Posts from the ‘Blog’ Category
February 3, 2016
Please visit Molly Scott Exteriors at Houzz for current project photos!
WordPress and Houzz aren’t very good at talking to each other, and Houzz is easier for a busy small business owner to update 🙂 Here are a few finished recently–come check us out, its almost time for another great spring!
Cathedral Heights, D.C.
Gibson Island, MD
March 31, 2014
It’s been a long winter in the District of Columbia. Snow storm after snow storm has kept kids home from school and gardens sleeping. This time last year Washington’s famous Cherry Blossom Festival went ahead—after the blossoms had already bloomed. This year’s festival has started, but the long winter means the blossoms are going to be late to the party.
The long winter has kept Molly Scott Exteriors from starting work for some of our clients. “Polar Vortex” temperatures and multiple snowstorms have slowed installation work to a crawl. At this time last year, we had already started work on several jobs. Thankfully our clients have been very patient this year.
But a long winter can be good for our gardens—plants benefit from a long “sleep.” The seemingly endless snows brought much needed moisture to the soil and replenished the groundwater that helps our plants flourish in the typical hot, dry Mid-Atlantic summers. In the early spring, plants do most of their growing below ground, establishing strong, healthy root systems and storing energy for above ground growing later in the summer. These soaking April showers may keep us inside now, but they are just what our gardens need—even if we’d rather be out playing in the dirt.
May 14, 2013
I do not grow roses. Even though for some a rose is what makes a garden, I have resisted their charms because roses are a bit tricky to grow here in the Mid-Atlantic (too hot, too humid, too much clay in the soil). I don’t have a lot of time, and honestly, my garden needs to be pretty self-sufficient. Well, ok, I have two roses, both Knockout-type roses (I know, I know, they’re so overdone! But I like mine–one is yellow and one is pink and they do very well, flower for a long time, and I didn’t plant 50 of them. The yellow one is my favorite– it has a nice fragrance and the closed-up buds next to the opened-up buds look to me like larger and smaller stars).
Luckily for me, lots of people spend the time to grow old fashioned roses and do it well. For the right garden and the right gardener, roses like the ones below can be very rewarding. They don’t bloom for long, but they are glorious while they do and their fragrances are intoxicating.
I am very grateful to the rose growers in my neighborhood because I get to take photos of their hard work!
Happy Rose Season in DC!
April 18, 2013
After what felt like a really long, if not very cold, and certainly not very snowy, winter, DC is in its full spring glory. The DC Cherry Blossoms did not disappoint—in fact, unlike last year, they bloomed during the Cherry Blossom Festival. Convenient, that.
Spring brings new surprises in the garden every day; its genuinely exciting for me to go outside and see what is showing its head on any given morning. I even find my designs affected by what I see in the new leaves and emerging buds. It might be a subtle thing, but the way a leaf unwraps from the bud, the sheer new-ness of colors on baby leaves, the way new leaves on a tree are often tiny, perfect replicas of what they’ll look like at maturity; are all worth noticing in the garden, maybe even more so because they’re gone in an instant.
Don’t get me wrong, I love summer, but the promise of spring, the pleasure I get when a plant pops up and I think “Oh right—that’s what that is!”—is what makes spring my favorite season.
Until we get to summer. And then fall…
Baby leaves for you to enjoy…
March 19, 2013
The largest tree on my street, a red maple probably about 60 years old, maybe older, is coming down today.
I know its sick and I know that it has a big rotting hole at the base of the trunk and I know that lots of its larger branches are dead or dying. I know that I don’t park my car under it for fear I might not have a car one morning. I know that–but I’m still sad that it has to come down.
Watching the crew take it down is kind of fascinating, they’re being very careful (luckily its not the same company who was responsible for this), tying off branches before they’re cut so they can be lowered slowly to the ground to preserve not only the neighbor’s cars, but also our front gardens. No matter how many times I see a careful tree company work, I find it amazing (and I am glad its not me up in that cherry picker!). The noise has scared all of the birds away for the morning, though, and the street will be covered in sawdust for a week or so.
So, the tree will be gone, they’ll grind the stump out and hey, I’ll have another tree box to mess around in! So that’s a positive from a negative. I have three (well, four) now, near my house that I’m planning to care for. They were installed this winter as a goodwill response to a lot of flooding that’s happened in my neighborhood over the last year (click here and here for more info). I don’t know how well they’ll control stormwater, but I’m excited for a new space to plant. The city has installed three “Princeton” Elms, an improved form of the American Elm that is hopefully immune to the dreaded Dutch Elm disease. I’ll be interested to see how they perform. And spring is on its way, a more traditional DC spring this year, not immediate summer like last year. Buds are breaking and Crocuses, Daffodils and Hellebores are doing their thing.
