Native Shade: The Willow Oak

A Willow Oak (Quercus phellos) blends the solid structure of the red oak family — think of the Northern Red Oak or the lesser known but similarly impressive Shumard Oak — with the fine-textured appearance of a willow tree’s leaves. Given room to grow in full sun, it is magnificent.

Why Plant Native?

Native plants have virtue. They’re good for the environment. Planting them is the right thing to do. Planting them may even save the planet. How could any gardener or landscape designer not choose native plants? I confess to reacting with a bit of resistance when I first heard statements such as these.

Plants First, Plants Last: The Role of Plants in Garden Design

At a lecture earlier this year hosted by Montgomery County’s Brookside Gardens, David Culp, author of The Layered Garden, explained the garden design process at Brandywine Cottage, his home in southeastern Pennsylvania. Plants spoke first, Culp listened and responded, and a garden evolved, built on plants selected for sustainability and designed (or layered, as Culp describes it) for visual appeal in every season.

Sweetbay or Swamp? Either Way, a Magnolia to Consider

A native of the eastern U.S., the Sweetbay Magnolia (Magnolia virginiana) grows as a small tree or multi-stemmed shrub with an airy feel, more delicate than the better-known Southern Magnolia. It lightens the garden with leaves that open chartreuse in spring, grow longer than wide, and show silver when turned by the wind. The clustered leaves provide a clear view of the plant’s graceful stems, and in a breeze, the leaf clusters seem to float.

What Is Winter Burn?

Walking around a neighborhood in the Maryland suburbs of D.C. earlier this year, evidence of winter burn appeared on street after street: hollies, azaleas, euonymus, rhododendron, even nandina, crisp-edged, the outermost leaves appearing blow-torched, dead. What happened?