Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Right Plant, Wrong Place

So often in design, especially what I do, we see things such as this:

Or even this:

We've all seen it, often a beautiful tree that needs to be sheared, pruned, or clipped within an inch of it's life because the proper plant was not planted in the first place.

Trees are valuable assets in the landscape, they can:
Add value to your home
Enhance beauty to the surrounding area
Frame views
Help with passive cooling and heating of your home when sited correctly
Act as property divisions
Screen out eyesores
Create focal points through our various seasons
And MUCH more

By choosing the right tree for your site you can avoid future problems by working with the space you have. With all the developments in plant genetics, often there are smaller or dwarf cultivars of what I call "mainstream" plants. You have to have the knowledge to know what the plant is going to mature into in order to know if you have the space for it or not. Knowing somethings characteristics and dimensions is one of the most important things in design. I know many of you interior designers wouldn't select an item you couldn't fit into a client's house-we have to do the same thing with plants.

We live in a townhouse and manage to have a redbud tree in our front yard. I know it's a small tree by landscape standards, but still ranging about 20' wide and high. How you may ask do we have the space?? We used a weeping cultivar called 'Lavender Twist' also called 'Covey'. It's not in bloom yet, but its buds are swelling every day, and as soon as the color starts to show I'll put a photo up!

Let me know if you have plant questions, I'm happy to help ensure you get the plant for the right place!


Monday, March 29, 2010

Virginia Wine Tour

Some good friends of ours invited us on a Virginia Winery jaunt this weekend. Although we've both lived in VA for quite awhile, sad to say we had not spent much time at any of the wineries in our local area. Now don't get me wrong, we are BIG wine fans, typically Pinot Noir and lately some Malbec. Our wine fridge was larger than our kitchen fridge (until recently)-whew, at least now I don't feel like SUCH an alcoholic...Kidding. We really only drink on weekends, which brings me to this:

We missed the first winery as I was teaching a seminar at work on "The Elements of Design" so our group started out at Naked Mountain Winery they had some nice views of their vines from their deck and some good wines. We didn't buy anything here, we were just warming up...

Linden Vineyards, has a beautiful view:

But not so great on the customer service:

I can see not wanting to have tour buses of people pouring in, or crazy bridal showers, but really, two carfuls of friends?? We were not THAT rowdy. We also though we'd be funny and say we had two groups of four...They didn't think that was funny, so we did our tasting and then moved right along.

Our next stop, Chester Gap Cellars had awesome views, and some good white wines, which for me is always a challenge, as I'm a BIG red wine fan. Also, being at 1,000 feet in elevation the grapes have a good climate-something the plant geek in me pays attention to! They also had this amazing tree on their property:

We took a quick lunch break after the first round of wineries, the food was great, the service, well, we did get "shusshed" a few times. Could be because there were only 6 tables in the whole place, could also be because we had already been to three wineries...

Rappahannock Cellars was also beautiful, and MUCH friendlier.

I loved the river birch at the front of their building, and seeing those bright yellow daffodils peeking up makes me really happy! Also I have to say I haven't met many boulders I didn't like, so they were a nice added touch in the landscaping, leave it to me to think about design when I'm out having fun! Any of you design minded people know it's not something you can turn off!

Our second to last stop, Philip Carter Winery of Virginia, set on 27 acres was beautiful!! I think they had the most wines I liked, we did buy some here! The tasting room (behind Hallie and Jessica) was in this big red barn:

They had a great patio off the tasting room and if it were a little warmer we might have sat out there to enjoy the view of their vines.

But alas, we had to get to the last winery of the day before they stopped their tastings. So off to Barrel Oak Winery we went.

I loved this curved balcony above the tasting counter. I also loved the tasting counter! The metal with the curved wood edge as trim was easy to clean and very modern.

They had a big back patio with the oak barrels set up for additional tasting space. There were several fire pits going on the back patio so we finished up our wine out there soaking up the sun and enjoying the view. A big bonus is that they allow dogs, both inside and outside the winery, so if you have pets, bring them along!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Hippity Hop Hop, Easter’s on its way…

I love Easter! And no, it’s not just because we get a basket of candy…Although having something like this waiting for you when you wake up is a nice added bonus.

I like Easter because it’s a day we get to spend with our family. It also means we get to come up with clever crafts and super-cute baked goods and are usually lucky enough to enjoy some sunshine and brisk cool spring weather.

This year we’re celebrating at my parent’s house and I will attempt to make these lovely treats from the talented…Martha Stewart. I found her "Cupcakes" book at Home Goods and promptly put it in our basket. Since we entertain so much I thought I would always be able to find the perfect thing to make for many of our dinner parties-so far it has worked out in my favor!

My parents have called my sister and I “their chicks” since we were babies, so I try to find Kathy chicky things and I though these were TOO cute not to try for Easter.

These little cuties are from Let them Eat Lentils. Kathy and I also got baby chicks one year for Easter when we lived in Malaysia. We had a huge yard and our parents thought it would be a great gift. I will see if I can't find a pic and scan it in, they were SOO soft and a TON of fun to chase around the yard. We were quite a hoot!

