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June 4, 2018

Our Favorite Shade Garden Plants For Vermont

With the wooded areas that are commonly found in Vermont, most of us have gardens that get partial to full shade. And although it can be frustrating to design an impactful, colorful shade garden that offers up interest from spring until fall, it doesn’t have to be! We’ll go over some of our favorite shade plants that thrive in Vermont and give the benefits of each.

Early Season Shade Garden Interest/Color:

With the long winters here in Vermont, having something that pops up in early spring is essential to the gardeners’ well-being. Some of our favorite shade plants for early interest and color are:

  • Bleeding Hearts: We all love the elegant, heart-shaped blooms of this classic shade garden perennial. It doesn’t only come in pink, though! Try different varieties in deep crimson, white, and more.
  • Ferns: A gardeners best friend, ferns provide interest all season long and make for great fillers in the garden.
  • Marsh Marigolds: This early-season perennial thrives in moist areas and is the perfect choice for an area with runoff or a rain garden.
  • Ajuga: This interesting foliage plant looks great planted with other Hostas but can spread readily, so don’t plant it where you don’t want it to fill in the garden bed.

Mid Season Shade Garden Interest/Color:

  • Coral Bells (Heuchera): Although these perennials may show up earlier in the season, their full beauty and blooms don’t come out until mid-season. This fantastic plant offers up unparalleled foliage beauty throughout the season and flowers in the summer months. The best thing about Coral Bells is there are so many colors to choose from to fit any garden style.
  • Hostas: Again, Hostas start to pop out of the ground in the early season but don’t show their full potential until the mid-season. A famous shade plant, Hostas provide season-long texture with their foliage and offer up pollinator-friendly blooms in the summer months. Bonus: they multiply each year and can be dug up and divided to move around the garden every several seasons.
  • Astilbe: The colorful plumes that Astilbe bring to the mid-season garden make them a shade garden favorite. Coming in all hues of pinks, whites, reds, and more, Astilbe adds texture and also makes for a fantastic filler in cut bouquets.
  • Lamium: One of the most elegant shade plants, Lamium starts to bloom in the mid-spring and will last throughout the summer. A great groundcover.

Late Season Shade Garden Interest/Color:

  • Hydrangea: Some varieties of Hydrangea thrive in the shade and offer up height, color, and privacy in the shade garden. Late season color typically lasts from summer through early fall.
  • Bugbane (Actea): This deer-resistant perennial is extremely cold hardy and thrives in moist, wet areas in the landscape. Dramatic foliage adds texture throughout the season and spiky blooms come out in the late season.
  • Toad Lilies: These shade beauties often bloom after everything else is done for the season, providing that last show of color before the frost hits.

To design a successful shade garden, choose 1-2 varieties from each of these categories and plant groupings throughout the garden bed. If you’re looking to create a living mulch, add in the groundcovers (like Lamium) throughout to create a bed of foliage that will help eliminate the need for weeding. All of the varieties we mentioned above are hardy in Vermont and don’t require much supplemental water or care — the easier, the better!

May 22, 2018

Planting Wildflowers In Vermont

Now that it’s finally May and it’s finally feeling like spring here in Vermont, it’s time to talk about an easy, low maintenance way to create pollinator-friendly gardens that add color to the garden all season long. We’re talking about wildflowers, of course! Many think of native varieties when wildflowers come to mind, and native varieties are important to our local pollinator population, but wildflower plantings can also include non-native, easy-to-pollinate varieties that add huge color and satisfy both the bees and the gardener. We’ll talk about when the best time to plant wildflowers is in the spring here in Vermont, along with some of the reasons why wildflowers may be a great addition to your landscape.

Why Plant Wildflowers?

As mentioned above, wildflowers are an easy, cost-effective, and low-maintenance solution to large garden beds, meadows, replacing part of your lawn, and more. We recommend skipping most of the seed mixtures found in the big box stores and looking for only mixtures that contain 100% seed. Many reputable seed companies formulate their own mixtures for different purposes (to attract butterflies, regional varieties, deer resistant varieties, etc) and these mixtures contain a dozen or so varieties that will offer up color from spring all the way through frost.

