Vermont Landscaping Services

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Tree of the Week

The tree for this week has a somewhat darker reputation not for anything the tree does, but for the damage caused to the tree by an imported fungus.  American Elm--Ulnus americana is a stately tree that can grow to a height of eighty feet and a spread of over fifty feet.  This tree has a very distinct upright vase shape to its crown and typically branches higher up the trunk.  The vase shape in combination with higher branching makes this tree ideal for a street tree.  High arching branches don't interfere with traffic and an arching canopy shade the streets from sunlight and helps absorb rain water before it hits the street.  In terms of landscape aesthetics, American elms have a gorgeous yellow/golden fall foliage and they are best used as shade trees.  American elms without DED infection can live to be 100 years old.  Even though this tree is susceptible to Dutch Elm disease, we need to keep planting the more resistant cultivars (Princeton, Valley Forge, American Liberty, and Lewis and Clark) in order to increase the probability for further resistance development.  If you have a mature elm growing in your landscape, careful management practices and some preventative medicine can reduce the likelihood of a DED  infection.  If you need assistance adding elms to your landscape or managing your existing elms please contact us for a free consult.
American elm in summer
American elm in winter

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Concierge Snow Removal

I am sitting here in my living room enjoying the view of my front yard covered in snow.  We received 3"-4" of wet heavy snow last night and our concierge snow removal crew ran through the route this morning.  I get a few questions about what exactly we do that makes our service different from traditional snow plowing.

1. Equipment--we use walk behind snowblowers and shovels.  This allows us to get in between parked cars and move around on unusually shaped driveways.  The smaller machines do not damage turf or drives--this is very crucial on these warm weather snows we receive early and late in the season--no big muddy sod rolls and unsightly mud when the snow melts.  The way a snowblower distributes the snow is kinder to landscaping--piles of snow can easily damage low tree branches, trees, masonry work, decks, pergolas, and shrubs.

2.  Scope of work--we clear snow off of and shovel around all parked cars, all the drives are cleared, city sidewalks, entry sidewalks and any additional access paths the customer may require.  We visit early in the AM or the middle of the night so that you just have to turn a key to go to work.

3.  Timing--weather is fickle and no two snowstorms are the same.  We have our routes structured so that we can complete all residential drives by 8:00 AM should the snow stop in the night.  In the case of larger storms we like to work with the storm and revisit every 4-6"

4.  Value--we aren't in this business to compete with a plowing service.  S & D goes beyond a plowing service and provides a turn-key service that takes the hassle of snow removal off your daily list of responsibilities.  Spend your time focused on your work and family and leave the frustration of shoveling and cold weather to us.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Tree of the Week

This week's tree is a truly regal specimen--slow growing, yet majestic and epitomizing the statement "good things come to those who wait."

The Bur Oak, Quercus macrocarpa, is the hardiest of the oaks.  This tree grows to a mature size of approximately eighty feet tall and eighty feet wide.  The bur oak is native to portions North America and can live for up to 300 years.  The bur oak is very adaptable and can tolerate both wet and dry sites particularly the prairie--in fact, the bark is thick and gnarled as protection against the damages of prairie fires.  This gnarled bark also adds a wonderful texture to the landscape especially in winter.  The bur oak foliage turns a brilliant copper-bronze hue in the fall.

The bur oak requires full sun and performs best in a solitary setting or in a well spaced stand.  Bur oaks grown in a solitary setting have exceptionally full branching some of which can arch low to the ground providing a whimsical, shady retreat for book reading or rest on a hot summer day.  The bur oaks produce acorns and are very attractive to squirrels.  The mess of these acorns may make this tree less suitable for formal landscapes or for use as street trees.

Gnarled bark                                                          Broad growth habit

                                          Low hanging horizontal branching

Friday, February 17, 2012

What is sustainable landscape design?

Sustainable--this is a buzz word in our new economy and everyone is seeking a sustainable solution to nearly everything from shipping packages, to corporate food solutions and beyond.  The landscaping trade is no different--as landscapers we perhaps are on the front-line of sustainability and projects that we design can have a huge impact on energy consumption, storm water run-off and remediation, wind protection, carbon dioxide transfer, and food production.

What makes a project sustainable?  Will working vegetables and small fruits in the landscape make it sustainable?  How about adding chickens?  What about a compost pile?    We see many projects completed advertised as sustainable that really only posses small elements of sustainability.  True sustainability starts at the drafting table and researches far beyond how we can work in some attractive edible fruit shrubs--sustainable design looks at the future and the use of the landscape.  I will borrow liberally from the sustainable design criteria gathered by the University of Minnesota environmental horticulture program located here.

Sustainable landscapes possess 5 main characteristics in this order of importance:

Functional--does the landscape fulfill the requirements for the space?  The entry garden--does the walkway "walk naturally" and allow for side by side approach to the entrance?  Is there room at the front door for the guests to stand at the same level without being swept out of the way by the door?  Does the backyard patio provide enough room for entertaining?  Is the traffic flow of your deck natural and efficient?  Is the lawn a healthy recreating space that can recover from frequent traffic?

