On a sprawling 3 acres in Itasca, Illinois this property includes several relaxing vignettes, a putting green and tennis court. Perfect for entertaining it also boasts a custom fireplace and spa.
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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
Most people think of fall as the end of the growing season and the beginning glimpse of another Chicago winter. Well try to look at it as an ideal time to plant!
Fall is a perfect time for planting shrubs, trees, grass seed, and even perennials if they have a developed root system. Fall planting gives plants time to develop roots before winter’s blustery conditions. The conditions are also less stressful and there may be more reliable precipitation.
What happens during fall conditions is a plant’s leaf and flower production is usually slowing down and approaching dormancy. Therefore, a plant can focus on root production. Roots continue to grow when other parts of the plant are not. Generally speaking, root systems will keep growing as long as the soil temperature is at least 50 degrees.
Although we generally get more rain in fall, the good news is that plants use less water then. Because days are increasingly shorter and cooler in the fall, plants are going to be photosynthesizing less and using less water.
Fall is also when depleted nurseries can begin to dig plants again, so varieties that were either unavailable or just downright unsightly in July and August, may become available.
Finally, don’t forget about BULBS! Its often surprising why more people don’t take advantage of this relatively inexpensive way to welcome in Spring. To achieve a gorgeous Spring show bulbs are planted in late fall.
If you’d like to start planning a fall project, it is right around the corner, so call us now and we will be happy to assist you!
I have a deep love of pansies. I adore that they come in every color of the rainbow, which is unusual for an annual flower. It is wonderful that they can be pure, or blotched or multicolored all on the same plant. Have you ever looked at pansies when it is about to storm? Try it, they absolutely glow.
What really sets them apart though is how charming cheerful they are.
What can be seen as a drawback? They are a cool season plant and in the Midwest we only get to enjoy them in spring and fall. Oh I’ve done the experiments…transplanting them to the coolest shadiest parts of my yard to no avail. They just peter out. I actually like that they only shine twice a year. It makes them all the more special.
It is thought that pansies are a close cousins to the viola, which has roots in Greece in the 4th century B.C. However, they believe the first pansies were first found in France, because the word pansy is traced back to the French word pensee, meaning thought or remembrance.
In the early 1800’s an inquisitive Lord Gambier and his gardener William Thompson began experimenting with crossing different varieties of pansies. It is William Thompson who is accredited with removing long lines and created large blocks of color on the lower petals, created what is now known as “the face.”
Today popularity booms and most innovations are being made in Germany, Japan and the United States.
What is interesting is the amount of passion to innovate in this area. It isn’t to create a drought free plant, or even one that is resistant to diseases or animals (which they are NOT). The innovation, is to take something that was beautiful to begin with and make it even more so.
I for one am glad they are.
Donna Vignocchi Zych
Growing plants on rooftops is not a new concept. Centuries ago northern Scandinavians harvested sod from their surrounding landscape and placed it upon structures to create effective insulating and water resistant roof systems. The Vikings who explored the upper Atlantic built grass-covered homes where they settled and in Iceland sod roofs and walls have been used for hundreds of years.
Although the living roof or green roof has been in use for a long time, modern green roof technology has helped to elevate this building method from a crudely effective construction element to an aesthetically pleasing, ecologically responsible building solution for age-old building problems and current environmental concerns.
A green roof or living roof is a roof of a building or other structure that is partially or completely covered with vegetation and a growing medium, planted over a waterproofing membrane. It may also include additional layers such as a root barrier and drainage and irrigation systems.
Green roofs can be very basic, known as extensive green roofs that incorporate drought-tolerant, self-seeding native ground covers such as sedums, grasses, mosses and prairie flowers that require little or no irrigation, fertilization or maintenance. These green roofs are lightweight, inexpensive, and can be retrofitted onto existing buildings, often without significant alterations or additional structural support.
