Unique has “Award Winning” Year with Urban Ag Council (UAG)

Unique is one of the longer standing members of the Georgia Urban Ag Council (UAG,) formerly known as MALTA. Once again for 2014 they had numerous award-winning landscape entries for their projects in the Atlanta and Georgia market. During the annual UAG awards banquet in February they took home:

  • 3 Grand awards, the top award presented by UAG
  • 2 Distinction awards
  • 1 Merit award

In addition, Unique was the winner of the environmental ‘Green Star’ landscape award, as well as the recipient of one of the prestigious “Judge’s Choice” awards.

Unique’s owner and landscape designer, Todd Guilmette, said it was one of the better years in Unique’s UAG history for award-winning projects. Unique feels their “unique” concepts in design have afforded them this honor.

One of their projects, pictured here, was the transformation of an unusable space below the homeowner’s deck. The yard sloped off and the deck steps  made the space pretty much ‘off limits.’ Unique says they receive an increasing number of calls for these situations. At this property, they modified the deck/stairs, extended level ground space and built a patio and fire pit as well as added a small water feature and extensive landscaping.

Please visit the gallery on our website for additional photos.

Atlanta Landscaping: How to Prune Your Crape Myrtle

One of the most common questions we receive revolves around the proper maintenance and pruning of crape   myrtles, those workhorses of the Atlanta landscape. We’ve prepared some simple guidelines to follow for
pruning your crape myrtle before it breaks out of dormancy:
* Start at the bottom and work your way up the tree.
* Prune off small sprouts from the trunk.
* Limb up the tree by pruning any branches that are coming out of the side of the trunk.
* Remove any smaller branches that may be  growing towards the inside of the tree.
* Trim out the cross branching and dead limbs. Finally, thin out the crown or top of the tree by
removing any branches that are overcrowding other ones until you achieve the shape that you like.
There are other various techniques that can be used, depending on the surrounding landscape.
You’ve probably noticed some crapes being chopped to their knees each year. Although crapes are
resilient and bounce back from this abuse, we do not recommend it as it can cause weak branches, less flowering, powdery mildew and aphids. For more information on landscape maintenance, contact us today.

Man + Landscape Equals Truelove

Landscape Maintenance Really Can be a Passion

Author Kurt Vonnegut once said that one of the primary flaws of human character is that “everybody wants to build and nobody wants to do maintenance. “ While that is certainly true of many, it can’t be said of Mark Truelove, the director of landscape maintenance for Unique Environmental Landscapes, which provides expert landscape maintenance, as well as design and installation, throughout the metro Atlanta area.  He and his certified crew handle every aspect of residential, commercial and HOA landscape maintenance, including seasonal color, pruning, fertilization and more.

In fact, you could say that Mark has a, well…true love, for getting the installation picture-perfect and then keeping a landscape picture-perfect, no matter the age of the landscape or the environmental conditions. “Each plant and every tree has its own, unique calendar,” says Mark. “Everything we do is timed for the plant’s or tree’s individual growth cycle. That’s why both design and maintenance are so important and closely related.”

During the design process at Unique Environmental, every plant or tree is carefully selected for not only the aesthetic beauty of the landscape, but also with a careful understanding of how the plant or tree will mature in the landscape and the type of maintenance it will require. “Very few landscape professionals pay such close attention to the plant’s or tree’s calendar, but we do because we want thriving landscapes for the longterm,” adds Mark.

It’s no surprise that Mark has such a passion for keeping plants, trees and shrubs healthy and gorgeous. He started early. By the tender age of 18 he was working outside and can remember the smell of the outdoors. “Being outside and working with living things is a full sensory experience,” says Mark. “Every season has its own smell and sound. I’ve been doing this for 33 years and never tire of being outside. It reminds me of those younger days and good times!”

It is precisely Mark’s considerable landscape knowledge and extensive horticultural experience that makes him, his crew and Unique Environmental the best in the Atlanta-area landscape business. “The best landscapers know that it takes vision, honesty and integrity to design and install landscapes that will stand up longterm,” Mark says.  “You have to get beyond the ‘developer mentality’, which focuses on the easiest and the cheapest plant material, and give consideration to maintenance needs, functionality and maturity. That takes experience, planning and preparation.

In fact, because of dramatic innovations in machinery, technology and even plant materials, Mark and all of the staff at Unique Environmental continually stay abreast of research and routinely update equipment.

“Many innovations in the landscape maintenance industry have been dramatic,” adds Mark. “I tell my guys all the time things are so much better now than in the past! It’s a great time to be serving homeowners, homeowner associations, and commercial clients with the highest quality landscape maintenance.”

While it is evident that Mark and Unique Environmental Landscapes go the extra mile, not all landscape professionals think about maintenance that way, Mark says. “You know, professionalism, work ethic and taking personal responsibility for the landscape and the plants really sets Unique apart. We run across companies in the landscape design, installation and maintenance industry who do not treat this as a professional endeavor and the clients suffer. They are left with poorly designed areas not well suited for the site or climate. Or, worse even, the maintenance company fertilizes or prunes for ‘efficiency’, not according to the plant’s or tree’s calendar. As they say, everything has a season and we work with that. We are totally transparent about how we do what we do and why we do it. That really sets us apart. We are proud to be upfront about how your landscape will thrive when Unique Environmental maintains it.”

