Northfield, IL Residential Landscape Architects & Contractors

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Van Zelst can help transform the landscape you’ve only dreamed about into the landscape you come home to every day. For nearly 40 years, we’ve helped homeowners in Northfield and across the North Shore to spend less time working on their yards and more time enjoying them. And whether your yard needs a little bit of sprucing up or your outdoor space needs a complete makeover, our experienced landscape architects can help you make it happen.

Creating a Beautiful, Shade-Loving Garden in the Northfield Area

Imagine how nice it would be to entertain family and friends this summer on your spacious patio, enjoying the day long into the evening thanks to comfortable seating, an outdoor chef’s kitchen, great lighting and other thoughtful touches that make your outdoor space a true extension of your home. Think it’s only a dream? Think again.

Oftentimes, a client will connect with Van Zelst to work together on one specific project which will then lead to much larger project down the road. And this shade garden in the Northfield area was no exception. While the homeowners originally contacted Van Zelst to design and install a small garden planting project, over time our relationship expanded as we worked together with the family to imagine the possibilities for their heavily wooded property.

woodland shade garden with astilbe and hosta

Many homeowners with wooded, shady landscapes mistakenly believe that their landscape choices are limited, but the reality is that there are a variety of beautiful plants that thrive in low-sunlight environments. For this property, Van Zelst’s licensed architects, designers and horticulturalists worked together to create a plan that involved underplanting mature trees with vinca, ferns, broad-leafed hostas, spiky astilbe and sensational hydrangeas, in addition to other shade-friendly perennial plants.

By incorporating plants with a variety of different shapes and sizes and including bright bursts of vibrant pinks and purples with pops of stark white, all set against a verdant background of green foliage, the garden provides the family with a beautiful focal spot in their landscape that returns to grace their yard during the warmer months, year after year.

woodland shade garden with hosta and ferns

Non-flowering plants can create visual interest and impact as well, when used in smart ways. For example, in this section of the garden, Van Zelst selected a variety of green plants—from low ground cover with compact, oval leaves to towering hostas with their giant leaves reaching skyward—to create a natural barrier between the lawn and the walkway. Although the plants are all within the same color family, their differing heights, sizes, shapes, and textures create a beautiful, yet diverse collection. The scale of the plants, while tight along the pathway, becomes more open as you approach the patio, reflecting the increased openness of the patio space.

creeping jenny with hosta and fern

Looking to create a beautiful border in a low-sunlight area with plenty of mature trees, Van Zelst’s horticulturists recommended a bevy of hearty, shade-loving plants including Ostrich fern, fast-growing moneywort (also known as Creeping Jenny) and Coral Bells or heuchera. By selecting plants that grow at different rates and have different leaf shapes, textures and colors—as well as different plant heights—the Van Zelst team was able to create a striking garden area that will require less maintenance than a traditional flower bed.

Transforming Hardscapes and Addressing Drainage Issues

After working together on the shade garden, the homeowners tapped Van Zelst to help upgrade the home’s hardscape to better match the home’s updated landscape and exterior. Van Zelst designed and installed a new driveway, fully edged with tumbled concrete pavers. The team also added a mini-pool and fountain and extended an existing seatwall to encompass the area, using aged stone to mirror the existing weathered stone.

Additionally, throughout the landscape and the hardscape, Van Zelst engineers and architects proactively addressed the drainage issues that affect many homes in the Northfield area and across the North Shore, ensuring that water would be diverted away from the home. Once the lot was surveyed and problematic areas were identified, including low-lying areas at the rear of the property, our experienced crews performed extensive work to prevent and mitigate any potential stormwater or standing water problems.

bird fountain with mexican pebbles and large bed of impatiens

The addition of water elements are yet another way to add visual interest to a naturally shady garden, as they are not dependent on sunlight to be attractive and functional. One of several water features Van Zelst installed during this Northfield area project, the river rock bed adds both natural drainage and a beautiful, glossy sheen to this flower bed. Shade-loving impatiens fill the bed with bursts of color and a rustic duck fountain adds a whimsical detail to the area.

garden bird art with hosta in foreground

The homeowners wanted to create a pathway that invited visitors to further explore the home’s beautiful landscape. Flagstone steppers, partially bordered by deconstructed granite, create a peaceful, meandering footpath that welcomes family and visitors alike to further explore the garden. Oversized blue-green variegated hostas provide the perfect setting for the homeowners’ bronze crane garden art to call home. Colorful, spiky astilbe add pops of bold color.

butterfly garden sculpture with pink astilbe

Form meets function when this butterfly garden art piece also doubles as a bench. The fun-loving homeowners were keen to add touches of whimsy wherever possible and the Van Zelst team was excited to be a part of it. This lighthearted garden bench offers guests a comfortable yet beautiful spot to sit and enjoy the sounds, smells and views of the garden.

Transform Your Northfield Dream Landscape into Reality Today

Warmer days are right around the corner; will you be ready to make the most of the beautiful weather, enjoying every moment with your friends and family, or will you be saddled with a never-ending list of landscaping tasks that you meant to start on last season?

There’s no time like the present to get in touch with a Van Zelst landscape architect. Call or email us today to tell us more about your landscape, your lifestyle and the type of entertaining you like to do. We’ll tell you more about the way we work and will give you some ideas about the way we’d move forward with your projects.

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