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February 24, 2017

Meet David Burton, Our New Landscape Designer

We’re thrilled to have a new landscape designer join our team this year. David Burton’s background, passion and design knowledge makes him the perfect fit for DiStefano Landscaping. We sat down to talk him about his experience, what gets him excited about landscape design and more.

How David Got Interested In Landscaping

“I grew up doing a lot of gardening with my grandmother,” David says. “She had extensive gardens at her house that were actually designed by my grandfather. My grandfather was a landscaper … he used landscaping to help get his three girls through college.”

David attended Virginia Tech and got his degree in horticulture. “A part of the Virginia Tech curriculum is they make available a lot of different garden tours, so we got to go up and down the east coast touring gardens,” he says. “ I also got to go to Italy, England, Ireland and Wales to see different gardens so that was a great inspiration. I continue to pull from that.”

His Journey To DiStefano

David has had several jobs before joining us, all relating to landscape design in their own way. He managed a garden nursery in Virginia right after college, and then did landscape design in New Jersey. David says it was working for a landscape architect outside of Princeton, New Jersey, that helped shape his design aesthetic.

He moved to Vermont from New Jersey where he worked at Trowel Trades and then started his own landscape design company, Ginkgo Design. After several successful years with his own company, David decided to join our team here at DiStefano (and we couldn’t be more thrilled).

David’s Design Aesthetic

David’s design philosophy is “form follows function.” Essentially, he figures out how the client wants to use the space first and lets that dictate everything else. “You could have an amazing, beautiful landscape and if it’s not functional or useable then no one ever interacts with it,” says David. “If there’s a landscape that doesn’t have a function you look at it and scratch your head, knowing there’s something off – something that doesn’t jive.”

One of David’s design pet peeves is a walkway with curvy edges. “If someone wants a curve in their front walkway, that’s fine, but why? Maybe it’s a feature – a boulder – it’s something that makes sense to curve, rather than just curve for the sake of a curve. These things are really key in how I approach design,” he says.

David thinks an outdoor landscape really needs to feel like an extension of the home.  “You want to – as much as possible – pull the materials of the house into the landscape. You want that repetition … you don’t want it to look like it was dropped out of outer space. So that’s really important,” he says.

David’s Favorite Design Project

Last year with Ginkgo Design David did a large project in Colchester that incorporated a lot of different features. There were three water features, extensive lighting, a metal gate David was able to design, as well as a lot of planting.

David got to try a new approach to planting in this project that he says is very trendy right now, which he learned about from Claudia West. “It’s all about plant communities. The concept is planting in a community so that it mimics nature and by mimicking nature it cuts back on maintenance,” David explains. “The idea is that the soil surface is so covered with plant material, it keeps the sun off of the soil and you don’t have weed seed germination …”

He explains that certain plants, like ornamental grasses, don’t come into their full form until the summer. So the areas around those plants in the early season are exposed to sun, making it easy for weed seeds to germinate. With this planting method, you’d fill in the bed with groundcovers around the grasses so weeds don’t get the chance to grow. “ The idea is to use layers; so you’re using a groundcover layer for weed seed control, a structural layer that has a deeper root system for erosion control, and then these seasonal layers of interest …” explains David.

David says this way of planting was fun and challenging for him as a designer, which is one of the reasons he enjoyed this project so much.

Gardening At Home

Although David is an avid gardener, he says with four small children at home there isn’t much time to landscape. He does have a wildflower meadow on his property that features a variety of native and pollinator-friendly varieties such as milkweed, goldenrod, red twig and more.

David’s Favorite Tree: Ginkgo (not surprising!)

David’s Favorite Shrub:  Fothergilla, because of the gorgeous evolution of color that happens in the fall.

David’s Favorite Perennial: Any type of shade plant. “I really like shade gardening.” He says. “The house I grew up in had a lot of shade so it was always a struggle to get things to grow and thrive. So shade gardening has always been a passion for me and I think there are so many different species and plants that people don’t realize can survive in shade.”

David is getting ready for the spring season with DiStefano Landscaping and is enthusiastic about working with our amazing clients. “I’m excited for the opportunity to work on some interesting projects and develop a nice client base and work with them on fun projects,” he says.  

We’re excited too, David. Welcome!

