Are you ready for a 2022 project?

The Mount, Home of Edith Wharton, is an inspirational garden for homeowners everywhere.
The Mount offers plenty of garden inspiration that could be scaled to a smaller property. (photo by Maureen Robinson)

As I work on 2022 projects, I’ve been looking back through this year’s photos. Nearly every trip I take involves a garden visit at some point! It’s a great way to add a little structure to a vacation, and there are always places to see if you do a little research. This summer we had a laid-back getaway to the Berkshires where we spent a really nice afternoon at The Mount, former home of Edith Wharton. It’s a traditional layout which I always enjoy- easy to walk through, easy to “read”, and easy to visualize on a smaller scale. (As with so many other gardens, I saw a lot of native plants starting to sneak in to the palette. I especially liked the shorter Joe Pye Weed at the back of the border, maybe Eupatorium purpureum ‘Little Joe’).

Are you feeling inspired by gardens you’ve seen to plan a 2022 project at your own home? If so, I’m currently working with clients for Spring 2022 installations, or possibly winter hardscape projects. Maybe we can work on your project together.

It’s Your Garden…

Photo of Putting Green
If golf is your passion, why not turn an unused space into a putting green? Installation by Great American Landscapes Inc

Do What you Wanna Do!

One of the first things we discuss at your consultation is what you’d like to do in your garden, aka “the program.” Some people don’t really want to do much, they just want things to look good. Others aren’t really sure, but they assume they’ll want to eat outside once in a while and have a place to sit. And still others know exactly what they’d like to do, but might not think their vision is justified or possible. And to that I say, it’s your garden! If the budget allows, it should be exactly what you want it to be.

Your Garden

It’s such a privilege to have a little piece of earth. What do you want to do with yours? I love a consultation that turns into a brainstorming session of dream scenarios! And if we can dream it up, there’s a good chance we can build it. Moat, anyone?

Let’s discuss!

Thriving in 2021

Happy New Year!

I love turning over the calendar to January, even during “normal” years. There’s nothing like the feeling of a fresh start. This year I’m looking forward to creating many more beautiful gardens with my wonderful clients, starting immediately!

That’s right, landscaping has been booming in our DC Metro area since many very fortunate people have been working from the comfort of their homes. As a result, the usual winter break is not happening this year. We will be installing hardscape any time the weather permits, with planting picking up in March-April.

If you want to do work this spring, start planning now.

I say this every year, but I especially urge you this year to get the design process started in order to avoid disappointment. If you’re dreaming of a Mother’s Day Brunch in the garden, it’s time to start.

All that said, there is no urgency on my part. I’m here any time you’re ready to start thinking about your outdoor space. Send me a note sometime.

Wishing you every good thing in 2021!

Stay Warm in Your Garden Through Winter

A propane-fueled fire table is a great option. (photo Maureen Robinson)

Getting outside is essential now.

2020 has been a year of rediscovering and relishing our gardens. It’s a huge privilege to have a little piece of earth (or balcony), and going outside has been a game changer for so many of us. With that in mind and fall just around the corner, I’ve been thinking a lot about heat sources to extend the season for as long as possible. What are our options to stay warm outside?

The trusty fire pit

Fire pits have been around a long time, and you might even have one. But do you like yours and do you use it? One of the biggest drawbacks to a fire pit is waving your hands wildly every time the wind shifts and then smelling like a pile of ashes at the end of the evening. For a smokeless option, I’ve been eyeing the Solo Stove for a while now, and I have a client who swears by them. I admit I don’t love the stainless steel exterior, but they are sleek, not to mention portable. Another smokeless option is a Breeo (below). I think I’m going to splurge on one of these for our gravel area. I want my daughter to be able to have some pod friends over this fall and this seems like a good way to do it.

The Breeo 24 can stand alone or be used as an insert in a built structure.

How about a fire table?

