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.
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.
raise your hand if you are one of us that feels like it is never going to stop
snowing this winter. Mother Nature
started us off with a bang in November with some light accumulations leading up
to the big Thanksgiving blast that left seven to eleven inches on the ground in
the northwest suburbs. Then she seemed
to take a nap in December but woke up crabby and ready to wage weather war
again in January; and she has been relentless ever since.
Snow accumulation totals for this winter are already more than a foot over our average for an entire winter, and we still have a month left before we can even start talking about spring. Along with all of this snow we have had more than our share of all of the other nasty weather elements Mother Nature keeps in her bag of tricks. Historic ice storms, a polar vortex that crushed century old temperature records, rain, sleet, freezing rain, hail, and yes, even graupel. In case you were wondering what graupel is, read on…
storms don’t hit the Chicago area often because they require just the right
combination of cold upper air, warm air above ground level and cold air right
near the ground. But when they do happen, ice storms that leave less than an
inch of ice on the ground can be much more disruptive than sleet, freezing
rain, or snowstorms that leave similar amounts of precipitation.
But what exactly is the difference between
rain, freezing rain, sleet, ice, etc. and why do we need so many terms for this
winter precipitation. Whether or not precipitation remains snow or transitions to
rain, freezing rain, sleet, hail, or graupel by the time it reaches the ground
hinges on the temperature fluctuations the snowflakes may encounter as they
travel through the layers of the atmosphere.
When the temperature between the ground and
the clouds remains at or below the freezing mark (32F), precipitation will fall
in the form of snow. It is
possible for snow to fall when temperatures are above 32, as long as the layer
of above-freezing air near the surface is rather shallow, not allowing the
snowflakes to melt.
freezing rain occur by a similar process but are different
forms of precipitation. Sleet occurs when snowflakes melt into
a raindrop in a wedge of warm air well above the ground and then refreeze in a
layer of freezing air just above the surface. This results in frozen raindrops,
or small ice pellets. Freezing rain occurs when the wedge of
warm air aloft is much thicker, allowing the raindrop to survive until it comes
in contact with the cold ground. A
coating of ice then forms on whatever the raindrops contact. Freezing rain is by far
the most dangerous because it forms a solid sheet of ice, as opposed to sleet
that just has small ice pellets that quickly bounce off of the surface. Interestingy, sleet can even provide a little
bit of traction for drivers, as opposed to the obvious dangers of a solid sheet
of ice that forms from freezing rain.
And I have
not forgotten, in case you
were wondering what graupel is, graupel (snow
pellets) forms when snowflakes are coated with a layer of ice. Graupel is
typically white and opaque. Unlike hail or sleet, graupel is soft and can fall
apart easily in your hand. Graupel is also usually smaller than hail, with a
diameter of around 0.08-0.2 of an inch.
The demand for ice melt applications to remedy
this onslaught of frequent, diverse precipitation has been high, exacerbated by
the intermittent freeze/thaw cycles we have also seen that create melted runoff
that refreezes overnight. The need for
more salt/chemical applications has resulted in some difficulty on the part of
the suppliers keeping up with the demand of contractors. Typically, suppliers are required to supply
municipalities and transportation authorities first to ensure that the road
ways are kept safe, leaving a high demand from contractors to take care of
private properties. Higher demand can
also mean higher prices, which you may see in the future.
If your budget has been blown up by the cost
of clearing snow and keeping up with these applications, you are not
alone. Commercial building managers,
retail mall owners, and HOAs alike share in the budget pain that this winter is
However, the safety of
employees, residents, visitors, etc. and the ability of vehicles to effectively
navigate around your property should always be paramount when balancing the
cost considerations that must be confronted in the midst of a winter like this
Hang on though, two weeks ago, Punxsutawney Phil emerged from
his burrow around 7:30 a.m. ET and did not see his shadow, predicting an early
spring for us all. A member of Phil’s
Inner Circle read from the groundhog’s prediction scroll to the cheers and
applause from the crowd;
“Faithful followers, there
is no shadow of me and a beautiful spring it shall be.”
As the legend goes, if Phil sees his shadow, he considers it an “omen” of six more weeks of bad weather and heads back into his hole. If it’s cloudy and he doesn’t, you can put away that winter coat sooner than expected. But of course, his predictions aren’t always correct. Statistically, you’re better off trying to decide what the rest of February and March will look like by flipping a coinsince Phil’s accuracy record is only 40%. At least with a coin you will be right half of the time.
Turning 50 is such a milestone for any business. Dips in the economy, increasing regulations, labor issues and shortages. There are so many ways a company can get off track. As I contemplate where we have been, of course I think of our unwavering reputation for integrity, artistry and quality. You consider the massive golf courses, Chicago Botanic Garden installations, as well as corporate and municipal work. I regard those residential projects that not only won awards but gave our employees such satisfaction and our customers heartfelt joy.
But to me it is more than that.
I don’t know if I have a memory when ILT didn’t exist. You see, as ILT turns 50, I will be turning 47. The memories of our company are like fabric woven into my life.
When I watch the countless trucks and trailers roll out of the yard at sunrise each and every morning I indulge the nostalgia of our company’s youth.
I remember Sorney Leahy who let me sit inside his desk drawer when I was very small and let me play with his phone. Or going to a job site with my dad on a Saturday. He’d hoist me up on his shoulders and then put me down so I could hug my Nono who was working with our men. A favorite is my mother who would spend hours picking up sticks before the maintenance crew came to our house so they would not have to bother.
