Spruce up your foundation plantings

When developers build a neighborhood, they almost always add some shrubs against the foundations of the houses to soften the lines of the buildings. Just as they paint all the interior walls white, they use just a few conventional plant species for a uniform look until all the houses are sold.  The new owners get used to the look and never bother to change it. … Continue reading Spruce up your foundation plantings

Bringing Dragonflies to Your Yard

For anyone who enjoys watching birds at a feeder, there is another pastime available that is just as entertaining but less well known: watching the dragonflies and damselflies patrolling your yard. There are over eighty species in Northern Virginia, a few of which are happy to frequent our gardens if we offer the right conditions. Some are hefty and like to land on walkways, making … Continue reading Bringing Dragonflies to Your Yard

Befriending the butterflies all winter

Where do butterflies go in the winter? If you are picturing the adults hibernating like bears, that’s actually not that far from the truth for a few of them, including Mourning Cloak butterflies. This handsome creature reappears very early in the spring because it overwinters as an adult in crevices of bark or in leaf litter. Most butterflies and moths overwinter as eggs, larvae or … Continue reading Befriending the butterflies all winter

A new take on “curb appeal”

A strip of lawn is the default landscaping choice for the area right next to a street. But is that the only option? Not necessarily, as gardeners are discovering. In many situations, boring lawn can be replaced with pizzazz. Lawn has its advantages and disadvantages next to a road. It can be walked on, and short plants help preserve important sight lines. However, turf grass … Continue reading A new take on “curb appeal”

Making Friends with the Hummingbirds

Fall is a great time to work on the guest list for next year’s garden party. Hummingbirds make some of the best guests of all, or to put it more accurately, we can make ourselves better guests of them by providing what they need around their homes, otherwise known as our yards. Our local Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are migratory, departing Virginia in September for Central America … Continue reading Making Friends with the Hummingbirds

Making scents of your yard

Fragrant flowers can add a whole extra dimension to gardening, and the flowers of native plants are no exception. The scents are there for the sake of the pollinators, but we can enjoy them as well. If you try putting your nose up to every flower you meet, you will have some interesting surprises. Modern day humans are good at identifying human-made smells such as … Continue reading Making scents of your yard

Native plant landscaping: Three factors for success

For anyone who wants to help the birds and butterflies but is not an experienced landscaper, a few design concepts can help make the difference between a random collection of native plants and a beautiful but manageable landscape that supports our local ecosystem. Three major considerations come into play. The first is the understanding that basic garden design principles apply to any garden, whether using … Continue reading Native plant landscaping: Three factors for success

Stay-at-Homeschooling for Grown-Ups

We have all heard of naturalists such as Charles Darwin and James Audubon who undertook long and fruitful journeys of discovery. But did you know that many naturalists made their famous discoveries in their own yards? For example, Jean-Henri Fabre spent decades at his home in France on a small plot of hard scrabble where he documented numerous observations of insect behavior that are still … Continue reading Stay-at-Homeschooling for Grown-Ups