We’ve planted swaths of wildflowers in several client’s homes along their driveway, on sloped banks, and other areas to create that big statement of color with little supplemental watering or weeding. If you’re looking for a long-term planting, make sure to plant both annuals for color the first year (sunflowers, zinnias, cosmos) and perennials for color in the second and successive years (purple coneflower, lupine, black eyed susan).

When To Plant Wildflowers

There are two times here in Vermont to plant wildflowers: fall and spring. In the fall, spread the seed after there have been a few hard frosts and the seeds don’t have the chance to germinate until the spring. This method mimics the way wildflowers naturally drop their seeds in nature and results in earlier blooms.

In spring, plant your wildflower seed after there is no more chance of frost in your area. You can find your last frost date at the Old Farmer’s Almanac website. The last frost date for Burlington is May 10, so as long as you check the weather and don’t see any crazy lows in the near future, anytime after that date should be fine to plant your wildflowers.

How To Plant Wildflowers

Another big plus with wildflowers is how easy they are to plant. The most important step to ensuring the wildflowers grow successfully — and don’t get overrun by weeds — is to prepare the soil ahead of time. Clear all existing growth from the area (weeds, grass, etc) and either till or rake the soil. Wildflowers thrive best when planted on completely bare soil. Once your soil is ready, sprinkle the seed on top of the soil and either step on the area or use a seed roller to compress the seed into the ground. Give the planting a good watering and water every other day (if it doesn’t rain) until seedlings are a few inches tall. After that, as long as we’re having regular rainfall the wildflowers don’t need supplemental water. At the end of the season (or in early spring) use your mower to mow the area down and that will help annuals drop seed for next season. It’s really that easy!

We’ve been incorporating wildflowers more and more into our plantings and find that they are a great way to add pollinator-friendly plants to our client’s landscapes. Is this your year to try wildflowers in your garden? If so, please share a photo on our Facebook or tag us on Instagram at @DistefanoLandscaping.

May 2, 2018

Introducing Paul Pierce, Our New Project Manager/Safety Director

We think 2018 is going to be the best season yet for DiStefano Landscaping, in part due to our new Project Manager/Safety Director Paul Pierce. Paul comes to us with 27 years of site, civil, structural, and utility construction, with experience in site and wetland restoration as well as environmental construction. In Connecticut, he was the Project Manager of a $40 million project that was the largest wetland replication/restoration in the history of the state. A big part of that project was to replicate wetlands that had been disturbed by a recent highway construction project. So, it’s pretty obvious that we are beyond excited to have him managing our projects here at DiStefano and working to make sure our crews are safe.

We sat down with Paul to talk a little bit about himself and what he’s most looking forward to this season.

Where Are You From?

“I am originally from Cincinnati Ohio, having spent 12 years there, until my father relocated us to Holliston, Massachusetts, where I lived for about 20 years. I graduated high school there, and went to College at UMass Amherst, for Mathematics. I received my degree in Construction Management in 2014, finishing up online while traveling.”

Tell Us A Little Bit About Yourself.

“I enjoy golf, baseball, softball, and volleyball.”

What Is Your Role Here At DiStefano?

“My role here is Project Manager, overseeing the construction division here at diStefano, with a dual role as company Safety Director, in charge of making sure we are in compliance with OSHA and making sure everyone goes home safely every night!”

What are you most excited about for this season?

“I am most looking forward to a successful, profitable, and safe construction season, while helping to grow the business, foster existing relationships, and developing new ones for the company.”

We’re thrilled for this step forward in our company with Paul at the helm of safety and project management. If you see him around, be sure to say hello!

April 19, 2018

Garden Trends For 2018

Each year, the Garden Media Group puts out a detailed report of what trends they’re predicting for the garden industry in the upcoming year. The four biggest takeaways we took from the report for 2018 were gardening for wellness, growing plant communities, gardening for privacy, and growing your own protein. We’ll dig into these ideas and talk about how you can apply them in your own landscape this season.

