Friday, March 30, 2012

Chasing Weeds

Your landscaper has come and gone.  Your yard looked amazing for a period of time.  But now you see new weed growth.  You may have thought you'd never need to weed again, and if you stay on top of the new weeds that DO show up, then the job will be so much easier. No matter how well your beds were weeded and treated, some new weeds will appear as the weeks go by.

It really does seem like an endless job, doesn't it?  That's because it is! No matter how hard you work, no matter how many weeds are removed, there always seems to be some new weed growth popping up.  Even if you hired a landscaper to remove EVERY SINGLE WEED from your beds, chemically treat  your beds or use weed mats, weeds will find a way into your flower bed.  Weed seeds travel!  They do! Of course, if you remove them correctly the first time, and stay on top of the new weeds as they find their way into your flower beds, then the job will be minimal and much easier than if you only weed once or twice a year.  A few minutes every two or three days will decrease the job dramatically and will ensure that your initial clean up was well worth the price and effort involved.

There are multiple ways to minimize weed growth in flower beds.  These include:
  • Pulling weeds by hand.
  • Pulling weeds with a garden tool.
  • Using a chemical product.

A combination of each of these methods is usually needed when attacking a weed infested flower bed.

Hand Pulling.  Yes, it's as hard as it sounds, but it's effective.  Very effective.  It is very important that you remove the weeds as well as their roots.  Shallow rooted weeds are easy to pull. Deep rooted weeds, like dandelions, may require a small amount of digging to ensure the roots are removed. 

Using a Tool.  A garden tool can assist you with the difficult task of hand pulling.  Hand pulling can be a strain on the back, so consider using a good tool to help with weed removal.  A winged weeder is a great garden tool and makes the job of weeding those deep rooted weeds a much easier project.  They come in a variety of sizes, so choose one that feels comfortable in your hands.

Chemical Products.  There are so many chemical treatments on the market.  Oodles and oodles of them!  When trying to determine the right weed killer for your use, ask questions and read the label.  Do your research!

However you choose to remove weeds, be sure to stay on top of things.  It's much more effective to spend a few minutes every couple of days then break your back after waiting to address your weed problems. 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Decorating Your Deck or Patio or Porch

You spend hours, if not days, contemplating the interior decorating of your home.  Why should you neglect that outdoor living space?  Once your contractor has finished his work, you should take a step back and truly engage yourself in this newest "room" of your home.  It's a blank canvas.  Relish in the opportunity to get your creative juices flowing.  Conceive a plan and make your deck, patio or porch a place where people want to congregate and relax.

The question many people ask themselves is, "where do I start?  We'll address the different areas, and then you decide which ones will work for your space.  Pull out a few magazines, tear out your favorite looks and get started on putting it together in a way that makes it work for your home. 

The floor.  A deck, patio or porch instantly becomes a "room" with the addition of an exterior rug.  There are plenty of choices on the market from grass mats to more "rug like" materials.  We love the selection at Outdoor Rugs Only and there's sure to be a color and material that works perfectly with your taste and space.

The furniture.  Not an easy choice, by any stretch.  Especially now, with so many people turning their outdoor spaces into actual living space.  Comfort should be key, so try it out before you buy it.  You do that with indoor furniture, make sure you do the same with the furniture that's going to serve as your oasis this season.  I am partial to wicker and cushions, but some of the more modern choices can be just as appealing and comfortable.  Brown Jordan continues to be a favorite manufacturer of mine, so I have no problem promoting their site.  They sell EVERYTHING patio and deck related.  If you can find something you like at Brown Jordan, you are one hard sell!

The cover.  Everyone loves the look of an umbrella, but we also love the function!  We're in Coastal Virginia.  Sometimes you just HAVE to have that shade.  The backyard umbrella industry has grown and changed in so many ways, and that can be attributed to the appeal of creating a backyard space.  Umbrellas can be found made of canvas, acryllic and polyester.  Your use and weather can help determine the material that will work best for you.  Crate and Barrel has an amazing selection of colors and shapes, and I'm particularly partial to their rectangular umbrella when looking for something different.  With the umbrella lights available, the purpose of an umbrella is carried into the night.