Mark points out that Unique Environmental sets the bar for the landscaping industry – and it’s all based on passion, knowledge, mutual respect and understanding.

Mark does have a true love for landscaping maintenance and design – and it shows.


If you’d like to put Mark and his team’s passion for maintenance and landscaping to work for you, contact us now.

Common Landscaping Mistakes

Marietta Landscaper Tips - Atlanta Garden MistakesAvoid The Biggest Landscaping Mistakes

HGTV recently shared some of the biggest landscape mistakes and we thought we’d summarize some of our favorites – and add our expert comments, as well. Remember, the best way to avoid a landscape disappointment or disaster is to simply give us a call. A professional landscaper understands how to design, install and maintain an outdoor area that thrives.

Mistake: Using Excessive Lawn Ornamentation

We agree with the HGTV experts! Homeowners often over-accessorize, just as one can add too many rings or scarves to an outfit. Too many decorative items can distract from the beauty of the natural landscape. When we have completed a landscape, you can be assured that it has just the right look and feel. But, if you feel compelled to add something, ask yourself why are you putting it there and how it fits into the context of your overall design. It’s best to stick with one crisp choice. One little whimsical statement has impact, but several – not so much.

Mistake: Not Recycling

If you conduct the yard maintenance yourself, do you recycle? We do and are careful to ensure that your outdoor area is left clean and pristine. HGTV points out that yard projects tend to produce a good amount of waste, which most people don’t realize when they set out to do the work. They suggest that instead of tossing out the branches, clippings and other debris, dispose of them in an eco-friendly way. You can create a compost pile and return those elements to your beds later on. In fact, you can contact us for rainwater harvesting and other irrigation needs. 

Mistake: Adding Plants to the Wrong Area

Understanding sunlight, drainage and aesthetic beauty are key parts of how we ensure your landscape looks gorgeous year-round, but many people who add plants or attempt to landscape on their own do not take into consideration the proper sunlight and exposure for their plants. If you are compelled to start your own garden or add a favorite plant, be sure to pay attention to the little tag that you get when you buy the plant. Also consider the final size of the plant. If you have made some planting mistakes and your area looks overgrown or disheveled, be sure to give us a call. We are experts are  revitalizing and making over existing landscapes.

Mistake: Not Keeping a Room with a View

One of our favorite suggestions from HGTV is to remember the view of the landscape from all angles. Your landscape should be designed to provide joy not only from the street, but from the inside of the house, too. What does it look like from the guest bedrooms or the kitchen window? In addition to our design, you can contribute to color at every angle by creating containers with some of our seasonal color suggestionsPlace your containers where you want them, and then go inside and look look through every major window to see what they’ll look like before you plant.  

Goshiki Osmanthus Plant is a Year Round Pleaser

Winter is a good time to assess just how colorful your landscape is! It’s very easy when planning a landscape to create a great spring and summer display, but the trick to creating year around color in your landscape is selecting from plants that bloom each season. I will try to lay out over the next couple weeks and months plants that you can add into your landscape that will bring it year-round interest and create focal changes as the seasons progress. A lot of these plants I’ve used for years in my landscape designs as well as my home landscape. Just walking around yesterday I realized how Yellow Twig Dogwood, Edgeworthia and other winter plants create an interest even on the dreariest of days.

Osmanthus heterophyllus 'Goshiki' is a tough, strikingly variegated evergreen shrub with five colors on each leaf which create an eye-catching display in the landscape.

Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Goshiki’ is a tough, strikingly variegated evergreen shrub with five colors on each leaf which create an eye-catching display in the landscape.

For starters, let’s look at Goshiki Osmanthus. This great mounding evergreen shrub has variegated foliage throughout the year with interesting color changes as the new foliage comes out and the later summer foliage matures. It is a slow growing shrub that loves to be pruned hard so it’s adaptable in small spaces and, if left untreated, can grow 4 to 5 feet tall, which makes it very adaptable for many areas in your landscape. For those of you who get creative around the holidays, its foliage works very well in Christmas wreaths and holiday greenery. Goshiki means ‘five colored’ in Japanese and refers to the various colors found on each leaf. The leaves will show off all five colors: cream, pink, orange, yellow, and white. Those colors will appear in attractive spots or swirls that combine together to create an eye-catching display!

Other notes:  Thrives in dry, hot climates, good container plants, drought tolerant, fragrant, low maintenance

Learn more about Unique Environmental.


Unique plants for your winter landscape

Does your landscape needs some interest this winter? Try incorporating in these two shrubs and an evergreen perennial into your woodland landscape plantings.

Daphne odora is a classic southern fragrance.

Every southern landscape needs Daphne odora to welcome in the fragrance of winter. This evergreen flowering shrub creates a unique feature to your winter landscape, flowering from late January to early March, depending on weather conditions. Its fragrance summons the thoughts of what spring will be.