So today I will mourn the loss of the tree and tomorrow I will plan for what will succeed it. Isn’t that how all gardens go?
But I think I’ll have to talk to my houseplants a little bit more today…
March 4, 2013
I am ready for spring. There, I’ve said it. I basically don’t have much use for winter if it’s not snowing and as of today, the D.C. area has gotten like .00000015 of an inch of snow. No sledding, no ice skating, no snowmen! The most snow I have seen was being pushed in front of the mini-Zamboni at a nearby skating rink. So move along cold wind and freezing rain. Time for warmer breezes and springtime!
People often say that it must be nice to do what I do because you “…Can’t do anything in the winter”. It’s true that January is pretty quiet (welcome after the insanity of fall installations and getting folks’ houses ready for the holidays), but February and March are vital planning times. If you’re looking to install a new project for use come summer, it makes sense to start planning in January and February. That way your designer can get all of the drawings ready, permits issued, and materials chosen—all to make sure the contractor can jump at the first warm days and get things completed by the time the really warm weather comes around.
And even if you’re just thinking about moving some plants around in your back garden bed, or planting a vegetable garden, February is the best time for planning, and March is almost too late!
I managed to catch up on my garden maintenance last week, cutting back the leftover stalks of Asters and Anemones and giving all of my ornamental grasses a haircut. I did some pruning of flowering trees (since you can see the overall structure of the tree or shrub, pruning in the winter is often recommended), and cleaned out the winter’s accumulated trash out of the beds. It’s amazing what blows in over a season. I’ve noted which plants I will move around when the weather’s a bit warmer (the Hardy Hibiscus (H. moschuetos) has got to move to the back of the border—it’s getting too big!), and I’m keeping an eye on the plants I transplanted in the fall to make sure they’re still doing ok.
I have already received one shipment of vegetable seeds and am waiting on another. My seed starting trays are ready to go and I’ve been thinking about how I will lay out my vegetable garden this year. I plan to grow: tomatoes (of course! A mix of heirlooms and tried-and-true standard varieties), lots of peppers (my husband makes an incredible hot pepper sauce from them), cucumbers (for pickling), kale, lettuces, chard, snap peas and Roma beans. I know I have to get a move on because the Hyacinths and Daffodils surrounding my vegetable plot are coming up.
So, see, there’s always something to do for or in the garden! That’s what makes it so wonderful.
February 5, 2013
One of the best features of my hundred-year-old house is its really deep windowsills. I think it makes the house look better and more importantly, it provides a lot of space for my collection of houseplants (from left to right, Paperwhites, Meyer Lemon, Calamondin Orange, more Paperwhites and some kind of Echeveria).
Even as winter in the DC area has gotten milder it is still cold and not much is really active outside, so I turn to my indoor garden for color and to keep my idle gardening hands busy.
Among lots of other houseplants, I have a collection of orchids, maybe ten or twelve. They are all different varieties, from Cymbidiums to Vandas. I purchased them at various places, from real orchid collectors and I admit, even from the grocery store. I have been known to go to garden centers and buy their out of bloom orchids. I figure they’re all pretty and the out of bloom ones are 50% off!
I am in no way an orchid expert, but I am pretty proud of my pets this year. My secret is benign neglect. I keep my little darlings inside from basically November through May and let them re-charge on my back deck for the summer months. I water them more often in the summer (maybe twice a week, but DO NOT overwater, as they will drown quickly), since its hot out there on the deck, and I keep them in a semi-shady area so their leaves don’t burn. In the winter I put them in a sunny window and water them maybe every eight or ten days. When I remember to I feed them.
This year I have had six of my orchids bloom for me, and the chocolate scented Oncidium (above) had multiple glorious sprays of flowers that lasted all summer. If I was into that sort of thing I’d have entered her in some kind of contest. The photo below is from the web, but I had the real thing!
My Brassolaeliocattleya (say that five times fast!) “Copper Queen” (another web photo, above) rebloomed as well, after a vicious attack last year by my cat Simon.
My Black Jewel Orchid (Ludisia discolor, above) was a victim of the same attack, but also recovered well. I have lots of new, velvety, pink and black striped leaves and sprays of miniature cream-colored flowers.
The Vanda (not sure of the variety, above) and the Cypripedium were surprises for me this year. The Vanda had taken a couple of seasons off and was on the “if I don’t get flowers this year you’re going in the garbage” list. It must have heard me because it’s covered with buttery yellow flowers and lots of new growth.
The Cypripedium (above), also known as Lady’s Slipper, for its prominent “Labellum” or “Lip”, is one of my most exotic-looking orchids. It is Chartreuse and dramatically striped with Burgundy/Oxblood. It is also, wonderfully, covered in dark purple hairs and warts—makes it look like it comes from a dark and dismal swamp.
