Author Archives: VZ staff

Be on the lookout for…

Viburnum leaf beetle could be the next nuisance insect in the same vain as Japanese beetles.  One of the most popular and easiest to grown shrubs is the Arrowwood Viburnum (Viburnum dentatum), which means it’s fairly easy to find one in almost every landscape.  The Viburnum leaf beetle larvae and adults will feast on the foliage of Viburnums; quickly defoliating it.  After several years of defoliation your viburnum can die.  The adult beetle will then lay it’s eggs on the stems to make it an easy perennial pest, year after year!

What to look for and how to get rid of this pesky pest! 

Once viburnums have dropped their leaves in fall, look for egg masses along the undersides of the twigs. Prune out and discard any damaged branches or twigs. Do not compost this debris for mulch.

Viburnum Leaf Beetle, egg masses on twig

Viburnum Leaf Beetle, egg masses on twig

In late spring and early summer, look for small holes that skeletonize the leaves between the veins. On the underside of the leaves, you might see tiny, yellow-brown caterpillars, some with spots. Destroy any damaged leaves that drop.

Viburnum Leaf Beetle Larvae

Viburnum Leaf Beetle Larvae

A few weeks after hatching, the larvae drop to the ground and burrow into the soil to pupate. In about six weeks, the adult beetles emerge, feed on the leaves and lay eggs to start the cycle all over again. The 1/4- to 3/8-inch long, golden-brown beetles look shiny in the sun.

Adult Viburnum Leaf Beetle

Adult Viburnum Leaf Beetle

Viburnum species that are:
Highly susceptible:

  • V. dentatum: Arrowwood viburnums
  • V. nudum:  Possum-haw, smooth witherod viburnum
  • V. opulus: European cranberrybush viburnum
  • V. opulus var. americana (syn. V. trilobum): American cranberrybush viburnum


  • V. acerifolium: Mapleleaf viburnum
  • V. lantana: Wayfaring tree, Mohican viburnum
  • V. sargentii: Sargent viburnum

Moderately susceptible:

  • V. burkwoodii: Burkwood viburnum
  • V. carlcephalum: Carlcephalum viburnum
  • V. cassinoides: Witherod viburnum
  • V. lentago: Nannyberry viburnum
  • V. prunifolium: Black-haw viburnum
  • V. rhytidophylloides: Lantanaphyllum viburnum

Most resistant:

  • V. carlesii: Koreanspice viburnum
  • V. juddii: Judd viburnum
  • V. plicatum and V. plicatum var. tomentosu: Doublefile viburnum
  • V. rhytidophyllum: Leatherleaf viburnum
  • V. sieboldii: Siebold viburnum

Not sure what to do, then contact one of our professional horticulturists to help assess the problem.



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Small Spaces. Big Impact.

While we often showcase our larger landscape projects, we are just as skilled at creating glorious landscapes in smaller spaces. Many clients in the city and older, established neighborhoods have limited space–but that doesn’t mean they have to limit their imagination.

In a compact space, functionality and flow are paramount. Details stand out. And the whole garden must work together at a glance. But the foundations of good design, careful preparation and well-executed maintenance are the same, whether you have a tiny lot or acres of open space.

For example, in a smaller space, we’re likely to recommend long blooming perennials that make the most of the available footprint.  We bring shady spaces to life with the right plants and use of hardscape elements. An emphasis on architectural shapes, containers and vertical elements takes full advantage of the space available.  And carefully planned structures or stonework can support the way you entertain.

By looking at each space as a unique opportunity and applying solid landscaping principles, the Van Zelst team can create beautiful outdoor environments in the most unexpected places.

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Bring on spring!

Extending the look and the season by adding containers throughout the landscape is a terrific way to accessorize–in a small space or as focal points within a sweeping environment.  Containers allow you to incorporate plants into the patio or near the home, add height and artistic appeal, and update the garden from season to season.

We can start by punctuating the landscape with bursts of color as early as Late March into April.  We use forced bulbs, branches, pansies, and other cold hardy annuals to welcome spring. Contact us now, Van Zelst Inc, to bring instant color to your yard!

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Dormant pruning…

The snow has finally melted, 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 as soon as the old buds have fallen. These will need to be pruned shortly after 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!

Don’t have time to do this yourself?  Contact us and we’ll get our professional crews out to take care of your dormant prunes.

snow 4.15 (1)

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Ok let’s dig out our gardening tools and get to work!

Oh you thought I meant outside? Nope not today, it’s too cold! But you can still work on your garden from the comfort of your own home! Head on out to your local library or your favorite book store and thumb through some great gardening books or magazines. Inspiration is the key to success!

There are many ways of collecting data for this year’s garden. You can pull out pages of catalogs, write notes, bookmark favorite websites but a great and easy way to keep all your thoughts together is by using either Pinterest or Houzz. Both of these are great modern visualization tools. They are simple to use and simple to share!

We, as designers, work year-round with our clients to bring their outdoor living space dreams to reality and our designs are driven by our client’s visions. By using these modern tools we can easily communicate our likes, dislikes and inspirations simply by sharing a picture!

So grab your hot cocoa and start visualizing your garden. While you are at it check out our Pinterest and Houzz sites to get your creative juices flowing.

Spring Bulbs

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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

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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