Blue Spruce Problems

Colorado Blue Spruce (Picea pungens) is one of the most recognizable and widely planted conifers in Michigan landscape.   Unfortunately, blue spruces have been encountering some seriously health-threatening problems in recent years.   Most of the problems are from disease are killing branches and eventually the entire tree.  Industry experts are calling this “Spruce Decline”.   This epidemic has caused many to believe that the blue spruce will become extinct. 

There are a variety of factors that may contribute to Spruce Decline.  It is believed that there are two reasons for this problem.  First, we have overplanted blue spruce, just as we do with most popular plants.  Do you remember the Dutch Elm Disease and the very recent Emerald Ash Borer?  Overplanting often leads to buildup disease and pests with so much food and survival potential for these causal factors.  Second, we have taken a tree that is “native” to the slopes (well drained, perhaps even droughty, nutrient poor) of the Rocky Mountains to clayish, poorly drained soils of Michigan.  Other species of spruce (Norway, white, black, Serbian, etc.) may contract some of these problems as well…even though they are generally not nearly as seriously affected as blue spruce.   Here at Thoms Bros. we are not recommending to plant Colorado Spruce, but use Norway and other Spruces more than not. 

The biggest problem of this “Decline” are the Canker Diseases.  Caused by fungi, the most common are Phomopsis, Cytospora and Diplodia.  But other issues include Needlecast Disease, Pitch Mass Borer, Cooley Spruce Gall and Cultural/Environmental Problems. 

Managing these issues is very complex.  The biggest solution is to not overplant and when planting to allow adequate spacing to allow air movement.  Using several varieties of spruce , pine, and fir on a jobsite would protect you from a larger problem.  Pesticides can definitely be used to control the disease and pest problems, but the key to solution is recognizing the problem early enough.  Many clients come to us after the plants have declined to much and are beyond salvageable.  If you have Blue Spruces on your property, have our Arborculturist (from our key partner, GreenTrees) put you on a program.

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June is National Rose Month (Part I)

In 1986 President Reagan signed a resolution making the rose the national floral emblem of the United States. What a good choice! Roses can be grown in all 50 states and are one of the most versatile and rewarding of plants.  There are basically four types of rose: landscape roses, those bred for cutting (like what you enjoy on Valentine’s Day), miniature roses and rugosa roses for people with larger properties.  Unless we have a client who is heavily into gardening or has their own gardener, we typically deal with landscape roses.  Landscape roses continuously bloom and are typically disease-resistant. 

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A line from a state of Michigan plant producer, Spring Meadow Nursery, the Proven Winners Oso Easy Rose comes in color variations ranging from pink, red, yellow and orange. Touted as being “so easy” to grow, the roses in the Oso Easy series are becoming known for being disease resistant and not susceptible to black spot or powdery mildew.  In the past few years growing Oso Easy’s in our landscapes we have had no issues with disease.  These roses are self-cleaning and require little to no pruning.  As with any other rose the Oso’s are best grown in full sun and benefit from good air circulation.  They prefer well drained and slightly acidic soil with medium moisture. The American Rose Society (ARS) announced at the 2015 National Conference that Proven Winners® received the Award of Excellence for Oso Easy® Lemon Zest rose. To receive the Award of Excellence, a rose must prove its mettle in six different no-spray trial locations across the United States. This is the second Proven Winners rose to win this prestigious award; Oso Happy® Petit Pink rose received the Award of Excellence in 2012.

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Spring Meadows June 12 Plant of the Week is Oso Easy® Mango Salsa.  This Proven Winners variety grows 2-3′ tall and wide and is hardy to USDA Zone 4. It will do best in full sun and is very disease-resistant and will not need spraying to keep its foliage nice and clean. It will bloom continuously all summer and into fall.

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Here’s a rose for dad. Oso Easy® Urban Legend™ is a real tough guy, a badass, take-no-prisoners rose with intense red flowers accented by bright yellow stamens. The flowers are brilliant, but the thorns really stick out.

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They are many other varities in this lineup including Candy Oh! (candy apple red), Smoothie (hot pink), Livin’ La Vida (flamingo pink), Cherry Pie (red w/yellow stamens), Double Red (bright red), Fragrant Spreader (light pink/white), Italian Ice (soft yellow w/pink margins), Paprika (reddish/orange), Peachy Cream (peach to cream), and Pink Cupcake (reddish new growth turning pink).  Check them out at www.springmeadownursery.com.