Fire tables are a great option, giving you extra room for food and drinks along with a warming focal point. Some of the best options have a gas source, like this propane table from Woodland Direct. Just be sure to check the details on the tank- sometimes it fits under the table, and sometimes it stands separately and you’ll want to think about where you’re going to hide it. (Pro tip- if you’re having a patio built, ask your contractor to bury a conduit to run the gas line through to another area, e.g. behind a seat wall.)

Fire table from Woodlands Direct

Stay warm with portable heaters

When you want heat without flames, a great option is a portable heater. These range in size from table top to free-standing. They generally run on propane, though some are electric. Here’s a good article I just saw with a few options.

But wait- how about a heated floor pad?!

Here’s what I’m definitely adding to my screened porch- a heated floor mat. Why didn’t I think of this before? With a mat like this outside, I’ll be able to stay warm from my feet up. They come in many sizes and are typically used to melt ice on walkways, porches, etc. You can simply hide one under an outdoor area rug if you don’t want the utilitarian look. Oh, you don’t have an outdoor rug? Splurge!

Outdoor rug from Perigold
Perigold has a great selection of outdoor rugs, and just about anything else you need.

Are you ready for fall and winter outside? I’ll let you know how my new additions are working out, and I’d love to help you set up your space, too. Have a project you’re thinking about? Let’s work on it together.

Using Pottery in the Garden

I’ve been thinking a lot about garden accessories lately, especially pottery. The term accessories seems to trivialize these items, though, while I’m thinking of them as the backbone of a design.

A typical strategy for planting is to work big to small, often starting with the trees, then the shrubs, and so on. In this approach, a large evergreen is often an anchoring piece, with shrubs creating outlines, and special plants with unique features serving as accents. The drawback in this plan is that unfortunately, sometimes plants fail, and that’s where man-made objects offer something unique.

Pottery is a simple and affordable way to bring made objects into your garden.

It’s not unusual to see large objects like a sculpture or pergola featured in a design, but more humble and accessible objects like planters have much to offer, as well. Depending on size and form, they can fill a myriad of roles and generally occupy space in a useful way.

Photo of Whichford Pottery Rhubarb Jar
Whichford Pottery Rhubarb Jar is a focal point in my garden- and fills a rabbit-eaten hole.

What can containers do for the garden?

  • Allow you to express your personal style;
  • Provide structure year round, i.e. a reliable form that won’t let you down when aphids or powdery mildew show up;
  • Elevate a simple plant into a specimen;
  • Serve as a focal point, a repeated motif, or a big jumble of planted exuberance.

If you have the opportunity (we can find one!), don’t hesitate to invest in pieces that will help define your landscape for years to come. Not sure where to start? I can help.

Pennoyer Newman
The Italian Terrace Collection

Hey, June!

Bouquet of Peonies
Few things are nicer than a vase of peonies.

Well, what’s going on?

It’s been months since I’ve posted, and the world is a different place than it was when I shared my first 2020 installation back in February. Did things came to a stop for you, or have you barely kept up with all your Covid-19 responsibilities? Here at the blue house we’ve all soldiered on in our own work spaces.

Everyone wants their home to be a beautiful safe haven.

I’ve had so many calls this spring. Many people in our area are fortunate to have job security. Apparently, as they look out their home office windows, they’re thinking- wow, we should get some landscape work done! I’m grateful for that and I hope I’m helping to make beautiful places where people can feel happy and safe. I know I’ve been so glad to have my own little garden that I can stroll through with my coffee, noting whatever new thing is happening that day.

What are you planning for June?

Will you brave a road trip, or, dare I say, a meal out at a restaurant? Plant some veggies or get back to the farmers’ market? Maybe you’d like to work on a landscape project together. I’m designing every day and I expect to be managing installations through the summer. If you’re reading this in June, now is a great time for us to talk about fall projects. Or, maybe you just want to breathe and be happy with what you already have.

I hope you’re well and you know where to find me.

Leaping into Spring Installations

Photo of patio
Almost ready for spring- just add leaves, perennials and cushions. And sun.

