Water, Water, Everywhere: Recycle Water in the Garden

Green Living Tips – Rain Barrels!

Landscape Architects have been on the cutting edge of combining sustainable and green trends with land use planning for decades.  Now there are numerous  affordable green garden steps  you  can take in your own garden spaces that will greatly impact our environment.  Today  our Green Living tip falls into the Water Conservation category;  recycle water  by adding a rain barrel!  

Rain barrels come in all shapes, sizes and colors, and the uses are limitless — you can attach a standard garden hose to your barrel, or you can attach a soaker hose.  You can also use your rainwater in your watering cans for your containers and pots.   Because we love added bonuses here at GardenWise — here’s a good one: rain barrels  reduce the amount of water around the foundations of your home! 
Adding a rain barrell to your landscape is a pretty simple project that can be completed in a single day.  Did you know a typical 1/2″ rain storm will fill a 50 gallon rain barrel, while a 1″ rainstorm produces 1/2 gallon of water per square foot of roof area?  That’s a whole lot of water to recycle,  and a lot less water you’ll be paying for from you local water authority.    There are many rain barrel options to be found at garden centers an online.  A company I work with, Gutter Supply,  has a lot of options to choose from that will allow you to  seamlessly incorporate a rain barrel into your  landscape design.  If you think it’ s unsightly to have a barrel in your landscape, keep in mind it’s pretty easy to design a hidden area for your barrell, such as this bamboo structure in a garden corner. 

Plants that Thrive in Clay-Heavy Soil

GardenWise on Clay-Heavy Survivors

Some areas are lucky to have clay-heavy soil, something I think about often as I work often in the clay heavy soil of Northern Virginia.   I use the word lucky because I have the opportunity to share some of the most beautiful clay heavy soil survivors, with blooms that will 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.

Shade and Fruit Trees are GardenWise

Environment and Energy Saving Tips — Plant Trees    

A thoughtful way to live a greener life is to make your landscape eco-friendly and  plant trees.  The addition of a tree in your land- scape is an immediate  green step you can take as trees absorb CO2 and other dangerous gasses while they replenish the atmosphere with oxygen.

Canopy trees, and Deciduous trees that  grow tall and full in the summer, will add shade to your home and help it stay cool in the summer months.  They will also allow your home to absorb warm sun light in winter.   In  addition to being good for the environment, adding  these trees to your landscape is an  energy saving step that will lower the cost of cooling and heating your home.   

Fruit bearing trees will also absorb dangerous gasses while replenishing oxygen,  and a plus is your garden becomes more  productive.   While  enjoying your favorite fruits and saving a little money at the grocery store, you can also  donate any extra fruit to those in need. Not only will you help others in your immediate community, but you’ll show by example how  Green Living and the simple act of planting some trees can give back, both locally and globally.

Adding New Color is GardenWise

New Colors Can  Transform your Garden  

An exciting and inexpensive way to bring the “pop” back into your garden spaces is to add new colors to your existing color pallette for a nice dramatic change.  Each winter we look forward to new and interesting color ideas for the upcoming year.  

There have been new Petunia colors  over  the past couple of years that have quickly become a staple in many gardens, and one in particular, the eye-catching   Sophistica Blue Morn, which was hailed by Better Homes & Gardens as a real show stopper.   It’s a flower that is easy to plant and care for, that will add wonderful bright color to your garden spaces.  

I also liked some other Petunia offerings  a coupel of years ago, including the Rhythm and BluesSupertunia Pretty Much Picasso , Famous Violet Picotee and the Shock Wave Denim Petunias.  Be sure to take a look at the Tex Mex Hot Pink Geranium, which is one of the more  heat-resistant Geraniums. 


Before and After in Georgetown

A Smaller Urban Garden Challenge in D.C.