Maintainable--is the landscape easily taken care of?  Are plants selected and placed based on mature size?    Is there adequate access for properly size maintenance equipment?  We live in a northern climate--how will the snow be removed and where will it go?  

Environmentally sound--does the landscape minimize harmful inputs?  Are the plants chosen resistant to diseases and pests (native plants work well)?  Is the turfgrass selected to reduce fertilizer and herbicide usage?  Were plants chosen to fit the site soil conditions?  How does the landscape deal with runoff--does the softscaping absorb the runoff from the hardscapes?

Cost effective--good landscaping should save money and increase value over time.  Does the landscape reduce energy costs?  Were elements of the design costly to maintain over time?  Were plants short lived, oversized, or overplanted adding reworks and extensive maintenance?

Visually pleasing--good sustainable design should be visually pleasing, but function should precede form.  We have all seen some amazing visually beautiful landscapes that have required significant inputs of labor, chemicals, and cash to keep them beautiful.

Landscaping is never maintenance free but with a good plan you can own a landscape that will be an asset to you and the environment and not a liability to your wallet.

If you are interested in your landscape's sustainable future we would love to meet you.  Please email us to schedule your consultation today.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Tree of the Week

The first edition of the tree of the week--each Monday we will present a tree and talk about how and where it can be used in the landscape.  By correctly matching a tree to its desired environment in the landscape, we can reduce the potential for problems with that tree.  Each week we will explore trees, their ornamental characteristics, their growth patterns, and what site conditions they need for maximum success.

Today's tree is the Common Alder Alnus glutinosa. This tree grows 45'-55' tall x 25'-35' wide.  The alder is not choosy about soil type or pH.  This tree does not have spectacular fall foliage but long brown to black catkins in the spring add texture to the bland early spring landscape.  The common alder is a wonderful general purpose landscape shade tree that is well suited for growth in wet and low lying sites--it can even tolerate some standing water.  The alder has a fast rate of growth which allows for rapid establishment and maturity in your new landscape project.

Call us today if you are interested in how a common alder can improve your landscape.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Warm winters and the landscaping

The 9th of February and there is absolutely no snow on the ground at my house in Essex Junction.  I thought that I should share some things about the effects of a warm winter on your landscaping.

-The lack of snow cover and dry winter air can cause desiccation (drying out) of landscape plants.  Evergreens are particularly susceptible.  An application of an anti-desiccant or construction of wind/sun screening can help protect against water loss.

-Snow is an excellent insulator.  Without snowpack, the cold can penetrate more deeply into the ground perhaps causing some root damage in some less hardy plants.  Appropriate mulching during the growing season will help protect against root damage.  For a remedy now, screening and mulching with leaves or straw will help decrease the risk of cold damage.

-Colder temperatures and no snow allowed for full dormancy of the grass this season.  Last year with the abundant snowfall and unfrozen ground we had tremendous snow mold problems.  I do not anticipate a repeat of last season's snow mold issues.

-Winter annual weeds will be more prevalent this season due to their ability to put on biomass on these warmer, sunny days.  I expect some heavier winter annual weed pressure this season.  Watch for annual ryegrass, annual bluegrass, henbit, shepherd's purse, and speedwell.

-The warmer temps have made it more pleasant to be outside and working.  We have performed some hefty rejuvenation pruning this winter.  Now is the perfect time to get out and get those deciduous shrubs back into shape.  If things aren't too frozen or it is a sunny warmer day you can also perform some leaf clean-up that perhaps was neglected this fall.

We are using the weather to finish preparing our machinery for the upcoming season, and we still have some openings for pruning and light tree work.  Design work is in full swing and we will be calling to talk with all of our clients over the next several weeks.  Don't let the warm winter get you down--enjoy the opportunities and get out and enjoy the sunshine

Monday, February 6, 2012

Winter for the Landscaper

I get asked from time to time through the winter "what is it that landscapers do during the winter?"  We do refer to it as the off season, but it's the last thing from actually being unemployed.  There is a tremendous amount of preparatory work looking to the upcoming production season.  We service the equipment and replace all wear parts, order replacement or upgrade tools, begin ordering materials for fertilization programs, we investigate mulch pricing and suppliers, complete landscape designs, get price lists on plants, and generally get wound up for spring.  We also do a little bit of snow removal work, but this has been really a wash this winter.  Winter--particularly late winter is the best time to perform hard pruning on many species of deciduous shrubs.  With the mild winter, we have done a number of these rejuvenations and still have opportunity for more as long as the snow is not deep contact us with questions and availability.  We do perform some tree removal where we work alongside our tree sub Stowe Tree Experts.  Winter is a great time to do hazardous removals as the ground is frozen and we can move in heavier equipment with little or no landscape damage.

Most importantly in the winter we get to spend more time with our families and enjoy the minutia of daily life.  Today is my daughter's birthday and we had a wonderful time in the afternoon skiing, swimming, and spending time as a family.  From our family to yours we look forward to working with you this coming season.