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Thaumas P. Ehr, Landscape Architect


Insights,Advice and Directions

My Blog

Thaumas Ehr: Posted on Monday, March 9, 2015 10:24 AM

Everyone wants a safe, comfortable environment in their homes for themselves and their families. But some toxic conditions may need cleaning up, particularly in older homes. Here are some possible hazards that may be in your client’s house.

Lead paint- Most homes built before 1978 probably have some lead-based paint in them, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Although you may see do-it-yourself instructions online for repairing or renovating a home that has lead-based paint in it, that’s too risky.

Thaumas Ehr: Posted on Tuesday, December 2, 2014 8:13 AM

I grew up in Wisconsin; my family owns a 5th generation landscape contracting business and nursery operation.

Part of our business during the "off season" was to decorate estates, homes, banks, churches, synagogues and public buildings for the holidays, and sell Christmas trees and flock them.

From the day after Thanksgiving until Christmas Eve all we did was work, eat and sleep!

A lot of work at the time, but a great feeling when people get theWOWfactor of the whole design and are put in the mood of the Season.

Thaumas P. Ehr: Posted on Monday, August 4, 2014 2:55 PM

Sharpen Up Your Garden With Sharp Tools!

It’s summer and the plants in your yard are growing like crazy!

If you want to fight back your own personal backyard jungle, be sure to use sharp and clean gardening tools, whether it be loppers, shovels, pruners, hoes, spades or lawnmowers.

Here are some suggestions on how to do it

Tools will lose their sharp edge if they get wet and rusty. How can that be possible in Arizona? It’s due to the sapand sticky residue from plants that is left on tools during pruning.

Thaumas Ehr: Posted on Wednesday, January 23, 2013 12:20 PM

Alligator juniper:Juniper, from Arizona’s high country, is wonderfully fragrant with a cedar-like aroma. It has medium hardness and mixes well with other woods. Alligator juniper is excellent in the fireplace or in a backyard fire pit and produces a cozy lively fire with crackle, pop and pleasant aroma.It is excellent for grilling and smoking. It’s a wood used by many of Arizona's elite resorts.

Oak hardwood:This long lasting hardwood burns hot with a good bed of coals. Excellent for grilling and smoking

Posted on Friday, November 23, 2012 1:59 PM

Fall is often when you look more closely at your swimming pool and realize you need to make some changes. Perhaps the decking is cracking and peeling or the interior of the pool needs resurfacing. Maybe you want to redo the deck or add a waterfall or fireplace.

But some of you aren’t even using your pool anymore very often. The kids have moved out of the house, and you now own one of the thousands of home pools in Arizona where no one even dips a toe in the water anymore.

Thaumas Ehr: Posted on Monday, June 11, 2012 11:38 AM

Water features can bring interest, beauty and wildlife to a garden, but they also can be work.That's why many homeowners are choosing relatively small options such as fountains, bubbling urns and waterfalls, rather than ponds and streams, a big backyard pond takes a lot of time to clean.With ponds you have to consider native animals, keep the water in balance and prevent algae from building up.

Thaumas Ehr: Posted on Monday, May 21, 2012 12:55 PM

You want to turn your backyard into an oasis with all the right stuff -- from fire pit to hot tub -- but you're hoping to do it as economically as possible.You've even thought about doing some of the hardscape yourself.Regardless of your plans, start with a good design. A landscape architect can show you the best available plants and products.A very basic design alone can probably be done for a price range of about $500 to $1,000. But the more space involved, the higher the cost.

Thaumas Ehr: Posted on Tuesday, May 1, 2012 10:31 AM

Choosing drought-tolerant plants isn't the only way you can make your backyard friendlier to the environment. If you're building or upgrading your patio, consider conservation with every change.Here are some sustainable choices for a patio overhaul.

Thaumas Ehr: Posted on Wednesday, April 18, 2012 3:46 PM

For much of Phoenix, home-entry design has focused on the automobile; the garage is now a homeowner's primary entryway. Only guests and UPS enter through the front door!

Thaumas Ehr: Posted on Wednesday, April 18, 2012 9:35 AM

There are hundreds of simple chores—or quick phone calls to qualified contractors—that can make your home safer and healthier for your family. Here are 20 to tend to right away:

Thaumas Ehr: Posted on Thursday, March 29, 2012 1:45 PM

Would you like to get more use out of your backyard this summer? You can do way more than you think to turn your great outdoors into an inviting oasis when Arizona heats up. It can start with a swimming pool, which you probably have already, but that's just part of the formula.   

Thaumas Ehr: Posted on Sunday, March 11, 2012 3:59 PM

If you had to live a week without air conditioning this summer, do you think you would survive?

If you’ve set up your home to take advantage of natural breezes and to block the hot sun, you’d have a pretty good chance. After all, generations of Arizonians managed to get through summer after sweltering Arizona summer without mechanical intervention before air conditioning as we know it hit the market in the early 1900s and came into common use in the ’50s. 

Thaumas Ehr: Posted on Monday, February 27, 2012 3:27 PM

The freshness of springtime isn’t just for the outdoors. Make it a season to refresh your home’s interior, too.

