Winter Landscape Ideas: Four Tips for Getting the Most out of the Cold Months

When most people think of landscaping, they think of lush, green grass and a breadth of floral diversity. For the central and northernmost regions of the U.S., however, the winter months provide opportunities for some surprisingly charming landscape ideas to come to life. Below, we’ve listed some of our favorite winter landscape ideas to focus on over the holidays:

winter landscape ideas

Lean on the hardscape aspects of your property

A trellis, some well-placed benches, decorative arches, and ornate sculptures can find new life in winter, and don’t need the same maintenance as seasonal plants. Smaller fixtures, such as window boxes, hanging baskets, and various pots and jars can all be updated to fit seasonal styles as well. Who said plants have to be the focal point of your winter landscape this season?

winter landscape ideas

Take advantage of the beauty of evergreens

Not only do evergreens last through all sorts of weather, they provide color for your winter landscape in a season that struggles to maintain a diverse palette. While green is the most popular color for these beauties, they actually come in a range of pigments: the Gold Thread false cypress has yellow overtones, while the dwarf blue spruce adds some icy blue tones to your property. Evergreens aren’t just great for winter: they’ll last all year, so they’re a staple for four-season climates.

winter landscape ideas

Fall in love with four-season foliage

Evergreens aren’t the only all-year-round landscape champions. Some perennials, such as ornamental grasses hellebores, and dianthus, have evergreen foliage. Looks for plants with this winter foliage to make sure you can enjoy them in every season.

winter landscape ideas

Focus on the B’s: Bark, berries, and bird-feeding

Most properties don’t just have evergreens. Deciduous trees are at their most vibrant in the warm months, but that doesn’t mean they should be ignored in the winter. Find trees with distinct, aesthetically-pleasing bark, so you can enjoy them as part of your winter landscape as well. Include berries somewhere on your property as well; not only are they great for feeding non-migratory birds, but greenery like crabapples and holly bring a bit of color to your landscape’s winter look, and keep things feeling festive.

Whatever your landscape needs this winter, the experts at Alfresco can help you get it. For more great winter landscaping ideas, call 616.453.2530 to schedule your free consultation now. We’re accepting new clients for 2017!

3 Things You Should Know About Your Snow Removal Contract

Are you aware of everything included (or not included) in your snow removal contract? Before signing the legal documents involved, don’t forget to discuss these essential matters with your chosen snow plow company:

#1 Clearly Define All Expectations

 snow removal contract

It is the responsibility of everyone involved to know what is and is not included in the contract.

Are all parts of the property covered for plowing/salting, or just the driveways/parking lots?

What about sidewalks?

What are the minimum accumulation standards?

The considered company should be clear and upfront about all aspects of the job, but always check the paperwork to make sure it lines up with discussions on the matter.  

#2 Consider Unpredictable Weather

 snow removal contract

Weather patterns all over the country have become increasingly erratic in recent history, and this winter will be no different. Make sure your snow removal contract accounts for these by outlining all extra charges that may arise.

Will your provider require extra compensation for serious blizzards that far exceed the average snowfall?

Will they have to extend their time past the designated plow time set out in paper?

And what about dangerously low temperatures– does your contractor still guarantee plowing services below zero degrees fahrenheit?

#3 Discuss- and Debate- Liability

 snow removal contract

If there’s one thing you should take away from a snow and ice removal agreement, it’s making sure you know who is liable for possible damages or conflicts.

Who takes responsibility if your sidewalk is damaged by a scraper?

What if your spouse, or a walking passer-by, slips and falls on an ice patch that was under-salted?

Be honest, and make sure to define areas of your property with pre-existing damage, such as a cracked curb or damaged landscaping, so this doesn’t arise as a liability issue for your provider. Also read their policies thoroughly, and don’t be afraid to ask questions about their stances on certain liability issues.

Discussing this with you snow plow contract provider is the most crucial thing you can do to protect both parties and keep things as clear cut as possible between you and the company you’ve contracted.

Receive Your Free Snow Removal Quote!

Get 10% OFF by completing the form below:

Schedule Appointment

How much does snow removal cost?

How much does snow removal cost?