Planters.  Where to begin?  I love some of the modern choices, and if you're deck or patio theme lends itself to the modern, then you should consider a geometric, fiberglass planter.  This one's a favorite for me, for the shape and height interest.  Buying pottery from a local artisan is another smart decision. You're supporting your local artist and you'll be owning a piece of art.  And if you're feeling really creative, visit one of the paint your own pottery places and create your own backyard masterpiece.

Accessorize.  It's important to accessorize your look outside, in much the same way you handle your indoor accessorizing.  The Outdoor Selection at Pottery Barn is definitely swoon-worthy.  Pillows, dinnerware and pieces for outdoor entertaining, a small coffee table, decorative touches that include things to hang on the wall if your deck or patio is close to the house and lamps and lanterns to hold candles that are capable of withstanding the evening breeze. 

However you choose to decorate your outdoor patio or deck, be sure to take the time to give it the perfect look that reflects your personal style.  Have fun decorating!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


When someone walks or drives past your home, does the exterior of your home make them pause and want to visit or does it make them gasp and want to keep on going?  Stand in the street in front of your house.  If it wasn't your home, how would you feel about walking up to the front door?  Perhaps it's time to make changes to your landscape. 

There are numerous ways to make your home more inviting.  How can you improve your front yard?  Does it involve your door?  Your porch?  The overall landscape?  With a little thought, your home can invite people to stop on in, with or without the welcome sign. 

The first part of your yard to address is the area closest to the street.  It's what people see first, and will give the greatest initial impact. Creating an area that includes color is a sure way to say, "hello, look at me" and beckon visitors to continue forward.  If you have a mailbox by the curb, dress it up with a flowering vine or surround it with river rock and an interesting array of flowering species. 

Next, encourage visitors to continue forward to your porch.  Include a bed that adds interest with both height, texture and color.  These areas should include flowering shrubs and trees.  A Japanese maple or a brightly flowering crepe myrtle surrounded by low growing flowering shrub will continue the adventure as guests approch your front door. 

Your doorway should be visible from the street.  If it's not as noticeable as you'd like, try painting your door a brighter color to draw attention to it.  A brightly painted door always says, "welcome."  If you have a front porch, use it to create a seating area.  A porch swing or a bench with cushions ensures guests that they are approaching a home that wants people to stop by and enjoy their space.  Fill your front porch with attractive pieces of pottery, overlfowing with colorful flowers and plants.

However you choose to invite people into your home, remember it starts with that intial first impression.  Use your creativity or that of your landscape designer to welcome people to your home.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Garden Structures

Garden structures are a great way to add height interest to your landscape.  Arbors, pergolas, vine poles and trellises all have a purpose, but along with that purpose comes the prospect of a new way to add more beauty and color to your landscape. 

Arbors are synonomous with roses, but there are several other plants that can create an equally appealing look, depending on the style of your landscape and the style of the arbor you choose.  A simple arbor can create a welcoming entryway when placed over a walkway. 

A well-designed pergola can be used to create a new "room" for your home.  When placed on a deck or patio, with the right furniture and some exterior fabric your landscape instantly becomes additional living space. 

A garden trellis as a stucture will serve as support for any climbing plant or vine.  Additionally, if placed in a certain area of a landscape, it creates a wall for privacy or a blank canvas for adding color with flowering plants.  With a variety of shapes and construction materials, there's a trellis available to match any home.

A vine pole is one of the easiest ways to train a flower vine that needs support, particularly a very fast growing species. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Hey, Chickadee

Want to bring more birds to the yard?  There has to be a reason for them to want to be repeat visitors, and that reason usually surrounds food.   Why not spend a little time on a rainy day creating a homemade birder feeder?  We searched the web and decided to share our favorites, complete with links and instructions. 

This is a super cute, easy one that we found at Smile Monsters blog.

If you've got small children and are looking for a fun, easy activity then the bird feeder at Surviving Motherhood is a perfect choice.

A recycled soda bottle?  Yes!  Disney'st Family Fun shows you how a recycled bottle and some old wooden spoons make a creative, easy bird feeder.

This one might be my favorite.  Apartment Therapy shows us a cute way to recycle an old toy.  

Have you come up with any ideas for bird feeders?  We'd love to hear your thoughts.  Share your ideas here.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Bug Buddies

We always hear about the insects we don't want in our gardens.  You know the ones. Those pesky bugs that devour our flowers, shred the new leaves on our trees or damage our grass. Not all bugs are a nusiance.  In fact, some give our gardens huge benefits, acting as neatural pest controllers or pollinating our flowering plants.

