Author Archives: iltvignocchi

Health and Well Being

During this period of time when we are all questioning what is important, what is crucial, I am in a very reflective mood.

As those of you that have interacted with our company know, we can be philosophical when it comes to our business…everything we do needs to be beautiful, our people are our heart, and we take the high road because there is less traffic.

With that being said, I am personally given such great joy at seeing what is blooming before my eyes.  How about a neighbor, who with his 2nd grader, has created a giant chalk rainbow on their driveway to greet those who are out for their daily walks.

Those daily walks, I have seen so many people I have never met, friendly, kind and considerate of personal spaces.  People who live in the same area that are socializing in a new way.

I have great confidence that we will all come through this together stronger.

Be safe all, see you April 8th.

Donna Vignocchi Zych

Mr. Vignocchi’s famous pond with his little friend

 

Thank you to Vendor’s

We have amazing Vendors…from those that supply mulch and soil to stone and truck parts.  Our representatives spend time on our relationship, and with social media distancing people daily, that is key.  More often than not it is they who bring us new timely information about procedures, innovations and products that make us better. They are truly part of the backbone of our organization.

I’d like to take some time to talk about some of those people that make our lives easier, give them a shout out during these confusing and trying times.

I’ll start with Gail from Fiore Nursery.  Have you ever worked with someone who rarely if ever made a mistake, was highly efficient, and kind?  Well she is.

Then I will move on to Red’s Garden Center.  I know the women that have been running their father’s business and they are making him proud.  Loyalty, quality, and people that care about other people.  Go there, buy something, they’ve earned it.

What would we do without the quality material from The Mulch Center.  Erika and Denise never let us down and these women are BUSY!  They are on the phone all day taking orders.  They handle it with patience and humor.

Although we have an amazing nursery as part of our family of companies, we have to get annuals somewhere.  We get the majority from RCOP.  They have been in business for decades, not only providing the quality we expect to deliver, but the collaboration of helping with design decisions.  They love their flowers and we love them for it.

Anyone thinks getting sod is an easy task, it isn’t.  Diana and Central Sod makes our live easier on a daily basis.  She responds early morning when we are doing something last minute and she always delivers.  What I love about Diana is her respect for our workers.

Can you imagine that one of our favorite partners is a rental company?  We can’t own all of the equipment we need but we can call Katherine (Rental Max), at 6am in the morning if we need something to make our workflow be more efficient.  And she’s a peach on top of it!

There are so many more…we are so grateful over our 51 year history to have so many people watching our backs, in some cases doing the heavy lifting.

We owe so much to you.

COVID-19

OPERATIONAL UPDATE FROM ILT VIGNOCCHI: Along with you and the rest of the world, we’ve been closely monitoring the evolving situation with COVID-19 and we wanted to share important information with you about how our team is working to ensure that our operations and your service is handled appropriately and effectively.
As you are all certainly aware by now, Governor Pritzker issued Executive Order #8, effective March 21, at 5:00 PM through April 7; directing Illinois residents to Stay at Home. The terms of the Stay at Home order are somewhat complicated and open to some interpretation as to exactly which services are considered essential at this time of year. We are currently consulting with the Illinois government through our state trade association, Illinois Landscape Contractors Association (ILCA) to get further clarification on the boundaries of the Governor’s order. However, and above all else, ILT is going to adhere to our fundamental company code of conduct on which we have always based our decision making; “Do the Right Thing”.
So as of today, to remain in compliance with the Governor’s order, and to promote the strongest effort to protect and keep safe our employees, their families, our customers, and the general public, ILT will now set up to begin full scale landscape operations on April 8. Please understand, we are as eager to kick off the season as you are to have us continue working on your property, but the health and welfare of all of us needs to remain our primary motivation as we consider the fluid flow of information we receive on a daily basis.
We are currently exploring the feasibility of running one man crews, with staggered start times to avoid employee interaction, to continue providing essential services where it is appropriate according to the Governor’s order and each customer’s individual needs. Additionally, essential operations such as snow/ice management, debris/trash removal, and any other operations necessary to ensure your safety and well-being as well as that of the essential service providers that need to visit your properties will continue.
To keep things in perspective, April 8th is only one week later than our originally scheduled startup date of March 30. Rest assured that all of the services that are included in your landscape management agreements will be performed in a timely manner to their full extent once we are allowed to operate at full strength once again.
All of our employees have been and will continue to be briefed consistently on the current standards and precautions listed below as set forth by the CDC (Center for Disease Control) and they have been directed to follow them without exception.
We are also providing increased protective supplies to our employees and educating them about their proper use.
As an ILT customer/vendor/employee/family member, be assured of our absolute commitment to responding with utmost caution regarding the safety of everyone and to continue business operations to support our clients. We certainly appreciate your patience and understanding as we all navigate through these challenging times. We extend our best wishes to all of you.
From our work family to yours…Stay safe and stay at home.
Your management team,
Donna Vignocchi Zych, Harry Vignocchi, Aaron Zych, Kevin Block, Melisa Bell
Itasca Retreat

