Category Archives: Uncategorized

Erosion Control using plants

So you have a steep hill, what to do?

 Plantings help prevent erosion

 Plantings add color

 Plantings add interest

 Plantings become a show piece

 Sure, we added 100 tons, or more, of stone, but to enhance the look you need plantings. Lots and lots of beautiful and wonderful plantings of shrubs and perennials to make the look, literally, come alive.

Governor Pritzker Signs HB269 – WORKERS’ COMP-ABILITY TO PAY into Law

On July 12, 2019, after six months of persistence and lobbying, Governor Pritzker signed HB269 into law. HB269 introduces a series of sweeping reforms to worker’s compensation insurance enforcement and puts a target on the back of all illegal operators who jeopardize their employees’ well-being for fatter profits.

 ILCA took the lead on drafting this landmark piece of legislation aimed at ramping up worker’s compensation enforcement. HB269 was filed this past January and was sponsored by Rep. Jay Hoffman, the Chairman of the House Labor Committee in the House and Senator Linda Holmes in the Senate. The bill had massive bipartisan support as well as the support of numerous business and labor groups. HB269 is about protecting legal businesses and hundreds of thousands of Illinois workers and their families.

 Most notably, HB269 will:

  1. Allow for a single commissioner to open up an enforcement action (down from three which was the primary reason for slow or no enforcement)
  2. Allow a commissioner to authorize a work-stoppage if the company cannot demonstrate proof of insurance
  3. Create a 90-day timeline for all enforcement actions
  4. Allow an IWCC investigator to write job site tickets for up to $10,000 for companies working without comp (used to be $2,000)
  5. Bar serial violators from self-insurance

 ILCA thanks the dozens of members who let their voices be heard about the realities of interacting with the black market every day. Your stories opened the eyes of legislators to the problems our industry has been wrestling with for decades. Every year, 9,000 bills are proposed in Springfield and only a tiny percentage are passed – making this a historic achievement. ILCA thanks our lobbyist Dave Manning, staff, and our Regulatory and Legislative Committee and Political Action Committee for their efforts.

For the past few years, ILCA has been a leader on worker’s compensation insurance enforcement in Illinois. It is estimated that as many as 30% of landscape companies are operating without worker’s compensation insurance for their employees. That is unacceptable and puts thousands of trained and qualified landscape professionals and their families at risk.

A few years ago, ILCA debuted The Empowerment Packet because we want 100% compliance in our industry. This was a collaborative effort with the Illinois Worker’s Compensation Commission (IWCC) to identify and stop illegally operating businesses. An ILCA member can look up the company’s insurance status and submit a claim using a tailored form to the IWCC. Many ILCA members have taken advantage of this. ILCA has also shared information regarding the fines levied in our industry that range from thousands to millions of dollars.


Artistry runs deep here

A custom sculpture by our owner Harry J Vignocchi

My father Harry graduated from Drake University with a major in Psychology and dual minors in philosophy and art.
Kind of interesting for a future landscape architect. But I’ve always thought it is part of what makes him and our subsequent culture a unique.
One where creativity isn’t touted, it is practiced. Both on the drawing boards and on jobsites.
This scupture is a new piece by my dad made out of stone. He often is encouraged by customers to create these custom pieces for their landscape…but it’s all about catching him in the correct mood…just like a true artist.
Donna Vignocchi Zych

What’s the deal with Dirt

My guess is that many people don’t find dirt very interesting.  But the truth is that people study it intensely.  We actually employ someone who is a soils expert, Mike Curry!

So what exactly Is pulverized topsoil?  Topsoil is the upper layer of the Earth’s crust,  usually the top 2 to 8 inches. It has the highest concentration of microrganisms and organic matter and is where most of the soil’s biological activity occurs. Plants generally sink their roots into and obtain most of their nutrients from this rich layer.

This high concentration of organic matter is actually what turns soil black.  So the darker it is, the more nutrients in the soil, the better your plants and turf will do.  Ever notice “grey” colored dirt.  It often occurs in areas where a lot of salt is applied during snow removal services.  That’s  because those microorganisms have been killed and the organic matter is leached out.

This is why it is so important to install mulch and compost in planting beds.  It helps provide a protective layer and breaks down over time, reintroducing those beneficial nutrients back into that top layer of soil.

It’s also equally as important that you topdress your lawn with some kind of compost when core aerating and overseeding for the same reason.

Most people probably don’t know how topsoil is created.  It’s a fairly simple process.  Most often topsoil is taken from construction sites where there are large open spaces that need to be excavated anyway.  That soil is then “pulverized” through a machine to remove any debris as well as giving it a more consistent texture that makes it easier to spread and fine grade.

Name that plant!

Believe it or not but there are rules and regulations for naming plants.  The International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants, or THE CODE, was first published in 1952 but has roots in Brussles in 1864.  The Code is filled with principles, rules and regulations, recommendations, etc.  Let’s just say, not the most exciting read.

These rules help guide the Latin names that are comprised of a “genus” and a “species,” which can tell us the origin of a plant or describe it’s characteristics.

Take Acer palmatum, for example. Again, ‘Acer’ means maple while the descriptive ‘palmatum’ means shaped like a hand, and it is derived from ‘platanoides,’ meaning “resembling the plane tree.” Therefore, Acer platanoides means you are looking at a maple that resembles the plane tree.

Once a new strain of that plant is developed we use a “cultivar” to describe it more specifically.  So Acer palmatum ‘Blood Leaf,’ what do you think that would mean.  Yes, it has leaves the color of blood.  Gross, but it’s beautiful!

We rely on the specificity of these rules because common names can prove unreliable.  A red maple could mean several varieties.  Specifying a euonymus (so a genus with no other information) could mean you want a groundcover or a shrub.

So these rules may be a tad on the boorish side, but they are frightfully important to landscape professionals!

Donna Vignocchi Zych

Euonymus coloratus


Tulip Trivia

On this snowy and blisteringly cold day I find myself dreaming of tulips.

You see, my mother loves tulips.  Even though growing up in Riverwoods there was a fair share of deer, she would tirelessly plant them.  Not en masse, but in little charming clumps that would pop up here and there.  She would sometimes pair them with Allium in attempts to ward off our beautiful yet hungry friends.

Her love affair with tulips remains strong to this day, although instead of deer she now contends with chipmunks and squirrels.   This year I finally talked her into a blend created by one of my favorite tulip vendors.  This fall I excitedly placed ILT’s bulb order, my mother’s “French Blend” included.

French Blend Tulip

The French Tulip Blend

As I’m dreaming of tulips I decide to do some research on our little spring friends.  What I found was extremely interesting.  So much so I thought I would share.

  1. Origin:  Thought tulips were from Holland?  No my friends.  It is widely thought that they were originally cultivated in a corridor running along the 40° latitude between Northern China and Southern Europe.