2018 Garden Trends: Gardening For Wellness

As the world gets more and more complicated, many of us are seeing our stress levels rise with it. One of the ways to combat the constant stream of news and information coming to us from our phones, TVs, and social media is to get out and enjoy a moment device-free in nature. The report states, “The new study of neuro-conservation from Dr. Wallace J Nichols, an evolutionary ecologist and research associate at the California Academy of Sciences, says that being in nature and around water shifts our brains towards hope and compassion and away from stress and anger."

We know from first-hand experience that a day digging in the dirt leaves us feeling both physically tired and mentally energized. So this season, make sure you have a space in your landscape that you can sit out and enjoy nature. If you have a particular part of your garden you love, place a bench or adirondack chair near it to be able to enjoy it more. Place a water feature in your yard to enjoy the soothing sound. Get out into nature and plant something in your garden, or even head out into the woods for a hike.

In 2018 — and for many years to come — making an effort to get out in nature isn’t only a “trend,” but a necessity.

2018 Garden Trends: Plant Communities

Our Landscape Designer David is a big advocate for this idea of landscaping with plant communities instead of individual plants. So what is a plant community? Think of plants as species that interact with each other and the garden, instead of plants placed adjacent to each other with mulch in between. The plants should work together, instead of live apart with no communication.

An important aspect of planting a plant community is to incorporate groundcovers as “green mulch” to help prevent weeds from growing and fill in around the roots of the other plants. Other parts of this planting method include layering plants vertically, making sure you’re growing the right plants for your soil type, sunlight, and other growing conditions, and making the garden low maintenance.

Learn more about plant communities in our blog.

2018 Garden Trends: Growing For Privacy

As more and more people are choosing to live in cities and suburban areas, the idea of using living plants as privacy is becoming more popular. We see many clients looking to use shrubs, vines, and other long-lasting plants to help naturally block out a home next door, hide an ugly septic tank, or other unsightly areas in their property.  

2018 Garden Trends: Growing Your Own Protein

Whether you’re a vegetarian or not, more and more people are realizing the importance of plant-based protein in a well-balanced diet, and many gardeners are opting to grow their own in their backyards.

Top 10 Easy-to-Grow Protein-Rich Foods:

  • Edamame
  • Peas
  • Quinoa
  • Broccoli
  • Corn
  • Asparagus
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Millet
  • Sunflower Seeds

You can get seeds for most of these varieties from the Vermont-owned company High Mowing Seeds, which sells all organic and non-GMO vegetable varieties.

2018 Garden Trends: Takeaways

The common thread through most of the garden trends for 2018 are wellness and growing smart. Gardening not only can help us relax and give us yummy, healthy foods to eat, but more and more gardeners are seeing the importance in growing low maintenance plants that serve multiple purposes in their yard. If you love that climbing Hydrangea vine, you may want to place it in an area that can also provide screening from a neighbor’s patio. If you’re looking to create a new garden bed, use the plant community method to reduce your need for watering, weeding, and pruning.

We’re excited to use some of these practices in your gardens for the 2018 season!

November 20, 2017

A Grand Stone Stairway To Lake Champlain

One of our crews was fortunate to spend most of the late summer at a lakefront property in Colchester with spectacular views. We created an outdoor living space for the clients with various stonework and gardens, as well as made a grand, natural stone stairway that connected the home with the dock below.

The job itself was a big undertaking; it involved community planting along the steep hillside, blueberry sod, a bluestone walkway in back, foundation plantings, a permeable paver driveway (to help prevent runoff into the lake), and sod in the front yard.

The Client’s Goals:

The clients primarily wanted to have easy access to their dock on Lake Champlain, which was down a very steep cliff from their home. They also wanted to have a back yard where they could enjoy time outside, which they didn’t have before.

