Tag Archives: landscape

Kris Metzler

June 16, 2017 by

This sponsored content appears in the Winter 2017 edition of B2B. To view, click here: https://issuu.com/omahapublications/docs/b2b_0217_125/56

As Maple 85 Premium Landscape Mulch Center nears its 20th anniversary, much of its business comes from repeat customers and personal referrals, says president Kris Metzler, who owns the landscape distribution company with husband Todd.

“It’s our customer service. We are very attention-to-detail and we try to make the process as efficient as possible,” she says. The experienced, all-woman office staff is responsible for making a good first impression and providing the kind of care that builds productive and long-lasting relationships with customers, she adds. In turn, they are supported by a warm, family atmosphere with owners who don’t hesitate to pitch in when needed and aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty—literally.

Maple 85 provides top-quality mulch and river rock, aggregates, top soil, fill dirt, and Nebraska compost to residential and commercial clients. Customers can also purchase accessories such as landscape fabric and edging. During the winter months, the company provides salt and sand to contractors.

“We offer the most variety of mulch—eight different types and colors,” Metzler says.  “Most of our competitors offer three, maybe four.”

Another way the owners of Maple 85 distinguish their business from the competition is by offering the use of dump trailers for a minimal fee with any size purchase.

“We have different size trailers that we can match up with any size SUV or truck,” she says. “For those customers that don’t have a vehicle to pull a trailer, we can deliver the product to them.  Customer service is our number one priority!”

8415 Maple St.
Omaha, NE 68134

The Ash Borer War

March 2, 2017 by
Illustration by Matt Wieczorek

Tree lovers beware! An emerald ash borer infestation is coming to the Omaha metro. Jonathan Larson urges homeowners (specially those with ash trees on their property) to be on the lookout for little green bugs. Larson, an entomologist for the University of Nebraska, says the tiny, boat-shaped, metallic-green beetles are smaller than “the size of a penny.”

Although native to East Asia, invasive emerald ash borers were first discovered within North America in Michigan during the summer of 2002. Douglas County suffered its first confirmed infestation last summer, when a sick ash tree at Pulaski Park in South Omaha revealed the bad news.

Ash trees have no natural defenses against the ash borer. So, Larson expects the epidemic to be substantial. He compares the potential damage to the epidemic of Dutch elm disease in the 1970s and 1980s. Larson expects increasing confirmation of ash borer infestation over the next two to three years.

“If we don’t take the proper precautions, we will lose a lot of trees,” he says.

Precautions include yearly pesticide soil drenches for ash trees under 20 inches in diameter or biannual injections for trees over 20 inches in diameter. Larson says treatments range in price from $20 to $290; however, the cost of tree removal is also pricey. Larson believes that removal will be inevitable for untreated ash trees. He says ash borers are really good at finding trees, and they don’t usually miss one.

Larson advises landowners to remove ash trees from their property if they don’t plan on applying treatments. “Spend it all at once on removal or over a period of time on treatment,” he says. He recommends annual inspection of healthy ash trees by an arborist to help decide whether to treat or cut.

Hal Freeman is one such certified arborist and the owner of Omaha Tree Care. He offers treatments to some clients but recommends cutting down most ash trees “rather than fighting it.”

He generally recommends removing the trees before infestation. He says that ash trees “could be seen as a liability” and “could affect the value of your home.” The dilemma bothers Freeman because, as an arborist, he prefers to save the trees.

Steve Torpy, another certified arborist and owner of Torpy Tree Service, recommends choosing good candidates and offering treatments. He says that a large-scale loss of ash trees “would be devastating to our urban forests.” He cites many benefits of having established ash trees, such as saving on electricity and gas, and slowing water run-off. “There’s a lot of benefits people don’t think about,” he says, arguing that “saving the trees can be cheaper than the cost of removal and replacement.” An arborist can help a tree owner make an educated decision, so long as a tree is not already infested.

Infestation begins when ash borer larvae chew serpentine tunnels into the ash tree, devouring the phloem and cambium layers underneath the bark, destroying the tree’s ability to circulate water and nutrients. Larson says that early in its infestation, the ash borer inhabits the very top of the ash tree. The top begins to wither first. Larson says that after four or five years, the beetle moves down into the lower portions of the tree. After six or seven years, the ash borer infests the trunk. Then, he says, “there is not much you can do.”

