Memories of Metropolitan Home

Amy Goldman’s Favorite Heirloom’s

I was thumbing through the May 2009 issue of the late, great   Metropolitan Home and found the “Seed Saver” feature which shared Gardener  Amy Goldman, an aficionada of heriloom fruits & vegetables, and her favorite varities from her half acre plot in New York.  It’s a wonderful feature, and since it’s the season, I had to scan & share with a close up of the text, below.   




DIYLife’s Gift for Earth Day

Free Seed Packets from DIYLife are GardenWise!

We saw this offer on and couldn’t resist sharing the info!  FREE  wildflower seeds for the first 1,000 people who list an item on Diggerslist.   We could recap DIYLife’s story, but we just wouldn’t do them justice, so here in their own words on the GardenWise blog . . .  

“Need that extra push to get rid of those old kitchen cabinets, windows or a loveseat? Here’s the perfect incentive: If you’re one of the first 1,000 people to post an item for sale on DiggersList before the end of the month, the site will thank you with a package of seeds sent right to your door.

We love everything about this plan because good stuff just keeps coming:  Once you post the items, people can sign up to buy them and place them in good homes — places that will actually use that bamboo flooring sitting in your garage.  That leaves you with money in your pocket (your online bank account) and those seeds for you plant anywhere in your house or garden.

Feeling extra eco-ambitious? We dare you to invest the money you make from the sale to buy earth-friendly products like green outdoor furniture, lighting and paint.”

Thanks, DIYLife!  And as Whoopi Goldberg used to say in those old MCI commercials, “…ain’t no better savings than free, honey!”

Think August in April

August Color for Your Garden

Nothing can ruin a garden experience faster than the August heat and a potential lack of water for your plantings and containers.  It’s easy to forget how often to water in the August heat.  Plan now for August, the toughest summer month on your garden.  It’s also a great time to take a closer look at your gardens and add color with shrubs that flower in August, such as panicle hydrangea types or rose of Sharon.  Perennials, which flower the most in August include Goldstrum rudbeckia, Chinese astilbe types, tube clematis and many hostas.

And remember, keep watering your gardens throughout the summer months!    If you think ahead now, the summer month you will spend the most time outdoors, August,  will be the best ever! 


Outdoor Entertainment Areas

Heat Up Your Outdoor Space!

Transforming an outside space into a cozy and intimate area to gather with family and friends is easier than you may think.  I call these intimate garden areas “cocoon spaces,” which became a trend in 2007 as the uncertain  economy  prompted  home- owners to spend more time at home.   Cocoon spaces are safe and secure intimite garden areas, and in addition to giving home- owners an affordable and inspiring new garden space to escape to with friends, they can increase a home’s value by as much as 15%.  

The cocoon space trend continues into 2011, but this year we’re turning up the heat!  Because of recent  technologies and other new options, smaller outdoor kitchens and fireplaces have become easier and much more affordable to install.  A small and thoughtfully designed outdoor kitchen area gives your home a new heart and gathering spot, while an outdoor fireplace adds a multi-seasonal  cozy spot for intimate conversations with family & friends. 

An added bonus?  By using a mix of recycled stone, and hardscape materials purchased from local artists and quarries, you can take a new “green” step in your garden space while supporting local businesses.  Take it outside this year, and enjoy your garden spaces!

Vines and Climbers

A GardenWise Adventure with Vines 

Vines can play a key role in  a  garden space.   These  wonderful and adventurous climbing plants create vertical interest as they wrap themselves around garden elements, such as gazebos, arbors  and trellises, adding new dimensions and important focal points. They can also soften  architecture and disguise areas that aren’t fully developed.  Strategically placed, vines can also hide areas that are out of our control, such as a  neighbor’s unsightly yard!
One of my favorites, clematis had large and showy flowers, and is a real show stopper.  Another favorite is trumpet vine with its red and orange tubular flowers, which is also native to the greater DC area.  An added bonus?  Trumpet Vine  attracts hummingbirds, always  awelcome guest in my garden areas.   They prefer full sun and fertile, well-drained soil. 
If  there are no architectural elements in your garden, vines, such as clematis, can also be used as ground cover, which can replace some lawn areas, giving you an additional “green” garden step that will help you save money on watering.

Landscape Architecture and Small Spaces in DC

Landscape Architecture Month

To continue celebrating Landscape Architecure month, we’re posting some  excerpts  from  an  interview  Mark  did  with  reporter  Jay  Bildstein about  Landscape Architecture trends, designing roof top spaces, and how landscpae architecture can increase a home’s value, among other topics.  

Jay: If somebody from New York City, seeing you on television, seeing your work on HGTV on “Curb Appeal,”  if they said, “Mark you’re the genius, you know, you’re the guru. I want to fly you up to New York to design my very small 300 square foot terrace outside of my two bedroom apartment in Manhattan,” could you then with your experience dealing with these more confined spaces, get up there and say this is what we’re going to do, this is how we’re going to blend the look in, as well as the view from your building.

