OK, so May has finally arrived, and it looks like maybe Spring has finally sprung. But up until this week, it would have been hard to tell that spring was already here while walking around outside and observing the greenery, or lack of it.
Normally we would be seeing a lot more green this time of year in the way of leaf out on the deciduous trees and shrubs, but those buds are a little more reluctant to open in 2018. In case you were wondering when we can say Spring has actually started, read on…
Depending upon which definition you use, there are actually two different dates that the mark the scientific first day of spring.
1 March 2018 is the first day of the meteorological spring season
20 March 2018 is the first day of the astronomical spring season
Astronomical seasons refer to the position of Earth’s orbit in relation to the sun, taking into account equinoxes and solstices. Meteorological seasons are instead based on the annual temperature cycle and measure the meteorological state as well as coinciding with the calendar to determine a clear transition between the seasons.
Since the astronomical seasons vary in length, the start date of a new season can fall on different days each year. This makes it difficult to compare seasons between different years and resulted in the introduction of the meteorological calendar. This splits the calendar into four seasons of approximately the same length. The astronomical seasons run approximately three weeks later than those of the meteorological calendar.
All this scientific and statistical information aside, for most of us, and particularly those of us in the horticultural industries, the emergence of leaves on deciduous trees and the greening and growing of the grass signals the transition from winter to spring and the onset of the growing season. The flora that we are surrounded by does not know about our Gregorian calendar or the astronomical/meteorological movement of the planets. It is air temperature that is the most important factor in the “leaf out equation” regulating the budburst in woody plants; and the aspects of air temperature that most influence leaf-out timing can be broken down into two components: sufficient chilling in the winter, and warming temperatures in the spring that allow for the subsequent development of buds to the point of bursting. The term ‘chilling requirement’ refers to the exposure of plants to cold temperatures for a prescribed period of time before they will break dormancy. The specific amount of exposure to cold temperatures required to meet this chilling requirement differs among species but prolonged temperatures in the low fifties is the general threshold here in Chicago to initiate dormancy in late fall and to signal the plants to break dormancy in the early spring.
Temperatures here typically average around 51 degrees in the first half of April and 62 degrees for the last two weeks of the month, generally creating enough prolonged warmth to revive dormant plants and initiate the budburst. However, in 2018, we saw one of the coldest Aprils on record for the Chicago area; fourth coldest to be specific, with an average temperature through April 16th of 36.5 degrees; not conducive to helping plants break dormancy.
And for the record, that’s the coldest it’s been in Chicago to begin April since 1926, when the average temperature for April 1-15 was 36.4 degrees. The coldest first half of April on record was in 1881, when the average temperature for the first 15 days of the month was 33 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.
Warm temperatures are only part of the Spring equation that leads to the much-anticipated greening of our landscapes. Photoperiodism, the response of an organism to seasonal changes in day length, also plays a role in regulating the leaf-out of some woody plants. Not all species respond to photoperiod cues, and not all populations of a species have the same requirements. However, photoperiodism is directly associated with the movement of the planets, so it remains pretty consistent year to year in any given geographic region.
Rainfall is the other variable part of the “leaf-out equation”. If April showers are supposed to bring May flowers, we may have to wait a bit for those too. April was not particularly rainy this year. As a matter of fact, we actually had ten times more snow than rain this April; approx. 2″ of snow fell and only .02″ of rain, (compared to an average of approx. 2″ of rainfall).
So now you can put all of these fun cocktail party facts aside and don’t be alarmed if your trees and shrubs are not leafing out yet, or if your hostas, daylilies, and other perennials have not broken ground. The late hard frosts and light snow cover we saw in April may have spoiled the show for some of the very delicate early emerging flowering perennial plants, but for the most part, there will be no lasting damage as a result of the cold weather. Mother Nature has a way of protecting these plants by keeping them in dormancy until temperatures are tolerable for the newly exposed tender growth as buds open up. So be patient, and do not start pulling plants or planning replacements yet. Temperatures appear to have moderated and we are in store for a lot of sunshine in the short-term forecast so what you may have already written off as winter kill may surprise you and break bud in the next couple of weeks.
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I recently came across an article in The New Yorker titled “Home Invaders” about the history and increase of stinkbugs in homes. You know, those lazy, ugly bugs that look like little brownish gray shields. Since I am in the landscape industry I have a pretty good working knowledge of insects, skeptical this would enlighten me even more, I delved in.