February 10, 2017

It’s Time To Start Planning For Spring

It’s hard to believe with all of the cold weather and snow we’ve been getting here in Vermont, but now really is the best time to start planning for spring. While we sit indoors and dream of warm summer weather (it does come again, I promise) it’s the perfect opportunity to start browsing through Pinterest, Houzz and other inspirational sites to start dreaming and scheming your big plans for the spring and summer months. Let’s talk about some of my favorite ways to do this.

Planning For Spring: Gardening

We all love sitting outdoors in June, enjoying the colorful blooms of Daylilies and Iris, hearing the buzz of bees going to and from the garden. But enjoying these blooms requires a lot of planning and organizing, which should be done in the off-season.

planning for spring: patio

I try to keep all of my ideas in one place: a garden journal. I use this journal to keep track of things that didn’t do well last season (my Hydrangea didn’t bloom, maybe I need to move it) and dream varieties I want to add to the garden such as Clematis or Tree Peonies. I find most of my ideas online – mostly on Houzz and Pinterest – but I am old school in that I like to eventually put everything down on paper. If you’d rather keep everything online, organizing your ideas with Pinterest boards is extremely helpful.

planning for spring: tulips

So if you’re thinking of finally turning that shady spot in your yard into a colorful garden this season, now is the time to start planning your varieties (like Hostas, Coral Bells, Astilbe, Bleeding Hearts) and sourcing them. A simple Pinterest search, such as “Shade Garden Ideas,” is a great place to start. From there, you can look at different heights, bloom times, light and soil preferences and more to start blocking in your garden for color, interest and texture all season long.

View some of our favorite landscaping projects.

Planning For Spring: Hardscaping

Planning your hardscaping this time of year is key for two reasons:

  • You can browse thousands of photos and ideas online and hone in exactly what you want for your landscape.
  • You’ll get in our queue for spring and summer work. Our spring schedule is filling up fast, so now is the time to call.

planning for spring: patio

Imagine yourself outdoors in the spring; what do you see? A spectacular stone patio with a seating area, framed by a stone wall and raised garden beds? Do you see yourself enjoying drinks by a stone fireplace at night? Now is the time to dream big and think about your vision for the warmer months.

To help inspire you, browse through our case studies and projects. Our talented designer can also put together a gorgeous plan that will fit your landscape perfectly.

Planning For Spring: Have Fun!

The key to dreaming and planning for spring in these colder months is to enjoy yourself; I am guilty of pinning hundreds – ok, maybe thousands – of ideas to my Pinterest boards knowing I won’t use most of them. But that’s OK! The idea is start thinking ahead and prioritizing what you think is important to tackle in your landscape this season. Getting organized now also helps with time management once the weather does get warm; we often want to be outside working once the nice weather comes, not sitting indoors planning what we’re going to do.

planning for spring: poppies

Planning for spring also helps many of us get through the long, cold winters here in Vermont. It keeps our minds thinking of sunny days and drinking coffee on a patio in the morning admiring our gardens, instead of shoveling snow and all the other not-so-fun things winter brings.

Whether you’re planning on doing the work yourself or need our help come spring, now is the time to start thinking about it. Because hey, the official start of spring is only next month (even though spring in Vermont doesn’t usually arrive until May).

Contact us about your spring design project.

August 23, 2016

Our Landscape Designer featured on American Meadows Blog

American Meadows sat down with our landscape designer Marie to talk about her design process, her favorite plants, her experience with their product and more. Check out their post to hear what she had to say!

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The American Meadows Blog

August 8, 2016

Why do you need a landscape design?

I’ve been a landscape designer for over a decade now and yet I still have some friends and extended family that have no idea what I actually do. They always just assume that I only do plant layout for foundation beds or small residential gardens.  So when I show them photos of my projects that are full of not only plants, but walkways, patios, walls and lighting they seem genuinely shocked. ‘You really designed all that?’ or ‘I had no idea you did that!’ Are common responses that always makes me laugh.  As a landscape designer knowledge of plant material is very important, but so is knowledge about different hardscape options, drainage, lighting and construction practices. All of these elements are important aspects of a well thought out landscape and a great reason to hire someone who specializes in landscape design to help you design your dream outdoor space!

