Tour de France, Pennyslvania, and British Columbia

Much like kid at Christmas or perhaps even Halloween, I too have a wish list, but mine involves the gardens I’d like to visit around the world.  My love of planning vacations began early.  Since I was the one planning our family outings, I would stick in a few of my own favorites.  On a trip to Michigan we went to the Fredrick Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park and on more than one occasion to Nashville TN, the Cheekwood Botanical Gardens.   Some are closer to home than others, but I hope to get to check them off my list at some point or another.

1.  Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square PA

I’ve had my eye on this garden since college.  It was part of an internship program that students from our department could participate in over summer break.  Longwood Gardens has a long history that has grown to include festivals, performances, education and one of the best collection of trees in the country.

2.  The Butchart Gardens, Victoria, B.C.

The garden has a well-known display of annual plantings.  The amount of color in one spot is breathtaking.  It is best viewed in the early-mid summer before the annual plantings become tired.

3.  Chanticleer Garden, Wayne, PA

Another Pennsylvania garden worth visiting, is the Chanticleer Garden.  Some more nerdy garden sorts will be reminded of the Chanticleer Pear.  This is the stronger more upright version of the famous Bradford Pear.

4.  Versailles Garden, Versailles, France

There are many other sites to see in and around Paris, but this one would be a highlight for me.  Designing and maintaining such a formal space must leave the garden staff a little insane.

5.  Claude Monet’s Garden in Giverny France

The inspiration behind many of Monet’s paintings, the gardens at his home in Giverny France are still well cared for and on display.


A Change of Scenery

Part rest, part fun, and part adventure.  I count myself thankful for each and every trip away.  This last few days I’ve spent in a little town called Walla Walla, deep in the heart of Washington wine country and deep in a land of friendly happy people.  The trip celebrated a big birthday for my husband, and provided an opportunity to hear the stories behind how many of those we met ended up in a small dry desert town of 30,000.  Taking in a part of the country I’ve never seen solidifies observations that the country is made up of unique people and our diverse climates and landscapes mean we never get bored in our explorations.

Becca LaBarre

Above is a picture of the scene on all sides of Walla Walla.  These are the Blue Mountains and fields of the “Amber Waves of Grain” already harvested for the season.  The Mizzoula floods left this land rocky, dry and diverse.  Many trees that have a hard time with Chicagoland soils and temperature swings such as Sweet Gum were beautiful street trees along main street.

Becca LaBarre

This is one of the street trees along the main drag in Walla Walla. The locals couldn’t ID it for me.  Turns out it is a type of ash called a Raywood Ash.  The leaves are more delicate and narrow than the typical Green or White Ash found in the Midwest.  Pretty cool overall texture.

Becca LaBarre

The boulder wall above is made of dark, angular stone very different from the granite boulders found in the midwest.  The suppliers typically find their boulders from Wisconsin quarries and are light shades of pink, buff, and gray with few angles.  I am sure they blend into the landscape to the Walla Walla natives, but to a visitor, they are a beautiful change of scenery.

Becca LaBarre

Check out this rustic pergola against the Saviah Cellars tasting room.  The large-scale of the tree logs works in scale with the larger building.  Another winery landscape essential was lavender.  Even without the blooms the air was scented.  The lavender was planted not only for aesthetics, but also to increase the crop species on winery property and deter deer, but we all know how well that usually works!

Becca LaBarre

In contrast to the beautiful fall color display above, most of the planters still had their summer annuals.  The temperatures in Walla Walla are relatively stable and there has not yet been a hard frost in the area.  The fall colors were about three weeks behind too.

Becca LaBarre

The blue sky accentuates the blazing red sumac along the road.  This natural example of how beautiful the sumac looks in the fall against straw-colored grass is a reminder to incorporate this combination in homeowner landscapes.  The sumac would look great among Karl Foerster Grass or Fountain Grass, both turn a yellow color in the fall.

Becca LaBarre

This winery pup, also an important landscape feature in Walla Walla came to reside at Morrison Lane Vineyard as a result of a sled dog rescue.  The stress of a former life melted away, the now less shy Husky, Wolf and German Shepard mix has the life of leisure with her brother.  Like so many other stories, I encountered talking with the people of Walla Walla, the small town life of vineyard farmers might not necessarily be stress free, but no matter the tale behind their move, these many transplants came, fell in love and stayed to pursue a passion.  Just as I hope to accomplish my own pursuit as a designer, and just as I hope my passion for what I do will always shine through.

Until Next Week…

Becca LaBarre

Getting a chance to travel to new places near and far have provided much fodder for my blogs and landscape designs.  Here are a few pictures of some highlights of the past few years.  Above is a creek bed flanked by Ivy near a favorite winery in Glen Ellen, CA.

Jen Odegard

Above is walking the continental divide in Glacier National Park, MT

Brandon LaBarre

Just a plant nerd intrigued by the size of a boxwood growing in front of the campus of Belmont University in Nashville, TN.  The south provides the same phenomenon when it comes to Knockout Roses too.

Becca LaBarre

Creating a sense of calm in any landscape design can come directly from the ability to interact with nature and escape the everyday.  The rolling hills of a vineyard in Sonoma, CA  on the verge of fall color is definitely my place of calm.

Until next weeks’ post on Washington State landscapes.  Stay Tuned!

Spotlight on a Supplier: Aspen Valley Landscape Supply

A grocery store usually doesn’t get their milk from a cow, nor does a clothing company buy a tee-shirt directly from a cotton farmer.  Landscapers too have suppliers who provide the materials we work with.  One aspect of the landscape field most homeowners may not know a lot about is where the professionals go to find the products we offer.  We are proud to work with our suppliers where we are able to benefit from the service that we are then able to pass on to our clients.   Graciously, one of the sales personnel, Crystal Novy with Aspen Valley Landscape Supply answered a few of my questions to help shed some light on the relationship between a landscaper and their suppliers.

