Kansas City Landscaping and Lawn Care Ideas


Clean-up the Spring Garden – Cutting back the Ornamental Grasses

City Landscapes need to have Ornamental Grasses trimmed back once per year!


Ornamental grasses are a favorite in City’s Landscapes…and for good reason.  They provide beauty throughout the year with relatively little maintenance.  The one "chore” required in order to keep them looking their best is that they need to be cut back each so that the new growth can grow and the old stuff can be composted.  If you leave the old leaves and stems – The grasses will still grow and the old leaves will slowly fall off and spread themselves around your yard!

This video shows a few hints when you are cutting down the grasses in your yard.





There are a few things I wish I would have shown more clearly on the video.  First – what the grasses looked like once they were cut down.  I like to cut them about 6” off the ground.    They should look like this.




Any other questions – let me know how I can help.

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Top 10 Kansas City Landscape Plants

1. Allegheny Viburnum (Viburnum rhytidophylloides ‘Allegheny’)Viburnum-x-'Alleghany'

This plant works great when you need a large shrub to add structure to the back of a bed or as a screen in the back yard.  it is not tidy enough to be used as a specimen plant or in any highlighted position With care it can grow to 12 feet tall in less than 5 years.  I have several planted as a screen against a shed in my backyard and I have pushed them hard – but they are over 15 feet tall in just 5 years. 

The shrub has thick 6” leaves that are thickly textured and beautifully colored.    It has a surprising delicate white flower that persists for Most of May and then ripen into bright red fruits by October.  I call it semi-evergreen because about 1/2 the leaves stay attached for most of the Winter.

This is one of my favorite and I recently used it in a  very fun project that turned out very well (despite the quality of the photographs).  These will grow beautiful and provide the perfect screen for this deck and offers an alternative to the overused juniper and arborvitae.  

Kansas City Landscape planting of Viburnum 


2. Sweetbay Magnolia (Magnolia virginiana)

Sweet Bay Magnolia in Kansas City

Magnolias often come and go as peoples favorite .  However, this one has and always will be my  favorite for planting in City landscapes.  It is better suited than many for our zone and grows luxuriously well.  My favorite form is when it is grown as a multi-stemmed shrub.  It has a striking upward growing habit that gives it a strong architectural presence and lends itself well to be a focal plant in landscape planting. 

I have two of these planted as pillars on the front corners of my house.  They have performed very well for about 4 years now and have grown taller than the roof of my raised ranch. 





3. Hardy Banana  ‘Musa Basjoo.

The Hardy Banana plant is a plant that grows VERY well in City.  I have had them growing at my house for going on 4 years and a customer has had them successfully growing for over 8 years. 

These pictures show them growing in my yard in early .  By September they had pushed leaves higher than the roof of the porch you can see there.  That is approx 18 feet high. 

Musa Basjoo in Kansas City P7090106 Phone 036


Although these look very tropical they are easily grown  even in our unpredictable KC winters.   They will die back to the ground in the winter and begin to grow again in the .  The more protection you give them the bigger they will get the following year because you will protect more of the plant – giving it a head start on next years growth. I try to protect several of the biggest so they will grow as large as possible the following .  I protect them by building 4’ tall  cages around them and filling them with leaves.  This si the secret to really big .  However, even unprotected will reach 10’  

Another bonus – they reproduce madly.   You will easily triple your number of every year as new pups sprout around the base of the mother plant.


4. Walker’s Low Catmint (Nepeta x faassenii)walkers low catmint 2

I would choose this plant as one of my all time favorite perennials to use as a llandscaper.  Not because of how showy it it or how rare it is  or for any ONE attribute.  Rather,  because it has so many very good uses and it has never let me down.

This plant has small bluish green leaves that are highly fragrant leaves that smells like mint.  The plant grows in a mound about 1 foot high and 2 feet across.  however after its first season in the bed you will not be able to tell its shape because it will have spread through runners and be taking up much more space than that.  In fact this may be the only time I would not use catmint – is if you need it to stay perfectly contained because it is so hardy and likes to spread.  The flower begins blooming in June.  If about 3 weeks later you shear off the old blooms you can easily extend its blooming into late .  The blooms are a pale lavender and spread across the plant like a purple mist.

