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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!

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!

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

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!

 

National Park Week

I know that this doesn’t have much to do with landscaping in Vermont, but the blog this week is in honor of National Park Week April 18th-26th 2015!  The National Park Services is offering free admission days, amazing programs and promoting these one of a kind natural environments this week.

As a landscape designer here in Vermont, I am always looking for new inspiration to bring fresh ideas to our client’s backyard landscapes. I love to travel and one of my life goals is to visit each and every one of the US National Parks and several others around the world. I am slowly checking them off my list and am always amazed at how drastically different and breathtaking each one is.

Below are some of my favorite photos from my National Park Adventures to date, and a little history about our National Parks. I hope it inspires you to get out and visit them too!

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In March of 1872 President Ulysses S. Grant and Congress established Yellowstone National Park. It was the first national park ever created and started a worldwide movement to protect and preserve beautiful and unique natural wonders and historic places. Today more than 100 countries are home to 1,200 national parks and preserves. There are more than 400 national parks, historic sites and monuments comprising 84 million acres in the United States and US territories alone. That’s pretty amazing!

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President Theodore Roosevelt who was in office from 1901- 1909 has been called our nations “Conservationist President”. During his time in office he created 5 national parks, 4 national game preserves, 51 Federal Bird Reservations and 18 national Monuments. He strived to protect public land and promote their use.

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President Woodrow Wilson signed an act on August 25, 1916 to create the National Park Service. Part of this act reads “…the Service thus established shall promote and regulate the use of the Federal areas known as national parks, monuments and reservations… which purpose is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” There are more than 20,000 employees making up our National Park Service and dedicating their time to protecting some of the most breathtaking and unique places in the world.

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The Civilian Conservation Corps was established by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt as a public work relief program, to help our nation deal with the Great Depression from 1933-1942. Over the course of the 9 year program 3 million young men worked to conserve natural resources and helped reforest land, fight forest fires and build and improve parks.

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The National Parks have been inspiring writers, musicians and artists since their inception. Writer John Muir endeavored to promote visitors to the National parks through his writings and publications, which inspired thousands of visitors to venture west from the east coast. Ansel Adams created awe inspiring images of the National Parks and photograph all but one of them throughout his career. Thanks to the contributions of the likes of people like them the masses have been able to get an appreciation for these places even if they have never seen them themselves.  You can get involved with an artistic contribution too! Check out the National Park Foundation website to see how.

“Only by going alone in silence, without baggage, can one truly get into the heart of the wilderness. All other travel is mere dust and hotels and baggage and chatter.” –John Muir

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Here is a complete list of our US National Parks and more information on the National Park Service.

Photos taken by Marie P. Limoge

Everglades National Park 2014, Congaree National Park 2013, Biscayne National Park 2014, Great Smoky Mountain National Park 2013, Virgin Islands National Park 2012, Grand Canyon National Park 2011

HBRA of Northern Vermont Awards di Stefano Landscaping both Best Landscaping and People’s Choice

Our crew attended the annual Industry Awards for the Home Builders and Remodelers Association of Northern Vermont, last Thursday November 6th . It turned out to be a great night. We not only won the Best Landscaping award, but we also won the People’s Choice award.  Which was chosen from projects across a broad spectrum of categories. We want to thank you all for the votes and support!

Check out our facebook page for more recent project and news from us!

 

 

Ice Storm 2013

15 tons of salt, hundreds of gallons of diesel, lots of red bull, broken hydraulic lines & shovels, careful planning and a determined (and tired) crew. We now claim victory on the 2013 ice storm.

The roads, driveways and parking lots we service are all clean, safe and accessible.

Once again doing what it takes to keep our clients moving during the winter.

ArborTrek Team Building

The entire di Stefano Landscaping team took a much-needed and well-deserved day off zipping through the forest at ArborTrek Canopy Adventures.

Key Bank Planting

Working with Wright and Morrisey Construction to develop the landscape at a new Key Bank Location in Burlington.

We came in the early spring before construction started to dig 6 very beautiful and mature Linden trees that were planted around what was a gas station. We created a makeshift nursery behing the adjacent cinema and temporarily planted them. 6 months later all are looking vibrant, healthy and like they have been in there new locations forever.

In addition to the Lindens, we planted several hundred shrubs and over a thousand perennials and ground covers over the course of two days.

King Street Volunteer Project

We took some time out of our spring schedule to do a little “streetscaping” project at the King Street Youth Center. di Stefano landscaping provided the materials and guidance and 20 enthusiastic youngsters provided most of the labor. It was incredible how involved they all were and the pride they had in the project!