Hi all! I think I am finally ready to show you some of the garden areas I have been working on since last fall. My goal was to open up the areas that had gotten a bit too crowded and simplify the overall design. While we walk through the yard, I’d like to show some tricks and tips that might help solve similar dilemmas that many of us deal with.
I have never shown a closeup of this garden area on the blog before. It is the front corner of my front yard, where the cul-du-sac meets the street. Here on the corner a low wall of juniper bushes are very strategically placed. As cars round the corner at night into the cul-du-sac, this blocks the headlights, shielding the windows from the bright headlights. All you need is 3 or 4 foot high evergreen bushes in order to protect the house from an oncoming vehicle’s headlights. No one wants to feel like a search light is spraying the inside of your home, and this does the trick! This garden is layered with euonymous and liriope on the street side, and anchored in at the corner with a dogwood tree. We have an up-light that shines at night into the canopy of tree, which right now looks like a cloud of beautiful white blossoms.
Here is the updated front walk. I cleared out some of the jungle of large plants on either side of the Nellie Stevens holly and highlighted it by relocating the hostas to either side in a semi circle to add some visual depth and light to that side of the walk. The liriope on the lawn side of the walk were all divided and will stay low. They will add some seasonal interest in the late summer with their purple flowers. These carry through the front of the other two garden beds on either side of the front door to create a nice flow from one garden to the next.
I inherited the layout of the walkway, but if I were to design it myself, I would have brought this odd zig zag section forward to match up with the rest of the walkway and made the whole walkway 4 to 5 feet wide. It’s always nice to be able to walk side by side with someone on a front walk, and being on the north side of the house, it would have been smarter to bring the walk out of the shadow of the house. If I ever win the lottery this is one of the things on my wish list – LOL!
Moving around to the east side of the garden I have done a lot of work. There were many of the older perennials that needed dividing, and some areas requiring removal, like the lamb’s ears which never was happy in that location and the beautiful iris which were overwhelming their area. All is smoothed out, and in a few weeks this area will be teaming with color. I have simplified many of the waves of color on this side, and interspersed some of them with liriope and periwinkle which will provide more year round interest. I also want to suggest to those looking to brighten up an area that placing lighter colors or variegated plants in the dark recesses under trees will draw your eye in and create more dimension. Repeating the plant material, colors and varying the numbers of plants in a group is also helpful to pull your eye through.
One more thing worth mentioning in this region of the country and other drought-prone areas: limit the amount of lawn that is in your yard. For example, in my yard the side and back are fairly hilly, so the lawn is kept to a minimum through there, and treated more like a wide pathway flowing through the yard and the garden beds are much wider. In the front, the yard is flat, so we have kept a larger patch of lawn for activities– perfect for throwing a Frisbee, or a game of croquet. This limits the amount of water, nutrients needed, and even helps with the amount of time you need to spend mowing — bonus!
Moving around into the back garden, I’m really happy to see that all the roses I transplanted are really flourishing in the full sun. This is where I have amped up the flower power, and have sedum, orchids, astilbe, hellebores, ginger, lamb’s ears, yarrow, iris, peonies, lily of the valley and hummingbird vine. Many of these were started from gifts from my gardening friends! The idea was to have something blooming for as much of the year as possible. The only time there is a void is February, and don’t worry, I’m on it. I think I’ll add some crocus bulbs in the fall to make it year round. Will I ever be done? No, but that’s the fun for me!
Every year I’m working against the clock to have the yard looking at its peak when the cherry tree blooms. This year we have had an inordinate number of warm days, and I have almost finished — well, at least the front yard. It’s hard work, but the weeding, edging, mulching (90 bags!) and lots and lots of pruning are almost completed. We have lots of people who drive by and a few who take Easter pictures here when the tree blooms coincide with Bunny Day. I think this year I was lucky that this tree is a little behind the Tidal Basin cherry trees in D.C. The cold snap and late ice and snow storm that collided with them didn’t harm mine, just delayed it a few days. For those who are as in love with these trees as I am, this is a Kwansan variety. Its double flowers are magical!
The “Charleston pink” phlox that surrounds the tree is at its peak right now, and the tree is hours away from exploding with color, so this is just a teaser and I will post another photo when the tree is blooming — until then, Happy Spring!
