Tag Archives: garden design

Protecting Your Landscape: How to Prepare for and Minimize Damage from Cicadas

As the warm weather approaches, so do the sounds that follow spring air. Early mornings are filled with songs from birds migrating back to their homes, looking for a friend, and looking for a meal. And every 13 or 17 years comes a different type of song that brings back a memory like a photograph. The large oak tree at the end of the street was infested from root to tip. This tree was fully engulfed by hundreds upon hundreds of Cicadas! The neighborhood dogs were going crazy trying to catch them as they zipped by us on our casual neighborhood stroll. But that’s not where it stopped… We were also left with a huge mess on our driveway, our porch, our roof, every crevasse of our yard, spreading across the entirety of our property. 

It’s important to note that there are two types of cicadas: Annual and periodical cicadas. 

The annual cicadas spend 2-5 years underground. Due to the synchronization of their emergence cycles, these cicadas appear yearly across the United States, emerging from July to September.

An Annual Cicada; Image Source: National Museum of Natural History

On the other hand, periodical cicadas burrow beneath the earth’s surface for either 13 or 17 years, and make their appearance as a “brood.”  A brood of cicadas simply means that they emerge in a particular geographic area during a specific year. Each brood is composed of multiple species of cicadas that belong to the same emergence cohort. Their appearance, characterized by vast numbers, typically occurs between late April and June in the Eastern United States. 2024 marks a special year for periodical cicadas in that both the 13-year and 17-year broods will unearth and infiltrate in north-central Illinois!

A Periodical Cicada; Image Source: National Museum of Natural History

How can such harmless insects, known for their loud songs and distinctively bright appearance, commonly seen in Lake County, be such a pain and a harm to your property and landscapes? With their emergence comes the increased potential for damage to our environment and even your landscapes. So let’s explore the impact of cicadas on our natural surroundings and enlighten you about what property owners can do to prepare for and minimize the potential damage that result from their massive uprising.

 

Understanding Cicadas:

Before we delve into how to protect our landscapes, let’s take a moment to understand these intriguingly loud insects. Cicadas belong to the order Hemiptera and are known for their distinctive noises, produced by structures on their abdomens called tymbals. Despite their loud noise, cicadas are completely harmless to humans—they don’t bite, sting, or pose any direct physical danger to people or other animals. Most cicadas spend the majority of their lives underground as nymphs, feeding on tree sap and tunneling beneath the soil. 

 

The Impact of Cicadas on Landscapes:

While cicadas may not pose a direct threat to humans, they can wreak havoc on our landscapes. During their emergence, cicadas lay eggs in the branches of trees, causing damage to young twigs and branches. Additionally, adult cicadas feed on the sap of trees, which can weaken them and make them more susceptible to diseases and other pests. For property owners, this can result in aesthetic damage to trees and shrubs, as well as potential long-term health issues for their landscape.

 

Preparing For The Cicada Emergence (Brooding):

As the anticipation of cicada emergence looms, it becomes imperative for property owners to take proactive measures to shield their landscapes from potential damage and further headache down the road. Here are some actionable steps you can take today so that you are as prepared as possible for what is to come!

Inspect Your Trees: Before the cicadas emerge, do a meticulous inspection of your trees. Look for any signs of damage or weakness, such as dead or damaged branches. Promptly prune these branches to mitigate the risk of cicadas laying eggs in them and causing further harm.

Consider Netting: For smaller trees deemed valuable or particularly vulnerable, the application of fine mesh netting can serve as a formidable barrier against cicada intrusion. By covering these trees with netting, property owners can effectively prevent cicadas from accessing the branches and inflicting damage.

Maintain Tree Health: A robust defense against cicada damage begins with maintaining the health and vitality of your trees. Ensure they receive adequate hydration through regular watering, especially during dry periods. Additionally, provide proper fertilization to nourish the trees, fortifying them against potential cicada onslaughts.

Plant Selection: Some plants are less attractive to cicadas than others. Choosing landscaping plants that cicadas are less likely to feed on or lay eggs in can help minimize damage to your property.

Burn Old Debris: Old branches that are left on the ground and scattered around your property or stacked for firewood can serve as a potential food source for cicadas. By safely burning old unnecessary branches and dead wood, you eliminate this potential food source, making your property less attractive to cicadas.

Ecologically Conscious Introductions: Cicadas have natural predators such as birds, squirrels, and bats. Attracting these seasonal predators to your property through bird feeders, bat boxes, have been shown to greatly help reduce not only cicada populations but other annoying bugs such as mosquitos, wasps, and flies just to name a few.

Consult a Professional: When in doubt, seek the expertise of a professional landscaping company like ILT Vignocchi, Inc. Consulting with experienced professionals can provide invaluable insights and tailored solutions to safeguard your landscape from cicada damage. From comprehensive assessments to personalized recommendations, we can guide property owners through effective cicada management strategies. 

Implementing these proactive measures will significantly reduce the impact of cicada emergence on their landscapes. Seeking guidance from professionals when necessary will save you money and a headache in the long run. Remember, early preparation and strategic planning are key to preserving the health and beauty of your outdoor spaces amidst nature’s cyclical phenomena. 

It’s important to note that cicadas are a natural part of the ecosystem, and their populations are cyclical. In many cases, the best approach is to allow natural processes to occur and focus on protecting valuable or vulnerable plants and allow the professionals at ILT Vignocchi Inc. to take care of all of your landscaping needs. Rest assured that we will be implementing tried-and-true methods to take a proactive approach to the great awakening ahead. 

 

Call us at 847.487.5200 (ext: 2220) for a consultation, or send a message our way to get started!

 

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!!!

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.

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

endless summer

Inspiration Everywhere

A mix of various shades if pinks and purples can produce a striking arrangement. Even more so when you consider what texture can bring to the table.

 So simple. So elegant.  #MackinawIsland

endless summer

Front Gate Goals

For those that want a bold alternative to their front entrance, add some drama.  This climbing vine makes this peek a boo entrance sing!

stone walkway

Natural Stone Walkway

stone walkway

Inspiration Everywhere:

 Sometimes a path inspires and it’s hard to explain exactly why.

 The mix of colors, the stone work, the loose structure the seasonal color provides?

 That is where experienced landscape architects come into play. We understand and we get to that core “feeling” of a simple walk and turn that into your realized dream.