 

Working here at di Stefano landscaping means being a part of a full service landscape design and build company. We offer the broad spectrum of landscape services from landscape design, to installation of hardscapes and gardens, as well as maintenance of planting beds and lawns. We take landscape designs and make them a reality! Often when meeting with a client for the first time to discuss a project, the most frequently asked question is ‘Why do I need a landscape design?’  The answer to this question is that there are many reasons why having a plan is helpful when thinking about a landscape project for your home or business.  The first being that a landscape plan shows the overall look of what the space is going to be like when the project is completed. You will be able see where walkways or patios will be situated, how garden beds will help to create spaces and nestle hardscapes into the landscape and how each outdoor space corresponds with not only each other but also the building and the surrounding environment. Having a plan is especially helpful if you are thinking about a multi-phase project. The reason for this is because everyone involved in the project can see the long term goal of what you want to accomplish with your outdoor living space. Smaller projects within the whole can be picked off one or two at a time over a span of months or years.

Here is a helpful list that we keep in our office, it mentions some of the many reasons other reasons why a landscape design can benefit you. This list also highlights some of the many things that are taken into consideration when a professional landscape designer is working with you on your project.

Why Landscape Design?

The Arrival Experience:

  • How does your landscape make you feel when you arrive home?
  • What do you see first and is this something you want to change?

Outdoor Living

  • How can we maximize the outdoor living spaces for our needs?
  • Where will dining, play, entertainment or work take place?
  • How are each of the desired spaces defined?

Sightlines:

  • Are there views that need to be highlighted or blocked?
  • Do you need wind screens or plantings to help muffle the sound of traffic?

Grade / Site Challenges:

  • Can slopes be turned into assets?
  • Drainage concerns and where to direct/handle the water?

Housekeeping and Functionality:

  • Screening of existing utilities, panels, septic or AC units?
  • Location of new utilities, panels, septic or AC units in correspondence to the desired use of the outdoor space.
  • Where will chickens or other animals fit into your landscape?
  • Where will wood, boats or RVs be stored?

Conserve Resources:

  • Can we conserve resources by limiting lawn spaces or adding shade trees to help cool the house?

Customize:

  • How can we create a truly one of a kind space for the homeowners to enjoy?
  • How can we incorporate all the elements that the homeowner is looking for, like specific plant material both new and transplants, pavers or stone for hardscapes or raised beds for vegetables?

Value:

  • What can be done to enhance curb appeal?
  • How can we maximize the resale value / marketability of the home?
  • How does the project provide value for the client? Does it purely make them happy to spend time in their landscape? Does it provide comfort or safety by installing a new front walkway and steps or do they see that there will be a financial return when they go to sell their home?

 

Let us know if you have a landscape project you would like help with and we would be happy to create a landscape plan for you!

June 27, 2016

Giant Hogweed

With the glorious Vermont Summer weather we have been having, everyone seems to be out and about enjoying both their residential landscapes and our natural surroundings. At our weekly safety meeting one of the crew members mentioned that everyone needed to be careful of Wild Parsnip while they are installing and maintaining our landscapes. If you are unaware of this plant then please check out our previous blog on the topic! Along with that nasty plant there is an equally awful plant that seems to be much less known and I wanted to draw some attention to it for your safety.

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What is Giant Hogweed?

Heracleum mantegazzianum or Giant Hogweed, is a perennial  plant that can often be found along roadsides, riverbanks and along wood lines. It can reach heights of 15-20 feet tall.  This plant looks like a ginormous Queen Anne’s Lace with a flower that can measure 2-2.5’ in diameter. The large stock is often mottled with purple. The stalk and the extremely large leaves are also covered in bristles. For more images of this plant check out the Invasive Plant Atlas of New England or The Vermont Gardener Blog.  Giant Hogweed was brought to the United States in 1917 as an ornamental garden plant for it’s curious height,  it was planted to provide interest in perennial gardens. It eventually became invasive and is now on the federal noxious weed list.

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Why should you pay attention to Giant Hogweed?

Much like it’s evil cousin Wild Parsnip, the sap of the Giant Hogweed will react with sunlight and cause serious burns to your skin, with blisters and swelling. If the sap of this plant comes into contact with your skin wash immediately. And if you don’t catch it in time and burning occurs seek medical assistance immediately. The images of these burns were literally making me so queezy I just couldn’t include one here….so please be careful if you come into contact with this plant!