50 years ago there were no computers. Dad used to spend countless nights drawing plans, scrunching up vellum with discarded ideas and yes, taking calls from his customers on his home phone.
I think life is different when you are in a family business. Of course it is hard and there are arguments, lots. But there is a short cut with family that makes it easier, because you know in the end, you will always love one another.
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.
As I sit on this blisteringly cold January day my mind drifts to our lovely friend, the tulip.
You see my mother loves tulips. Even though we lived in Riverwoods and had to contend with deer feasting on them she would plant them. Not en masse but in charming little bundles that would cheerfully pop up in spring. She would sometimes even pair them with Allium, in order to deter our beautiful yet hungry friends.
Her love affair continues today, although now she must battle chipmunks and squirrels who enjoy digging them up and moving them around. This year I finally convinced her to even try my favorite tulip blend created by a most trusted vendor. It’s called French Blend. Wow, wait until she sees her spring display!
The French Tulip Blend
It’s difficult to think of spring on such a snow covered day, but it will come. My contemplating of the tulip has led me to some poking around. I’ve found some interesting tidbits that I thought I’d share…
Origin Story: Thought that tulips originated in Holland? They did not. It is widely believed that they were first cultivated in a corridor along the 40° latitude between Northern China and Southern Europe.
Tulips travel to Turkey: When the tulip first made its way to Turkey it was revered by the Sultan and was cultivated solely for his pleasure and that of his entourage. He forbid tulips to bought or sold outside of the capital. The punishment? Exile.
A Status Symbol: Tulips were cultivated to be curated. They became a symbol of status and power for both Royalty and the very wealthy. Mirrors were placed around arrangements and in gardens to create the appearance that the owner could afford more than they actually could.
A Bricklayer’s Wage for 15 years: At the height of what is called “Tulip Mania” once they had reached Holland, a single bulb would go for the price of a homepurchased in Amsterdam, or… a bricklayer’s wage for 15 years.
There is an actual Tulip Museum…Outside: Keukenhof is worth the visit in May each year. I have been and I will never forget it. It is display garden after garden that is painstakingly designed and installed annually.
And that my friends, is just some of the fun facts around out delightful spring friend.
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.”
ILT Vignocchi, Inc. Landscape Architects and Contractors…it’s part of our name because it’s that important. Landscape architects, landscape designers, landscape contractors, etc.; in case you were wondering what the difference is, read on…
While there may be a lot of overlap in these professions, the distinctions between them can make a world of difference in the planning, execution, and ultimate functionality of the outdoor spaces around your office building, campus, park, or HOA community. To fully understand the distinctions between landscape architects, landscape designers, and landscape contractors you need to look at both the technical and the functional aspects of the job.
A Landscape Architectmust have a professional license issued by the registration board in the state in which they are performing work. In order to become licensed, they must have a degree in Landscape Architecture from an accredited school, some years of experience working for a licensed Landscape Architecture firm, and pass a qualifying exam. Landscape architects must adhere to a code of professional standards, actively participate in continuing education, and be current with state-of-the-art developments and trends in the landscape design field.
A rendered landscape plan by ILT Vignocchi
Landscape Designers may have varying levels of knowledge and expertise; however, they are not required to be licensed or certified, and are not regulated by the state. The “credential” for Landscape Designers has no legal bearing. While many Landscape Designers do have some level of professional training, they can call themselves such without any formal educational or experience requirements.
Finally, theLandscape Contractor is the team that is responsible for physically building, installing and maintaining the landscape conceived by the architect or designer. They are not government regulated beyond typical local business licensing requirements, and their insurance and liability coverages vary widely. Dependent upon their levels of expertise, they may be able to furnish and install the plant materials and build the structures, hardscapes, and water features called for in a given design.
Licensed Landscape Architects use their technical and artistic talents to create drawings, construction documents, and specifications that dictate the allocation, arrangement, and construction of planting schemes, land elements, water resources, and integrated structures. They usually work on larger scale projects such as commercial buildings, public parks, recreation facilities, institutional buildings, clubhouses, and multi-unit residential communities, and complex residential work. They are trained to document design concepts and plans on paper as a visual, graphic means of communicating their designs. This is especially important for complex projects that require permitting through city planning or building departments.
Because Landscape Architects have a responsibility for the health, safety, and welfare of the public in the work they do, they need to be licensed and are required to have professional liability insurance. By contrast Landscape Designers have no legal responsibility for the health, safety and welfare of the public, are not required to carry liability insurance, and are generally only allowed to design simple, single-family residential gardens.
Thoughtful landscape architecture adds value to a commercial development, public spaces, or an HOA community by considering both the aesthetic and practical aspects of the landscape. A landscape architect is conscious of the environmental issues with which today’s society is faced and has the expertise and training to plan around and manage the challenging issues on both commercial and residential sites, including:
Use of space, traffic volume, and human impact on the landscape
Appropriate plant selection and placement for long term impact
Elevation, grading, and land usage
Hardscape elements such as retaining walls and paving surfaces
Water movement, Irrigation and drainage systems
Placement of recreational features, utilities, service lines, entryways, driveways, parking, etc.
At ILT Vignocchi, we are licensed, certified landscape architects, proficient in the “big picture” planning, design, construction, and maintenance of both public and private landscaped environments. We can help you develop your project from the “ground up”; providing initial concepts, finished designs, construction plans and specifications. Additionally, as contractors, we can build your outdoor environment to the exact specifications of the design, then maintain it to maximize your return on your investment.
Whether you are starting a project from the concept phase, interested in a large-scale renovation, or a simple redesign of a courtyard or monument sign, give us a call today and find out how ILT can help you.