2018 PPA of the Year

Allium ‘Millenium’ has been selected by the Perennial Plant Association membership as the organization’s 2018 Perennial Plant of the Year.  And yes, the spelling is correct: There is only one “n” in the cultivar name.

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The PPA’s Perennial Plant of the Year program began in 1990 to showcase a perennial that is a standout among its competitors.  In order to qualify for nomination, a plant must exhibit the following characteristics:

  • suitability for a wide range of climatic conditions
  • low maintenance requirements
  • relative pest and disease resistance
  • ready availability in the year of promotion
  • multiple seasons of ornamental interest

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This Allium is amazing! From the Onion Man, Mark McDonough, `Millennium’ is the result of several generations of deliberate hybridizing. A compact grower, it is clothed in glossy green, narrow, upright strap like leaves which, during late summer, are topped with loads of shimmering iridescent pink-purple, 2-inch-wide, balloon like flower heads. Fantastic on a small or large scale, `Millennium’ looks great spread throughout a planting of sedums, or planted in groups as a terrific edger, ground cover, or accent plant. Great companions include Calamintha, Caryopteris, Echinacea, Heuchera, Perovskia, Sedums, Solidago, and ornamental grasses such as Pennisetums, Panicums, dwarf Miscanthus, and Sporobolus.

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Spring Landscape Maintenance Tips

Yah!  Spring has finally arrived here in Southeast Michigan.  The grass is starting to green up, buds are swelling on trees and shrubs and perennials are popping out of the ground.  So how do you prepare your landscape for the upcoming season?  We hope these tips will help you out if you are doing these tasks yourself or looking to hire a landscape contractor.

Planting Beds

  • Blow, rake and/or physically clean out debris from your beds.  With large beds, decorative stone beds and/or beds with groundcovers usually the easiest way to clean out is with a powerful enough blower.  Dirt only beds might need the dirt physically turned over with a shovel or cultivator.  Shredded bark beds also need to be turned over and loosen the hard top surface.  Even if installing new bark if the old bark has crusted surface it needs to be broke.
  • Adding new mulch is a preference thing.  It should be done every or every-other year.  If budget and/or time is a constraint every-other year could be option, but recognizing that controlling weeds could be more difficult on the second season.  Just remember though, mulch depths should be about four inches.  On average, two inches a year decomposes.  So if you are on a bi-yearly schedule you will need to install more mulch.
  • Mulching around trees has become quite an issue over the last several years.  Mulch should NOT be applied above the flare of the trunk.  The root flare is the portion to the tree where the trunk widens at the base as it transitions to the root system. This flare occurs at the natural grade of the soil. It is of critical importance that this level be maintained.  So a mulch volcano should be avoided at all cost!

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  • Pre-emergent weed control can be added to beds to help prevent weed germination.  This will not control any weeds that are already rooted in the bed.  So, if there are still weeds leftover from the previous season, these should be pulled or sprayed with a post-emergent such as round up.  Careful application should be taken to avoid overspray onto desired plants.  One thing to consider is that some weeds will become resistant to pre-emergents if they are added every year to the planting beds.
  • If you do not have something (plastic, steel or aluminum edging or retaining walls) to separate the beds from the turf, a spade (or machine) cut bed edge defines the bed and puts the finishing touch on the landscape.  If adding mulch to the beds, using a spade to push back soil and old mulch from concrete/paver sidewalks and drives will help prevent new mulch from being washed onto the surface.

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  • Except for cold weather annuals (i.e. pansies, etc.), these types of plant material should not be planted until frost is not possible.  The rule of thumb is around Memorial Day (late May).  Alternatively, you can find out when the projected last frost date is in your area by checking with your local county extension office.

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Herbaceous Ornamental Plants (perennials, ornamental grasses and ground covers)

  • If mulch was heavily applied over the root system for the cold season, this should be carefully pulled back.
  • If (non evergreen) perennials and ornamental grasses were not cut back in the fall, they should be done before new growth shows.  For some plant material such as daylilies and hostas, it might just take a hand to pull it from the ground.  Some other  species, such as peony and Black Eye Susan might need pruners to cut the stalks.  For ornamental grass, we use powered or hand hedgers to cut as low as possible.

