Author Archives: VZ staff

The birds and the bees and butterflies too!

nestCommuning with nature is a great way to spend the evening after a long day of hard work and relax. The best gardens are those that are wildlife friendly! Here are a few tips to make your landscape a more welcoming environment. Birds of all species need various nesting sites. It’s good to have a variety of trees, shrubs and evergreens. Even an old dead tree can fit into your landscape to invite woodpeckers and nuthatches to nest. Butterflies need nectar sources, host sources (for the caterpillars) and shelter. And all living beings need water, a great way to attract more wildlife is to include a water source.

Here’s small list of plants to entice the birds, bees and butterflies!

Trees and shrubs for birds:
Serviceberry (amelanchier)-the birds love to gobble up the berries in the spring!
Hawthorn (crataegus)-great protective tree for nesting and produces berries for a food source.
Colorado Spruce or Norway Spruce (picea)-A great protective nesting site for birds (as with most other evergreens).
Red/Black Chokeberry (aronia)-another great food source for birds.

Butterfly garden plants:
Yarrow (achillea)
Columbine (aquilegia)
False Indigo (baptisia)
Butterfly Bush (buddleia)
Tickseed (coreopsis)
Coneflowers (echinacea)
Bee Balm (monarda)
Goldenrod (solidago)

A small pond or fountain makes a great open water source.



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Today we Remember…

What this day means.

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The start of a long weekend…

For most people this weekend signifies the official start of summer!

The weather looks like it’s going to be a beautiful weekend to enjoy the outdoors. And summer means…pools!

A swimming pool can be the social centerpiece for the season with your friends and family. A pool doesn’t just have to be surrounded by a concrete pad. Design your backyard retreat to be an extension of your home. Using natural stone, colorful annual displays and creative landscaping will help to soften the harsh lines of swimming pool equipment and welcoming your guests to enjoy the environment.

A private get away.

Living outdoors.

The sounds of nature.

A welcome respite.

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In Bloom…

With such a long winter it’s nice to see the plants starting to bloom…




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Why not give mom flowers all year long!

It’s time for mother’s day and one of the busiest days at a florist shop.  But if you are an avid gardener you can easily create your own floral arrangements from home.  This time of year, early spring, there are a plethora of bulbs that make great color displays in the home.  As soon as the temperatures rise we’ll see a flush of landscape plants blooming (perfect for snipping a few blooms and buds).

Flowers to plant in your garden for harvest of fresh flowers year round:

Early spring:

Just about any spring bulb makes a good cut flower! Tulips, narcissus (daffodils), hyacinths and even tiny muscari can make a lovely little nosegay.

And don’t forget those early blooming branches; they make a great statement alone or with a mix of flowers.  You can even force them to bloom by cutting them and then bringing them inside and putting them in water.  Try Forsythia or Malus (crabapple).

Late spring into summer:

Peonies!  Who doesn’t love a peony! There’s also Achillea (yarrow), Echinacea (cone flowers), Astilbe, Rudbeckia (black eyed susans), tall garden Phlox, Iris, Veronica, Liatris (blazing star), Lily of the valley and the list goes on.  Oh and don’t forget a branch or two of sweet smelling Lilacs!

Late summer into Fall:

You might not think there would be much late in the year but there are lots of plants still blooming until frost, as well as a few fall bloomers.  Try out Mums, Anemones, Solidago (goldenrod), Roses (and rose hips), and even grasses make a great addition to the vase! Fill out your vase with bunches of late blooming hydrangea! And for a bit of height and fall color, clip a branch of a Japanese maple or any brightly color fall leaved tree!

Also don’t forget to supplement your landscape with an abundance of annuals!  Many of which also make great cut flowers!

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The dwarf misconception…

Many times people plant a dwarf form of a plant thinking it will remain the size it was purchased at. This is ultimately the misconception of what the term dwarf really means. “Dwarf” is a relative term, not an absolute. Its meaning: a plant much smaller than the average of its kind or species. Dwarf species often grow much slower than the parent species and ultimately have a smaller mature size compared the parent plant.

We often see homeowners planting a “dwarf” plant a few feet from the house, which will easily outgrow the space at maturity. If you are designing your landscape be sure to research, read the labels or ask a professional about your selections. Use the mature size of the plant when planning and space them according to how big it will eventually be, not how big it is now. As your plants mature they will soon fill in the spaces in between. Otherwise you’ll be constantly pruning your plants to “stay” in their place. By being proactive and informed you will have a much nicer and healthier landscape to enjoy (instead of constantly working to maintain it!).

