Monday, February 11, 2019

Add Some Romance to Your Garden

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, you might be desiring a little something extra in your landscape to create a romantic atmosphere for your significant other.  If you’re wanting to design a romantic getaway in your garden, take a look at a few  ideas you can incorporate that are simple but effective.

Creating secret spaces, using what you already have

Casually strolling through a garden typically sparks the interest of the visitor, as there can sometimes be something hidden that needs to be found.  Whether it’s a decorative bench, an ivy-covered swing, statues or other eye-catching items, having the chance to discover what all is hidden within the realms of the garden creates a sense of mystery and intrigue.  Along with the air of mystery it gives off, secret spaces and hidden or shaded nooks create intimate meeting spaces perfect for a romantic picnic or afternoon stroll.
Bringing in structures to divide up the space can also give customers more options for sitting, reading and conversing. Archways covered with vines, arbors and trellises help section off garden spaces, and as an added bonus, having these different areas can also make the space appear larger.
If you already have larger trees or perennials in their garden space, take advantage of what’s there and incorporate it into your new design.  If, for instance, you have a larger, older tree in the middle of their garden space, why not make it the center point of the area? Consider routing all pathways to converge at this tree and install benches and other seating options around the tree as a resting place.

Walkways, nature and the senses

If you have a bigger garden, it’s important to have distinct walkways throughout to improve the ambiance and help boost the beauty of the area as a whole.  While the natural tendency can be to create walkways that are clean, orderly and properly maintained, having walkways with spilling plants, unruly grasses and other similar aspects can sometimes create more of a romantic ambiance.
Keeping things more natural and incorporating native species can help eliminate the frequent use of fertilizer and pesticides, and it will more than likely help attract backyard-friendly pollinators and butterflies.  Be sure to incorporate a variety of colors, textures and smells into the landscape, as these will help boost the visual effect by adding in aspects the other senses can also enjoy.
To create a meadow-like look, consider adding in layers of bright colors and shapes by using smaller flowers and grasses, and don’t be afraid to add in water features, benches and more along the walkways to add in soothing water sounds and allow visitors to stop and rest awhile.
Adding subtle lighting elements along the walkways can also create a romantic ambiance while giving visitors the chance to take an evening stroll through the garden. Keep in mind, these lights can line the walkway on the ground, can be strung through neighboring trees or they can hang down from trees or other structures; the possibilities are numerous.

Metaphors and plant varieties

When it comes to romantic garden design, sometimes it’s not all about the elements you do have in place but the ones you imply are there.  Metaphors are ever-present in Japanese gardens, such as how stones lining a dry creek bed can represent a stream or how having water features subtly tucked behind trees and plants can mimic the sounds of a river flowing.
Along with adding in a few illusions along the way, be sure to include romantic perennials, which are flowers in soft shades of pink, white, lavender and yellow.  These types of perennials can come in all shapes and sizes, and they typically will give the space a more feminine and rounded look.
The edges of walkways can also be softened by adding in a few romantic perennials to give visitors the chance to appreciate these elements throughout their entire journey through the garden.
Adapted from "Love Is In The Air:Romantic Garden Designs" by Beth Hyatt for Total Landscape Care.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Designer Concepts Hosts Networking Event at The Christian Center

I am a member of a business networking group called Peoria Business Boosters.   We have approximately 25 community and business leaders that meet twice per month to discuss business and community events.   Today was my turn to host the meeting and I wanted to feature a charitable organization that I have been a part of since I moved to Peoria in the mid-90's.
Chad Bailey and Phil Newton of the Christian Center address the Peoria Business Boosters at a meeting hosted by Designer Concepts.

 The Christian Center has brought Christ-centered recreation to central Illinois for 70 years.  It boasts a family friendly bowling alley and old-school game center that includes billiards, table tennis, and coin operated arcade games.  The Christian Center also provides youth sports programs all year long, including basketball, baseball, softball, and soccer. 

