Homegrown National Park

Are you on the map?

There’s a movement afoot and it’s gaining momentum in a big way. Started by Doug Tallamy, developed with the professional know-how of Michelle Alfandari, the concept is simple:


– Homegrown National Parks Website

In other words…

Instead of waiting for the government, or a corporation, or an “expert” to tackle our ecological challenges, we as homeowners can make a huge impact on our own! Every time we make a small change, we start to create a network for nature that rebuilds and reconnects habitats right now.

It’s so easy

Here’s how easy it is- if you’ve ever done a project with me, you’re already in the Homegrown National Park. If you’ve ever replaced a little part of your lawn with pollinator- or wildlife-friendly native plants, you’re in the Homegrown National Park. If you’ve planted container gardens with native plants- you’re in the Park! And when your neighbor makes a little change, you start connecting to a bigger network. That’s it.

But I hate messy gardens!

Guess what? So do I! As a designer, I’m on a mission to help us rethink what a so-called native garden needs to look like. I personally think this level of wildness is beautiful in a defined area:

A small area of sod was reclaimed for a native garden on a busy street corner.
This garden brings a lot of smiles and waves as people drive by- happy insects, happy people.

But maybe you’re not a fan of billowing perennials! Guess what? This is also a native garden!

Trees and shrubs are also hugely beneficial to insects and other wildlife! You don’t need a garden full of perennials to make a difference.

A beautiful Redbud tree (Cercis canadensis ‘Hearts of Gold’), hydrangeas (Hydrangea arborescens ‘Incrediball’), some native ferns- so simple and so beneficial. Or how about this manicured perfection?! We added native hydrangeas- a great start!

You can use native plants in a manicured garden.

The bottom line

Homegrown National Park is a simple umbrella concept that says everyone can make a difference. If you’re already designing a new garden, it’s no more effort to include native plants than non-native (strive for a mix of 70-30 native/non-native). And if you want to make a little change, more and more plants are available at the garden centers. Maybe you just plant a little tree or some shrubs, maybe you want summer flowers, or winterberries for color when everything else is dormant. Keep it simple and record your changes on the map!

Still not sure? I can help.

It’s 2023- Happy New Year!

Finishing up a 2022 project- this one took a while!

Landscaping in 2023

As we head into 2023, my family is moving out of our house so we can start a renovation project! Of course, that also means we’re going to have to put the landscape back together when we’re done, which is pretty exciting. I’m asking myself all the usual questions:

  • What do I like about the garden I already have?
  • Which plants do I want to rescue for transplant?
  • How should the layout change to fit the house updates?
  • Do I want to have a lawn anymore?
  • Should I move the bins to the other side of my house?
  • How much is this all going to cost?!

I’m looking forward to dreaming up some fun elements, but I also know the hardest thing to do is to think about one’s own property. That’s why it’s so nice to hire a designer! I know I’m going to run my ideas by some colleagues for a fresh perspective.

My Front Garden Wish List

  • Pathways that connect to the front door and side gates so I can easily move the bins around, get to my car, etc
  • A majority native plant palette that reads easily, has adequate support and containment for neatness, and makes my house feel happy and welcoming
  • Updated lighting (I love my landscape lighting by Olson Weaver Lighting)
  • Something quirky like a Corgi topiary or some unusual plant

Well, I’m excited for my projects in 2023- how about you? Is it time to update your outdoor space? Maybe you’ve renovated, maybe your tastes have changed, maybe things got out of hand. Whatever it may be, I’m here to help! Let’s work on it together.

Happy New Year!

Design for Awkward Spaces

New Patio
New Patio

Do you have a small garden or an awkward space that you’d like to use more efficiently? These areas often end up being the most interesting part of your garden! Here are 2 tips for working in a difficult space:

1. Work the angles

Using angles is a standard approach in awkward spaces. They can give you the longest axis when you don’t have much width, or they reclaim a corner area that would otherwise be unused. In this layout, the dining area is on an angle, keeping it tied into the main patio while using and softening some corner space for good energy!

2. Use grade to your advantage

A sloping yard can be difficult, but it also gives you a natural opportunity to use a tiered layout which adds depth and interest to your garden. In this design, we’re gradually working our way from high to low as we move from right to left across the design above.

The downside? Cost. You can’t have tiers without walls, which means more construction, which means a bigger budget. Even in a small garden this can start to seem a little daunting sometimes. Is it worth it? Yes! As long as it doesn’t destroy the budget.

New Patio
New Flagstone Patio
Back Garden
Back Garden, Before

Look Familiar?

Do you have an awkward space you’d like to reclaim? Chances are it could become your favorite place in the garden! Designing now for Spring 2023 installations.

