2015 05 18 IMG_4549“The number one ingredient for a beautifully designed landscape is an interested homeowner,” said Kim Kaulas, a landscape artist who has a business in Edgewater.

In that vein, here are some tips on how to improve your yard:

Plants can flourish under the right sun and shade conditions, so it’s important to understand how each impacts your property. Plants that do best in the sun can suffer in the shade, and vice versa. Kaulas said sun exposure is defined by the amount of sun shining directly on the plant.

For assistance in selecting plants that will thrive, a good resource is the plant information center at Chicago Botanic Garden, or visit Gethsemane Garden Center at 5737 N. Clark St. in Andersonville and ask the staff for suggestions.  It’s a busy place on weekend afternoons, so it’s often better to visit on weekend mornings or during the week.

Daffodils and Scilla, two types of early spring flowers, do well when planted under deciduous trees that do not yet have their leaves. Meanwhile, lillies, bee balm, roses and peonies can bear four to six hours of direct sunlight, Kaulas said.

For properties that have more shade than sun and are more apt to develop a woodland look, annuals can add colors beyond typical greens and whites.

“Nothing gives you bright color, color, color like annuals,” Kaulas said.

Gardening is a truly multidimensional art, she added. “Plants look different at different times of the year,” she said. Because of this, select plants that will change throughout each season. Sedum, for instance, blooms in September yet is attractive at other points of the year, as well.

Removing grass and replacing it with ground cover is not always a good idea. Kaulas said ground cover requires continuous weeding. “Know yourself,” she said. “If you are retired or work out of your home or are a teacher with summers off, then you have time to weed. Otherwise, no.”

Day lilies are not low-maintenance plants. They need to be deadheaded once a week, she said. This keeps the plant from going to seed. Serviceberry trees will bloom in the shade, but don’t plant them near entryways or walkways because birds — and their droppings — tend to like them, too.

Mulch amends the soil with organic matter and helps with drainage. But you never want to pile the mulch against the tree trunk as this will kill the tree. Additionally, make sure that brick homes are appropriately tuck-pointed before allowing ivy to climb their walls.

And, soil type matters. Clay soil is full of nutrients but tends to be compacted, preventing water drainage. Sandy soil, however, is excellent for drainage. Adding pine to sandy and clay soil types can improve pH balance, helping the plants.

VGrabnerVictoria Marty has written for newspapers and magazines for more than 15 years and recently moved to the Lincoln Square, Chicago area. A frequent runner who loves learning and exploring new places, she has perfected the art of getting lost while simultaneously finding unique landmarks, boutiques and out-of-the-way nooks worth writing about. Her blogs are geared toward the newly transplanted who want to learn as much about Chicago as they can, as quickly as possible.


2015 05 11 IMG_4555See that hosta over there in the corner and that Japanese maple near the entrance of the house? They didn’t settle there accidentally. And they are more than just decoration, too.

According to landscape economist John Harris, good landscaping can add up to 28 percent to the overall value of a house and can cut its time on the market by 10 to 15 percent.

Additionally, a Clemson University study said taking your landscaping to the next level — upgrading, in other words, from “good” to “excellent” in terms of design, condition and placement — can add up to 6 to 7 percent to a home’s value.

“Landscape design is a beautiful mixture of art and science,” said Kim Kaulas, a landscape artist who has a business in Edgewater. “Every site is different, every homeowner is different, and the landscape is always in transition. To me, it’s endlessly fascinating.”

Among other things, well-placed trees and shrubs can provide shade in the summer and lower cooling bills. They reduce carbon dioxide, muffle noise, reduce soil erosion, deflect winter wind, and provide shelter and food for birds.

Outdoor lighting, especially at night, can protect against slips and falls and can paint your home when the sun is no longer in the sky, according to

Lighting makes your property a more difficult target for intruders, reducing burglaries and insurance claims. Some insurance companies even give a five to 15 percent discount on homeowners with reduced or zero claims, the website said.

VGrabnerVictoria Marty has written for newspapers and magazines for more than 15 years and recently moved to the Lincoln Square, Chicago area. A frequent runner who loves learning and exploring new places, she has perfected the art of getting lost while simultaneously finding unique landmarks, boutiques and out-of-the-way nooks worth writing about. Her blogs are geared toward the newly transplanted who want to learn as much about Chicago as they can, as quickly as possible.




Spring is just around the corner. For those who are planning to sell their homes or other real estate in Chicago, this means curb appeal matters more than ever.

