Color is the candy of life. Without splashes of color, our world would become tasteless and much of the sensory enjoyment we derive from our surroundings would cease. Colors season our world with delicious excitement and beauty, both indoors and outdoors.
That is why it is so important to consider the many shades and hues of plants, trees and even outdoor furnishings when planning our yards. Making sure that, as much as possible, there are ever-changing splashes of color outside our homes during each season and also ensuring that those colors complement each other is key to making a splash with our landscapes.
Get Your Summer OnFor five Sundays, the Home & Garden section will feature great ideas to get your outdoor space in shape. Here's the lineup:
May 4: Many shades of color
May 11: Room to grow food
May 18: Fire up the grill
May 25: The right equipment
June 1: What homeowners want and need
Hard to believe, but summer will arrive. (We promise!) That means it's time for our backyard makeover contest.
For the third year, Daily Herald readers submitted photos with essays telling us why they needed to get their patios and yards in shape as part of our "Get Your Summer On" series and contest.
The responses this year had a, well, they had a desperate tone to them. After being cooped up for the last several months because of the winter that would never end, we know how much you want to spend some time outdoors. And you need an attractive backyard to do that.
A panel of experts selected 15 backyards, which will be featured for the next five weeks in Home & Garden, along with transformation ideas from our contest sponsors to fit various tastes and budgets. All 15 of the finalists will receive a $50 gift certificate from Northwest Metalcraft.
In the end, four winners will receive backyard improvement packages ranging in value from $1,000 to $5,000 each, consisting of donations from a variety of our sponsors. The winning entries will be featured June 15. Check online for more photos and ideas from our contest sponsors -- everything from patio furniture and grills to outdoor lighting, patios and landscaping. Go to dailyherald.com/summer.
Check each week to see if your yard was selected. Even if your yard wasn't picked this year, we know you will get lots of ideas on how to spruce up your outdoor living space.
In addition, make sure to check out our Food section starting on Wednesday for advice and tips on how to give that grill of yours a workout.
Our five-week grilling university offers recipes and advice on cooking everything from burgers to pizza to grilled side dishes, as well as tips on the drinks to serve your guests.
Hey, the weather is finally warming up. It's time to get your summer on!
Jean Bragdon, operations manager at Lurvey's Garden Center, 2550 E. Dempster St., Des Plaines advocates the use of evergreens and colorful perennials in garden beds, interspersed with annuals, which bloom from spring to fall.
"Bright, bold colors, like tangerine, purple and bright greens, are hot this year. They are more popular than pastels right now," she said. "But you can do whatever you want and we also suggest planting bulbs that will come up early in the spring and using colorful garden art like gazing balls and bird baths to make a yard look instantly bright and cheery."
Bragdon also loves to see portable gardening containers of various sizes, filled with annuals and set out on decks, porches and patios.
"They enhance what you have and make your landscape instantly look alive. Buy a pre-made hanging basket and cut the wires off if you want to use what someone else already put together, or pick the flowers and put them together yourself. We usually say that you want a thriller (a tall, upright plant), a spiller (a plant that cascades over the side) and a colorful filler."
Colorful resin Adirondack-style chairs, as well as deep-seating sectionals and other seating with colorful cushions, also add splashes of color to local yards. The Adirondack chairs, which are comfortable without cushions and come in more than 15 different colors, are particularly popular around fire pits and along front porches, according to Dan Mayer, owner of Northwest Metalcraft, 413 S. Arlington Heights Road, Arlington Heights.
"We are also seeing a trend toward more lounging furniture. People are still dining outside, but they also want to sit out there and kick back and relax in their free time on round or L-shaped sectionals and while the wicker or aluminum frames are still mostly brown, black, gray or beige, the cushions being chosen are generally colorful," Mayer explained.
"People are entertaining more at home so they don't have to drive anyplace and they want their yards to look nice. They want to live the whole outdoor lifestyle, even in this climate. It really adds to their living space. So, it is amazing how much money people are putting into their outsides these days," he added.
Colorful free-standing umbrellas that swivel 360 degrees and come in different shapes are also dotting yards around the area. Most people today seem to choose solids instead of patterns, stripes or florals, according to Mayer, and the umbrellas are so large that they cover much more furniture than the smaller ones we remember from yesteryear.
"But this isn't Florida, so you don't see as many homeowners choosing bright colors as you would find down there. Most people in this area are still pretty conservative. They try to have their umbrellas blend in, using beiges and browns. But you do see primary colors every now and then," Mayer acknowledged.
Those gorgeous colors should not just fade away when the sun goes down, however.
If you choose your exterior lighting carefully, those beautiful colors in your gardens and on your patios and decks can continue to enhance your home after dark, according to Thomas Reindl Jr., commercial lighting manager for NorthWest Lighting and Accents at 600 E. Rand Road, Mount Prospect and at 2414 W. Route 120, McHenry.
There is much more to selecting landscape lighting than just going to the store and buying something that looks nice, Reindl said. You need to have a professional who understands the intricacies of lighting consult each fixture's specifications to see where it falls on the color rendering index in order to correctly light up your landscape's unique attributes.
On a scale of 1-100 percent, you want the lights you choose to fall in the mid-80s to 90s if you want the lights to correctly illuminate your home and landscaping. Unfortunately, those ratings do not appear on the boxes of most outdoor lights. They can only be found in the fine print of the online specifications or by making a phone call to customer support for the manufacturer.
Hence, it is important to consult a knowledgeable professional before you choose either a low-voltage halogen or an LED landscape lighting system.
"Without getting into too much detail, halogen bulbs are very biased toward reds, yellows and oranges and without adding colored lenses to the bulbs, they don't adequately light up blues, blacks, greens and purples. It is like when you have a hard time telling the difference between navy blue and black when you are standing under an incandescent bulb, but it is easy to tell the difference under a fluorescent bulb," Reindl explained.
Similarly, he said, LED bulbs are biased toward the blues, greens, purples and blacks. An amber lens needs to be added to an LED bulb if you want it to highlight red flowers, brick or natural stone.
"Red is the hardest color to illuminate with an LED bulb," Reindl said.
Despite their limitations, Reindl recommends the use of LED bulbs because they last much longer, use less energy and need smaller transformers and less wiring because they are so much more efficient.
"Because of those savings, we can now install an LED system within 10 to 20 percent of the cost of installing a low-voltage halogen system. So, it is starting to make sense for the average homeowner," he stated. "These systems also lend themselves very well to do-it-yourself projects. You can just plug the transformer into any outdoor outlet and it is easy to run the low voltage wires and since you don't need as much wiring, you don't have to spend hours trenching."
But, Reindl cautions, no matter what you do, do not purchase the inexpensive solar lights that you see in some big box stores. On that 1-100 scale, they average 65 and consequently, they tinge everything blue.
"Anything you light with them just dies under those lights," he stated.