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.
Victoria 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.