The Master Gardener Bookshelf: New Landscape Ideas that Work

New Landscaping Ideas That Work by Julie Moir Messervy

By Susan Wilhelm, Extension Master Gardener

Book cover of New Landscaping Ideas that workLandscape improvements can add value to a home, provide relaxing outdoor spaces, and maximize living space by extending it outdoors. But how does one decide what to do? New Landscaping Ideas that Work by landscape architect Julie Moir Messervy answers that question by breaking the design process into parts and showing how each part contributes to a landscape that meets a homeowner’s specific needs and goals.

New Landscaping Ideas that Work is aimed at the homeowner seeking to create a landscape design without consulting a landscape design professional. It starts by identify key questions which will inform the design. These include site conditions such as whether the property is flat or sloped and, if sloped, the direction of the slope; the amount of sun, shade, or wind the site receives; the style of house (modern, traditional, cottage); and the homeowner’s own preferences. Consistent with Extension Master Gardener Best Practices, Messervy recommends getting soil tests, which are critical to selecting plant materials most likely to grow on the site. Chapter 2 discusses ways to think about space in a landscape and how spaces might be used, such as gathering or play spaces.

Subsequent chapters address different landscape design elements:  open-air rooms (porches, decks, lawns); walls, fences and hedges; paths and walkways; plantings; and details such as focal points, fire and water, furniture, and lighting. Each chapter is laid out in a similar format with an introductory text and color photographs of various approaches to that design element. For example, an explanation of how edging provides definition in a landscape is accompanied by photographs of settings with steel, stone, and wood edging. There are also sample landscapes illustrating one or more design element, often with a landscape site plan.  (One is in Fall Church, Virginia.)  Where applicable, “essential” materials for building the design element are identified with detailed photographs and, in some cases, cost implications. For instance, six different materials are featured for creating paths ranging from bark mulch and pea stone (less expensive) to concrete and cut stone slabs (more expensive).

New Landscaping Ideas that Work is a second edition of an earlier publication by Messervy, Landscaping Ideas that Work (2014).  It is full of practical information, fun to read, and the photographs are stunning. While a reader will likely need to consult additional resources to finalize a landscape design, especially as it relates to plant selection and maintenance, it’s an inspiring place to start.

New Landscaping Ideas that Work (The Taunton Press, 2018) is available at the Arlington Public Library and from national book sellers.

Photos from Julie Moire Messervy Design Studio

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SHRUB: Hydrangea quercifolia (Oakleaf Hydrangea)

Tried and True Native Plant Selections for the Mid-Atlantic

Oakleaf hydrangea may not be indigenous to the Mid-Atlantic Region but this southern native can still be at home in local landscapes unless deer are frequent visitors. In late spring, white flowers bloom in showy pyramidal panicles and turn shades of pink as they age in summer. Each shrub’s large, oak-like leaves display a variety of brilliant colors in fall.

Learn more . . .

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Simpson Gardens Roundup: A Season of Renovation

by Christa Watters, Extension Master Gardeners

Have you ever looked around your yard and thought that it was time to shake things up and reinvigorate the garden? Maybe you will benefit from the experience of the dedicated team at one our demonstration gardens, who have spent the last year working hard on renewal of the garden.

July view of the renovated Berm Garden in progress.
Photo © 2019 by Christa Watters

Last fall, after Simpson Gardens celebrated its 25th anniversary our team of regulars took a look at the future. The Waterwise Garden at the entrance to the area where we garden was dedicated in 1993. The other beds that now represent the majority of our garden were begun in 1997–98. Not surprisingly, as the gardens matured, they changed, as did the principles of gardening taught to and by Master Gardener Extension volunteers. Some of our beds were overgrown and overcrowded – plants had become too large, or natives planted with good intentions had become overly aggressive and taken over. Other beds were increasingly shaded out by tree growth, so we needed to reevaluate what would succeed there. Our crew of Extension Master Gardener volunteers decided it was time to review and renew. Continue reading

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MGNV Interns Concoct Herbal Home Brews

By Mary Lou Leary, Extension Master Gardener 

Herbal Teas in beehive jars at Glencarlyn Library Community Garden Autumnfest, 2019

Herbal Teas at Glencarlyn Library Community Garden Autumnfest, 2019

Do you savor the flavorful taste and smell of freshly brewed homegrown herbal tea? For their intern project, Valerie LaTortue and Mary Lou Leary (MGNV Class of 2018) developed a 90-minute presentation on growing, harvesting, brewing, and enjoying herbal teas. Extension Master Gardeners Kathryn Kellam and Susan Wilhelm served as mentors and co-leaders of the project over a four-month period. Read more to find out about the development of their presentation and to download recipes and handouts on herbal teas.
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The Master Gardener Bookshelf: Essential Native Trees and Shrubs for the Eastern United States

Essential Native Trees and Shrubs for the Eastern United States: The Guide to Creating a Sustainable Landscape by Tony Dove and Ginger Woolridge
By Susan Wilhelm, Extension Master Gardener

Book Cover of Essential Native Trees and ShrubsFall is the optimal time to plant trees and shrubs in Northern Virginia.  If you are interested in planting native trees or shrubs, Essential Native Trees and Shrubs for the Eastern United States: The Guide to Creating a Sustainable Landscape, by Tony Dove and Ginger Woolridge, is a helpful resource to determine which native trees or shrubs will succeed in your garden. Dove has a long history of working with native plants in his own woodland garden, and in many public gardens on the east coast. He is currently Chief Horticulturalist at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, in Maryland. Woolridge is a landscape architect and Maryland-based garden consultant with experience in commercial and residential development. Together they bring 75 years of experience to their topic.

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November/December 2019 Public Education Events

MGNV LogoThe following public education programs, scheduled by Extension Master Gardeners in Arlington and Alexandria in November & December of 2019, are open to all, but space may be limitedTo reserve a spot, please register online.


Saturday, November 2,  9:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Northern Virginia Community College Annandale Campus
Richard J. Ernst Community Cultural Center Building
The Forum Meeting Room
8333 Little River Turnpike, Annandale 22003

Home Owner Associations and Condo Associations:
Sustainable Solutions to Landscaping Headaches

Plant NOVA Natives - Naturally Beautiful - logo with buildingsIs your community association board or property management company wrestling with problems like erosion, flooding, unused lawns and unattractive green spaces? This half-day symposium will focus on how HOAs and condo associations can develop plans to upgrade the green infrastructure in their communities. Learn about the role of native plants in sustainable landscaping, the resources available for investing in ecologically focused community projects, and how to work with your community bylaws or committees to ensure positive outcomes. Success stories from local communities will be featured and a variety of experts in the field will be on hand to answer questions at a poster session.

This event is sponsored by Plant NOVA Natives and registration is at https://www.plantnovanatives.org/symposiums-for-hoa-and-condo-assoc-. Questions? Telephone 703-244-9174 or email plantnovanatives@gmail.com Continue reading

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PERENNIAL: Vernonia noveboracensis (New York Ironweed)

Tried and True Native Plant Selections for the Mid-Atlantic

Fluffy deep purple blooms atop 8-foot tall sturdy stalks draw bees and butterflies from mid-summer into fall.  This member of the daisy family is at home in fields, along stream banks, and in freshwater marshes. The Virginia Native Plant Society named New York Ironweed Wildflower of the Year in 1995. Learn more  . . .

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