43777 Central Station Drive
STE 390
Ashburn, VA 20147 Phone: 703-962-6266 Mobile: 540-422-5359 Fax: 571-386-1081 Email Donna

Monthly Landscaping Tips





What makes the difference in traffic through similar homes listed in the same neighborhood?  We all know the over all condition and cleanliness have a huge impact, but other factors have a tremendous affect on making one house stand out from the rest.  I want to discuss a simple concept that is generally low cost and too often overlooked.....Curb Appeal.  No matter the season, the landscaping around a home can make it stand high above the competition.  The obvious necessities are a manicured lawn, clean bed edges around planting areas, fresh mulch and NO weeds.  Beyond these must haves is the simple addition of seasonal color items.  I like to refer to the color impact in the landscaping as "60 Mile Per Hour Whiplash".  You all have seen it in a beautifully landscaped lot.  You drive by and find your head turning uncontrollably to refocus on the blast of color that was detected in your peripheral vision as you drive by that outstanding landscape.  This color blast can set you apart from the other houses in the area.  It is oh so easy and affordable yet it gets overlooked most of the time.  These days in most newer subdivisions, there isn't a definite distinction between homes.  The style and models typically look very similar at first glance.  The best way to individualize your home for impact and 'wow' factor is........Colorful Landscaping.  

Turf Improvement:

Keep it simple.  If the ground temperature is below 55 degrees you are stuck with what you have until it warms up.  Once the temperature increases you will be able to Over Seed, Fertilize and Lime.  All the box stores carry what you will need.  Buy a Lawn Starter fertilizer.  Buy a Tall Fescue Blend grass seed. You will also need Pelletized Lime.   The rates are pretty straight forward and are as follows:  Starter Fertilizer comes in 5M and 10M bags for 5,000 and 10,000 sq. ft. coverage.  (Remember to get your lawn dimensions and write them down. Length times Width equals your total sq. ft.)  Grass seed should be applied at a rate of 5 lbs. per 1,000 sq. ft. for areas with existing turf growth; application of grass seed should be 10 lbs. per 1,000 sq. ft. for those areas that are bare or have little turf growth.  Lime will help bring out that lush blue/green healthy color we all desire in our lawns by sweetening the soil from its tendency to push to the acidic side.  All these applications can be performed in the same weekend.  I recommend the order being Seed then Fertilizer and then Lime.  Yes they can be applied back to back but do not try and mix them to be applied at the same time.  If the soil is on the dry side or in most cases unless it has rained for several days, it is a good idea to lightly water the area after the application to promote the breakdown of the fertilizer and lime into the soil to speed up the process of beautifying your lawn.

Edging Bed Spaces

First and most important: Buy a FLAT edging spade.  They sell for as little as $20.00 at your local hardware store.  Follow the existing bed line and cut out a fresh edge one spade width at a time.  Face the bed area standing on the lawn; place the shovel along the edge; apply pressure with your foot and then tilt the spade forward toward the mulch area.  I know this sounds tedious and remedial but it is the ONLY way to get a professional looking landscaped edge.  The edging machines you will find for sale are more for weekly maintenance and can not produce the look of a hand-cut edge.  Believe me, it is worth your time to perform this task.  The function of this edging process is to hold the mulch from running into the turf areas.  The best edge is approximately 4 inches deep from the turf level.  


Cover all the planting areas with a fresh coat of mulch.  Remember to clean all debris and weeds from the bed areas before mulching.  When covering existing mulch, you just need enough to give it that fresh look.  Figure on using 5 bags per 100 sq. ft. (if bags are 3 cu.ft.) and 7 bags per 100 sq. ft. (if bags are 2 cu. ft.) You are just covering to make a fresh look.  

Seasonal Color Plantings (That 60 MPH Whiplash Effect)

A season by season breakdown of annuals and perennials that will give you the "WOW" factor.  Its easy and affordable if you use the right plants for the right areas.  

Early Spring:  Pansies, Snapdragons, Dusty Miller and Wave Petunias are all safe annuals to plant even when there is a chance for light frost in the area. Perennials for this early season consist mainly of the different Dianthus varieties especially "Pinks".  Not many other perennials are blooming in the early part of the Spring season.

Spring thru Early Summer:  Marigolds, Begonias, Petunias, Impatients, Dusty Miller, Geraniums, Verbena and Coleus are all great annual plantings for planting after the chance of frost has passed.  Perennials for this time are too vast to mention.  The best idea for adding perennials for a color impact is to just go into your local nursery and see what is in bloom at that time.  