Larson says there are four key symptoms of infestation to look out for: dieback, brooking, exit holes, and woodpecker feeding. Larson says “dieback” occurs in the very top of trees when the borers eat the inside of branches and the tree can’t grow leaves on those branches. “Brooking” refers to new chutes growing out of the lower portions of the tree. Larson says it is a common sign of infestation. “Exit holes” are visible in the bark of infested ash trees when the adult beetle emerges from the tree. He also says that an increase in woodpecker activity in an ash tree can be a telltale sign of infestation.

According to Larson, ash borer infestations have already been identified in more than 25 states. Larson says the insect has limited flight capabilities and has spread primarily through transportation of firewood and mulch. “People load up a truck with firewood and cross county lines.” It is unclear exactly how the beetle was brought over from China, but Larson says the prevailing opinion is that it arrived in some sort of wood product.

Larson says Nebraskans should be optimistic about saving their ash trees because the professionals have been working for nearly nine years in preparation for the epidemic. He has personally seen the devastation of the beetle in his home state of Indiana, one of the first states hit, and he says that experience is on our side now. Public awareness will help tree owners prepare. He encourages people to report green bugs that may be ash borers.

“I would rather look at 100 [insects] and find one that is [ash borer] than have someone get one and not call us,” he says. “They are beautiful insects but so destructive to trees.” OmahaHome

Visit emeraldashborer.info for more information.


This article was printed in the March/April 2017 edition of Omaha Home.

A Tropical Paradise

July 20, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

From the road, Roseanne and Mike Kielians’ house looks like a roof with no house under it. Just a roof. The houses to the left and right look like houses. But it appears as if the Kielians bought a roof, then ran out of money for the stuff underneath it.

Fear not. Just park the car and walk down the steps beside the roof. As you descend, a lake appears before you and an actual house—a lovely contemporary beach house—appears beneath that once lonely roof.

From the lake at Hawaiian Village south of Papillion the Kielians’ semi earth home takes on a very different look. From this angle, perched on the lake’s high bank line, it’s more like some contemporary cliff dwelling. Thanks to the one-story-tall water feature Mike built in 2002, the house gives a slight tip of the hat to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater.

Whatever, if any, the grand influences for this unique home, it’s a special place for its owners, who purchased the 33-year-old home in 1998.

“It’s our paradise,” says Roseanne, who, like her husband, Mike, is retired. “We fish, boat, listen to the waterfall, anything. It’s peaceful or rollicking—whatever you want it to be.”

The Kielians most recent remodel came six years ago. As with so many updatings, the upscale contemporary kitchen was the priciest and most involved.

But here, the eye is most drawn to those falls cascading down the bank line as if an artesian spring bubbled up below the house’s foundation. Amazingly, the extensive water feature was a first-time project for Mike 12 years ago. The falls took him a couple months to build, his wife says. It quickly became a labor of love—with a bit of obsession thrown in.

“He was pretty focused on that once he got started,” she says. “It was his masterpiece. The whole family got involved with it, too. It was a major project for us all.”

To match the development’s playful Hawaiian theme (Perhaps a bit kitschy, a little out-of-place in Nebraska? Nah.), the Kielians added some tropical flourishes themselves. Most notably: The “Bumba Shack,” a thatched hut that sits next to the water where friends and family can gather for drinks and socializing.

This exotic feature, which Mike constructed as a surprise gift to his wife, is homage to a beach bar the family enjoyed while on a vacation to Tortola in the British Virgin Islands.

“The Bumba Shack kind of speaks to the whole mood of the place,” Roseanne says. “It’s fun, it’s casual. It’s just a very easy livin’ kind of place.”



Be Our Guest

August 27, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

“They tell me, it’s up to you to change things out. We trust you.” Alex Ostblom, a landscape designer for Lanoha Nurseries, strolls across a newly transformed Westside lawn, naming flowers off the top of his head. Impatiens, begonias, mandevilla, and sweet alyssum are planted in great swaths of color, sweeping along sidewalk, driveway, and around to a brand-new back yard. Guests to the remodeled home might never suspect what the place looked like just a few months earlier.

Ostblom explains that the homeowners wanted a lawn that matched their refinished house’s new capabilities: to blend in with the rest of the stately neighborhood and to provide a perfect space to entertain family members and close friends. “Other than that,” he says, “they didn’t have too many particulars.” So Ostblom let his creativity loose, beginning the design process in March and construction in May. The entire project was completed by June 15.


