Contact Us
Job Openings

Stay Up-to-date with the di Stefano Landscaping Team

February 25, 2019

Best Winter Pruning Practices to Promote Spring Growth

An often-missed opportunity for beautifying the landscape in the winter months is deciduous shrub and tree pruning. As the colors of spring and summer fade into fall with each plant entering a state of dormancy, the plants are easily disregarded. This naturally occurring dormant stage of the plant provides the ideal conditions for pruning. Pruning is crucial to both plant health and aesthetics for a number of reasons. It helps to maintain size, shape, and form of overgrown plants but also to remove dead or diseased branching. The process of “thinning” or removing overgrowth opens the crown of the plant for more direct sunlight and air movement within. When performed correctly, this process results in a more vigorous spring growth and bloom of the plant.

Signs Your Shrubs or Trees Need Pruning

  • Garden beds are simply over run by deciduous shrubs
  • Branches are rubbing together or crossing
  • Insect egg masses or larvae are present
  • Open lesions or areas that look to be diseased are visible
  • Plant is visibly too big
  • Dead plant material


  • Consider the natural shape of the plant when determining what to remove
  • Never remove more than ⅓ of plant material from any one plant
  • Always leave a node or branch on the plant below each cut to ensure new growth during the growing season
  • Disinfect pruning tools to eliminate spreading disease
  • Remember that a successful prune may look as if you’ve done nothing at all
  • Winter! Winter! Winter! Take advantage of the seasonal dormancy and plan for the health of the plants.
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?


  • 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?


  • 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?


  • 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!


June 30, 2014

Let The Games Begin – How to Build Backyard Sports Courts

We all enjoy spending time in our yards with family and friends especially on beautiful Vermont summer days.  So in preparation for the 4th of July and a long weekend, here are a few tips on building the best backyard sports courts. Have Fun!


  1. Start by constructing a wooden frame of approximately 10’ x 60’.
  2. Excavate to a depth of 8”.
  3. Line the area with landscape fabric.
  4. 6” of compacted gravel should be used as a base.
  5. 2” of Rock fines should be leveled and used as a finished court surface.

Building Plans For Bocce Courts


  1. Start by measuring the area. The pits should be made exactly 40’ apart for regulation length.
  2. The construction of two 36”x 48” wooden boxes should be placed at either end of the area.
  3. The soil within the boxes should be excavated several inches.
  4. Lay landscape fabric in bottom of box.
  5. Drive stake into ground at least 21” from front of the box. Make sure that the stake is sticking up 15” from grade and pitching forward at a slight 3” angle.
  6. Fill box with sand.

Building Plans for Horseshoe Pits


  1. Start by measuring out a 16’ x 16’ square.
  2. Next create a grid to create 8 rows across the top and down the side. This will give you 64 2’x2’ squares.
  3. Remove the sod from every other square and lay a 2’x2’ bluestone stepper in it’s place.
  4. Large Chess Pieces can be purchased from many retailers online.

Building Plans for Outdoor Chess Boards

Here are a few other classic courts you might be interested in as well.

May 15, 2014

Native Plants

When we are asked about trends in the landscape industry here in Vermont, it is often mentioned that more and more clients are asking for native plants to be incorporated into their landscapes.

What exactly is a native plant and why should they be incorporated into our landscapes? Well, according to the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) the definition of a native plant is the following:

A plant that is a part of the balance of nature, that has developed over hundreds or thousands of years in a particular region or ecosystem. Note: The word native should always be used with a geographic qualifier (that is, native to New England [for example]). Only plants found in this country before European settlement are considered to be native to the United States.

Because these plants have grown in each geographic area for hundreds of years, they are well equipped for their environment. This means that these plants tend to require less watering and general maintenance. They also tend to have less pest problems, as they have acclimated to their surroundings. Native plants attract local wildlife as well, providing both sources of food and shelter. The Nature Conservancy has put together a nice list of Vermont Native Plants.

If you are considering a landscape project this year for your home, think about using at least some native plant material. They certainly have their benefits and as Lady Bird Johnson is quoted to have said that native plants ‘give us a sense of where we are in this great land of ours.’

Visit the USDA website to learn more about native plants.

April 11, 2014

Container Gardening – Home & Garden Show Workshop Summary

There are many things to take into consideration when it comes to container gardening. First you need to determine the placement of your planters. Are they going to be permanent or are you going to need to be able to move them? After you decide where you want them, you need to decide how many you would like and how large you want them.  Would you prefer to have one large pot or would you like two or three pots of different sizes to fill the same space? Are your containers going to serve a useful purpose such as growing herbs or veggies? Or are they going to be purely aesthetic? Are these containers going to be used for more than just a summer display?