They were tired of tracking gravel into the garage from their driveway, so they wanted a permeable driveway. With smooth permeable pavers, they don’t have to worry about tracking anything into the home. A bonus benefit with this type of driveway is that with rainstorms — or even when they wash their cars — the water won’t runoff into their yard or the lake below.


The biggest challenge on this specific project was ledge. Because the home rests on a cliff, the ground was pretty much completely made up of hard rock. To remedy this situation and create the backyard they were hoping for, we brought in a huge excavator and hammered out portions of ledge to create a level space.

Biggest Success:

Our biggest success on the job was also part of our biggest challenge. The hardscape crew, led by Erik DesLauriers, did an amazing job working with the ledge to lay the steps. The result is a completely natural — and easy to navigate — stone staircase that winds down the cliff gradually to the lake.

The clients couldn’t be happier with the finished product and are already looking for reasons to have us back next season! Because we finished the job in the fall the pictures don’t do the plantings justice, but we’ll head back in the spring to take more photos of everything in bloom.

Looking to create your own outdoor oasis? Contact us for more information.

November 2, 2017

Perennial Maintenance: What To Cut Back In Fall & Spring

In late fall, once all of your perennials have started to turn brown and die back, it’s time to prune some and leave some to cut back in spring. It’s common to think that everything should be chopped down to the ground in the fall, but some perennials actually need their foliage to protect new shoots through the winter. Other varieties offer up important habitat for local wildlife and some perennials provide height and interest through the winter months. We’ll go over a sampling of common perennials here in Vermont and list when to cut them back (and why).

Perennials To Cut Back In The Fall

There are a variety of perennials that should be cut back in the fall. Prune foliage down to just a few inches from the ground and make sure to clear away any debris from the garden to help prevent disease and rot in the early spring.

If perennials (like Bee Balm or Phlox) were diseased this past season, cut the foliage all the way down to the ground and don’t compost it. Throw it away or dispose of it in an area far enough away from the garden that other plants won’t be subject to the disease. Make sure to clean your pruners with a mixture of bleach and water after dealing with any diseased plants.

Plants To Cut Back In Fall:

  • Bearded Iris
  • Bee Balm (Monarda)
  • Phlox
  • Lilies
  • Gaillardia (Blanket Flower)
  • Catmint (Nepeta)
  • Columbine (Aquilegia)
  • Daylily (Hemerocallis)
  • Peony (Paeonia)
  • Salvia
  • Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum odoratum)
  • Yarrow (Achillea)
  • Hostas
  • Astilbe

Perennials To Leave Up Through The Winter

There are several common perennials that should be left up throughout the winter for a variety of reasons, including protection, adding winter interest, and helping local wildlife.

Plants to Cut Back In Spring:

  • Annual wildflowers. If you planted annual wildflowers like Cosmos, Zinnias, or Sunflowers, leaving them up through the winter helps them to drop their seeds and come back the next year. If you can’t stand leaving them up (or are part of an HOA that makes you cut them back), cut them back and leave the debris on the ground. This should help them drop some seeds for the next season.
  • Echinacea (Coneflower) and Rudbeckia (Black Eyed Susan) should be left up until spring to attract and feed birds throughout the winter.
  • Sedum and Ornamental Grasses should be left throughout the winter to add height and interest.
  • Butterfly Weed (Asclepias), Ferns, and Heuchera (Coral Bells) should be left until spring because the foliage helps protect their crowns.  

Hydrangea is an illusive shrub that can be pruned in the late winter/early spring or just after they’ve finished blooming, depending on the variety. Hydrangeas that bloom on old growth (like "Endless Summer") should be pruned immediately after they’ve finished flowering. Hydrangeas that bloom on new growth (like the popular "Annabelle" and "Limelight") should be pruned in the late winter or early spring. This is why it’s always good to save plant tags or write down which varieties you have in your garden!

Fall cleanup can sometimes seem daunting, but with all of the right information at your fingertips it can be done in just a few short hours.

Don’t have time for fall (or spring) cleanup? Contact us to get on our schedule!