Boy was I wrong, it was fascinating! If you are like me anyway and think bugs are fascinating…
The brown marmorated stinkbug (halyomorpha halys) was brought over from, most likely, East Asia, China, Taiwan, Japan or South Korea. The first sighting of the insect in the United States was on September 21, 1998 in Allentown, Pennsylvania. From that first discovery the insect population has grown in insurmountable numbers. This is not a good situation because the stinkbug does not have one food source it damages, like the emerald ash borer, but many. Sweet corn, soybeans, tomatoes, bell peppers, green beans, peaches, to name just a few. The article states “In orchards, they were crawling by the hundreds on every tree; so many had invaded corn and soybean fields that farmers had to turn on the windshield wipers in their combines while harvesting. Afterward, it wasn’t uncommon to find stinkbug damage on every single ear of corn.”
Insecticides do very little to rid these bugs due to their shape, the way they feed and the way their legs hold them above the top of a leaf (which prevents contact with the insecticide). Those characteristics that make insecticides non-effective in farm fields are what make spraying them in your home ineffective as well.
So, calling “The Orkin man” might prove costly and do nothing to rid your home of these pests. And a quick note, don’t squish or squash these guys as means of elimination, they got that name for a reason.
My question? “So why do so many show up in my house?” Well, that is the same reason there are thousands of them in farm fields. When the stinkbugs find food, or a place to overwinter in your attic, they release a pheromone that summons their friends. That pheromone can last for a year which can attract further generations into your home.
Is there good news? Yes, in summer the insects leave your home to reproduce and eat and in winter they enter, unfortunately in your home, a state called “diapause-a kind of insect hibernation.” This makes them extremely easy to catch in a cup and release back outside when they are hanging off your drapes or your walls.
The article is completely worth the read, if you have time on a Saturday morning while enjoying a cup of coffee. At least that is what I did.
Aaron Zych, RLA
This morning one of my two favorite moments happened simultaneously…laying in bed while it is still dark out listening to the rain and hearing the distant sound of a train’s horn. It might seem like a simple thing, but simple things can transport us back to simpler times.
The sound of a train blowing it’s horn in the early moments before daybreak bring me back to time spent at my mother’s family farm in Indiana. It conjures a picture in my mind of crisp red and white, an apple orchard, and my grandfather sitting alone in the kitchen before dawn with a cup of coffee, his profile illuminated by the small light on the kitchenstove.
My family is very proud of our small farm and their father, mother, brothers and sisters, who worked so hard to provide the necessities. You see, they were tied to the land. Growing to feed their families. They were prey to the same things we are prey to in our business…the weather, pests, disease, and ah yes…little critters.
I remember my grandfather had a book that outlined how and what he would plant each year, and how he intended to rotate those crops annually to get a better yield. Thinking back I wished I had had more interest, asked more questions. Maybe he had some secrets I could have used, not scientific research like we have abound today, but something he knew in his gut.
I was fortunate to have both sets of grandparents come from a place and time that held enormous respect for the land’s ability to provide beauty and sustenance. They only bought what they could not grow and they worked painstakingly hard for what they had to buy.
When my husband and I started a family, one of the first things we did was create a vegetable garden. I would constantly seek my mother and my grandmother’s advice. I would create a book, like my grandfather and make certain to rotate my crops. I made certain it was pretty as well. We also battled bunnies, pests, weather and disease. Although that garden fills me with immense satisfaction, joy and pride, it pales in comparison to the gardens of both of my grandparents and my mother’s.
But I do it, not just because it makes me think of my family, but because it reminds me and teaches my daughter…or as my mother says, “the land will always provide.”
Donna Vignocchi Zych
No one is really enjoying this latest prolonged blast of cold weather. We are all stuck inside doing our best to keep ourselves (and our kids) entertained and warm. We must have been due for this as we have been spoiled with mild winters the last few years. So, those mild winters, along with other things, have encouraged an increase in insect populations we have seen in our trees, shrubs, perennials and lawns, right? This arctic blast will surely help reset those bloated insect populations, correct?
The answer to those questions is complicated. This is because many insects have adapted ways of making it through a cold, harsh winter. Migration, hibernation, freeze tolerance (insects can produce an anti-freeze to keep them safe) and freeze avoidance are just some of the ways insects make it through.
In many cases it is the spring weather and not the winter weather that can determine the fate of insect populations.
For example, warm early springs can encourage insects to leave their winter hiding spots to search for food. If this is done too early there is not enough new plant growth for insects to feed on. This can lead to insect starvation. On the other hand, a cold spring will keep the insects in hiding longer which means they could miss one or two reproduction cycles. This leads to lower populations until summer. Just like baby bear’s porridge and rocking chair the conditions have been “just right” the last few springs for insect population growth and has not been greatly affected, one way or another, by our mild winters.
