Category Archives: Uncategorized

ILCA Gold Award Winner

It is an amazing moment for ILT Vignocchi.  We have been awarded a Gold Award from the Illinois Landscape Contractor’s Association (ILCA).  It is one of two Gold Awards that we received this year.  Below is a visual tour of the first project in Skokie, Illinois.  Subscribe to our YouTube channel to explore old videos as well as new…let them inspire you to get outside.  Dream of the possibilities.  And most important.  Call us NOW to help you create them.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4I7v52gm4zQ

The Power of Connecting with People

It was another great ilandscape show held at the Schaumburg Convention Center last week.  I found it so invigorating for so many reasons…new technologies and products, interesting seminars and seeing all the award winning projects from 2018 (more on that next week)!  The show is meticulously planned out by the Illinois Landscape Contractor’s Association’s Experience, Awards and Education committees and ILCA’s amazing staff and Executive Director.  In short, it’s a very big deal attracting 6,800 attendees.

I think most people dread attending events of its nature.  I saw several people, even those promoting products that definitely fit that bill.  But that attitude is SUCH a waste of an opportunity.  One of my favorite things to do when I come across those people is to interact with them, pull them out of their shell.  Maybe if I’m lucky I’ll get a laugh.  Try to turn around their day.

That’s the human interaction that is so important.  Sure sharing best practices, learning about new innovative ideas, those are vital to our business.  But there are those moments in between.  Asking about someone’s kid without trying to sell them something, but because you care.  Telling someone you love their tie, because you actually DO.

Put simply, taking time away from thinking about your problems, and to do lists and general needs to be inquisitive of someone else’s.  Try it, it’s very fulfilling, especially face to face and not through a text message.

I hope that one day we don’t completely lose that feeling we should all feel after a genuine face to face conversation.  That it would be an actual tragedy to have the true beauty of a laughing smiling face in person be replaced by yet another clever emoji.

Harry Vignocchi

Harry Vignocchi having some fun at the ilandscape show!

Why I do it might be simpler than you think

I think when I started working for my dad 24 years ago, he thought, “she’ll get bored, find something she loves and move on.”  What I think both of us didn’t expect is that I did, find something I loved.

There is so much that I love about our company.  I was first struck by how hard our men work, and what they can accomplish!  I love when our customers tell us how much they appreciate how kind our people are.  I love the smell when you walk into a green house.  I love the moment when the sun is rising and the trucks are rolling out.  But I think what I love the most is that I get to spend time with my dad, because when I was growing up, he was spending time growing the business.

My dad has a tremendous work ethic.  He gets it from his Italian immigrant parents, Mary and Corrado Vignocchi.  Their home was a modest farming town in Northern Italy.  They fled Italy before the war, both to escape the terror and find much needed work.  What they found here was hope, but it wasn’t easy.

I remember those afternoons with my grandparents, when it was just the three of us, I would say, “tell me.”  “Oh silly girl.  Tell you what?”  “Tell me what it was really like.”

They would tell me stories about a time before they could communicate in English, how people would treat them, with harshness and disrespect.  It still makes me heavy of heart when I think of it, and I think of it often, to remind myself.

They would tell me although it was hurtful they didn’t care.  They were here and wanted to provide a better life for their children.  A life of possibility, which proudly, they did…look at my dad.

Owner ILT Vignocchi

This brings me to the ultimate reason I stay, through a recession, through climate change and even through our current labor shortage.

You see, dad and I, like many in our industry, are a product of immigrants.   My dad has always been conscientious of that.  In our 49 years in business my father has made helping the people that work for us as important as helping our customers.

That’s something I want to carry forward, a higher purpose for working as hard as you can for something bigger than yourself.  Hopefully in honoring my heritage I will hear of yet another college graduation that fills yet another family with pride.

Donna Vignocchi Zych

New You Tube Video: Our office…SO much more than where we work

We are more than excited to debut our You Tube page!

ILT Vignocchi is going to utilize drone technology to share gorgeous, educational and sometimes just fun videos so you can get to know us better.  So subscribe now!  You don’t want to miss out.

Our first video introduces you to our main office, sister nursery Montale Gardens as well as our production facility.

Enjoy!!