September 29, 2017

Fall Planting In Vermont

We’ve been experiencing record-breaking temperatures here in Vermont at the onset of fall, which makes it feel more like summer than autumn. But after this fluke weather finishes up, we’ll go back to the normalcy of crisp, fall temperatures, which is the perfect time to get out in the garden and plant.

Fall Planting In Vermont: Bulbs

After a long Vermont winter, there’s nothing more exciting than heading out in the garden and seeing the early blooms of Daffodils, Crocus, Snowdrops, and more. If you want to enjoy this spring color in your garden, fall is the time to plant. Most spring-blooming bulbs require the dormant period of winter to flower, so make sure to get these bulbs in your garden before the ground freezes.

Fall Planting In Vermont - Daffodils

Fall Planting In Vermont: Perennial Plants

Many Vermont gardeners see fall as too late to plant, but it’s just the opposite. Fall is the perfect time to establish new perennial plants in your garden because the cool air and ground temperatures cause less stress to the new plants, which allows for the root systems to grow strong and establish themselves before winter. You won’t see much growth above ground (which is normal) but you’ll be getting a jumpstart on the already-short growing season. Fall-planted perennials will grow taller, stronger, and bloom more profusely in their first spring and summer.

Fall Planting In Vermont - Perennials

Fall Planting In Vermont: Shrubs & Trees

Shrubs and trees are some of our favorites to plant in the fall. Most of the time they are dormant when we put them in the ground in the fall which means less stress at the time of planting, as well as less maintenance. Come spring, once the ground warms, the new shrubs and trees will come alive and really take off in your landscape.

Fall Planting In Vermont - trees

Fall Planting In Vermont: Wildflower Seed

If you enjoy the effortless color of Sunflowers, Zinnias, and more, but (like many Vermonters) often can’t seed until late May, which often results in later blooms than you’d like, sprinkle your seed in the fall. Fall wildflower seeding is basically taking nature’s approach of dropping seed at the end of the season. Make sure to plant after there have been a few killing frosts so the seeds will stay dormant until the ground wams in early spring. Fall planting these annual favorites often results in blooms weeks earlier than if planted in the spring.

Fall Planting In Vermont - Wildflowers

Spring in Vermont can be a hectic time; there’s so much cleanup to do after the long winter and planting is often the last thing on all of our to-do lists. That’s why the fall season is an opportune time to take advantage of the gorgeous weather and spend some time out in the garden planting.

Don’t have time to plant? Contact us for a quote on our full garden design and installation services!

August 25, 2017

Function And Privacy At A New Apartment Complex In South Burlington

Last season we partnered with S E Group, a landscape architecture firm, to create a stunning landscape at the newly-built Bartlett Brook Apartments in South Burlington. A combination of retaining walls and thousands of perennials, shrubs, and trees all came together to help reduce stormwater runoff into the nearby Bartlett Brook (that feeds into Lake Champlain). The landscaping also softens the new construction and makes it feel like a private oasis for residents, even though it’s right off of Shelburne Road.

reduce stormwater runoff

The Rain Gardens

We installed two large rain gardens in the back of the property by the parking lot to help retain stormwater and reduce runoff into the Bartlett Brook, which feeds directly into Lake Champlain. In just their second season the gardens are fantastically full and make a big impact as soon as you drive up. A variety of native grasses and perennials, including Black Eyed Susan, Joe Pye Weed, Daisies, are paired with pollinator-friendly Sedum and low maintenance Daylilies to create a season-long display of color. Tall Pampas Grass lines the walkways to the building, creating year-long interest and whimsy. Shrubs and trees bring the height of the gardens up and create privacy for residents.

reduce stormwater runoff
reduce stormwater runoff

The Pool And Sitting Gardens

reduce stormwater runoff

A pristine pool and outdoor sitting area frame the front of the property, lined with texture-rich grasses and low maintenance perennials to soften the new construction. A mass planting of Pinky Winky Hydrangea edges the front fence to the pool, offering up sweet color and plenty of food for local pollinators. Pool-goers feel like they are in a private oasis surrounded by flowering perennials and grasses inside the pool fence.