It’s that time of year! Time for us to answer some of our most frequently asked snow removal questions. We’ll cover contract dates, costs, payment, salting services, and more! If you have a question about our snow removal service that isn’t answered, please feel free to shoot us a call or email.



What determines my snow plowing cost?

Whether you have a single, double, or triple car driveway will affect the cost of snow removal, but so will may other factors, such as having a circle drive or a turn-around. Whether you have a gravel or paved drive also makes a difference, as well as what neighborhood your property is located in. Call now and get a free snow plowing quote. We’re giving 10% off to the first 100 snow removal clients, so don’t wait!

When is payment due?

Full payment is due with your contract, so you don’t have to worry about it for the rest of the winter. We accept new contracts until routes are full.

How do I pay?

Check and credit are both acceptable forms of payment. There are no discounts with credit card payments.



Is there a seasonal snowfall limit?

Unlike with other snow removal companies, there’s no inch limit: we just need to be able to get your driveway plowed in 23 pushes or less.

What will it cost me once the limit is reached?

Any additional pushes are $10.00-16.00 depending on drive size. They get invoiced on a bi-weekly basis should they be needed.

Do you have a one-time snow removal rate?

We do not have a one-time rate for snow removal. However, our snow plowing contract allows you to get this service taken care of before it even snows, so you’re covered all winter long.

snow removal contract

Is there a minimum snowfall amount required for plowing my driveway?

Our Service is 24 hour. We start plowing anytime of day, as soon as it is needed. Plowing will occur once per 24 hour period when falling snow has accumulated 1-1/2″ or more.

What time of day will you plow?

We will attempt to have all drives plowed by 7:00 am, but this depends on what time the snow event starts.

Will you come back and fix my driveway after the city plow?

We will return to clear the approach of your drive after the city plows have come through. Clearing the approach does not count as a push. Don’t worry; we also take responsibility for staking your drive and for repairs to landscape in the spring due to snow plow damage.

Do you having salting services?

We like to keep our winter service list as comprehensive as possible, so we provide salt service as well as shoveling and snow haul away.

Receive Your Free Snow Removal Quote!

Get 10% OFF by completing the form below:

Schedule Appointment

The 10 Step System for Installing Your Outdoor Lighting

In our previous post about landscape lighting, we told you the benefits of a well-lit outdoor landscape: it welcomes your guests to your home, no matter what time of day or year; it increases your safety when walking or using steps at night; and best of all, it adds value to your home. While we recommend having a trained professional at Alfresco install your new landscape lighting system, if you want to DIY your outdoor lighting installation, there are some steps you’ll need to know:

  1. Assemble the fixtures you want before you place them.

    outdoor lighting

    Remember, as you’re inserting halogen bulbs into your fixtures, do not touch the bulb directly- the oils from your skin can cause the bulb to dysfunction.

  2. Set the lighting fixtures in a way that follows your design.

    outdoor lighting

    Try to hide your lights behind shrubs and rocks to make the fixtures less noticeable, but still get that glow bouncing off your landscape.

  3. Run the transformer cable to each fixture.

    outdoor lighting

    Do this before you mount the transformer, and leave at least 5 feet of slack between the transformer and your first fixture.

  4. Connect each lighting fixture to the transformer cable using a Direct Burial (DBr) splice connector.

    outdoor lighting

    Avoid using wire nuts, as these will easily corrode over time.

  5. While the transformer is still unmounted, connect the wires from the lights to the transformer.

    Each wire will go to an individually labeled terminal on the transformer (more than one wire might go in the same terminal, with at least one going to the 12 volt tap terminal). Once this step is complete, you can plug in the transformer.

  6. Make sure each of your lights and your general layout are set up to your preferences.

    outdoor lighting

    Aim to have all fixtures run within 1.5 volts of each other (11–12 volts, ideally) and use a voltmeter for accuracy. Call a professional for assistance if your run is more than 15 volts.

  7. Mount the transformer to the wall at least one foot from the ground.

    outdoor lighting

    This is the time to plug in timers and other lighting accessories.

  8. Make adjustments as-needed.

    outdoor lighting

    Adjust fixture positions; bundle cables; bury cables; make all of the finishing touches.

