Trending Water Features
Water features have been a staple of landscape design since time immemorial, Roman fountains and the Hanging Gardens of Babylon are just a couple that come to mind, and have obviously evolved dramatically over time!
From large ponds teeming with aquatic plants, tiered water falls, to ornate fountains, the term “water feature” is subject only to the limits of one’s creativity, style and imagination.
Historically, most water features were nature-inspired, using existing streams and ponds as a base to work from. More recent “aquascapes” have tended towards large dig-outs for pond installations, with the self-contained water source using electrically powered pumps to recycle the water to a fountain or waterfall feature.
Who doesn’t love that soothing sound of bubbling water while relaxing outdoors?
Creative Options for Water Features
As with most things, changes come along with ever increasing frequency. The trend towards smaller outdoor living spaces and green technology have “trickled” down to the water feature level as well, with many new and creative options now available for landscaping:
- Solar powered pumps and installations are a great way to provide environmental benefits and free energy while eliminating electrical lines in the garden or yard
- Table-top water gardens or pot fountains are an excellent way to start small, as they can be moved around from spot to spot while still providing that pleasant splash of water sound on your deck or patio
- More intricate one of a kind garden fountains are available and can be easily integrated into existing landscaped areas, using elements (shape, texture, style, plants, etc.) that complement the garden itself
- More and more people are opting for natural looking backyard fountains that can be installed within a boulder, or other similar object, adding beauty and structure to any outdoor space
- Large “stand-alone” & in-ground ponds can be fitted with fountains or waterfalls as the focal point of your entire yard, with colourful plantings, fish and stonework designs best suited for the available space
- Retaining wall fountains – not all water features need to contain plants or fish and the dramatic sight & sound of water falling off of a landscape wall can be a fantastic choice
- Multi-level pond/waterfall designs can be an incredibly beautiful way to deal with a sloped yard, using flagstones, etc. as retention to create a more natural and pleasing setting.
Benefits of Water Features
Remember, a water feature may be indoor as well as outdoor, and can be of any size, from a table-top fountain to a large outdoor waterfall pond that requires an elaborate bridge to cross. The options are very diverse, with many benefits to the homeowner too, such as:
- Increased “curb appeal”
- Increased value in the home
- Pleasant sounds and a relaxing atmosphere
- An attraction for local wildlife
Please feel free to contact us if you are interested in installing or adding a water feature to your outdoor living space!
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What is Composite Decking?
Composite decking is a low-maintenance, high performance product, made from recycled materials that offers a no-fuss luxury deck.
Why Do We Prefer Composite Decking?
Decking options are plentiful these days, so it’s important to do your research before deciding on your decking material. Take a look at your life-style and think about what the primary use of the deck will be. Composite decking has many advantages when compared to traditional wood decks.
Advantages of Composite Decking:
- Deck boards last twice as long; with a lifespan of 25-30 years
- Most are fade, scratch & stain resistant
- Longer boards are available; means fewer joints
- Matching fascia, railings, balusters, treads and posts available
- Deck boards won’t warp, crack or split
- Mold & mildew resistant
- Termite resistant
- Splinter free
- Easy cleaning; only soap & water required
- Made from recycled materials
- Eco Friendly
- Available in a wide variety of colours
- Different price options available
- Increased fire resistance vs. traditional wood
Disadvantages of Composite Decking:
- Higher initial cost
- Special installation required
- Deck boards can become scuffed or stained by certain foods and oils
- Depending on the colour and location, it can become very hot on feet
- Issues with expansion and contraction have been reported
- Doesn’t really look like wood, although some boards do a better job at mimicking wood
Thinking Composite is Right for Your Next project?
Talk to Our Designers
A Brief History:
Decks became a luxury staple in homes over 50 years ago. They were typically constructed from pressure-treated lumber, cedar or redwood. Back then, theses decking materials came from 1st generation trees which produced denser lumber that was more resistant to rot and insects.
Eventually, 1st generation trees became scarce and modern trees were engineered to grow quickly in tree farms. However, engineered trees did not have the same density or resistant properties as 1st generation trees. Therefore, the lumber from 50 years ago lasted a lot longer than lumber from modern trees.
Almost 30 years ago man-made composite decking materials were invented due to the limited amount of durable natural wood choices.
In the early 1990’s, the first generation of composite decking materials were made from thermoplastics and recycled wood flour. The issues with these new decking products included sagging, crumbling, cracking, splitting and expansion/contraction of the deck boards.
