GardenWise with Edible Flower Power!

A Tasty & Fun Garden Project – Edible Flowers! 

I think the best first garden project for Spring should always be a fun small side project that you can successfully complete in a short period of time that will yield quick results.  It’s  such a confidence  booster  to  have  a  great success under your belt as you prepare to undertake larger garden projects over  the  next  three seasons.  An edible garden is a great small  project to  think about for Spring that will  become a favorite gift that keeps on giving.     

It can be difficult to find edible flowers to purchase, but they’re easy to grow yourself.  And there’s no greater personal touch when cooking for  family  and  friends  than  adding  edible flowers grown right  in  your  backyard.   Lavender, Marigolds, Thyme — they’re all edible!  For  the  freshest  tasting  goodies, your edible flowers should ideally be harvested in the cool, morning hours. If you’re not going to use the flowers immediately, cut  them  with  the  stems intact and keep them in water.  You can also store them in damp paper towels in the refrigerator.

Some tasty edible garden delights:

Lavender
Lavender has a sweet floral flavor, with a hint of lemon and citrus. Use as a garnish for sorbets or ice cream. Lavender also goes well with savory dishes.

Violas
Violas give a sweet perfumed flavor. The tender leaves and flowers can be eaten in a salad. Or the flowers can beautifully embellish desserts and iced drinks.

Sage
Sage flowers have a more delicate taste than the leaves, so be sure to be careful when pruning. Sage 
can be used in salads or as a garnish.

Lemon Balm
Lemon balm is indigenous to Southern Europe but is now cultivated worldwide. 
Lemon balm flowers have a gentle lemon scent and can be used as garnish.

Oregano
Oregano can be found growing wild on mountainsides of Greece and other Mediterranean countries where it is an herb of choice.  Oregano flowers can be used as you would the herb; it’s a milder version of plant’s leaf.

Marigolds
Marigold flavors range from spicy to tangy. Their sharp taste resembles saffron and the plant is sometimes referred to as poor man’s saffron. Their pretty petals can be sprinkled on soups, pasta or rice dishes, and salads.

Nasturtiums
Nasturtium blossoms have a sweet, spicy flavor similar to watercress. Their leaves add a peppery tang to salads. Use the entire flower to garnish platters, salads, and savory appetizers. Nasturtium seeds are edible as well when they are young and green and have been likened to capers when pickled.

Thyme
Like sage, thyme flowers have a milder taste than the leaves. Use as you would the herb — the flowers also make a beautiful garnish.

Compost in the City — It’s GardenWise!

(A great post today from our Fabulous office manager, Stacy Baker)

Composting in the city can be done! Whether you have a yard live in a tiny apartment with no yard, here are some interesting and fun facts about “composting in the city.”

What is composting: It is a process that occurs when microorganisms, like bacteria and fungi, digest organic matter such as leaves, grass, and food scraps. The by-products of composting are heat, water vapor, and carbon dioxide, and at the end of the process you are left with a nutrient rich, soil-like substance called com post.

Why should someone start a compost bin: Composting has a lot of great environmental, physical, chemical, and biological benefits; it reduces the amount that you throw away due to distasteful orders, and fruit flies caused by rotting food. By containing it and disposing of it on your own property you use the “green” method to convert waste into useful soil, in which you can start a garden, or add to house plants as a natural fertilizer. For those with kids, starting a bin could be a great science project.

If composting intrigues you, below is a list of materials that you will need to start your own compost.  All you need is a good mix of green and brown materials:

*One part green (coffee grounds, kitchen scraps, etc.)*Three parts brown (leaves, paper, dryer lint, wood chips, soil, and cardboard)*One air tight container*Charcoal liners to keep the smell down if you choose to compost inside your house (your choice)*Biodegradable bags to put inside the bin (your choice but comes in handy if you are composting inside your house)

If you’re lucky to have a yard, try using Tumblers for composting. They’re made out of plastic, less labor intensive, keep the materials out of site and are great for small spaces. Since this does not have contact with the ground, remember to add a shovelful of soil to the mixture to increase the diversity.