Mark: Oh most definitely. I worked on a similar type of space in Arlington, VA, which is a mile from Washington, DC. The space has incredible views to the National Mall, the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial from the balcony. It’s a very tight linear space, but in this case it was important to have every detail count. A lot of the plantings had to be put in large planters, so it was important for the pots, or planters, to have a one of a kind look. It’s also has two very different water features which are elements that make the space so distinct and unforgettable.   It’s very important in a small space to have everything be cohesive so there aren’t too many elements going on.

Jay: So let me ask you,  by having in an expert like yourself  involved, can homeowners beautify their home, and in beautifying their home, especially in a downturn real estate market, maybe increase the value of their home for a relatively modest investment and bring up the value of their home compared to let’s say homes in their neighborhood that haven’t been professionally landscaped? 

Mark: Oh, yes.  I’ve designed numerous gardens that have been featured in real estate brochures, showing that they’re considered part of the livig space; it’s particularly important in urban or city gardens to have these little oasises that serve as an extension of the house.  An escape into a quiet and relaxing intimate garden area .  It’s been proven a minimum of 10% and as much 15% of the house’s worth could be put into landscaping and you’ll definitely see the return on your investment.

Pruning Hydrangeas

Here are some easy guidelines for pruning some of the most popular hydrangeas, which  will make you so glad you turned on your computer today! If there is one thing about shrubs that confuses some gardenenrs it’s knowing when and how to prune them. One wrong move can make you lost your interest.  When to prune hydrangeas basically depends on whether it blooms on growth made last year or new growth made during the current year. Hydrangeas generally begin blooming in early summer and lose steam by midsummer, though occasional blooms may appear in late summer. To reduce the risk of removing newer buds, just prune as the flowers begin to fade. Often, the earlier you get it done after bloom, the quicker the shrub can recover, producing more and larger blooms for next season.’s Marie Iannotti has some excellent tips, which you can find here.     

Gardens Gone Wild!

How Thristy Are Your Plants? 

There was a great Southern Living feature that I need to run because it had so much great information on plants and their water  needs.   Pamela  Crawford, an expert on growing beautiful flowers while saving water, money and time, ranks nine popular plants according to their individual water needs.   Teetotalers — those stalwarts never take a drink, Moderate Drinkers  who require water 3x a week, and Problem Drinkers who require watering almost every day.  Which plants do you have, and which will you introduce this year?  Keep in mind, by adding Teetotalers, you can save money on your water bills while updating your garden space. 

Click below to enlarge the picture.




Larkspur – A Late Spring Bloomer 

If you didn’t sow Larkspur seed in October for flowering in late spring, no worries.  You can buy the plants at your local gardening center.  Larkspur (Delphinium consolida,) which symbolizes an open heart, tends to be a bit fussy, and I’ve not had much luck in the DC-area.  But if you have success, Larkspur is a beautiful addition to any garden.   And for those born in July, this is your birth flower! Each color has a different meaning: the color white symbolizes joy;  the purple symbolizes sweetness: and the pink flowers = fickleness.  There is no better personal touch to your garden space than Larkspur if you’r e a July baby.  

I would be remiss if I didn’t  include in this post that all parts of Larkspur are poisonous.  Please be very careful about where you decide to include Larkspur in your landscape. 

Organic Gardening Tips

Organic Gardening

It’s important not to get caught up in thinking an organic garden is out of your reach.  Some very inexpensive and simple steps will have you on your way.  Remember, an organic garden is a garden that is cared for with a more natural approach without the assistance of chemicals and pesticides. 

Companion plants area a great way to repel pests.  Plant tomatoes near cabbage — the pests that love to nibble on your cabbage will be repelled by the tomatoes.  Another companion duo?  Radishes and spinach — the radish will attract the pests from the spinach, yet the damage done above the ground won’t affect the radish below the soil.   

Lady bugs will also take care of some unwanted garden pests, and you can attract them with parsley and dill, along with other nectar producing plants.

If you need to take a more aggressive route to ridding your garden of pests, use an organic bug spray, such as insecticidal soap.  This soap has been used for centuries as a safe and chemical free pest repellent.

If you pests have four legs, and it’s a deer, in the end the best way to go is to replace your plantings with deer-resistant varities.  Ask your local Cooperative Extension service for a list of plants that are locally deer-proof. 

If squirrels and chipmunks are regular visitors, remember they like to keep a look out for enemies from the protection of their burrow entrance. If you establish a tall groundcover to block that view, they’ll seek shelter else- where.  An added benefit to groundcovers?  They’ll  provide beautiful colors and textures to your spaces and help retain moisture in the soil.   Creeping thyme and Creeping Jenny are good choices for sunny spots, and for shadier areas,  tiny creeping mints such as Mentha requienii will do well.  Black Eyed Susan are a good choice for those with clay heavy soil.  Some nice low-water  choices include Trailing Yellow Dalea  and Trailing lantana. 

These are just a few simple tips that will help you transform your garden space into an Organic Garden.