Summer thru Early Fall:  Vinca, Begonias, Geraniums and Marigolds are all great annuals for the hot season.  These all require less water than many other common annuals.  Now is also a great time to add Hosta, Ornamental Grasses, Black Eyed Susan and Cone Flowers for a nice addition as perennials that will look their best during the Fall season.

Fall and Winter:  If still available in the local nurseries or box stores; Pansies and Cabbage and Kale are a great addition for this time.  Most perennials will have done their thing by this time and will not be showing color.  The exception to these are Asters, and depending on how late in the season you are working,  Cone flowers and Black Eyed Susan. 

Another factor to keep in mind is making sure you are using the proper plants in the proper areas.  It is a simple as breaking down you landscaping into 2 categories.  SHADE and SUN    Consider Shade to mean full shade to morning sun exposures till 11 am.  Sun being areas of full sun to those areas that receive sun from noon on.  

Shade loving annuals include: Pansies, Impatients, Dusty Miller and Coleus Shade Loving Perennials:  Hosta, Coral Bells and Astilbe

Sun loving annuals include:  Geraniums, Vinca, Verbena and Marigolds Sun Loving Perennials:  Grasses, Day Lilies and Peonies 

Check the plant signs and tags in the nursery for what conditions are best suited for each annual and perennial you prefer.


In most cases a mass of one or two colors makes for the most impressive display.  Too many colors often make the area look too 'busy' and unplanned.  Plant your annuals within 2 to 3 inches from each other to give a full grown in look.  Try to buy plants in at least 4 inch containers or larger and avoid cell or market packs.  These plants take too long to give you a mature grown in look.  Remember this is to give a professional look and not a work in progress appearance.  Keep it simple when mixing colors. Red and yellow or purple and yellow seem to be the most eye catching and appeal to a majority of people. Steer clear of white blooming plants due to the fact they tend to look bad when the blooms turn brown.  Most other colors don't have this problem.  Their blooms fall off while still in color.  Large inexpensive Hosta varieties are great to fill space in beds that are shaded.  A mix of Impatients (one color) and Hosta make any shady area jump to the eye.  

Always consider using the majority of your colorful annuals at the entrance way to the house.  Its fine to accent around the mailbox or along the walkway and even areas along the the front and sides of the house.  The MOST important area is the entrance.  Start at the entrance and make it the heaviest planting of color and work your way out from there.  Carrying the same color throughout the entire landscape has a beautiful clean effect.  One or two colors and keep it the same throughout.

Until next time.......THINK SPRING!!!!!!    




         John Osborne 540-379-2429

            Re/max Olympic Realty







February Landscaping Tips


Weather forecast this week is calling for another shot of the messy stuff for the entire Mid-Atlantic area.  In some areas of the Northeast, we have already seen record snow fall amounts this season.  Here locally (Northern Virginia) we are still over 2 feet behind the 1995-96 record 76 inches.  That is just fine by me. :)

Now that I have given you a positive outlook on the current weather conditions, lets get thinking about Spring.  Here is some good news; Spring is only 50 days away.  Thank goodness!!  All the moisture we have had is actually advantageous when thought of in terms of the upcoming growing season.  Another advantage we have experienced this season is the fact that it has remained cold throughout the winter.  I know, now everyone of you are thinking 'he has completely lost his mind', however let me explain.  When the temps remain close to constant, above or below freezing, during the winter months it prevents a plant killing condition within the soil.  Heaving occurs when the soil freezes and then thaws multiple times over the winter months.  This situation causes damage to all your woody plants and trees by damaging the root systems when the ground rises and falls as the ground freezes and thaws.  It can even have a damaging affect on some of your perennials.  The second adverse affect of temperature fluctuation is the 'freeze-drying' affect it has on evergreens, particularly 'broad-leaf evergreens', plants such as azaleas, laurels, euonymus and boxwoods are the most susceptible to this situation.  Dessication is the industry term that describes this condition.  Available moisture in the leaves of the plant becomes crystallized and tends to dry out and cause a burned look to the foliage.  

So all in all you see that like it or not, the cold and snow we have had this winter has some good benefits to our future landscaping later in the season.

Lets take a look at how to address some of the damage that this, and most, winters cause:

Ice Damage

Pruning is important to remove any branches that may have been damaged due to the weight of ice accumulation.  Once you have identified the branches that are damaged, prune back just below the broken area.  This type of pruning may need to be readdressed later in the growing season to optimize the aesthetics and overall shape of the plant.  We will discuss that later in the season.