Cypripediums are a terrestrial orchid, with familiar roots that gather nutrients from water and soil, as opposed to most of my other orchids, which are epiphytes. Epiphytes have rootlike structures, but they are exposed to the air and gather nutrients from humidity and the bark of their host plant. That’s a simple version of what happens—for more information look here.
My biggest challenge is my Cymbidiums. I admit that they did not come from a glamorous orchid grower—they came from a local giant Home Improvement Super Store. They were on sale and in full bloom and were maybe $10. That was at least five years ago. Maybe six. My “if I don’t get flowers this year you’re going in the garbage” list is hard to get onto and even harder to get off of. I talk a big game but I’m a softie and haven’t banished these pots full of leaves yet. I hear that they like a bit of a cold snap in order to encourage blooming. So I’ll give them another year and maybe I’ll repot them. But if they don’t bloom this year they’re in the garbage!
One of my favorite places to browse for houseplants is Logee’s Greenhouses in Connecticut—they have really unique plants and lots of good information on how to grow them. Definitely check them out!
January 3, 2013
I am an absolute sucker for holiday decorations. And I’m not picky. I love the over-the-top ones as much as I love the more classic and reserved.
First, the traditional ones…these are from Old Town Alexandria, Virginia–right down the river from DC. Its important to realize that classic holiday decorations don’t have to be boring. I love how these use unexpected materials and celebrate a variety of textures.
Crispus Attucks Park, a small neighborhood park in Bloomingdale, DC (full disclosure, I volunteer with the park and am a Board member) had a recent community day stringing holiday lights. It was great fun and old neighbors met new neighbors and friends. The decorations don’t have to look picture perfect to bring back warm memories.
Happy Holidays everyone!
November 18, 2012
DESIGNING FOR FALL
Fall is a magical time in the DC area. Rock Creek Park, the National Arboretum and the incomparable Dumbarton Oaks put on a new show when the summer days grow shorter and the nights cooler. These glorious Oak trees were photographed early in the morning at a cemetery near my house. The sun rising behind them turned the leaves to flame.
Our hardwood forests, comprised of Maple, Tulip Poplar, Oak and Beech, among others are the obvious stars of the show, but they aren’t the only ones that have a sparkling range of color—I found rainbows in the most unlikely places.
Fall color is a crucial element of design in a residential garden. Whenever I design a garden for a client, I think about what the plant will look like after its flowers have faded. Brilliant foliage color has even more of an impact in Fall, since it contrasts with bare branches and a soft overcast sky. Fall fruits can bring a pop of color to a garden as well. Check out this recent article in the Washington Post about one of my favorite winter color plants, Ilex verticillata or Winterberry Holly. Below are brilliant red rose hips on a neighbor’s plant. http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/home/a-leafless-holly-for-winter/2012/11/27/3b1f5b12-329a-11e2-9cfa-e41bac906cc9_story.html
It is also important to extend the season of bloom in a garden. Think about plants that flower late in the season, like Chrysanthemum “Shepherd’s Pink”*, which starts its blowsy bloom time in late September and will flower until frost.
Designing for Fall color allows you to think about a whole alternative color palette for your garden once the seasons change!
*Many of you have heard me say “I hate Chrysanthemums”. And mostly I do (especially in most floral arrangements). But I like this one—and a couple of others used in the right places. So there.
October 9, 2012
Tiny houses: they’re popping up everywhere! They’re not just for Portland-ers anymore! I know of two tiny house developments in the DC area. One in Virginia (see the Washington Post article here), and one closer to me in Northeast DC.
I first heard about the “tiny house movement” in the pages of Dwell Magazine. Often measuring only hundreds of square feet, a “tiny house” has everything you need ingeniously packed into a very small space. While not for everyone, tiny houses are a wonderful solution to our super-sized, super-cluttered lifestyles. Tiny houses are often “off the grid” in that they make their own solar power and collect rainwater for dish and clothes-washing. Toilets are often composting, though not always. Though the tiny house is often classified as a mobile home for zoning purposes, many do have hook-ups to be on the grid if their owners wished.
Naturally I love that tiny house devotees spend as much time thinking about the outside of their house as the inside. Tiny houses often have extensive food-producing gardens, rain gardens and outdoor spaces.
A few months ago I was walking my dog around a nearby cemetery (it has wonderful old trees–one of the biggest Black Gums I have ever seen grows there!) and stumbled upon construction in a formerly abandoned lot sandwiched in between the cemetery fence and North Capitol Street, behind a stretch of rowhouses. The lot is roughly triangular and had been used as de facto parking for the residents who backed up to it. Apparently its been sold and tiny houses are moving in!