These are the insects and bugs you should welcome to your garden:

Green Lacewings.  The larvae of this insect prey on aphids.  They are nicknamed "aphid lions," and the devour the pesky aphids at an amazing rate. 

Bees.  Bees polinate plants, propagating your flowers.

Assassin Bugs.  This bug feeds on everything from beetles to caterpillars.  Their name should give you a hint of what they're capable of in the bug world.  Be careful if you handle one. They do have a pretty painful bite. 

Dragonflies.  They prey on aphids and mosquitos.

Praying Mantis.  With a vorocious appetite, these green giants of the garden will go after any pest in your garden.  They are very effective in controlling garden pests. 

Ground Beetle.  Ground beetle larvae develop in the soil and prey on the pests found on the ground.  These include slugs, cutworms, snails and root maggots. 

Lady Bugs.  We like them because they are cute, but they are also the most commonly used bug to control pests.  They love aphids, but they also eat whitefly, scales, mites, mealybugs, tomato hornworms and cabbage moths.

Centipedes and Millipedes.  Centimpedes hunt soil pets including slugs and fly pupae.  Their burrowing also improves your soil. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

Taking the Outdoors Indoors

We often get asked, "What flowers should I plant for cutting? " and that's a question we love to answer. 

The choices are endless, but these are a few of our favorites:

Yarrow.  This is a tough, easy to grow perennial that blooms and blooms.

Star Gazer Lily.  It's pretty and it smells good.  Of course, we recommend it!

Coreopsis.  It's simple and has a down home, country feel.

Bearded Iris.  With a huge variety of colors, it's hard not to fall in love with these favorites.

Blazing Star.  Gorgeous stalks of color that are also great for drying.

Summer Phlox.  Old fashioned, full and fragrant.

Perennial Sage.  A vibrant purple-blue color.  The more you cut, the more blooms it produces.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Spring Bloomers

Who doesn't love March?  A good amount of this love comes around because of the beautiful blossoms appearing on so many trees in the Hampton Roads area.  Stunning is an understatement when trying to describe the visual that a large blooming tree offers.  We have a few favorites, and seeing these particular species in full bloom just screams "Spring is Here." 

Yoshino Cherry.  This is one of the largest of all flowering Cherry, with a habit that is more spreading than the usual vase shape. Broad canopy means it will provide shade for smaller patios, front yards, and other outdoor living spaces. A stunning single specimen in lawns or when used as a street tree. Even more lovely at your front-yard entry gate or to highlight a cottage garden. Large enough to line driveways or mark vehicle entries. Size makes it a great source of strong spring color in large home landscapes, parks and commercial sites.

Chinese Fringe.  This outstanding small tree will provide perfect interest for spatially challenged front yards. Wider than tall, it will also work well as filtered shade in outdoor living spaces that can afford to be overwhelmed by large trees. Set far back in the landscape against dark evergreen trees for a gorgeous bloom spectacle in sharp contrast. Show white blossoms become luminescent in the moonlight. Also works nicely as an accent tree surrounded by high profile perennials in the lawn.

Aurora Dogwood.  A spectacular accent tree for high profile front yards in the lawn or in beds with more diverse planting. Makes a stellar focal point in backyard landscape and it will draw the eye wherever it grows. Plant aligned with picture windows or sliding glass doors to better enjoy its seasonal changes from indoors. Good accent for shading and interest close to patio or terrace. Outstanding beneath a canopy of old shade trees or set into a woodland composition with understory species native or exotic. A valuable disease resistant replacement for dying Cornus florida and other susceptible dogwoods.

Eastern Redbud.  Redbuds offer four seasons of change in the front yard foundation planting for an eye catching display. A native of the eastern U.S. makes it a perfect candidate for wild gardens, wildlife gardens and all native landscapes. Add to beds and borders or to create long range focal point.

Alexander Magnolia.  A medium-sized flowering tree that is unmatched for elegant beauty and old-fashioned charm. Plant as a single specimen in the front yard or flank your entry walk with a matched pair. This is a darker Saucer Magnolia that produces better color for larger landscapes, where it stands out even at a distance. Such large softly colored blossoms make a great study near patios, porches and other outdoor living spaces. Can be planted as a small city street tree, but does not do well where pavement is salted in winter.

