Lush Landscapes

Going green has a whole new meaning.


Demystifying intimidating landscapes is easy when you have help. We pulled together inspiration from four of our city’s leading landscape architects. With glorious stones underfoot and petals of color popping through, going green has taken on a whole new meaning.

Aesthetic sensibility

Mark McKenzie, owner of Landscape Architectural Services (LAS) in the East End, heralds a clear philosophy: Create spaces that are transformed through the use of aesthetic influences. McKenzie gained experience while working as a cruise director for six years (plus, he earned a Master of Science in Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning degree in 1976) before opening LAS in 1991, which provides services from design and consultation to project management. “I cater to a wide variety of clients, from ongoing years of landscape development to those seeking simple hourly advice on an as-needed basis,” says McKenzie, who also gives back to the community. “I volunteer as a judge for the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden competition and for the Community Design Center of Pittsburgh.” He’s also donated his services to two memorial gardens at The Good Grief Center and Forbes Hospice.

“I view my work as living art,” adds McKenzie. He explains that his landscaping and hardscaping approach is long-term. “Not crowding plants creates a landscape legacy for my clients.”

Pro Toolbox
Mark McKenzie of Landscape Architectural Services offers tips on hardscaping and urban landscaping.

When preparing for hardscaping, it’s important to have the right type of material. I lean heavily toward classic and more traditional surfaces, such as stone, top rock, recycled architectural stone and brick. Stay clear of man-made concrete products — especially for walls. When it comes to concrete surfaces, it’s important to approve samples first because, once it’s poured, it is too late. Over-planting and crowding plants too close together results in a lack of light and air flow. This leads to nutrient and moisture competition, as well as excessive pruning. Choose plants that will mature within the space allotted. Avoid sheering; use hand-pruners instead. Property lines do not need to be reiterated with fences and lines of plants; consider the borrowed view and create a more interesting perimeter.

Landscape Architectural Services
East End

Rooted in Innovation

Providing a full range of services, from design to installation, Eisler Landscapes installs pools, pool houses, fire pits, outdoor kitchens, walkways, patios and (of course) landscaping beds and lawns.

“We have experienced contractors, landscape architects and horticulturists on staff to ensure the success of every project,” says Jen Deemer, graduate landscape architect, MLA, ASLA. “Once we’ve finished, it’s a good idea for homeowners to have a few tools on hand to keep their landscaping looking its best, including a good mower, trimmer and a variety of rakes.”

Pro Toolbox
Jen Deemer of Eisler Landscapes offers tips on how to pair plants — plus, advice on how to improve your yard this summer.

Creatively pairing plants can be a challenge. Here are a few key things to keep in mind:

» Think native. Native plants naturally live in complementary groups and are great sources of inspiration when you’re trying to match your plant choices with site conditions. Natural Landscaping: Designing with Native Plant Communities by John Diekelmann and Robert Schuster is a great resource and one that I refer to constantly.

» Think foliage first. If you choose plants by observing the foliage first, you’ll see that foliage comes in a wide variety of shapes, colors and textures, and it lasts much longer than flowers.

» Think about use. Planning your beds to peak at the time you are most using them is the best way to ensure that you get the most enjoyment out of them.

» Think color. It’s helpful to choose a color scheme for your landscaping, as it narrows down the seemingly endless array of choices (plus, it focuses your design); for example, you may plan a subtle blend of warm-colored daisy-type perennials for the summer, but start the season off with a loud mix of purple grape Hyacinth and perennial Yellow Alyssum.

The trick to summer landscaping months is water conservation. Make sure your plants are insulated from hot, dry days with a thick layer of bark or leaf mulch. Mulching potted plants with pebbles helps prevent soil compaction, retains moisture and keeps critters out. (Some municipalities offer cost-free leaf mulch to residents; is a great resource.)
Installing rain barrels can reduce runoff from your property and provide you with a free water source; they can be easily attached to drip lines for efficient watering, and adding a no-pressure timer can ensure that your plants are cared for even when you’re away.

Eisler Landscapes
1031 New Castle Road, Prospect

An Oasis of Tranquility

A full-service landscape and lighting company, McMurray Nursery offers design and build landscape services — including nursery stock and hardscapes, as well as more innovative, sustainable designs that aim to conserve water. Adding well-designed water displays and fountains to specialty lighting components can transform a traditional-looking lawn into an extraordinary landscape.