The first order of business was to redesign an unsightly retaining wall that led around the north of the house to the back yard. Originally made of concrete block, the five-foot wall created a tight alley between the house and a small mountain of unusable back yard. Its considerable height so close to the back of the house blocked off half of the dining and living room windows. A cramped patio made a stab at bringing hospitality to the space.

To simultaneously create a much less imposing wall while also making the yard itself usable, Ostblom removed tons of dirt to create tiers of lawn that allowed him to install a limestone wall less than two feet tall. The limestone complements colors in the house and can actually be found in the landscaping of nearby homes, bringing the property more into the neighborhood’s fold. Large blocks of the limestone accent the front and back yard, “giving the grandkids something to climb around on,” Ostblom points out.


Thanks to the greatly shortened wall, guests in the dining and living rooms can enjoy a panorama of seasonal annuals (“One of the owners just loves lots of color,” Ostblom says), a rose cutting garden, and mature evergreens. “They wanted everything to look like it’d been there for years,” Ostblom says, so Lanoha Nurseries set field-grown spruce and conifers in place with machinery. “That’s a one-time deal,” he explains. “If the trees don’t take to this well, we can’t get the equipment back in here to put in more of that size.” So he’s monitoring their progress closely, already eyeing some barely noticeable brown needles on a spruce. “That one might be under stress from over watering.”

Frequent entertainment of friends and family meant the homeowners needed a large, welcoming space. In particular, they wanted a gas fire pit large enough where several people could comfortably gather. The idea of an L-shaped outdoor kitchen was tossed around, but the couple decided instead to place a simple grill out of sight around the home’s south corner to ensure that the fire pit remained their outdoor gathering place. A gas line leads from the house to the grill; no empty propane cans here.


Ostblom notes that establishing such a mature landscape within six weeks calls for careful attention to how light will change over the seasons. Most of the yard is in at least partial shade, particularly in the front yard and to the north. To the northeast and east, the yard transitions into full sun. To cope with the variety of landscape elements (varying light, drainage, and plants with differing needs), Ostblom says he redesigned the home’s irrigation entirely. “They have turf, trees, annuals…it all requires different watering.” To facilitate easy maintenance by Lanoha Nurseries without disturbing the homeowners, Ostblom had the irrigation clock moved from inside the garage to just inside the gate in the backyard.

“I visit about once a month,” he says, though he admits he makes the rounds in the neighborhood frequently, checking in on this and other landscaping projects for any signs of trouble. “Communication. That’s the biggest part in making sure it all looks amazing.”

Two Perspectives

June 20, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Nancy Lepo and Corey Broman are expert draftsmen. Both use the tools of their medium to create precise markings which address color, the movement of light, a sense of direction and shape, and the nuance of mystery, depth, and genesis. She carries her tools in a canvas lunch sack; his require a studio. Lepo uses traditional pen and ink on paper; Broman draws with a diamond wheel on glass.

Both artists’ work will be on view in a dual exhibition at the Nebraska Arts Council’s Fred Simon Gallery this summer. NAC staff, who determine the exhibition schedule, found the work of both applicants compelling and promising interplay.


Broman has been blowing glass for about 15 years, following a spark lit when he was a child on vacation, “watching an old man crafting a glowing ball of molten glass.” That spark was reignited by an exhibition of Chihuly glass at Joslyn Art Museum. Finding a glass studio in the phone book, he went immediately to Crystal Forge (hotshopsartcenter.com/crystal) and knew with certainty that “that’s what I want to do.” For months he watched, took classes, and assisted. Owner Ed Fennell encouraged him. “He referred me to Hastings College,” says Broman. “He gave me hope.”

Today, Broman is a full-time glassblower with a growing online business, Corey Broman Glass. In contrast to most studios, where a master works with a team of specialized assistants, he works solo, adapting and improvising his unique system of handling glass heated to 2,000°F. Molten glass is a thick, viscous material, constantly changing temperature and plasticity. This calls for a calculated choreography of gathering, blowing, rolling, and swinging a blob of hot glass on a 7- to 10-pound rod. He also does all his own cold work—the design and finishing of cooled glass—switching the emphasis from the physicality of sculpture to the precision of surface detail.

