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 www.thechristiancenter.cc.
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.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Designer Concepts Welcomes New Staff

Please join us as we welcome our newest staff members to our growing team.

Brandan Jones is the newest member of our installation crew. He is a 2018 graduate of Princeville High School and will be attending Illinois Central College in the Fall to study horticulture. Brandan will be learning both the practical and academic principles of the landscape trade as he continues to work full time at DCLA while completing his coursework at ICC.  Brandan is the son of one of our crew leaders, Matt Jones.  Welcome Brandan! 

James Schillinger brings 15 years of experience to the Designer Concepts Maintenance Team.  He leads one of our maintenance crews and helps maintain the fleet. He is also a veteran of the US Army. Thanks for your service, James, and welcome to the DCLA team!

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Ready Or Not, It’s Japanese Beetle Season

Japanese beetles are an invasive pest that causes damage to the landscape throughout its life cycle as both a grub and an adult.
These voracious insects feed on over 300 plant species as adults, while the grubs plague lawns, parks and golf courses.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Japanese beetles have spread through most states east of the Mississippi River. Meanwhile, states including Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Oklahoma are currently experiencing partial infestations.
Where does it come from?
As the name would suggest, the Japanese beetle is originally from Japan and the pest was first spotted in 1916 at a New Jersey nursery. Entomologists believe they entered the country as grubs in the soil on Japanese iris roots.
A lack of natural predators and an abundance of food has allowed this insect to thrive and breed prolifically.
Over time, the beetles have spread westward and a quarantine is currently being conducted by the USDA to prevent the bug from spreading further. The quarantine has not stopped the spread, but it has slowed the process. Plant material shipped with soil from Japanese beetle infested regions are required to be inspected before they can be sent to unaffected areas.
What does it look like/what are the signs?
Adult Japanese beetles are about ½ inch in length and have a scarab appearance with a shiny green head and bronze body. They can be distinguished from other beetles with similar coloration by the white tufts on their sides and a pair at the tip of the abdomen.
The adults emerge from the ground anywhere from June to early August, where they begin to feed. While they are willing to feed on numerous plant varieties, they still have a preference for certain plants, and damage will be more severe on these. Some of the favored plants include roses, birch, elms, Japanese maple, crape myrtle, linden, raspberries, and grapes.
The beetles tend to feed in groups and will work their way down from the top of a plant. They skeletonize foliage by eating the tissue between the veins, leaving a lace-like appearance. They are most active on warm, sunny days and prefer plants in sunlight.
During their adult phase of 30 to 60 days, the beetles will also mate on the host plants. Mated females will burrow into the nearby soil to deposit 40 to 60 eggs during her lifespan.
By late August, the larvae are almost full-grown and will feed on the roots of turfgrass and vegetable seedlings. They will overwinter in the soil, burying deeper when the temperatures fall. In the spring as the temperature climbs above 50 F, they will return to feed until they turn into pupae and emerge as adult beetles about two weeks later.
The larvae are C-shaped white grubs with a brown head and a grayish-black rear. Signs of their feeding on turf include a general wilting and a gradual thinning. Heavily damaged turf can be rolled back like a rug due to the connecting roots being destroyed.
Healthy turf will not appear damaged when there are fewer than 10 grubs per square foot, according to the University of Tennessee extension, but poorly maintained turf will show injury with just four or five grubs per square foot.
How can I control them?
Eradication of the beetles is not possible, but there are multiple control methods. It is important to remember that Japanese beetles can fly considerable distances, so control of one life stage will not necessarily prevent problems from the other.
When beetle numbers are low, simply picking or shaking the insects off of plants and putting them into a bucket of soapy water will work. Covering high-valued plants with a fine netting during peak activity can also help.
There are two common ways to fight the Japanese beetles if they have targeted your property. One route is insecticides, while the other is cultural controls. There are numerous insecticides available to treat adult Japanese beetles including cyfluthrin, bifenthrin and carbaryl.
Choosing the correct insecticide depends on features such as what plants they can be used on, how long they persist and their threat to pollinators. It is crucial to follow the label to avoid harming bees as well.
Imidacloprid is a chemical option for controlling the larvae, but treating the larvae in the yard will have little effect on the number of Japanese beetles feeding on ornamental plants due to their ability to travel. There are biological controls that also target the grubs, but these take considerable time before any effects are seen.
Japanese beetle traps are commonly sold and touted as a solution, but multiple sources say they attract more beetles than they catch. If they are used, they should be placed 20 to 30 feet away from the plants they are protecting.
The cultural controls include habitat manipulation and the planting of resistant flora. Diseased and poorly nourished plants are more susceptible to attacks, so it’s important to keep the landscape healthy. Watering can also affect the survival chances of the beetle eggs and young larvae. If the lawn can tolerate being dry during the egg period – July and early August – many can be killed.
While the Japanese beetles will feed on many types of plants, designing a landscape with a mixture of non-preferred species will reduce the level of damage they will wreak. Some of the plants that are resistant include dogwood, red maple, magnolias, boxwood, ashes, yew, forsythia and lilac.
Source: Jill Odom - Total Landscape Care

Monday, June 11, 2018

Washington Patio Before and After

Before 01

Before 02

This old concrete patio had settled and cracked due to poor, wet subsoils.

Model 01

Model 02

As a part of the design process, we utilized a 3D model to visualize the new patio layout.  The design includes a paver patio with accent band, seat walls, fire pit, stairs and buffet.  

Completed 01

Completed 02

The final version deleted the seat walls and added a pergola.

Completed 03

Completed 04

Great attention to detail really brings this patio to life.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Dealing With Wet, Clay Soils

Kevin and Shawn prepare the base for a new paver patio.
When you dig in the dirt like we do, you occasionally find some unexpected things underground.  This patio project started as a routine excavation.  We removed the old concrete patio and found a spongy, clay subsoil that would not dry out.  If we were to build directly on this soil, our patio would settle and shift. Owner and Project Manager Corey Koch determined that we needed to reinforce the base material to stabilize the patio.  Corey is a Certified Paver Installer through the International Concrete Paver Institute training, the international authority on paver patio construction.

 Corey’s training and experience told him that the answer to the problem was to add both lateral support and vertical support to the crushed rock patio base.  Our team installed Geo-grid to provide lateral support that keeps the patio from shifting from side to side.  Then they enclosed the area with a woven landscape fabric to keep the base rock from sinking into soil, stopping any settlement.  This combination will allow us to bridge the wet clay and provide a stable base for the client’s paver patio.  We will show you more photos after the project is complete. 

 Geo-grid and landscape fabric stabilize the subsoil for a paver patio.