For information on removing Giant Hogweed from your landscape visit the Natural Resources Conservation Services.

June 17, 2016

Our Landscape Designer Featured in National Magazine

A few weeks ago we received a call from the national publication Turf Design Build Magazine. They were chatting with landscape designers from different regions of the country about the use of color in the landscape. We were lucky enough to have them choose us!  Our designer talked with them about the challenges of having a short growing season and about how she uses color and texture to enhance her designs. So check out the latest copy of Turf Design Build Magazine to see what our Landscape Designer and several others from around the country have to say about color in the garden!

 

May 6, 2016

Vermont Arbor Day

IMG_3621Today is Vermont Arbor Day! It’s a splendid holiday that helps spread the need for conservation each year. All of us here at di Stefano Landscaping strive to create beautiful landscapes not only here in Vermont, but in parts of New Hampshire and into the Adirondacks of NY as well. We each do our part here, whether that means me creating the perfect residential or commercial landscape design, Chris and Andrew working in the office to coordinate all the moving parts for each upcoming landscape installation, to the many members of our wonderful crew installing and maintaining these landscapes with ample trees, gardens and hardscapes like patios, walkways and stone walls. In honor of today’s holiday, here is a brief history of how this day came to be as well as a few links to both the National Arbor Day Foundation and the Vermont Urban & Community Forestry page that has great Arbor Day events being held throughout Vermont.

 

Julius Sterling Morton was an avid tree lScreen Shot 2016-05-06 at 9.03.06 AMover and conservationist and is attributed to establishing the 1st American Arbor Day.  J. Sterling Mortan was among the pioneers to the Nebraska Territories from Detroit in the 1850s. He and his wife Caroline Joy French settled on 160 acres, all of which were treeless. They spent years planting thousands of trees throughout their property. Mortan was a journalist and eventually became a politician. He took every chance he could get to give agricultural advice and urged people to plant trees and gardens. In 1893, President Grover Cleavland appointed him as the US Secretary of Agriculture.

The 1st American Arbor Day was celebrated on April 22, 1885 in Nebraska. It is believed that nearly 1 million trees were planted on that day by thousands of volunteers which included all the local school children and a majority of the towns people. Today Arbor Day is nationally celebrated on the last Friday of April.  However many states have adopted their own day. This was done for optimal planting weather, with many southern states choosing dates in January or February and northern states like us, choosing dates in May.Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 8.34.40 AM

January 14, 2016

Vermont’s Poor Man’s Fertilizer

As I was walking my dog Tucker last night through some freshly fallen snow, these thoughts popped into my head.  Why do some older Vermonters call the snow “Poor man’s fertilizer”? And is the snow beneficial to the landscapes we install here at di Stefano Landscaping, as well as farmer’s crops? Didn’t read about this in an Old Farmer’s Almanac once?  I know it’s probably a strange thing to think about on an evening stroll, but when it’s pitch black at 5:30pm and about 18 degrees, I figure it’s okay to let the mind wander to positive things instead of what might be lurking around the corner! With these questions still on my mind this morning when I got our office,  I did a little research on the matter. I found that indeed there are not only natural fertilization benefits, but also several other benefits to having snow in your ornamental landscape.

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  1. Along with the fact that snow is made up of frozen water, it also contains nitrogen. When it snows it deposits it into the soil. This is true of lighting and rain showers as well. In fact they contain higher amounts of nitrogen than snow. However the long melting process of a thick layer of snow allows for the slower release of nitrogen and the soil is able to better absorb it than in a quick summer rainstorm. Traditional fertilizers provide a much stronger dose of nutrients to your ornamental landscape, but every little bit helps right!garden
  2. Snow acts as an insulator against the freezing temperatures of our Vermont winters. A nice layer of snow helps to prevent the frost from penetrating even deeper into the soil.  This increased layer of ground frost can damage the roots of trees, shrubs and perennials.   A layer of snow also aids in protecting covered plants from the harsh winter wind and sun that can dry out plant material and cause winter kill of branches.garden in snow
  3. A thick layer of snow helps to preserve soil moisture for the plants throughout the long Vermont winter.grasses_snow
  4. Snow can highlight different aspects of your garden.  A good landscape design takes our long winter into consideration. Evergreens are incorporated throughout the design not only for structure, but also to provide the landscape with a little green that we miss during the winter. Ornamental features such as exfoliating bark, interesting branching patterns, bark color or texture tend to catch a viewer’s eye more this time of year. Plants like Red Twig Dogwood show off red branches brilliantly against the snow and ornamental grasses left standing provide texture and movement to the landscape in the winter breeze.