ILCA 2020 Gold Award Winter: Entertainment Retreat

Mature trees, water issues and outdated landscaping, were the issues that started this project. Our master planning took several different directions which started with us confronting a front yard that had no structure, extremely small entertainment spaces, and standing water around the entire 2.5 acre property that were causing issue around, and inside, the house.

Design work started by solving the water issues while keeping in mind the hundreds of mature oaks, hickories and maples on the property.  We worked closely with our civil engineer to come up with a plan of various rain gardens, berms, drain inlets and discharge piping, which in some cases were 18” in diameter, to move water across the property. Extreme care was taken to protect the trees which included such measures as protection fencing, heavy construction mulching, root pruning, air spading directional boring, hand digging, when needed, and other means to insure that trees would not be harmed.  Directing, moving, and storing water across 2.5 acres while avoiding mature trees took the understanding of the entire team about the sensitivity of the work they were performing.

In tangent with the drainage the hardscape plans took shape. The rear yard entertainment spaces had to allow not only for smaller gatherings, but also had to be substantial enough to host large parties. The views to the sprawling rear yard could also not be obstructed. Multiple rooms were created which were outlined by a continuous stone bench. The bench, opposed to a solid wall, allowed an open feel around the patios while still providing plenty of overflow seating. A custom stone fireplace was requested that needed to be, in the words of the customer “Unique, different and charming” No less than fifty variants of this fireplace were drawn.

Construction of the rear yard patios were difficult due to the tight spaces to get machinery and supplies into the rear yard, again, tree care was of the upmost concern. Precision was given to the seamless detailing between the concrete patios with the stone inlays. This went as far as planning the location and positioned of all of the control joints. This was all made possible by working side by side with our concrete sub to help insure the patios turned out as envisioned.

The front yard had to take on the same mantra, small feel but large spaces. A horseshoe driveway was installed along with a stone accent wall to provide a courtyard feel. In several cases this wall was only several feet away from mature hickory trees. Metal grade beams along with strategically placed concrete support foundations were used throughout to help insure the safety of the trees. Granite curbing, paver inlays and refreshed plantings finished the look.

With the water issues solved, woodland plantings finally were able to thrive. Care was given to smoothly transition between the ornamental and rain garden plantings to prevent any visual gaps.  The last touch, a putting green that the homeowner had been dreaming about for years.

The patio spaces are split into four distinct rooms. Each one having its own size, charm and intended use. The largest space, and the heart of the patios, is the dinning and fireplace patio. During this process various conceived additions to the house were executed by a long term subcontractor that we have always been able to work with flawlessly.

The quaint sunning patio was intended to be a place to take in the sun and relax.  Smaller in size than the main patio this patio can easily be cozy enough for two or also become overflow space during larger parties. The entire team worked tirelessly to insure that the concrete borders would work flawlessly with the intended natural bluestone inlays.

 

Morning Coffee is perfect in the breakfast nook. Intended for the two clients to spend time together without the feel of floating within a much larger space. The pergola and the climbing vines gives the space a very intimate feel and also allows a gracious transition from the house to the main patio space during larger gatherings.