Intensive green roofs are more elaborate roof gardens designed for human interaction. They generally have a relatively flat roof surface or mild slope and allow for a larger selection of plants, including shrubs and trees and require specific engineering to be able to conform to the weight load requirements.
Today, the green roof is gaining in popularity as an environmentally conscious architectural expression that is a viable element of any sustainable landscape management plan; and here is why:
- Storm-water runoff will be greatly decreased with the utilization of a living roof. The growing medium and the vegetation of a green roof retain large amounts of storm water and release it back into the environment. A typical green roof can absorb 30% of the rainwater that falls on it, reducing the amount of water that goes through our waste water systems.
- It is a common misassumption that a green roof system will have a deleterious effect on the integrity of the roof system. Quite the opposite. A well designed, correctly installed green roof will protect the waterproof membrane that lies beneath it and, in turn, will extend the overall life of a roof. Recent studies indicate an increase in life span of almost double.
- Green roofs absorb carbon dioxide that contributes to global warming; and the slow transpiration of water back into the air creates a cooling effect that helps reduce the heat retention and emanation in and around your building.
- In addition to the energy saving features described above, the actual mass and density of a living roof will provide excellent sound insulation for a building as well.
- And let’s not forget the aesthetic benefits of the rooftop garden. The roof garden intermingles the pre-construction environment with the built environment creating a sustainable cooperation between development and nature. People love to interact in the relative secluded natural setting created by the intensive garden on a rooftop space. Additionally, they benefit emotionally and psychologically from the ability to even look upon the greenery of an intensive or an extensive roof top garden.
Green roof technology was re-invented in Germany in the mid-20th century and quickly spread throughout Europe mainly due to its restorative environmental impact.
Today, Chicago has been a leader in green roof installations with up to 7 million square feet on approximately 500 rooftops; the most of any city in the United States. The benefits of the green roof have not been ignored by suburban businesses and multi-family residential buildings either.
Corporations, commercial building owners, and homeowners associations are looking for solutions to increase employee well-being, decrease their carbon footprints, increase their LEEDS scores, and differentiate their properties from their competition. The rooftop garden has proven to be just such a solution.
Reach out to ILT Vignocchi today to inquire about the potential for your headquarters, office building, clubhouse, or other structure to benefit from a green roof installation.
In Case You Were Wondering…how to get rid of the soggy areas around your property that never seem to dry out and create a muddy nuisance where grass won’t grow, read on.
Most commercial buildings and multi-family communities have storm drains and retention/detention ponds to accommodate the water that is trapped when the natural landscape is replaced with buildings and impervious surfaces such as asphalt parking lots, streets, and sidewalks; and rain can no longer be absorbed by the ground.
These solutions work well to divert or capture large volume runoff, provided the drainage systems are designed effectively to carry the water to the drains and/or holding areas.
But what about the areas around your property that never seem to drain off? When water is diverted into a low area that has no outlet or is not suitable for drainage, water will begin to pond, and over time the weight of the water will compact the soil and create a deeper pool, allowing more water to sit. A rain garden can be a very practical and effective means of addressing these drainage issues; particularly where downspouts are not placed appropriately or do not run off properly; settled ground has created depressions that trap water; or the ground has become so compacted that water simply no longer infiltrates the soil. Grass, ornamental plants, and trees eventually die off from the excess moisture leaving you with wet, unusable areas around your property that never dry out.
A rain garden is a shallow depression that captures rain water and holds it for a short time until it is absorbed into the ground, evaporates, or is taken up by plants. The rain garden is an innovative and eco-friendly landscaping solution that’s gaining in popularity, particularly in office parks and multi-family communities. An increasing number of property managers and commercial property owners are discovering how a rain garden can be an inexpensive and effective solution to these unsightly, unusable areas; while at the same time help to decrease erosion, improve water quality, create wildlife habitat, and provide aesthetic benefits.