Today is February 29th, which means I have an extra day to relish wrapping up a new patio installation before spring even begins. My clients contacted me on January 6th, and we broke ground on February 14th- a very good progression that is only possible in the off-season.

What did we do?

The clients moved into their home last fall and knew right away that the layout wasn’t going to work for them. There was a small patio at the far back corner of the lot, and no patio space immediately behind the back doors.

Once we identified the program, we quickly arrived at the new design. We simply flipped the layout so that the outdoor entertaining space is immediately adjacent to the house, while the remainder of the yard is now play space. The homeowners already had furniture that needed to fit within the new patio outline, so the size and shape easily fell into place.

A few details:

  • The patio is Full Color Pennsylvania Flagstone, a classic choice that works almost everywhere;
  • We buried conduit with extension cords to both sides of the patio for the fountain and future string lights;
  • We placed the existing fountain in the garden bed for an integrated look and a bit of white noise between the seating area and the neighbor’s deck;
  • Small river rock and reused stone steppers connect the patio to the side gate;
  • Three single-leader Amelanchier ‘Autumn Brilliance’ trees line the back fence;
  • Other shrubs include Distylium ‘Vintage Jade’, Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Snow Queen’, Camellia sasanqua;
  • Lastly, we’ll add perennials in April when they’re at least breaking dormancy in their containers.

Next Steps for Spring?

Now we watch the plants leaf out, add perennials and cushions- oh, and the house is getting painted!- and start taking beautiful photos!

Do you have spring projects? Let’s work on them together.

Plan now for spring landscape installations

We’re already starting our 2020 spring installations!

When you think of being outdoors, your mind might go to summer, but for landscapers, there are 2 main seasons- spring and fall, with summer largely a time of maintenance and watering. Why is that?

1. It’s better to plant in milder temperatures.

Spring and fall are the best times to put new plants in the ground- the temperatures are milder, meaning they won’t be immediately frozen or scorched, and it’s easier to keep up with the watering. We generally find the best plant selection in spring (especially perennials), but a fall planting allows plants to settle in and go dormant over the winter.

2. It’s easier to build in milder temperatures.

Mild temperatures mean the ground isn’t frozen solid or hard as a rock from drought. Almost all outdoor construction involves soil disturbance, so this is an important factor. That said, mild winters are a great time for construction, and in fact, I started my first installation on February 14th.

3. It’s easier to work in milder temperatures.

Have you ever driven past a job site and thought, “I’m glad I’m not out there sweating?” Enough said.

We can’t install without a plan!

All this is to say, if you’re thinking about a new landscape installation this spring, it’s time to start your design. Check out my FAQs for some basic information and let’s work on it together!

Top Vote Getter for Landscape Design?!

Landscape Design

Well, this is embarrassing.

About 6 weeks ago an email popped up in my inbox from Arlington Magazine informing me that I was a Top Vote Getter for the the category of Landscape Design. I didn’t even know we were voting for that, so I was completely surprised. My first thoughts- I knew I should have had professional photos taken this year!! Should I get a new haircut, or at least a car magnet?! Now I really need to keep my garden tidy!

Seriously, I’m so appreciative that someone would have taken the time to vote for me. In turn, I’ve taken the opportunity to reflect on my business a little bit, and I made a list of priorities for 2020.

Here’s what I want to do:

  • To be absolutely clear on my process. I want you to know what our working relationship is going to be with a minimum of surprises (preferably none).
  • To ask myself after every client interaction- was I listening? Have I made it clear that I heard what my client said? Sometimes I have extensive follow-up conversations in my head that need to be distilled and communicated.
  • To look for extra functionality in every landscape design. Did I really consider harvesting the rainwater, making the seat wall a storage bench, using plants as screens or visual cues? And can our new landscape be not just functional but also regenerative? (Oh great, a new buzz word?)

How about you? Do you have landscape design goals for 2020?

If you’re ready to invest in your outdoor space, congratulations! You will not regret it. Maybe we can work on it together.