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  • Most groundcovers will just need a good raking over to pull out any dead branches, leaves and debris.
  • Spring flowering bulbs should be left alone until the leaves are yellow.  Then at that time they can be removed and a bulb fertilizer is usually recommended.
  • Vines (such as clematis) should have dead branches pruned off.
  • New plants can be installed as long as there is no chance for a heavy freeze.  Here in Southeast Michigan we are pretty much in the clear of that danger.

Shrubs

  • If physical winter protection was installed in the fall, this should be removed immediately.
  • Dead branches should be removed in most cases.  Sometimes certain evergreens will have brown leaves from winter damage, do NOT remove these yet.  Many times these branches will produce new leaves/needles.  The smartest way to check is to prune at the tip of a branch in search of green cambium.  If brown, continue cutting back until green or you reach an intersection.
  • All new type landscape roses (Carpet, Knock Out, Oso Easy, etc.) should be cut back six to twelve inches from the ground.  This will promote a thick and healthy plant.
  • Hydrangeas should not be cut back in the Spring as they have produced many if not all of their flower buds in the previous fall.  Arborscens or Smooth (Annabelle, Incrediball, etc) and paniculata or Hardy (Limelight, Quickfire, etc.) Hydrangeas flower on new wood, so you can get by pruning lightly, but to control size major pruning should take place in fall or early winter.  Macrophylla or Bigleaf and quercifolia or Oakleaf Hydrangea  flower on old wood so no pruning should be done unless the branch is dead.  Then pruning back to the next live bud might be necessary because of winter damage.   To control size, major pruning should be done in June or July.

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  • Most shrubs should not need any fertilizer in the Spring.  If needed, this should be done in the late fall.  The one exception could be acid loving plants.  On rhododendrons, azaleas, etc.   Thoms Bros. uses a product out of Westcroft Gardens called Greenleaf Compound.  We apply it to flowering plants in spring before they bloom, right after they bloom and again one more time in the fall.

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Turf

  • Debris (leaves, branches, etc.) should be removed as soon as possible from your lawn.
  • If the lawn was left long in the fall, cutting would be recommended.
  • Any bare spots that were killed by winter or from the previous season, can be raked and seeded.  A seeding mulch is usually recommended.  Pre-emergent (crab grass control) should be avoided in these locations as they will prevent seed from germinating.  Adding some soil to the areas might help as well.
  • A pre-emergent weed control should already have been or quickly applied to prevent crab grass from germinating.  A light fertilizer can also be done at this point but usually is not needed if a heavy late fall fertilizer application was completed the year before.
  • Pink or gray snow mold should also be raked off the lawn and seeded.  A fungicide is not recommended as the disease has already did its damage.
  • Aeration of the lawn is recommended for turf that has heavy soil (clay) and/or heavy traffic.  Grass needs water and air in order to grow. When soil is compacted, water and air do not get to the grass. Aeration involves poking holes in the soil with an aerator, by which water and air can better circulate and stimulate growth.   Aeration should take place in the early Fall as to prevent undesired weed germination but can be done in May when ground is warm enough but drought isn’t a problem.

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  • Overseeding/slit seeding is the practice of spreading grass seed over an existing lawn.  This can either be done by hand/spreader or using a machine that actually slits into the existing turf/soil. The obvious need to overseed is when your grass is thin.  But keeping your lawn young by overseeding every so many years will keep it fresh and thick.  Be aware though, turf can be thin because of too much shade and root competition from trees.  Even though there is some shade “tolerate” turf species, no grass likes deep shade.  Overseeding would only be a temporary fix.  If a lawn is really in rough condition, it can be overseeding in the same time frame as aeration..May.  But the best time of season is late summer/early fall.

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  • Irrigation should not be needed for at least another month.  When we get our first full week of no precipation is when you should consider turning on the sprinkler system.  Please do not let your irrigation contractor start up and program your system and leave it like that for the season.  if you do not have a weather and/or web based irrigation controller, you should adjust the amount of water your system puts done based on the season and weather patterns.

Brick Paved Driveways

 

They are too expensive to install……are they?  Those little bricks do not hold up to heavy vehicles……they can’t?  They are too rough to clear snow from…..they are?  These are the things that most people think when a brick paved driveway is mentioned.  In 2016, Unilock did a research on driveways with 3282 homeowners in Ontario, Canada and the Midwest and East, United States.  While most driveways (86%) are made up of the tradition material (asphalt, concrete and gravel), the 5% brick paver driveway owners chose interlocking concrete pavement mostly because of their looks and the good investment. In this survey, when the asked the homeowner if they had to re-do the driveway again what would they do differently.  Most homeowners with paver driveways loved it and really wouldn’t change anything.  But on the other hand the decorative concrete owner was very dissatisfied with their driveway. 