In our next articles, we will be talking about Knock Out, Carpet, Drift and the Home Run lines.

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New Fireplace Options

Fireplaces and pits have become very hot in the landscape trends.  People love to extend their seasons and stay out in the yard as long as possible before the snow falls.  Thoms Bros. is happy to announce two new products.  Both of the Rosetta Hardscape fireplaces and our StoneMakers fireplace come in kits cutting our labor time down and ultimately your cost.  Please consider these for your new landscape project or add into your current yard.

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Rosetta Hardscapes offer two lines of their precast fireplaces.  The Claremont is based on their Claremont retaining wall with same textures and colors.  These kits come with the firebox and chimney.

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Visit www.discoverrosetta.com to see more pictures.

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Rosetta Hardscapes’ beautiful Belvedere design replicates natural stone with stunning accuracy.  This product comes in there Slate Gray, Walnut, Auburn Ridge and Fond Du Lac colors.

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Part of our StoneMakers line, this fireplace gives you the look of real split faced fieldstone boulder but only at a fraction of the cost.  A real stone fireplace like this would cost $13,000+ but we can do this at a fraction of the cost.

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Optional wood burning or natural gas inserts.

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SEMNLA President Reign Comes to an End

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On January 26th, at the Great Lakes Trade Exposition (GLTE), Steven D. Thoms, CGIP, APLD, CLP handed over the gavel as President of the Southeast Michigan Nursery and Landscape Association (SEMNLA) to Pat Seibel of Four Star Greenhouse.

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SEMNLA Mission:  Serving the regional educational, professional and networking needs of Southeast Michigan’s nursery and landscape industry.

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SEMNLA’s current board pictures:  from left.

  • First Vice President, Courtney LaBuhn, Marine City Nursery
  • President, Pat Seibel, Four Star Greenhouse
  • Immediate Past President, Steven D. Thoms, Thoms Bros. Landscaping, Inc.
  • Director-at-Large, Hugh McGillivray, Landscape Supply Inc.
  • Second Vice President, Justin Ward, Unilock

 

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Michigan Nursery and Landscape Assoc. Century Award

On January 26, 2016 at the Great Lakes Trade Expo (GLTE), Scot F. Thoms and Steven D. Thoms received their Quarter-Century Club Award and Mike McCarrey received his 40-Year Club Award from the Michigan Nursery and Landscape Association (MNLA).

Each year, MNLA honors your colleagues who have worked in the industry for 25, 40, and 50 years or more. These designations are called the Quarter-Century, 40-Year, and Half-Century Clubs. The recipients of this honor are noted for contributions to the professional development and the growth of the industry, as well as their dedication and commitment.

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Before starting Thoms Bros., Scot F. Thoms had another landscape business in which he started in 1985 giving him 26 years in the industry.

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Steven D. Thoms, CGIP, APLD, CLP, Vice President and Chief Designer, started Thoms Bros. with President, Scot F. Thoms way back in 1991.

Steve Century Award

Michael P. McCarrey, Senior Project Manager, started with Thoms Bros. in early 2015.  Mike joined our team after a long and prestigious career in the green industry working for some of the areas most well know and respected companies.  He blessed us by filling the void after our longtime SPM, Roger Vandamme retired.  We look forward to another successful season with him running the installation crews.

Mike Century Award

The Michigan Nursery & Landscape Association (MNLA), established in 1922, is the largest and oldest statewide Green Industry trade association. MNLA Represents: A wide range of Michigan Green Industry businesses on legislative and regulatory issues, education and events, certification programs, marketing and promotion, and member-only money saving programs.
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Best of Houzz Service

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Thoms Bros. Landscaping, Inc. of Romeo, MI

Awarded Best Of Houzz 2016

Over 35 Million Monthly Unique Users Nominated Best Home Building, Remodeling and Design Professionals in North America and Around the World

January 14, 2016Thoms Bros. Landscaping, Inc. of Romeo, MI has won “Best Of Service” on Houzz®, the leading platform for home remodeling and design. The 25 year old Landscape Design, Build and Management Firm was chosen by the more than 35 million monthly unique users that comprise the Houzz community from among more than one million active home building, remodeling and design industry professionals.

