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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 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!

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!

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!

Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 11.47.25 AM

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 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!

 

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.