Heavy spring rains can also impact insect populations. Spring rains will increase mosquito and aphid populations that need the water to reproduce. However, heavy rains will decrease grasshopper (because their dormant eggs laid in the ground get saturated with water and rot before they hatch) and spider mites populations.
The, sort of, good news is this prolonged artic cold should cause some insect die back. The issue is, when talking about dieback, is this dieback not only effects “bad” insects, but the “good” ones as well. To make it through the winter bees flutter their wings, shiver and are in constant motion in the hive to produce heat for the hive and most importantly, the queen. Due to this constant motion bees need to eat a lot. A bee hive can go through thirty pounds of honey in a winter. If they run out of honey or it gets too cold the hive could lose their queen which effectively kills off the hive. So, where the mosquitos and aphids might experience some dieback so might the bees. Nature is a balance and we must be careful what we ask for.
Every year brings something different and it is our job here at ILT Vignocchi to study those treads so we know what to look for from year to year. We will know more when spring arrives what these temperatures did to the overall insect populations.
In case you were wondering…
Every autumn in Illinois brings with it a breathtaking change of color in the leaves of our trees, but although it’s late September, temperatures have been steadily topping out in the nineties every day. Not a traditional sign of Fall, yet the trees are changing color and dropping leaves as if they were not aware of the hot and humid weather.
Aren’t the leaves supposed to change when it gets cooler and we see some frosts overnight?
Do the trees know what time of year it is despite the unusually warm temperatures?
One explanation, according to Native American myth, is that the hunters in the Heavens killed the Great Bear in autumn and its blood dripped over Earth’s forests coloring some of the leaves red. As the hunters cooked the meat, fat dripped from the Heavens and colored some of the leaves yellow.
Not scientific enough for you? Need a more botanical answer?
In case you were wondering what actually initiates the changing color of the leaves and their eventual fall to the ground, read on…
Most people think that cool weather or frost causes the leaves to change color. It is true that there is usually a correlation between the cooler air and the onset of the autumn show. However, while temperature may impact the color intensity, it has less impact on the timing of the color transitions we see in the Fall than do other factors.
A quick trip back to high school Botany 101. During the spring and summer most of the foods necessary for the tree’s growth are manufactured in the leaves. This food-making process takes place in the numerous cells containing chlorophyll, which gives the leaf its green color. This extraordinary chemical absorbs the energy from sunlight that is used in photosynthesis, the transformation of carbon dioxide and water to carbohydrates, such as sugars and starch.
In late summer or early autumn, the days begin to get shorter, and consequently, the nights are longer. Like most plants, deciduous trees and shrubs are rather sensitive to the length of the dark period each 24-hour cycle. When nights get long enough, the cells of the leaves begin to block transport of materials such as carbohydrates from the leaf to the branch. They also block the flow of minerals from the roots into the leaves. Because the starting time of the whole process is dependent on night length, fall colors appear at about the same time each year in a given location, whether temperatures are cooler or warmer than normal.
The fact is, the vivid yellow and orange colors have actually been there throughout the spring and summer, but we haven’t been able to see them. The deep green color of the chlorophyll, which helps plants absorb life-giving sunlight, hides the other colors. In the fall, fewer hours and less intense daylight prompt the leaves to stop the food-making process. The chlorophyll breaks down, the green color disappears, and the yellow and orange colors already in the leaf become visible again to the human eye. As the trees break down the green pigments and nutrients stored in the leaves they are shuttled into the roots for reuse in the spring.
Along with the green pigment of chlorophyll are carotenoids, yellow to orange pigments, which, for example, give the orange color to a carrot. At the same time other chemical changes may occur which produce red anthocyanin pigments resulting in even more variation in the Fall color scheme. Some mixtures give rise to the reddish and purplish fall colors of trees such as dogwoods and sumacs, while others give the sugar maple its brilliant orange. For most of the growing season these colors are masked by the great amounts of green coloring.
The variations in Fall color are due to the mixing of varying amounts of chlorophyll residue and the other pigments in the leaf combined with a varied response to weather conditions. For instance, as the nights become cooler, the sugars trapped in the leaves of some oaks and maples will often form a red pigment. The degree of color will also vary from tree to tree. Leaves directly exposed to the sun may turn red, while those on the shady side of the same tree or other trees may be yellow.
