Benefits of Fall Planting

Most of us love fall, but plants love it even MORE!
 

Most people think of fall as the end of the growing season and the beginning glimpse of another Chicago winter.  Well try to look at it as an ideal time to plant!

Fall is a perfect time for planting shrubs, trees, grass seed, and even perennials if they have a developed root system. Fall planting gives plants time to develop roots before winter’s blustery conditions.  The conditions are also less stressful and there may be more reliable precipitation.

What happens during fall conditions is a plant’s leaf and flower production is usually slowing down and approaching dormancy. Therefore, a plant can focus on root production.  Roots continue to grow when other parts of the plant are not. Generally speaking, root systems will keep growing as long as the soil temperature is at least 50 degrees.

Although we generally get more rain in fall, the good news is that plants use less water then.  Because days are increasingly shorter and cooler in the fall, plants are going to be photosynthesizing less and using less water.

Fall is also when depleted nurseries can begin to dig plants again, so varieties that were either unavailable or just downright unsightly in July and August, may become available.

Finally, don’t forget about BULBS!  Its often surprising why more people don’t take advantage of this relatively inexpensive way to welcome in Spring.  To achieve a gorgeous Spring show bulbs are planted in late fall.

Spring Tulips

If you’d like to start planning a fall project, it is right around the corner, so call us now and we will be happy to assist you!

Water and why you have to plan for it

After an uncharacteristically hot and dry June, Mother Nature just sent us a harsh reminder of her ability to restore rainfall statistics rapidly.

Unfortunately for many homeowners and businesses, this reminder came in the form of a seven-inch downpour over a 24-hour period that is still causing overflow and flooding around local rivers, lakes, and retention ponds.

Gurnee, IL experiences massive flooding

While it is difficult to predict and prevent the kind of flooding issues that are created by such catastrophic weather events, these events serve as a reminder to property owners, both commercial and residential, to be more aware of the impact that water flow has around your property.  Having a well-conceived and expertly executed drainage system around your buildings and grounds can mean the difference between staying high and dry through any weather event, or dealing with flooded yards, basements, parking lots, and roadways.

Generally, rainfall is the catalyst for creating drainage issues but ground water, specifically the location of the water table, can also play a role in the ability of water to move by design.  Where land is flat, soils are dense (clay), or the water table is high, a well-designed drainage system is a priority.  Consideration of grading, water flow, and proper drainage is essential to prevent minor issues during normal weather and to minimize major damage during catastrophic events like the one we experienced here in northern Illinois last week.  Without proper drainage systems in place, water can enter and undermine structures, damage drives and roadways, cause erosion issues, and drown expensive plant material.

It is not always enough to rely on the original drainage plans that were created for your property when it was first developed and constructed.  Typically, the more recent the development took place, the better the chances are that the drainage systems were designed and constructed to effectively move water around the property.  Older properties may have experienced settling, ground shifts, changes in water tables, neighboring development, or many other factors that can influence the effectiveness of these systems.  New or old, it is a good idea to observe and review the water flow issues on your property before a major problem occurs.

SURFACE WATER is one of the more common problems associated with improper or inadequate drainage systems.  Sites with clay soils will likely have issues with lingering surface water. By design, developed land should be graded to drain so that water flows through swales or sheet drains across turf or pavement to the curb or storm drain. The reality is that builders don’t always get their grades right and water becomes trapped, causing puddles on pavement, backflow against foundations, soggy zones in lawns, and muddy planting beds.

Downspout/sump pump discharge is a huge contributor to surface water issues.  Enormous amounts of water can come off a building’s roof or be channeled into a sump pit during a typical rainfall.  This water is often just re-directed back along the foundation of a building where it can go right back into the sump pit or collect on the surface of the ground around the structure.

SUB-SURFACE WATER collects underground, and becomes trapped when there’s poor drainage due to the existing soil structure or high water tables.  When it freezes and expands, the potential for damage increases. The frozen water pushes against your foundation and paved surfaces, causing heaving, cracking, and structural damage.

Solutions to improper site drainage can range from the very simple to much more complex depending on the nature of the issue and its underlying cause.  Conceptually, solutions fall into two basic categories.

  1. Capture the runoff and store it for reuse or allow it to percolate back into the soil.  Rain barrels and cisterns are used for storage of runoff water for use later as manual watering sources. Dry wells, French drains, rain gardens, and specific soil amendments can be used to collect and redistribute water back into the surrounding soil.These solutions have many environmental benefits such as reducing runoff from your property, filtering runoff, watering your yard, and recharging groundwater.
  2. Intercepting and redirecting runoff provides an opportunity to safely discharge high volumes of water to a place away from the problem area(s). This can be done using swales, French drains, catch basins, underground pipe assemblies, or downspout/sump pump extensions with splash blocks. These methods of rerouting water can also be combined with other capture and storage elements to provide even more benefit.

Please make note that whenever you are redirecting runoff, you must send it to a suitable outlet. Discharging runoff to an unsuitable area will just move the problems downhill. Be aware that redirecting runoff without collecting it or allowing it to percolate into the soil can negatively impact neighboring properties.