The firepit and BBQ patio was the answer to the issue of how to address the “drop in” of one of the neighbors. Dinner for two or drinks for four is its intended use. Although difficult, given the age of the house, care was taken to insure the BBQ stone, as with all the vertical stone elements, matched the existing house stone impeccably.

The fireplace was a “must have” on the wish list from the client. Hard lines, from the angular stone, had to be broken up and softened by round boulders to provide the required look. The specific boulders that were used were carefully chosen, at the quarry, to provide the exact scale, shape and color needed.

The stone benches not only give a visual separation between the patios and the surrounding plantings, but also provide overflow sitting for parties. A solid seat wall would have given too much visual mass around the edges of the patio where the stone benches offer a much needed open feel.

The new horseshoe driveway provided the needed room for guest parking. Drainage was added to help relieve the issue of pooling water and icing. To provide structure a curved stone wall, granite curbing and paver inlays were added. Those elements are complemented by formal foundation plantings and loose woodland plantings under the mature trees.

Great caution was exhibited to protect the trees during wall construction. To span tree roots, metal beams on concrete post foundations took the place of traditional construction methods. A 12” thick mulch matting “pathway” was used along the wall as the stone was being installed to help insure ground compaction was kept to a minimum.

Many measures were used during construction, especially the drainage portion, to help insure long-term tree health. After construction, tree care continued. Systemic insecticides were used to help with two-lined chestnut borers, fertilizers with humates were applied in the roots zones and plat growth regulators were used to help stimulate new root growth.

Rain gardens were accented with appropriate natives and then were surrounded with more “traditional” plantings. What occurred were these wonderful pockets of colorful, lush plantings that could be seen and enjoyed from almost anywhere around the property.

The putting green was added to the rear part of the property and was positioned close to the refurbished tennis court. As with most elements around the property, several revisions of the shape, layout and positioning of the green were considered before the final layout was approved.

For more on this extensive ILCA award winning renovation, check out the video on our you tube page!

 

North Shore English Garden

ILCA 2020 Gold Award Winner: The English Garden

It is not often a client of many years’ states that it is time to start over.  A needed house addition forced a rethink of a visually stunning mature landscape. However, a silver lining was present. Although the client loved his yard, water issues had plagued it for many years putting stress on the existing plantings. This was the opportunity that was needed to solve the water issue while providing new elements to the yard. Change, in this case, was good.

Irregular bluestone on the old patio was saved for reuse on the new pool deck. It was considered that aged bluestone and new bluestone coping might not visually mesh. To make this work we meticulously detailed the pool coping giving one side a bullnose finish and the other an irregular edge. This permitted a seamless transition between the pool deck and pool coping.  A 5’ tall privacy wall was added along the property line, which paralleled the pool. For the wall, the house brick was matched as closely as possible, which also included mimicking the weeping mortar joints. Plantings and a water feature were added and accented by small details in the new walls.

A new large formal lawn panel was added which served three roles. First, it became a place to drain and collect the water through the addition of an underground gravel collection system. Second, it helped counterbalance the heavily planted gardens along its perimeter. Lastly, the lawn could become a usable space for a large tent during parties.

Bordering the lawn is an irregular bluestone walkway which is adjacent to raised garden beds. These raised beds help further keep the plantings dry and allow for a spectacular garden to flourish. The perimeter walkway not only allows for strolls through the garden, but also provides a pathway to other elements around the yard.

An elevated sitting patio, opposite the house, was a way to meet the demand by the client for a sitting area to read the morning paper while sitting in the solitude of the garden. A small meandering brook and pond where added to help drown out any exterior noise. This was accented by a bluestone slab bridge which allows a way to get over the brook to a woodland garden walk.

A formal dining and cocktail patio finishes off the opposite side of the lawn panel.  This patio is flanked by an herb garden and a formal planting of hybrid tea roses. These roses are prized plantings of the client and had to be transplanted, cared for off-site in greenhouses, and then replanted so that they would all survive. Similar to all the new gardens, specialty amended soils were used to help insure the roses would thrive.

