Category Archives: Maintenance

Planning for the Next Season’s Plantings: A Journey to Fall Colors

Although the weather is warm and we still have a couple months of summer left, it’s never too early to start planning ahead for the next season’s landscaping. 

Which brings up a past memory of a project we worked on with one of our most ambitious clients. They had a grand vision for their garden that required precision and a touch of artistry. They desired a landscape that was not only full but also diverse and dimensional, a true kaleidoscope of colors with varying heights and rows of defined plants. This was not just any garden; it was a masterpiece waiting to come to life. 

We listened intently, understanding their dreams and strict specifications. Through careful planning and dedicated execution, we turned their vision into a lasting landscape. The result was breathtaking—a vibrant and dynamic display that was a sight for sore eyes. 

 

 

As we reflect on this, it’s a reminder of how crucial planning is, especially when it comes to seasonal plantings. While the weather is still warm and summer is in full swing, now is the perfect time to start planning for your fall colors. It might seem like there’s plenty of time, but there are a couple steadfast truths:

  • There is a lot that goes into planning, from design to ordering to execution. Each of these steps takes time.
  • The days are long, but the weeks are short—time flies! And before we know it, it might be too late to take action on our ideas.

 

Why Planning Ahead Matters

Even though fall might seem far away, it’s essential to start planning now to ensure your garden is ready when the season changes. The best plants and materials are often in high demand, and waiting too long can mean missing out on the ideal selections for your space. By planning ahead, you can secure the plants and materials you need, allowing for a smoother transition when autumn arrives.

 

Steps to Start Planning Your Fall Space

To begin planning for your fall landscaping, consider the following steps:

  1. Evaluate Your Current Space: Take a look at your existing landscape and identify areas that could use a refresh or an injection of color. Think about how you want these spaces to look come fall.
  2. Choose Your Plants: Start selecting the plants you want to feature. Consider a mix of perennials and annuals to create a diverse and long-lasting display. Popular choices for fall include mums, pansies, and asters.
  3. Accent Plants: Don’t forget about the importance of accent plants. Kales and cabbages offer rich textures and hues, while coral bells add a splash of color. Ornamental peppers, which are edible but quite spicy, along with pumpkins and gourds, can add a unique element to your garden. 
  4. Design Your Layout: Plan the layout of your garden, thinking about the heights and spacing required for the chosen plants to thrive. A well-thought-out design can create a more visually appealing and cohesive look.
  5. Prepare Your Soil: Make sure your soil is ready for new plantings. Enrich it with compost or other organic materials to provide a healthy foundation for your plants.

 

 

Let Us Handle the Details

Planning and executing a seasonal garden can be a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be something you have to shoulder on your own. Our maintenance services are designed to take this off your plate, leaving the seasonal color turnovers to trusted industry experts. 

We stand out by listening closely to your unique vision and needs and taking the appropriate steps to ensure your space is stunning year-round. We also engage in regular check-ins and conversations to confirm your goals throughout the year, making sure outdoor space is everything you envisioned with each changing season.

Contact us today to learn more about how we can work together to create a stunning outdoor space that you can enjoy throughout the years!

 

Mastering Water Conservation: A Guide to Proper Landscape Irrigation Methods

We’ve always told customers that irrigation systems are a necessary evil. And we’ll be the first to tell you that most people don’t have the time to water using the old-school conventional methods, such as dragging around a hose or even the classic watering pail.

So what do people need to understand about irrigation systems so they can be used optimally?  

They’re actually quite convenient, especially with new landscape installations. They can help save water and money if set up correctly, and establishing new plants or turf grass is key to maintaining your landscape and properties during hot, dry summers. 

Yet irrigation systems also have a downside. “Overwatering.”  

We’ve encountered many customers who love to run their irrigation system outside of the recommended schedule, which can cause bigger issues down the road.

Plants growing in soil that is too wet suffer from a lack of oxygen, which leads to the death of roots and a loss of vigor in the plant, as well as stunted growth with yellowing leaves, which is a symptom of over-watering. 

