Tag Archives: landscape maintenance

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.

Corporate Woods, Vernon Hills, IL

Benefits of a Spring Clean Up

A spring clean up for the inside of your home can mean different things to different people.  To some it is as light as cleaning off the patio and the grill and to those Martha Stewart enthusiasts it can be so so much more…washing curtains, emptying cabinets and giving them a thorough wash and possibly even power washing the roof.  Everyone’s need are different.

The same can be said for a landscape but there are some things that absolutely need to be accomplished.  First removing any branches, sticks and leaves from the property.  Doing a good fall clean up can help make this an easier task, but it still needs to be done.

You also want to cut back any Hydrangeas, grasses or perennials that were left in tact for winter interest to make room for new growth.

 

 

At this time we also like to cultivate, edge and fertilize the beds with a product that also contains pre-emergent (to help keep down those nasty weeds).  This function can prove difficult in Spring and sometimes needs to be chipped away it because of Spring’s wet conditions.

Next is turf.  It is important to be gentle with turf in Spring, again those wet conditions can make situations worse by tearing it.  That being said we rake wherever possible to pull up dead grass and snow mold, then topdress with a combination of grass seed and peat moss.

Activating your irrigation system is equally important, making any necessary adjustments.  But we tend to turn systems off when turned on in early Spring.  Running them only aggravates already wet conditions, which can encourage turf fungus and other problems.

Once all of that is complete and all your hardsurface areas are cleaned and tidy, your landscape is ready for the season.

Custom fire place

Hire a Professional

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.

I could go on and on, however I won’t. What I will do is let this wonderfully created and produced video do the talking. ILT Vignocchi and Montale Gardens are proudly featured in a branding video for our industry. It shows my fellow contractor’s pride in what they do, a down right love for their crafts. CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE VIDEO. I know you will enjoy it.

Boxwood Trivia

Boxwood are one of the most versatile and elegant of evergreen shrubs.  They have very shallow roots, can tolerate most conditions and be used in both formal and informal settings.  It are theses characteristics that make them so desirable today.

Their popularity is not new.  Although grains for a species was found in England as far back as 7,000 B.C., they were destroyed during a Glacial epoch.  They resurfaced around 4,000 B.C. in ancient Egyptian tombs.  Their popularity surged at the height of the Roman Empire and throughout the Dark Ages, used as hedges and topiaries in Royal gardens.

One of the Boxwood’s most delightful and interesting facts is that it has historically been used to make boxes, chess pieces, printing using woodblocks, and musical instruments and parts, particularly form the strings and woodwind class and is still used for many of these purposes today.

It is a plant that seems almost too good to be true!  Well almost.  As of late our dear friend has had some issues, that many of you might have experienced.  Several years ago we had an extremely cold Chicago winter with unusually light snow cover…and plants with shallow roots really rely on their winter blankets.  As spring sprung, we noticed the loss of a lot of plant species…especially boxwood, yews, junipers and roses.

Boxwoods suffered another hit.  Boxwood blight.  It is a fungal disease that really has no treatment.  The only course of action is to remove them from the nursery or landscape.

These plants of course need to be replaced, and replace them we are.  Why is having to replace them so important to our tale?  Well because Boxwoods are extremely slow growing, and as the demand increases due not only to popularity but a need to replace them, growers just cannot keep up.  It is a difficult concept to explain to a property owner, but our current reality.

There are alternatives.  They are not boxwoods, but they are options…”Green Mound’ Alpine Current, ‘Karen’s’ Azalea, Deutzia, and our owner’s favorite… Barberry.  Peruse some of these favorites on our nursery’s website.

Many people say everything happens for a reason.  Maybe this did.  I like to think utilizing a different palette challenges our creativity and encourages diversifying our monoculture.

Landscape Bracketology

It is time for the March Madness to begin and whether you are an avid college basketball fan or you don’t know a Blue Devil from a Boilermaker, chances are you are going to be filling out a bracket and making your picks for the winners.  But what kind of strategy are you using?  Do you study the records, pore over the difficulty of the team’s schedule, analyze the star player stats, listen to the hours of prognostication on the TV and internet?  Or do you pick by your favorite uniform color or the most endearing team nicknames.  No one can tell you that your strategy won’t be effective and even having no strategy (random selection) is actually a strategy in and of itself and can sometimes produce winning results.
However, more often than not putting some thought into your choices and actually reasoning through your decisions will produce the greatest chance of being alive in your pool when the Final Four teams face off.  The same holds true for the selection process for your landscaping and snow removal vendors.  Selecting the right firm for your building or your community is a big decision that will have a direct impact on the value and marketability of your property to residents, potential buyers, customers, employees, visitors, etc. To ensure that your landscape maintenance/snow removal team has the right level of expertise, resources, and experience for your property, make sure you conduct a thorough review process. The more quality information you can consider, the more informed your choices will be when making these extremely important decisions.
Know who you are hiring and how long have they been in business?  Don’t just look for longevity.  Many mediocre companies have survived a long time by churning and burning through customers.  Look for the ones that have long standing relationships with similar customers to tell you who is providing the best level of comprehensive, responsive service over the long run.
Know their professional affiliations and certifications.  Members of established and respected trade organizations are more likely to promote honest and ethical business practices.  They are also more inclined to be current in their licensing and certifications, and more aware of industry standards and technological advances to be able to handle all of your ancillary needs safely, legally, and cost effectively.
Bigger is not always better.  National and even large regional companies can talk about their size and status, but how much “hands on” interaction are you going to have with one of them?  How many layers of phone calls will it take to reach your contact, and how long will it take to get a call back?  How important will your single contract be in the scheme of a multi-million, or now with recent mergers, billion-dollar company?  A local company will more likely provide the personal contact most clients are looking for so ask for their references and find out if they answer their phones.  Will they available to you when you need them?  Is there a decision maker accessible to you when you have issues?  Will they value your business or are you just another number on a spreadsheet?
And of course, cheaper is not always better either: Landscape maintenance and snow removal contracts are by and large service based and the chief part of that service is labor.  A contractor’s hourly labor rates are a factor of how much they are they paying their people; and the overall cost of the service contract is based on much time those people will be spending on your property.  Consequently, lower priced contracts usually mean lower priced labor (less experienced/less talented) spending less time servicing your property at each visit.
Be sure you have shared expectations.  Some contractors will do whatever is in the best interest of your property while others will look to charge you for every “extra” item they can.  Many contractors offer low prices up front then make back their money by flooding you with bills for extra work that they say was not included in the contract.  Contracts are more than words on a piece of paper.  They are an extension of a relationship that must be built on trust.  If you do not trust that your contractor is treating you fairly and giving you the best value for your money, why would you be doing business with them?