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Posted by on May 16, 2013 | 2 comments

Monique’s Woodsy Backyard Retreat

Monique’s Woodsy Backyard Retreat

Monique’s backyard is tucked away behind her Del Ray rowhouse, a woodsy retreat, with a gate boasting a welcoming wrought-iron sunflower. And if you need to announce your arrival, you can pull the chain on the bell adjacent to the door. Once inside, you feel you’ve left the city and entered a serene and artistic oasis, decorated tastefully with a collection of bells, wind chimes, and statues. Just inside the gate, a lilac bush gives off a deliciously floral scent. Here is another dignified sculpture that I’m sure is even more arresting against a backdrop of vines in full bloom. (Our visit occurred early in the spring season.) In the far right corner, Monique has created a pleasant seating area.  The meandering borders and the bench on an angle tricks you into thinking the garden may be larger than it is. A whimsical mobile hung high helps to break up the view between Monique’s back fence and the apartment building just behind her. One of the most unexpected and...

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Posted by on Apr 18, 2013 | 1 comment

Nalls Produce: Flowers, Vegetables and a Pig Named Penny

Nalls Produce: Flowers, Vegetables and a Pig Named Penny

Though I’ve lived in the Northern Virginia area my whole life, I’m always amazed when I discover something I never knew existed. Most recently, I stumbled upon Nalls Produce, a family owned and operated garden center since 1961 in the Franconia area. We weren’t in the market for plants when we went (I still haven’t even figured out what to grow), but it was a sunny Sunday morning and a field trip just felt right. When you pull up, the first thing you see is the quaint red building and rows and rows of seasonal flowers. Around back you’ll find more annuals, perennials, shrubs, trees, herbs and vegetable plants. They keep shade-loving plants inside the red building. Along with gardening tools and these adorable pink pig watering cans. There is also a store where you can purchase produce, seeds, dairy products… Gourd bird houses… And locally made pickled foods and preserves. But aside from all the plants and vegetables, without a doubt, the star of the show has to be...

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Posted by on Apr 16, 2013 | 3 comments

Urban Farming: Vineeta’s Sustainable Flower and Vegetable Garden

Urban Farming: Vineeta’s Sustainable Flower and Vegetable Garden

I literally gasped when I walked through the gate to Vineeta’s backyard. I knew she was an avid gardener, but I didn’t expect to see so many raised beds, the arbor, a pond, birdfeeders, a butterfly garden, a water-wise garden, and plot after plot of flower, vegetable, and herb gardens. To say it was an abundance of plants is an understatement. Imagine what it will be like in early June when the plants are at their full height and blooming. Vineeta has invited me back for a second tour and I’m sure I’ll be just as awe-struck as I was on my first visit. Let’s tour the space and see her blueprint of what’s to come. Some of the ground tulip bulbs are blooming now, bright bursts of yellow on a background of brown wood chips. These raised vegetable beds and arbor are in a spot where the house used to have an in-ground swimming pool. Vineeta filled it in 2011 and has planted the raised beds. Within the...

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Posted by on Apr 9, 2013 | 0 comments

Making Simple, Long-Lasting Plant Markers

Making Simple, Long-Lasting Plant Markers

Behold the mighty wood burning tool. I bought the tool last year to make an engagement gift from a wood slice for my friend Rebecca. Since then, I’ve been trying to find another use. When I saw long wooden plant markers in Eclectic Nature, I knew they’d be the perfect canvas for making customized wood-burned markers for my herb garden. I wrote out some plant names in pencil on each one… …misspelling oregano, I realized later. Next, Ana burned the outline of the words into the sticks.  No, she did not injure herself using it (she fell off her scooter), but I did trust her to very carefully use the tool to help me make plant markers. The handle can get quite hot, so she wrapped it with a pot holder first. Next, I took a turn and rounded out the words. This step required more pressure and more manual dexterity than I would trust to a nine-year-old. Notice how I tried to fix my misspelling. And here is how the plant marker looks...

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Posted by on Mar 8, 2013 | 8 comments

The Wonders of Urban Birding

The Wonders of Urban Birding

O birds, your perfect virtues bring, Your song, your forms, your rhythmic flight, Your manners for your heart’s delight… …Forgive our harms, and condescend To man, as to a lubber friend, And, generous, teach his awkward race Courage, and probity, and grace! — Ralph Waldo Emerson, May-Day and Other Pieces Yes, we can learn a lot from birds. And so begins a new project — our urban birding project — something our whole family of birders, young and old, can enjoy. Of course you could go to any bookstore and purchase a book of birds complete with beautiful glossy professional photography, but what would be the DIY fun in that? We want to discover them ourselves. We love taking nature walks along the waterfront in Old Town and in our regional wildlife preserves such as Dyke Marsh by the Belle Haven Marina and Green Spring Gardens, a secret gem hidden behind the strip malls on Route 1, just to catch a glimpse of the hundreds of species of birds...

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