  9. Bury the cables appropriately.

    outdoor lighting

    Make sure they’re 6–12” deep, and place PVC pipe or mulch on top of them before covering them with soil. This ensures they’re less likely to be cut during future digging.

  10. Check out your new set up.

    outdoor lighting

    Your new outdoor lighting landscape is ready for use! Enjoy walking your stone paths, or entertaining guests in the evening glow.

If you decide to skip the DIY and want professional installation for your lights, call Alfresco at 616.453.2530 to receive a free landscape lighting installation quote.

3 Ways You Save by Hiring a Lawn Care Professional

We’ve all seen a do-it-yourself lawn care project go horribly wrong- another paycheck’s worth of supplies, tutorials, and craft glue in the trash. What happens when you try to DIY your lawn? Before answering that question on your own, take a look at our list of 3 things you’ll save by hiring a lawn care business to work on your lawn instead:


Lawn Care Grand Rapids Alfresco

Yes, hiring a professional to work on your lawn saves you money. No more trial-and-error with lawn products that don’t work. No more spending money or tools you don’t need or gimmicks you “must have” that turn out to be duds. A professional knows what to use and when to use it, and can cater to a variety of lawns using their expertise. They can even tell you which specialty products work the best, such as organic lawn products. This saves you money in the long run, and keeps your yard looking better than a do-it-yourself effort.


Lawn Care Grand Rapids Alfresco

Even more valuable than your money, your time is precious these days. Most people need every extra moment they can get to finish up that work project, do the chore they said they would do last week, or spend a little extra time with family. Take back those extra moments from your day by hiring someone else to take care of your lawn for you.


Lawn Care Grand Rapids Alfresco

Tied to both saving money and saving time, saving yourself the hassle of trying to DIY your lawn will also keep you from the pain of the DIY project. Keep your lawn from becoming a failed science experiment by letting the experts take care of it. They’re the ones that have done this time and again. No one has more experience than they have, and no one knows how to take care of your space better than the pros.

To find a lawn care professional in the Grand Rapids area, look no further than Alfresco.

Call 616 453 2530 to schedule a free lawn care quote.

5 organic lawn care tips to keep your yard- and your family- healthy

Adding “organic” to any task makes it a little more nerve-wracking. Will this be more complicated? More expensive? Incredibly time consuming? No, no, and no. With these 5 organic lawn care tips from Alfresco, your lawn and your loved ones will thank you for keeping them happy and healthy!

organic lawn care

  1. Choose a local grass

Just planting new grass on your new lawn? Local is always better. Local grasses are fit for the environment, and ensure that your lawn gets off to the best possible start. A lawn care expert at Alfresco can make recommendations on the best grass for your landscape, as well as the best local plants for the rest of your property.

organic lawn care

  1. Water sparingly

Yes, there is such a thing as over-watering. In fact, it’s incredibly common, not to mention wasteful and expensive. Most lawns only require about 1 inch a week, and do best when watered in the early morning- but consult an expert on your specific lawn. Until then, there are changes you can make for major impact. Place your irrigation cycles far apart; Allow your grass to dry (wilt) in between waterings to help deepen the roots of the plant (keeping it green longer); and set your sprinklers to water in short spurts, rather than allowing all the water out at once.

organic lawn care

  1. Give your trees a trim

Not only does trimming your trees keep them healthier and prettier, it also allows more sunlight to reach your grass. Grass thrives with sunlight, so the less disruptive shade from plants and trees, the better. The improved openness can also increase air circulation, cooling your lawn down on those hot and humid summer days.

organic lawn care

  1. Let it grow

The taller your lawn’s grass is, the longer it’s going to last on its own. Tall grass provides shade for the soil surface, which means the soil will dry out less quickly, allowing you to water the lawn less frequently. Adjusting the height of your mower can easily improve your lawn’s vitality- ask your lawn care provider what the best height is for your climate. A common range is 1.5 to 2 inches for southern climates, to 3 inches for the northernmost lawns.

organic lawn care

  1. Buy organic!

Our biggest tip for lawn owners is to simply switch out their multi-chemical, environmentally-unfriendly products for organic, natural lawn care products. Alfresco has a variety of organic solutions for your lawn, including natural pest control and fertilizer (which just happen to be the same formula- it works that well). Paul Burd and his employees take client care and lawn care both very seriously, and switching to organic is the best way to maintain both of those principles.