It was named Perennial of the Year in 2007 for its versatility and hardiness.

5. False Indigo (Baptisia australis)


I have been in love with this plant since the first time I saw it in full bloom when driving past a very neglected baptisia false indigo in the middle of .  Everything else in the had died including what looked like remnants of stella d’ oro’s and some poorly placed care-free roses.  I quickly took a mental note and the next time I was at my favorite nursery I bought a couple

I was not immediately impressed.  The plant just stood there for the entire season.  The next year it was about the same.  But, by the third year it had really taken off and is now one of the people always notice when they walk around and see that part of my .

Baptisia has since proved its worthiness in many designs and ahs often become a favorite plant to use in landscape designs.  It does have it quirks though.  Number one – it is a plant that you have to plant and leave it alone.  it does not transplant well once it is established in your bed because of it unique rooting structure (which is also responsible for its durability.  Secondly – I have found it is incredibly sensitive to any kind of sprays.  In my incessant meddling I am always trying things that will supercharge my . During one of these ‘experiments’ I was spraying a mixture of compost tea and iron on  few plant in my around the Baptisia – and it turned black over night – the entire plant.  The plant recovered fully – but it took a while.  I have since learned that any foliar spray will have varying degrees of the same effect.

6.  Little Henry Sweetspire (Itea Virginica)Henry's Garnett Sweetspire

This shrub is a great plant that fits into almost every city landscape in some part.  In order for a plant to become a favorite of mine, it has to be versatile, tough and at least interesting in sweetspire fall foliageall season.  Sweetspire does this.  It is deciduous shrub that can grow up to 5 foot tall in a roughly globular fashion.  There is a very similar variety call Little Henry’s Sweetspire that is nearly identical – but more compact.  This shrub has two times of the year that it is a knockout.  One time is in early June when it shows off its long beautiful blooms.   It is equally beautiful in the fall when the foliage turns into a striking shade of crimson…and…the leaves persist well into mid winter.  


7. Drift Roses (Rosa ‘Meijocos’)

drift rosesI will have to admit that although I hate to admit it I do love Knock Out Roses.  I was one of their first big proponents and had a bush that was kind of secretly handed to me before they were publicly being sold.  However, in the last 10 years they have become victims of their own success and are now way over planted and used in every subdivision entrance, every front yard bed and around every park sign.  Now I feel a little guilty when I  reach out for the knock-out rose once again for the customer that says they want low maintenance year-round color.  There just is not another plant that can match up in those situations – unless – you were looking for something smaller.

From the same breeders who gave us the knockout rose we now have the Drift rose.  This is essentially a groundcover rose (around 3 feet high) with all of the great benefits of the knockout rose, but in a  smaller package.  It blooms from early until the first frost, it is disease resistant, and it is extremely cold hardy. 

I find it works great to line a walkway with when you do not want the height offered by a knockout rose.  It can also work great planted at the edge of a rocky wall.



I am going to continue this list – so check back soon – or better yet sign-up here to get regular updates.

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Snow is good for Kansas City’s Lawns and Landscapes

City has had a record storm this week. Gary Lezak reports that most areas received between 10 and 14 inches in City. Although can be a hassle for traveling and moving around in, it is GREAT for .

Not only does the insulate the crowns from widely swinging temperature extremes, it also will add important winter moisture applied slowly and evenly.

You can even help your out with extra moisture by choosing where you toss the when shoveling your walks and driveways. By piling it on flower gardens and around you will be giving them extra moisture. However, if you used any kind of deicer or melting product, be very careful as concentrating these in one area could be harmful. Here is a great article on using deicers around your plants.

About the only time can be damaging is if it stays around for weeks and weeks without melting it can cause some disease issues. However, in City we rarely see stick around for longer than a week before it melts away.

So enjoy the and rest well knowing that your are well taken care of while you enjoy them from the outside.

