Fairfax County Sustainable Garden Tour

A few shots from Fairfax County’s 2017 Sustainable Garden Tour:

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This year the gardens were in the Alexandria area — some down around Mason Neck, others near Mount Vernon, and then all the way up to the Rose Hill area.  There were 9 in all but I only made it to four because it was 95 degrees out today.

This place was in a nice old neighborhood just off Rte 1.  It had about an acre of land.  You never would have expected it to be there:

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It had an amazing artificial stream, which they had landscaped very skillfully.  Note the little bridge in the distance.  What is it about those little bridges?  You just HAVE to cross them.

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Very nice fountain:

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The bright blue birdbath and the variegated hostas.  Very bold.  I like it.

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They had another project underway as well.  Very busy, these folks:

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Garden #2…they converted their front yard to a meadow just a few years ago. You can tell they probably don’t have an HOA:

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The mulched paths really help the wildness look intentional.  If you’re in suburbia doing the no-lawn thing, it’s definitely helpful to have some element within the landscape that says, “Yes, I meant to do this”…like paths or sculptures or a bit of nice hardscaping.

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Even a short, narrow path lends a sense of adventure to the suburban yard.  Actually, to lure kids around a garden, the narrower and curvier the better:

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The backyard of this house actually looked much neater and more traditional than the front yard.  It had a great little artificial pond and waterfall.  Check out that purple weeping beech.

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A few other random items.  I thought this was a very classy looking rain barrel:

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Cute:

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I sooooooo wish I could have chickens, but our property is too small.  This place had more than 7 acres for these birds to roam:

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Not on the tour, but I loved this guy’s workshop/shed:

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One last thought: I’m not sure what Fairfax County’s definition of “sustainable” is when it comes to residential gardens.  A couple of these gardens seemed fairly resource intensive to me.  Oh well.  Sometimes all of the arguing back and forth about what makes a garden ecologically virtuous gives me a headache.

What I loved is that all of these homeowners were hanging around, eager to talk about their gardens.  They loved tending their yards and were proud of what they’d created.   I think the love has to be there before anything else can be sustained.

Click here to learn more about the properties on this tour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great Day to Be Alive

When it’s close to 70 degrees on February 18 it seems like there is very little in the world worth complaining about.  Even the traffic on New York Avenue seems worth it once you’re finally at the National Arboretum walking among these beauties:

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(Prunus mume and Edgeworthia in the Chinese/Japanese Pavilion Gardens)

Even the often dour blooms of hellebore knew enough to perk up and tilt their faces toward the sun:

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(I know, I know, many hellebores are bred that way, let me just do my personification thing, will you?)

I liked the stark contrast between the black mondo grass and the old stalks of ornamental grass (Northern Sea Oats, I think):

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Cherry blossoms!  (I think it’s another Prunus mume, so technically apricot but I’m in a t-shirt in February so who gives a toss!)

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Terrible photo of one of my favorite plants in the whole arboretum: Chimonanthus praecox:

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This specimen is perched on a steep slope above the Anacostia River, where the winter sun warms its buttery yellow blooms, which emit THE most delicious fragrance in the floral world (except maybe Vibunum carlesii???) a sort of warm vanilla spice that definitely makes you forget it’s winter.

And last but not least my beloved Camellias.  It always surprises me seeing such perfect, extravagant blooms on such awkward, lanky plants.  Kinda like seeing a beautiful young girl with knock-knees and pigeon toes…all the more charming for their imperfections.

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A Private Garden Transforms into a Public Garden

I recently visited a private garden near Frederick, Maryland called High Glen.  I would link to it, but at the moment it does not have a website (though it does have a Facebook page).  Its lack of online presence is mostly due to the fact that, since its inception in the 1990’s, it has been an exclusively private, family-owned garden.  The owner of the house and gardens is a real estate developer who carved out his own bit of paradise among the rolling farmland around Frederick.

It was an interesting trip, not only because it’s a beautiful garden, but because it’s in the process of becoming public.  (Now that development has reached his own doorstep?) the owner has decided to move out, but to transform the site into a public garden that he hopes will become a “national destination” within the next 10 years.

The horticulturalist who led the tour showed us a drawing of the ambitious plans for the garden:plans

The master plan includes a Grand Allee, Wet Meadow, Woodland Garden, Asian Valley w/ Teahouse, even a large area set aside for some Earth Sculpture.

What I found fascinating was being able to witness the very beginnings of these plans.  For example, here is the future Woodland:

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As you can see, it’s not very woodsy just yet.  The trees were planted just a year or so ago in what is currently a vast swath of lawn in the front of the property.

