Country Time

Like many of you, every once in awhile I fantasize about living in the country.  I’m pretty sure that if I actually lived in the country, I might turn into a version of Jack Torrance from The Shining and after a couple months of winter start chasing my family around with an ax for lack of nearby amenities. 

But thankfully, every now and then it’s possible to get a taste of the country life without actually committing to it.  Such was the case a couple of weeks ago, when my mother’s friend Bobbi invited us out to her farm near Harrisonburg, VA for the day. 

She has a charming turn of the century farmhouse, adorned inside and out with the coolest old farm equipment and tools….(pics by my sister Karen)Bobbie's house at the Busy B Farm

My son and I played hide and seek in her awesome barn, which is packed with rustic farm paraphernalia…

Tools in the barn

Baskets strung up for the Barn Sale

Cool sign with old bicycle in the barn

Lanterns in the barn

Jars in the barn

and as for garden ornament, how about a wheel wall?  I didn’t know I wanted one of these until I saw Bobbi’s…

Fence of wheels

Wouldn’t it be great to have the kind of property where an antique Ford pick up looks right at home in the front yard?

The Old Ford

everywhere you turn, you are reminded of simpler times, of the days before texting, tweeting, and twerking…

Farm equipment

Bicycle leaning against the shed

Sign taking you into the Busy B Farm

There is even a delightful stream running through her property, where we skipped stones and looked for interesting rocks…

busy b farm-1812

More wheels…Bobbi was kind enough to let me take a couple of wheels home with me!

Just  a cool sign

One of the wheels Bobbi gave me, at home in my suburban garden…


Yes indeed…for me, full time country life = mental illness.  But one beautiful May day in the country = mental health.

View from the end of lane and the house at Busy B

Gardens & Sights of Waterford, VA

Waterford, VA, is a tiny historical town in western Loudoun County, about 90 minutes from Washington, DC.  The town consists of just a few streets, a post office, an old mill, schoolhouse, and a few dozen houses built in the 18th and 19th century, now lovingly cared for by their current owners.

This weekend I was lucky enough to have access to some of the houses and gardens in a photography class I took with my sister for a birthday present.  I still don’t know what 90% of the functions do on my camera, but here are some of my better shots:
































































My Trip to Mount Cuba Center

Mount Cuba Center, in Hockessin, Delaware (near Wilmington), has long been on my garden visit bucket list.  It is a paradise of native Piedmont plants, and an inspiration for all of us living in “suburban woodlands” here in the mid-Atlantic.

What I learned: the key to a great Woodland Garden is open shade.  They had almost all of their big shade trees limbed way up, plus there were a lot of tulip poplars, which don’t have low limbs anyway.  There was plenty of bright filtered light for the wildflowers to bloom in abundance.

Enjoy the photos!


You wish the woods in your neighborhood looked like this, instead of being smothered in invasive vines.



Redbud, Fothergilla, Tulip Tree



Golden Alexanders (Zizia aurea), Red Buckeye (Aesculus pavia)



a native herbaceous clematis with adorable little nodding white flowers



Amethyst Shooting Stars (Dodecatheon amethystinum) with Quaker Ladies (Houstonia caerulea)



Allegheny Pachysandra (Pachysandra procumbens)



Dwarf Iris



A patch of dwarf Iris in blue — so cute



Flame Azalea bloom about to open.


Unfurling fern


Ferns emerging from Purple Phacelia (Phacelia bipinnatifida) plus some Wood Poppies and Bottlebrush Buckeye in the back.


They also had fauna.



Great combo! Golden Alexanders and Woodland Phlox (I think Phlox divaricata)


I overheard a very intelligent looking lady say this was Interrupted Fern



They have a lilac allee there, left over from the orginial duPont garden plan. Here is my sister taking a whiff. Mmmmm.



I love these raspberry colored primroses by the stream.



A view toward the meadow with Quaker Ladies in the foreground. I want to come back in the late summer to see the meadow in its glory.