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Landscape in Kansas City gets Wedding Make Over

One of the landscaping projects I am most excited about this year is the remaking of a new clients complete backyard in Brookside.  These clients called me in April, looking to have the work done by their wedding in May.  In order to get things done in time I knew we would have to work fast to be able to schedule, plan and get everything ready.  Right now, we are on track.

The Landscaping Plan

The plan was fairly simple and drawn out on the spot since we were going to have to move fast.  Essentially, we will be removing all the existing shrubs in the back since they were not part of a cohesive plan.  New beds would be created around the perimeter of the property and then new sod would be installed.



Here are the that we will be using in this landscaping project.



The Dirt

Dirt is quite a misnomer.  I don’t use dirt for many of my City Landscaping Projects.  This is 8 yards of pure compost.  Generated organically from a local yard waste recycling center.  It is the single most important thing to the the landscapes I plant not just surviving, but thriving.  This dirt will be spread out and tilled into all bed and new areas.

Kansas City Landscaping Compost Compost in Kansas City Landscape Project


The Removal

A lot of had to be removed before anything else could be accomplished.

Once all the shrubs were removed.  This is what it looked like as it filled my trailer! P5090347 There is a lot of plant material in that trailer !

Moving the Dirt

Here are progress shots as the

compost is trucked around to the back.  Because of the layout of this yard, the dirt could only be moved by wheelbarrow.  10,000 – 12,000 pounds of compost was used for this project.


P5100348 P5100349 P5100350 P5100351 P5100352

That was the stage 1 of the project.  Next, will be the more exciting part of preparing the beds and installing the .

Stay tuned :)

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Kansas City Landscaping sees Rash of Volcanoes

Its a purely human phenomenon – really. If you see a mistake repeated often enough then it becomes perceived not as a mistake, but as the way things should be done. This is being done in City Landscapes right now

This is the case with the dreaded Mulch Volcano. Mulch volcanoes are not a City landscaping phenomenon, they effect cities all over the US


Despite recent public campaigns by The Johnson County Extension Office and the City of , there are still instance found all over the city.

The above example was just yesterday ata very nice office park. I am sure that the manager of this office park paid good money to a “reputable” landscaping company to maintain their landscaping. However, what has now happened is that these have been forever weakened by this ignorant practice

When mulch is spread more than 2″ thick against the base of a tree several things happen — and none of the m are good. First, the mulch will hold moisture against the trunk pf the tree. This si dangerous because it encourages rotting and disease. It will also rot the bark away adding additional avenues for insects and disease to attack the flesh of the tree. Roots are also damaged by the moisture held in the mulch because they will grow upwards seeking this moisture. As they do they will begin to circle the trunk. These circling roots will eventually kill the tree byessentially strangling it.

How should be mulched then? should be mulched 2″ – 3″ thick (about one finger deep) and all mulch should be pulled away from the trunk of the tree truck 2 or 3 inches. Think doughnut instead of volcano. How big you want the mulch ring to be is up to you. Ideally — it should extend to the drip line of the tree — but that is not always practical or aesthetically the best choice. However, a good minimum is a 6′ diameter.

Here is what a tree looks like when you peel away the mulch volcano after several years. This particular was at a new customer in that I started working with this season. I did not pull the mulch away — it was done before he had moved in. You can see that this tree will NEVER be a beautiful specimen again and will likely die prematurely from earlier neglect.

Mulch volcanoo aftermath in Overland Park

Mulch volcanoo aftermath

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Kansas City Lawn and Landscape Watering Guidelines

City’s and Landscapes will benefit dramatically if you know how to properly water them. There is no other homeowner controlled aspect of caring for your more critical than proper . It is also the number one mistake I see City homeowners doing

It is essential to first understand what your want in an ideal world. Most of our and City will thrive on 1.5” of water per week. This can come from either rainfall or . Ideally 1.5 inches would be applied in one long and slow . However, in City, our clay based soils have a hard time absorbing more than ½ inch of water per hour before water begins to run off the surface so we have to water very slowly – hard for sprinklers to do – or water on multiple days in smaller amounts. Counter intuitively, we want these cycles to be on successive days, not spread evenly through out the week since our goal is to water deep into the ground and not to keep the surface moist.

