Dawn Szelc LDG Secretary Clear Blue Landscapes
Our January meeting kicked off with a wonderful lecture from Lynne Church, Lynne Church Landscape Design, on plants with winter interest. Lynne started with Plants with Attractive Branching Form. These provide a sculptural quality even without their leaves. Some of her favorites were American Elm, Japanese Maple - the larger types, Star Magnolia, Winter Hazel, Alaska Cedar, Serbian Spruce, and Dawn Redwood. The cedar and the spruce are evergreen, of course, which have not only the interesting form but the needles which provide some color through the winter.
Next Lynne discussed Plants with Berries and Decorative Flower Buds. An unusual specimen which is seen occasionally in the landscape garden is Edgeworthia chysantha or Paperbush. It is pictured below. additionally Pieris japonica with its early spring buds is beautiful. Cultivars mentioned were Compacta, Mountain Fire, and Andromeda. Finally Winterberry is always a favorite but requires both male and female plants to exhibit fruit.
Plants with Peeling or Mottled Bark comprise the next category. River Birch is a favorite in this area, but Lynne also discussed Betula populifolia "Whitespire" or Asian White Birch as an interesting alternative. She recommends to not grow one from seed. Additional ideas included Persian Ironwood, Paperbark Maple, and Lacebark Pine. Those three are pictured below in order.
Plants with Colorful Foliage or Stems includes quite a few choices. Chamaecyparis pisifera False Cypress and f'Carten's Wintergold' provide some bright yellow color. Persian Ivy, Coral Bark Maple, and Redosier Dogwood all offer some great color in the winter landscape. There are also a number of grasses such as Japanese Forest Grass, Mexican Forest Grass, Prairie Dropseed, and Switchgrass. Finally Lynne discussed Colorado Blue Spruce for great gray-blue color and Dwarf Eastern White Pine.
Plants with Early Flower provide some color near the close of winter. Small trees like Japanese Apricot, Cornelian Cherry Dogwood, and Witch hazel. Paperbush, of course fits well in this category as well, and the beautiful Christmas Rose.
Finally Lynne discussed the use of evergreens and conifers in general for their winter interest. Thank you Lynne for the wonderful photos and great ideas for our next project!
Dawn Szelc LDG Secretary Clear Blue Landscapes
The Mid Century Modern garden tour started with the Collins/Harter garden. The 1920's bungalow is surrounded in the front by a metal Eco-Mesh fence, designed for vines. The path leading to the front door is made of flagstone with Washington D.C> Metro terra cotta floor tiles. On the side and in the backyard are additional industrial materials and bright colors. The deck off the back door is blue metal. there is red curved metal edging surrounding all the planting beds and a rust metal edging around a 10 ft diameter Zen sand circle. The access to the backyard is a blue perforated fence with a gate featuring cutout circles for viewing the garden.
The garden is a plant lovers paradise! It features plants of all kinds and some that were quite unique - a plant from South Africa that is not hardy but the owner (our own Jane Collins) replants every year. The side yards features a rain garden on one side and a rock garden on the other. There are also many native plants spied in every corner.
This house was featured in the November Lighting Tour by Olsen Weaver as there are many night time lighting elements also installed.
The second house on the tour was the Silverbrand garden. This is a new garden put in for a house that had been custom built in 2015. The designer Scott Brinitzer was on site and provided explanation and descriptions of the installation challenges and successes.
As a corner lot with a small backyard, Scott was able to create an additional garden room on the side for lounging and entertaining. The front lawn had a repeated cube planting bed that mimicked the cube like straight edges of the house. Each cube housed a tree planted with perennials. Part of the lawn was planted with zoysia grass edged in metal, that became a walking path. The zoysia turns brown in the winter and ties the side terrace to the front walk. The front path were done with a custom blended color concrete that extended to the front steps and terrace.