reduce stormwater runoff

A large stone patio hosts a fire pit and chairs for residents to enjoy a summer fire and this area is framed by tall grasses and low maintenance daylilies. Dozens of trees add privacy to this area of the property and again make it feel like a private oasis, even though the main road is just hundreds of feet away.

reduce stormwater runoff
reduce stormwater runoff

Challenges Of The Project

This project was done in the early summer last season, right at the peak of the dry, hot weather everyone in Vermont experienced. The biggest challenge for us on this job was to keep the thousands of plants and newly-seeded grass areas healthy and vibrant. As this was a new construction, there was no water on-site for us to use so we had to haul in our own water on a daily basis to keep everything looking good. Putting in as much time watering as constructing the walls and other parts of the project paid off; even with the extreme heat, almost everything we planted last year made it through the season and came back strong this year.

reduce stormwater runoff

Another challenge —  as is typical with commercial jobs — is that the landscaping is usually the last thing to come together at the end of a new build. Even though we started later than expected and had a tight deadline, we were still able to bring the project in on time by having the ability to ramp up our production with several crews and equipment.

reduce stormwater runoff

The Results

As you can see by the photos taken in August this year, the project is looking colorful and most importantly doing its job by reducing stormwater runoff and providing a comfortable, private space for residents to enjoy time outdoors.

reduce stormwater runoff
reduce stormwater runoff
April 13, 2017

Tips And Tricks For Waking Your Garden Up In April

Although we’ve been experiencing a snowy and cold spring here in Vermont, I’m sure April will be the month that comes in like a lion and out like a lamb. This means it’s finally time to open up the windows, get your boots on and start thinking about waking your garden up for the season.

There are a few simple steps to take in April, before planting time in May, that will make the season more successful and run smoother for you in the garden.

Take Stock Of and Sharpen Your Tools

This is a big one. Many of us hang our tools up in the garage or shed in November, forgetting about them until it’s time to cut back in the spring. Even before it’s time to use them, head out and evaluate the state of your tools. If there’s rust or your blades have become dull, use fine sandpaper to remove the rust and sharpen the tools with a 10” mill file. This entire process shouldn’t take longer than a half hour and will make your first day out in the garden much easier.

Evaluate Your Infrastructure

With the strong winds and heavy snow we’ve had this winter, April is the perfect time to head out into your property and evaluate your infrastructure. Did a part of your fence break and need repairing? Did your raised beds get damaged? Now is the time to fix all of these things in the garden before planting time.

Clean Up

Many of the trees on my property lost branches this winter, so I’m now going around and clearing them off the lawn. It’s one of the easiest ways to feel productive in the garden this time of year, I think.

Furthermore, if you didn’t get around to raking your leaves and picking them up, now is the time to add them to the compost pile or throw them in the woods! Your plants will want easy contact with the sun to start sprouting and thick layers of leaves and debris can prevent this. This is especially important to do around spring-blooming bulbs such as Grape Hyacinths, Daffodils, Tulips and more. Watch for flower tips at ground level and gently pull away twigs and large leaves from growth early, before the stem pops out of the ground.

Start Seeds Indoors

If you haven’t already, now is the time to start tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and more inside for transplanting once there is no more chance of frost.

I also like to start some annuals like sunflowers, zinnia and more for a cheap way to create huge color in containers and for a longer bloom time with sunflowers. I plant my sunflower seedlings once there is no more chance of frost in a bed and then direct sow seeds with them.

Identify Areas That Could Use Extra Color

Early spring is a great time to evaluate your gardens from last season and identify areas that could use extra color. Annuals are a fantastic way to add easy, quick and long-lasting color to new perennial beds, containers, front walkways and everywhere in between!

So although April is still too early to plant or divide here in Vermont, there is plenty to do to get prepared and have a successful growing season. Plus, we’re all just excited to get outside this time of year!

