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Vernon Hills, Ill.—

In conjunction with Kids Against Hunger – Fox Valley, the Winnetka/Northfield Rotary Club, the Volunteer Center in Winnetka, and the Winnetka Community House, over 400 volunteers packed an astounding 100,000 meals for needy children in Nicaragua.

The Winnetka Community House provided the space for this annual food packing event, which has been chaired for the last six years by Heidi Sibert, Landscape Architect and Senior Vice President at James Martin Associates (JMA), a Vernon Hills landscape management company. As a Rotary member, she chairs the committee dedicated to this event, ensuring that all tasks are carried out in the year leading up to the event

Sibert became involved in Rotary seven years ago when she learned about the mission of Rotary International and their efforts to help those in need throughout the world. “We’re very involved in the Winnetka and North Shore communities, and we saw this as a great opportunity to help out with the local chapter,” said Sibert. “The culture at James Martin Associates definitely encourages us to give back.”

Funds were raised through local Winnetka businesses, Rotarians, and the volunteers. James Martin Associates sponsored a table that was staffed by employees and clients, including Sibert. It was a “wonderful team building experience and the day was full of fun and laughter,” Sibert said.

Volunteers ranged from children and teenagers to adults. They worked in 2-hour shifts, packaging foods such as rice, soy, and dried vegetables. At the end of the day, 14 sealed pallets were loaded onto a truck headed to North Carolina where the food was shipped to Nicaragua to feed those in need.

“I can’t say enough about Heidi’s Herculean efforts and attention to every detail to ensure this event provides the volunteers an efficient yet meaningful experience that achieves our ultimate goal of feeding over 100,000 starving individuals,” said Barbara Tubekis, Executive Director at the Volunteer Center. “We sincerely appreciate her and James Martin Associates’ support.”

To get involved in next year’s event, contact gardens@jamesmartinassociates.com.


About James Martin Associates, Inc.

James Martin Associates, located in Vernon Hills, celebrates over 40 years providing commercial and residential customers with comprehensive snow and landscape management services. The company is an industry leader in commercial snow management and specializes in providing innovative and award winning landscape design, installation and maintenance. For more information about James Martin Associates, please visit www.jamesmartinassociates.com.



Ashley Atkinson-Leon

James Martin Associates



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As houses become larger and yards become smaller, the area in which rain can be absorbed has been shrinking in recent years. Homeowners are also incorporating features such as outdoor kitchens, patios, and other outdoor living features that do not necessarily include green space.

While public storm systems are designed to accommodate a certain amount of rain, heavy rainfall can cause the sewers to become overloaded and deposit water back into the property or even into basements and foundations. One way that homeowners have been mitigating this overflow is through the use of rain gardens.

Rain gardens offer a creative and visually appealing way to control rainwater runoff on your property. Some homeowners choose to incorporate native flowers such as blazing star, bee balm, great blue lobelia, and other plants that can tolerate both standing water and long periods of dryness, but a dry streambed is another option that can be used to divert and manage rain water as well. 


One of our clients, whose house was designed by the award-winning DeBaker Design Group, struggled with drainage issues on their property and wanted to incorporate natural features like stones and boulders to help mitigate the runoff. After determining the location of underground utilities, we carved out an area that measured about 3-6’ deep and arranged the underground pipe to discharge excess water into this area.


We then filled in this naturally low area with gravel.


Finally, we carefully arranged a variety of colorful rocks and boulders on the surface, disguising the underground drainage basin. 


Now, rainwater organically flows into this area and holds the water until it can be absorbed into the ground or is evaporated by the sun. This process only takes a few days and does not attract mosquitos or other insects that need at least seven days for their eggs to hatch. Rain gardens can potentially even help with filtering out pollutants in the environment.

Downspouts and sump pumps can be diverted into rain gardens being used as overflow containment areas. The key is to keep water out of your home’s basement and your neighbor’s yard as well.

For those who would like plants incorporated into their rain garden, the graveled area simply needs a layer of soil near the surface that can be planted with specific perennials and shrubs that tolerate wet and dry conditions.


Whether you’d like a dry river streambed or a traditional garden lush with plants, rain gardens can easily and inconspicuously be designed to fit into your existing landscape. Plus, many municipalities offer incentives such as rebates to help offset the cost of installation. Check with your local village for more information.