Update, April 6th - The tree has started to open. I’ll post a photo each day until it’s fully open. We had an incredible Spring storm that blasted through here just now with intense wind and the darkest clouds I’ve ever seen. Everyone in its path — stay safe!
Update, April 7th – She is now in all her glory! It’s always worth the wait. I feel so happy to have her in my garden.
I’m finishing the last of the winterizing and want to share a few tips that will add polish to the holiday curb appeal, and make the perfect backdrop for seasonal decorations. These will make a big difference for just a weekend’s worth of effort. And as an added bonus, it’s also a great way to work off some of that turkey with all the trimmings that we love so much!
First up is finishing the leaf raking and weed removal. Reach in and pick out all the leaves that have gotten stuck in the bushes and then do a final pass in the mulched areas of the garden and your lawn. This alone will make a huge difference in the appearance, but we aren’t going to stop there! Next, give the mulch a rake to loosen it up, and add extra if needed. Winter mulch tip: As you are stirring up the mulch, make sure to leave a space of a few inches between the mulch and the wall of your home. This will discourage the unwanted “guests” (mice!) from burrowing there.
Now that you have pulled out the spent summer flowers and have areas that might be looking a bit too spare, here’s one of my favorite tricks of the trade: I trim the bushes in the yard and use those trimmings to create “instant plants.” Just take the branches and push them into the soil about 6 to 8 inches. I use about a dozen small branches to create each “plant.” On either side of the driveway where I grow vinca in the summer, there are now juniper. They look great, you’d never know they weren’t actually growing. I also do this in the pots and window boxes to create small boxwood “plants.” This trick lasts for months, usually into February, and since I trimmed the branches from my own yard, its free!
Speaking of planters and pots, this is the perfect time to give the clay pots a scrub and dry them in the sun before putting them away for the winter months. I like to use a scrub brush or a kitchen scrubbie with regular dish soap for this job. They easily get rid of the grime on the pots and make quick work of the job. Find a good place for winter storage where they won’t freeze. The clay can be very susceptible to cracking apart when it freezes. The same scrub is perfect for all the yard tools as well. A tip for the shovels and rakes: Once they have been cleaned, a light coating of cooking oil or spray will help guard against rust over the winter.
The final crowning jewel to get your home ready is clean windows. Now that your yard looks so nice you will want to have fresh, sparkling windows to view all your hard work!
Time for a nice hot cider…
With the temperatures in the triple digits these days, I am seeing lots of weeds coming out of the cracks in the pavement, especially along the gap where the curbing meets the asphalt.
I have a super easy, inexpensive and totally earth friendly way of getting rid of them — VINEGAR! In the heat of the day (the hotter and sunnier the better), just spray it on the weeds. The weeds will be dead the next day. (I buy a huge jug from the warehouse store — about $2.99 — which lasts the whole summer.) I prefer to scrape them out with the edge of a shovel, never to see them again. If you choose not to remove them, they will eventually disintegrate on their own.
The alternative is expensive weed killer, which is very toxic to wildlife and the waterways, so I urge everyone to give vinegar a try. It works great for me, and I hope it will for you, too.
Now if I could just find a great way to keep the wire grass from growing into my garden without having to dig it out — that would be fantastic!
Sometimes it’s the little things that make the greatest impact. This time of the year I like to give some extra attention to some of the detail in the yard and on the house before the holiday season starts. These last few days before the cold weather sets in can be busy, so I want to share a few things you can do for some maximum impact and added curb appeal.
First and foremost: Give your entire yard a good edging. This makes everything look great, and you don’t need to buy anything fancy. I use a scallop edger about every five years – really! Then, I edge by hand a couple of times each summer. No weed-whackers needed! Personally, I like the look of my natural edges better, and weed-whackers can cause so much damage to tree trunks and bushes if not carefully handled.
I like to spruce up the walkways by giving a good sweeping after I edge and pulling the weeds that have grown between sections. Don’t forget to clean up curbs and gutters as well, so all that “stuff” doesn’t wash into the storm drains. If I had time I’d pull out the power washer, but I know that’s going to have to wait.