“Fountains offer a kinetic element to your garden,” says Paul Hauber, company owner. McMurray Nursery specializes in one-of-a-kind evergreens, large deciduous trees, creative boulderscapes and privacy solutions. Hauber points out that there are extensive choices currently available in hardscapes — like adding lighting to the walls and stairs, which ups the level of safety and adds to a soft, tranquil appearance.   

“At McMurray Nursery, we customize each landscaping project based on several important factors,” explains Hauber. “The most important is listening to our customers. We strive to maximize the usefulness for them while creating added beauty to the outside of their home.”

Pro Toolbox
Paul Hauber of McMurray Nursery offers tips on selecting fountain accessories and (somewhat) effortlessly increasing privacy.

The soft sound of a fountain can help mask other noise while creating a Zen-like environment. We offer a variety of fountains, including handmade stone fountains from Bali, granite fountains that can withstand any weather conditions and ceramic fountains in vibrant colors.

Neighbors often try to create some privacy between their homes, which can be tricky. Privacy is best achieved when it looks effortless and beautiful. Drought-tolerant, native plants like evergreen Spruce help since they still look beautiful in fall. We mix height as well as texture to create a layered, lush effect; tall, narrow trees, such as the Armstrong Maple, can be added to the bed and not grow too much. Our area’s varied topography demands that we fit our privacy planting beds, stairs and decks into tight spaces while still achieving the ideal look.

McMurray Nursery
211 Thompsonville Road, McMurray

Paradise Found

“I design the perfect landscape, one backyard at a time,” says Kevin Soergel, owner of Soergel Landscapes, Aquascapes and Florascapes. The Pine Township company offers two levels of landscape design: the Sketch Plan — consisting of a preliminary consultation, a meeting to determine the size of the project, presentation of three design sketches, selecting features for a final design and a preliminary budget discussion — and the Simplified Design Consultation, which is reserved for simpler projects (such as adding a small pond). Some of the garden paradises Soergel designs include water features (ponds and streams), landscape plantings (garden setting and curb appeal), flower gardens (and culinary gardens), and gathering places like patios and decks.

Pro Toolbox
Kevin Soergel of Soergel Landscapes, Aquascapes and Florascapes gives advice on summer landscape and green design.

When landscaping for summer, plant dry-loving flowers and shrubs early. Hot, dry months are better for stonework, hardscapes, decks, patios and pond projects. Try to plant in the spring and fall, and always start with a design before you start buying and digging.

If a homeowner wants a green landscape design, we provide low- maintenance, water- and energy-wise landscapes. Along with native plantings, mulchless flowering ground coverings, we also create patios, outdoor kitchens and living rooms, fireplaces, entertainment systems, and low-energy LED landscape lighting.

Soergel Landscapes,
Aquascapes and Florascapes
11009 Babcock Blvd., Gibsonia

Out is In

Create space for al-fresco living with great lounging combinations.
Give your patio or deck a retreat-like atmosphere by saturating it with brightly upholstered, contemporary fabrics and furnishings. Bring the inside out with the texture of your own living room as inspiration for your fabric selection. “Outdoor fabrics have become as sophisticated as interior collections, so there isn’t any excuse for not personalizing your outdoor area,” says Megan Murphy, co-owner of Hearth & Home Furnishings. “Furnishings for outdoor living should be a reflection of your personal style.”

Pro Toolbox
Megan Murphy of Hearth & Home offers five tips to those interested in buying outdoor furniture:

Comfort is key
So don’t cut corners with poorly designed cushions.

Mix and match materials
Cast aluminum can work well with woven wicker designs.

Get creative with toss pillows
They add flair to a basic sofa or chair without breaking the bank.

Patio furniture
While imported patio furniture looks nice, it usually doesn’t last. Plus, broken welds and peeling paint are two major indications of poor materials.

Plan ahead
Most furniture takes about six weeks to order. Don’t settle for something that’s in stock just so you can have it — remember that you’ll be enjoying this furniture for many years to come.

>> Set the scene for a contemporary look with this sectional loveseat ($2,328), armchair ($1,208), armless chair ($1,098 each), cocktail table with faux granite top ($1,018), and end table with fire element and faux granite top ($1,350). All from Airo II by Homecrest. Available at Hearth & Home Furnishings,
300 N. Main St.,
Zelienople; 724/452-6732,

>> Infuse sleek style with this corner section and one-seat section sofa combination in an earthy brown and beige ($588) by APPLARO. Available at IKEA, 2001 Park Manor Blvd., Robinson Township; 412/747-0747,

Categories: HOME + Design