The Best Of Houzz is awarded annually in three categories: Design, Customer Service and Photography. Design award winners’ work was the most popular among the more than 35 million monthly users on Houzz. Customer Service honors are based on several factors, including the number and quality of client reviews a professional received in 2015. Architecture and interior design photographers whose images were most popular are recognized with the Photography award. A “Best Of Houzz 2016” badge will appear on winners’ profiles, as a sign of  their commitment to excellence. These badges help homeowners identify popular and top-rated home professionals in every metro area on Houzz. 

“We are so excited to be chosen for this presitigous award.  We want to thank our clients for showing their faith in us.  We look forward to the future to serve more clients in the Southeast Michigan area with our landscape services”, says Steven D. Thoms, CGIP, APLD, CLP, Vice President and Chief Designer of Thoms Bros.


“Anyone building, remodeling or decorating looks to Houzz for the most talented and service-oriented professionals” said Liza Hausman, vice president of Industry Marketing for Houzz. “We’re so pleased to recognize Thoms Bros. Landscaping, Inc., voted one of our “Best Of Houzz” professionals by our enormous community of homeowners and design enthusiasts actively remodeling and decorating their homes.”

Follow Thoms Bros. Landscaping, Inc. on Houzz at http://www.houzz.com/pro/sthoms3355/thoms-bros-landscaping-inc

About Thoms Bros. Landscaping, Inc.

Since 1991, Thoms Bros. Landscaping, Inc. has grown steadily from a small maintenance company into a completely integrated landscaping firm: design, build, and management.  Thoms Bros. now services clients through all landscape processes; design, coordination of builder and architecture teams, construction implementation, management, and environmental care.  By combining the professional abilities of the owners, Scot F. Thoms and Steven D. Thoms with their highly trained team members, Thoms Bros. can deliver maximum value while meeting individual client needs and expectations.

About Houzz

Houzz is the leading platform for home remodeling and design, providing people with everything they need to improve their homes from start to finish – online or from a mobile device. From decorating a small room to building a custom home and everything in between, Houzz connects millions of homeowners, home design enthusiasts and home improvement professionals across the country and around the world. With the largest residential design database in the world and a vibrant community empowered by technology, Houzz is the easiest way for people to find inspiration, get advice, buy products and hire the professionals they need to help turn their ideas into reality. Headquartered in Palo Alto, CA, Houzz also has international offices in London, Berlin, Sydney, Moscow and Tokyo. Houzz and the Houzz logo are registered trademarks of Houzz Inc. worldwide. For more information, visit houzz.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maintaining Your New Sod

Wikipedia describes sod as grass and the part of the soil beneath it held together by the roots, or a piece of thin material.  The website goes on to say sod is typically used for lawns, golf courses, and sports stadiums around the world. In residential construction, it is sold to landscapers, home builders or home owners who use it to establish a lawn quickly and avoid soil erosion. Sod can be used to repair a small area of lawn,[1] golf course, or athletic field that has died. Sod is also effective in increasing cooling, improving air and water quality, and assisting in flood prevention by draining water.

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Sod is grown on specialist farms. For 2009, the United States Department of Agriculture reported 1,412 farms had 368,188 acres of sod in production.  Thoms Bros. purchases 80% of the sod used from http://www.kogelmannssodfarm.com/.

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It is usually grown locally (within 100 miles of the target market) to minimize both the cost of transport and also the risk of damage to the product. The farms that produce this grass may have many varieties of grass grown in one location to best suit the consumer’s use and preference of appearance.

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It is usually harvested 10 to 18 months after planting, depending on the growing climate. On the farm it undergoes fertilization, frequent watering, frequent mowing and subsequent vacuuming to remove the clippings. It is harvested using specialized equipment, precision cut to standardized sizes. Sod is typically harvested in small square slabs, rolled rectangles, or large 4-foot-wide (1.2 m) rolls.

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In Michigan, sod is grown on either a topsoil or peat base.  Thoms Bros. uses mostly topsoil based sod because it does much better on a clay based grade.  It will not dry out as quickly and will root much better.  Peat based sod is cheaper in price and weighs less, so installation is less intensive.  Peat sod is fine for a sand grade. 

