A couple months ago, Kay Ries’ back yard was nothing much to shout about.
“We had a grass lawn, a little concrete patio and a swing set,” said Reis, a resident of Orland Park.
Now, she looks out the window and sees paradise. The clue that she’s upgraded to something truly unique? How about the palm tree that has all her neighbors buzzing?
“We started with the idea of putting in an in-ground pool,” Ries said. “My husband always wanted one. The job just kept getting bigger and bigger. We wanted to get it done right so that we will be able to enjoy it for years. I think my favorite part was when Mark put in a little palm tree. Then, the yard became our little paradise.”
Mark is Mark McClure, residential sales director for Beary Landscaping, an industry leader that has been tackling jobs in the south and southwest suburbs for more than 25 years. He directed his team to plant the palm tree at the request of Ries’ husband, John, owner and operator of Alsip-based Mid-American Tool Inc. and also a franchise salesman for the Canadian-based Tilted Kilt restaurant chain.
“When the neighbors drive by, they’re always texting, ‘Oh, what a great palm tree,’ ” Kay Ries said. “Will it survive the winter? Probably not. We’ll probably have to replace it.
“But my husband wanted it, so he got it. He promised he’d work harder to pay for it. He works so hard already. It’s definitely an extra. I’ve taken to how nice it looks and how it completes the whole tropical look that we have going on out there. And Mark said he’ll help us out and install a new one every year if that’s what we want to do.”
McClure and Beary Landscaping worked with the Ries’ every step of the way on their backyard landscape makeover project, one that started in mid-June and was completed in late August. The list of new features runs the gamut from a custom fireplace with a recessed opening to house a flat-screen TV to an outdoor bar with a granite countertop and a quilted paver patio.
None of the features can top the palm tree that rises above all the brick and mortar and serves as the finishing touch, much like a cherry perched atop an ice cream sundae.
“Palms have been a big thing with people doing outdoor pools lately,” McClure said. “Palm trees have a made a new surge here in popularity. It’s difficult to get them to survive over winter. It is more of an annual plant.
“You have to budget that in just like you plant annual flowers around your house.”
McClure said typical tickets for Beary landscape jobs run from $5,000 to $70,000—or more, all depending on the size and scope of the project.
“We provide a wide range of different services,” he said. “We do everything from full-landscape maintenance, where we’ll actually maintain properties. We will do spring re-mulches on homes, complete new construction, where we do everything from the landscape designs to the sod, to the sprinklers, the brick pavers, the landscape lighting—everything all-inclusive.
“And, then, we will do a lot of this market, the backyard, outdoor environment market, which has really taken off. A lot of homeowners have decided to stay in their homes and really invest in their outdoor environment and enjoy that environment. And that’s what this new era of landscaping is all about.
“Those projects—depending on the features you put in to a backyard project with pools, fireplaces and pergolas—you can have $50,000 or $60,000 or $70,000 into it. Backyard patios, with a real nice custom patio, could be as simple as $5,000 to $10,000 to do.”
The Ries project evolved after McClure and his team started working with the homeowners. He pitched several ideas, one a tug-on-the-heartstrings notion that struck a chord with both John and Kay. They couldn’t resist.
“Right outside their back door on their old, existing concrete patio, they had a section of concrete where their kids at a young age put their handprints into the concrete,” McClure said. “We were removing that concrete patio. I came up with the idea—I said, ‘Guys, why don’t we cut this section of concrete out in an arch and we’ll put that right in as the hearth of the new fireplace?’
“So, it’s actually built in. We cut it out, cleaned it up so you can see all the handprints now. And we put that custom piece of their back yard and their history right into the fireplace. It is now the now permanent feature in their back yard.”
Kay said the Ries’ are thrilled with the finished project. Her boys, Justin, 13, and Zachary and Colin, twins, age 11, were swimming in August.
“We do love to entertain,” she said. “Now, we have the entertaining house.”
And a palm tree to start conversations, too.