Simplescaping:  What unique perspective can the landscape supplier offer their clients?

Crystal:  We try to service our customers to the same standards their clients expect from them. Quality materials, timely delivery of product and the design support behind it.  We help our clients with everything from creative design to helping turn their vision into an affordable reality. It is all about the people and the relationships. Our customers are loyal to us as we are to them.

Simplescaping:  What is your favorite type of material to work with and why?

Crystal:  That is a tough one!  I love working with all our products (depending on the situation). Valders is amazing as it gives you absolute creative freedom.  There is nothing that they can’t produce.  If you have a vision they make it happen.  Bluestone is just beautiful and my personal favorite aesthetically.  Then there is Belgard – the support from Belgard is amazing and their product is top quality.  They carry the same beliefs in servicing the customer which is the core value in our company.

Becca LaBarre

Above is the Aspen Valley yard in Elgin, IL full of brick, stone, retaining wall, drainage, and more.

Simplescaping:  What is a common question you are asked by contractors?

Crystal: Measuring questions are the most common. We help contractors from start to finish and we have more of a value to the contractor when we can help them figure the project.

Simplescaping: How do you develop your relationship with contractors?

Crystal:  Listen.  First and foremost I try to listen to exactly what they need and are looking for in a supplier. Listening to what they need allows us to tailor our service to that specific customer. Relationships develop over time once they see that we follow through, stand behind our product and come through in the eleventh hour (which happens a lot in our industry!)

Becca LaBarre

Inside the sales office of Aspen Valley, contractors line up for help.  I find myself at Aspen Valley several times a month to check out material in the yard.

Simplescaping:  What is your favorite project you’ve worked on and why?

Crystal:  My favorite projects would have to be the ones where I am personally involved in helping the contractor/homeowner with their product/color choices. Knowing that they arrive at Aspen Valley feeling overwhelmed with choices and leave knowing exactly what they want is very gratifying.

Simplescaping:  What tools do you provide to contractors to help them with their clients?

Crystal: We provide our contractors with samples, literature, and as many training seminars as we can.  Whether it be for brick paving, sealing, pond building or installing landscape lighting. We try to offer the contractor the tools to succeed.  Contractors often send their clients to our locations to help in the decision processes and we happily meet with them to give them the direction they need in making color and product choices. We also help the contractors in estimating their jobs, making templates for custom natural stone, etc.

Becca LaBarre

Above is an extensive display of products to check out at the Aspen Valley yard.  I usually try to help a client narrow down some selections because the sheer amount can be overwelming.  For a client that needs to see a product in a large quantity, paver displays can be helpful.

Simplescaping: How do you decide what types of products to offer?

Crystal:  We tailor our product lines to our customer’s needs.  If we see that there is a demand for an item or product within our industry, we do our best to add it to our product lines.

Simplescaping:  What makes you unique to other suppliers?

Crystal: We have no fees for stock item returns, no section fees and we have no pallet deposits on brick/stone products.  We understand that time is money and if they are short they lose a laborer picking up more products. We would rather have them bring more to the job and stay until completed. Once finished return the unused product for full credit onto their account, whether it is one paver or 50 square feet, there are no questions asked.

Simplescaping:  What other jobs in the landscape industry have you held?

Crystal:  I am fortunate enough to say that Aspen Valley has been my first and only job in the landscape industry that I have held. I am in my fifth year with Aspen and I could not ask to work for a better company. I have had extensive training in all product lines and have cross-trained in multiple positions within our company.

October Sky

Before I get the words of Californian Dreamin’ by the Mamas and the Papas stuck in my head and all I can think about is how safe and warm I would be in LA during the long days of January and February in Chicago, I am first feeling very lucky to have a Illinois mailing address during the month of October.  This last week, I find myself driving with my eyes to the sky.  Most notably, yesterday with a crisp blue sky, I spotted this row of incredible crimson at Wilson’s Landscape Supply.

Becca LaBarre

The fall color ups the ante at a nursery with row after row of the same tree all ablaze at the same time.  These Autumn Blaze Maples are in full color now, but I’ve seen some that haven’t quite completely colored yet, while some of the actual red maples appear to be already past their prime.

This entire season has been marked with extremes.  Like a San Diego 4th of July firework display the flowers burst forth with all of April May and some of June’s buds opening all at once and now the same seems to be happening with the fall leaves as well.  There have been many years when there are several weeks between early fall favorites like the Ash trees in Late September (pictured below) and the years finally ending with Ornamental Pears in November.  This year the pears are already showing at least 25% fall color in some cases while the yellow foliage of the ash trees peaked late last week and the Autumn Purple Ashes are in the middle of their best color.  When I say best, I mean almost glowing.  Incredible!

Becca LaBarre

If you want to check out one of the most awesome neighborhoods for fall, check out the Sanctuary of Bull Valley, in Bull Valley, IL.  The houses are dotted among an Oak Savannah.  One of EverGreen Landscapes clients lives backing to a field of switchgrass, and big and little bluestem grasses.  Check out this fall smorgasbord view out of the back of the house.  I wouldn’t mind waking up to this on an October morning.

Becca LaBarre

Here are few other beauties I’ve seen so far this week….

Becca LaBarre

Above is a grouping of Sugar Maples.

Becca LaBarre

Not all perennials shrivel up and turn brown right away.  This balloon flower makes an impressive display next to the Russian Sage still in flower behind it.

Becca LaBarre

The above picture is Honeylocust in full yellow color. I’ve seen a large variance in these from those that just have a little yellow to some that look as though they may lose most of their leaves next time the wind blows.

Keep your eyes to the skies this October…Fall is Here!