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There are three types of sod grown locally.  The most prevalent is a Kentucky Bluegrass blend.  Premium Kentucky Bluegrass seed varieties will result in a high quality product that will resist disease and provide a deep green color.   Other types which are not typically used include a Fine Fescue/Bluegrass blend which is better suited for a shadier location and Bent Grass Sod which is used for golf course greens and tees.

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At Thoms Bros. we are committed to our client’s success, but we do not guarantee that it will not die if not watered properly.  We install high quality, fresh (cut same day) sod.  But sod is a perishable product and we do not accept responsibility for the care after we leave.

Sod should be watered promptly and thoroughly after installation.  If you have an irrigation system, our employees will turn on zones after the area has been completed.  Sod should not dry out until completely established.  You can check by lifting a corner to see the soil below is good and wet.  But do not over water as well.  The soil underneath should not be sopping wet.  As a rule of thumb for the first week or so, you should irrigate a minimum of once per day.  If the air is dry and/or temperatures are 80 degrees plus then twice a day is recommended.  If using an irrigation system, misting head zones  should be on from 10-20 minutes each day and spray head zones should be on 20-40 minutes each day.  The supplemental weeks the frequency can be turned down.  As always though, the best way to know is to pick up corner of sod. 

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First mowing is usually recommended about three weeks from initial installation.  The sod must be fully knitted down before mowing.  We highly recommend the first few mowing be done with a small (20″) walk behind mower.  Large commercial and riding mowers can very easily rip the sod out of place.  Optimum mowing height is 1 1/2 to 2 inches for a high quality lawn.  Mow regularly with a sharp rotary mower, allowing the clippings from frequent mowing to remain on the lawn.

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Fertilizing the new sod is not recommended for the first few weeks before the turf gets established.  Turf should be fertilized 4 to 6 times in a full growing season at a rate of 10 pounds per 1000 square feet.  The most important times are in late fall for good root growth and faster Spring green-up.

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Hydrangea

Hydrangeas are probably the most utilized and functional flowering shrub in Michigan.  There are many species, varieties in each species, and uses of this great plant.   Grown for their large flowerheads, with Hydrangea macrophylla being by far the most widely grown with over 600 named cultivars.  The six most common species used in Michigan landscapes include:

Hydrangea anomala – Climbing Hydrangea

Although slow to start, after a season or two to become established, climbing hydrangea gains considerable steam and becomes rather assertive, often putting on a foot or more of growth in a single season.  With root-like holdfasts and semi-twining habit, it will cling to either trees, bricks or fencing. (30-50′ tall)

Hydrangea arborescens – Smooth Hydrangea

This Hydrangea is a small- to medium sized deciduous shrub that is native to the eastern United States.  This shrub flowers on new wood……meaning you can prune back in late Fall or early Spring without fear of losing flower buds.

Annabelle Hydrangea - White round flower heads are erect.  2001 PA Gold Medal Award Winner.  Rarely to never fed on by Japanese beetles (3-6′ tall and wide)

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Incrediball Hydrangea  (A Proven Winners ColorChoice Plant) – Huge round flowers up to 12″ accross open green, then change to white before turning green again.  Sturdy stems hold the flowers upright. (4-5′ tall and wide)

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Invincibelle Spirit (A Proven Winners ColorChoice Plant) – The round pink ‘Annabelle’ hydrangea!  Dark pink buds open to hot pink flowers which mature to soft pink before turning green.  (3-4′ tall and wide)

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White Dome – A white lacecap flower (4′-6′ tall and wide)

Hydrangea macrophylla – Bigleaf Hydrangea

This Hydrangea is a small- to medium sized deciduous shrub that is native to China and Japan.  This shrub flowers on old wood……meaning you should only prune them when necessary immediately after flowering or you will lose flower buds.  This species’ flower color is highly affected by soil pH.  It is not the pH itself that changes the color, but the availability of aluminum ions.  Aluminum is more available in acid soils, so the flowers turn blue.  In alkaline soil, the aluminum is tied up and flowers will be pink.

