Monthly Archives: April 2017

Designing for Security

Spring is often the time when building owners and HOA boards consider re-designing or refreshing their landscaping with some new plantings. At ILT Vignocchi we understand that aesthetics are always a big factor in plant selection, along with exposure, growth habits, site consistency, and even personal taste.
One frequently overlooked factor when making plant selections and choosing locations is security. Although the ideal time to consider landscaping for security around multi-family or commercial buildings is during the design phase; either at the onset of a new construction project or when a landscaping renovation is being contemplated, security should always be a major factor in your landscaping scheme.  In any case, it is important for a designer or landscape architect to “think like a thief” as he/she begins to consider the types of plants that will be used and their specific placement around the property.
In case you were wondering how to use landscaping as a simple, yet effective security feature, read on
One of the more common security considerations we make is to place low growing shrubs and ground covers under windows and around other entry points to keep sight lines open from street to structure and from inside a building outward.  These considerations, along with the use of plants with thorns, spines, or other prickly growth can discourage intruders from crawling along walls and windows.  The latter can also be useful around utility structures and other unsightly elements on a property as aesthetic screens which also deter vandalism.  However, remember to always take care not to block access for service workers.
A common misstep made by inexperienced landscapers is to plant young trees too close to buildings and other structures in an effort to create instant impact; not anticipating for their growth, and the eventual problems that the close proximity may cause to roofs, gutters, foundations, siding, windows, etc.; not to mention the potential security issues.  We place trees so that they will offer subtle screening and aesthetic interest from the street and out from windows; but we are careful to place them far enough away from building faces to avoid structural damage and so that the branches don’t offer easy access to the upper story windows and balcony/deck doors which homeowners may leave unlocked.
Landscape lighting can be a very useful tool against crime both around the outside perimeter of a building or in parking lot medians, courtyards, and loading areas.  Low voltage landscape lighting is an especially effective and beautiful addition to the landscape that will also serve to expose potential predators sneaking around the entry points of your building.  Illuminating the trees and planting beds around your property will likely discourage thieves from even attempting to gain access to your building.
When you are trying to evaluate a particular landscape design from a security standpoint, view the landscaping around your property as if you were looking for a way to break into the building.  Think like a thief. Check your entrances to see if there are any dense shrub masses, tall groupings, or low hanging tree branches that an intruder would be able to hide in or climb on as he/she attempts to gain entry into your building.  Heavily planted areas adjacent to parking islands can create safety issues for drivers accessing their cars late at night.  The same with service entrances or dock/garage doors where dense plantings make particularly attractive hiding places for someone looking to slip into your building through an open door as you pull in a car, carry out garbage, or unload a truck.
Remember, aesthetics and curb appeal can go a long way to marketing and your property but security and practicality should be of equal consideration when planning any planting job.  Intruders tend to seek the path of least risk and resistance. By carefully considering your design choices, lighting the perimeters and entrances of your property, planting trees or pruning tree branches away from structures, planting shrubs with some forethought and trimming shrubs and other brush away from access points such as windows and doorways, you can make your property a far less attractive target for criminals.

Perfect Pansies

I have a deep love of pansies.  I adore that they come in every color of the rainbow, which is unusual for an annual flower.  It is wonderful that they can be pure, or blotched or multicolored all on the same plant.  Have you ever looked at pansies when it is about to storm?  Try it, they absolutely glow.

Pansy Delta Premium Pure Lemon

What really sets them apart though is how charming cheerful they are.

Pansy Matrix Clear Mix

What can be seen as a drawback?  They are a cool season plant and in the Midwest we only get to enjoy them in spring and fall.  Oh I’ve done the experiments…transplanting them to the coolest shadiest parts of my yard to no avail.  They just peter out.  I actually like that they only shine twice a year.  It makes them all the more special.

It is thought that pansies are a close cousins to the viola, which has roots in Greece in the 4th century B.C.  However, they believe the first pansies were first found in France, because the word pansy is traced back to the French word pensee, meaning thought or remembrance.

Pansy Delta Lavender Blue

In the early 1800’s an inquisitive Lord Gambier and his gardener William Thompson began experimenting with crossing different varieties of pansies.  It is William Thompson who is accredited with removing long lines and created large blocks of color on the lower petals, created what is now known as “the face.”