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Now brick pavers are initially more expensive to install but installed right can last two or three times longer than concrete and ten to twenty times longer than an asphalt driveway.  Plus, most people do not take into effect the extra benefit of curb appeal.  Not only will your home be satisfying to look at from the street and frankly from inside your house, but when you sell your home you will sell it faster and for more money.   To help bare this cost, Unilock is offering a rebate for residential driveways.  Option 1 is a driveway sized between 600 and 999 square feet.  Unilock will write you a check for $300 for any Unilock driveway-approved paving stone.  Option 2 is for a 1000 square foot plus using any of Unilock’s driveway-approved paving stones.  Unilock will write you a check for $600.

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Many people have the concern of brick pavers stability.  Installed right, brick pavers can handle the toughest situation.  The Port of Oakland, CA with 5 million sf of interlocking concrete pavement receive wheel loads as much as ten times higher than over-the-road trucks.  Unilock Michigan’s own yard is entirely made out of brick pavers.  If semi trucks and forklifts moving thousands of pallets of bricks a year can hold up, then your driveway made out of brick pavers can handle your car.  If you have seen a neighbor or family member’s brick paved sidewalk and/or patio fall apart, this is because it was installed improperly.  Common installation failures include: not enough and/or the right base material, failed edge restraints, and improper subsoil preparation.   To give you a proper product, you site would be evaluated for its soil, moisture, and use.  This information would be used to design the driveway with the proper amount of base, DriveGrid System, geotextile, and edge restraint.  Than your driveway would be installed by our Certified Concrete Paver Installers (CCPI).  To show you our confidence in our product, Thoms Bros. offers a lifetime guaranty on our brick paver installation work.

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The last concern of snow clearing of snow removal is easily handled by using the right equipment.  If you have your driveway cleared by a snow contractor with a truck or other heavy equipment plow, having him use a rubber edge will prevent any damage.  Snow blowers and plastic shovels are usually not an issue unless a heavily textured product, such as Unilock’s Courtstone is used.  In this case, it is suggested that a heating system, such as Warmzone be installed.

 

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To learn more about brick pavers please visit our page, Unilock, and ICPI.

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Proven Winners Hydrangea Shrubs

I have loved using the Proven Winners Shrubs in my designs for several years now.  I love hydrangeas, and the more choices I have the better.  Smooth Hydrangeas (arborescens), such as Annabelle and Incrediball, are great for their hardiness and long blooming time.  Bigleaf Hydrangeas (macrophylla), such as Endless Summer and the Let’s Dance series, offer a greater range of color but their flowers are more susceptible to winter damage since they flower on new wood.  The Oakleaf Hydrangeas (quercifolia) have more of a natural/wild look to them.  But, my favorite of all are the Hardy or Mophead Hydrangeas (paniculata).  What can beat Limelight and Quickfire shrubs of beauty?  The only problem……is that these plants are much to large for many landscapes.  The answer……the team at Spring Meadows Nursery coming out with some GREAT varieties over the last few years.  I had the chance several years ago to visit the owners home trial gardens with many of these plants  were being tested before they hit the market.

Here are the latest.  They are hardy (to USDA Zone 3). They bloom every year – even after bad winters. The flowers open white and then turn pink-red. Little Quick Fire® is both compact and early to bloom, while Fire Light® is a larger plant that shines later in the season. That means that you should plant both of them! Why not make the hydrangea season as long as possible?

Fire Light® is the new standard to measure all hardy hydrangeas. Upright panicles are packed with florets which transform from pure white to rich pomegranate-pink. Its thick, sturdy stems hold up the beautiful flowers so they are prominently displayed in the garden.

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Dwarf Quick Fire hydrangea!

It has the same early bloom time as the original Quick Fire, but this dwarf plant is about one third the size. The flowers quickly age to a deep burgundy red before other varieties even start to bloom. The compact habit makes it a great choice for smaller landscapes and container gardens.

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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.

SEMNLA Board

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.