Outdoor Living: Keeping Safe and Comfortable in the Garden

July 27th 2017
Glen Goldberg

Keeping Safe in the Landscape

We design and build extraordinary outdoor spaces so our clients and their families, friends, and neighbors can experience the great outdoors just outside their doorstep. Our designers incorporate features to enhance the experience: Patios, seating, landscape lighting, pergolas, BBQ stations, fireplaces, fire tables, and fire pits—all things to make for a safe and comfortable and pleasant time in nature.

However, nature’s wild side can be a challenge to suburban life. Even though our natural surroundings are relatively safe, the more knowledge you have, the safer you will be. Let’s take precautions.

Poison Ivy

Leaves of three, let it be; Berries white, take flight. That’s the standard rule for identifying poison ivy. But it may not be enough to keep safe and comfortable. Poison ivy grows as a vine, in patches on the ground, or as a bush. Each form sports three leaflets. The leaflets are quite variable, dull or shiny and toothed or smooth. The persistent inconsistency of leaves on the same vine or plant makes poison ivy unmistakable but harder to identify for the average person! One additional clue: Poison ivy uses red hairs, or aerial rootlets, to cling to tree trunks.

You may be on the lookout for poison ivy when camping, hiking, and just relaxing in Michigan’s awesome outdoors. Close to home, as we landscape throughout the area, we are constantly finding the plant and see to its removal for the protection of our clients and our staff.

We do not endorse the widespread use of herbicides, but when poison ivy in your yard threatens your family, it is time to take steps. Since many desirable spring wildflowers and desirable vines also have three leaflets, use this Poison Control of Michigan guide to identifying one from the other.


Michigan is home to five common ticks. Not all ticks carry disease. And not all deer ticks are infected with the bacteria that cause Lyme disease. And a tick that is infected must be attached to a person’s skin for at least 24-48 hours before transmitting that bacteria. But knowledge is critical. The State of Michigan has prepared helpful information concerning Ticks and Your Health to keep you safe and comfortable.


Growing up, mosquitos were simply a pest to be swatted, smacked, or tolerated. The discovery that the West Nile virus is carried by certain types of mosquitoes in Michigan changed forever how we feel about the pests. West Nile is a potentially severe disease that can affect anyone. Urban areas in Southeastern Lower Michigan (Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne counties) and Western Lower Michigan (Kent county) have historically seen the most West Nile virus activity. The risk of infection is highest for people who work outside or participate in outdoor activities because of greater exposure to mosquitoes.

The most effective way to be safe and comfortable and avoid West Nile virus disease is to prevent mosquito bites:

  • Use insect repellents when you go outdoors. Repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, and some oil of lemon eucalyptus and para-menthane-diol products provide longer-lasting protection.
  • Wear long sleeves and pants from dusk through dawn when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Install or repair screens on windows and doors. If you have it, use your air conditioning.
  • Eliminate common breeding spots. Empty standing water from containers such as flowerpots, gutters, buckets, pool covers, pet water dishes, and birdbaths.

We are experiencing a natural shift and facing concerns unheard of just a few decades ago. Deer and coyote sightings are common in the most populated areas of the county. As nature reclaims territory lost to development, we must find new ways to respond.

It’s still great to get outside! And it’s possible to be safe and comfortable while doing it.