Once you have made the decision about where to place them, how many you want, and what their purpose is going be, it is time to start considering your plant material. Are your containers going to be in the sun or in the shade?  This question plays a major role in what type of plants will thrive in your planting. Watering requirements also play a key part in plant selection. Some plants like to have consistently wet soil, while others like to dry out a bit between waterings. And lastly what color palette are you going to use?

If you are going to use your containers to grow Herbs or Vegetables, be sure that there is good drainage in the pots you choose. Full sun is also best for this type of planting. Almost every herb or vegetable can be grown in a container, but here are a few that are sure to do well.

  • Herbs: Dill, Basil, Chives, Cilantro, Lavender, Parsley, Oregano, Rosemary, Sage & Thyme
  • Vegetables:  Peas, Tomatoes, Radishes, Cucumber, Peppers, Eggplant, Zucchini & Beans

For Spring/Summer containers, you need to take the size of the pot into consideration. You don’t want to overcrowd the plant material. For a 12” pot use 3-4 plants and for a 24” pot use 6-8 plants and so on. Using a slow release fertilizer is very important for annual plants, since their season is so short here in Vermont. Choosing a color palette is going to be important when it comes to plant selection. There are four different aesthetics you could choose from. They are as follows:

  • Monochrome: All One Color
  • Analogous: Hot Colors (Red, Orange, Yellow) vs Cool Colors (Blue, Green, Purple)
  • Complimentary: Purple & Yellow, Red & Green, Blue & Orange
  • Triad: Blue, Yellow, Red or Purple, Green, Orange

Once you have chosen your color palette, you next need to take balance into consideration. It is important to use varying heights to create interest and to give each plant importance within the planting.  An easy way to remember this is always make sure you have a thriller, a filler and a spiller in your container. In other words, you need a tall plant focal plant, mid height plants & a plant to trail over the edge of the pot. If you remember to do this, your planters are sure to be beautiful. Here are some examples of each type of plant:

  • Thriller/Tall Vertical Element (Back or Center): Grass, Coleus, Banana
  • Filler/Mid-Section (Throughout): Nemesia, Osteospurmum, Ageratum
  • Spiller/Low Trailing (At Edge): Vines, Petunia, Ivy Geranium

For Fall Containers you need to take cold hardiness/frost tolerance into consideration when choosing plant material. This is especially important here in Vermont where the fall weather is unpredictable. The use of different textures will also increase the aesthetic interest of your planting. This can be achieved by using a mixture of flowering plants and purely foliage plants together in the same pot. Fall plantings usually also consist of warmer tones like red, yellow, orange, rust & sometimes purple. Taking Varying heights into consideration is still important. Here are some examples of some plants that will work well for Fall Plantings:

  • Flowering: Hardy Garden Mums, Sedum, Pansies & Nemesia
  • Foliage: Ornamental Cabbage or Kale, Heuchera & Grasses

Winter Containers are much like large floral arrangements, using mixed cut boughs.  They provide some aesthetic interest by front doors & on decks when nothing is in bloom. When creating a winter display, you will want to consider texture, as most of the components will be green. To begin, if your pot is large enough you can plant a small evergreen in the center and work out from there. If you are using a smaller container or don’t want to use any trees, just start with one type of bough. First place boughs all around the planter, by putting the cut end directly into the soil. Once you have worked your way around the container, mix in the second type of bough and so on.  After you have added all the boughs you want, you can add some red twig dogwood or curly willow branches to provide interest. Adding some artificial stems of berries can be a nice look as well. You will want to use a plastic berry and not foam or real ones, as they will either crack or turn brown and not make it through the winter. Examples of Mixed boughs are as follows:

  • Balsam, White Pine, Cedar & Juniper
  • Additional Greens for protected spots include Boxwood, Holly & Magnolia
April 1, 2014

Landscape Design Trend – Fire Pits

DiStefano2As evident by the photo of our work gracing the cover of The Best of Central Vermont Trend Watch this Spring, fire pits are becoming more and more popular in the landscape.  They have become one of the first things that new clients ask to be incorporated into landscape designs of both new landscapes & landscape renovations.  Why is this?

One of the major landscape trends over the past few years is to extend your home/living space outward into your yard. By incorporating a fire pit into the landscape you are increasing your ability to use your yard well into the evening and throughout the year especially here in Vermont. Not only do fire pits add to your useable outdoor space, they can also fit any design style.  P1100104If your style is natural and free flowing, small boulders ringing the fire pit, with larger boulders strategically placed as seats would be easily incorporated.  A formal fire pit built out of stone can either be set into the patio or built up as a raised feature for you to place furniture around. Outdoor fire places can create an even more formal look which can be incorporated into outdoor kitchens and double as pizza ovens. 16257_541197365954384_830669991_n

Whatever style is chosen the space is guaranteed to be a hit and you’ll be glad you added one to your landscape. You can see some of our past blog posts featuring fire pits titled Backayard Patio and Shelburne Landscape, or this HGTV link for photos of outdoor fire pit designs.