Author Archives: VZ staff

Putting the garden to bed.

We all have a bedtime routine, well it’s also a great time to establish one for your garden.

We’ve ended this season on a fairly dry note. So it’s important to continue to water new plantings and evergreens well into fall. You don’t need to do it as frequently as summertime, but they do need a good drink before they go completely dormant in the winter. This is also an effective means of minimizing injury to trees and shrubs during the winter. Water sparingly throughout early autumn, and as the leaves begin to fall switch to less frequent, but deeper watering of deciduous trees and evergreens.

It’s also a great time of year to mulch your planting beds. A layer of mulch insulates the ground therefore allowing it to stay frozen, protecting plants from winter freezes, thaws and winds. A steady temperature will keep the plant in dormancy and prevent it from triggering new growth during a brief warm spell. Tender, new growth too soon will just result in more winter die back. Mulching now will also help conserve whatever water is in the soil.

Also don’t forget to take an inventory of your garden. Make notes of what worked and didn’t work. What needs to be divided for spring or moved to another location?  You’ll have plenty of time in the winter to select some fun new plants and add to your amazing garden come spring.

Van Zelst, Inc. Weinberg Residence, Northfield

Bookmark the permalink.

Has Fall finally arrived?

Is summer really over?  It’s starting to feel like fall with cooler days and nights.   Let’s talk about fun fall annuals.  We mostly think of, and see, a lot of mums and pansies.  But there are a plethora of other plants to fill your landscape with later fall colors!

As with most annuals we look forward to various colored flowers, but did you know that you can also use leafy greens and ornamental peppers to spice up you fall planters?!

Ornamental peppers produce colorful little fruits that are round or pointed. They are so attractive in their own right that they can be grown just for show — not eating. The peppers are indeed edible, but usually flavor is lacking compared to peppers grown for the table.

Kale is the new super-food, but did you know ornamental kale and cabbage look great with mums and pansies?  They are varied in colors and texture.  And the cooler it gets the brighter the colors become!  And like the ornamental peppers these plants are also edible (but really are too pretty to consume!).

Another great foliage plant to add to your planters is Heuchera.  There are many varied  colors from golden yellow, deep purple to caramel colored leaves!  These plants are actually perennials but can serve as an “annual” in your planters.

Whether you mix them up or plant en mass, there are lots of options for fall color!
Contact us now to get your garden blooming for fall!

2015-09-23 11.14.15

Bookmark the permalink.


Outdoor grilling is blazing through the Midwest and its time to get a cooking. We’re guessing you’ve noticed, but across-the-board homeowners are refocusing their attention on outdoor entertaining. It’s no longer an occasional space for get togethers, but an everyday event.

Pull up a bar stool and break out the brisket. From friends and family to parties galore, the outdoor kitchen and bar can now handle it all. From gas to charcoal, smokers to pizza ovens, each kitchen is as unique as the client – the possibilities are only limited by your imagination and tastes. So, fire up your taste buds early this season, here’s a peak at one of our most recent projects:

Get inspired to spruce up your outdoor kitchen with these photos below.

grill 1

grill 3

Grill 2

grill 4

grill 5

Call us today if you want to MEAT!

Bookmark the permalink.

Where there is smoke there is fire…

Ever wonder where all that smoke you see in the early spring is coming from? Well those are controlled/prescribed burns, used to rejuvenate the prairies.


It’s a sure sign that spring is on the way.

Prairies tend to grow in areas with strong winds, direct sunlight and little moisture. Plants have adapted over time by developing deep tap roots, smaller leaves and thicker bark.

Even though these fires are man made now, they once were natural occurrences set by lightening and then later set by the Native Americans that used this knowledge of the prairies to manage their agricultural lands.

Approximately 60% of Illinois was at one time covered by prairies. These original prairies have been reduced to a mere 1/100th of that, there are about 2500 acres of “original” prairie left. There is now a push to restore areas and return them back to their former glory.

Management agencies utilize controlled/prescribed burns to manage original prairie areas and supplement restoration prairie projects. These burns kill invasive woody species; cycle nutrients back into the soil, and deter the early spring growth of cool-season non-native species. For some native plants it is critical for the burn to occur in order for their seeds to sprout. After the burn native plants generally produce more robust plants and more seeds; the fire also lengthens their growing season and recycles nutrients.

You might not have the space for your own prairie but you can easily incorporate native plant species into your garden.  Our nursery grows a multitude of perennials, some of which are native to the midwest.  Contact us to create your own native garden.

Bookmark the permalink.

April Showers bring May Flowers!

At least that’s what we are hoping for!

In the landscape business, winter is quiet, so looking ahead to spring is one of the highlights. One of the fun parts, is selecting new plant material to grow in our nursery. We select plants based on how they’ll fare in our climate and soil, as well as how they enhance the selection already grown in our nurseries. We give them a good start with a special soil blend which includes vermicompost. They are then cared for by our dedicated nursery team! We are looking forward to seeing these plants blooming in our hoop huts and in your gardens soon.

Here are just a few of the new plants we will introduce into our palette of plants!

Campanula poscharskyana ‘Blue Waterfall’
Height: 8-10”
Exposure: Full sun to part shade
Flower color: Blue
Bloom time: May-July
This is a lovely cascading plant would make a great addition to any garden. The delicate blue bell-shaped flowers reach out, fall, from the center of Campanula Blue Waterfall. It would also look nice cascading over a rock wall, along the edge of a garden walkway or in a window box.