 

 

Turf grass that is overwatered also becomes weak, which makes it susceptible to fungus and insect infestation. All of these problems result in costly treatments and even full replacements.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), more than 50% of water used for outdoor purposes, such as irrigation, is wasted due to inefficient watering practices; up to 40% of water applied through inefficient irrigation methods, such as overhead sprinklers, is lost to evaporation before reaching plant roots. Furthermore, a leaky irrigation system can waste up to 10% of a household’s water usage annually.

So let’s talk about how to use your irrigation system optimally and avoid common mishaps!

 

Avoiding Overuse

Many of us tend to overwater our landscapes, thinking that more water equals healthier plants. 

However, excessive watering can lead to water waste, root rot, and increased susceptibility to pests and diseases. Also, make sure to regularly check irrigation systems for leaks, malfunctions, or inefficiencies to prevent overuse of water.

By understanding the signs of overwatering and implementing mid-season inspections, you can take proactive steps towards efficient water management.

 

The Importance of Proper Timing and Measurement

When it comes to watering your plants, timing is everything. Watering early in the morning, between 3 a.m. and 10 a.m., allows for minimal evaporation and optimal water absorption. 

Avoid watering in the heat of the day or late in the evening, as this can lead to fungal infections, water loss, and ultimately an unhappy landscape or garden.

 

How to Manage Water Wisely

Contrary to popular belief, dry-looking soil doesn’t always indicate a need for water. Before watering, test the soil moisture and observe your plants for signs of stress. 

By taking a proactive approach to irrigation, you can avoid unnecessary water use and promote healthier plant growth. 

 

Spread the Word

Education is key to promoting water conservation and healthy irrigation practices. 

Share your knowledge and resources with others to empower them to become proactive stewards of water conservation within their communities.

 

 

If you’re unsure about optimizing your irrigation system, don’t hesitate to seek professional assistance. Our team at ILT Vignocchi is here to help you set up and maintain an efficient  system tailored to your landscape’s specific needs. 

When in doubt, call us out!

Contact us if you have any questions or concerns about your irrigation practices, as every drop counts in our journey towards a more sustainable future!

Echos of Sustainability: A Heart-Centered Project

Earth Day has come and gone again. 

 

On that day, your ILT Vignocchi team sat in the corporate office discussing upcoming projects and what lies ahead.

 

This led us to reminisce on a past project where a commercial client expressed a strong commitment to sustainability for their property, and we were delighted to assist in bringing their vision to fruition. This particular property was known as Tetra Pak at the time, and is located in Vernon Hills. 

 

Among the various aspects of the project, we developed a comprehensive tree preservation plan, adhering to tree preservation measures and silt fencing to protect the existing trees on site. Additionally, we oversaw the tree clearing operation, ensuring it was conducted with precision and care. 

 

 

Utilizing resources efficiently, we also repurposed bark mulch created from the grubbing operation, storing it for future use in naturalizing transition areas between native habitats. Moreover, we carefully dug up and preserved native trees for relocation within the property, ensuring not to disturb the ecological balance. 

 

Complementing these initiatives, we meticulously implemented the landscape blueprint, integrating features like boulder retaining walls strategically positioned to preserve as many trees as possible. Additionally, we crafted a paver walk complete with granite curbing and metal hand railing, guiding employees from the parking lot to the main building entrance.

 

Another unique aspect of this project was that the construction of the building was initiated from the interior, minimizing the presence of heavy machinery around the exterior, thus preventing damage to tree roots. Upon project completion, there was only a three-foot gap between the building’s edge and the surrounding forest. 

 

Overall, it was a win for sustainability and a testament to the power of nature-inspired design.

 

Yet one of the most significant achievements of the project was the seamless collaboration across various operations, as experts came together to strategize and implement a landscape plan centered around preserving the existing plant material.

 

 

It’s safe to say that it was a heart-centered project, fueled by genuine care and a collective commitment to excellence. 

 

You see, sustainability isn’t just about large corporations eliminating harmful practices; it’s about turning our individual care and concern about this beautiful planet into actionable steps to preserve its integrity. 