As you can see, lawn care can easily become organic with a few minor changes to habits and products. To learn more about organic solutions, or to request a free lawn care quote from Alfresco, call 616-453-2530 to speak to one of our specialists.

3 Ways Great Lawn Service Can Get You Top-Dollar For Your Home

As the home market continues to grow, today’s buyers have more to choose from in the way of inventory. Any home that’s up for sale must make a positive first impression to would-be buyers, making curb appeal more important than ever when trying to sell. Exterior remodeling projects typically deliver the greatest return-on-investment to home sellers, because people aren’t just buying the house itself: they’re also buying the landscape. We’ve listed 3 of the essential ways a professional lawn servicing company can help you earn the most profit when selling your home this season:

lawn service grand rapids

1. Planting & Maintaining Trees

The benefits of having your lawn care provider plant and maintain trees on your property are endless, from the money savings to the environmental factors. Shade trees like maples and oaks can decrease your summer cooling costs by up to $250 a year, and reduce winter heating costs by acting as windbreakers. Trees of all kinds also block and absorb water runoff, and absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. You can calculate an approximate value of the tree’s currently on your lawn by using this tool.

Even trees that are merely ornamental increase your property value up to 15 percent, and can increase the value of your neighbor’s property. Aesthetic and flowering trees, such as Japanese maples, flowering cherries, and dogwoods are all desirable for an engaging landscape.

lawn service grand rapids

2. Incorporating Native Plants

Emphasis on the word “native”. A study by Applied Ecological Services Inc., a Wisconsin ecological consultancy, shows that maintaining an acre of native plants over 20 years costs $3,000, compared with the whopping $20,000 price tag of maintaining a lawn of non-native turf grass. There’s a slow but steady increase in buyers seeking these wildlife-certified properties, making them more requested by lawn care clients everywhere.

Your lawn service professional can assess your property to see what local plants are best for your landscape. They’ll know where to plant, when to plant, and how many to plant, as well as how to take care of your new flora. Having plants pruned and checked at the proper time and in a specific manner not only maintains their presence, but also the health of the plants.

lawn service grand rapids

3. Outdoor Lighting

Outdoor lighting consistently tops the National Association of Home Builders’ (NAHB) list of most wanted outdoor features in its annual “What Home Buyers Really Want” survey: 41% rate it “essential” while 49% say it’s “desirable.” Most lawn care and landscape service providers can give you tips on where lighting will be most beneficial on your property, and can seamlessly install your new lighting for you.


Below are some of the non-essential (but still desirable) landscape additions your lawn service procan implement:

  • Fencing and block or brick privacy walls can add anywhere from $1500 to $5000 worth of value to your home.
  • Irrigation systems and sprinklers are a big plus for maintaining gardens and lawns.
  • Driveways, patios and walkways should be in good condition to make access to the house easier, and add to the curb appeal of the property.
  • Retaining walls and terracing control erosion, and instantly add texture and interest to any landscape when done correctly.

There are many factors to consider when trying to get a top-dollar return on your home investment. For more advice from one of our talented lawn care and landscaping professionals, call Alfresco Landscapes today at 616 453 2530. We would be more than happy to meet you at your home and discuss your landscape options.


Want to bump up your garden landscaping this season?


Edible plants for your landscape might be the solution.

While growing your own food has become trendy in recent years, vegetable gardens often lack the level of aesthetics found in ornamental landscape beds. Plus, vegetable gardens can take up a lot of valuable space and are usually a good walk away from the house. At Alfresco, we say marry the two by incorporating veggies and herbs into your beautiful home landscape

garden landscaping


There are many edible plant arrangements that are just as gorgeous as ornamental options. One example is the addition of purple basil into landscape beds. The drastic contrast of purple against green is one of the most popular combinations right now. In addition to the beautiful color, the basil’s wonderful smell adds an intriguing aromatic element to your garden when planted close to the kitchen or grill.

garden landscaping


Lemongrass is another herb experiencing a surge in popularity. Lemongrass compliments most other shrubs, grasses and perennials. I highly recommend keeping this one near the patio. Not only is it a beautiful plant that tastes great with chicken dishes, it actually repels mosquitoes!