Anyone else get a chick for easter? Or perhaps ones like these instead??

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Cherries are Coming!!

It's that time of year in DC...The Cherry Blossom Festival!! These beautiful Yoshino Cherry (Prunus x yedoensis) have snowy white blooms and Kwanzan Cherry (Prunus serrulata, 'Kwanzan') the fluffly double pink bloomers, bring lots of joy (AND tourists) to our Nation's Capitol. A quick little history tidbit from the National Park Service Website:

"The plantings of cherry trees originated in 1912 as a gift of friendship to the People of the United States from the People of Japan. In Japan, the flowering cherry tree, or "Sakura," is an exalted flowering plant. The beauty of the cherry blossom is a potent symbol equated with the evanescence of human life and epitomizes the transformation of Japanese culture throughout the ages."

Being a landscape designer in the spring always means-MADNESS! We are slammed crazy busy designing and installing beautiful gardens, fixing up the snow damage and on occasion trying to take a little breather to appreciate things like this

If you've never been to see the blossoms in real life I would highly advise you to make the trek, it is well worth your while! Not only are the trees amazing, the weather has been cooperating allowing them to bloom in time for the Cherry Blossom festival! You can check out the details on the National Park Service website. DC has lots of other great Cherry related events. Many restaurants craft special menu items to include cherries and even more bars come up with cherry, pink or japanese inspired drinks in honor of this special event.

This beverage is from Mie N Yu and looks yummy!

Even local jewelry designer Suzanne Somersall has come up with a beautiful tribute to our local blossoms. I think these are simple, elegant and timeless, not to mention a nice way to remember a trip to DC!

If you need any good DC or VA tips let me know! Enjoy the sunshine today!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Home Goods = Guilty Pleasure

We are lucky enough to live by THREE Home Goods stores, and let me tell you, we frequent all three. Shhh, it's a guilty pleasure and often we make a run a week, okay okay, sometimes every two weeks, but honestly I feel like we're always there! They have amazing things at great prices! We have bought endless things for our house, for our friends, for gifts, the list goes on. Oh, we just bought new chairs for our deck last weekend, see we always find something! I wish I had space for this chair from their website, I LOVE that print!

As I was checking blogs today I popped over to Between Naps on the Porch and came across this. What a great way to get our rooms in tip top shape for all the entertaining we'll be doing this spring. So check them out at that link or go on over to the direct Home Goods site, I am sure you will find something to love-perhaps one of these lamps?


Monday, March 22, 2010

Fantastic Friday

I am lucky enough to have some Friday’s off (I work Sunday’s instead) and drove on over to Baltimore to join this talented lady for her Tour de Baltimore.

We met around 9:00 a.m. at DeBois Textiles, an amazingly organized warehouse of fabrics, boots, coats, dresses, skirts and anything else that has to do with being clothed-personally and for your home. I was on the hunt to find a fabric to coordinate with my guest room and was smart enough to remember a pillowcase. Getting colors right without having them with you is VERY tough, and luckily I found just the thing! Meg had coffee and doughnuts from The Fractured Prune for us to munch on while we shopped-love a trip that involves snacks-my kind of ladies!

After we were done roaming their wares we made our purchases and carpooled over to Housewerks. The building alone is worth the trip!

As everyone piled out of cars and headed for the door, I stopped to take some photos of the building, look at that wood and brick detailing!

How great would this be as a converted house?? Now not that I would give up all their treasures for a house…but it is a cool space nonetheless.

I found a beautiful piece of stained glass that considered as a headboard in the guest room. Not sure if it’s the right thing so I passed it up, but it’s on the back burner in case I change my mind.

One of the women on our tour found an amazing bench for her yard, a nicely built octagonal bench at a great price, she’s got some great ideas for it-sorry I didn't get a photo. Another woman found a beautiful fragment of an architectural column; it’ll be a nice accent for her house I’m sure.

The basement was cool temperature wise but a little creepy, it would make for an awesome man cave/pub/tv room/wine cellar! They had a lot of interesting antique lanterns I’m guessing from an old church? I liked this little number, what a cute storage idea to put your gloves, scarves or mail or magazines in.

Next up was Gore Dean, they're just a few minutes outside the city was this treasure.

The owners Deb and Spider (what a cool name!) were so sweet, helpful and generous, both with their time and their champagne and cookies!! Again with the snacks-perfect day! They had beautiful notecards, tableware, pillows, furniture, mirrors, lighting and much, much more.

I loved this beauty, a murano glass mirror, very glitzy!

What a great settee, the perfect cozy spot to curl up in the winter and snuggle down by the fire. I love a high-backed sofa to keep you warm and rest your head on. And look at that bombe front dresser on the right-ooohhh!

I did buy some thin taper candles from Creative Candles for my husband's birthday cake. I also bought some rose soaps from Elizabeth W . I'm not usually one for very floraly girly scents, but this has just been on my mind this season! I couldn't wait to get home and use them and let me tell you, they were luxurious!

