Author Archives: VZ staff

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!

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Giving thanks…

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

autumn

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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.

P1010301

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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

Aster alma potschke

Goldenrod

Solidago (goldenrod)

Weigela

A second flush of flowers from weigela rubidor.

Beauty bush

The beautiful berries of Beautybush.

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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.

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If it feels like fall, it must be!

My favorite time of year.  Although our first official fall day won’t be until September 23rd!  With a string of cooler days and nights the plants are telling us fall is coming!  Some of the leaves are just starting to change and the summer annuals are looking pretty sad.  So now is the time to switch it up and add some color to those planters.  You could get another two months from them!

So fall makes you think of mums, kale and pansies.  These might be the staples of the fall annual garden but there are lots of other materials you can use to brighten up those fall planters.

Check out these fun planters filled with color and fun textures!

This one is filled with pretty purple mums, bold annual rudbeckias, millet, weeping ornamental pepper plants and pansies. It certainly brightens up a drab corner.


This planter is accented with a fun contrast of purple and white. We used annual fountain grass, black pearl peppers, himalayan honeysuckle, ornamental kale, mums, pansies, weeping ornamental pepper and then accented it with a cute white pumpkin.

Try mixing it up by adding some of these accents to your fall planter!

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Do you have a green thumb? How about green pavers?

Going green in the landscape is not only about plants but your hard surfaces as well. An alternative to help the environment is by using permeable pavers (Permeable Interlocking Concrete Pavement).

Permeable Pavers

These concrete pavers are created so that the joint openings are typically 5-15% of the surface area and are filled with highly permeable aggregates.  This type of installation requires a much deeper base of angular rock.  This, in turn, allows storm water to runoff more effectively. It even filtrates the water as it passes through the surface joints, base and into the ground below.

To learn more about how you can “Go Green” contact Van Zelst Inc. for a proposal.

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The dog days of summer…

August is typically the hottest and driest month of summer.  So even though the Midwest has had a pretty mild summer thus far don’t forget to water your landscape.

It’s not necessary to water lawns and plants every day. As a general rule, more plants are killed through over-watering than under-watering.

Established trees, shrubs, and perennials need approximately 1 inch of water each week. An easy way to determine if your landscape has been getting enough water is by investing in a rain gauge.  Mother Nature is the best provider of water to your lawn but she doesn’t always comply with our wishes.  When we are getting less than an inch of rain a week (or none in some cases) then it’s time to supplement additional moisture.

Water deeply and thoroughly, not daily. Frequent, shallow watering causes plants to produce shallow roots that cannot survive the heat and dry conditions of mid-summer months. Watering deeply and infrequently causes plant roots to grow deeply into the soil in search of the water, resulting in deeply rooted, more drought resistant plants.

The optimal time for watering is in the morning, this allows the turf grass to dry out before night time avoiding possible disease problems.  Also be aware of plants that are prone to fungal diseases, such as roses and lilacs and try to avoid overhead watering.

By taking the proper steps to maintaining your landscape you’ll be helping your plants to grow more vigorously, thereby creating a strong plant that will survive our Midwest winters!

pond

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It’s time for a haircut! Well for your plants at least.

Summer pruning and deadheading is a repetitive job but it is something we need to do to ensure that plants continue to flower all season long and will add healthy new growth next year. It allows the plant to slow its growth down by reducing the surface area of the leaves therefore slowing down the amount of food produced and sent to the roots. Pruning in summer is also a great time for corrective purpose.

Basic Pruning practices:

  1. Remove any dead or diseased wood. Although it is more difficult to see the outline of a tree in leaf, it should be easier once you have removed any unhealthy stems.
  2. Take out stems that are growing toward the center of the tree. Be wary of pruning large branches that will heal slowly.
  3. Remove any crossing branches to prevent them from rubbing against each other and causing wounds that may result in serious damage
  4. Prune out weak stems that did not produce flowers or that have few leaves, and rub out shoots forming on the lower trunk.
  5. Keep the tree in shape by reducing the length of wayward side stems and excessive new growth by cutting them back by about one-third.

Hedges grow rapidly in summer. The heavy shearing of hedges that exposes too much of the interior wood and the tender interior leaves, will cause scorching from the hot summer sun. Sunburn then kills the wood and leaves, resulting in a half-dead, scraggly hedge. It is best to shear hedges lightly and frequently in summer.

Perhaps the most labor-intensive plants to prune in the garden are the perennials. Perennials are not maintenance-free as most new gardeners might think. Most perennial plants, especially the flowering ones, not only need to be cut back entirely at some point before or after the growing season, they need regular pruning, shearing or deadheading.

Pruning generally creates a healthier, more robust and attractive plant.

winnetka-il-perennial-flower-bed-600x400

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It’s not always about the flowers.

I love flowers but in our gardens they are fleeting and demand more maintenance.  Perennials come in stages, flowering shrubs and trees flower for such a short time and annuals add a pop of color but need to be replaced every year.  But what we do see all year long is the foliage; this is where color and texture can really break up the monotony of green!

There are some great plants that are available purely for their foliage (the flowers are secondary).  The change of color, from either a nice deep burgundy or bright chartreuse, can easily break up the wall of green in most planting beds. Don’t forget about textures as well.  Leaves of all the same size and shape bleed together; but adding different shapes and sizes of leaves will break up the border.

There are a great number of plants that use their foliage as their selling point, from perennials to trees and shrubs.  Here are a just a few great additions to the garden.

weigela rubidor soft and hard textures heuchera palace purple
heliopsis loraine sunshine cornus kousa wolf eyes eupatorium chocolate
japanese maple heuchera caramel play with texture
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