Author Archives: VZ staff

A very hot trend… FIRE PITS

Homeowners often ask to incorporate fire pits to their master landscape plans – which we love to do! It brings families together in the evenings. Whether it’s roasting marshmallows or having a glass of wine near a warm, crackling fire it’s a great way to get outdoors during & after the twilight hour. Our designers love to place them as a destination area in the yard, nestled around some vegetation. There are so many styles and materials you can use to make each fire pit stand out & unique. Look at your backyard when you get home, do you see a good spot for one?!

Large boulders with gravel seating area – rustic, relaxed style.

A little more permanent than a gravel seating area – here’s a tight jointed flagstone patio with dry stacked stone fire pit. Love the chairs!!

A more formal approach would be a dimensional bluestone patio with a mortar stone fire pit. This style is definitely one of the more popular options.

A great example of a fire pit nestled in the natural woodland setting. So peaceful and private.

Check out more pics on our Pinterest page!


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Birds Eye View…

Drones are an excellent tool to capture the landscape at an entirely different vantage point, with stunning results. While we create our landscape plans on paper they are a simplistic view from above, and it’s a visual perspective we don’t normally see (unless we are flying in a plane!). But with drones we now have the opportunity to revisit the site and see the complete landscape in all its glory. This is very exciting for our Van Zelst team. While following the Federal Aviation Administration rules and getting permission from our clients, we are getting fantastic footage this year.

Drones are becoming increasing more popular and more user friendly so if you are looking for a new hobby – this might be it! Just remember to fly a drone, even as a hobby, it needs to only be registered. Do your research as there are FAA rules that need to be followed when flying your drone. Check out this article on the best drones out there by The Wirecutter.

Happy Flying!!


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How to be chemical free…

As a parent I try to keep chemicals out of my child’s day to day life, or as much of it as I can control. Now since this isn’t a parenting blog; but about landscaping, I’m going to get right to it. Did you know there is an organic option right under your feet, like literally a few feet under the ground? Well here at Van Zelst, we like to use worm castings, Vermicompost and Vermi-extract, as an organic fertilizer alternative. Not only does it fertilize, but also makes a good soil conditioner and supplies key nutrients for your garden to grow and creates a lush green lawn.

Van Zelst relies on TerraVesco Vermicompost and TerraVesco Vermi-extract soil amendments. Research proves that these high-performance products introduce important macro- and micronutrients into the soil, nourishing plants and fighting disease and pests. And we’ve seen it first hand these last few years how much it improves the vitality of gardens and lawns.

Are you interested in trying this all organic approach? If so contact us here, or do you want to try it yourself? You can purchase directly from You’ll be happy you tried it!

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Bringing nature’s beauty to the garden.

Pollinators (butterflies, bees and birds) are very important to our environment.  Without them many plants would not produce the end products we use.  But they also bring a sense of calm and enjoyment to the garden.  We all want that beautiful butterfly to come to our gardens, planting food sources for your inhabitants is a great way to get them to the garden.  Here are a few great plants to include!

Asclepias tuberosa, if you want Monarch butterflies in your garden you must plant this plant (a main food source for the caterpillar)!

Echinacea spp. is a great for summer bees and butterflies and a good seed source for birds in fall and winter!

Rudbeckia spp. great for butterflies and bees and a seed source come fall and winter for the birds.

Lavender’s, Salvia’s and Nepeta’s all have a similar type of flower loved by all nectar feeders!

Phlox spp.  This Phlox has a hummingbird moth visiting it!

These are just a few examples, there are many more excellent plants to include in your garden! Want us to create the perfect Butterfly garden for you?  Contact us now!

Be sure to include some water sources for you wildlife and you’ll get that added bonus of tranquil water sounds in your garden. Butterflies and bee’s prefer water and rocks.  While birds enjoy more open water.

granite millstone fountain

Want to see more water features? Check them out here.

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You don’t have to wait til May…

To have beautiful spring flowers.

There is that small window of time from winter to full on spring where we are stuck with not much blooming around us.  An easy remedy is to fill your planters and a few planting beds with forced blooming plants.  From pansies, tulips to hyacinths it’s easy to get that burst of much need color!




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What’s new for Christina Farms!

The main source of perennials for our Landscape projects come from our very own Christina Farms nursery. Every year we like to add a few new perennials to our palette and this year is no exception. Here are just a few fun plants to look forward too!

Prunella ‘Summer Daze’ is an excellent perennial ground cover. A quick spreader it has a neat and tidy foliage which is covered in blooms mid summer. After blooming cut back blooms to get a second rebloom! Butterflies love it!

Digitalis ‘Dalmation Peach’ this beautiful digitalis is a showstopper! A soft peachy pink spike of blooms arrives midsummer. A short lived perennial but will self sow in the garden. Great for a cottage garden.

Peaonia ‘Coral Charm’ Peonies provide so much beauty with so little care. This little beauty is the perfect semi double coral pink flower. It makes a great cut flower! Plant it and you’ll be rewarded every spring!