We went back downtown for lunch at Cafe Hon, a very Baltimore establishment, good food and great conversation! Once we were fed and re-energized we did a bit more shopping. We hit Red Tree for some beautiful handcrafted jewelry and kitschy t-shirts, beautiful glassware and nice gift items.

About a block away was Antique Exchange where they had some beautiful silver, nice pillows and gorgeous antiques.

By then I think we were shopped out! We headed back to De Bois for me to snag some fabric for a chair in our bedroom that I was thinking about all morning! Stay tuned to see the changes.

Even after all that shopping there were a few ladies interested in making the trek out to Lucketts and On a Whim, what dedicated shoppers! So I thought I would plan a trip out there later on this spring, let me know if you want to join in!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

It's Hammer Time...

Everyone has house projects, our most recent project is the demo and reno of our master bathroom. Our house was built in 1988, and although it has good bones and a great layout (for our lifestyle) it was VERY outdated. I know the people who lived there before us just lived there, they didn't maintain or update at ALL. Which was good for us because we could make the changes we wanted. All leading up to this:

The shower was in the far left corner of the bathroom, it was SMALL-I knocked my elbow on the soap dish at least once a week-and I am NOT a large person... I'm sure Greg is going to be really happy that my bad language will be significantly reduced with a new larger shower :)

The toilet is across from the shower and staying where it is, we're just purchasing a new low-flow energy efficient one for its place.

Scrub-a-dub-dub, oh wait, there's no more tub!

Next to the shower, well attached really, was the tub. A large 1980s soaking tub, not even any jets in it. All well and good for the bath people, of which we are not. Unless I'm in a hot tub outside under the stars or at at spa, I do not enjoy sitting in lukewarm water looking at outdated tile. However, I will miss it for it's purpose as a GREAT place to throw our dirty laundry-classy right?

Also attached to the tub was our sink bases, the upside was that we had two sinks, the downside was that the storage wasn't great, the lighting was sub-par and we had one HUGE mirror, also un-accecptable from the design minded person that I am.

That brings us to the good news-it's all gone! YAY! My husband and I did all the demo, we're re-installing the sinks, toilet, mirrors, lights and are planning on building in a linen closet. The tile work & plumbing is being done by an awesome contractor. So I will be posting updates and information as we go along.

Anyone else working on a bathroom? What's the one thing you'd change or the one thing you can't live without?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Luck o' The Irish

I have not had the luck of going to Ireland though I am half Irish, my sister has and althoug she is not a garden geek like myself, she did say they had some of the most beautiful, lush and inspiring landscapes she had seen. So today I will give you some images to drool over and wish you were lounging on a grassy knoll looking at the sheep grazing in the feilds (with a Guinness in hand of course)!

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

I would love to be reading a book on this stone terrace! What a beautiful setting. Photo from /www.brigitsgarden.ie/

This gorgeous photo from www.manorhousehotels.com a great look at some Irish gardens and perhaps plan a visit.

May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields and,
Until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

An image from www.knockabbeycastle.com yet another place to put on the Ireland list!

And and Irish toast to send you on your way:
May your glass be ever full.
May the roof over your head be always strong.
And may you be in heaven half an hour before the devil knows you're dead.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Rain + Garden = Rain Gardens

With all the rain this weekend I was inspired to put up a post on rain gardens. They are not only beautiful, but functional too.

Image from: www.environmentaltrust.org

You might ask, what is a rain garden exactly?
It's a shallow depression that is planted (typically with native plants) and allows rainwater runoff from impervious urban areas like roofs, driveways, walkways, and compacted lawn areas the opportunity to be absorbed.

Building a rain garden allows the plants to filter out pollutants, reduce flooding, and allow our groundwater to re-charge.

As we are building and developing more and more we are having to find smarter ways to build and to treat stormwater on each site. I have a lot of homeowners with big runoff issues, who have to deal with their water as well as homeowners who want to capture the water we get for free and re-use it.

By using native plants (I'll list a few for our area-Northern Virginia, Zone 7), rain gardens often need less maintenance, watering, fertilizers and pesticides than traditional gardens.

Aster, Bee Balm, Blackeyed susan, Cardinal flower, Goldenrod, Ironweed, Iris, Joe Pye Weed, Lobelia, Spiderwort, Swamp milkweed, Virginia bluebells.

Image from: www.greayer.com

Beautyberry, Arrowwood viburnum, Clethra, Chokeberry, Dogwood, Highbush blueberry, Hydrangea (oakleaf), Inkberry holly, Spicebush, Swamp azalea, Virginia sweetspire.

(Image from: http://mountaingroundlandscaping.com/images/virginia_sweetspire.bmp)

Black gum, Downy serviceberry, Eastern redbud, Hornbeam, Serviceberry, Swamp white oak, Sweetbay magnolia, Witchhazel.

(Image from: http://awaytogarden.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/03/witchhazel-late-winter.jpg)

Typically this is not something your average homeowner tackles. It involves calulations, heavy machinery and a lot of labor! But the results are worth it, let's take a look:

(Image from: http://www.sws-sssd.org/images/RainGarden.jpg)

(Image from the EPA front garden here in Washington, DC)