Thankfully, Kim Kaulas, a landscape artist based in Edgewater who also works in Lakewood Balmoral and Andersonville, has extensive experience helping people maximize small spaces and shade in urban areas.

“I specialize in environmentally responsible practices,” she said. “I don’t use chemicals. I amend soil naturally, and I promote appropriate plant placement to promote their longevity.”

Does it work? Kaulas can’t provide statistics on shortening of market time or specific evidence that curb appeal raises sale prices. But common sense goes far, and making judicious choices to rejuvenate a landscape specifically for curb appeal is a specialty, she says.



“I consider myself an exterior decorator,” Kaulas said, adding that landscaping involving plant material doesn’t tend to be instantly gratifying. Some plants can take 3 to 10 years to grow in. “Curb appeal choices may include exterior paint colors, paint projects, awnings, container plantings and general exterior aesthetics.”

She works on a consulting basis, charging $90 per hour and prorating the fee to the minute. She has no minimum hourly charge. Kaulas brainstorms a project with the homeowner, suggesting ideas for improving the curb appeal or general attractiveness of the site and outdoor space. Beyond that, the client might commission a formal design. This would include pictures and measurements, scaled drawings and detailed plans. The estimate would be based on the scope of that project. Kaulas does not offer free estimates, however.

She also gets involved in installing those designs, providing quotes based on time and materials. Meanwhile, the client can help her or her staff plant. “And because I charge by the hour, they learn something and then it’s a cost savings, because it’s that much less manpower that I’m charging them for.”

Kaulas does not provide mowing or leaf blowing services. “I recommend that clients interested in those services talk to their immediate neighbors and see who already has their trucks and manpower on their block and who is doing a good job,” she said.

For more information on Kaulas’ services, visit or call her at 773-761-3668.

VGrabnerVictoria Marty has written for newspapers and magazines for more than 15 years and recently moved to the Lincoln Square, Chicago area. A frequent runner who loves learning and exploring new places, she has perfected the art of getting lost while simultaneously finding unique landmarks, boutiques and out-of-the-way nooks worth writing about. Her blogs are geared toward the newly transplanted who want to learn as much about Chicago as they can, as quickly as possible.


Summertime is a great time to enjoy the outdoors. In addition to providing hours of enjoyment, your landscaping may also add up to 14% to the resale value of your home.*

Whether you’re thinking of updating your landscape before you list your home or you just want to do something new, this month’s newsletter will help you improve your outdoor spaces with the help of the latest design trends. These tips could improve the look of your yard, make it more livable, reduce its overall maintenance and may even improve your health.

Pass this information on to your family and friends to help them boost the look and feel of their landscapes, too.


*Source: American Society of Landscape Architects


(Click on image to enlarge)



urban gardeningIn my earlier post I mentioned that we are planning to create an inviting urban garden in our front yard of our town house in Ravenswood. We want a patio with space for a table and four chairs, for reading, dining, and entertaining. And room for a small grill.   We met with Patch Landscaping as well as Greenlawn, both local landscapers/designers. They presented several options for the space. There were many good ideas, including several we had not thought of that will make the space feel a bit more private. The quotes came in higher than we expected.

We decided to take on the planting of shrubs and perennials ourselves, to shave 25% off the cost of the project. This weekend, my husband Keith installed the three foundation plantings that include three boxwood shrubs.   We will hire the landscapers to install the patio, as the installation is a little more complicated than digging out the dirt and putting in bricks. After the excavation, a layer of crushed limestone must be installed before the pavers. The cost estimates are running approximately $2,000 for a 10’ x 12’ patio. We are a bit disappointed to learn that the earliest date available for the installation is one month out, and that is if we make the decision soon. Our next step is to request color photos or samples for the pavers. And since we want a patio that is curved, rather than a rectangle, we will ask them to come back and show us the proposed shape of the patio, using the garden hose for the outline.  Will write more once we decide on pavers and have the final meeting.

Urban Gardening in Andersonville, Chicago

peonyAh… yes, spring comes early to the lakefront neighborhood of Andersonville in Chicago. The daffodils are already blooming in some areas, and the tulips are at least showing their green. Reminds me that I need to tend to my urban gardens to prepare them for a show in the summer. It’s time to cut down all the dead stuff from last year, rake it out, spread some mushroom mulch. Chicago Botanic Gardens has an April checklist of steps to prepare your gardens.