The next generation of man-made decking materials were created about 10 years later without wood composites and consisted of plastic only. The first plastic deck boards were notorious for becoming brittle and sagging after being exposed to the elements. There were many positives to plastic decking and some of those sought after properties were that plastic decks were guaranteed not to fade, had minimal expansion/contraction rates, were hard to scratch and didn’t crack, and were resistant to mold and mildew.
In 2010, modern composites were again improved upon, this time being called capstock. Modern composite boards are a combination of environmentally friendly wood-plastic composite wrapped in a durable plastic product. Modern composites combine the durability and aesthetics of previous models, without the issues associated with those first products.
Composite decking is an excellent choice for all types of landscape projects and can be found in a wide range of colours, grain styles and price ranges!
Although wood and plastic composites were not perfect in the beginning, they’ve come a long way since their inception.
The Brand Names of Composite Decking:
– Jenna Monk
Professional Development, Ongoing Education and Continual Improvement for MPS in the Snow & Ice Management Industry
In order to remain a top snow & ice management provider in what has become a very competitive service industry, MPS Property Services continually strives to improve our clients’ experience through education, innovation and dedication all year round.
We have spent a busy summer getting ready for the winter season that lies ahead, including:
- attending the 20th SIMA (Snow & Ice Management Association) Symposium in Montreal
- successfully passing our 3rd consecutive ISO / SN 9001 Quality Management System audit
- working towards achieving Smart about Salt Certification
- having key team members complete individual Industry Certifications
- bringing in the latest snow removal technologies to upgrade our winter operations
Founded in 1996, SIMA is North America’s largest trade association for professionals involved with the snow & ice industry. MPS has been a member for over 15 years, with President Jim Monk having served for several years on the SIMA Board of Directors (including two years as Board President), and MPS personnel have been active volunteers on SIMA committees and at various symposiums.
We are in the process of doubling our number of SIMA Certified Snow Professionals (CSP), from 2 to 4, and ensuring that four more team members will be certified in Advanced Snow Management before the onset of winter. In addition, SIMA has allowed MPS to grow and succeed through networking opportunities with other snow removal providers, ongoing training at seminars & webinars, and through introductions to the latest technology that manufacturers and suppliers have to offer.
The Smart about Salt Council is a Waterloo based organization that is dedicated toward expanding the best practices in salt management to improve winter safety and reduce salt use and its environmental impact. We believe in Smart about Salt’s approach, and their belief that “there is strength in numbers and that together we can address the complex social, economic and environmental issues related to winter safety.”
MPS Property Services is proud to be involved in this process of continual improvement, and for participating in the University of Waterloo’s Salt Usage study over the past two winters.
ISO 9001 (SN 9001)
Finally, improving customer service has always been a priority for MPS. Achieving our ISO 9001 (SN 9001) Certification last year has proved to be of considerable effect in enhancing our clients’ experience. By focusing on continual improvement to our Sales, Training and Operations processes, we are able to achieve great success in meeting the standards and expectations that our customers demand.
Together, all of this hard work that has been done by MPS in the “off-season” will guide us in our goal of setting higher standards for the Snow & Ice Management industry as a whole, and building sustainable relationships with our valued clients.
Click here to read more about our ISO SN 9001 Certification and our ISO SN 9001 Field Audit
– Ken Jorgenson
Are there hidden dangers lurking on your commercial property?
It is never a bad decision to spend a little bit of time re-evaluating your commercial property with an eye to identify any potential hazards that could lead to serious health & safety or liability issues down the road.
In today’s business climate, making simple repairs or changes before these hidden dangers get out of control is always a prudent strategy, and should become a regular part of your best practices handbook. The most common hidden dangers we come across day-after-day can include the following:
- Low-hanging or dead tree branches, especially near walkways or driveway entrances, can be a risk to both pedestrians and moving vehicles, and can also block visibility for vehicles pulling out into traffic. Raising the canopies of existing trees to a desirable level, and cutting out dead, diseased or damaged branches will improve the health of the trees while making their surroundings less hazardous.
- Heaved or sunken sections of interlocking paving stones or asphalt are not only a trip & fall hazard, but can also lead to pools of ice (slip & fall hazard) forming during the winter season. Quite often, a simple “lift and re-lay” will fix this risk.
- Inadequately marked traffic lanes or pedestrian crossing areas can create situations where people or vehicles are placed in a dangerous situation. By having distinct and clearly marked lines, directional arrows, signs and crosswalks prominently displayed, your property’s traffic flow and organization are optimized while reducing risk & liability at the same time.
