tall and 8-feet wide, you’ll want to provide adequate space for plants to mature; or you can tip prune or lightly shear plants to any desired shape or size. ‘Blue Point’ is often used to create topiary spirals, pom poms and other unique shapes. These Junipers also produce fragrant silvery blue berries, which are a lovely complement to the plant. Junipers are best situated in a full sun exposure with well-draining soil.

TIP: Don’t forget that many evergreen shrubs and perennials also make wonderful container specimens, so don’t be afraid to use them on your patio and porch as well.

Evergreen trees, shrubs and perennials are the backbone of your landscape. Be sure to plant enough of them, mixed with your deciduous plants and annuals, so that your winter garden is just as beautiful as your summer garden!