Time to get those clay pots out of the garage and plant them with spring annuals that can tolerate alternating cold and warmth. And then there are the perennials. I love how Kelly describes the charm of perennials. They come back every year, even if you don’t remember where you planted them.

And then there’s the lawn furniture and barbeques. Time to dust off the table and chairs, get out the cushions, and give that barbeque grill a wire brushing. And don’t forget to invite me to that garden party.


water tower posterI decided to take a walk down Clark Street in Andersonville in Chicago in honor of the beautiful spring weather.  Spring has finally arrived. The DIVVY racks are full of rental bikes once again, the planters are starting to fill up with flowers.  Tomorrow there is a neighborhood clean- up day, so we’ll meet at the corner of Glenwood and Winnemac, do some raking and planting,  and there will be a mini green fest too.  There are Save the Tower posters in shop windows announcing a campaign to save the blue and yellow water tower that is our neighborhood icon.  It all reminds me of why I love living in walkable, sustainable, friendly Andersonville, and why it’s such a special part of Edgewater community in Chicago.


I’m happy to report that Andersonville, located in Chicago 60640, announces a community composting program.  Andersonville residents are invited to participate in Chicago’s first community compost collection program for only $12 a month.  Participants will receive a food grade certified five gallon bucket with snap-on lid with the purpose of collecting their food scraps.


On a weekly basis, a specialized truck from the Resource Center of Chicago will come through the neighborhood and empty each bucket, taking those food scraps to a large commercial composting facility on the South side and their own composting.

Compost Truck (Photo from

Compost Truck (Photo from

For more information about the program, please visit or email or visit one of partners for more details.


Even if you don’t have plans to sell your house any time soon, a well-maintained yard can improve the value of your property by as much as 15%.*

Take advantage of the sunshine and the longer days to give your landscape a fresh look. The information in this month’s newsletter will help you get started. Page one offers useful tips that are sure to make your yard the star of your neighborhood, while page two delves into a few new trends that you may want to incorporate into your current landscape.

Pass along this information to family and friends to help them renovate their landscapes and boost the curb appeal of their homes.


 (Click on image to enlarge)

6 Ways to Go Organic in Your Home Garden


A historic home in Edgewater Highlands

Did you know that Chicago’s Edgewater community is more than high-rise condo buildings along the lakefront and 2 or 3 flat homes in Andersonville? As a Chicago realtor since 2002, I was surprised to discover the quiet, tree-lined Edgewater Highlands neighborhood, where I felt like I was stepping back in time to the late 1800’s. This neighborhood proves you can have a peaceful home, yet still enjoy all the benefits of city living: great transportation, wonderful local shops and restaurants, and a short bike ride to lakefront running paths and beaches.

My husband and I spent a very pleasant Sunday afternoon on a walking tour of homes in the neighborhood, which dates back to 1885. I was surprised to discover this haven of lovely historic  homes, mainly located in the area bounded by Hermitage, Paulina, Devon and Granville. The neighborhood was originally developed by John Cochran, and the views from the homes’ second stories were beautiful. Edgewater Highlands adjoins the other small neighborhoods of Edgewater Glen and Magnolia Glen, but the Edgewater community as a whole encompasses a number of other Chicago neighborhoods, including Andersonville.

6345 N. Hermitage Ave.

We started our tour at 6345 N. Hermitage Street- on the northeast corner of Hermitage and Highland- an American Craftsman bungalow designed in 1914 by architects Hatsfeld and Knox. Hatsfeld started out as a draftsman for the board of education, and also designed some lovely park district buildings, such as Indian Boundary and Green Briar Parks’ field houses. 6345 N. Hermitage’s original owner was a Swedish immigrant who bought it for $6,000, and was owned by the Rozek family from 1935 through the 1990’s. It still has most of its original woodwork, stained glass and pocket doors. My favorite feature is the screened porch, and believe it or not, the new garage was built by the current owner from plans ordered over the internet!

Our next home on the tour, 6337 N Hermitage, is on the National Register of Historic Places.  I was surprised to learn that it was also designed by Hatsfeld for the Rozek family. With a stucco, Queen Anne- style exterior and a broad open porch, 6337 had completely different feel than the other Hatsfeld home nearby. My favorite features here were the lovely new kitchen that seamlessly blends with the home’s original historic details, and the upstairs balcony that overlooks the lovely gardens and neighborhood rooftops.  I love both older homes and gardening, so seeing these gorgeous homes and yards, as well as hearing their unique stories, was a great Sunday treat!