Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Cicada Plague is a Bust in McLean, North Arlington, Vienna and Great Falls

If you are like most people, you have been dreading the pending onslaught of cicadas. For months, news reports have been lamenting the eventual plague of cicadas which was to befall Northern Virginia. When the articles prophesied the cicada plague, they failed to mention that we are in the northern most reaches of Brood II territory. To view a map displaying Brood II’s territory, click here.

As a landscape company, we obviously think about these types of issues in regards to how they will affect us and our customers. The cicada problem affects landscape companies in a few different ways. First, the obvious problem is that you have crews out building patios, cutting lawns and installing plant material while actively dealing with the infestation. There’s nothing we as a company can do to get ready for that, other than to know that when the cicadas come, it will have some effect on our productivity. The not-so-obvious effect the cicada forecast has had on our business, is that we have had customers who have chosen to postpone planting jobs until the Fall due to the fear that the cicada would adversely affect their new plant material. On the surface, this concern seems somewhat rational, but as you take a closer look, you’ll see that the delay may have caused more harm than good. First off, the cicadas do minimal damage to plant material. They don’t bother evergreens and for the most part they leave shrubs and perennials alone. They do, however, burrow their eggs into the terminal branches of deciduous trees. This has a marginally negative affect on small to mid-sized trees such as Dogwoods, River Birch, Eastern Red Bud and Crepe Myrtles. With the exception of the Dogwood, the rest of those plants have such high growth rates that the plant quickly outgrows what little damage was caused. The unforeseen problem that some homeowners will encounter that chose to delay planting, is that we will be getting the plants from a nursery which may have been affected by Brood II. So if we had purchase the plants in the spring and installed them, they would have summered safely here inside the Beltway, free from the effects of the cicadas. Now this Fall, we will be buying plant material which was grown further south and will potentially have some of the tip damage associated with cicadas.

If you were looking forward to the cicadas, just remember that good things come to those who wait. Northern Virginia, including McLean, North Arlington, Vienna and Great Falls, is well within the boundaries of Brood X which made it’s last appearance here in 2004, and will return in 2021. To see a map displaying the footprint of each of the broods in the Mid Atlantic, click here.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Why does everyone in McLean, Virginia love Knockout Roses?

I have been in the residential landscape design and install business for 22 years and in all that time our footprint of work has stayed constant. We work in McLean, North Arlington, City of Falls Church, Vienna and Great Falls. When I meet with a potential client for a landscape design consultation, we work through the various categories of landscape install. As the conversation focuses on plant material, almost without exception the client gives a list of criteria that they want their planting job to meet. The top three things on that list are always 1) lots of color, 2) low maintenance, and 3) hardy. The Knockout Rose gets an A+ in each of those categories. 

Other than needing a significant amount of sunlight, the Knockout Rose is foolproof. It's inexpensive, it grows quickly and produces an enormous amount of color from Memorial Day to Thanksgiving. I cannot think of another plant which produces more color over a longer period of time. The Knockout Rose comes in 7 different varieties, ranging in color from dark red through violet to pink, and there's even a yellow Knockout Rose.  

After 15 years of cross-breeding, in 1988 William Radler created the Knockout Rose. It was not until 2000 that the Knockout Rose started to gain recognition, and since then it has become the most popular rose and one of the most popular landscape plants among all plant material. Regarding the Knockout Rose, William Radler himself said, "Despite the great possibilities for failure, the burdensome work, and the lack of glamour, my hobby became a passion. Even with successes, it didn't take me long to realize that growing roses would be more fun if it entailed less work."

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Landscape Lighting

As I recently read in a Southern Living article, "We've all taken evening drives and noted the aesthetic pleasures of a well-lit house. Outdoor lighting accents the home and adds life to a nighttime landscape." Outdoor lighting has become one of the more popular trends in landscape upgrades. Homeowners and designers alike have come to appreciate the affect that thoughtful landscape lighting can have on a home. Landscape lighting allows you to enjoy the view of your home and landscape throughout the evening. Lighting systems illuminate your property, giving you the ability to appreciate the seasonal interests of your home and plant material. This is true both in the winter and in the summer. In the winter when it gets dark early you can enjoy the view of your home and landscape through the evening, and few things are more striking than an up lit tree draped in snow. During the summer months landscape lighting allows you to entertain outside late into the evening. Thoughtful landscape lighting consists of much more than a row of path lights bordering your drive, making it look like a runway. We are not trying to create daylight at night and homeowners are often surprised at how few fixtures are required to transform their nighttime landscape. Good systems accentuate the architectural features of a home, the beauty of the landscape and promotes safety. A well designed landscape lighting system consists of a mix of path lights, up lights and moon lights. Each light creates a particular effect and it is the mix of all three which produces the best outcome. The systems are not complex, however it is important to invest in a high quality product such as LumaStream or Cast Lighting. The systems available at home centers are very inexpensive, however it is an example of, you get what you pay for. Both LED and traditional (incandescent) systems run off of transformers which tie into your home's electrical system. From that transformer we install a series of wires which run to each of the light fixtures. The advantage of the traditional (incandescent) system is that they are about 20% less expensive to install. The advantage of the LED systems is that they are exponentially less expensive to run and they do not require the routine replacement of bulbs. An LED bulb will run for approximately 21 years at 8 hours a day, all while drawing a fraction of the electricity used by traditional lights. Up until recently, traditional lighting systems had been the mainstay of outdoor lighting due to the warm light color they produce, however with the advancements in LED technology, high quality LED fixtures produce the same warm colors found in traditional lighting systems. 
Give us a call or request a consultation and we'd be happy to meet with you and discuss landscape lighting. 

