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The Next-Door Gardens of Wendy and Margaret

I recently attended an “open garden” event held by the Takoma Horticultural Club, during which I grabbed these photos of USDA-trained horticulturist Wendy Bell, whose talk about conservation landscaping we reported here on the blog.

Above, Wendy and Viv’s house is full of charm, and a great backdrop to Wendy’s lawn-free front garden.  She’s quick to tell visitors that this type of garden isn’t for the low-maintenance crowd, that it’s actually more work than a typical lawn.  (Remember, typical lawns in Takoma Park aren’t the perfect, golf-course type, but the barely good enough type of lawn that gets very little care.)

Note how much drama is added to the garden by one rather small Japanese maple.

Above, the view of Wendy’s front garden from her driveway.

In the back yard, lawn has given way to a raised-bed vegetable garden surrounded by a wood-chip path.

Tucked behind the garage are two really dramatic plants – a hardy banana that winters over just fine in the ground, and a high-yield fig tree.  I asked Wendy how long it took the banana to get that large – because I WANT ONE – and she said just two seasons.

Above are examples of focal points, starting with the signature bottle tree in Wendy’s front garden.  Very Southern!  And on the left is a bit of canna drama found in the front yard of Wendy’s next-door neighbor, horticulturist Margaret Atwell.  When not tending her plant-packed garden here in Takoma Park, Margaret works as the rosarian at the  U.S. Botanic Garden.  According to Holly Shimizu, director of the USBG, Margaret’s also in charge of the containers arrangements there, which Holly brags about to anyone who’ll listen.

Above, Margaret’s equally charming , super-colorful house.

A mulch-covered path across Margaret front garden.

Just one of many great combinations in this garden – the bark of a crape myrtle with a variegated Carex and sprawling hydrangeas underneath it.

Above, part of Margaret’s curbside garden.

Posted by Susan Harris.


Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

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