The first step in solving drainage issues on any property is discovering that they exist.  Problems like foundation seepage and erosion might not be obvious until a major issue develops at which point resolution can be expensive and complicated.  To become aware of potential trouble spots, walk your grounds after a rainfall event and look for places where water has collected.

Does it take more than an hour or two to dissipate after a heavy downpour?

Are there signs of erosion around the downspouts or sump pump discharge points?

Are you finding soft, wet spots in the common turf areas that do not dry out readily?

Are you seeing a decline in the health and appearance of plant material located in the collection areas?

These are just a few of the signs that water is not percolating or moving appropriately around the grounds of your development or commercial property.  Time to consider having an expert come out and assess the problems.  ILT can do simple visual inspections or accurately read existing grades by laser transit to establish the exact topography no matter how flat the site may seem.and determine precisely where and why water is moving the way it is on your property.  From that information, we can evaluate and present potential solutions for your consideration.

While last week’s flooding can serve as a reminder of the devastating impact heavy rainfall can have, it does not take a seven-inch downpour of water to cause damage around your property.  Finding and resolving water flow issues before they become expensive problems is always a better solution.

Call ILT Vignocchi today and we can start a conversation about resolving water flow issues at your HOA or commercial building.

Hosta Sunburn

Think you have fungus on your hosta?

Consider another possible diagnosis based on the plants’ exposure to sun.  Although some can tolerate more sun than others, hostas are basically known as shade loving plants.  Their vascular systems tend to only be able to handle a lower level of transpiration.

Transpiration is the transfer of water from the roots, through the plant’s vascular system to tiny pores underneath its leaves where it changes to vapor and is released into the air.

Non-sun tolerant hostas when put in sunny conditions are being asked to replace water at a rate that their vascular system cannot handle.  Hence sunburn.

Here are a few tips about using hosta in sunny conditions.

  1. Use varieties with light green to green leaves.  August Moon and Guacamole are good examples.
  2. Stay away from using variegated hosta.
  3. Never use hosta in a sunny spot unless it is irrigated or you are prepared to water it by hand…a lot.

This is what sun burned hosta can look like

 

Landscape Architects, Designers, Contractors – what’s the difference?

ILT Vignocchi, Inc. Landscape Architects and Contractors…it’s part of our name because it’s that important.   Landscape architects, landscape designers, landscape contractors, etc.; in case you were wondering what the difference is, read on…

While there may be a lot of overlap in these professions, the distinctions between them can make a world of difference in the planning, execution, and ultimate functionality of the outdoor spaces around your office building, campus, park, or HOA community.  To fully understand the distinctions between landscape architects, landscape designers, and landscape contractors you need to look at both the technical and the functional aspects of the job.

A Landscape Architect must have a professional license issued by the registration board in the state in which they are performing work. In order to become licensed, they must have a degree in Landscape Architecture from an accredited school, some years of experience working for a licensed Landscape Architecture firm, and pass a qualifying exam. Landscape architects must adhere to a code of professional standards, actively participate in continuing education, and be current with state-of-the-art developments and trends in the landscape design field.

A rendered landscape plan by ILT Vignocchi

Landscape Designers may have varying levels of knowledge and expertise; however, they are not required to be licensed or certified, and are not regulated by the state.  The “credential” for Landscape Designers has no legal bearing.  While many Landscape Designers do have some level of professional training, they can call themselves such without any formal educational or experience requirements.

Finally, the Landscape Contractor is the team that is responsible for physically building, installing and maintaining the landscape conceived by the architect or designer. They are not government regulated beyond typical local business licensing requirements, and their insurance and liability coverages vary widely. Dependent upon their levels of expertise, they may be able to furnish and install the plant materials and build the structures, hardscapes, and water features called for in a given design.

Licensed Landscape Architects use their technical and artistic talents to create drawings, construction documents, and specifications that dictate the allocation, arrangement, and construction of planting schemes, land elements, water resources, and integrated structures.  They usually work on larger scale projects such as commercial buildings, public parks, recreation facilities, institutional buildings, clubhouses, and multi-unit residential communities, and complex residential work. They are trained to document design concepts and plans on paper as a visual, graphic means of communicating their designs. This is especially important for complex projects that require permitting through city planning or building departments.

Because Landscape Architects have a responsibility for the health, safety, and welfare of the public in the work they do, they need to be licensed and are required to have professional liability insurance.  By contrast Landscape Designers have no legal responsibility for the health, safety and welfare of the public, are not required to carry liability insurance, and are generally only allowed to design simple, single-family residential gardens.

Thoughtful landscape architecture adds value to a commercial development, public spaces, or an HOA community by considering both the aesthetic and practical aspects of the landscape.  A landscape architect is conscious of the environmental issues with which today’s society is faced and has the expertise and training to plan around and manage the challenging issues on both commercial and residential sites, including:

  • Use of space, traffic volume, and human impact on the landscape
  • Appropriate plant selection and placement for long term impact
  • Elevation, grading, and land usage
  • Hardscape elements such as retaining walls and paving surfaces
  • Water movement, Irrigation and drainage systems
  • Outdoor structures
  • Placement of recreational features, utilities, service lines, entryways, driveways, parking, etc.