- Providing adequate exterior lighting is yet another means of mitigating risk and increasing the site security of your property; ensuring that workers, visitors and any other workplace parties can freely move about your site safely.
A thorough site assessment to identify these and other hidden dangers is an essential first step in making your property as safe as possible for all staff and visitors. MPS is always available to assist with these evaluations, and will gladly help in restoring your property to its safest possible state!
– Ken Jorgenson
The Yellow Garden Spider
Have you seen one of these around your garden recently? -Say hello to the Yellow Garden Spider!
This female (pictured above) gave our employees a bit of a scare at our site this week. The spider species Argiope aurantia is commonly known as the yellow garden spider, black and yellow garden spider, golden garden spider, writing spider, corn spider, or McKinley spider. Although their colouring is frightening, the yellow garden spider is not aggressive or poisonous to humans. The adult female spiders are the most visible during late summer, which is why you might be noticing them more right now.
These spiders are one of the largest species of the orb weaver family, and can be found building their webs near open fields, tall vegetation or outdoor buildings. It is common for the female spiders to stay in one location for much of her lifetime. Yellow garden spiders are found throughout:
- The contiguous United States
- Southern Canada
- Central America
The yellow garden spider is an annual spices, meaning they don’t survive through the winter. The male spiders mature in July-August and the females mature between August-October, and are typically 4x bigger than the males. The male spiders will spend most of their life searching for a female to mate with, and will sometimes build its web near, or on, a female’s web. The male spiders die off shortly after mating, and some experts believe that mating induces their death and other sources say that the male spiders die of starvation and exhaustion, due to mating.
In late summer, after mating, the mature female will produce an egg sac containing 400-1,200 spiderlings. The spiderlings will hatch and overwinter inside the protective and insulated sac, emerging in the spring to complete their cycle of life.
Fun Fact: The Argiope aurantia (Yellow Garden Spider) takes almost all of its potty breaks at night, and often leaves its web to do so!
– Jenna Monk
Lawn & Order: The Usual Suspects for a Green Lawn
When we take a look at our lawns, what are we actually looking at? There are many varieties of grasses out there, but only some are suited for our environment and variable weather.
Which Grass is Greener?
Typically, in our region, Kentucky Bluegrass is the dominant species and by far the most popularly used variety of turf. It is probably the best type of grass (especially when mixed with some perennial rye and fescue) for our diverse climate, with our distinct seasons, however, it is not without a few drawbacks as well.
While bluegrass thrives in cool weather, and will tolerate very cold winters, it is not very drought resistant and doesn’t grow well in the shade. In other words, it must be watered regularly in hot, dry weather or it will go dormant, and is slow to recover (“green-up”) after moisture returns. Overall, Kentucky Bluegrass is a good choice for our region, but what are the other options out there?
Types of Grass
- Fine Fescue is an excellent cool season grass, with rapid germination and vigorous growth of the finest blades. It tolerates hot and cold temperatures, and can be used in areas with wild fluctuations of temperature. Fine Fescue has very good drought tolerance, and will quickly “green-up” again when moisture returns after drought dormancy. This variety requires less water than bluegrass, but doesn’t handle the wear & tear of summer activity as well.
- Ryegrass is another variety of turf that is adapted to both cool and warm temperatures, but will go dormant easier in hot, dry weather. It’s tolerance to shade and slow growth makes it a better choice for some areas, but needs more watering than most turf grasses to thrive.
- Tall Fescue has a deeper root system than the other varieties and therefore is much more drought-tolerant and requires less watering. It is good for “transitional” zones that have moderately cold winters and warm summers, and also has some resistance to shade, but is somewhat less dense than Kentucky Bluegrass.
- Creeping Bentgrass is the most common choice for golf greens around the world, but is being introduced more and more on residential properties each year. Who wouldn’t want this bright green colour and golf green texture for their own lawn! This type of grass thrives in cool, wet weather (think Vancouver), but can struggle in the heat & humidity without increased maintenance. That beautiful carpet of green requires more frequent and much lower mowing, along with specialized equipment, but many feel it is worth the extra effort.
Do your Research
Before seeding or sodding your lawn, you should think about what the best options may be for your specific location. The amount of shade, access to water, and the expected wear & tear it may encounter are all considerations, and must be weighed carefully to select the best type of turfgrass for your needs. For more information on creating your new lawn, click here to check out Landscape Ontario’s recommendations.
– Kenny Jorgenson