Today popularity booms and most innovations are being made in Germany, Japan and the United States.

Pansy Matrix Midnight Glow

What is interesting is the amount of passion to innovate in this area.  It isn’t to create a drought free plant, or even one that is resistant to diseases or animals (which they are NOT).  The innovation, is to take something that was beautiful to begin with and make it even more so.

I for one am glad they are.

Donna Vignocchi Zych


Old Concepts, New Technology, Sustainable Results

Growing plants on rooftops is not a new concept. Centuries ago northern Scandinavians harvested sod from their surrounding landscape and placed it upon structures to create effective insulating and water resistant roof systems.  The Vikings who explored the upper Atlantic built grass-covered homes where they settled and in Iceland sod roofs and walls have been used for hundreds of years.

Although the living roof or green roof has been in use for a long time, modern green roof technology has helped to elevate this building method from a crudely effective construction element to an aesthetically pleasing, ecologically responsible building solution for age-old building problems and current environmental concerns.

green roof or living roof is a roof of a building or other structure that is partially or completely covered with vegetation and a growing medium, planted over a waterproofing membrane. It may also include additional layers such as a root barrier and drainage and irrigation systems.

Green roofs can be very basic, known as extensive green roofs that incorporate drought-tolerant, self-seeding native ground covers such as sedums, grasses, mosses and prairie flowers that require little or no irrigation, fertilization or maintenance. These green roofs are lightweight, inexpensive, and can be retrofitted onto existing buildings, often without significant alterations or additional structural support.

Intensive green roofs are more elaborate roof gardens designed for human interaction. They generally have a relatively flat roof surface or mild slope and allow for a larger selection of plants, including shrubs and trees and require specific engineering to be able to conform to the weight load requirements.

Today, the green roof is gaining in popularity as an environmentally conscious architectural expression that is a viable element of any sustainable landscape management plan; and here is why:

  • Storm-water runoff will be greatly decreased with the utilization of a living roof. The growing medium and the vegetation of a green roof retain large amounts of storm water and release it back into the environment. A typical green roof can absorb 30% of the rainwater that falls on it, reducing the amount of water that goes through our waste water systems.
  • It is a common misassumption that a green roof system will have a deleterious effect on the integrity of the roof system. Quite the opposite.  A well designed, correctly installed green roof will protect the waterproof membrane that lies beneath it and, in turn, will extend the overall life of a roof.  Recent studies indicate an increase in life span of almost double.
  • Green roofs absorb carbon dioxide that contributes to global warming; and the slow transpiration of water back into the air creates a cooling effect that helps reduce the heat retention and emanation in and around your building.
  • In addition to the energy saving features described above, the actual mass and density of a living roof will provide excellent sound insulation for a building as well.
  • And let’s not forget the aesthetic benefits of the rooftop garden. The roof garden intermingles the pre-construction environment with the built environment creating a sustainable cooperation between development and nature.  People love to interact in the relative secluded natural setting created by the intensive garden on a rooftop space.  Additionally, they benefit emotionally and psychologically from the ability to even look upon the greenery of an intensive or an extensive roof top garden.

Green roof technology was re-invented in Germany in the mid-20th century and quickly spread throughout Europe mainly due to its restorative environmental impact.

Today, Chicago has been a leader in green roof installations with up to 7 million square feet on approximately 500 rooftops; the most of any city in the United States.  The benefits of the green roof have not been ignored by suburban businesses and multi-family residential buildings either.

Green roofs add beauty, sustainability and longevity to buildings

Corporations, commercial building owners, and homeowners associations are looking for solutions to increase employee well-being, decrease their carbon footprints, increase their LEEDS scores, and differentiate their properties from their competition.  The rooftop garden has proven to be just such a solution.

Reach out to ILT Vignocchi today to inquire about the potential for your headquarters, office building, clubhouse, or other structure to benefit from a green roof installation.

Scholarship Thank You Letter

As an founding ambassador in NALP’s Education Foundation (National Association of Landscape Professionals), a scholarship in our name is given to a qualified candidate who is enthusiastic about learning and contributing to our industry.

Most years we receive a kind not of gratitude tell us a little bit more about the student who receives the funds.  This year was no exception as you can see below.

Thank you letter