Here is the current driveway and entrance to the property, with a beautiful Silver Maple standing watch:

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A new approach will be built, along with a large parking lot, horticulture center, and teaching gardens, on another side of the property.

And now for the “Grand Allee” (drumroll….)

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They have planted two double rows of Burr Oak (Quercus macrocarpa) which will (eventually) be a rather stunning grand entrance from the parking lot to the center of the property.  I can’t wait to come back in ten years or so to see how much the grandeur of this allee has increased.

Here is a shot of the main axis of the property, with nice views of the rolling Maryland hills in the distance:

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Alas, here is a glimpse of what’s to come.  You can see the encroaching development in the distance:

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I guess people are figuring out that Frederick, Maryland is a nice place to live.  And everybody who moves to a nice place always wants the development to stop as soon as they move in.  Unless of course you are the developer himself!

Moving along to another part of the garden….does this look familiar?

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The owner is apparently a big admirer of Dumbarton Oaks, particularly the Elliptical garden there.  So he’s paid an homage to that garden by planting an identical double ellipse of Carpinus caroliniana with a fountain in the center.  This was the first year the trees were big enough to pollard.

Here are a couple of other random cool features of this garden:

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The homeowners had created a rather stunning Mediterranean/dry garden.  Hopefully this will stay.

Everybody needs a dedicated Bocce Ball space in their yard:

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And while we’re at it, a sparkling pool landscaped with excellent tropicals…

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The owners have cultivated this perennial border for many years, but it underwent a renovation recently.  The borders were bumped out a few feet, and more shrubs and small trees were incorporated:

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Right now, the gardens seem only to be open to the public for special tours like the one I took.  (My visit was organized by the awesome Green Spring Gardens.)

The master plan won’t be fully implemented for another 7-10 years, but if all the plans are realized it will be a stunning public garden.  Unfortunately, the surrounding farm country looks like it will be largely lost to development, but at least there will be this lovely patch of green preserved to remind us of what used to be.

Winter Outing

Testing out a new camera phone and trying to take pictures of nature with a companion who wanted to be featured in every shot.  At Green Spring Gardens. Alexandria, VA.

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Hillwood Museum Gardens

One of the few DC area gardens that I had never visited were those at the Hillwood Estate, former home of Marjorie Merriweather Post, daughter of the famed cereal baron.

Post bought the house in 1955 and used it to display her vast collection of Russian and French decorative art.  She had spent time in Russia when the communists were in the midst of burning churches and aristocratic homes and selling off all the bling.   Post was able to pick up all kinds of incredible sacred and decorative art on the cheap, and she was nice enough to turn her estate into a museum when she died.

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If you enjoy looking at room upon room of fancy china, elegant vases, exquisite furniture and the like, you will love touring the house (suggested donations of $18 when you enter.)  But of course I was eager to get out into the 13 acres of gardens which surrounded it.  You will see that Post didn’t skimp on the outdoor spaces either.

Here’s a little tour, starting with the cutting garden:

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Nice shade combo:

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Lush borders:

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French Parterre:

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Some seductive paths:

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Japanese Garden, one of the highlights:

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The American flag kinda ruins the gestalt in this one but oh well:

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A satisfied denizen of the Japanese garden:

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Pet Cemetery:

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Dacha (Russian Country House):

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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:

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Eight Must-Haves From Chanticleer

Chanticleer, just outside of Philadelphia, bills itself as “A Pleasure Garden” and I think that title pretty much nails it.  This garden celebrates plants, design, and craftsmanship more than any other I’ve been to. 

Now, there are various kinds of pleasure to be had from various kinds of gardens — kings’ gardens (Versailles), cooks’ gardens (potagers), botanists’ gardens (arboreta), etc.   But with stunning plant combinations at every turn and public restrooms that are nicer than the place you got married, Chanticleer is truly a gardener’s garden

Here are some of the things I’ve decided I must have after visiting this glorious garden:

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Container Nirvana at Chanticleer

A few days ago I made my first visit to Chanticleer Garden in Wayne, Pennsylvania.  It was a beautiful garden, but did it live up to all the hype that I’ve heard from other gardeners about how awesome it is?

Yes, absolutely! 

Tomorrow I am going to post about all the things I saw in the garden that I’ve now decided I MUST have for myself, but in the meantime enjoy these pictures of some of the amazing containers that adorn Chanticleer Gardens.  Along with every other kind of gardening, the folks at Chanticleer really raise containers to a whole new level.

[Read more…]

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