When transforming a small empty area into a usable space, select a theme or style as you would for any garden, but think small scale in its development.  When buying plants, shrubs and trees, look for the words “dwarf”, “compact” and  “miniture”  attached to your favorites.  Less  is  more,  and  a  theme provides a single focus which allows you to enjoy the landscape as a whole instead of being distracted by out–of–place  details.  Click here  to  see a  before  and  after  of  a  “zen”  garden  I  designed  and  installed  which  introduces peace, tranquility and intimacy  to a previously unused, small and barren space. The water feature we installed surrounded by river rock serves as a  great  focal  point which introduces you to the space before leading you in a counter clockwise direction through the garden and the intimate seating and entertaining areas.    

vines, Vines, VINES!

GardenWise on Adventures 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.

The Importance of Choosing the Right Trees

I’m a big fan of saving old and chereished trees at all costs. I’m also big on incorporating older trees into a landscape design. Attached is a link to an “ASK MARTHA” column by Martha Stewart in which she writes about her love affair with trees — Something I can really relate to. She discusses picking trees that are appealing to her, as well as those necessary for foliage color and practical functions, such as thos taht break the wind and serve as privacy screening. Below is the story in its entirety – please always remember that trees, especially mature trees, make the best garden focal points and should be saved at all costs.

Ask Martha Column
http://www2.timesdispatch.com/lifestyles/2011/mar/26/tdhome02-choose-trees-that-work-best-with-your-lan-ar-928826/<a href="

Don’t Cry For Me Weeping Redbud

The Weeping Redbud

The Weeping Redbud is a gorgeous and fascinating tree — it’s a favorite.  They are hardy in zones 5-8 and actually require a little cold weather to encourage budding. They can handle partial shade but prefer sun — and be sure to plant the tree in well drained soil.  A Weeping Redbud tree does not grow very well in hot temperatures – if possible, plant it under the shade of other trees and use organic fertilizer for the best results.

A small tree, it produces beautiful magenta-pink flowers in spring that will make any passerby stop and take a closer look as the trunk will twist and weep into an umbrella shape that will be different on each tree, no two are the same! Weeping Redbud does not like to be transplanted and they thrive with sun. Give yourself the gift of a Weping Redbud, you’ll thank yourself for many years to come.

GardenWise on Plant Nutrients

We found this great story from Feb. and wanted to share some of these tips on plant nutrients. 

When it comes down to it, most old-fashioned gardeners have plant care imprinted on their fingers. We  add water as needed and allow oxygen to enter the soil by not compacting it. Certain natural soil amendments address specific needs: dried blood or cottonseed meal produce quick, nitrogen-fueled growth, for example, and bone meal provides phosphorus for healthy roots.

If you buy fertilizer labeled with the letters N, P, and K, in percentage amounts, you know how much nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium that fertilizer contains. Those are the three soil elements that plants need the most for growth. It is also good to know that calcium (Ca), sulfur (S) and magnesium (Mg) must be present in significant quantities. Required in trace amounts are certain micronutrients such as iron (Fe). And of course, in order to survive, plants need oxygen (O), hydrogen (H) and carbon (C), which they get from water (H2O) and from carbon dioxide (CO2) in the air.

Read more  from Barbara Damrosch on plant nutrients

GardenWise Solutions to Potentially Costly Problems

Take Action!

Last year I took on a project to repitch and reset a flagstone patio with a Belgian block border that had been installed eight years ago. Below are some “during” and “after” pictures.

The patio was built for a new construction home. After the house settled a bit, the rear patio did as well and run off water wasn’t draining away from the patio. The project was not costly yet very important to do to correct and extend the life of the patio for another decade. By solving the problem early, I saved the homewners a lot of grief and future headaches.

I don’t have to go very far to check on this project because it’s my own backyard! Yes, when my landscape architect (me!) talks, I listen. I made the corrections to our patio just in time to enjoy our garden for spring and summer. And once again our run off water is flowing freely to the surrounding landscape and drains.

If you see lingering puddles of water in your landscape, there may be a larger problem looming on the horizon. If you act in a reasonable amount of time, an inexpensive solution can extend the life of your beloved landscape and prevent larger and more expensive problems down the road.