The dark-eyed Juncos bobbed and darted through the perennial garden as they pecked and nibbled at the soil floor.  They were almost wholly camouflaged, save for their crisp white tail feathers and petite tannish-pink beaks.  Although they are considered a “snow bird”, soon they will migrate to their breeding grounds after satiating their appetites on the remaining spoils of season’s past.

Spring seems so very tangible, from the blooming Crocus and Forsythia to the litany of buds and burgeoning lawns, and projects quicken to our minds as dreams and goals take flight.

Many of us have a wish list when it comes to our yards and gardens, and hardscapes, like patios and walkways, often get pushed to the bottom of the list because of cost and time.   There are cheaper, viable options, other than pavers or concrete, both of which are expensive, high maintenance and short lived.  In Northern Illinois, concrete, as you may know, doesn’t fair well for long, before cracks and fissures become visible from environmental factors, like frost heave.  Pavers are no different, and they seem to suffer more rapidly and visibly.


Look to gravel (washed and/or unwashed), wood chips or mulch as practical alternatives, which are cheaper, more environmentally friendly and easier to maintain.  They all come in a variety of colors and textures and can be easily installed and maintained.  Further still, they allow for better drainage, have a natural look and can be used with other natural materials, like flagstone or timbers, or can be combined to best suit your needs and desired look.

Unwashed gravel is made up of different sized stones and contains fines, which are compactible, almost forming a uniform matt.  It works well for patios, walkways, or any area where a somewhat flat, stable surface is required.  Washed gravel is made up of identical sized stones but does not contain fines; therefore, it is not as compactible.  It works well for fire pits, walkways, some patios and even dog runs.  Wood chips or mulch also work well for patios, walkways, etc.  It is recommended, whether using gravel, wood chips or mulch,  that some type of edging or “frame” be used to help contain the material.  Edging can be made from almost any material, including wood, stone, plastic, steel, etc.  Again, it depends on your needs and overall desired look.


Maintenance is minimal and may require additional material be added after settling, much like mulch in beds and tree rings, and edging may need to be adjusted or re-aligned.  It’s just that simple.

So why not cross that patio or walkway off your wish list with more affordable, eco-friendly, low maintenance options?  Call Sweeney’s today, where landscape and gardening wishes come true!

Plant of the Week


Raspberry Wine Beebalm

Tubular shaped, bright raspberry petals form a spiky flower amidst dark green foliage that hints of mint and lavender.  Blooms June – August.  Prefers sun to partial shade and moist, well-drained soil.  Grows 24-36″ tall and 24-36″ wide.  Attracts butterflies, hummingbirds and other pollinators.  Mildew resistant and drought tolerant.

“In my garden, there is a large place for sentiment.  My garden of flowers is also my garden of thoughts and dreams.  The thoughts grow as freely as the flowers, and the dreams are as beautiful.”

-Abram L. Urban

Best wishes,

Kim Sweeney