 

And here are a few simple tips to get started, no matter how big or small your property is: 

 

  • Mulch and compost: Utilize recycled landscape waste to protect root systems and enrich the soil, conserving water and promoting plant health.

 

  • Plant a tree: Each tree serves as a vital ally in the fight against climate change, absorbing pollution, sequestering carbon, and providing habitat for wildlife.

 

  • Start a vegetable or herb garden: Whether you have acres or a balcony, growing your own food reduces reliance on pesticides and transportation while fostering a deeper connection to nature.

 

  • Introduce houseplants: Indoor greenery not only enhances air quality but also brings a touch of nature into our homes, fostering a sense of calm and well-being.

 

We hope this information has inspired you and helped you see what’s possible.

Give us a call at 847.487.5200 (ext: 2220) or send a message to get started.

 

As always, if you’re ready to link arms with a knowledgeable team that can turn your vision into a lasting landscape, you know where to find us!

 

February Newsletter 2022

A Message from our President
I humbly welcome you to a happy new year.  Humbly because it has been a journey for many of us.  There is something about adversity that brings out the best in people.  I feel that way about our team.  They have continually come to work during a pandemic, following our strict safety rules.  It wasn’t easy.

What I found so enchanting is that we focused on building comradery.  We instituted weekly meetings, headed by one of our trusted coordinators, that attempted to bring people together and create a sense of community when it felt like there was not one left.

This is the company you employ.  We strive for the best, so you are elated with your services.  But we also strive to make a safe place of health and happiness for our hard-working employees.  Coming from immigrants, I know their struggles and their fears.  It is our pleasure to combine service to you with the service to them.

We look forward to a new year with you.  We thank you for your business.  Most importantly, we thank you for helping us to make the world better for our environment, which includes our employees.

Donna Vignocchi Zych

Landscape Maintenance Update
Can you believe that April is around the corner?

Monthly, we will inform you of what you can expect on your property, generally.  I say generally because nature is a living thing.  Conditions change, plants die for little to no reason and diseases can be prevalent.

For February you should have received your landscape management renewal if you have one.  You should have received a site improvement proposal as well as an irrigation proposal if applicable.  If you don’t have one and would like to request an estimate please let us know.  The contact information is at the end of the email.  If you are not certain whom to call…call me!  Donna Vignocchi Zych at 847.613.5102.

Other than that know that we are very diligently preparing for spring 2022 and cannot wait to see all of you again.

Reminder of a great project

On a personal note
This year we experienced the passing of Carol Asher.  It had a profound effect on those of our staff that worked with her and personally within our ILT Vignocchi family.

For anyone that knew her she was a force…elegant and intelligent.  My memories of her are her love of plants and gardening.  She appreciated it as art, which most people do not.  Her and her husband, Mr. Asher, have been so generous and influential in the lives of my father and I as well as our staff.  For us at this time, it feels as though there isn’t enough gratitude.  But with gratitude for people that think selflessly, there is responsibility.  To perpetuate beauty of nature and kindness of spirit.  I for one will take this to heart and try to disseminate it to our work family.

We will miss her deeply and hope that there are the most beautiful gardens where she is now.  But those tending those gardens be assured she might know more than you.

Peace to you Mrs. Asher.  You will always be in my prayers, Donna.

Many of you might not know that we own a wholesale perennials groundcover nursery…here is our plant spotlight of the month!

Viburnum carlesii ‘Spice Baby’

Viburnum carlesii Spice Baby is an improved substitution for Viburnum carlesii ‘Compactum’. Standing at 4 feet tall and 4 feet wide, this petite shrub is an excellent selection for smaller landscapes.  This is a personal favorite of mine.  People love the smell of lilacs, but they can be problematic with blooming and disease.  This is a lovely alternative.  Happy planting!!!

What is Scilla?

What is Scilla?

We have probably all marveled at the beautiful fields of blue that pop up around this time of year.  Customers ask me all the time in wonderment, “What is that?!”

Scilla is a member of the lily family.  Most varieties bloom in spring whereas a few are fall bloomers.  It is coveted for it naturalizing tendencies.  So year after year they will slowly multiply to form that lovely blanket of blue.  I always warn that they aren’t for the faint of heart.  These are a true gardeners plant.  As seen below, if they love their home they can take over.