If you don’t have a yard, have no fear!  There are ways to still have a compost bin. If you are the hands on type, try our method above and create your own. If not, there may be places located near you to you set up and even collect your own compost.  In DC there’s a wonderfulcompany located at compostcab.com. 

 

Super Sexy Garden Gnomes

GardenWise on Garden Accents!

Garden accents say much about the gardener, and they can make or break a garden space.  Finding the right garden ornament can be a difficult task. 

We’ve all visited  our share of gardens that would inspire us more if it weren’t for those gnomes!   Religious  statuesbottle  trees, stones  with  inspirationsal phrasesand even garden gates; so many ideas to choose  from,  and not all choices blend as well into a landscape as others. I have a Chinese pagoda,  similar  in  structure  to  the  Sui  dynasty  7th  century  Four  Gates Pagoda, and a large hand carved Buddha head which I think  add strong  stone  elements   to  my  garden  space.  But  that  may not be where you will find your inspiration — there are so many choices! Bottom line, everyone has different ideas and motivations when it comes to garden accents, which is what makes visiting a friend’s garden space so much fun.
 
Here’s a link to a feature from  Garden & Gun magazine, “Weird Things in Your Yard”,  on finding the right garden accent/ornament
 

Here a Brick, There a Brick: Recycling Bricks

Green Hardscape Design and Install is GardenWise    

Each brick used in the above GardenWise, Inc. designed and installed garden space in Washington, D.C., was  recycled  from  the previous garden space.  Landscape Architects are paying closer attention to “green”  projects more  and  more.  Using  recycled  materials  is  one way  GardenWise  helps  our  clients  take a great “green” step when installing  a  stone or brick  design.  We  use  recycled materials whenever the chance to do so  presents  itself,  and  the  possibilities are endless:  recycled  concrete  for  paving  systems,  glass in stepping stones, recycled bricks, and crushed stone and granite to     be used in patio surfaces.       

An added bonus?  You save money! When I incorporate  larger pieces of old concrete or bricks into a  design,  the purchase and delivery costs of new materials is eliminated.

Red Prairie Coneflowers are GardenWise

Red Prairie Coneflowers & Brightly Colored Gardens

I was going to do a lengthy post today about fantastic colors for your spring garden, pointing to the Red Prairie Coneflower, pictured, which is a beautiful coneflower  that will add fantastic and eye-catching color to your garden.  You won’t be able to pass by this beauty without stopping to get a closer look each time you walk by.  

But I found a story in the Kansas City Star from this week that expresses exactly what I was going to write about by syndicated garden writer  Marty Ross, with the headline,  “Consider Color in Context for Spring Gardens.”   Marty expresses it so well, I’m going to urge you to read her story, below link, and to “Brighten up: Color is in the Forecast!”

http://www.kansascity.com/2011/03/05/2691676/consider-color-in-context-for.html

Lovely Bones are GardenWise

Late spring is a great time to take a close look at your garden to decide where you need to make some changes.  Truly memorable gardens get their character from lovely bones — benches, water features, garden accents,  sculptures, containers and planters,  stone work, arbors/pergolas, custom fences and gates, terraces, patios,  garden  lighting, and edging around  your plant beds.
 
Many first time gardeners are often surprised and discouraged when they find their  lovely  and very expensive collection of plants are nothing more than too many random plants piled together in a forgetable outdoor space.  Take the time out now to think about your garden’s bone structure.  
 
When you add architectural elements to your garden spaces that can include a bench, stone accents, an arbor, landscape lighting, a patio of flagstone, and a curving stone path to lead to your large grouping of beautiful plants, your  garden will come to life, and you’ll forever change your home life.

GardenWise project in McLean, VA

Add Natives That Require Less Water

On this 95 degree day, you may want to think about replacing your plants with more eco-friendly choices that will require less water each week.

