Go Down in a Sea of Sea Holly

A flower we need to share with everyone today is great for any sunny garden and areas with well-drained soil — ‘Big Blue’ Sea Holly. It’s drought and deer resistant, and grow as tall as three feet. Rabbits have appeared in much larger numbers this year in many of the Northern Virginia neighborhoods closer to DC, such as Cherrydale, and the Sea Holly is also rabbit resistant, so plant away everyone in NOVA! The silvery-blue flowers, which bloom in mid-summer, will take your breath away when they’re in full bloom. I pair my Sea Holly with Yarrow and Balloon Flower, pictured to the right, and they’re a trio of old friends I can’t wait to see in my home garden each year. Here’s a pic I took last year at home. When they’re in bloom with such wonderful colors and textures, I smile every time I see them, knowing that summer has arrived and will be staying around for a while.

Feed the Soil

Feed the Soil not the Plant.  Plant health depends on healthy roots; healthy roots depend on healthy soil for air, water and nutrients delivered in forms plants can use. Soil that is rich in organic matter, aka compost, is rich in nutrients and in the life that makes those nutrients available to the plants (bacteria, worms, etc.) .

Ornamental plants in good soil usually do not need added fertilizer, and crop plants that do need extra food need less of it when it’s released slowly by friendly soil from things such as rock powders, kelp and green manures.

Water Features and Fountains Will Rock Your GardenWise

Water Fountains Make an Impact

It’s the second day of spring, and I’m thinking about water features!  There’s nothing more inspiring than a well designed water feature blended into the natural environment to transform  your   garden  into  a  destination.  Let’s  revisit an informative  LOWE’s story by Jake Fowler  from  last  year on water feature – water fountain trends that continue with full force into 2011.    


They Thrive in Clay

GardenWise on Clay-Heavy Survivors

I work often in the clay heavy soil of Northern Virginia, which means I have the  opportunity to share  some of the most beautiful clay soil survivors, with blooms that will take your breath away.  Blue Cornflower, a Kennedy favorite, and more are guaranteed to take your breath away.  Below are some suggestions for those with clay-heavy soil, beginning with the irresistable Blue Cornflower.

Blue Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus) These brilliant flowers are what memories are made of — rare among “blue” flowers as they are actually blue.  They are delicately fragrant and drought tolerant.  This flower has a lot of history — it’s the national flower of Estonia,  was used in Pharaoh Tutankhamunand’s funeral wreath, and was President Kennedy’s favorite flower, worn by John Kennedy Jr. at his wedding to honor his father. 

Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) These plants (herbs, actually) do very well in clay-heavy soil, are drought tolerant,  and come in a variety of colors — the  purple blooms will stop you in your tracks.  They will break up soil as they grow, and are a favorite among those who practice herbal health as they have been known to boost the immune system. 

Daylily ( Hemerocallis) A must grow for anyone with clay-heavy soil, they do well in a wide range of soil conditions, come in a variety of wonderful colors, and are rugged.  They also establish quickly, grow vigorously, and survive winters with little care.  

Liriope (Liriope muscari) With spikes of tiny violet-blue flowers, this grass-like plant is named after the nymph Liropie, mother of Narcissus.  The plant is a member of the lily family, has dark green, ribbonlike foliage that  recurves toward the ground, and does very well in soil with clay.   

Coreopsis Verticillata or Tickseed is a plant that is very tolerant of clay and its disc florets and ray florets are bright yellow that will make you smile from ear to ear, even on a not so sunny Fall day. 

• Black Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia) is the Maryland state flower and a cheery perennial with bright yellow petals that surround black centers. It’s a striking flower that does very well in clay soil. Plant them en masse and enjoy the show!

Shasta Daisy (Leucanthemum x superbum) With its classic daisy appearance of white petals around a yellow disc, they are attractive to bees and birds, and are drought-tolerant.  They do well in clay-heavy soil and have cheery blooms.

DC Garden Design Firm GardenWise on Caring for Hyacinths

The main maintenance task for hyacinths is called deadheading. Deadheading is simply pinching off old blooms to encourage new growth and transfer energy from making seeds. However, if you bought a self-sowing variety do not deadhead because you will lose the seeds.

