Fairfax County Sustainable Garden Tour

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

garden1d

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:

garden3e

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.

garden3h

gardentour

Very nice fountain:

garden3f

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

garden3d

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

garden3c

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:

garden2d

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.

garden2a

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:

garden2b

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.

garden2c

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

garden1c

garden1h

Cute:

garden1f

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:

garden1b

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

garden1a

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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…]

HGTV 2013 Dream House Has Lots of Plants!

It’s a bit premature to make a final judgment, but it looks as though HGTV’s 2013 Dream House  — located on Kiawah Island, South Carolina — might actually be worth cheering for!

[Read more…]

Conservation vs. Protection

What’s the difference?

I ask because I came across this quote from Teddy Roosevelt when I visited Roosevelt Island this weekend:

“Conservation Means Development as Much as it Does Protection.”

Coming from the man who established the National Park System, I raised an eyebrow when I read this.  These terms — conservation, preservation, protection, etc. — are pretty slippery.  When you’re talking about actual environmental policy, these words have no concrete definition. Which, come to think of it, is probably why politicians like them.  Politicians are just nuts about abstract language.

[Read more…]

“Now Entering the Xeric Hardpan Forest”

Recently I purchased and read Wildflowers and Plant Communities of the Southern Appalachians and Piedmont.

Now, before you go labeling me as a mega-dweeb, you should know that plant communities are super hot right now. All the coolest middle aged suburban garden bloggers are talking about them and how they can be used as inspirations for design.

Where have you been?

[Read more…]

Will We Grow Nostalgic for Strip Malls?

Yesterday I came across this article  about a competition at the University of Alberta called “Strip-Appeal” in which architects and other designers submitted proposals for re-purposing abandoned strip malls.   As big box stores and online retailers like Amazon claim more and more business, strip malls have started going empty.

Photo credit: Sten Odenwald

I had a look at some of the submitted designs and I couldn’t help but feel a little weary.  Design proposals included:

1. several variations of a park/greenspace/community garden (Yaaaaawn.)

2. turning the strip mall into a mixed-use town-center-y kinda thing with underground parking.  (zzzzzzzzz.)

3. a plan where people could just come in and use the building materials from the old strip mall to build whatever they wanted because there would be no zoning regulations for the new space.  (Sounds like anarchy but at least it’s different.)

4. a gathering place for mobile “pop-up” retailers.  (In other words, one week a space would be occupied by Dahn Yoga, the next by Haagen Daaz?  Is this feasible?) [Read more…]

Keep Writing, Keep Digging, Mr. Merwin

Yesterday the Library of Congress announced Natasha Tretheway, a Pulitzer-prize winner and professor at Emory University, as the new poet laureate.  I’m not familiar with her writing, but I like that she is from the South and that she is very young for a poet laureate.  I will check out her poems soon.

Meanwhile, I wanted to share this quote from the outgoing poet laureate, W.S. Merwin.  I have loved Merwin’s poetry since I stumbled upon it in college, but I had no idea that he lived in Hawaii and is totally into gardening.  Apparently, he lives on a former pineapple plantation in Maui, and has made it his mission to plant scores of endangered palms on his land.  What a cool guy.

Merwin in his garden. http://www.oprah.com

This quote comes from his 1997 essay entitled “The Shape of Water” :

“Obviously the garden is not a wilderness but an assembly of shapes, most of them living, that owes some sense of its composition, its appearance, to human design and effort, human conventions and convenience, and the human pursuit of that elusive, indefinable harmony that we call beauty. It has a life of its own, an intricate, willful, secret life, as any gardener knows. It is only the humans in it who think of it as a garden. But a garden is a relation, which is one of the countless reasons why it is never finished.” 

I also like that Merwin acknowledges that “the natural world is what is right in front of you.  You don’t have to go to national parks or something, just look in your backyard and you’ll find plants and bugs.”

I think Ms. Tretheway has some big, dirt-encrusted shoes to fill.

The Creepy (and Pretentious?) Sustainable Community of Serenbe

As noted in my last post, HGTV’s 2012 Green Home is located in the bucolic and “sustainable” community of Serenbe, Georgia.  I find the idea of building a “sustainable community” from scratch to be quite intriguing, so I read a bit about Serenbe on HGTV’s site and on the community’s own web page.

An Overview: The 900-acre community is located in one of the “last undeveloped stretches of land in the Atlanta area” and emphasizes “balanced growth, a mix of architectural styles, sustainability and land preservation.”  For stormwater, they use vegetated strips instead of concrete spillways.  They re-use graywater for irrigation.  They have a big community vegetable garden.

Sweet!  Go Serenbe!  It’s all very positive and utopian, right?

So why does the place creep me out so much?  Take a look at these photos from HGTV and see what I mean:

[Read more…]

%d bloggers like this: