Some Grass is GardenWise!

Zoysia Grass Makes a Comeback

Turf magazine has a feature story on a grass that holds very fond childhood memories for me  —  Zoysia Grass.  I was  thrilled  to  talk  to writer Murray Anderson about my thoughts and experiences:  

“Zoysia is a warm-season grass native to China, Japan and Southeast Asia. It’s highly adaptable and can be grown in all types of soils from clay to sand, as well as in either acidic  or  alkaline  soils. It requires little moisture and stays green during even the hottest  days  of  summer. (GardenWise’s) Mark  White,  a  Washington,  D.C.-based  landscape architect  and  member  of  the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), describes zoysia as a “wonderful grass – beautiful, thick and lush.” He grew up sliding  on  zoysia-covered  hills in his parents’  yard  and  remembers  it  being dense  and lush,  an  ideal  lawn  to  play  on.

Read the story in its entirety here.

PS – The home featured in the magazine is my house in the Cherrydale neighborhood of  Northern Virginia!

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.

Curb Appeal in a Day – My House!

Containers Create Curb Appeal

An easy way to create effective curb appeal is to frame an entry to your home. A couple of containers dropped into the right spot will not only add a welcome addition of color, but all eyes will be drawn to your new focal point. It’s a simple way to make a great change the front of your home. The bonus? It’s a project that can be completed in a single afternoon.

Find a container that makes a dramatic statement. And think about what colors will have the greatest impact without taking away from your existing landscape — you want your new containers to blend in. I added two over-sized containers, below, to my front landscape, and I change the flowers and plants as often as the spirit moves me.

This month at my own home I’ve added purple and Lavendar ‘Wave’ Petunias with Ipomea ‘Blackie’; Black Potatoe Vine and Carex d. ‘Kaga-nishiki’; and Gold Fountains Sedge. The purble gently guides the eye to my front door.

How Green is Your GardenWise

GardenWise on “Green” Garden Projects  

When a gardener asks,  “How can I make my garden ‘green’?”  The journey has  begun.  A thoughtful understanding that an outside space can have a positive impact on the environment is the first step to a green garden makeover.   An exciting weekend project that will bring immediate and amazing results is to reduce your lawn area by at least half. 

Substituting lawn areas with ground covers will provide beautiful colors and textures to your garden spaces.  Ground covers  retain moisture in the soil,  help prevent erosion, and  require significantly less water than grass, which will make your garden space eco-friendly.   Creeping thymes and Creeping Jenny are good choices for sunny spots, and  for shadier areas,  tiny creeping mints such as Mentha requienii will work well.  Some nice low-water  choices include Trailing Yellow Dalea and Trailing lantana. 

By adding some stone elements and pourous pavers into your plan, your garden space will come alive with wonderful garden paths that will add new dimensions to your garden spaces.  

The Snow’s a Big Mean &#*!

GardenWise on Winter Garden Repairs

As the snows piles high, frigid weather  wraps  stealthily around us, and your gardens must  sleep  through  the bombardment of winter. But our work is never done.  As more snow  storms approach many areas, here’s a short list of what you can do right  now  to  repair  snow  damaged gardens and  prepare your  garden  for the  post-winter months:

• After wet snow or high wind, check for broken branches and cut them off to prevent the further tearing  of  bark. And remember to sharpen your tools before using!  Sharp tools make  cutting  easier  and they are less apt to tear at the at the bark when cuts are made. 

• If possible, drain any garden puddles that stand more than a few hours. Do not walk on garden soil when soggy, and  avoid walking on water-saturated lawns. 

• Check mulch for disturbance by squirrels & birds, and repair as needed.

 Make notes of possible garden improvements, additions, or even deletions as you walk around the garden.  Contemplate what you will need for these improvements and make a schedule for the spring.

 See more winter landscape images 

Recycling Garden Materials is GardenWise

Garden Recycling

There are so many advantages to using recycled materials when creating a hardscape garden project — for the environment and your wallet!  We use recycled  concrete for paving systems, recycled glass in stepping stones (see picture,)  and crushed recycled stone and granite for patio surfaces whenever possible.    

An added benefit to using recycled materials?  It cuts down on the cost of the installation of a landscape design.  If I can incorporate  larger pieces of old concrete into a design, the purchase and delivery of new materials is eliminated.  Also eliminated -the cost of removing and disposing of old materials.

If you think that you can’t afford to install your next hardscape project, be sure to ask your landscape architect/designer about using recycled materials.  The savings just may bring the project down in cost enough to fit into your budget.  

GardenWise on Your Garden’s Lovely Bones

Does Your Garden Have Lovely Bones?

Mid-Winter is a great time to take a close look at your garden to decide where you need to make some changes.  The most memorable garden spaces get character from their Lovely Bones — benches, containers and planters, water features, garden accents,  stone work, sculptures, custom fences and gates, arbors/pergolas,  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 lovely and expensive plants in a forgetable  outdoor space.   When you add a  bench, some accents, a large rock, or a curving stone path to a large grouping of your beautiful plants, and some lighting, your garden will come to life!   
Spring is still far off, but if you take some time now to think about your garden’s bone structure now, your garden spaces will be truly memorable for spring and summer..
(GardenWise project in McLean, VA — photo credit: Lydia Cutter)

Gardenwise on Winter Garden Repairs

Gardenwise On Winter Garden Activities 

The snows piles high,  frigid weather wraps stealthily around us, and your garden must sleep through the bombard- ment of winter.  

But our work is never done.  Here’s a short list of what you can do right now to repair show  damaged gardens, and prepare your garden for the post-winter months:

• After wet snow or high wind, check for broken branches and cut them off to prevent further tearing of bark.  And remember to sharpen your tools before using!  Sharp tools make cutting easier and they’re less apt to tear at the at the bark when cuts are made. 

• If possible, drain any garden puddles that stand more than a few hours. Do not walk on garden soil when soggy, and  avoid walking on water-saturated lawns. 

• Check mulch for disturbance by squirrels & birds, and repair as needed.

 Make notes of possible garden improvements, additions, or even deletions as you walk around the garden.  Contemplate what you will need for these improvements and make a schedule for the spring.

 See more winter landscape images  



AOL and GardenWise on Winter Curb Appeal


AOL’s DIY Life and GardenWise offer up tips and ideas on how to improve Curb Appeal during winter in a January 20, 2011 feature story.  We were pleased to have the opportunity to work with  DIY Life writer Francesca Clark,  and below are our tips and ideas from AOL                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                You can read the story in its entirety at AOL – 
“Just because it’s cold doesn’t mean it’s time to stop maintaining the front of your house. Winter curb appeal can take on its own delightful characteristics; you just need to know what you’re doing and be deliberate about it.  
Who better to guide us on landscape design and curb appeal than J. Mark White, Landscape Architect and President of DC-based GardenWise, Inc. who appears on HGTV’s Curb Appeal.       
Frame your garden. Use clean and attractive borders. According to Mark, “landscape borders play an important role in a home’s curb appeal — whether we’re talking about the whole yard or just a planting bed; a defined area catches the eye more readily than one that is indistinguishable.” Various curbing materials such as concrete, brick, stone and slate add definition to your garden area and help it look tidy even in the winter months. 

Utilize Outdoor Lighting – Lighting is always important, but it is even more crucial on dark winter nights. Landscape lighting is practical, as it extends the use of your front yard into into the evening hours, and allows for safe passage for you and your guests. It is also a very purposeful design choice.  Mark suggests that new LED lighting focused on some of your front garden accents can significantly change your home’s evening appeal. The right lighting will make your house a warm gem that stands apart from the others on chilly winter evenings. ”                                                                      
                                                                                                                  .  Tip: Mark says, “Repeated use of rock salt to melt ice will damage and kill plants, and ruin an important part of your curb appeal. Salt will also change soil structure. If you (or your city) uses a lot of salt, be sure to thoroughly water your lawn, front flower beds, and landscape in the very early spring.” Click here for eco-friendly alternatives to rock salt.”