The backyard had an "odd" approved county grading plan that included a berm which kept the water in the back garden making it unsuitable for any activity. Scott was able to solve this by building a timber wall to elevate the backyard and dig a 6' deep dry well with a flow well to maximize onsite water storage - a requirement for all newly built homes in Arlington County. This also allowed for an area where dining and entertaining could take place. A large Magnolia virginiana was quite happy in the corner. The custom deck in the backyard connects the kitchen to the back garden and back terrace dining space. The railing repeats the design of the main stair rail in the house
The final property was the Panitz Garden which was installed in the summer of 2016 in another fairy newly built home. The home owner had only a few requests. One was that a river birch be sited between the entry walk and the driveway and that she wanted a vegetable bed on the left side of the driveway. Scott was again the designer of this garden. He made a decision to create a series of concrete walls that would emerge from the soil . The panels would play off the geometry of the house, firmly connecting the house to the land. Scott described that the newly built homes have windows which reflect the heat away form the rooms. This provides some challenges for the plantings which must absorb the heat. Because of this he used Mexican feather grass which need the heat.
There are taller plantings clustered on the downhill side of the lot that will allow the neighbor's home to recede somewhat from view over time. Plants used were Chindo Viburnum, Calamagrostis 'Overdam', Prostrate Cephalotaxus, and Little Bluestem. The hardscape steppers were created from limestone to navigate the grade changes. Because the water did not remain on the property and quickly ran off onto the neighbor's drive and the storm sewer, gravel is used to slow the water flow from the site.
Dawn Szelc LDG Secretary Clear Blue Landscapes
The most recent summer tour of the LDG was to the Bishop's Garden at the National Cathedral.
Our docent, Ann, met us near the Baptistery which had been the Herb Cottage until it was partially destroyed by a crane falling on it after the earthquake. The crane had been working on repairs to the Cathedral, and was toppled by wind, causing significant damage to the garden's Norman Arch, stone wall, and numerous trees. Everything was repaired and now the building is a café. Ann explained that the garden was designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, Jr. and was executed by the amazing work of Florence Brown Bratenahl, the wife of the first Dean of the Cathedral. She formed the All Hallows Guild, the garden guild of the Cathedral, to raise funds. She brought many mature plants into the garden from nearby properties and also brought hardscape elements such as the pie stones from the Nelly Custis property. She received numerous medieval sculptures from George Gray Barnard's collection for the garden. His collection was the most extensive in America at the time and it later formed the basis of "The Cloisters" collection.
The Norman Gate and view once inside.
There are many beautiful garden rooms and views in the garden - it's difficult to write about them all. Ann took us through the Norman Court with high arch and lovely fountain. It was a cool shady spot on a hot day. Then we walked to the Bishop's Lawn and Border where an enormous Blue Atlas Cedar is growing. It was brought as a seedling from Palestine. The Shadow House, built with stones from President Grover Cleveland's summer home, near the Lawn has lovely views of the lower Blue Perennial border with the Yew walk above it. We visited the Rose Garden with the Wayside Cross as it's focal point - so named because it was a large stone cross from Europe that would guide travelers. The Rose Garden has a Peace Rose planted in it that was a gift from Haile Selassie, emperor of Ethiopia. The Herb garden, called Hortulus, is next to the Rose Garden. It is planted with herbs that were obtained from a plant list of Wilfred Strabo, a monk who wrote a book about the medicinal use of herbs called Hortulus. In the center of this garden is a Carolingian font from the time of Charlemagne. At one end of the garden is the Samuel Yellin gates - these were created by the wrought-iron master from Philadelphia. Near the gate is the Finial Garden where a finial that fell from the church during the earthquake has been placed. Photos from many of these sites are posted below.
The Bishop's Garden is a true gem in our area and should be visited by all. If you can get a tour even better so that you can understand and appreciate all that has gone into it's creation and maintenance. The LDG is thankful to Ann, our guide, and the All Hallow's Guild for their continued work in the garden.
Q Street Green Alley was awarded the “Social Impact” Award from the Potomac Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects. You can visit the alley at 4515 Q Street NW in Washington, DC
This eclectic, Asian-themed has been in development for more than 30 years. This one acre property has more than 30 different varieties of Japanese Maples, myriad varieties of mainly dwarf and miniature conifers - with some large conifers used for screening - multiple varieties of hydrangeas and other plantings. Various types of stone, some from the Shenandoahs, many from China and other parts of the world, accent the garden. Several subtle garden 'rooms' exist throughout the garden.