ILT Insider: Stink Bugs

Our Core Values:  Quality  Honesty  Pride  Teamwork  Cleanliness  Safety  
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
Certified Arborist

ILT Insider: Changing the conversation on pruning

Our Core Values
Quality  Honesty  Pride  Teamwork  Cleanliness  Safety
TO SHEAR OR NOT TO SHEAR…
With spring right around the corner, those of us in the environmental services industry are happily ready to leave winter in the rear-view mirror and prepare for the new growing season. Over the next couple of months, here in the Midwest, deciduous trees and shrubs will come back to life and flush out their first new growth of the season. Typically, that is when most property managers and building owners expect to see their contractors break out the power shears and go to work shearing and shaving the plant material around their communities and office parks. We at ILT would like to ask you to consider supporting the movement to reverse that trend. In case you were wondering what that movement is all about, read on…
For many years now, we have been advocates of the anti-shearing movement, recommending to our customers that it is in their best interest, and ultimately in the best interest of their plant material, for our crews to leave the power shears in the truck and opt for the use of the hand pruners. Tree topping and unsustainable shrub shearing is, for the most part, ruining commercial landscapes and this practice needs to be replaced predominantly by natural selective pruning programs.

Shearingis the all too common landscape maintenance practiceof non-selectivepruning that forms plants into shapes that differ from theirnatural growth habit. Unsustainable shearing, i.e. the shaping of trees and shrubs into the endless balls and boxes that are seen on most commercial and many private landscapes, is resulting in less attractive landscapes, unhealthy growing environments, and expensive replacement costs for plants that cannot live out their normal life span.

Shearing creates a twiggy outer shell that gets ever denser and collects more deadwood and dead leaves every year, causing the condition commonly referred to as witches’ broom. These clusters of witches’ brooms create the perfect protected place for pests and diseases to flourish and they detract from the health and longevity of the plant. The weakened plants now require more water, nutrients, and pesticides just to survive, driving up irrigation and material costs. Eventually, as the plants succumb to this unsustainable shearing, more and more dead wood becomes exposed, detracting from their natural beauty. Ultimately, the plants either die prematurely, or get so bad that they cannot be saved and need to be replaced well before their normal life span.
Shearing also encourages water sprout regrowth; those straight-up, skinny, rapidly growing shoots that are a nuisance, breaking the natural architecture of the plant with weak unproductive growth. Water sprouts need to be cut off or re-sheared frequently to keep the plant looking neat. But shearing those off just creates more sprouts, locking the plant into a high maintenance routine. While many people like the look of a tightly sheared plant, the reality is that the sheared plants only look good for a short while before they need to be sheared again; promoting this unsustainable cycle.
Selective pruning, on theotherhand, promotes the health and natural shapeof a plant, saves money byreducing overall maintenance, and extends the life span of the landscape. Selective pruning techniques open up the center of the plant, with precise targeted cuts, allowing air and light penetration to create a stronger, healthier growing environment.  In addition to being bad for the plants, shearing of non-hedgeplants is counter-productive,resulting in higherlaborcosts since shearingrequires multipleoccurrences every season. Although selective pruning is much more labor intensive, selectively pruned plants need to be pruned only once every one to five years; so, in the long run, selective pruning practices will save on labor.
For the selective pruning movement to catch on, we need to address this common misconception that many people have that a plant needs to be sheared tightly to make it look like it is being well maintained. Under most circumstances, shearing actually subverts a tree or a shrub’s natural beauty.Every plant in a professionally designed landscape has been chosen because it adds something special to the overall design. It may have nice flowers, interesting texture, or artistic branch structure. Whatever the feature may be, it should be accentuated with pruning, not destroyed by shearing. A landscape designer’s skill is in creating a natural but interesting, seasonally changing, and aesthetically pleasing picture. Untimely shearing done by untrained contractors destroys that picture, making everything look the same-smooth and round, square and boxy, etc. Shearing continually chops away the new, fresh growth leaving old decaying or dead wood in its place. Additionally, this frequent, undisciplined shearing will often remove flowerbuds that are ready to bloom or those hardening off to provide next season’s color display.
Admittedly, some designers do get carried away with their own desire to be unique or unduly creative, calling for incompatible plant varieties to be placed in areas where they are doomed to be sheared back constantly (under windows, along sidewalks, against foundations, etc.). Then after the designer is long gone, the landscape crews are held responsible for maintaining the un-maintainable. In places where plants have been placed in unsustainable spots in the landscape, they should be systematically removed and replaced with more suitable varieties whose natural growth patterns are better suited to the space. Formal shearing should be reserved for “pruning art” like topiary or formal hedges, and only with plant varieties that are selected because of their ability to withstand frequent shearing.
As a customer, you must understand that most contractors are happy to accommodate your request to tightly shear everything on the property. Maintenance is a business, and most lower priced contractors will be happy to grab the shears and power through all of the pruning needs to be able to move rapidly on to the next task or their next property. Quick shearing fits nicely into a profitable regimen and helps them keep their prices low. However, what they don’t tell you, because they probably don’t know, is that selective and rejuvenative pruning, done properly either in-season or over the winter months, can all but eliminate any need for frequent shearing. That reduction of labor can often lead to saving you money or allowing for even more time on your property for other maintenance operations.
Almost anybody can shear plants without training, but selective pruning is more complex.  Crews require training to understand how this kind of pruning is done. Trained and experienced crews know what to do with each variety of plant in terms of the timing and execution of pruning operations. That type of knowledge is what separates the professional landscaper from the landscape laborer. A laborer simply does what he/she is told; a professional knows what to do. Those professionals get paid better wages so consequently the companies that employ those professionals need to charge a little more. As the saying goes, “you get what you pay for”.
If your doctor were to tell you to stop eating spicy foods to help ease the stomach pain that brought you to his office, would you tell the doctor to go ahead and remove your gall bladder anyway because that is what you think should be done. Probably not. You take the doctors professional advice because that is what you are paying for; and so it is with the professional contractor you hire to manage your landscape. If your preconceived expectations do not align with the sound horticulture practices your contractor is recommending, take a moment to reconsider and allow the professionals to provide the service for which you are paying. As a property manager or building owner, paying a little more for professional service will result in long term cost savings on premature replacements and unnecessary maintenance, and provide you with a more appealing marketable property.
In order for the anti-shearing movement in the landscape maintenance industry to get the necessary traction to affect real change, customers and contractors alike must adopt selective pruning as the new normal.  Landscape business owners must buy into the need to train crews in selective pruning techniques and wean them off the shearing default. Property managers and building owners must adjust their expectations, embrace the natural growth habits of the plants in their landscapes, and take the final step to demand selective pruning be done on your properties.

