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Posts Tagged ‘Landscape Design’

Dormant Pruning

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

I hope all of you had a wonderful holiday season. I know a lot of you have taken advantage of this very mild winter weather we’ve been experiencing here in the Chicago area and have taken down your holiday decorations. Now is also a good time to prune your trees and shrubs. Dormant pruning is an excellent way of ensuring healthy growth and a great time to re-shape the plant. Pruning done during this winter period allows the wound to harden over before insects are prevalent in spring and summer.

You may need a few items such as lopping shears, pruners, a pruning saw, a ladder, and a rake.

When you prune, take off the dead branches of the plant. Not sure which ones are dead? Snip off a little bit, if the branch is brown on the inside, it’s most likely dead. Snip a little at a time toward the middle of the plant until the middle of the cut is green.

Inspect your trees and shrubs for branches that are “criss-crossed” or that rub other branches. Take off one of “criss-crossed” branches. Be safe and do not try to cut branches that may be too large for you to handle or that are over head. Once cut, these branches may fall and strike you. Leave this type of pruning to a professional.

Snip off the suckers that are coming out of the ground or that are growing perpendicular or straight out of the plant. Crab trees often have both of these types of suckering growth, as do many maples.

Trim off any broken branches within the plant and discard. Again, cut those branches that you can safely cut.

After removing any diseased or dead branches, you should clean your tools with a bleach or an alcohol solution to disinfect them so that, if diseased, the disease is not spread to other branches or plants.

Now is a great time to re-shape the plants – just remember to trim a little at a time, step back and take a look at it – because once you cut it off, you can’t put it back on. Dogwoods and especially Spirea benefit from this.

Dormant pruning is one of the best things you can do for your plants. If it’s your first time, it may be a little intimidating, but know this: most plants are pretty hardy – you may over-trim, but sooner or later, it will grow back, just be patient and take your time.

Installing a Fire Pit

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

Our 2nd Annual “Tailgating Party” is going to be held on October 23rd. This is the week the Bears will be playing against Tampa Bay in England. I think we’re going for an English Theme (Pre-Game Music: Beatles, Rolling Stones…, Food: London Broil, Fish & Chips, Bangers & Mash…). If you have any suggestions I could incorporate, please let me know. My knowledge of the English culture isn’t that profound.

Last week, I mentioned that I would post a “how to” blog regarding the installation of a fire pit. Well, here it is:

The first thing I would suggest doing is to contact your village/town offices regarding permit and placement regulations. I know some villages have certain requirements regarding the placement of a stationary fire pit, better to check it out before you start.

Next, decide where you want the fire pit to be installed. For size, I like to build mine with a 42” inside diameter and usually 4 courses tall. To ensure a nice circle, you may want to place a stake and run a 21” string around. You may want to mark this area with marking paint.

After you mark your area, decide whether you want a 3 or 4 tiered fire pit. Remember that 1 tier (or layer of stone) will be buried.

Order a “fire pit kit” from A.G. Landscape Materials, Inc. The kit will contain Grade 8 Gravel to be used as the base for the stone, the Unilock Stack Stone (your choice of color Nevada or Sierra), 1” – 1.5” Washed Gravel and Adhesive. You may want to order 30 – 60 pieces of firewood, too. That way you’re ready to burn. You can order your kit and firewood by calling us at (630) 295-8190 or e-mail us at

I highly recommend that you call JULIE (1-800-892-0123) to have them locate and mark your underground utilities. They’ll need 2 business days to completely mark the area.
Ensure you have all the tools you need. I would recommend a shovel, wheelbarrow, tamper, 1 stake, string, 1’ level and a rubber/wood mallet.

Now you’re ready to start construction:

Excavate the area to accommodate the Grade 8 gravel and the depth of one (1) Stack Stone. For a 42” inside diameter, the total circle will need to be approx. 60”. You will need to dig a depth of 8” – 10”.

Install Grade 8 Gravel where the Stack Stone will be installed. Make sure you tamp the gravel at approx. every 2”. You will need an approx. depth of 4” – 6”.

