Winter Is Time For Hardscape Planning

As fall weather turns to winter, it’s easy to think that you have plenty of time to plan your spring landscape and outdoor living projects. In reality, the clock is ticking! With supply chain and labor challenges showing no signs of letting up, most reputable contractors are scheduling work months in advance and Hively is no different. The time to plan your spring and summer 2022 landscape projects is now. With careful planning, your backyard can become a personal vacation destination.   

The term “hardscaping” refers to landscaping features that are permanently established and typically nonliving. Patios, water elements, fire pits and outdoor structures all fall into this category. Hardscaping additions can transform an underused area of your property into an comfortable living space which allows your family and friends to fully enjoy the landscape.

The key to getting the most out of your hardscaping is comprehensive planning. The first step in effective planning is to decide what you want from your new space. You may want a quiet retreat, a place to host large gatherings, or an area that can be a little of both.

stone staircase leading up a sloped flowerbed into a wooded area

Whatever your specific vision is for new hardscaping, now is the time to set your project in motion. If you begin planning and building now, your new outdoor living space will be ready for you to enjoy once spring arrives. While the season just past is still fresh in your mind, look forward to the next steps that will take your backyard to a whole new level.

Warm Up This Fall

As the nights grow cooler this fall, there’s no need to move the party indoors. There are several ways to keep things warm and cozy outside well into the night, extending the fall season.

Fire Pits and Fireplaces

There’s something beautiful and rustic about burning wood outdoors. You can have a pit dug into the ground and built up with stone walls if you like. Often, fire pits will include installed seating at the right height for comfortable seating and the right distance from the heat. A well-designed fire pit will become the centerpiece of your outdoor evenings as night cools off and your party heats up.

For a more formal look, consider a brick or stone fireplace with shelves and storage space for wood. You can also incorporate a built-in grill or a “pizza-type” oven into the design. A fireplace designed and placed properly can serve many functions for your outdoor life while adding both pleasure and increased property value. These are great ways to extend your days and the season by adding comfort and beauty to your patio.

Low-Voltage Lights For Navigating Safely

Regardless of the temperature outside, proper lighting is essential for maximizing the use of your patio. Low-voltage exterior light fixtures come in an amazing variety of types and sizes. There are ground-level lights on stakes and well lights that send their light upward onto a wall or into a tree. There are also suspended lights that can be suspended from tree branches or any structure. This type of lighting can provide ample illumination to help you and your guests move about safely. Plus, the low-voltage requirements won’t drive up your electric bill.

Fall Is For Planting

Do you have the perfect spot in mind for a new tree or some shrubs? Maybe a plant has died or some of your older shrubs need to be replaced because they’ve become overgrown. If you’re in a newer home, chances are there are still some parts of your original landscape plan to be installed. If you’re planning to move, your landscape may need a facelift before you put your home up for sale.

Whatever your situation, if you want to install trees or shrubs, fall is a great time to do it. The cooler weather and more plentiful moisture give landscape plants a chance to put out roots and get used to their new home before the stress of next summer’s heat and dryness is upon them. They’ll have an extra growing season to become established, and you will get to see your new landscape plants bloom or leaf out next spring.

As with any landscaping project, it’s always a good idea to get professional advice and help. You’ll get top-quality results, your project will be done quickly, and your back muscles will suffer less as well!

Going Native

Choosing plants for your landscape can be a challenge at times. Factors of size, shape, and appearance must all be considered as you look to build a landscape that suits your vision. Another factor to consider is the plant’s overall viability and maintenance requirements. Plants that are native to your region make excellent choices.

All living landscaping includes maintenance needs. While regular watering, pruning, and fertilization is not too much to ask, some plants require considerable coddling. Some folks in our area love having ornamental banana trees. While those trees do offer a unique tropical flair, they also need to be dug up and stored indoors every winter, a process that becomes more and more cumbersome with each passing year. Exotic landscaping will always need extra attention.

On the other hand, native plants are naturally adapted to their surroundings. They are attuned to the area’s rainfall, soil composition, range of temperature, and even common pests. As a result, native plants can thrive even with the most basic level of care. This allows you to enjoy a gorgeous landscape minus the maintenance headaches. As you select plants to populate your property, be sure to pick some native plants that already feel right at home in your backyard.

Cover Some Ground

When you think of landscaping, chances are that trees, shrubs, lawn areas and flower beds are the first things to pop into your head. While these are all great landscape features, it’s also helpful to keep other potential options in mind when designing your landscape. Some areas of your property may be difficult to access or may be generally hostile to turf growth. For these locations, ornamental grasses and ground cover provide practical and pleasing low-maintenance options.

Shade, hilliness, ease of access, or drainage irregularities can make some areas of your property hard to manage. Ground cover such as hostas or pachysandra grows well in shady areas that are unsuitable for grass. In areas that do not drain particularly well, iris and elephant ear can fill the space with varied shape and texture.

If you would like to add shape to difficult landscape areas, ornamental grasses contribute to the space, similar to shrubs. Whether they’re big and bushy like pampas grass or fine and low to the ground like prairie dropseed, ornamental grasses can grow as big as shrubs, and are easy to maintain.

Not all areas are equally welcoming to living landscaping. Ground cover and ornamental grasses provide appealing additions that won’t have you bending over backwards in terms of upkeep.