 

A mass of ScillaThey like full sun locations with well drained soil.  Plant them en masse for the best show.  you can even pair them with a Tete e Tete daffodil, which is a lovely dwarf variety in a creamy yellow.  Once they are done blooming, they are similar to other bulbs and do best if you let the leaves wilt.  Other plants like ferns and hosta can be used to help mask the withering leaves as they come up as the scilla is nearing the end of its season.

See how tiny the Scilla bulbs are?Once the Scilla have put on their show they disappear completely, back into dormancy for their next display the following year.  If you have never noticed this unique plant, take the time to look around…you won’t forget it once you see it.

Corporate Woods, Vernon Hills, IL

Benefits of a Spring Clean Up

A spring clean up for the inside of your home can mean different things to different people.  To some it is as light as cleaning off the patio and the grill and to those Martha Stewart enthusiasts it can be so so much more…washing curtains, emptying cabinets and giving them a thorough wash and possibly even power washing the roof.  Everyone’s need are different.

The same can be said for a landscape but there are some things that absolutely need to be accomplished.  First removing any branches, sticks and leaves from the property.  Doing a good fall clean up can help make this an easier task, but it still needs to be done.

You also want to cut back any Hydrangeas, grasses or perennials that were left in tact for winter interest to make room for new growth.

 

 

At this time we also like to cultivate, edge and fertilize the beds with a product that also contains pre-emergent (to help keep down those nasty weeds).  This function can prove difficult in Spring and sometimes needs to be chipped away it because of Spring’s wet conditions.

Next is turf.  It is important to be gentle with turf in Spring, again those wet conditions can make situations worse by tearing it.  That being said we rake wherever possible to pull up dead grass and snow mold, then topdress with a combination of grass seed and peat moss.

Activating your irrigation system is equally important, making any necessary adjustments.  But we tend to turn systems off when turned on in early Spring.  Running them only aggravates already wet conditions, which can encourage turf fungus and other problems.

Once all of that is complete and all your hardsurface areas are cleaned and tidy, your landscape is ready for the season.

March in to Spring with the Crocus

When diving into the history of different plants it more often than not more interesting than the actual biological development of the plant. If you delve deeply enough it is about how the plant has moved throughout the world and it fits into history.

The crocus is no different. It was first cultivated and grown for a very precious commodity. Saffron. Crocus sativus is a fall blooming crocus that has been grown for over 3,500 years
starting in the Mediterranean, as seen in a fresco in Crete. In fact, according to legend the Greek Gods Zeus & Hura loved each other so passionately that the land where they lived burst open with crocuses.

The crocus first made its trek to the Netherlands from Constantinople via the Holy Roman Empire’s Ambassador in the 1560’s where it continued it’s cultivation throughout Europe. So coveted were they that they even made an appearance in one of Shakespeare’s sonnets.

There are approximately 80 varieties of Crocus, 40 of which that are cultivated. Each variety takes on the appearance of its ancestors where they were first grown. The alpine species, C. vernus, is the chief ancestor of the common garden crocus. Dutch yellow crocus (C. flavus), from stony slopes in southeastern Europe, is another popular spring species, as is C. biflorus,tinged purple and with yellow throat, sometimes striped, from the Mediterranean.

As winter slowly recedes and spring creeps to occupy its space these lovely darlings make their debut. A little wink at what bursts of life and color are yet to come. So keep a look out for natures promise for spring.

Custom fire place

Hire a Professional

You hear it all the time. If you are gong to hire someone for a project in your place of business or you home…hire someone who knows what they are doing. Think about it, if you received the news that you required surgery, would you hire someone who had not been to medical school? Probably not.

The perception of the landscape industry has always been an uphill battle. Consumers often don’t consider the importance of professional degrees and certifications as a necessity. I assure you, I have heard enough horror stories to know that hiring an individual or organization with the correct qualifications will save you money and peace of mind in the long run.