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Why do seating walls work?

In the last few years, seating walls have become one of the more popular landscape elements. They have even out-performed the wave of popularity enjoyed by all stone work. We believe seating walls have become popular for a number of reasons, first and most obviously, they provide additional seating space to outdoor living rooms. They also create a sense of coziness on a patio by distinguishing it from the rest of the back yard. While only 18 inches tall, seating walls create a significant amount of enclosure. These walls also give you the ability to repeat materials found in other vertical elements of your hardscapes. For instance, if you had a paver patio with a set of building stone and flagstone steps leading into the house, when we use the matching building stone and flagstone for the seating wall, it acts to visually unify the space. As outdoor living spaces have become more elegant, the use of seating walls is a natural extension of this trend. These walls tend to mirror the architecture of the house with similar geometry. Professionally designed patios and seating walls have truly become outdoor living rooms with the materials and furnishings rivaling that of the house.

Below are some pictures of seating walls which were designed and installed by O’Grady’s Landscape. You’ll see that they can be used in a lot of different environments, each of them adding to the overall feel of the project.

MD building stone seating wall with flagstone cap

MD building seating stone wall with flagstone cap

MD building stone seating wall with flagstone cap.

West Virginia stone seating wall with flagstone cap

West Virginia stone seating wall with flagstone cap

PA field stone wall with flagstone cap

West Virginia stone seating wall with flagstone cap

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Lively Outdoor Living Space

We just completed a project in North Arlington for a really great customer. They had recently built a beautiful home and during the construction they installed a pool. As illustrated by the two “before” pictures, the backyard was inaccessible and congested. The customer’s vision was a landscape that provided lots of space around the pool and facilitated easy flow from the house to the pool. Our first step was to bring in multiple truckloads of dirt to fill in the hillside below the pool. This allowed us to create lawn space on the back side of the pool, which opened up the feel of the entire space. Then we added a Flagstone patio with stone seating walls so that there would be ample entertaining space around the pool. We also built a series of Flagstone steps and landings connecting the back door to the pool space. We then installed plant material and lawn space to compliment and soften the hardscape features. Finally, we installed a landscape lighting system. The landscape lighting allows the homeowner to enjoy the property year-round and extends the use of the Flagstone patios late into the evening. The design pulled together the existing and new elements into a landscape that invites you to enjoy the outdoors.



Flagstone patio wrapping around pool with
new lawn space on far side of pool.
Flagstone patio.

Flagstone patio with stone seating wall and stone
steps with lawn space and trees in the back.

Flagstone patio with stone seating wall and stone steps.

Flagstone patio with stone seating wall and
stone steps leading to back porch.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Patio with a view

This is a home in North Arlington where we recently finished an extensive project. We redesigned all the customer’s plant material, patio spaces, walkways and decks. As you can see from the pictures, the back yard has a beautiful view of Washington Golf and Country Club. Our customer on this job was one of our all-time favorites, which made building this project fun from beginning to end. One funny story that came up during the building of this project dealt with stray golf balls that would land out of bounds in the back yard of this house. One day while I was visiting the work site you could hear an incoming ball coming through the trees. The whole crew simultaneously put their hands up over their heads to protect themselves. The ball landed harmlessly in the middle of the back yard. This is the funny part, one of our masonry guys, thought he was being a Good Samaritan, walked over to the ball, picked it up, and threw it back on the golf course. Sure enough, the golfer came down the fairway looking for his ball. Finding his ball, he looked back to his foursome and yelled, “I told you it didn’t go out of bounds!” I explained to the crew that this was not like soccer and returning the ball is not part of golf etiquette. They laughed and claimed that they’d been doing it multiple times per day. So I guess some members at Washington Golf owe their low scores to O’Grady’s Landscape.