Lepo’s attention seems always to be on a small scale, but one can find infinity in her intimate landscapes. There is the expanse of a Southwest sky, opening over the canyon to our view just as surprisingly as it did to hers. Or sensing in the density of a spinning planet the cold vacuum of the surrounding void. “Drawing,” she says, “is a means of looking at something again for the first time.” And how better to really see than to map a landscape with tiny dots of ink, to define a tree branch or the trace of wind across sand by the proximity of one dot to another?

Lepo’s unconscious apprenticeship as a pen and ink artist began with her exposure to a variety of cultures during her childhood, her curiosity, her wondering. Later, as an engineering technology student, she understood the power of a drawing to convey information. “Looking again” is her impetus to move such utilitarian drawing to a deeper level of engagement. With the simplest of equipment—sketchbook, India ink, pens (the nibs rattling around in a small tea tin), water dish, pencils, an eraser—the self-described “nature-centric” artist can create a sketch whenever her wandering says “pay attention.”20130507_bs_4431-Copy_web

Finishing, then inking the drawing in her studio, Lepo employs pointillist techniques to describe form, light, and movement in detail, using only black ink and the white of the paper. The tonal gradation she achieves via stippling, hatching and cross-hatching, and layering is extraordinary—a picture may take up to 100 hours to complete. Working in her spacious north-facing studio at Hot Shops, her attention articulates the relationship betweenherself and a particular moment and place (whether real or imaginary). Surrounding that focal point, the world expands in scale and scope: Wind and falcon’s cry become the voice of the North Rim, the persona of the Grand Canyon, the panorama of the Southwest. Lepo’s anchor is a tree silhouetted by sunset.

Broman’s studio is an efficiently organized cubicle in a busy industrial plant. In just a few steps, he can reach his three furnaces (furnace, for melting glass; glory hole, for reheating; annealer, for controlled cooling to room temperature), his workstation/bench, a cupboard of supplies, and wall of notes, sketches, and recipes. There’s also a sandblaster, which he can use to create surface effects of layered color or a frosted appearance. Glassblowing is a sequential process, and running three furnaces is expensive, so time in the studio is carefully planned.20130507_bs_4464-Copy_Web

Vista embodies several techniques. Three blown glass pieces are assembled in a custom-welded stand. The diamond wheel was used to make thousands of light-reflecting cuts in the stem, and to engrave the disc with its delicate scene. The graceful leaf was treated with an acid bath for a matte finish.

Like Lepo, Broman appreciates the outdoors. He finds peace in moments of stillness and challenge in the variability of light. Both artists use the language of art to express a unique response that, in turn, informs and enriches viewers and bids us to pay attention. Finding the affinities and distinctions between their work, we learn to see again for the first time.

Nancy Lepo, Drawings/Corey Broman, Glass will be on display at the Fred Simon Gallery, Nebraska Arts Council in the Burlington Building (1004 Farnam St.) from June 24 – July 26, 2013. For more information, visit nebraskaartscouncil.org.

Olive Branch

April 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Olive Branch Integrated Outdoor Design, an Omaha landscape design company that specializes in lawns, pools, decks, patios, and gardens, has a “new tool in its shed,” so to speak. The company’s latest addition is a mobile unit that takes its design services on the road and right to customers’ front yards.

Owner Mike Brown, who founded the business in 2005, says, “The unit is a 22-foot 1964 Airstream Safari, equipped with a couch and small table for clients to sit and review plans and ideas. I tow it behind my truck, and it can be left on a job site. The technology on board is pretty simple—a drafting desk and an iPad or laptop with a wiFi hotspot.”

Each project Olive Branch takes on is tailored to the clients’ wishes and can be anything from a small upgrade for an existing area to a completely new space created from scratch, always with a “focus on artistry, cohesiveness, and quality outdoor living,” Brown adds. The mobile unit only enhances the company’s ability to serve clients’ design needs.

“Between client meetings and job site visits, I lose a lot of design time traveling,” Brown says. “The mobile design unit allows me to take advantage of downtime between meetings without traveling all the way back to the office. I can make design changes on-site while a project is happening, and clients will be able to get a more intimate glimpse into the design process.”

So far people have loved the “pop-up shop” on wheels concept, Brown says. “The hope is that the Airstream will become an icon for our company, and people will know they can stop in and visit us wherever they see us parked.”

Olive Branch
4415 Marcy St.