The purpose of this piece is to promote the demand for better pruning by getting the information out to you, the professional property manager or building owner. Reconsider your expectations. Tour your properties. Examine your landscaping. Talk to your contractors. Specify selective pruning to be done on all of your new plantings; urge your contractors to rehabilitate the previously over sheared plants where possible or replace them where necessary. If you demand that your contractors leave the power shears in the truck, over time, your landscapes will be transformed into the lush, healthy, low-maintenance, natural looking gardens that nature intended.

– Kevin Block

Why to choose container plants first

One of our invaluable assets is our sister company, Montale Gardens.  Located in Wauconda, Illinois, Montale is a wholesale nursery celebrating its 23rd birthday this year.  With each year we increase our diversity of products.  One of our most successful lines are our container shrubs.  The quality cannot be rivaled, in our humble opinion…here are some highlights of what make them and our other products so special.

Montale is a container nursery. What does ‘container nursery’ mean, exactly?

It means that we grow our plants in POTS.

Our shrubs and ornamental trees are not field grown – meaning dug out of the field, then balled and burlapped (B & B).  Our plants’ lives are started and nurtured in their containers, and that is the way you purchase them.

Benefits of container grown plants

  • A substantial root system develops first – tops are important, but are second priority.
  • It’s all about the root system when you are producing a plant. The container is its own mini-nursery for that plant to grow strong roots in, so that its foundation is sturdy when it’s time to plant it.
  • Our pots are not smooth-sided, but have vertical grooves.
  • The grooves on the sides of the pot direct the roots to grow down the sides and toward the drainage holes, encouraging rooting and root mass.
  • You get all the roots the plant ever grew.
  • No roots are lost in the process of digging the plant out of a field. Everything the plant had from the beginning is right there.
  • Container plants receive and drain water more easily than B & B plants.
  • They also benefit from a good dose of slow-release fertilizer, which is contained in the pot, and continues to keep the plant strong and healthy.
  • Containers are easy to transport, handle and plant.
  • Just grab the edges of the pots and go!
  • Containers made of plastic are recyclable.
  • It matters to respect the earth, so recycle them on your own, or return them to us.
  • Transplant shock is reduced or eliminated.
  • Less concern about returning to the site to solve problems later.

Mums the Word…

Nothing says fall like mums, kale, pansies and pumpkins.  
 
Give your property that autumnal feel by having ILT Vignocchi design and install a fall-tastic display of annual flowers.
You see, our wholesale nursery Montale Gardens, is very busy growing mums that are looking for new homes.
They will be ready mid to late September so you have them in time for your Halloween festivities!
You don’t want to miss out getting into that fall spirit!  So call your account manager now!

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