This beautiful garden is maintained and pruned by Yankee Clippers, a dedicated team of pruners with horticultural expertise specializing in the hand pruning of shrubs and small trees led by Elizabeth Doyle.
Dennis Fravel and Dawn Szelc LDG Co-Secretaries
In February 2017, Beth Ginter, Lead Coordinator of the Chesapeake Bay Landscape Professional (CBLP), presented an overview of the CBLP professional certification program to LDG members and guests. Beth has been Lead Coordinator of the program since 2015. CBLP is a regional certification covering conservation landscaping for landscape professionals in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
The need for a certification program for professionals arose when the Chesapeake Conservation Landscape Council (CCLC), other CBLP consortium members, and local governments realized that constructions to collect and channel storm water were failing to perform as expected. These constructions are known as Best Management Practices (BMPs), and include rain gardens, bio-swales, filter strips, and pervious pavement, among others. The lack of expected performance was traced to problems with their design, installation, and/or maintenance.
To overcome these problems, the CBLP certification was developed to provide a workforce that could address these BMP failures. It was determined that having landscape professionals that are consistently trained in conservation landscaping practices would likely result in higher BMP performance. The certification would also be a pathway for pushing conservation landscaping into the mainstream of landscape design and maintenance practice.
The CBLP program started in 2013, and the certification program was developed over the next three years. The program has two levels of certification: Level 1 focus is on design, installation, and maintenance of BMPs; and Level 2 focus is on credentialed design and installation of BMPs.
A pilot trial of CBLP Level 1 certification training and examination occurred in September 2016 to January 2017, and Level 2, from December 2016 March 2017. Certification credentials were issued in early 2017. The pilot program results were: Level 1 had 113 certifications;
Level 2 had 21 certifications; and two certifications that included Level 1 and Level 2.
Of pilot candidates, 55 percent were landscape designers and 9 percent were landscape architects.
A second group of applicants for CBLP certification is underway now--May 2017.
Currently, the certification is available in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia, and will also be available in Pennsylvania in late 2017. CBLP will then be expanded to the other states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, which are New York, West Virginia, and Delaware.
Dawn Szelc, LDG Secretary, Clear Blue Landscapes
Taking a walk in the garden with Jane MacLeish is an eye-opening experience and a delight. In January LDG was treated to an evening video walk with Jane, touring the various garden projects she has completed in recent years.
Jane began by talking about her childhood in England where her parents were avid gardeners around their house, and she and her siblings were expected to help with the work. Jane’s brother is now an eminent tree pathologist and her sister is an experienced gardener. As an adult Jane came to the United States, and was married and then divorced. She needed to have an income so decided to work as a gardener. She also enrolled in the GWU Landscape Design program but describes herself as a terrible student, so she quit. She requested garden nursery jobs and learned much about plants and dealing with people there. She also worked with contractors and did “take-offs”- pricing landscapes for new building projects. She worked with a Dutch gardener who taught her a great deal about design and balance – also never to work for one person. She worked with a number of other people who provided additional learning experiences.
Jane has always worked in private gardens – not commercial. She described how she worked at the Vice President’s residence on the garden surrounding the pool. For another prominent family she did a garden rework and created a circular lawn area that could handle party tents if needed. She also worked on Blair House, the President’s guesthouse, where the Empress of China had provided a silver birch that needed to possibly be removed, but finally was not. Then there was Trinity Graveyard in Upperville, VA, at a church built by the Mellon family. A local family gave $85,000 for 2 pavilions and a garden for this area.
Jane then moved into her slide presentation, starting with a garden of the family of Giant Foods. The wife wanted a garden that provided a view into the yard. Her brother lived next door and gave up part of his land for the garden. The next slides were of a prominent family garden in Georgetown. They wanted a rose garden among the stone and brick walls, and bowls of water for the bees. Jane showed photos of a trough fountain she installed, uniform pots and bowls, and used mazus to fill between the stones on the walking paths. People from Dumbarton Oaks come to prune the wisteria four times per year. The large trees on the site were craned in. One in particular was notable as Jane discovered the perfect tree in Connecticut. Bartlett Tree was on site when it was brought in and unfortunately the main branch broke in the process. Bartlett ended up wrapping the tree and it ultimately did just fine.