Next, it’s the time of the year to trim down the spring/summer blooming perennials, and tidy the garden beds for winter. I do just the trimming now and clean out the leaves when the last have fallen. Follow that with a sprinkle of pre-emergent weed control, and you will have very few weeds come spring.
It’s also a good time to bring in house plants before we have a frost. And speaking of frost — don’t forget to turn off the water to your outside spigots, drain the hoses, and buried irrigation lines. So much to get done!!
Now, sit back and watch the beauty of Autumn unfold!
It’s that time of the year when all of the nurseries are full of gorgeous
Chrysanthemums, and I’ve just gotten back from the store with one of the best ideas that I have seen in a long time!
First, the problem: I am always trying to stake up certain flowers (Mums, Daisies, Sedums, etc.) that seem prone to split open in wind and rain, only to end up with string showing, and the flowers breaking anyway.
The solution: covering plants with green plastic mesh as they are growing. The flower buds grow through the mesh and hide it, but the mesh keeps them nicely spaced and completely safe from splitting open. Such a simple idea! This gardener is going to use it a lot from now on!
I’m surprised that I’d never seen this done before. Also nice because you can use the mesh over and over, not to mention it’s really inexpensive. Win, win!
After 33 years of hard use, the garage doors and openers needed replacing, and I am so happy at the great new choices available now. Our garage has to serve many functions, as do most garages these days, so we opted for a new door that is maintenance free, double walled steel with insulation sandwiched between. This will keep the garage much warmer in the winter, which is great since one of those functions is doubling as a greenhouse to keep some of the potted plants safe in the winter months.
Someday I would love to have a greenhouse, but until then the plants will have to share space with Snowflake and Silver (our cars – LOL!), and my old bike, lawnmower, and you know – all the other stuff that ends up in garages! I am very happy with the installation company and would be very glad to send information to anyone interested in replacing their garage doors.
I have been asked again what I used to topcoat the driveway, so I’m adding a picture of the container. This is a reminder that now is a perfect time of year to do this chore. Also, as a gauge, it takes about two containers for my driveway, which is approximately 25′ x40′. I have tried so many different types of coating, but I recommend the thinnest variety. I find it sinks into the hairline cracks and divots best to seal them.
With the summer coming to an end, I am giving my award for this year’s “Plant of the Summer”: to the coleus I grew in planters. It has looked amazing even in the heat, and the colors are so vivid. I am always interested in trying new colors and combinations, and I love the look with this sweet potato vine.
Speaking of vines, my pumpkins were mostly eaten by the chipmunks, but I did manage to harvest two last week.
What has been your favorite plant this summer?
Next week is the summer solstice, which means we now have the longest days of the year. That means more gardening time! The flowers in my garden are looking fabulous this year due to the incredible amount of rain we’ve had so far. We’ve been very lucky — I haven’t even had to water anything yet, except for the transplants and annuals. We are expecting a heatwave though, so that’s about to change.
I want to bring you up to date on some things I’ve been up to lately. First, I’d like to say thank you to Karen, a friend who included me in her office plant swap. It was so good, we had another, just to share some more! I love to see what plants people bring to these events, because it shows what is growing best in our region. I was lucky to swap for some elephant ear, black-eyed Susan and a Jalapeno seedling. Karen also brought some prized delights from her garden — orchid, snow on the mountain, begonias and more! Thankfully all are doing well.
I brought lots of white iris and ornamental grass, and have a long list of items I will divide in the fall to share. Plant swaps are truly great ways to try new plants and to give away your extras — and they are always fun. Good tip: It helps to print out a picture of the plants you are giving away if they aren’t in bloom. (I have found that I have forgotten what color something is when I’m back home, so I think others probably have, too.) It also helps to wrap small plants in damp newspaper if they are prone to drying out quickly. I always water everything as soon as I’m home, and try to get everything planted quickly thereafter.
This is also the time of the year that I like to tackle the maintenance of the hardscape around the property. The driveway was in need of a new coat of sealer, the front door needed varnishing, and the front porch needed some repair and new mortar. Those were big jobs, and I’m a little worse for the wear, but what a difference it makes to have them freshened up! I will leave you with some photos of the after-shots, and don’t forget to set your sundials to the correct time on the 21st at Noon!