Navigating Supply & Demand

Dear Valued Client,

The past 17 months have been full of disruption and uncertainty. As some things begin a return to normal, other things do not. The news is full of stories of supply chain disruption, materials shortages, labor shortages, and price increases, affecting a broad range of products and services.

All of this has an impact on the landscape industry. Plant material, natural and man-made hardscape material, lighting and electrical components, plastic products including pots and pipe, trucking and labor are in high demand and short supply. While our core team remains strong, adding new capacity is more challenging than ever.

These challenges are compounded by especially high demand for our services. Our current backlogs for construction and landscape installation services are more than double what we expect for this time of year. Even some maintenance services, including spring cleanups and mulching, are running behind schedule.

Our corporate mission is to provide the best possible service experience for our clients throughout the relationship. This year, it has been difficult to maintain this goal. Many of you have been understanding as we navigate these challenges, and on behalf of our team, I thank you for your patience and understanding.

I want you to know that our entire team is working to source the best material, shorten backlogs, hire and train new team members, keep you informed and ensure you have the best experience with us.

If you have questions, comments, or concerns, please contact me directly at or 717-292-5696. We have overcome many challenges during our 53 years in business, and we will overcome these challenges, too. Thank you for choosing Hively Landscapes.

Ted Ventre, General Manager

Moving Water

Whether they’re big or small, water features are a great way to add interest, beauty and tranquility to your landscape. Rock pools can embellish your garden with a wide variety of fish, foliage and flowers, while the sounds of moving water from a fountain or waterfall can help to create a more relaxed and welcoming atmosphere.

Water features can be simple or complex, depending on your needs and interests. From a small pond of water lilies to a reflecting pool with statues and fountains, the choices are virtually limitless. The first step is to decide what the purpose of your water feature will be.

For example, if you’re interested in an ornamental pool, do you want it to reflect surrounding plants, attract birds, or serve as a home for water plants and fish? Would you like a combination of all of these? Keep in mind that fountains work well in formal pools but may look out of place in informal pools, such as water gardens. In water gardens, a gentle waterfall usually works best.

Once you’ve decided the overall style of water feature, you’ll need to decide on a location. Ideally, it will be visible from inside and out. If plants will be incorporated, you should choose a location that gets from four to six hours of sunlight per day.

Surrounding trees should be considered as they may drop excessive leaves. For obvious reasons, it makes sense to choose a location that has easy access to drainage, a water source, and electricity (in case you’ll be using a pump and lights). If you’ll be installing a fountain, you’ll want to avoid windy areas.

In most cases, a water feature will require less maintenance than you might imagine, and the relaxing ambiance it adds to your landscape will be well worth the effort.

Landscaping for Definition and Privacy

Trees, shrubs, and plant beds can help make your property a beautiful and inviting space. These landscape elements also bring with them practical benefits that include structure, definition, and privacy for your outdoor spaces.

The physical layout of your plant beds carves out the shape of your landscape area, creating perimeters that separate turf areas from living spaces. By breaking up your green space into multiple areas, plant beds provide your backyard with variety and usability.

Trees and shrubs add another dimension by maturing into natural “walls” that you can use to build distinct outdoor rooms. Hedges and rows of trees create a sense of intimacy for dining and sitting areas. When planted along your property line, trees can be used as a type of privacy fence. Wherever they’re located, rows of shrubs and trees provide shade that can be very welcome in the heat of summer.

Living landscaping improves your property by adding color, beauty, and texture to your outdoor space. It also serves the practical side of your landscaping by providing definition and privacy. As you plan any new project, keep in mind the structural as well as the ornamental benefits of landscaping.

Mulch Time!

Most of us know that mulch makes plant beds look great. With a clean edging job, fresh mulch does just that. The consistent color and texture do improve the looks of your shrubs and flowers. In fact, dark-colored mulches even widen the pupil of the eye, making bright plants stand out even more. Mulching also cuts down on the amount of time and effort needed to keep your beds and your whole property looking good throughout the entire season. Here are some of the advantages of spring mulching.

Mulch prevents many weeds and grasses from sprouting by blocking sunlight from the soil. It also retains moisture from irrigation by soaking up water and delivering it to the root zone. Mulch reduces heat stress by insulating soil from direct sunlight. This can cool your soil by up to 10 degrees.

What’s the best mulch to use? There’s a huge variety of mulch material available, and you can buy either bulk or bagged mulch. Your choice will probably depend on what’s available and your personal preference for color and texture.

Whatever type of mulch you prefer, it’s best to get an early start for the most benefits. Mulch now for an easier and more attractive season later.

Is Your Lawn Drowning?

Does a forecast of prolonged wet weather bring a sense of foreboding about more than just a washed-out picnic or tee time? If so, there’s a good chance that your lawn suffers from poor drainage.

Sometimes, standing water in your lawn is the result of roots damaging or destroying underground drain pipes. Drainage issues can render parts of your lawn inhospitable and unusable. If the problem area is close to your house, your foundation itself could be compromised.

Usually, there are multiple ways to address a drainage problem. A rain garden is a landscape feature made up of plants that thrive in extremes when it comes to water supply. Another option is to plant trees or shrubs that require a lot of water. Sycamores, willows, and alder bushes are just a few examples of woody plants which need a large amount of water.

Most often, homeowners simply want to rid their yards of standing water without adding new plants. In this case, the best option is the addition of some sort of drain or drainage tile to remove water. There are many varieties of these, but they’re all considerable installations best done by a professional. A well-designed setup will keep your lawn from sinking down the drain.