Burned looking foliage generally is cause by a drying affect due to less moisture in the leaves than in the root system.  This can come from a dry winter or one where the temperature fluctuates back and forth above and below the freezing mark.  Pruning the damaged leaves is the only repair for this situation.  These leaves will not recover so they must be removed.  When pruning these plants, it may be necessary to give the entire plant a 'haircut' to maintain the symmetry of the plant.  Look at the overall shape of the plant and prune to reproduce that same shape on a smaller scale that allows for removal of the damaged areas.  In some cases you will not be able to remove all the damaged leaves and keep the symmetry of the plant.  Prune back as much as possible and leave the rest.  


It is too late in the season to prevent this from occurring this year but its a great time to discuss it. Most importantly, new plantings should be addressed in late Fall to protect them from root damage due to heaving.  All new plantings can be protected by adding additional soil and mulch around the base of the plant.  Typically an addition of 2-3 inches of topsoil and 3-4 inches of mulch will help to protect them by insulating the surface area around them.  Do Not choke the plant with soil and mulch against the trunk of the plant.  Make a well around the truck after the new soil and mulch have been added. (Just a finger width space between the new soil amendments and the trunk will suffice)

Thank you again for participating with this blog.  Feel free to ask 'any' questions you would like to have answered.   

See you again next month with more information and tips to make your landscaping more enjoyable.  





Spring is Coming....Is your yard ready?

I know, its hard to think about Spring and working in the yard when the temperature is below 30 but a few simple tasks now will save you work and frustration when the warm weather arrives.  Come on now; everyone needs to get outside and soak up what little sun light there is anyway.  

A few things to remember about early season lawn and bed preparations:

*Weed Control

Application of a Pre-emergent herbicide is vital and will benefit you for the entire season.  Preen is a great product to use and is readily available at most of the box stores as well as nurseries that open around mid February.  Preen can be purchased in a 'shaker' container that allows for easy application to all your bedding areas.  Pre-emergents work by preventing seeds from germinating.  Most of the weeds we deal with in this area are 'Broad leaf' weeds and come back year after year from seed propagation during the growing season.  Some of those most familiar to you may be clover, spurge, dandelions, carpet weed and chickweed.  All of these come back from seed and can be controlled with a pre-emergent like Preen. 

*Crabgrass Prevention

We all are familiar with the biggest lawn destroyer of them all, Crabgrass!!!  Though we all know about this troublesome weed, most of us forget how to (or more importantly) when to treat for this weed.  Crabgrass like the other broad leaf weeds mentioned above, comes back from seeds it has produced in the prior season.  The biggest difficulty with Crabgrass is the fact that once it has emerged it is very difficult to kill.  Here is why; Crabgrass and the turf grasses you have growing in your lawn are very similar.  What kills one makes the other one look very bad or kills it as well.  It is extremely important to prevent the crabgrass from ever having a chance to emerge.  If it comes up it will generally be at its peak as the temperatures rise in July and August.  The products that kill it once it has emerged cannot be used when the temps are above 85 degrees.  We all know that 85 degrees in July and August around here is rare.  Treat with a Crabgrass Pre-emergent in early to mid February.  The crabgrass seed begins to germinate at the same time the first early blooming plants start to bloom.  That is a great indicator to remind us to get our crabgrass pre-emergent down.  The rule of thumb is to treat for crabgrass before the Forsythia and Bradford pears have lost their blooms.  Most of the product lines are similar so choose one in the middle of the price range.


Another great way to deter weed growth is to make sure you have a good 3-4 inch base of mulch in all your planting beds.  Rake your beds free of all debris and lightly rough up the existing mulch.  Cover all areas with a fresh coat of mulch to give you a combined depth of 3-4 inches between what is remaining from last year and the new mulch.  Mulch has other advantages as well like general aesthetics and moisture retention but its greatest asset is its weed prevention ability.  It won't stop all the weeds from coming up but will add dramatically to your efforts to keep the weeds away.  The function by which this occurs is blocking sunlight.  Most seeds need sunlight to warm the ground temperature up for germination.  Mulch helps to block that from happening at least till much later than it would normally occur.  In combination with the application of a pre-emergent, mulching will cut your weed production to nearly zero in your bedding areas.  

In conclusion, a few early projects in your lawn and planting beds will cut the workload dramatically through the remainder of the growing season.

Check in next month for more helpful tips. Remember everyone......"THINK SPRING"!!!!!!!