Daphne is a great plant for a woodland or shade garden, growing only 3 to 4 feet tall on maturity. Mixed in with plantings of hostas and other later spring blooming perennials, it creates a great seasonal mix for your pathways and woodland garden.

Need a winter flowering fragrant shrub for your landscape?

Think of planting Edgeworthia (Paper Bush) shrub. Edgeworthia flowers in the winter months and is a great woodland plant for your landscape. Mix them in with evergreen ferns or heuchera to create nice woodland plantings that are seasonally interesting.

Upside down tulip? No, it’s Hellebores.

Sometimes that’s what Hellebores (Japanese lantern) look like when they bloom. This winter blooming perennial is quite interesting for a woodland garden landscape. The blooms with shades of pink to white make up the color array of this hardy evergreen perennial. Incorporating again Hosta, evergreen ferns and Heuchera along with other early spring and summery perennials creates a long-lasting array of seasonal interest in your landscape.

Volcanoes are for mountains, not trees and shrubs! Don’t over mulch your landscape

Mulch 2 to 3 inches thick helps maintain moisture around the root zone.

Over-mulching your trees will cause them to decline long-term as the tree cannot breathe at the natural soil level. Also, mulch tends to knit together and can form a barrier keeping rain water from soaking in to the root zone.

This type of over-mulching problem is more prevalent when using hardwood mulch products as they do not decay as quickly as pinestraw. But even when using pinestraw, it may be helpful to remove some of the decaying matter before applying new material.

This problem can also be detrimental to your shrubs in the landscape. Over- mulching shrubs will cause them to surface root into the decaying mulch material and when we get our hot, dry summers, these plants tend to struggle and sometimes die. Again, this problem is more prevalent when using hardwood mulch, but pinestraw over time can build up an unnatural mulch layer that may need to be raked off before applying new material.

Christmas trees can go to good use after the holidays?

Here are some tips for re-purposing a de-decorated tree:

Re-decorate the tree with treats for wild birds. Leave the tree in its stand or stand it in a large planter with rocks or sand to steady it. Put it on a deck, porch or patio and decorate it with orange halves, pine cones slathered with peanut butter, suet cakes and small bird feeders.

The tree can also gives shelter to small birds on those cold winter evenings. Once the tree has dried up and turned copper, it makes great kindling for your outdoor fire pit.

Remember, it’s not recommended to use your cut up Christmas tree in the house fireplace, as the pine pitch can become a problem in the chimney long-term.

Washington Hawthorn Makes a Super Ornamental Tree Choice

A Washington Hawthorn is an excellent ornamental tree that will bring spring color and winter brilliance to your landscape. The Washington Hawthorn is a mid-size tree that bears white flowers in the spring and boasts beautiful red berries throughout the fall and early winter months. Unique Environmental Landscapes chooses this tree for many Atlanta landscapes. Our clients love it.

Washington Hawthorn in December

A Ginkgo Biloba Tree Is a Great Shade Tree and Fall Color Addition

Noted for it’s outstanding brilliant yellow fall color, the Gingko tree is very tolerant and can withstand some pretty harsh conditions. The one thing that must be considered is soil drainage. The Gingko does not like standing water, it prefers a loamy or somewhat sandy soil. It is okay with short droughts, but NOT flooding. It likes a few hours of bright sunlight each day, too much shade could slow the tree’s growth which can grow to enormous heights. At first it grows very slowly and maybe a little crooked, no worries though, it will straighten out and pick up growth after several years.

Low maintenance – The Gingko needs minimal basic fertilization, maybe two times per year. A light layer of mulch at the beginning of each season is adequate. It requires very little pruning unless you want to ‘shape’ the branches which is best done in the spring.

The Gingko plant is readily available at most garden shops. You should know the female variety is fruit producing and this fruit can have a pungent odor. Removing the fruit immediately after it falls helps minimize this problem. Fall is a good time to plant the Gingko or almost any landscape material so it has time to get established before the heat of summer.

Spectacular fall color on a mature Ginkgo Tree

Are Your Growing a New Crop of Fescue This Fall

Many property owners seeded Fescue this fall and should be well on their way to a beautiful, green lawn for the winter. However, it’s important to keep the leaf drop off that growing grass. Fescue prefers the light and not to be bogged down under other debris. It might be best to use a leaf blower if possible.

No watering needed. With the recent rainfall and cooler temperatures in the Atlanta area there is no need to irrigate the new turf. Happy growing! Fescue might be high maintenance, but surely makes a beautiful lawn for homeowners and commercial properties alike.

Fertilize those Fall Flowers

Like the landscape installation department at Unique Environmental, your fall seasonal color has probably been in the ground for about a month now. You’re thinking the recent rainfall was good and now the sunshine and average fall temperatures should make your cabbage, pansies, and violas happy right? Wrong! It’s time for a feeding. Take advantage of one of the warmer days when it comes along over the next week and fertilize with Peter’s liquid fertilizer. I recommend liquid over granulated now because it will work faster.