Don’t have time to get your garden ready for spring or want to work with our designer to add annuals to your property? Contact us here

March 22, 2017

Favorite Ideas & Themes from the Vermont Flower Show

If you attended the Vermont Flower Show last weekend, you know just how much there was to take in. From seminars on small space portable gardening and designing a pollinator friendly garden, to the keynote speaker Claudia West’s talk on plant communities, there were plenty of new, exciting ideas floating around for us to soak in.

We wanted to talk about some of our favorites, which isn’t to say they were the best; they were simply the talks we were able to attend in the busy two-day span of the flower show.

The Grand Garden Display

As soon as you walked into the flower show, the grand garden display towered over you, inviting you in to walk through the enchanting paths. The theme “Netherland” could not have been more perfect. With gorgeous plant groupings – some all white and others painting a rainbow of blooms – offset by whimsical structures and stone work, it was a fantastic display and showed off the many talents found in Vermont.

Bonus: if you stayed late on Sunday, they sold off all the plants from the grand display!

Plant Communities with Claudia West

Our landscape designer David is interested in Claudia West’s philosophy of plant community based design and he got me excited to hear her talk. I was not disappointed! In her talk at the flower show, she spoke about the basic principles of her design theory. I’ll break them down (simplistically) and explain the different principles. For a more in depth look into her ideas, read her book “Planting In A Post-Wild World.” It’s fabulous!

Principle One: Think of plants as species that interact with each other and the garden, instead of plants placed adjacent to each other with mulch in between. The plants should work together, instead of live apart with no communication.

Principle Two: Use the stress of your garden as an asset. Instead of trying to grow peonies in poor soil or sedum in moist soil, take into consideration your light, soil type, maintenance and choose plants that thrive in this type of landscape.

Principle Three: Cover the ground by vertically layering plants. This is the principle that gets me most excited. She talks about the idea of using plants as living mulch to help suppress weed growth and create a full plant community. By filling all the niches in your garden with plants, you’re not only making it almost impossible for weeds to grow, but you’re creating a wild-like planting that helps the plants grow stronger together.

Principle Four: Make it pretty! West touched on this idea a lot in her talk; in order for this plant community based design to work, it needs to be aesthetically pleasing and colorful. It’s one thing to come up with a fantastic design idea, but clients and gardeners need to love the way it looks, too! She talks about having seasonal pops of interest and color paired with large statement plants and groundcovers.

Principle Five: Less maintenance. These plant communities, if designed with West’s theory in mind, should require little to no maintenance. The bottom layer of groundcovers helps retain water and keep weeds from popping up. The garden simply needs a mowing (yes, mowing!) once per season.

This idea is so fascinating to me, but seems like a lot of work to design. Our landscape designer David has put West’s ideas into use in his previous work and is excited to work with some of our clients to utilize this type of planting in the future.

Creative Containers With Sarah Salatino

I, for one, am obsessed with container gardening, so I couldn’t miss this talk by Sarah Salatino from Full Circle Gardens.

Some of my favorite ideas I learned in this container garden seminar:

  1. Dump your soil out (or compost it) at the end of the season and use fresh soil every year.
  2. Anything can be a container! If you want to plant zinnias in an old teapot, simply fill the bottom inch with rocks and place a screen on top of it before you fill it with soil. Sarah uses window screening and simply cuts it to fit.
  3. There are dwarf vegetables that can be planted in containers. Sarah talked about dwarf tomato and even cucumber varieties that thrive in containers. She suggested pairing a dwarf tomato plant with a basil plant and a marigold for a mini garden on a patio or balcony.
  4. Create a moveable garden statement with containers. Sarah talked about planting one variety each in small pots and arranging them in your outdoor space. The great part about it is you can move and re-arrange the plants as the season goes on, depending on your mood.
  5. Many varieties – such as succulents – can be planted in containers and brought outdoors in the summer months and back indoors in the winter to be used as a houseplant.

With so many displays to see and seminars to attend, it was a weekend full of Vermonters generally geeking out about gardening. And we can’t wait to try some of these new ideas in your gardens!