Install the Stack Stone. The 1st course should be below ground level. The 2nd, 3rd, and 4th (if applicable) courses should be glued to the course beneath it.

Install 1” – 1.5” Washed Stone. This will assist with water drainage out of your pit. The depth should be at approx. 5” – 6”.

As an option, you can purchase a firewood grate from a home improvement store and install that within your pit.

Once your adhesives dry, usually within a day or so, you’re ready to burn.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us at (630) 295-8190 or e-mail any questions to

Finally, how about that game on Sunday night? Personally, I couldn’t have enjoyed it more; my daughter came in from Minnesota and went with us. What a great day it was!!!
Hopefully, this Sunday will prove to be just as great of a day. We’ll keep our fingers crossed and the fire burning!

Adding a Fire Pit to your Landscaping

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

For those of you who don’t know, I’m here in the Chicago area. I’m a die-hard Bears fan. Now, before some of you start extending your sympathies, just know, that I’ve been a Bears fan forever – through a lot of good times, but especially during the not so good times. I celebrated the ’85 Bears, I was sickened when they fired “Da Coach”, and I cried when Walter died. It’s more than just the games; it’s the friendships I’ve developed because of the mutual hopefulness all of us, as fans, possess. Yes, I do attend as many games as I can, I go with a group of guys who have become my best friends throughout the years and we meet up with another group of guys in a parking lot and do the tailgating thing. We usually get to the lot around 7:00 a.m. for a noon game. It’s usually a great day (hopefully capped off with a Bears victory, but…) Anyway, my wife came up the idea last year of a “tailgating party” at our house. So last year we hosted our first one. We had the grill going by 7:00 a.m., Bloody Marys poured by 7:20, Bags Game in progress by 8:00, Singing of the Bears Fight Song and Raising of the Bears Flag by 11:30. We then made “the walk” (as we do at home games to Soldier Field) to my friends’ home and the Large Screen HD TV by noon! After the game, back to my house, more food, a few more beverages, and a fire. It was a great day (Oh yea, did I mention – the Bears did win!!!).

One of the best additions to our landscaping was the fire pit. It’s so easy to install, you can do it yourself. We enjoy ours at least once a week (except during the winter months, when we enjoy the indoor fireplace). A fire pit is reasonably priced and a project that can be completed within a day. I did ensure that I had all the materials needed beforehand so that I was ready to go after my morning coffee.

Here at A.G. Landscape Materials, we sell the package. Everything you need to complete the installation of your fire pit (from the gravel to the firewood). You will, however, need your own level, shovel, mallet, string, and maybe a can of marking paint.

Before you start the construction of your fire pit, you may want to check with your village regarding permit and placement regulations. You’ll also want to contact JULIE (1-800-892-0123) to have them mark your underground utility lines. They will need at least 2 business days to mark the property.

Check out our next week’s blog for complete instructions on how to install the fire pit. In the mean time, if you have any questions regarding fire pits, firewood, landscaping or materials, please don’t hesitate to contact us at (630) 295-8190 or e-mail us at Feel free to stop by our yard at 24W733 Lake Street in Roselle, IL to see our sample fire pit and the materials.

Early Spring Product Availability

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

Spring is finally just around the corner! I’m getting really excited about it. This off-season has been a time of real growth for me. I’ve attended a few seminars, home shows, and got to learn about a lot of new products. Like I’ve stated before, being in the business for over 30 years, you get to thinking that you know it all and can become a little stagnant both in business and in your personal life. Learning about new products, design concepts, and marketing ideas has given me a new outlook on my business and for the first time in many years, I’m really anxious to get the season going.

Although it’s still a little early to start a lot of your landscape projects, we here at A.G. Landscape Materials, Inc. have some products available now. We have gravels, some decorative stone, Dyed Red Mulch, Dyed Brown Mulch, Bark Mulch & Playground Mulch available. Topsoil, Garden Mix, Compost, and Sod should be available within the next couple to few weeks. Of course, firewood (mixed & oak) is available year round.

As of today, (3/8/11), our prices on most of our materials as the same as they were at the end of the season last year; however, due to the fuel situation we are experiencing, we do anticipate an increase in some of our materials. We think we’ll be able to hold price increases to less than $1.00 per yard of material. Hopefully, the powers that be will get a handle on the fuel situation sooner than later.