 

 

 

October 19, 2015

Apples

Apple trees are an extremely common sight in the Vermont landscape, and really throughout most of the world.  The beautiful pinkish white blossoms are one of the sure signs that spring is here and summer is on the way.  Fruit slowly ripens throughout the heat of summer and is ready for harvesting in early fall. Many of us look forward to apple picking each year and of course the baking that results from each trip to the orchard.

This fruiting tree originated in Asia and Europe, appearing often in both early religion and mythology. The earliest know apples have been traced back thousands of years. This tree was even deemed important enough to be brought to the Americas by early colonists.  The small more bitter fruit was grown mainly for use in hard ciders, and were slowly cultivated into the tasty sweet eating apples we know today. There are now more than 7,500 known cultivars growing worldwide. For more fun Historical information check out the History Channels Hungry History.

This ornamental and fruit bearing tree can be both grown from seed or grafted.  Depending on the method of propagation you choose the tree will vary widely in growing habit from 6-15 feet tall. Pruning is also an important process for cultivating your trees for fruit. Timing and where to prune each branch are important as you want your trees to thrive.  Click here to learn about proper pruning practices.

It is said that eating an apple a day keeps the doctor away….but does it really?  This healthy and nutritious snack is high in anti-oxidants, fiber and in vitamins such as A, B, C, and K. They are also said to aid in the prevention of Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s, and oddly enough tooth decay. They have also been said to aid in decreasing your chances of getting diabetes, suffering from strokes or even getting certain types of cancers. To learn more visit the American Institute of Cancer Research website.

August 24, 2015

Late Summer Color in Your Vermont Landscape

As summer is winding down, so are many plants in the Vermont landscape.  The key to a beautiful backyard garden design is being sure to incorporate plants that have varying bloom times throughout the growing season. You may think that this is easier said than done, but with a little research, a visit to your local garden center or the help of a Landscape Designer, you can have a beautiful garden from early spring to the 1st fall frost.  An example of a landscape with varying bloom times would be to incorporate Iris, Cranesbill Geranium, Peonies, Daylily, Black-Eyed Susan and Aster into the garden.  The color and interest will be spread from May to October starting with the Iris and Geranium, progressing to the Peony and Daylily, transitioning to the Black-Eyed Susan and then finally the Aster.

Click here for more information on our Landscape Design services, or if you are up for the challenge of incorporating fall blooming perennials into your own garden, here are a few perennials that can provide your Vermont Landscape with some late summer / early fall color:

 

Yarrow

Achillea (Yarrow)

This is an old fashion perennial that has been seen in Vermont Landscapes for generations. It has whispy grey-green almost lacy foliage. The flowers range in colors from white, yellow, pink and red. This long blooming perennial should be deadheaded when blooms are spent. It prefers moist well drained soils, but is also drought tolerant.

Aster

Aster Novae-angliae (New England Aster)

This is a favorite fall blooming perennial and is a native.  The dark purple – vibrant dark pink bloom colors are welcomed this time of year, as many fall blooming plants tend to be more yellows to reds. This is a pretty problem free easy to grow perennial that will provide the garden with some color from late August until October.

Helenium

Helenium (Sneeze Weed)

This is a native wildflower that comes in colors that range from yellow, orange to red.  Several varieties that are made up of more than one of these vibrant colors. This perennial blooms from July to late September and should be deadheded to promote longer blooms.

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Rudbeckia (Black-Eyed Susan)

This is an low maintenance native perennial. Blooming from July to late September into October, you will certainly get bang for your buck with the vibrant gold color of this plant.  There are several varieties of this perennial with varying heights, so you can choose the one that is appropriate for your growing space.

Sedum Autumn joy

Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ (Stonecrop)

Like all Sedums it is draught tolerant and prefers to be planted in full sun.  This variety is known for it’s fall color and has small clusters of flowers of dark pink flowers in September and October.  This perennial will outlast most of the other herbaceous plants you have in your garden, and will still look great well into the late fall.