Archive for the 'groundcover' Category

Sustainable Woodland Path | dogwood*design project

IMG_9985.JPG, originally uploaded by dogwood*designer.

Adele Medina O’Dowd, principal, dogwood*design, llc
contact me | or 202.255.0728
references available upon request


This little stretch of earth was once lined in dying bamboo, but has now been rejuvenated and reclaimed as a lovely passageway between Chevy Chase West’ Hunt Avenue and Drummond Avenue. The big problem here was water and drainage since possibly a couple hundred commuters and school children take this route through the neighborhood each day. The bottom of the of the pass was always flooding in heavy rain since it had a very low spot.

Once the bamboo was removed and tilled out of the ground, a great spot as left for a garden. But since this land is community property and therefore no on in particular is responsible for it’s upkeep except willing neighbors, dogwood*design was charged with designing a plan that would be sustainable and a pleasure to see each day and with seasonal interest.

Planted here are purple Beautyberries, native Virginia Sweetspire ‘Henry’s Garnet’ and Spicebush, as well as tall growing evergreens Aucuba japonica and Leatherleaf viburnum. Two trees adorn the spot now, a light green needled evergreen Limber Pine and a very showy deciduous Chinese Fringetree with it’s exfoliating bark and lacy white spring plums.

Hope you have a chance to pass by and enjoy this sustainable community bright spot.



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Stream or Drainage? | landscape Design Ideas

IMG_8642.JPG, originally uploaded by dogwood*designer.

Stream or Drainage? | landscape Design Ideas

You decide. Here is another great way to design with water in your landscape. Instead of trying to get rid of it in underground plastic pipes that go the wrong way, give water a place to be appreciated. Here at the Chicago Botanic Garden, a drainage stream crosses a crushed stone pea gravel path. Instead of trying to stay dry, my neice preferred to walk right through. The crossroads composition is made even more splendid with the Solmon’s Seal behind (also pictured below) to give the path a woodland native appeal.



Scale, Color and Texture | Landscape Design Ideas

IMG_8496.JPG, originally uploaded by dogwood*designer.

Scale, Color and Texture | Landscape Design Ideas

Even if you’re just thinking about your residential yard – maybe not the grand scale of the Katzen Arts Center at American University shown above – it’s helpful to understand a few things about scale, color and texture and how to plan appropriately. The architecture of the Katzen Arts Center is grand and contemporary. It must have been challanging to create the right landscaping for it especially with the steep grade of the hill, but it’s easy to see that whoever created the design, not only did a brilliant job but also kept these design principles in mind.

Eventhough there is a lot going on in this landscape, scale of the plantings and elements are appropriate for the atmosphere of the place, giving it a feeling of serene simplicity. Wide expanses of windows, light colored walls and vast horizontal lines appear balanced against equally wide expanses of grasses and groundcover roses, accented by plump hydrangeas. The landscape design style is bold enough to keep the building from looking out of place (you know, like a spaceship dropped it there or something). The building fits into it’s environment. It’s grounded because the environment was designed to compliment the building. The water feature and stairs are open and ample. But the setting is not austeer since there are good transitions in height between stairs, plants and water, which create a dynamic space.

Colors used in this very sunny place are also bold and simple. Big areas of apple green and warm pink and with highlights of white and purple plantings all contribute to the harmony and add to the gravity of the place, while keeping it very cheerful and in the same color “value” as the building itself. Notice the sculpture echoes the colors of the plantings. Nice.
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With all that bold use of color and scale, the designer was free to make some beautiful use of soft texture to mitigate the strong lines of the building’s architecture and lend a calming, welcoming appeal to the scene.


I drive by the Katzen Center a lot. My eyes are delighted each time. I could say much more about it but I think you get the point. One last thing to mention is a great moment of humor seen in the picture above (literally, a temporal feature of the garden). Those fantastical yellow flowers floating up 6 feet in the air remind me of some hidden fairies you might think you imagined once you look away. Were these flowers sown here by birds? I doubt it.

Pavers Done Right | Landscape Design Ideas

IMG_8245.JPG, originally uploaded by dogwood*designer.

Pavers Done Right | Landscape Design Ideas

Use of the “pavers” – brick-like flooring material made of an amalgam of concrete and coloring and laid in decorative patterns – here in this front yard ties the front walk and drive together in a really sophisticated way.

This house doesn’t have alot of front yard space to allocate to a big driveway so using the attractive pavers and incorporating little green islands into the surface blurs the normally rigid line between the drive and front yard. When cars are not parked there, the driveway is a comfortable space for kids to play. Whether cars are present or not, the main front entrance remains welcoming, gracious and open. If the driveway was just straight, the front yard might feel way too crouded and infringed upon by the garage just because of the artificial line drawn between drive and yard.

The planted island beds are just so terrific, a great approach. Most of the time I think people get carried away with pavers because they like their texture and patterns that they create these areas that are seem almost barren wastelands to me. Islands solve it, if a bit boldly.

Hakonechloa macro ‘Aureola’ | Golden Hakonechloa

IMG_4714.JPG, originally uploaded by dogwood*designer.

Hakonechloa macro ‘Aureola’ | Golden Hakonechloa

This shady spot is nestled in a raised bed/sea of the ornamental grass, Hakonechloa. The softness of this grass texture, even in the winter (as seen here) makes the bench a peaceful place to rest. In summer the Hakonochloa is chartruese. I think the grass and bench make a great combination organized this way. I really like the way the grass surounds the bench uninterrupted. Above the bench and grass is a young maple that can’t be seen in this picture, but serves to make the shade. This photo depicts a spot at the US Arboretum.

NC State / Hakonochloa 

Podophyllum peltatum | Mayapple

IMG_7109.JPG, originally uploaded by dogwood*designer.

Podophyllum peltatum | Mayapple

Mayapple is a cool native groundcover, which has little yellow flowers and an actual apple that hangs down below the leaves, believe it or not. It doesn’t stick around long, gone by June. Though this pinwheel is known to be a bit aggressive.

Sarcococca hookeriana var humilis | Sweetbox


Sarcococca hookeriana var humilis | Sweetbox
Evergreen groundcover, what do you know? Spreads by succors. This is a great alternative to Skimmia which also prefers shade. White blooms have a light scent but is also a heavy weight in clay. Black berries add to the year round interest.
Can shear into shape if needed.

Takes 2-3 years to establish. It just sits there in clumps looking like nothing is happening, then takes off. Buy the 2 gal pots ($20ish retail), not the little ones because they’ve already been growing for a while.


ZONES HARDINESS | SUN OR SHADE ….. 6 – 8 | part to full shade
GROWTH RATE ….. slow to medium
HEIGHT / WIDTH ….. 12″to 24″
PLANT SHAPE & BRANCHING ….. groundcover, dense (sp is large shrub but unknown in commerce)
LEAF FORM & SHAPE ….. 2″to 3.5″/ 1″
LEAF ARRANGEMENT ….. simple, alternate
LEAF COLOR ….. Evergreen | dark green, turning bright yellow in fall
FLOWERS | tiny, white, frangrant (almost like grass bloom)
BERRIES | nice, round, black
SOIL does well in moist acid, loose, high organic matter, pollution and drought tollerant once established
Native Western China, introduced in 1907

Monrovia / Sweetbox

Paghat’s Garden / Sweetbox