Front Garden Makeover

  • Front Garden After
  • Front garden before renovation

Dramatic Before/After projects are so much fun! This front garden renovation is well underway for a major update to the previous landscape. The clients started with a big patch of bamboo that was a constant challenge to contain; a driveway that covered the front of the house; and a lot of lost space due to previous grading choices.

We changed the entire look of the front garden by moving the driveway to one side, moving the retaining walls to create a larger level area, and removing the bamboo forest. The result is an open and welcoming space with a beautiful view of the house through the specimen maple tree. Poured concrete, updated carpentry and lighting have really changed the style of the garden, with more improvements to come in the form of painting and staining.

I’m really looking forward to following the progress of this beautiful project! What would you like to do at your house?

Spring is here!

And we’re off!

It’s wonderful to feel the weather turning (or trying to!) and to see things coming to life everywhere. Spring really is in the air. The cherries are nearly done and the Redbuds are starting to come into their own. Bulbs are blooming everywhere, Creeping Phlox is making a colorful carpet (I have a friend who says “It looks like a unicorn threw up”- the nerve!), and the smell of Koreanspice Viburnum is wafting on the breeze!

How are your garden plans coming along? We’ve got walls, steps, driveways, plants, lights, custom sheds- you name it, it’s on the schedule for spring. Schedules are pretty full, but don’t be discouraged if you haven’t gotten started yet. Let’s start planning now and you could be enjoying your new outdoors for late summer and a beautiful autumn!

Designing for Spring

Robin's nest with eggs
Nesting in my wall planter

I say the same thing every year- it’s time to design for spring! In fact, if you’re reading this and we aren’t already talking- we might be designing for summer or fall.

Expect to spend an average of 2-3 months on the design process- from consultation to installation contract.

That may seem long (sometimes it’s longer), but the time flies by. We’ll have a consultation and then a first concept a couple weeks later. Then there’s time for contemplation between revisions. Sometimes you get busy, sometimes installations take up more of my time. And we have to get on a contractor’s schedule, which can be booked 8-12+ weeks out.

All this is to say, if you’re dreaming of changes outside- contact me! But only if you’re ready.

Are you ready for a 2022 project?

The Mount, Home of Edith Wharton, is an inspirational garden for homeowners everywhere.
The Mount offers plenty of garden inspiration that could be scaled to a smaller property. (photo by Maureen Robinson)

As I work on 2022 projects, I’ve been looking back through this year’s photos. Nearly every trip I take involves a garden visit at some point! It’s a great way to add a little structure to a vacation, and there are always places to see if you do a little research. This summer we had a laid-back getaway to the Berkshires where we spent a really nice afternoon at The Mount, former home of Edith Wharton. It’s a traditional layout which I always enjoy- easy to walk through, easy to “read”, and easy to visualize on a smaller scale. (As with so many other gardens, I saw a lot of native plants starting to sneak in to the palette. I especially liked the shorter Joe Pye Weed at the back of the border, maybe Eupatorium purpureum ‘Little Joe’).

Are you feeling inspired by gardens you’ve seen to plan a 2022 project at your own home? If so, I’m currently working with clients for Spring 2022 installations, or possibly winter hardscape projects. Maybe we can work on your project together.

It’s Your Garden…

Photo of Putting Green
If golf is your passion, why not turn an unused space into a putting green? Installation by Great American Landscapes Inc

Do What you Wanna Do!

One of the first things we discuss at your consultation is what you’d like to do in your garden, aka “the program.” Some people don’t really want to do much, they just want things to look good. Others aren’t really sure, but they assume they’ll want to eat outside once in a while and have a place to sit. And still others know exactly what they’d like to do, but might not think their vision is justified or possible. And to that I say, it’s your garden! If the budget allows, it should be exactly what you want it to be.

Your Garden

It’s such a privilege to have a little piece of earth. What do you want to do with yours? I love a consultation that turns into a brainstorming session of dream scenarios! And if we can dream it up, there’s a good chance we can build it. Moat, anyone?

Let’s discuss!

Thriving in 2021

Happy New Year!

I love turning over the calendar to January, even during “normal” years. There’s nothing like the feeling of a fresh start. This year I’m looking forward to creating many more beautiful gardens with my wonderful clients, starting immediately!

That’s right, landscaping has been booming in our DC Metro area since many very fortunate people have been working from the comfort of their homes. As a result, the usual winter break is not happening this year. We will be installing hardscape any time the weather permits, with planting picking up in March-April.

If you want to do work this spring, start planning now.

I say this every year, but I especially urge you this year to get the design process started in order to avoid disappointment. If you’re dreaming of a Mother’s Day Brunch in the garden, it’s time to start.

All that said, there is no urgency on my part. I’m here any time you’re ready to start thinking about your outdoor space. Send me a note sometime.

Wishing you every good thing in 2021!