Start with spring cleaning. This year, do more than knock the dust around. Really look for areas that need cleaning. Clean areas you might never clean, like the floor under your refrigerator, the inside of your dishwasher and washing machine (use soap, water and white vinegar), the septic tank (treat it with RID-X) and the inside of your toilet tank.

Thaumas Ehr: Posted on Monday, February 27, 2012 3:12 PM

Here are 10 don’t-miss messes that could be hiding in your home:

  1. Brave the back of the refrigerator. Ask a friend to help you push your refrigerator away from the wall so you can unplug it. Empty the refrigerator and freezer and give it a good cleaning—inside and out. Use a bottle brush or a long, narrow vacuum hose to clean the coils under the unit. Vacuum and scrub the floor and the wall that it hides before carefully moving it back into place.

Thaumas Ehr: Posted on Thursday, February 2, 2012 2:15 PM

If you’ve spent even one summer in Arizona, you know that you need to find a way to shade your back yard or you won’t be able to use it for three months.

          Like the roof on your home, awnings, ramadas, canopies and other patio toppers can shelter your family from the scorching summer sun.

Thaumas Ehr: Posted on Tuesday, January 31, 2012 3:31 PM

The cool winter months in our great state -- when we typically get our highest amount of rainfall -- are a good time to consider how we're going to conserve water in the coming months.It's also a good time to think about the planning and investment Arizona has done to ensure residents have enough supply to meet their needs.The state Department of Economic Security projects that Arizona -- already home to more than 6 million people -- will see its population increase to 10 million by 2028, and 13 million by 2055.

Thaumas P. Ehr: Posted on Saturday, October 1, 2011 1:48 PM

Some people say that “night is the opposite of day”, well to some extent it’s true until you have to do something at night: like drive, work or protect property—then you have to change the opposite to see and to do this you need light.Without getting into a lot of physics, light at night usually involves a function like seeing to drive, preventing theft or illumination for walking or esthetics. It also comes from a source like a lamp or fixture and has a certain wattage or intensity. It has a specific color: yellow/pink from an incandescent bulb, bluish/white from a metal halide or LED bulb and orange/red from a mercury vapor bulb.

Thaumas Ehr: Posted on Wednesday, January 25, 2012 2:56 PM

It used to be that every backyard swimming pool looked just about the same—because everybody relied on the same product, Keystone Kool Deck, to keep the concrete deck around the pool comfortable under bare feet.

In fact, if your concrete pool deck was built before the mid-1990s, it’s probably topped with that familiar, mottled beige concrete. Today, though, Kool Deck installers skilled in what one of my friends in the swimming pool business calls “artistic professionalism” have become few and far between.

Thaumas Ehr: Posted on Tuesday, November 22, 2011 2:58 PM

You may not know that your pool pump uses more electricity than any other appliance in your house except your air conditioner. You also may not know that most pools are equipped with pumps that are too big and use way more energy than you need to keep the water sparkling clean.

The culprit: the single-speed pump. A small one is probably fine if all you want to do is circulate the water in the pool. But it might not have enough speed to run your pool cleaner, waterfall or other electrical extras that need an occasional, bigger blast of energy.

Thaumas P. Ehr: Posted on Saturday, October 1, 2011 1:27 PM

If you have a pool at your home I’m sure you know what a pleasure it can be on a hot day—but as they say “there is no free lunch”. A pool is fun to be in and look at but if you don’t stay on top of maintaining it, it can be a chore and cost a lot of money to repair. Basically it comes down to some simple factors:

Thaumas Ehr: Posted on Friday, October 5, 2012 2:38 PM

In 2010, there were about 6,000 burglaries in homes every day nationwide, according to the FBI. More than a third of the time, that burglar went through the front door, and he usually paid a visit on weekdays from 10 to 11 a.m. and 1 to 3 p.m.

These intrusions might not amount to much loss – a few dollars left on a dresser, a TV set or a video camera – but the Justice Department says only about 14 percent of burglaries in single-family houses are ever solved. Once you have had a break-in like this, the feeling of safety you once had in your home may be gone for quite a while.

Thaumas Ehr: Posted on Friday, April 6, 2012 2:26 PM

It’s a given that you’ll lock the doors and arrange to forward your mail before you head for cooler climes and leave your Arizona home empty for the summer. Here are 11 precautions you might not have thought of for keeping your empty house safe while you’re away.

1. Leave the air conditioner on—but crank the thermostat up to around 88 degrees. Place five-gallon buckets of water around the inside of the house. The water will slowly evaporate and add moisture to the indoor air.

2. Weatherstrip around windows and doors before you leave.

Thaumas Ehr: Posted on Friday, April 6, 2012 2:26 PM

Whether you have a cabin near a national forest or a ranch-style home in the suburbs, our dry, hot weather puts it at risk for catching on fire.

That risk is heightened when the house next door is vacant, if your home sits close to another one or if you live next to an alley.

It’s not just wildfires that threaten homes from the outside.The hot exhaust from a car driving through an alley ignited the dry grass on the ground and sent that flame onto a wood fence and into a home.