Asclepias tuberosa, also known as Butterfly Weed, is not “new” to the industry. A gorgeous true orange flower. But if you want butterflies in your garden be sure to plant a few of these! Asclepias is the main food source for Monarch butterflies (that is a Monarch caterpillar in the photo). Asclepias are late to emerge but so worth the wait!

Want to see more of what we grow, visit our online catalog.

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Did you see that?

Yeah that stuff under the snow…grass!  Maybe spring really is just around the corner!  Are you itching to get your hands dirty?  Well since we still have a few more cold days on the horizon, tilling the garden might be out for now but a good task to accomplish in the mean time is pruning. Most plants benefit from some sort of regular pruning and maintenance. The trick is to know when to prune. Most flowering and fruiting plants prefer to be pruned while they are dormant, in late winter through early spring. Spring blooming trees and shrubs, will start setting new buds soon after they are done flowering. A good rule of thumb is to prune summer and fall flowering trees and shrubs in the dormant season (late winter / early spring) and to prune spring flowering trees and shrubs soon after their flowers fade.


Pruning in early spring best solves certain problems, even on spring blooming plants. It is always good to remove dead and dying branches prior to new growth coming out in spring. This directs energy to healthier buds. Removal of a few crowded stems each year will open up the interior of the plant, providing better air circulation and light penetration.  Just use caution on spring flowering plants; only remove what is necessary to correct the problem.  You don’t want to remove those flower buds that will be blooming in the next few months or else you’ll have to wait another 12 to see those flowers.

Still a bit too cold?  Our crews can get the job done for you, contact our office for a quote on dormant pruning.


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Just because…

Just because the leaves have fallen, the grass goes dormant and it’s getting cold doesn’t mean you can’t spruce up your annual pots!

There aren’t any “winter” flowers to add but you sure can display some beautiful winter greens in your pots!

What a warm welcome on a cold day!

There is quite the assortment of beautiful evergreens in varying shades of green to blue that will last until spring.  Add in branches, berries, pine cones and seed pods.  For added color you can include ribbons or lights!  It’s all up to your imagination, don’t let the winter doldrums limit you!

Holiday Pot




Don’t want to brave the cold, then call on our team to get the job done for you! Just contact us here: Van Zelst, Inc.





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Late bloomers!

Even though the season is winding down, some plants are just winding up!  You can still get a great splash of color with the following fall blooming plants!

Anemone x hybrida ‘Honorine Jobert’

From spring to fall you’ll be provided with a nice base of lush green leaves up to 18″ tall.  Then in September and October the real show begins.  These beautiful 1-2″ flowers will brighten up the fading fall landscape.  They are white or pink flowers, even double cultivars are available.  In bloom they are a striking 24-36″ tall.


Aconitum arendsii, Monkshood

You don’t normally see a lot of blue in the landscape.  But plant this handsome specimen  and you get a 2-4′ tall blue showstopper at the end of the growing season.  It also is one of the more unique blooms out there, with it’s helmet like sepals.


Aster ‘purple dome’

Purple dome is just one of many varieties of Fall Aster.  They come in a range of purple, pink, hot pink and white.  Plants are filled with small daisy like flowers that form a blanket of color!  Plants bloom in September and are from 18″-3′ tall!


Some perennials just fade into the garden at the end of the growing season and some, like above, create show stopping flowers. But don’t forget there are also those perennials that have great fall color, here are just a few:

Amsonia hubrechtii, Blue Star

You might think that after this plant blooms in spring that’s all you’ll get from it.  But Amsonia produces excellent fall color as the temperatures cool down.  The leaves turn bright yellow to orange and quickly brighten up the garden.


Geranium sanguineum

Geraniums bloom spring through summer and a few straggler flowers in the late fall.  But beautiful red fall foliage is what you should expect come late September and October!


And round out your landscape with shrubs that hold there fruit/berries late in the season and through winter:

Callicarpa spp. Beautyberry

One of my favorites is Beautyberry.  Now this is a showstopper you don’t often see!  Purlple-Amethyst colored berries!


Need help in your garden?  We can work together in the coming months to create a landscape with blooms all season long!  Just contact us here: Van Zelst, Inc.







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A gracious greeting.

Where does your home begin–at the front door?  The plantings? Or the curb?  Many homeowners pay great attention to their interior design and finishes, outdoor living areas, and plantings, yet seem to neglect the important first impression made by their driveway.


A stone or brick drive ties a polished environment together; extending the carefully selected finishes all the way to the street.  And with so many options available, including environmentally friendly permeable pavers that help manage rainwater, there’s no reason to live with a concrete or asphalt driveway cutting through your otherwise picturesque property.

Because we feel that this is an important consideration–especially in grand homes with sweeping drives and parking areas–we do the work ourselves.  Our in-house masons install pristine driveways and patios according to our landscape architects’ plans.  That way, we can ensure the work is consistent with the high standards set by the rest of the home.



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