Contact us today to find out how we can help you incorporate a rain garden into your landscape.

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Wednesday, 14 February 2018 09:10

Winter Pruning

Dormant pruning is an important part of landscape maintenance to enhance plant life, vigor and aesthetics of trees and shrubs. We know it can be chilly in the winter months but it’s the best time of year to prune your deciduous plants. When there is a mild, sunny day, grab your pruners, and take a look at your trees and shrubs.

According to the supervisor of plant health care at the Chicago Botanic Garden, 90 percent of deciduous pruning can be done in the winter. "As soon as trees and shrubs go into dormancy, pruning can begin," he said. "And you can prune up to the time when buds begin to plump up." From mid-November to mid-March, you can shape and thin your deciduous plants in preparation for the spring season ahead. Evergreens, in most situations, should be pruned in the growing season, since they never become fully dormant and may suffer tip burn if pruned in the winter.

You may be wondering, what are the advantages to dormant pruning. See five advantages from Why Good Nature that dormant pruning offers.

1. During the winter, when most plants are dormant, the many diseases and insects that can potentially invade pruning cuts are also dormant.

2. After leaves have fallen, it is much easier to see the plants overall form and structure. Damaged and diseased branches are more readily apparent when not obscured by foliage.

3. Pruning before dormancy can stimulate new growth that may not harden off before the cold weather. This is not a concern during the winter.

4. Dormant pruning is good for your plants, leaving them with extra root and energy reserves to quickly heal wounds and support vigorous spring growth and flowering.

5. Dormant pruning is also good for you, giving you a reason to go outside on a mild winter day to enjoy your landscape

If you’re ready to tackle the pruning challenge here are the steps to follow:

Start with removing all dead or diseased wood.

Second, remove all suckers and water sprouts. Suckers are straight, unbranched stems that sprout from the base of a tree. Water sprouts are similar stems, but grow at right angles to the branches. Both of these branches will not grow into nice natural-looking branches.

Remove crossing or rubbing branches

Begin with the largest branches and slowly work towards the smallest branches. 

Thin the canopy

Starting in the middle work your way to the exterior. Thin the branches that create the dense mass of the tree/shrub. 

This pruning will increase air circulation while accentuating the structure of the plant. Do not remove more than one-quarter of the plant in a season as that will foster sucker growth. Thinning a canopy is essential for crabapple trees and hawthorns which are prone to fungal disease. 

Keep an eye out for insect problems & disease.

Pruning is the perfect time to look for masses of eggs such as caterpillars, gypsy moths, and tussock moths. If these are visible remove them by hand or prune them to protect the plant for insect damage in the spring. Also look for unusual open lesions or darkened areas of tree possible symptoms of canker and disease.


Take your time
Pruning is not a race, the more methodical and patient you are the more happy you will be with the result. It’s easier to go back and take more off than work too fast and take too much off from the beginning.

Prune back to a bud of branch

Do not leave a stub or open ends that result from shearing off the top of a plant. Cut a branch above the bud, taking into account a new branch will grow from that bud. Ideally the bud faces outward, encouraging growth towards the exterior of the plant. 

Prune with a purpose.

Most deciduous pruning should encourage a natural style, which means that low-branching trees are not limbed up, tall shrubs are not sheared or topped to make them shorter, and the natural outline of a plant is maintained. Pruning should highlight the plant’s natural features and if done well will look as if you didn’t do it! 

Disinfect your tools.

Clean tools with a 10 percent solution of rubbing alcohol and water (approximately 2 tablespoons of alcohol to 1 cup of water) which helps prevent the spread of disease from cut to cut as you prune. 

Safety first!

Wear eye protection when you prune as you can easily get poked in the eye. Know your limits as tree work can be dangerous. 

If you need to prune large trees or use a chainsaw, consider seeking professional help.

Source: Why Good Nature

Source: Chicago Botanic Garden

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Wednesday, 11 October 2017 16:55

Autumn Annuals and Spring Bulbs

Cooler temperatures remind us it's time to update your decorative containers with more cold-tolerant plants. Adding a decorative fall planter to your porch or patio is an easy way to add a seasonal splash of color for a warm and welcoming entry to your home.

Fall is also the perfect time to get bulbs in the ground. From allium to daffodils, tulips to crocuses, spring bulbs are the first pops of color to signal that warm days are on the horizon again.

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