This past week-end, we attended the Flower and Garden Show at Navy Pier. WOW! Talk about an event to get you ready for Spring. There were a lot of new ideas & new products. We’re looking forward to implementing & working with some of them. It was so exciting to talk with people as passionate about landscaping as I am. It was also educational for me to learn about some of the new products and design ideas.

This week-end (March 12th & 13th) we’ll be at the Home Show at Harper College in Palatine. If you’re looking for something to do & you’re in the area, stop by and see us. We’d love to talk to you about some of the new products and new services we’re going to be offering this year.

Don’t forget to check out our website at, our previous blogs. Check us out on Facebook @ AG Landscape Materials, Inc and follow us on Twitter @agvangundy.


Planning for Spring Landscaping

Monday, January 17th, 2011

Now is a great time for planning your landscape. Whether it be a curb appeal face lift for your home or your commercial property or a new back yard living space complete with a new patio, outdoor barbeque, and fireplace or privacy issues, this time of winter is best for planning and designing. Typically, you won’t be “up against the wall” for time and most landscape designers/sales reps have additional time to give you and your job more personalized attention than in the rush of the spring. This is why we here at A.G. VanGundy Landscape, Inc. stress to call us early! Once the warmer temperatures arrive, most people will then call on the Landscape companies for quotes, designs… When this time of the year occurs, scheduling appointments may become a little less convenient for you as the “optimum” times will book up quickly. As our economy seems to be on the up swing, we anticipate that 2011 will be a busy year; however, we are currently pricing 2011 jobs using 2010 dollars. This is another reason to book early. Please know, however, that A.G. VanGundy Landscape, Inc. strives to accommodate our clients and our potential clients; however, there are only so many hours in a day and so many days in a week.

If you are thinking about a larger job which will require a building permit from your town or village and want it to be completed early enough for you to enjoy most of the year, we will have plenty of time now to complete the design and make any needed adjustments before filing for the permit. Most towns and villages now require permits for patios, retaining walls, driveways, and in some cases even drain tile work. In addition to expanding their permit requirements, many of villages have reduced their building department staff, which has increased the amount of time needed for getting a permit approved. The permit approval process, which previously was a simple 2 – 3 day process has now become a 2 – 3 week process in some villages that are requiring more and more specifications. Some towns are now even requiring engineering prints and seals for retaining walls over 24” – 30” high. I’m not telling you of these new requirements to scare you off of doing your project; I just want to inform you of what some of you may be up against. We here at A.G. VanGundy Landscape, Inc. have worked with a majority of the towns/villages here in the Chicago area and I have to admit, we have a pretty good working relationship with most of those building departments. We understand that they have limitations, as do most of us, and are willing and able to work with them and act as your liaison to get your permit approved. But, why not start this process as early as possible? The longer you wait on this, the longer the permit process will probably take.

I’m sure plenty of you are thinking about changing some things in your current landscape, but aren’t quite sure what to do. Where do you get “the most bang for your buck”? For ideas, there are plenty of publications and t.v. shows, but I think a great way to get ideas and/or meet contractors early in the season is to attend one of the week-end home improvement shows that occur just about every week-end somewhere in the Chicago area. Currently we are scheduled to be at two local home shows within the next few months. On February 25 – 27, 2011 we will be at the Home show in Arlington Heights and on March 12 & 13, 2011, will be at the home show in Palatine at Harper College. This is a great opportunity for people to come out and talk to us personally about you’re wants and needs for landscaping, look through our portfolios of before and after shots and of some of our completed projects. This also give you an opportunity to set up a free first appointment (with some restrictions) right then. We love taking part in these home shows as it gives us an opportunity to “show our stuff” to potential clients in the area.

For more information regarding planning for spring, check out our previous blogs from January, 2010, I think you’ll find them informative.

For more information regarding A.G. VanGundy Landscape, Inc., please visit us at or call us at (630) 295-8190. We’ll be more than happy to go over the areas we service and the services that we offer.