At ILT Vignocchi, we are licensed, certified landscape architects, proficient in the “big picture” planning, design, construction, and maintenance of both public and private landscaped environments. We can help you develop your project from the “ground up”; providing initial concepts, finished designs, construction plans and specifications.  Additionally, as contractors, we can build your outdoor environment to the exact specifications of the design, then maintain it to maximize your return on your investment.

Whether you are starting a project from the concept phase, interested in a large-scale renovation, or a simple redesign of a courtyard or monument sign, give us a call today and find out how ILT can help you.

“Water, water, everywhere, | Nor any drop to drink” – The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Considering all of the rain Mother Nature has blessed us with over the last few months, automated irrigation systems are hardly first and foremost on most of our minds right now.  However, summer heat and dry weather will be upon us soon and keeping landscapes lush and green will once again be the focus of commercial landscaping contractors and property owners.  But that lush greenery comes at a price; hand watering takes time, costs money, and maybe most importantly, wastes a lot of water.  In case you were wondering how you can save money this season through more efficient watering methods, read on:

Water conservation is not simply a “green” issue promoted by environmentalists, made even more prominent in the wake of recent severe droughts in the United States and abroad.  Fresh water conservation is an obligation shared by everyone on the planet.  Installing and maintaining an automated sprinkler system will help to avoid wasteful over-watering, ensuring a safe and healthy water supply for future generations; and by the way, will save you a lot of time and money in the long run.

Water conservation, through the use of automated mechanical systems, will save significant amounts of time, money, water; while still keeping your grass green, your flowers bright, and your ornamental plant material healthy and hearty.  Hand watering can waste more than 50 per cent of the water used due to over-watering, runoff, and evaporation.  An automated system can be programmed to water during the cool, dark overnight hours thus minimizing evaporation.  The system components will direct water to specific areas and, when timed properly, high efficiency nozzles will disperse only as much water as the plant can absorb in any one watering.  Saving money, doing the right thing environmentally, while still protecting the investment you make in your landscaping are all solid reasons to consider installing an automated irrigation system.

The irrigation industry has made tremendous advances in the way of technology over the last several years.  Manufacturers now provide more cost-effective, efficient, and reliable materials and designs than ever before, making it a great time to reconsider installing a system around your business or homeowner’s association grounds.  Even if budget constraints force you to restrict your system to flower beds, monument sign plantings, and high visibility turf areas at first, the technology is such that add on revisions later are simple and relatively inexpensive once the main water lines are in place and controllers with multi-zone potential have been installed.

With the advent of smart controller technology and wi-fi capability, water management can be monitored and managed from virtually any location, giving you and your service contractor greater flexibility to adjust your system from virtually anywhere at any time.  All landscapes are different and therefore the irrigation needs of your specific landscape must be assessed and evaluated to ensure that your system is designed and installed according to those specific needs.  The key is to get a professional design that appropriately combines the basic components of a modern automated system (high efficiency nozzles, drip lines, rain sensors, etc.) with the available smart controller technology.

Once you have made the commitment and installed your system, it will only be an effective water conservation and money saving tool if it is managed properly.  A mismanaged system can still result in enormous amounts of wasted water.  Broken heads can lose thousands of gallons of water unnecessarily; timers without rain sensors can still kick on in the rain; and broken lines underground leach out water into the soil with no benefit to your plant material.  Modern technology allows you and your contractor to monitor your system remotely and be alerted to these issues immediately, allowing for timely repairs with minimal lost water/money.

If you haven’t considered installing an automated irrigation system or thought it was too expensive the last time you looked at it, now would be a great time to reconsider.  With today’s modern materials and more efficient means of installation, it may be much more affordable than you once thought.  And the money you save over the long run can be put towards improvements and upgrades in your landscaping or elsewhere around your business or HOA grounds.

Contact ILT today and find out how you may benefit from automating your watering efforts.

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

President

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

Spring Orientation and Training

We have been holding spring orientation and training for years.  It is a time not only to make certain our staff understands our expectations and our standard operating procedures, but also a time to get their feedback and say thank you.

This season, due to extensive self reflection and customer feedback, we are overhauling our training and quality monitoring system.  Our quality coordinator, Aaron Zych, along with the aid of our sales and supervisory staff has created a comprehensive system of checks and balances.

Our new quality monitoring board

We are excited to start our season and are reminded that it is invigorating to constantly challenge yourselves to learn, improve, have FUN, and most importantly be the best.

Below are some photos from our event!

Bed edge training

Small Equipment Training by Juan Nunez

Classroom orientation by Aaron Zych

New pad for rack deliveries by Juan Miquel Ortiz, Miquel Ortiz, and Juan Morales