Jane worked on a 68-acre project for a wealthy family in New York near the Hudson River. She used a helicopter so that she could hover from above to see the views. She worked on the gates with Noel Putnam, now a well-known ironworks in the United States. A large rock outcropping was near the site of the house and the plan was to blast it out. Jane asked them to keep it and it butts up right against and into the house making a beautiful statement. She also received two sculptures that needed to be placed. She created walks and resting places to host these. Next was the Glenstone property which LDG visited last fall. A team worked on this property for five years. They met every week to go over details and meet with the owner, Mitch Rales. One day a dam on the property burst and flooded the area, but did not do major damage. Jane suggested having good insurance was important. They moved a large tree on the property and had to have a bridge on the road coming to the residence rebuilt to handle the weight of the crane needed to do this.
For another project in Upperville, VA, the first part of the landscape design was a question of where to site the house. After reviewing it from many aspects Jane told the owners that there was no good place to build a house and suggested they find another property instead. They ended up purchasing 500 acres in another location. A small cabin was on the property, Jane is able to stay here when visiting, which was the site of the “Lipstick murder”. She relayed the story that a fellow who lived there would get coffee at the nearby 7-11 and apparently met a woman there who then murdered him at the cabin with an axe. The owner wanted to plant trees from the property. She looked for trees that would be appropriate and those would be dug out at the roots and pulled by tractor to new locations. Ace Tree Movers http://www.acetreemovers.com/ did this work, and Jane described them as very professional and experienced. For planting around the swimming pool Jane found hornbeam trees in Maryland to move to the location. They also requested a Ha-ha wall be put in near the pool. The design of the house and barn was completed by a Canadian firm that also did the Shakespeare Theater.
At the next property the owners were planning for the April wedding of their child. They had a number of fastigiate hornbeams that were there originally, and Jane continues to look after these. The King's Masons did the paths which were a mix of many types of stone – cobles, brick, and bluestone. A pavilion was constructed after which the owners decided they did not like the design of it. Jane decided to assume that cost of $15,000 in exchange for good will of the client and has made that back in the long run with this client. She stated that at times this is necessary and the results are often positive.
There was a small garden at a home in Georgetown that had a small goldfish pond with decking all around. Jane took things in quite a different direction and changed it into a Pop Art garden with many bright colors. The pond is now wood painted to look like water and surrounded with plastic tulips. The trees are dead trees painted bright purple and red!
At Dumbarton Oaks Jane worked with a brick mason to connect the main building with the pre-Columbian art collection building. The brick mason laid out a path with a beautiful swirl design. This project was completed 5-6 years ago.
Jane worked on a residence in Arlington with stone masons that she did not have experience with but found they were wonderful. She had them build a wall with steps in the backyard. The couple had multiple children and they are able to climb the wall, sit on the steps, and hide treasures in little nooks. The wall has an amphitheater type structure so the kids can use it to present plays. She included beautiful pots and a terrace with a spa. They also had sculptures which are sited in the woodland part of the garden.
Finally, Jane discussed her own garden, which is undergoing some new changes. Jane loves humor in the garden and is working with Tony Weaver, Olsen Weaver, LLC Lighting Design and Install, to install a clear mannequin with the top half lighted with changing colors. It will be put on a pedestal. Jane stated that she loves photographing different or weird gardens. When she travels she looks for “unusual spots to see unusual things!”
Jane shared not only her beautiful gardens with us, but also several of her very challenging experiences and lessons learned as a garden designer. It was an inspirational evening and one not to be forgotten by the large group of admiring LDG members fortunate to be present. Thank you Jane!
Dawn Szelc, Clear Blue Landscapes - LDG Secretary
LDG met at the Glenstone property on a blustery day in October. Our guide was the lead horticulturist, Zach Pittenger, who met us outside the property’s art museum on the site, a post WWII museum of art. There was a large patio or open space area with a large sculpture there, Sylvester, 2001, by Richard Serra. According to Zach this was the only perfectly flat space on the grounds. The Glenstone property, owned by Mitch and Emily Rales, used to be a hunting estate. They intend to open it to the public in 2018. Near this area Zach pointed out the pool house backed by a grove of River Birch.