Mature trees were either present or brought in, at a very full size, to finish the overall look of the garden. These created a gorgeous back drop and also afforded the opportunity to create a woodland garden walk. The perimeter of the property was finished with a custom wood fence that helps keep out deer and other critters that might disrupt the garden. In the end a once lush garden became a better version of itself.

A new pool and spa were added and surrounded with repurposed Irregular bluestone for the pool deck. The far ends of the pool were expanded to allow informal sitting and dinning spaces.

A new brick wall provides privacy and allows a backdrop for a hedge of pear trees. Vines and groundcovers complete the look. The bluestone coping became complimentary to the bluestone decking by taking on irregular shapes of their own.

The once arched windows on the house transformed to doors that lead to a bluestone landing complete with brick pillars and wood pergola which provide a smooth transition from the house to the pool deck.  Formal plantings along with planting containers soften the hardscapes.

A formal lawn panel provides structure and visual relief from the surround plantings. Under the entire lawn is a large gravel ‘cistern’ that collects all the water in the rear yard. Without this solution many of the other plantings would not have been possible.

A bluestone walkway and raised beds run the perimeter of the entire lawn panel. The raised beds help keep the beds dry while providing formality. Hundreds of cubic yards of specialty soil were imported to help insure the perennials, and other plantings, would have the best growing medium possible.

A long stone staircase leads the way into the sitting area of the garden. While a few large trees existed, several very large trees were installed to create a breathtaking backdrop to this patio and the garden.

A brook and pond added to the serene look and feel of the garden. The customer took some time finding the perfect statuary, which lead to us working with them finding the ideal positioning. A stone bridge connects the sitting area to the loose woodland walkway beyond.

It cannot be stressed enough the love of plants the clients have. Months and months of detailing out every single plant and its positioning in the garden still sees constant changes with weekly on-site meetings. These meetings help insure nothing is ever out of place.

Steppers lead the way around a woodland garden under mature and larger trees on the property. The same level of detailing of the plant material was expected, and was given, for this garden. Plants had to be positioned so the walk would bring new interest during every step and turn.

The formal dining and sitting patio extends off the new house addition. A seat wall encloses the space and gives is a subtle separation from the gardens. These walls match the house brick along with the weeping mortar joints. The patio had to be large enough to handle gatherings, but not too large to eat up any garden space.

The hybrid tea rose garden is the most cherished by the client. We worked with suppliers to come up with a soil mix that would be perfectly balanced for these roses. Unbelievable care had to be given to moving, storing and replanting the roses during construction. A new wood gate and lattice fence welcome guests into the rear yard.

It was imperative that the spaces flowed together and were visually connected. This helped bring the garden spaces together into one thematic crescendo.

Check out our stunning video of this project here on our YouTube Page

 

 

 

 

Before and After

Plantings can make a huge difference for the feel of a front of a house.

Plantings make it feel warm

Plantings make it feel inviting

Plantings make it feel like home.

 This planting did all of that and more. This was the next phase for a wonderful customer we have worked with for a few years now. We love being part of slowly transforming people’s dreams into realities. It is one of the things we love most about this profession.

Balanced Spaces

Design can be all about balance:

 Balance the amount stone.

 Balance the amount the greenery.

 Balance the amount of wood. 

 Balance the amount of color.

 When everything is in the correct balance what you are left with is a very enjoyable space to relax in and enjoy with family and friends.

stone bridge

Bridge Beauty in Lake Geneva Wisconsin

We have a small saying around here.

 If you can’t make it to Augusta then bring Augusta to you.

 We designed and built this bridge to connect two sides of a dry creek bed that gets inundated with water during every heavy rain.

stone bridge

 

ILT Vignocchi Fire Pit

Firepits

Firepits:

 Don’t need to be in a secluded part of the yard.

 Don’t have to be strictly for s’mores.

 Don’t have to be boring.

 Firepits DO help create ambiance, a wonderful cozy feel and dramatic scenes so incorporate them into seat walls and your dinning spaces and have them create a WOW factor. We love doing just that for our clients.

ILT Vignocchi Fire Pit