My husband and I chose our house in Belle Haven in large part because we loved the tree top views from the windows, and the prospect our ivy-covered and wooded backyard offered for easy maintenance. I hadn’t any thought then of becoming a gardener.
I began to develop my perennial gardens in 1990, and quickly discovered that my “easy maintenance” yard was comprised of hard pan and river rock and dominated by the shade cast by our large oaks. I learned the finer points of shade gardening, and the wondrous benefits of freely delivered leaf mold from the city of Alexandria.
Since becoming a Fairfax County Master Gardener, I have embraced native plant materials, terraced the hillside slope, and reduced the lawn components and ivy of my gardens. All of the excavation, ivy removal, and terracing has been done by one gardener – me—and I have actually loved the challenge of excavating, and discovering which hardy perennials can survive. My favorite landscape tools have become a pickaxe and an auger. All of the rocks you see bordering the garden were dug out of our yard as the beds progressed. A couple of years ago, I terraced a part of the side yard to capture a sunny site for an herb garden; and have embraced the shade under our oaks by cultivating hostas.
In 2012 and 2013 I removed the front lawn and created a gravel courtyard; reclaimed the sideyard by tearing out the English ivy and other invasive vines, and removing an overgrown mulberrry tree. The ‘new’ side garden beds have been intensely planted with hydrangeas, camellias and arborvitae to screen the neighbor’s drive.
Our yard has been certified as a Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Foundation.