After the introduction we then walked towards the road through a grove of Chinese elm under-planted by Carex pensylanica. Zach also pointed out the Itea virginica “Little Henry” as we walked. He was interested in help from LDG members with ideas to get the carex to fill in better or a recommendation on some replacement which would be a better ground cover to grow under the shade of the trees. The Landscape Architect for the property has been Peter Walker and Partners since 2003. They have had to move many trees on the property to create the planned landscape. Walker’s protégé Adam Greenspan visits there weekly. The other consultants involved are MGAC Consulting, Hitt Construction and Valley Crest Landscapes Contractors. Zach stated that there are 500-800 contractors onsite every day. He pointed to the Liriope spicata along the wood line which is going to be removed because it is not a native plant. It is also problematic in that spot, due to weeds from the woods. Chinese stilt grass (Microstegium vimineum) is a constant weed that needs to be controlled and all weeding is done by hand. For this weed they have found the best method is to remove the seed heads with a weed whacker. The goal for the property is to be 100% organic, sustainable and planted with natives. Part of that plan is to break up the monocultures which another reason to remove the liriope. They plan to plant New York fern and Haystack fern instead.
Opposite Contour 290 is another large sculpture called Smug by artist Tony Smith. Smith died unexpectedly in 1980. This sculpture was constructed in 2007 as it was originally intended of aluminum painted black. They are trying out new paint on various sections of it - a small section can be seen in the photo. After selecting one, the entire sculpture will be repainted. We were invited to walk into and under the sculpture but to avoid touching it.
Zach lead the group out towards a very large sculpture in the far meadow. It is called Split Rocker created by artist Jeff Koons. It is fabricated with steel boxes containing many pounds of soil each. There are 33,000 annual plugs planted in a mosaic culture. The sculpture looks like a toy and was fashioned from a toy that was broken during a fight that Koons had with his wife. One half resembles a dinosaur and the other a pony.
We were then taken to a far end of the property where there were three stone houses, with mostly dry stack walls, and inside each is a different sculpture, titled Boulder, Room, and Holes respectively. The first has an enormous globe that fills the whole room. The second house has interior walls that are cracked. And the third has the circular piece on the back wall. These are all designed by Andy Goldsworthy.
After the tour those who were able to stay longer had an opportunity to visit the museum and talk further with Zach. All in all it was a very informative and interesting day! We will be looking forward to the continued development of this property and the public opening in 2018.
Dawn Szelc, Clear Blue Landscapes - LDG Secretary
The Landscape Designers Group was treated to a triple tour on September 17 of the Smithsonian’s Pollinator Garden, the Urban Bird Habitat, and the Victory Garden. The tour of the gardens was led by James Gagliardi, who is currently a supervisory horticulturist with Smithsonian Gardens in Washington, D.C. James began by describing a book he recently authored called Encyclopedia of Garden Plants for Every Location on sale in the gift shop and also Amazon.com. I checked into it on Amazon.com and it sells for $29.41 new and has very good reviews.
James described that the Smithsonian Gardens is its own museum. They have a number of collections in storage including slides on Victorian furniture, and an orchid collection which is maintained in the greenhouses in Suitland. The Pollinator Garden is located on the east side of the Natural History Museum which is the 2nd most popular museum in the world, the first being the Louvre, with 8 million people visiting per year. The garden was established in 1995 as the Butterfly Habitat garden. In 1998 they received a large financial gift and then put in signage and the granite curbs that outline all the beds. After almost 18 years new signs were badly needed, so in 2016 the signage was changed. It was updated to include all pollinators, instead of just butterflies, to be in line with President Obama’s direction. President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum directing an interagency Task Force to create a Strategy to Promote the Health of Honey Bees and Other Pollinators. Under the leadership of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Task Force released its Strategy, with three overarching goals:
James showed us a dead Lace Bark Pine that is in the garden. He had to get permission to keep it there as he wanted to display it as a natural habitat – a snag. Snag as in wildlife tree— a place to nest or den; a source of food for insects, who are in turn food for many other creatures; a perch for lookout, and more. He then described that they do two plantings of annuals per year. In late September the new designs are reviewed in-house. In October they pull out the coleus and other summer annuals and plant pansies and kale with the other plants put in in the late spring. He advised not to cut plants back in the fall but to wait until spring to provide winter food sources and habitats for birds and insects. They have 15 greenhouses in Suitland to stock the gardens including all holiday décor that goes inside the Natural History Museum.
