Thursday, July 5, 2018

Designer Concepts Welcomes New Staff

Please join us as we welcome our newest staff members to our growing team.

Brandan Jones is the newest member of our installation crew. He is a 2018 graduate of Princeville High School and will be attending Illinois Central College in the Fall to study horticulture. Brandan will be learning both the practical and academic principles of the landscape trade as he continues to work full time at DCLA while completing his coursework at ICC.  Brandan is the son of one of our crew leaders, Matt Jones.  Welcome Brandan! 

James Schillinger brings 15 years of experience to the Designer Concepts Maintenance Team.  He leads one of our maintenance crews and helps maintain the fleet. He is also a veteran of the US Army. Thanks for your service, James, and welcome to the DCLA team!

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Ready Or Not, It’s Japanese Beetle Season

Japanese beetles are an invasive pest that causes damage to the landscape throughout its life cycle as both a grub and an adult.
These voracious insects feed on over 300 plant species as adults, while the grubs plague lawns, parks and golf courses.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Japanese beetles have spread through most states east of the Mississippi River. Meanwhile, states including Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Oklahoma are currently experiencing partial infestations.
Where does it come from?
As the name would suggest, the Japanese beetle is originally from Japan and the pest was first spotted in 1916 at a New Jersey nursery. Entomologists believe they entered the country as grubs in the soil on Japanese iris roots.
A lack of natural predators and an abundance of food has allowed this insect to thrive and breed prolifically.
Over time, the beetles have spread westward and a quarantine is currently being conducted by the USDA to prevent the bug from spreading further. The quarantine has not stopped the spread, but it has slowed the process. Plant material shipped with soil from Japanese beetle infested regions are required to be inspected before they can be sent to unaffected areas.
What does it look like/what are the signs?
Adult Japanese beetles are about ½ inch in length and have a scarab appearance with a shiny green head and bronze body. They can be distinguished from other beetles with similar coloration by the white tufts on their sides and a pair at the tip of the abdomen.
The adults emerge from the ground anywhere from June to early August, where they begin to feed. While they are willing to feed on numerous plant varieties, they still have a preference for certain plants, and damage will be more severe on these. Some of the favored plants include roses, birch, elms, Japanese maple, crape myrtle, linden, raspberries, and grapes.
The beetles tend to feed in groups and will work their way down from the top of a plant. They skeletonize foliage by eating the tissue between the veins, leaving a lace-like appearance. They are most active on warm, sunny days and prefer plants in sunlight.
During their adult phase of 30 to 60 days, the beetles will also mate on the host plants. Mated females will burrow into the nearby soil to deposit 40 to 60 eggs during her lifespan.
By late August, the larvae are almost full-grown and will feed on the roots of turfgrass and vegetable seedlings. They will overwinter in the soil, burying deeper when the temperatures fall. In the spring as the temperature climbs above 50 F, they will return to feed until they turn into pupae and emerge as adult beetles about two weeks later.
The larvae are C-shaped white grubs with a brown head and a grayish-black rear. Signs of their feeding on turf include a general wilting and a gradual thinning. Heavily damaged turf can be rolled back like a rug due to the connecting roots being destroyed.
Healthy turf will not appear damaged when there are fewer than 10 grubs per square foot, according to the University of Tennessee extension, but poorly maintained turf will show injury with just four or five grubs per square foot.
How can I control them?
Eradication of the beetles is not possible, but there are multiple control methods. It is important to remember that Japanese beetles can fly considerable distances, so control of one life stage will not necessarily prevent problems from the other.
When beetle numbers are low, simply picking or shaking the insects off of plants and putting them into a bucket of soapy water will work. Covering high-valued plants with a fine netting during peak activity can also help.
There are two common ways to fight the Japanese beetles if they have targeted your property. One route is insecticides, while the other is cultural controls. There are numerous insecticides available to treat adult Japanese beetles including cyfluthrin, bifenthrin and carbaryl.
Choosing the correct insecticide depends on features such as what plants they can be used on, how long they persist and their threat to pollinators. It is crucial to follow the label to avoid harming bees as well.
Imidacloprid is a chemical option for controlling the larvae, but treating the larvae in the yard will have little effect on the number of Japanese beetles feeding on ornamental plants due to their ability to travel. There are biological controls that also target the grubs, but these take considerable time before any effects are seen.
Japanese beetle traps are commonly sold and touted as a solution, but multiple sources say they attract more beetles than they catch. If they are used, they should be placed 20 to 30 feet away from the plants they are protecting.
The cultural controls include habitat manipulation and the planting of resistant flora. Diseased and poorly nourished plants are more susceptible to attacks, so it’s important to keep the landscape healthy. Watering can also affect the survival chances of the beetle eggs and young larvae. If the lawn can tolerate being dry during the egg period – July and early August – many can be killed.
While the Japanese beetles will feed on many types of plants, designing a landscape with a mixture of non-preferred species will reduce the level of damage they will wreak. Some of the plants that are resistant include dogwood, red maple, magnolias, boxwood, ashes, yew, forsythia and lilac.
Source: Jill Odom - Total Landscape Care