Cityline Series (A Proven Winners ColorChoice Plant) – There are currently six cultivars in this series ranging from pinks and reds to blues and purples depending on pH.  These are very compact and disease resistant plants. (1-3′ tall and wide)

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Let’s Dance Series  (A Proven Winners ColorChoice Plant) – Even after a harsh winter these varities were selected for their exceptionally vibrant flower color and excellent hardiness.  (2-3′ tall and wide)

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Forever & Ever Series  (The Forever & Ever Brand) – Explode with color from late spring to early fall and are almost foolproof selections for even the novice gardener. Their ability to weather wintry conditions and still produce blooms each year means your garden will be gorgeous.

Endless Summer Collection - Includes “The Original”, Blushing Bride, Twist-n-Shout, and BloomStruck.  Endless Summer® Hydrangeas offer everything you are looking for in perennial flowering shrubs: beautiful full blooms, multiple hydrangea colors, low-maintenance care and versatility in planting and hydrangea arrangements. With the collection’s unique re-blooming quality, these hydrangeas will fill your garden with incredible blooms all summer long! (3-6′ tall and wide dependant on cultivar)

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Hydrangea paniculata – Hardy Hydrangea

This Hydrangea is a large size deciduous shrub that thrive throughout North America.  They are quite cold hardy, and also tolerate full sun, heat and drought better than bigleaf hydrangeas.  This species also flowers on new wood and has cone-shaped blooms.

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Limelight - Lime green flowers mature to pink and burgundy in fall.  (6-8′ tall and wide)

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Little Lamb – Compact variety whose tightly packed white florets dance above the foliage like little lambs. (4-6′ tall and wide)

Little Lime  (A Proven Winners ColorChoice Plant) – Dwarf form of the poplar ‘Limelight’ hydrangea, it has the same wonderful flowers in a smaller package (3-5′ tall and wide)

Pinky Winky (A Proven Winners ColorChoice Plant) – White flowers turn pink as they mature.  The panicles continue to grown and produce new white florets, resulting in a huge, bi-colored flower. (6-8′ tall and wide)

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Quick Fire (A Proven Winners ColorChoice Plant) – White flowers mature to pink.  Blooms about a month earlier than other varities, so you can enjoy several months of hydrangea flowers.

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Hydrangea quercifolia – Oakleaf Hydrangea

This Hydrangea is a large sized deciduous shrub that is native to the Southeastern United State, in woodland habitats from North Carolina west to Tennessee, and south to Florida and Louisiana.

Munchkin - Compact form and dense habit with white flowers. (3′ tall x 5′ wide)

Ruby Slippers – A lovely plant whose white summer flowers quickly turn pale pink, then deepen to rose.  (3′ tall x 5′ wide)

Snow Queen - Flowers become rose-pink in fall and leaves turn deep red-bronze.  Tan-brown exfoliating bark is attractive in winter. (6-8′ tall and wide)

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Hydrangea serrata – Mountain Hydrangea

This Hydrangea is a small- to medium sized deciduous shrub that is native to Korea and Japan.  This shrub flowers on old wood and the Soil pH affects the flower color in the same manner as it does with H. macrophylla. 

Tuff Stuff (A Proven Winners ColorChoice Plant) – A reblooming plant with reddish-pink lacecap flowers in early summer until frost. (2-3′ tall and wide)

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I personally love all hydrangeas, but careful selection should be made when choosing the right plant for the right location.  Hardiness, size and cultivation are the biggest factors.  Even though a certain color might be your desire, if a plant cannot perform at its best in a certain location than that certain color did you no good.  With the last two winters being very difficult here in Michigan, most macrophylla Hydrangea have not faired well.  Consider the other four shrub type species instead.

A Look Back – MNLA/MSU/APLD-MI Annual Landscape Design Tour 2014

by Steven D. Thoms, APLD, CLP, CGIP

What a crazy year 2014 was! It has gone from my worst year in business (2011) to my best year in business in three short years.  Talk about pent up demand!  The one thing bad about a prosperous year is that I wasn’t able to write like I was planning.

August 20, 2014 was the annual Michigan Nursery & Landscape Association (MNLA), Michigan State University (MSU) and Association of Professional Landscape Designers Michigan Chapter (APLD-MI) Landscape Design Tour. This past year’s tour took us to the Saginaw Valley area of Michigan.  And, it did not disappoint!  The tour included seven private home landscapes, a tour of Blue Thumb Distributing facilities, a bonus stop at the Dahlia Hill and ending up at Dow Gardens for a dinner reception.  This year’s event was sponsored by Michigan Horticulture Industries Worker’s Compensation Fund, Blue Thumb Distributing, Inc., and Unilock.