Thaumas Ehr: Posted on Monday, March 12, 2012 2:52 PM

1.Falls.Remove anything that anyone could trip over, slip on, topple off of or tumble out of. It could be spilled food on the kitchen floor, a slippery shower, an area rug that’s missing its non-slip mat or an exposed extension cord. People sometimes fall because they can’t see the steps, so think about adding bright lights—and a light switch at the top and bottom of the staircase.

Thaumas Ehr: Posted on Monday, March 12, 2012 2:52 PM

Whether you do a lot of repairs around your house or rely on reputable contractors to make them for you, you—and everyone in your family—should know how to turn off the water supply, gas and electricity to your house.

So before you have an emergency at your house that involves water, electricity or gas, take a few minutes to locate the shut-off valves for those utilities. Test them to make sure they’re in good working condition. Older valves that haven’t been touched in years can break, and it’s better for that to happen during a test run than during an emergency.

Thaumas Ehr: Posted on Monday, December 19, 2011 4:07 PM

If the dirt around your home’s foundation seems to be separating from the house, or if you’re noticing a lot of cracks on your indoor walls around windows and doors, the problem could be the soil under your house.

More than half of homes around the country—and more in Arizona—are built on soil that’s considered “expansive”—that is, it swells when it gets wet and shrinks when it gets dry—and about half of them will suffer some damage because of that swelling and shrinking, the U.

Thaumas Ehr: Posted on Sunday, December 18, 2011 4:06 PM

A horse died in Chandler Heights a few years ago when a tiny crack in the earth opened up during a monsoon thunderstorm and swallowed its corral. A consulting geologist I know says nearby homeowners are lucky the crack—called an earth fissure—didn’t open up under their homes and swallow them, too.

Hundreds of earth fissures—cracks at or near the soil surface caused by decades of removing more groundwater than the rain and snow can replenish—are scattered around Arizona’s valleys, and there’s no telling when they will transform from harmless cracks to huge gullies.

Thaumas Ehr: Posted on Monday, June 4, 2012 10:41 AM

Growing up in the Midwest, where my family had a nursery, I was always fascinated by how and where things grew.

In the nursery,some things grew better in certain places than others,but in nature everything grew always in the right place! How come?

I eventually figured out the secret: Microclimates-warmer or colder areas within a garden - allowed for certain plants to thrive.Microclimates can differ greatly from the inner-city core,to the sprawling suburban landscape and to the open desert.

Thaumas P. Ehr: Posted on Tuesday, January 10, 2012 8:31 AM

Being in the landscape architecture and green industry for 35 years, I have always have been bothered by plants being improperly pruned. Many times I have said that our landscapes are being morphed into wastelands of pencil erasers, hatboxes, meatballs and tubes by uninformed landscape-maintenance people who have no idea what they're pruning with their electric hedge shears.

In many neighborhoods, once-beautiful desert plants have become unrecognizable.This is puzzling, given our proximity to a vast natural landscape.

Thaumas Ehr: Posted on Tuesday, December 27, 2011 4:07 PM

Fall is an excellent time, as well as winter, to trim most desert-adapted trees. Most of the more tender sub-tropical trees, such as ficus and jacaranda, should be trimmed in the spring -- only after the new growth emerges. Palms should be trimmed in late spring and summer after the seed inflorescences appear. My rule of thumb on palms is: NEVER trim more than 20 percent of the fronds. It is OK to remove all dead fronds, but do not remove all leaves up to or beyond the new seeds. This exposes the core to all kinds of problems, such as wind damage, core rot and sun scald.

Thaumas Ehr: Posted on Monday, December 5, 2011 3:00 PM

It barely seems worth the trouble to try to collect rainwater when so little of it falls on us a year. But it turns out that just one-quarter inch of rain can fill three, 50-gallon barrels, enough to help you water your gardens and lawn, at least for a while.

In fact, at a test house in Tucson, rain supplied about 8 percent of the water used by the family that lived there, which means they used less potable drinking water to water their plants and saved a little on their water bills

Thaumas Ehr: Posted on Thursday, October 20, 2011 11:40 AM

Arizona's monsoon will soon be ending, bringing in drier air and a bit of relief, even though it will still be hot.

This is a great time for garden planning and preparation. Soon, you can plant cool-season vegetables and sow seed for colorful spring wildflower displays.

Mid- to late September and October is the time to begin planting in earnest, while the soil is still warm. The warm soil and lower temperatures are ideal for root growth, which gives plants a chance to become established before it gets really cold - usually by the end of November.

Thaumas P. Ehr: Posted on Saturday, October 1, 2011 2:03 PM

“I don’t know no one who don’t like trees –cepting when they causes problems”. An Appalachian saying.

There may be some truth to this humble saying however, a specimen tree is a delight to behold: strong, majestic and healthy, it is nature at its best . However, that same tree placed too close to a home can damage a roof ,window or wall in storm, crush a car, take down a power line, block a road or harm a person. Usually the form of damage is to something else rather than to it.

Trees usually are not problems, thoughtfully placed trees compliment architecture, provide climate control and esthetically increase property value.

Thaumas P. Ehr Landscape Architect, PIIc 

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