I am getting the gardens ready for Fall, and it has been a beautiful weekend for doing the last bit of weeding and edging. Although the chores are not much fun, I rewarded myself by getting some gorgeous additions for the front entrance: ornamental kale, mums, violas, eucalyptus and some variegated ivy that I will use to add some punch.
This year there are some very interesting colors in the selections at the nurseries. I was inspired by a really beautiful kale, and I am pulling various shades of purples, deep pinks and a teal green from it and adding some bright accents with the ivy and the violas.
As the season progresses, I will add pumpkins and gourds for Halloween, and for Thanksgiving I’ll add some Indian corn. Here again, the choices are amazing — the gourds I’ve seen have so many beautiful greens and ivories, not just the traditional oranges and yellows of yesteryear.
It seems that we are having a very late Autumn in the mid-Atlantic region. Barely anything has changed color, and most of the summer annuals are still blooming well. Because of this, I am going to break one of my cardinal rules. I am normally not one for mixing seasons, and I like to give each season its special time to shine, but it makes it hard for me to remove the summer flowers when they are all still looking so pretty. (I know, I get too attached to my babies… I mean my flowers, LOL!) In order to make the summer flowers work in the design, I bring in texture and color that will coordinate with the vinca and the mandevilla vine which are still thriving. They are both deep pink, so I especially like the combination with the kale! This is normally where I would have installed pansies, so when the frost arrives (and the vincas pass on to flower heaven), I will replace them with some pansies or violas. I love to have some flowers on each side of the driveway to welcome us home year ’round since that is the entrance most used.
I have been so taken with gorgeous candle lanterns from magazines and in pictures that I have seen lately. I love to make the garden come alive with light especially on Halloween and when guests are expected, so I will be adding all my lanterns here and there along the walkways. In addition, there is some beautiful uplighting in the trees and against the house, which have been in place now for many years. I just love the look, and it really shows off the trees at night in a very interesting way! If safety is a concern, battery-powered candles can be substituted in lanterns for real ones. Another easy way of adding lighting is with solar lights, no wiring involved. It seems technology is really improving at a rapid clip in this field, and there are some really pretty styles now, unlike the clunkers of a decade ago.
Fall is a season full of beauty, and it’s so nice to have some cool fresh air again. I hope you can find some time to get out and enjoy what Mother Nature is giving us. Please let me know what is inspiring you this season. Happy gardening!
I have family and friends in real estate and am a bit of a real estate junkie myself, so I love keeping up with what’s important to maximize the value of one’s house. I have just read a fantastic newsletter sent by a very top-notch realtor friend, Kim. Her newsletter had an article regarding how much appearance and quality landscaping can improve the overall value of your home – about 15%! In very simple math, that’s $150,000 for a $1 million home. That’s a lot of $$$$$! If that doesn’t make you want to run for a shovel, I don’t know what would!
It would not surprise anyone to know that neat and tidy are prerequisites before putting a house on the market, but why wait? Why not enjoy the beauty all along? Most of what Kim discussed is quite simple — even those people who consider themselves “plant killers” with “black thumbs” can do these things which translate into BIG dividends down the road. With no further ado, here they are:
1. Wash down your front walk, front porch, mailbox and polish address numbers.
2. Put out a new front door mat.
3. Put a fresh coat of paint or stain on your front door.
4. Replace all dead bushes, and trim others which are in need.
5. Edge and mulch existing gardens.
6. Mow grass.
7. Place a seasonal pot of flowers next to the door for a splash of color.
I would also add this: When choosing your plants, think about your design. Most people who would be potential buyers are likely to first drive by to check out the neighborhood. If a “drive by” takes no more than 15 to 20 seconds, an uncomplicated design that draws your eye to the front door is best. It has been proven that great landscaping will not only sell a house for more money, but also up to six weeks faster!
Here’s another interesting tip from the newsletter for making your property look more spacious: Put a flower bed in each of the corners of your lot. It makes the center of your property appear larger.
These are the basics for making the most of your curb appeal. None of them are hard to do, and just think of how much you have just increased the value of your property! Now you can just sit back and enjoy!
A big thank you to Kim Peele of Century 21 Alexandria office for the inspirational newsletter, and to Tracy Whitley of Long & Foster Glen Allen Office for the photo.