Chanticleer Flowering Pear.    Exquisite flowering tree displays a dazzling profusion of white flowers in early spring. Narrow, pyramidal form is coated with dark green summer foliage turning brilliant reddish-purple in fall. Ideal specimen tree for areas with limited space.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


With proper design and planting, your garden can become a feast for the senses.  Sight.  Smell.  Taste.  Touch.  Hearing.  Plants can enhance your life in so many ways, and its important to entice each of your senses with your landscape.  Plant a Sensory Garden and please all your senses.


Balloon Flower.  Upright stems bear whimsical flower buds shaped like hot air balloons that open to large, blue flowers with purple veins.

Red Hot Poker.  With multiple varieties available, these plants produce spikes of upright, brightly-colored, red-to-orange flowers.

Jacob's Ladder.  This intriguing plant forms a tidy mound of brightly variegated green and white foliage. Lovely blue flowers make a striking combination with the foliage. Excellent for use as contrast or accent in perennial borders.

Giant Sunflower.  The sunflower got its name from its huge, fiery blooms, whose shape and image is often used to depict the sun.

Poppies.   Great addition to borders, containers, rock gardens and scattered throughout mixed beds.

Coneflower.   A well behaved, easy to grow native perennial that is favored by butterflies.


Lavender.  Fragrant, large, vibrant bluish-purple flowers complement the gray-green finely textured foliage. Ideal for borders, cottage gardens and containers.

Chocolate Cosmos.  Velvety textured, chocolate-scented, deep maroon flowers with darker brown center on divided dark green leaves.

Fino Verde Basil.  Attractive, small-leaved bush basil. Great in the garden and the kitchen: the taste is pure sweet basil; excellent in salads

Honey Perfume Rose.  Exhibits a great spicy scent and very good resistance to disease, including rust and powdery mildew.


Albion Strawberry.  This newer everbearing selection offers a superior robust flavor and rich red fruit color, with excellent disease resistance. The fruit is easily identified by its long, conical, and very symmetrical shape. Albion also produces an extremely high yield.

Swiss Chard.  While the leaves are always green, chard stalks vary in color.  Chard has been bred to have highly nutritious leaves at the expense of the root (which is not as nutritious as the leaves). Chard is, in fact, considered to be one of the healthiest vegetables available and a valuable addition to a healthy diet.

Variegated Lemon Thyme.  Colorful golden-edged green foliage is invaluable for adding color and contrast to patio containers, flowering borders and small open areas. Lemon-flavored foliage adds zest to marinades and more.

Flat Leaf Parsley.   Flat-leaved parsley is preferred by some as it easier to cultivate, being more tolerant of both rain and sunshine,  and has a stronger flavor.


Lamb's Ear.  Garden visitors will enjoy the soft feel of the foliage. Dense rosettes of thick, soft, velvety, silver-green leaves form a soft mat, making an excellent edging or low border.

Silver Sage.  Silver sage is also known as silver clary or silver clary sage. Silver sage is grown for its striking white leaves. The leaves are wide with scalloped edges and are covered with downy hairs that give them a fuzzy appearance.

Bunny Ears Cactus.  New pads are red and appear in pairs, like the ears of a rabbit, and soon mature to dark green. Yellow flowers, easy care and unique architectural form make this valuable as a specimen, patio container or security barrier plant.

Scotch Broom.  Great hedge or low screen. Interesting to the touch, its long sprays of pea-like blooms make this a lovely spring accent. A wide, dense mound displays tiny bright green leaves. 

Jerusalem Sage.  Golden-yellow flowers appear in whorls among woolly, wrinkled leaves for a pleasing contrast. Cutting back faded flower stems promotes continuous bloom.


Love in the Mist.  The plant's common name comes from the flower being nestled in a ring of multifid, lacy bracts. The fruit is a large and inflated capsule, growing from a compound ovary, and is composed of several united follicles, each containing numerous seeds. The capsule becomes brown in late summer, creating a rattle effect.

Canterbury Bell.  This beautiful flower will attract a multitude of buzzing bumblebees to your garden. 

Rattle Snake Grass.  One of the easiest and most dependable ornamental grasses to grow. Use as a single specimen or mass as a groundcover. Flowers can be cut for fresh or dry flower arrangements. It creates a whispering sound when it blows in the wind.