A few common dwarf plants and their mature size:

Dwarf burning bush: mature size 9-11’ (want something smaller, try Rudy Haag: 3-5’ or Little Moses: 2-3’)
Dwarf Korean lilac: mature size 4-5’
Allenman’s dwarf red dogwood: mature size 4-5’
Dwarf fothergilla: mature size 2-3’
Dwarf Pee Wee Oakleaf hydrangea: mature size 3-4’

Van Zelst, Inc.
Dwarf burning bush

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Pretty in pink…

Hydrangea Invincibelle SpiritHere is a plant that is rather new to the industry: Hydrangea Invincibelle Spirit. This is a pink form of the common Annabelle Hydrangea. As you can see it produces pretty pink flowers in summer. It takes a few growing seasons to get a good sturdy plant, but as you can see it’s a showstopper in it’s prime!

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A look ahead…

“2014 is all about balance.  People finally appreciate that being in nature and in the garden is pure bliss. But now they want the garden to do double duty: A Zen oasis and the social hub for entertaining.” –Katie Dubow, creative director of Garden Media.

At Van Zelst, Inc. these growing trends have always and will continue to be a part of our philosophy.

Year Round Outdoor Living
A fire feature is a great way to extend the season.  Fire pits have become quite popular in the landscape.

Van Zelst, Inc., fire pit

The Outdoor Kitchen
For the chef in the family this is a great amenity. Now the chef can be a part of the social gathering in your outdoor living space. These spaces can be as simple as a built in grill to a complete “kitchen” with sink, refrigerator, pizza oven, etc.

Van Zelst, Inc., outdoor kitchen

Outdoor Seating and Dining areas
Bringing the indoors out requires comfortable spaces for family and friends.  A table to gather round and break bread can create lasting memories.

Van Zelst, Inc., Glenview Residence

These are just a few of the trends of 2014, want to know more? Check us out at .

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Putting a little makeup on the landscape.

Mulch is any type of material that is spread or laid over the surface of the soil as a covering. It is used to retain moisture in the soil, suppress weeds, keep the soil cool and make the garden bed look more attractive. Organic mulches also help improve the soil’s fertility, as they decompose.

Organic mulch will decompose and have to be replaced more frequently, however in the process it will also improve your soil’s fertility and, of course, its organic content. Generally the dryer and woodier the mulch, the slower it will decompose and the less nutrients it will give to the soil.

We mulch our gardens in the spring to suppress weeds, retain moisture and feed and warm the soil. The mulch that we use is a blended mulch of 100% organic recycled material which includes recycled leaves, twigs and grass that is processed then screened into a fine dark leaf mulch.

Not only is mulch good for your soil it appeals to our aesthetics.

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How does your garden grow?


Well since it’s not quite warm enough to get your tomato’s going why not start with a cool season garden? There are lots of great veggies you can get started to brighten up your dinner plate.

Lettuce: All lettuces need loose, well-drained soil. Sow in open ground after frost; barely cover seeds. The best types to grow in our climate are: Butterhead or Boston, Looseleaf varieties and Romaine. The Looseleaf and Romaine varieties are the most heat tolerant.

Curly Leaf Kale: Sow seeds in place and thin to 1 1/2 to 3 ft. apart; or set out transplants at the same spacing. Grown for their leaves, which can be steamed, stir fried, sautéed, or added to soups. Curly-leafed kales form compact clusters of leaves that are tightly curled.

Swiss Chard: This is actually a form of beet grown for leaves and stalks instead of roots. It is one of the easiest vegetables to grow in home gardens. New leaves grow up from the center of the plant. Regular green and white chard looks presentable in flower garden, and multi-colored chard looks even better.

Broccoli: All types of broccoli are cool-season plants that tend to bolt into flower at high temperatures, so plant them to mature during cool weather. In cold-winter areas, set out young plants 2 to 4 weeks before last frost (young plants resist frost but not hard freezes). Space plants 1 1/2–2 ft. apart in rows and leave 3 ft. between rows. Harvest 50 to 100 days after setting out plants. Cut heads before clustered buds begin to open. Include 5–6 in. of edible stalk and leaves.

Cauliflower: Easiest to grow in cool, humid regions. Where summers are hot, grow it to harvest well before or well after midsummer, and select heat-tolerant varieties. Start with small plants. Space them 1 1/2–2 ft. apart in rows and leave 3 ft. between rows. When heads first appear, tie up the large leaves around them to keep them white.

Arugula: Arugula has a nice peppery mustard flavor, which goes well when mixed with other greens. It grows best in cool weather. Thin to about 6 in. apart. Harvest tender young leaves; older, larger ones usually taste too sharp.

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