Dicentra spectabilis ‘Valentine’
Height: 24-30”
Exposure: Part shade to shade
Flower Color: Red
Bloom time: May-June
This old fashioned Bleeding Heart features arching spikes of cherry-red, heart-shaped blooms with white tips held on dark burgundy stems. The delicate ferny foliage matures to an attractive powdery grey-green.

Echinacea ‘Solar Flare’
Height: 24-30”
Exposure: Full sun
Flower Color: Deep Rosy Orange Red
Bloom time: June-September
These large flowers have petals that start out a deep rosy orange red that fade to a smoky rose. Plants are strong and bushy in habit with near-black stems. Attractive to butterflies and excellent for cutting.

Nepeta subsessilis ‘Sweet Dreams’
Height: 12-18”
Exposure: Full sun to part shade
Flower Color: Pink
Bloom time: July-September
This unique Catmint is Lovely in an herb or flower garden, among Roses, or near walkways where its scent can be appreciated. It is covered with spikes of pale pink to pink flowers throughout the summer months.

Perovskia atriplicifolia ‘Lacey Blue’
Height: 18-20”
Exposure: Full sun
Flower Color: Lavender blue
Bloom time: June-September
This compact Russian Sage forms a bushy mound of fragrant grey-green leaves, with spikes of lavender-blue flowers from mid-summer to fall giving it a long season of interest. Great for smaller gardens and terrific in mixed containers.

Bookmark the permalink.

Wake up!

So as us humans slowly wake up from our semi hibernation, you’ll soon notice that nature is waking up as well. It’s never too early to think about your landscape!

In the coming weeks, as the temperatures rise and the snow melts, we’ll begin to see the first signs of spring. Bulbs will peek up out of the ground, grass will slowly turn from brown to green and the buds on trees and shrubs will begin to swell for soon the leaves will burst out for spring. Rejoice!

spring bulbs

But let’s get ahead of the game and think about our landscape now, even if there is still snow on the ground. Big picture: set a goal for your landscape! Maybe you would like to add a new planting bed, rearrange the perennial garden or update your patio (maybe even create a built in grill!).

Here are some tips for spring:

  • Now is a great time to do some dormant pruning. Prune trees and shrubs for corrective measures by removing cross branches and dead/diseased parts of the plants. Just wait on those spring blooming plants or you’ll be sacrificing those beautiful spring blooms!
  • Start planning your garden. This is the time to peruse your garden catalogs and make a list of your must get plants!
  • Once the snow is gone it’s time to dig out the garden gloves and get to cleaning up the garden. Remove dead plants, old bedding plants, etc. Clean up leaf debris, cut back perennials. Once you have a clean slate, it’s time to mulch the garden.
  • Get your lawn ready by using a pre-emergent before the weeds take over. Fix the areas affected by winter damage with some soil and seed. Once the grass begins to grow, resume watering.
  • Don’t forget about annuals. You’ll want to prepare your planting beds or containers for them. Feeling inspired you can plant an early spring container to welcome spring! These include forced bulbs and frost friendly annuals. Be sure to wait until your area is frost free to plant summer annuals.

Remember that goal you set, make sure to incorporate that in your “to-do” list.

The work is never done in the landscape, but once spring has sprung and you’ve tackled your to-do list you can start to enjoy the fruits of your labor!

Is your goal to big for you tackle yourself?

Contact Van Zelst Inc.  to help you meet that goal!

Bookmark the permalink.

Giving thanks…

Have a safe and happy holiday.
from the Van Zelst Team


Bookmark the permalink.

Polar Vortex 2

Yup I said it, if the weather predictions are correct we may be looking at another Polar Vortex this winter in the Midwest. So what can you do to protect your plants?

Mulch! A layer of mulch insulates the ground therefore allowing it to stay frozen, protecting plants from winter freezes, thaws and winds. A steady temperature will keep the plant in dormancy and prevent it from triggering new growth during a brief warm spell. Tender, new growth too soon will just result in more winter die back. Mulching now will also help conserve whatever water is in the soil, remember to water your plants well into the fall.

For further info on mulching contact Van Zelst Inc.


Bookmark the permalink.

Fall Flowers…

We expect the colors of the changing leaves, but there are also some great fall blooming plants still adding a punch of color to the landscape.

Fall Asters

Fall blooming asters.



Aster alma potschke



Solidago (goldenrod)



A second flush of flowers from weigela rubidor.


Beauty bush

The beautiful berries of Beautybush.


Bookmark the permalink.

My evergreen is dying!

Well no not really. Much like leaves falling off of deciduous trees in autumn, evergreens will shed their inner needles as well. This is quite obvious in certain evergreens such as white pine and arborvitae. It creates an unsightly appearance for a few weeks.

Just as deciduous trees grow new leaves every year, most evergreens grow a new tuft of needles on each branch. Each year in the fall, it loses the oldest needles (those closest to the trunk) which is quite normal and called seasonal needle loss or fall needle drop.

This shedding of older needles is often unnoticeable but can become a dramatic display in some years. Stresses such as drought seem to make the needle loss more severe in certain years.  Remember to continue to water your evergreens late into the year and you can re-purpose those fallen needles and use them as a mulch.

Bookmark the permalink.
Page 3 of 612345...Last »
Van Zelst
Connect with us Pinterest houzz Google+


Or complete this form:

Please leave this field empty.