Monday, June 11, 2018

Washington Patio Before and After

Before 01

Before 02

This old concrete patio had settled and cracked due to poor, wet subsoils.

Model 01

Model 02

As a part of the design process, we utilized a 3D model to visualize the new patio layout.  The design includes a paver patio with accent band, seat walls, fire pit, stairs and buffet.  

Completed 01

Completed 02

The final version deleted the seat walls and added a pergola.

Completed 03

Completed 04

Great attention to detail really brings this patio to life.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Dealing With Wet, Clay Soils

Kevin and Shawn prepare the base for a new paver patio.
When you dig in the dirt like we do, you occasionally find some unexpected things underground.  This patio project started as a routine excavation.  We removed the old concrete patio and found a spongy, clay subsoil that would not dry out.  If we were to build directly on this soil, our patio would settle and shift. Owner and Project Manager Corey Koch determined that we needed to reinforce the base material to stabilize the patio.  Corey is a Certified Paver Installer through the International Concrete Paver Institute training, the international authority on paver patio construction.

 Corey’s training and experience told him that the answer to the problem was to add both lateral support and vertical support to the crushed rock patio base.  Our team installed Geo-grid to provide lateral support that keeps the patio from shifting from side to side.  Then they enclosed the area with a woven landscape fabric to keep the base rock from sinking into soil, stopping any settlement.  This combination will allow us to bridge the wet clay and provide a stable base for the client’s paver patio.  We will show you more photos after the project is complete. 

 Geo-grid and landscape fabric stabilize the subsoil for a paver patio.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Landscaping Trends for 2018

Landscaping Trends for 2018

The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) recently released its 2018 Residential Landscape Architecture Trends Survey, which was fielded Feb. 22 through March 8.ASLA says that residential design is the largest market sector for the landscape architecture profession. Most of that work, ASLA reports, consists of single-family homes but it also includes multi-family and retirement communities.ASLA says flexible outdoor spaces for activities like yoga and outdoor movie nights, as well as charging stations for mobile devices entered the top 10 project types for the first time.The top 10 project types with the highest expected consumer demand are as follows:
  • Native plants – 83.3 percent
  • Native/adapted drought tolerant plants – 83.0 percent
  • Low-maintenance landscapes – 80.0 percent
  • Flexible use space (for yoga classes, movie night, etc.) – 74.2 percent
  • Drip/water-efficient irrigation – 72.4 percent
  • Permeable paving – 74.0 percent
  • Rain gardens – 71.2 percent
  • Reduced lawn area – 70.8 percent
  • Food/vegetable gardens (including orchards, vineyards, etc.) – 70.5 percent
  • Charging stations (mobile devices) – 70.0 percent
Ranking in the top three popular spots for outdoor design elements are fire pits/fireplaces at 66 percent, lighting at 65.4 percent and seating/dining areas at 64 percent.
This year, wireless/internet connectivity was grouped with movies, video theaters, stereo systems and TV, which received 48 percent of the vote in the outdoor design elements category.
A newer answer choice added to the outdoor structure category this year was enhanced railing systems, which includes those with cable or glass. This category ranked first at 51 percent and was followed by pergolas at 48.3 percent and decks at 42.8 percent.