The only other concerns for hyacinth bulbs is the occasional animal or rodent. If you notice missing bulbs and see signs of them being dug up, put up a barrier or fence to discourage intruders. If no signs of digging around missing bulbs are apparent then you may have a rodent problem.  In this case you can protect  the bulb by simply digging it up and putting a wire mesh in the hole to surround the bulb.

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Southern Living Ranks Popular Plants By Their Water Needs

How Thirsty Are Your Plants?

Author and gardener Pamela Crawford is profiled by Steve Bender  in the April 2010 issue of Southern Living.  Pamela is an expert on growing beautiful flowers while saving water, money and time.  In the profile, Pamela provides Southern Living readers with a ranking of nine popular plants according to their water needs , Teetotalers (“these stalwarts never take a drink”), Moderate Drinkers (water 3x a week), and Problem Drinkers (water 6x a week). 

Click below to enlarge the picture.

DC’s GardenWise on Shade Garden Favorites


One of my all time favorites, and a recent top choice by  GardenWise as a “must-have” Fall 2010 garden favorite, is Toad Lily (Tricyrtis.)   As I earlier wrote, Toad Lily, with its  beautiful orchid-like white flowers, purple flecks and graceful arching growth habit, compels anyone who gazes upon it to stop and take a closer look.  

Better Homes & Gardens lists Toad Lily as one of their best perennials for shade, and I’m thrilled that more attention is pointed in this fantastic perennial’s directon.  Make your shade explode with interest and color by adding the unforgetable beauty of Toad Lily.

Move Your Life Outdoors!

Outside Living Rooms

Ease of movement and flow are essential when connecting indoor and outdoor spaces. Outside rooms  designed for relaxation and recreation will add new living areas to your property whiole increasing your home’s value by as much as 15%.  Not a bad return on a project meant to help you make the most of your property — which  you already own!  Designing and installing  fresh, exciting and timeless landscape architectural designs that remain functional are key to the spaces I create for clients.     

This week we’re going to explore outside living possibilities.  First up?    Outdoor “living rooms,” which became popular after the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks.  These spaces gained even more popularity in 2007 as an uncertain economy became a regular presence in our lives.  I design a smaller version of these spaces that I call “cocoon” spaces which comfort and inspire.    

Outdoor living rooms are the second most popular home remodeling project after remodeling of a kitchen.  These spaces can include fireplaces or firepits, a cooking station and comfortable seating.  They can also reflect your own distinct personality while providing a welcome getaway for family and friends.  Kitchens add value to any home, and an outside kitchen will most definitely increase your home’s value.  

It’s important to work with a professional on this type of living space.  Landscape architects are educated in how to design these types of outdoor living areas, properly locate and install them, and take all of the architectural elements into considerations (grading, etc.) so there will be no problems down the road.  



“Organic” is Easily Achieved

Don’t Be Intimidated By “Organic” 

It’s time to demystify the word  “organic” because it’s 2013, and growing organic produce and  transforming a garden space into an “organic” garden is easily achieved.   When gardeners and other folks refer to organic produce or organically grown veggies and fruit, they’re describing items grown in a garden space that has replaced pesticides with natural substitutes, and building soil life so plants are healthier.  Anyone can grow their own organic veggies and fruit in any sized space, and best of all, this is a simple DIY transformation that doesn’t take much effort and yields healthier and delicious results!    

For those who desire a more green and healthy approach to your gardening adventure, check out Doug Hall’s blog over at Organic Gardening, ORGANIC GARDENING SOLUTIONS  .  Doug has great tips and ideas for those seeking a more organic approach, and he covers so many timely topics.  It’s always a great read. 

GardenWise on Outdoor Living

New Entries Create Outdoor Living

Ease of movement and flow are essential when connecting your indoor and outdoor spaces.  Think of your outside space as a room, and what’s the first question that comes to mind?  “How will I get there?”  This can easily be achieved,  especially in an older home, with a few additions.   Replace a solid door with  a door with glass,  add some wooden stairs, and your journey begins.  Create functional  areas for entertaining, focal points with water, and smaller areas for  intimate  conversation.   

And be sure to make it personal!   This is one of those times where it is all about you.  Add meaningful touches to your space.  What were your favorite flowers growing up?  Which trees do you remember at your  grandparent’s home?  Which flowers were used on  your wedding day? 

Personal touches with visual touchstones to memories and past experiences will create a thoughtful and intimate space for you to enjoy for many years.