I was a soccer coach and my girls have both played in Christian Center leagues.  We love spending family nights at the bowling alley and game room.  It is truly one of Peoria's hidden gems.   To learn more call 685-4217 or  go to
My family has been a part of the Christian Center for many years.  Can you find my girls?

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Designer Concepts Celebrates the Season and Recognizes Staff

Last Saturday we took time to celebrate the 2018 season.  Fall Finale, our version of a holiday party, was celebrated at the Holiday Inn Ballroom in East Peoria.  Fall Finale is what we have called our end of season gala since the company was founded.  Rather than waiting for Christmas or New Year's to thank staff for their hard work, we like to get together just before we wrap up the season to celebrate victories and recognize milestones.

Staff, spouses and special guests gathered for a delicious meal and escape room type games that led to an Indiana Jones-like "Search for the Golden Shovel". Each table solved clues and unlocked treasure chests to move on to the next round. 

All staff members were recognized for their years of service and were presented with a photo album of projects completed this year.

Kevin Warning crossed a significant milestone with DCLA, marking his 10th season.

Smiles and laughter filled the room as we enjoyed being together as a family. There is still a lot of work to be done this year, but we like hosting this event while we are still working shoulder to shoulder.  Thanks for our hard work, team!

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Designer Concepts Supports Eagle Scout Project and Local Church

Volunteers plant trees as a part of a local boy's Eagle Scout Project.
Fall is a great time to plant trees, and a Peoria church was the beneficiary of a local boy's effort to complete his Eagle Scout Training.  Matthew Moorman chose to plant six native trees at Bethany Baptist Church, his home church.  Matthew is a long time friend of my daughter Makayla, so when he asked if I could help him with his scouting project, I was happy to do whatever I could. 

You see, an Eagle Scout Project is a culmination of over a decade's worth of training and preparation for the Boy Scout's highest member rank.  Matthew had a lot of help over the 12 months he spent preparing for the project.  Leaders from his church provided planning guidance and a place to do the project.  His mom prepared food and offered logistical support.  Matthew and I spent several meeting discussing species selection, proper planting of trees and timing for the work.  Over 20 volunteers came together to make the project a reality.

Volunteers helped Matthew plant the trees.
Matthew Moorman and his mom on planting day.
I love working with groups like this.  It gives me an opportunity to share the knowledge and experience I have gained over my career.  "Relationships" is one of our Core Values at Designer Concepts.  We love the opportunity to give back to a community we serve.  But more than that, you never know when an event like this will inspire someone to find their career.  That is exactly what happened to me way back in 1993 while studying at the University of Illinois.  On a volunteer weekend in East St. Louis, we helped turn a vacant lot into a neighborhood park.  I discovered how I could keep my hands in the earth and do fun, creative design things at the same time.  That was my first glimpse of my current profession, Landscape Architecture, and it truly changed my life forever.

A much younger me back when I first discovered landscape architecture.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Team Building A Great Success

We took some time to re-connect as a team at Great Oaks Camp in Lacon.  One of our core values is to build relationships both externally with our clients and vendors, but also internally as we unite as one team to achieve greater things together.  The staff at Great Oaks did a fantastic job walking us through different team-building activities.  We also took some time to laugh and play together with paint ball and escape room events.  This breath of fresh air will help us finish the season strong.

Team Building Activities

We learned about some of our team's hidden talents.

Building comradery with paint ball.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Driveway Entrance Facelift

This Brimfield client had old driveway entrance that did not complement their beautiful property and home.   The home owner had a vision for something more grand.  Together, we investigated ideas and similar projects Designer Concepts had completed.  The result was a transformation that added elegance and beauty to their driveway entrance.  We used Unilock retaining wall block and pavers to revamp their culvert walls and create columns and walls that frame their approach to the house.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Dealing with a Difficult Slope


This client had a failing stairway and hodgepodge of slope, plant and utility problems along the side of their home.  There was no good way to get from the front yard to the back yard.

We proposed a wrapping stair way and planter design that would be safe, functional and attractive.
Our crew did a great job, responding to hidden challenges and adjusting on the fly.  The client is thrilled with their new side yard.