Rain gardens were originally developed to slow down the flow of storm water runoff created when buildings and pavement cover the ground and prevent water absorption as soil becomes compacted and the natural landscape changes from diverse native vegetation to mowed and manicured lawns. These factors decrease the amount of water that soaks into the landscape after a rain and increases the volume of water that flows across the terrain and into storm drains that empty into local streams. This increased water flow (both in terms of volume and velocity) leads to more erosion, more flooding and
more pollutants being washed into streams and reservoirs. Rain gardens provide a solution to these problems by helping to slow the flow.
Additionally, rain gardens provide a practical and effective solution to the smaller scale drainage issues described above. A well-functioning rain garden traps and cleans storm water and reduces its volume (through rapid absorption) once it enters the garden. Properly designed and maintained, rain gardens are also attractive landscaping elements that function like native ecosystems and can look as naturalistic or as formal as you like. The plants in the gardens absorb excess water and provide important habitat for pollinating insects, birds and other wildlife while also adding visual appeal to the land around your community or your business.
But you’re not merely building a catch-basin that’s going to turn into a pond every time it rains. Far from it. With sound design, (the appropriate soil/gravel, knowledgeable plant selection, and correct installation), water is absorbed quickly – usually within a few hours.
And, in case you think your rain garden will provide a new breeding area for mosquitoes – think again. A rain garden doesn’t retain water long enough to make it a viable area for mosquito development. Depending on temperature, it takes 24-48 hours for mosquito eggs to hatch. After the eggs hatch, the larva must live in water for several days. A properly installed and maintained rain garden does not hold water long enough to accommodate the development of mosquito larvae.
Contact ILT today and find out how the installation of rain gardens can help you solve some of the drainage issues around your community or business. By creating a rain garden(s) you can eliminate those problem areas of your landscape while helping to keep some of the rain that falls on your site contained on site, the way nature intended. And in addition, you can help improve water quality in local streams/rivers, save water, reduce pollution, and help wildlife.
For all intents and purposes, the winter that came in like a lion is going out like a lamb. It is time to start thinking about using the landscaping around you again. Yes, I said “using” the landscaping.
In case you were wondering how you can personally benefit from using the landscape around you today, read on…
Stress and stress-related illnesses, as reflected in medical records, have increased dramatically among adults and children in Western societies. We have probably all heard of one study or another linking exposure to nature to reduced stress, lower anxiety levels, and help with symptoms of depression. The studies all underscore what we already intuitively know. We can relax in quiet, natural settings much more than we ever could in our offices or typical urban settings. Consequently, in addition to being a huge contributor to the overall value of your commercial property and providing significant marketing appeal, well designed and accessible landscaping can provide a valuable oasis for your employees and residents.
The simple fact is that our fast paced, plugged in, always “on” lifestyles give us brain fatigue. It makes our brains tired of constantly being alert and aware (how many times did you check your smart phone since you began reading this piece?). A “walk in the park” can go a long way to clear up the resulting brain clouds.
While natural settings do still engage our brain, the engagement is effortless. You don’t even necessarily have to enjoy nature or walking to get the benefit. Exposing oneself to nature, even during the winter, or even looking at images of nature engages our so-called involuntary attention, which comes into play when our minds are inadvertently drawn to something interesting that doesn’t require intense focus, like a pleasing picture or a pleasant landscape feature. We can still talk and think while our brains are noticing and appreciating the element, but it holds our attention while it induces reflection.
AS THE SAYING GOES – YOU DESERVE A BREAK TODAY!
The science behind this theory is real, and probably nothing new to you so allow this to serve as a reminder. Go for a walk in a green space around your building or in your community, or find a window where you can just sit and gaze out at some greenery. This is not unproductive lollygagging. On the contrary, it is likely to have a restorative effect on your brain, recharge your mental batteries, calm your nerves, and make you more productive. If nothing else, a walk in the park will give you the ability to stop “doing” all the time and start “being” some of the time.
“Take a walk outside, it will serve you far more than pacing around in your mind.”