Although the garden is fairly small it has many species of plants, and James compared it against the Mall which is a large expanse and has 2 species – grass and American Elm. About 85% of the Pollinator garden includes native plants. He then walked us through the new profile signs - one for each pollinator: Bees, Butterflies, Hummingbirds, Flies, Moths, Beetles, and additionally wind, talking about the plants in those areas. The host plants for each pollinator are very important for example Oak trees host thousands of insects. Mountain mint is another popular plant with the wildlife, but can grow aggressively. James told of a number of ways in which the plants attract their pollinators – having landing stripes showing the bees where to land, the flower of the paw-paw attracts flies with a putrid smell much like rotting meat, and the moths are attracted to night blooming flower like moon flower. Beetles love the magnolia flowers and James stated there are four times the number of beetle species as the number of animals with backbones. The pollinators were busy that morning as we saw many butterflies including monarchs, moths, bees, and a hummingbird.
From there we moved to the front of the Natural History Museum on Constitution Ave. We stood near a very large and old elm tree which is called the Witness Elm. It was planted around 1850 and has witnessed many momentous events pass between the White House and the US Capitol during its lifetime. Along the front at the entrance we stopped to check out the Evolution Garden – with its prehistoric dwarf ginkgo, and a number of interesting evergreens shown below. There were numerous Monarch butterflies on the milkweed planted in the hell strip in front of this which was very unexpected!.
Moving towards 12th St NW we entered into the newly created garden called the Urban Bird Habitat. This is situated at the corner of Constitution Ave and 12 St NW. It is a nicely shaded area with a large number of woodland plants and a beautiful Dawn Redwood. The walkways are currently mulched, but James must get them to be ADA accessible to open it to the public. There was an interesting sculpture located there which was dedicated to the last Passenger Pigeon, whose remains are housed in the Smithsonian. James commented that among his many tasks he has also had to learn how to care for a bronze sculpture. The bird habitat extended along the side of the museum with the hell strips there planted with Pink Muhly grass and other flowers.
Our final destination of the morning was the Victory Garden on the other side of 12th St NW next to the American History Museum and is modeled after the gardens called for during World War II in the 1940’s. This garden is not part of James’ responsibility but he was able to talk to some of the work there. There were many vegetables, herbs, and other edibles there that were available during that time period, showing the uses of plants for medicinal purposes as well as food. The garden is harvested and used for special events in the museum.
The Landscape Designer’s Group met together with the James Renwick Alliance members in June to tour the garden of the Ash family in Great Falls, VA. We were met by Ali Ash who directed the traffic and parking and Ellen Ash, along with Elizabeth Doyle from Yankee Clippers, to talk about the property. Ellen explained that they bought the property in 1977 and built the house in 1981. The house was designed as a contemporary rambler. She said she grew up in a Manhattan apartment with only a few potted plants. With her new property she became more interested in what she could do in the garden as well as became a lover of all kinds of plants – evident in her perennial garden which has numerous species. She does most of the gardening herself, and has developed the design over time with help from a horticultural friend who she can ask questions of. She and her husband collect all their leaves in one area in the fall, and use them during the year to mulch the beds. She has collected many pieces of art over the years from various places – Torpedo Factory, Shedoni outside Santa Fe, places in Carmel, CA, and American Craft in Baltimore. She also has collected what she termed as “junk”, all kinds of garden ornaments that are located throughout the gardens. Cats and white bunnies are a few of her favorite themes. The extent of the garden was breathtaking and provided a new view and whimsical sites at every turn. Instead of explaining it in words I can best show it through photos and there were infinite photo opps throughout!
LDG is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the exchange and enhancement of knowledge relevant to the landscape design profession. We are a group of professional designers in the metropolitan Washington, DC area. Membership is meant for students studying and professionals employed in landscape design or associated professions (i.e. arborists, installers, contractors, etc.).
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