garden landscaping


Another great way to grow fresh vegetables within your beautiful landscape is by using large pots and containers. This is becoming a popular alternative to traditional gardens, and many plants thrive this way. A variety of tomatoes do well in containers, including cherry or grape tomatoes, which are nice and lightweight with a generally high yield. You can even go vertical with them: all tomatoes are natural climbers, so give them a structure in the container to climb. It can be as simple as three wood stakes tied into a teepee or purchasing an ornamental obelisk or garden trellis.

garden landscaping


There are also many varieties of flowers that are edible. One that’s often found in ornamental landscape beds, but not as much in vegetable gardens, is lavender. Yes, lavender is edible and delicious. The next time you make a pitcher of lemonade, try pouring it through a coffee filter filled with snipped lavender. Lavender is also called for in Herbs de Provence. A mixture of dried herbs from the south of France, Herbs de Provence usually includes basil, thyme, savory, rosemary, tarragon, lavender, fennel, marjoram and chervil. All or any of these make lovely additions to your herbal and ornamental gardens.

Lawn care that keeps your yard vibrant and lush

To some, lawn care is a chore that is pushed to the end of the to-do list. To others, lawn care is a delicate art that keeps yards flourishing for the enjoyment of the homeowner and neighbors alike.

No matter how you view lawn care, you can follow these simple best practices to keep your lawn looking healthy and to make the most of the summer months outdoors.  

Lawn care that brings your grass back to life.

  •         Choose grass seed that’s right for your lawn.

You may think any type of grass seed will work in your lawn. But the environment of the lawn greatly affects the growth and wellbeing of grass. Some need wetter conditions. Others grow fine in drier climates. Some can’t handle the colder and varying temperatures we face in the Midwest. For your lawn, within our beautiful state of Michigan, consider Kentucky Bluegrass.

  •         Leave lawn renovations and seeding for the fall.

Fall weather presents the perfect recipe for successful lawn seeding: Cooler temperatures plus plenty of sun and rain helps seeds germinate before hibernating for the winter. Seeding is simple with the right preparation and watering. Then when spring and summer come, your fall work will shine beneath your feet.   

lawn care grand rapids

Maintaining a stunning lawn — simply.

  •         Cut your grass to the most-ideal length.

Grass that is cut too short is susceptible to weeds and disease. Grass that is left too long provides a habitat for pests and critters. Learn the most-ideal length for your grass. Kentucky Bluegrass, for example, is best maintained at 1 to 3 inches.

  •         Vary your mowing pattern.

When you mow your lawn with the same pattern each time, your mower’s tires will wear down a path in your grass. So get creative. Change up your mowing pattern each time you undertake this routine lawn care task.

  •         Leave some grass clippings.

There’s a whole ecosystem of living things and valuable nutrition in your lawn’s dirt. These aren’t of the pest variety — these are what help your lawn grow and prosper. When you leave some grass clippings behind on your lawn, you’re helping give back some nitrogen to the soil that is necessary for your lawn to maintain its magnificence.

  •         Pull weeds so they won’t come back.

Roots matter. When you pull weeds, be sure you’re pulling up the whole weed, otherwise it will continue to grow back. The best and easiest way to fight weeds, though, is a thick, healthy lawn.

Lawn care doesn’t have to be a constant struggle. If you follow these best practices, caring for your lawn can be a fruitful endeavor. Or, if you’d rather let the professionals handle it, call Alfresco for a free lawn care quote — service includes free grub removal.


The Must-Knows of Residential Landscape Design

It can be tricky figuring out what to focus on when you’re set to overhaul your landscape. The list below provides must-know considerations when you are planning your next residential landscape design project.

1. Size Matters

landscape design Grand Rapids MIlandscape design grand rapids mi

Decide on what kind of landscaping company you’ll need to get the job done. A lot of land might require a larger firm. However, if strong attention to detail and high quality of work are important factors to consider in your landscape design, we recommend finding a smaller local firm. We take pride in turning our clients’ patches of land into the utopian landscapes that they’ve only dreamed of living in.