As the fall colors appear, other changes are taking place. At the point where the stem of the leaf is attached to the tree, a special layer of cells develops and gradually severs the tissues that support the leaf. At the same time, the tree seals the cut, so that when the leaf is finally blown off by the wind or falls from its own weight, it leaves behind a leaf scar. Most of the broad-leaved trees in Illinois shed their leaves in the fall. However, the dead brown leaves of the oaks and a few other species may stay on the tree until growth starts again in the spring.
In general, autumn weather conditions favoring the most brilliant colors are warm sunny days and cool, but not freezing, nights. When there is mainly warm, cloudy and rainy weather in the fall, the leaves may have less red coloration. A few hard frosts can cause the leaves to wither more quickly and drop to the ground.
So, in case you were wondering, with all due respect to the Native American myths, it is a combination of temperature, light, and water supply that have an influence on the onset, the degree, and the duration of fall color.
Enjoy it while you can, because it doesn’t last long!
Recently I had an interesting experience…
It was a Sunday morning after a particularly stressful week and I decided to wake early and make our weekly grocery store run, by myself, for some piece and quiet. I was seeking some room for my mind to wonder, relax, only contemplating freshness of produce and what to make for our family’s dinner.
The trip through the store was pleasant enough. The store seemed to be populated with those of us trying to achieve the same thing. Getting away from the chaos.
As I was leaving, feeling calm and refreshed, I noticed a couple that might intersect me at a walkway. I proceeded because I thought I had plenty of room to turn before they reached the intersection. After I turned I glanced in my side mirror to make certain that the couple had enough room. It seemed as though they did not as the woman violently gestured to me, and as a result I gasped and held my mouth agape. She must have seen me because she smiled wide and waved, as though immensely satisfied her blow had struck home.
I was devastated.
I could not comprehend in that moment how someone could have so much anger at 7 am on a Sunday morning on a relaxing stroll with their spouse.
But what is true today is that there are a lot of people with so much anger. It is as if we have forgotten to see the best in situations, the best in each other and are reluctant to give one another the benefit of the doubt. I was, and still am, greatly saddened by that situation. So much so that I am writing this on our company’s blog in order to put something positive into a world that has become one I no longer want to recognize.
Those of us that have stress, have hardships, have pain…those of us that may not have the strength or support to get through it with positivity…consider this…
Start by finding beauty in the nature that surrounds you. Take time to walk, sit and drink up the colors, textures and serenity of public parks and nature preserves. Consider planting a garden, it is such a labor of love and provides such a feeling of accomplishment. Seek a little peace in that which provides boundless beauty.
Each night I say to my family, “let’s go on a garden walk!” Sometimes I get resistance of why or I’m too busy, but on the nights when we spend 20 minutes looking to see what is blooming, what is changing, what smells gorgeous, we find commonality and peace.
That is what we should all be looking for.
They all look the same from a distance but show subtle differences when examined closely.
The same might be said of snow removal contractors. We may all look the same at first glance, (trucks, tractors, plows, etc.), until you take the time to find out a little more about what we do and how we do what we do;
and you should take that time.
The subtle (or sometimes extensive) differences in capabilities, commitment, and conscientiousness will have a significant impact on the performance on your property; and that performance can make you, the property/facility manager, look like a hero to your residents, tenants, and employees…or not.
Here are five important lines of questioning to help you ensure that you are hiring the contractor best suited to make you look like a hero.
Contract terms have many variations (per plow, per inch, lump sum, time & material, etc.). You need to have clear terms that suit your specific needs, with reliable pricing, and no surprises. While cost is always a factor when making contractor choices, the less obvious consequences of using a lower priced but ultimately incapable snow removal contractor can cost you much more than money if that contractor fails to perform during one of Chicago’s challenging winters. Additionally, if those less expensive contracts are peppered with “extra” charges, you can find yourself paying much more than you would have had you chosen a more comprehensive service provider.
Do you handle the snow removal work in-house with your own employees or do you need to rely on the help of outside subcontractors who may not offer the same level of commitment to the work?
Who are some of the customers you work with now that I can talk to about their experience with you?
How are your crews dispatched and monitored throughout an event?
Do you rely on media broadcasts, airport reports, your own production yard, or will you send a representative out to my property to assess conditions on the site prior to mobilization?
What is your reporting process to ensure that I will be kept informed of progress and problems throughout a weather event?
Who will be available to me for communication regarding issues and special needs?
What is your policy for repairing or resolving damage that occurs as a result of the snow removal efforts?
Taking the time now to find out a little more about the differences between contractors by asking these important questions will help to ensure that you are using the company best suited to satisfy your needs.
At ILT Vignocchi, we welcome your scrutiny; and if you become a customer, we will make you look like a hero.
Call or email us today and find out more about the ILT difference.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.