As difficult as it might seem to break away from work to attend tours and/or education events, it is much needed. Socializing with fellow landscapers and getting inspired by beautiful gardens definitely help me make it over the hump for the season.

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Our first stop was a less glorious landscape just on the outskirts of Saginaw Township, but was very educational. This site was not about what you saw but about planning and preparation of some difficult conditions.  This residence had bad drainage issues.  The designer talked about the permeable pavers, drainage around the pool and foundation of house, and all that was needed to make this property functional.  Sometimes as designers we want to avoid problems like this because it is not visual, but we do need to remember that our work needs to be functional as well.

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It always fascinates me to hear how people change their mind.  Our next stop was a koi/specimen plant lover’s dream.  The large house right next door to our first stop was sprinkled with specimen plants from Larix decidus ‘Pendula Prostrate Form’ to Ginkgo biloba ‘Pendula’ to everything in between.  But the real showcase of this landscape was the water features in the backyard.  The original backyard included a small pondless waterfall.  The client did NOT want fish or the upkeep of a pond.  After receiving a koi as a gift, the client did a 180 degree turn.  They wanted a koi pond and water gardener’s dream.

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This bog with its grandeur Lotus plants helps keep the main pond area clear.  This lower pond was five feet deep with minimal plants and rocks.  It housed the two dozen large exotic koi that the client had to grown to love like family.  She even had a tank in her basement to transition new fish into the pond and to also use as a hospital when a fish got sick.  Her favorite fish was black and yellow colored with the longest lashes.  It ate food out of her hand.

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From the sounds of it, I believe it was everyone’s favorite stop.

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Our next stop was definitely a plant collector’s garden.

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It included many great plants and a very intense water filtration system. The homeowners designed, installed and maintained their landscape themselves.  It had won several awards.

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We then stopped and had lunch at one of the tour’s sponsors, Blue Thumb Distributing. I was excited for this stop because they had just purchased a company that I had used on many jobs, Aqua Bella Designs.  It was great to see all their products, many in functional displays and to also hear about their business procedures.

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The next site was a charming historical home in Bay City. It was interesting hearing from the landscape architect on the whole landscape procedure of designing and satisfying the historical committee on this 100+ year old house.

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Our next three locations included tranquil water features, quaint gardens and lovely plant combinations.

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Our bonus site was Dahlia Hill in Midland. This highest point in Midland was started by artist Charles Breed, financially supported by private companies and foundations, and maintained by over fifty volunteers.

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The terraces were created by the use of 300 tons of Bay de noc Limestone from the upper peninsula.

With over 250 varieites in the 3,000 dahlia plants in this open-to-the public garden, it is a sight to see. To learn more, please visit http://www.dahliahill.org.

IMG_3130aThe evening ended with great food, drink and company at the restored barn at the wonderful 110 acre Dow Gardens in Midland.

Mitchell Thoms

Mitchell Thoms started working with Thoms Bros. at an early age 6 years ago.  His career in the Green Industry started out just as a “job” to make spending money.  His original goal after high school was to go into the biomedical field.  After several semesters, he decided to follow his passion and stay in the family business.  

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In the fall of 2012, Mitchell entered into the landscape horticulture program at Oakland Community College in Auburn Hills.  In the spring of 2014, he earned his Associates in Applied Science from O.C.C.  He plans on attending Walsh College in the future for his Bachelors in Business Administration.

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Mitchell’s talents and responsibilities at Thoms Bros are vast.  He leads shrub trimming and small landscape installation crews; operates excavators, skid loaders and other equipment; takes on a huge role with larger install crews on big jobs; and, is the lead person on Thoms Bros’ new venture, StoneMakers.

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Mitchell has been involved in several training events for StoneMakers; traveling to New Hampshire and Florida.  In the Winter of 2015, Mitchell earned is Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute (ICPI) Certification for Concrete Paver Installation.  His other goals include earning his Certified Green Industry Professional (from MNLA) and Landscape Industry Certified Technician (from PLANET) recognitions in the near future as well as attaining his CDL.

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Mixing in StoneMakers wall builder into truck

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Pouring concrete wall sign for Shelby Township