2. Climate Control

landscape design grand rapids milandscape design grand rapids mi

What is your landscape’s geographical climate like? What is the environment surrounding your home like? Precipitation, humidity, and temperature are factors to be considered when plotting your next landscape design.

3. Family, Pets, or Guests?

landscape design grand rapids milandscape design grand rapids mi

Who is going to be roaming around in your new habitat? Do you find yourself hosting events with guests often? Will there be pets or young children playing nearby to consider? Keep in mind who is using the space and how they will use it. Ensuring that your landscape is designed for both aesthetic pleasure and functional use will make your outdoor experience all the better and more rewarding. For more examples of outdoor living spaces, check out some of the landscape design we’ve executed for our clients.4. Go Green

landscape design grand rapids milandscape design grand rapids mi

Know the pros and cons of going environmentally friendly with your landscaping. For example, at Alfresco, we only use 100% organic fertilizers and weed control solutions. It’s much safer for pets and children. If you’re hiring a landscape design firm, be sure to ask about any chemical treatments they plan on giving your lawn or landscape.

5.  Style is Key

landscape design Grand Rapids MIlandscape design grand rapids mi

Do you have some general ideas about your aesthetic leanings – are you a minimalist? Do you like extravagance? Do you want a bohemian vibe, or modern look? Share your thoughts with your landscape design team, and they’ll help create a garden or space that reflects you best. Here at Alfresco, we are extremely passionate about the conceptualization phase of each project. That’s why Alfresco’s owner, Paul Burd, prefers to sit down with each client personally and sketch out potential landscape designs for their homes. Click here to see some of Paul’s sketches.

Do you have thoughts or concerns about your next landscaping project?

5 Places to Emulate in Your Backyard

Some of the most breathtaking places in the world can only be seen by boarding an international flight, or settling for downloading a photograph from the world wide web. But, what if we told you you could have those destinations accessible just by stepping outside your back door? It’s true, or, at the very least it’s our mission to make those dreams become as real as possible. Spring beckons nearer with each closing day, so in order to better fuel your creative landscaping ideas for this upcoming season, we’ve compiled a list of five places you might want to emulate in your new backyard landscape:

#1: Ludwigsburg Residential Palace (Ludwigsburg, Germany)

landscaping ideas for your backyard

Ludwigsburg Residential Palace is one of the oldest, largest buildings in Europe from the Baroque period. It is well known for its elaborate historic architecture, garden, and reflections of the classical and neoclassical periods. Look closer and you’ll undoubted find lots of backyard landscaping inspiration here. 

#2: Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park (Grand Rapids, MI)

landscaping ideas for your backyard

Open to the public in 1955, the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park is a blossoming non-profit creation. The creators’ commitment is to develop a legacy of lifelong learning, enjoyment, and a rich cultural experience for generations to come. Paul Burd, Alfresco’s owner, has designed for Frederik Meijer Gardens in the past. Have you been chasing after that perfect backyard waterfall design? Meijer Gardens might just be the destination to visit in order to spark some great backyard landscaping ideas!

#3: Keukenhof Gardens (Lisse, Netherlands)

landscaping ideas for your backyard

Keukenhof, also known as the Garden of Europe, is one of the world’s most extensive flower gardens. With over 7 million flowers blooming each spring, it is an unforgettable sight- a beautiful choice for a colorful backyard-scape. Are you looking to add a little more color to your backyard landscape?

#4: Oheka Castle (Long Island, NY)

Landscaping ideas for your backyard

This breathtaking property has literature and film legend embedded in its history. Oheka Castle was the inspiration for Gatsby’s estate in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, as well as the location for the film Citizen Kane. It now acts as a hotel. The symmetry throughout this famous backyard is undeniable, and perhaps just the minimalist touch your backyard landscape needs!

#5: Gardens and Park of the Chateau (Palace of Versailles, France)

landscaping ideas for your backyard

A maze of vibrant green trees and pathways, the Gardens and Park of the Chateau is fit for royalty. The Palace has been the home of French kings for centuries, and the garden reflects the same regal style and allure of the building itself. While it might take a king’s salary to afford the constant manicuring this lawn may need, there are plenty of inspirational ideas to be pulled from this incredible backyard garden.