Sculpture of a maple samara that actually moves in the wind — neat!



I believe this is a Southern Red Trillium (Trillium sulcatum) floating over a sea of Rue Anenome (Thalictrum thalictroides?)



Trillium grandiflorum Double Loop form



Trillium grandiflorum



Underwood’s Trillium (Trillium underwoodii)



Twisted Trillium (Trillium stamineum)



Trillium grandiflorum – pink form



A patch of trillium, I can’t remember which kind.


The circular formal garden (another remnant from the original duPont house) was planted out with electric blue delphiniums and the most fabulous array of peach, pink, and yellow tulips of different heights. Awesome!


Looking down at the tulips

Looking down at the tulips


Yellow Mandarin (Disporum lanuginosum). A unique perennial with delicate little yellowish flowers that hang down….hard to see with the green background.


Phlox stolonifera with Yellow Lady’s Slipper orchids



Woodland path with Purple Pharecia



Ferns, woodland phlox, trillium



Viola walteri ‘Silver Gem’ — a Mt. Cuba introduction



Virginia Bluebells, Wood Poppies, unfurling ferns



Dogwood path

Garden Designers’ Roundtable: Transitions

One of Beatrix Ferrand’s most famous projects is the garden at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington DC, which is known for its lavish garden rooms and magnificent attention to detail.   As you can see in the map below, each garden “room” has its own name — Rose Garden, Urn Terrace, Pebble Garden, etc. — and each room is masterfully designed and delightful to experience. [Read more…]

Garden Designers’ Roundtable: Mistakes

“A man’s mistakes are his portals of discovery.”

–James Joyce

13retain1_lgThen again, Joyce was a man of ideas.  I’m sure no contractor ever said to a client: “Oh, that retaining wall I put in last fall is collapsing now?  But of course!  How could something so bourgeois hold back the anarchy of our modern age??  Don’t you see??  It was futile from its inception!!!”

Anyway, it only took me a few minutes to compile a long list of mistakes that I have made over the course of my study of landscape design.  Here are just a few:

1. Giving landscape design advice to people who didn’t ask for it.  You might think that this would be obvious, but when you’re a new landscape design student all super-excited about what you’re learning, like I was, sometimes you can go a bit overboard.

[Read more…]

Garden Designers’ Roundtable: Bouquets to Art

On February 13th, I went grocery shopping on my way home from work.  Right away I noticed things seemed different in the store.

 Men.  There were lots of men.

Oh yeah, tomorrow’s Valentine’s, I realized.  So there were the men– old & young, fat & thin, hirsute & hairless, all kinds — buying flower bouquets for their sweethearts.  They all looked slightly bewildered, and they were all purchasing either Valentine’s Day Default Gift #1 — Red Roses with Baby’s Breath in a Plastic Sleeve for the Big Spenders — or Valentine’s Day Default Gift #2 — Pink Carnations in a Plastic Sleeve for the more frugal/slightly less-committed set.

I thought, awwww, how cute.  Until I realized how much they were clogging up the checkout lanes, and then I was like, get a move-on, you unimaginative bunch of lemmings! 


“Surprise! I put zero thought into your gift!”

[Read more…]

National Mall Renovation Lookin’ Snazzy

I went downtown today to hit the US Botanical Garden and a couple of museums, and I got a peek at the renovations to the National Mall.

Here is my exclusive, professional-quality footage:

Turf renovation on the National Mall

Turf renovation on the National Mall

[Read more…]

Garden Designers’ Roundtable: Memory and Plants

I’ll I’ll be honest.  I had a hard time figuring out how to approach this topic.  As I have mentioned before, I am New Dirt and not Old Dirt, meaning I do not come from a long line of gardeners, but rather picked up this obsession at age 36 with no influence from parents or grandparents.  Like Constantine’s conversion to Christianity, my conversion to a life of gardening was sudden and complete.  (Whether or not Constantine was pruning Euonymus at the time of his revelation, as I was, is not clear.)

[Read more…]


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