We get at least two phone calls a year inquiring if we can fix something that a consumer has already paid for. Perfectly good money wasted for all sorts of reasons…drainage issues were never considered. Water can be one of the most quickly damaging elements to your property. There is always the frustrated person complaining about a walkway or patio that after one winter are failing, most probably because the base layer was improperly considered and installed. Oh and that one year warranty they told you about…good luck getting them to return the call.

Maintenance is a huge issue. If pruning isn’t correctly done it can and mostly likely KILL your plants. When you invest in a new garden and don’t cultivate and weed properly, the weeds WILL win. And believe it or not, there is a correct and incorrect way to mow grass.

I could go on and on, however I won’t. What I will do is let this wonderfully created and produced video do the talking. ILT Vignocchi and Montale Gardens are proudly featured in a branding video for our industry. It shows my fellow contractor’s pride in what they do, a down right love for their crafts. CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE VIDEO. I know you will enjoy it.

Boxwood Trivia

Boxwood are one of the most versatile and elegant of evergreen shrubs.  They have very shallow roots, can tolerate most conditions and be used in both formal and informal settings.  It are theses characteristics that make them so desirable today.

Their popularity is not new.  Although grains for a species was found in England as far back as 7,000 B.C., they were destroyed during a Glacial epoch.  They resurfaced around 4,000 B.C. in ancient Egyptian tombs.  Their popularity surged at the height of the Roman Empire and throughout the Dark Ages, used as hedges and topiaries in Royal gardens.

One of the Boxwood’s most delightful and interesting facts is that it has historically been used to make boxes, chess pieces, printing using woodblocks, and musical instruments and parts, particularly form the strings and woodwind class and is still used for many of these purposes today.

It is a plant that seems almost too good to be true!  Well almost.  As of late our dear friend has had some issues, that many of you might have experienced.  Several years ago we had an extremely cold Chicago winter with unusually light snow cover…and plants with shallow roots really rely on their winter blankets.  As spring sprung, we noticed the loss of a lot of plant species…especially boxwood, yews, junipers and roses.

Boxwoods suffered another hit.  Boxwood blight.  It is a fungal disease that really has no treatment.  The only course of action is to remove them from the nursery or landscape.

These plants of course need to be replaced, and replace them we are.  Why is having to replace them so important to our tale?  Well because Boxwoods are extremely slow growing, and as the demand increases due not only to popularity but a need to replace them, growers just cannot keep up.  It is a difficult concept to explain to a property owner, but our current reality.

There are alternatives.  They are not boxwoods, but they are options…”Green Mound’ Alpine Current, ‘Karen’s’ Azalea, Deutzia, and our owner’s favorite… Barberry.  Peruse some of these favorites on our nursery’s website.

Many people say everything happens for a reason.  Maybe this did.  I like to think utilizing a different palette challenges our creativity and encourages diversifying our monoculture.

Benefits of Dormant Pruning

As landscape architects and arborists we often find that plant material on our new residential, commercial and HOA sites have been left to get overgrown and mismanaged. The key to getting the plant material looking healthy, vibrant and growing properly again is of course dormant pruning.

Dormant pruning takes place during the winter months and this is valuable for many reasons. With the leaves absent precision pruning is much easier. Cutting the plant in the right spot helps the plant heal better and faster in the growing season. It also allows us to see the shape of the plant better and see limbs and stems that are either damaged, diseased or crossing. The colder months also mean less airborne diseases that could affect the fresh wounds of plants.

A sure sign that dormant pruning needs to be done is the evidence of witches broom which is a dense mass of shoots growing from a single point. This happens when the plant is perpetually pruned or sheared on the top and never in the middle or base of the plant. This type of pruning leads to a plant that is top heavy with leaves, but looks bare and leggy on the stems and base.

Dormant pruning removes the witches broom, allows us to remove overgrown stems at the base of the plant and makes it easier to remove unwanted growth. These fixes allow sunlight and air to get to the entire plant and not only to the top sections. Heights of plants are also much more easily controlled during dormant pruning allowing the plant to take on a natural shape during the growing season without blocking windows or doors.

-Aaron Zych

Landscape Architect  & Certified Arborist