ASLA says the hottest sustainable design elements include native/adapted drought tolerant plants at 83 percent, permeable paving at 74 percent and drip/water-efficient irrigation at 72.4 percent.
For 2018, the top three types of outdoor recreation amenities include dog-related recreation areas at 68 percent, designated areas for other outdoor recreation at 61.5 percent and bocce courts at 42.5 percent.
Source: Beth Hyatt - Total Landscape Care

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The History Behind Washington's Beloved Cherry Blossoms

After a series of tumultuous weather conditions and two peak bloom prediction delays, the National Park Service announced yesterday it is officially peak bloom season for the Washington D.C. cherry trees.
The best viewing days of the Yoshino trees will be for the next four to seven days, but the National Park Service (NPS) says the trees can hold the blossoms up to two weeks under ideal conditions.
Peak bloom date is defined as the day when 70 percent of the Yoshino cherry blossoms are open. It generally occurs between the last week of March and the first week of April, but unusually warm or cold temperatures can result in early or late blooms.
History of the trees 
So where did the cherry trees come from? The short version you’ve probably heard is the original trees were a gift of friendship from Japan, but there is far more backstory to the trees and much has happened to them during their time in D.C. over the years.
The first female board member of the National Geographic Society and travel writer, Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore, encountered Japanese cherry blossoms during her visit to her brother George, who worked for the U.S. Consular Service, and fell in love.

Upon her return to D.C. in 1885, she set out on a mission to have the cherry trees planted in the Potomac Park. She spent the next 24 years presenting her ideas to every Superintendent of Public Buildings and Grounds, only to be rejected each time.
Meanwhile, David Fairchild, a doctor and a U.S. Department of Agriculture official, was also enamored with the Japanese cherry trees and had successfully planted 100 of the trees on his personal property.
Scidmore and Fairchild met during Arbor Day in 1908 and began working on a plan to acquire cherry trees for the park. Scidmore sent a letter to first lady Helen Taft requesting approval of the plan and help in acquiring the trees.
Two days later, she received confirmation from the first lady, who set about making arrangements for the cherry trees. Famed Japanese chemist Dr. Jokichi Takamine, who was in town at the time, learned of the plan and offered Taft a gift of 2,000 cherry trees from the city of Tokyo. She readily accepted.
Yet when the trees arrived in 1910, the USDA found that they were infested with insects, nematodes and diseases. The trees were burned to protect native plants, but it was a tense diplomatic situation. The Secretary of State and Japanese Ambassador made new arrangements and Tokyo Mayor Yukio Ozaki offered a new gift of 3,020 trees.
Twelve varieties were prepared and carefully observed to ensure they were in perfect health before shipping them to the United States. This new batch reached the capital in March 1912 and later that month the first lady and the Japanese ambassador’s wife planted the first two trees, which are still standing today.
The trees quickly became a beloved part of the city and outraged female activists actually chained themselves to the trees when the Tidal Basin was selected to be the location of the new Jefferson Memorial in 1938. President Franklin D. Roosevelt told the activists that the trees were simply being transplanted, not cut down, and the rest of the tree removal was conducted in the night to avoid another Cherry Tree Rebellion.
Three years later, after the recent attack on Pearl Harbor, Americans turned their hostilities toward the trees and four were chopped down. While some called for the cherry trees to be uprooted and burned, the NPS decided to call the cherry trees “Oriental” instead of “Japanese” during the span of the war.
D.C.’s cherry trees were menaced once more in 1999 when beavers brought down four of them and injured others. The furry culprits were eventually caught and relocated.
Fewer than 100 of the original gifted cherry trees remain, but according to, tree grafts were gifted back to Japan and one of them can be found in front of a tombstone in Yokohoma Foreign Cemetery. The marker is for Eliza Scidmore and it reads: “A woman who loved Japanese cherry blossoms rests in peace here.”

Types of cherry trees
According to NPS, there are approximately 3,800 cherry trees within the park. While Yoshino cherry is the most predominant variety, there are quite a few other types present with different blooms.
Yoshino Cherry (Prunus x yedoenis) – Comprising approximately 70 percent of the total number of cherry trees.
Kwanzan Cherry (Prunus serrulata “Kwanzan”) – 13 percent of total population.
Takesimensis Cherry (Prunus takesimensis) – 5 percent of total population.
Autumn Flowering Cherry (Prunus subhirtella var. autumnalis) – 3 percent of total population.
Akebono Cherry (Prunus x yedoensis “Akebono”) – 3 percent of total population.
Weeping Cherry (Prunus Subhirtella var. pendula) –  2.4 percent of total population.
Usuzumi Cherry (Prunus spachiana f. ascendens) – 1.3 percent of total population.
Sargent Cherry (Prunus sargentii) – less than 1 percent of total population.
Afterglow Cherry (Prunus x yedoensis “Afterglow”) –  less than 1 percent of total population.
Shirofugen Cherry (Prunus serulata “Shirofugen”) – less than 1 percent of total population.
Okame Cherry (Prunus x “Okame”) – less than 1 percent of total population.
Source: Jill Odom - Total Landscape Care