Knowing how much water we need is the first step – the next step is knowing how to apply that water and for how long. Most homeowners will either be applying water by manual sprinklers or an automatic system. Both require you to know how much water is applied in a given amount of time by your system.

To measure the output of your sprinkler heads…

  1. Set a container with straight sides (I use a butter dish) in the middle of the sprinklers path. a Turn on the sprinkler and monitor the amount of water in the container.
  2. Turn off the sprinkler when the amount of water in the can has reached one inch (measure with a ruler – it can be deceiving)
  3. This is how much water that sprinkler system puts out in one hour.

Now, I know most of you will not take the time to accurately measure out your sprinklers output – despite its importance. So here are some rules of thumb for determining your sprinklers output. For automatic systems – spray heads (the ones that pop up and don’t move) typically need about 45 mins to put down 1” of water and rotors (the ones that sweep back and forth) need about 2 hours. So a generic program that I suggest for my customers is designed to put down 1.5” of water spread between 3 separate cycles. I set it so that the gets watered Monday, Tuesday and Friday. This is a good compromise of deeply but also making sure that the water does not run off.. I set zones with spray heads to come on for 30 mins and zones with rotors to come on for 60 mins. This is adjusted if the soil is unable to absorb this amount of water. Also, all should be done to supplement mother nature. If she gives us ½” of then you can reduce by that amount.

For those of us unlucky souls who do not have automatic it takes a much longer to water our . Most of the typical impact sprinklers used if set on full circle put out about 1/3 of an inch per hour. Since they water slower they can be left on longer. I usually suggest you water twice a week for 2 hours before moving the sprinkler. If you are only using the sprinkler in a half circle then you can cut that in half

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Watering Kansas City Landscapes

Quick, look out your window! Your Kansas City lawn is inhabited by exotic residents from faraway lands. They have come from all corners of the globe and they plan on staying. They will require you to take care of them. No use complaining, after all, you not only invited them, you planted them. If you are like most homeowners in City, you have a landscape full of exotic . Your bluegrass is from Europe, your beautiful Dogwood is from Japan, your lush impatiens can trace their roots back to Africa and even City’s favorite plant, the yew, can trace its lineage back to Ireland. Although all these can survive City’s heat and cold, they need supplemental to thrive. each plant can seem overwhelming, but with a little knowledge and a few tips you can have a beautiful, well-watered landscape.

By dividing your landscape into four categories, you will better able to manage your needs.


Your is one of the thirstiest parts of your landscape. Most require 1” of water per week. This can either come from rainfall or supplemental . The most important (and most often broken) rule of is to water deeply and infrequently. City’s most proud gardeners, with their spirits blinded by the glory of our lush , begin their religiously. Convincing themselves that if they can get their green enough now – they will stay green through the . Unfortunately, every ounce of excess water they throw on the grass in the early is deadly. If the soil in the is not allowed to dry between , the roots of the plant grow very shallow, encouraged by the ample water and warmth at the surface. However, City’s glorious is only the opening act to our reliable, but dastardly summers. Shallow roots are a death sentence to your . By only when the top 6” of soil have dried out, you will be dispensing some tough love that will result in your being able to survive the .

For systems in and other cities, you should be every as little as possible but as deep as possible.  I usually start by suggesting that homeowners try to water 3/4″ for each zone on two consecutive days.  So they will water on Monday and Tuesday and not again for the rest of the week.  This long deep and infrequent si the kept to healthy grass all long.  If you grass cannot quite make it through the whole week without looking wilted then you can give another 3/4 inch on Friday.  To get 3/4″ of water from an system usually requires atleast 40 minutes on rotors and 20 minutes on spray heads.  However, every sytem is differnt and you should ideally measure how long it takes for yuor sytem to apply that amount of water. Use a straight sided container placed out in the middle of the sprinklers zone and turn it on and let it run until it has fille dup with 3/4″ of water.  That is how long it will need to run.


