September is a transitional month. The children go back to school. Gardeners harvest the end of our summer vegetables and watch our flowers wither as we adjust to the arrival of fall. Gardeners are always going through a transition from one season to another. As we squeeze the last picnics and garden parties into our busy schedules, we also start dreaming about what’s next for our gardens.
One Capitol Hill writer, Claudia Kosoulas, wrote and published a very special book called “Private Gardens of the Potomac and Chesapeake.” The book includes a foreword by Adrian Higgins, who worked as a Washington Post Garden writer for many years. The book is published by Schiffer Publishing, a company focused on publishing niche areas of interest with high-quality information and excellent images.
The book contains 120 color and black-and-white photographs and has a coffee table size of 9″ x 10″. It includes 15 different private parks, from urban spaces in Alexandria to parks located on the western side of the Chesapeake Bay. All of the parks are larger than the smaller spaces on Capitol Hill. Each garden profile shares fun and often unexpected information including architectural and landscape drawings and a plant list that includes trees, shrubs, perennials, and herbs. It also provides a list of the architect, builder, installers and suppliers involved in creating the park.
There are many garden photography books out there, but few blend the artistic aspect with the inspirational aspect as this book does. In her effective and accessible writing style, she focuses on the basic concepts and ecology of each garden. As Higgins wrote in the introduction, “But here is a radical idea: gardens are for people. And that is the essence of this book.”
Claudia’s eye on urban spaces
Claudia and her husband moved to Capitol Hill a few years ago. After living in Montgomery County for 30 years, they chose the Hill for many of the reasons we all love the neighborhood. They were looking for a walkable community, so they didn’t have to get in their car every time they went somewhere. Access to the metro was also essential. “My husband and I are very happy with this move,” says Claudia.
Claudia has over 25 years of urban planning experience having worked in the Montgomery County Planning Department. “My experience ranges from urban planning to culinary history, but it always comes back to communicating ideas, stories and concepts,” says Claudia. She has published several books on culinary history and architecture. Schiffer Publishing approached her about expanding their garden book series to include private gardens in the mid-Atlantic. The company has previously published similar books about California gardens, and Claudia is now working on a new book about South Florida gardens.
““‘Private Gardens of the Potomac and Chesapeake’ took about two years to write and edit,” says Claudia. The experience of writing this book has taught Claudia to look at things more closely and consider how public spaces benefit greatly from their private counterparts. “It made me think more about my own garden on the hill,” says Claudia. “Another lesson I’ve learned is don’t be shy about asking the nursery staff about plants you’re thinking of trying. They really have a lot of knowledge and can help you choose wisely.”
Use the pros to get started
If you’re thinking about redesigning the front or back spaces of your home, Claudia says to start by doing plenty of research. This includes talking to your neighbors and searching online and in books. “I would also like to leave it for a year,” Claudia explains. “You have to live with the outdoor space, and see what plants thrive.” It is also important to know how the space interacts with the seasons. Many of the garden designers mentioned in the book “recognize the necessity of incorporating existing plantings… They also blend native varieties that support wildlife and are hardy enough to withstand unpredictable climate changes, from the shock of winter cold to the ravages of summer drought.” “.
There will be structural decisions and city regulations such as stormwater runoff issues that must be addressed. D.C. updated its stormwater laws and regulations and released the Department of Energy and Water’s Stormwater Management Guide in January 2020. Many parks, especially those that feed into the Chesapeake Bay, have found creative ways to address stormwater concerns. The book also describes how buildings in gardens provide space for people and covers many different styles of enclosures.
Gardeners and designers are always seeking low-maintenance gardens. Claudia offers specific plant lists for each garden, and many of the plants are local varieties.
The varieties offer the benefit of being a plant known for its success in the region. The list provides both the scientific name as well as the more common name such as coneflower, Echinacea “Hot papaya.” The list of trees in the fifteen gardens alone is worth getting the book.
Claudia points out that taking some time to design your garden is a good idea. Organizing the remodeling process is perfectly fine, and living with the changes can be a big help. “It doesn’t have to be done all at once, and you can spread the cost out.”
This book is available from East City Books, Politics and Prose, and Amazon on Capitol Hill. $35.00. Potomac and Chesapeake Private Gardens will help you create your best garden ever.
Rendy O’Brien dreams of the gardens of the future and loved this book. To contact Rindy, firstname.lastname@example.org
(tags for translation) Top garden tips from the pros