Some plants require water almost everyday.  You don’t need to replace all of these plants, especially if they are your favorites.  But you can substitute many of these problem drinkers with attractive drought-tolerant alternatives, that will require less watering year round, which is a great green step.  Here are some examples of plants that require more water to stay away from, and some  better choices. 

You can also consider replacing some exotic plants with groups of native plants that will tolerate and thrive in your area’s year round weather conditions.  Native plants are hardy, drought resistant, low maintenance, and will save you time and money by reducing the need for pesticides, fertilizer, and water.  However, not all introduced species are bad garden choices, and some will adapt very well to your area, so you’ll need to do some research.  A big bonus to planting a variety of native plants?  They’ll provide a habitat for a variety of your favorite native wildlife, including birds and butterflies.

Go Green, Plant a Tree

Trees Create Green Living  

A thoughtful way to live a greener life is to make your landscape eco-friendly and  plant trees.  Planting a tree is one of the most immediate green steps you can take as trees absorb CO2 and other dangerous gasses while replenishing 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.   

Another group of trees to think about planting are Fruit bearing trees which will also absorb dangerous gasses while replenishing oxygen.  A big plus in adding some fruit trees to your garden space?  Your garden will become much more  productive.   While  enjoying your favorite fruits and saving a little money at the grocery store, you can also  donate any extra fruit you grow to those in need. Not only will you help others in your immediate community, but you’ll show by example how Green Living can give back, both locally and globally.

Trees and Shrubs as Privacy Screens

 AOL’s DIY Life Network is GardenWise

I worked Francesca Clarke at AOL’s  DIY Life Network on a feature story about creating green structures with trees and shrubs for privacy in your garden and outdoor spaces.  There are many options available for all budgets and timelines, depending on how soon do you need a privacy screen from a neighboring home or structure and how quickly you want to block  unwanted  views.  Pictured is a GardenWise garden in DC which includes Black Bamboo which serves as a screen.  

You can read the story in its entirety here – http://www.diylife.com/2011/04/25/privacy-fence/

I recommend to my clients if they have the space is to off-set the shrubs you use for a privacy screen and consider using different heights for a more natural affect.  Also, if a plant dies with staggered plant scheme along with the varying heights, the gap created by the dead plant is not so obvious.  The back row should have the tallest plants that will create the screen.  The middle row should have medium height plants, such as a smaller deciduous shrub such as an Annabelle Hydrangea, which will offer texture contrast and offer summer color.  The front row should be composed of your shortest plants and evergreen ground cover, such as variegated Liriope, which is grass like and has the added bonus feature of a late summer spiky lavender colored flower. Another striking affect I like is to use the purple coneflower and the Russian sage against the pendulous white blossoms of the hydrangea will be smashing.  Unity in an outside space is the best way to quickly provide a stimulating visual. 

Come-And-Come-Back Flowers are GardenWise

Flowers All Summer Long

By cutting your flowers vs. dead-heading, they’ll flower for more than double the time which will leave you with a garden space filled w/beautiful, colorful and scented blooms through summer.  Here are some of my favorites:

Crocosmia: Pictured below, adds an exotic touch to your favorite home grown arrangements.  This gladiolus relative bears clusters of bold red, orange, or yellow flowers that always seem to be the center of attention.

Yarrow: It’s beautiful and tough. In fact, this is one of the most maintenance-free perennials you can grow.  yarrow resists heat, drought, deer, and rabbits. It’s also a blooming  machine, producing flat-topped clusters of yellow, orange, red, pink, or white flowers throughout the summer.

Bearded Iris: Bearded iris (also called German iris) provides a striking vertical accent with its stiff sword-shaped leaves. Flower colors run the rainbow from deep Burgundy red to pastel pinks and yellows, to every shade of blue and violet and appear in late spring.

Blazing Star: A N.orth American native, blazing star has spikes of white, rose or purple flowers that attract butterflies; a great plant to add a vertical element to a garden.  The blooms are ideal for cutting/drying. 

Crocosmia