and shrubs are often ignored when it comes to because of the perception that such a large plant must be able to pull water from deep down in the soil. However, most of a tree’s roots are in the top 3 feet of the soil. Although can and will survive in City, supplementing their water just few times through the year will reward you with increased growth, enhanced beauty and bolstered resistance to disease and stress. Typically, will need a little extra water in the middle of the winter and a couple times during the hottest part of the . for should be done by observation, not a schedule. When you see signs of stress such as wilted or dropping leaves, apply 3” of water to the area under the braches. This can be done with a well-adjusted impact sprinkler or a soaker hose. The method of application is not as important as making sure ample water is applied where and when the plant needs it.


Perennials have widely varying needs based on species and type. It is important to know the specifics for your when . These can generally be learned by talking to your favorite landscaper or nursery. However, there is still a guideline that will lead you to the healthiest and most beautiful flowers – water only as much as your need and not a drop more.


annuals is different than other types of . Annuals tend to be shallow-rooted and need ample to thrive. Annuals should be watered when they first show signs of stress. In the heat of the , may mean every day. If you water annuals from overhead, do so early in the day. this This allows the leaves to dry out preventing disease from hurting your .

Water is the most important gift you can give the exotic residents of your landscape. You will be rewarded with beautiful, healthy that can thrive year round in ’ foreign landscape.

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Kansas City Landscaping get ready for Heat

It is time for City to prepare for the heat.  forecasts are showing that City will soon be hitting 90 degrees for the first time this year.  This tends to be a  tipping point for the and landscapes.

You can help your landscaper and care service by taking care of your needs.

New or

Water new or when the top 3″ of the soil dries out completely.  Water the slowly and deeply allowing the entire root system to become soaked.  larger take more time.

This is very important.  You cannot give a time to water because every soil will absorb water at a different rate.  The goal is to water the entire root system and then let the entire roots ystem dry out just before adding new water.

should be water with 1″ of water per week.  This is best done with one long slow if your soil will absorb that much water.  Most City will do just fine with one long .  Depending on the type of sprinkler being used — This may require up to 1 hour of .  It is best to measure the water rather than guessing.  I use a straight sided margarine tub placed int he middle of the sprinklers path to tell.

is an essential part of maintaining your landscapes.   It does not have to be difficult but it does have to be consistent and done correctly.  If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment to this post and I would be happy o help you out.

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Kansas City Landscaper’s Favorite Plant — Cole’s Prostrate Hemlock

When I am designing a City landscape I try to use unusual in ordinary places and ordinary in unusual places.  This plant is one that tends to be on the unusual side.  I love how it adds instant age to a new landscape.  It is slow growing and has relatively few pest problems in City’s Landscapes.

I have found this plant is an excellent choice for may of my landscape designs when I am looking to add an interesting and hardy low growing plant.

Coles Prostrate Hemlock

Key Benefits
This evergreen spreads along the ground showing a unige and interesting mix of branches and needles. Adds age and character to anew .

Average Landscape Size
Slow grower to 1 ft. tall and 4’ wide.

Water Needs
Water regularly, when top 3 in. of soil is dry.

Sun Exposure
Full to part shade sun

Cold Hardiness
-30 to -20 F

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Kansas City Landscaping about to Freeze

Landscapes in City will soon be hitting the deep freeze.   Well, maybe not the deep freeze.  However even with temperatures reaching down into upper 20′s — it is important to have all the information necessary.

First of all this is not at all like the freeze of 2007 — although the dates are not that different.  The difference lies in the of March.  In 2007, City’s was unseasonably warm.  were a good 3 – 4 weeks ahead of normal development.  Last year I already had Iris blooms poking up in my yard.  This year, I barely have leaves coming through last falls leaves.  Freezing temperatures this weekend will only be a slight problem for and homeowners in City.

Different will need different amounts of care this weekend.

Read the rest of this entry »

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