Brookland’s Hidden Gardens, A Secret No More

One of the things that separates Brookland from other DC neighborhoods is the sheer amount of space surrounding the many lovely homes here. Many lots average around 1/5 acre or more, providing lots of space for kids of all ages to run free and enjoy being closer to nature. All that space lends itself to another purpose as well: there are many artists who live around here, using the land as their preferred palette to create amazing gardens full of flowering plants, lush shrubs, and shady trees.

brookland garden 1
When an old boxwood we had in the front was destroyed by Snowmaggedon, we ripped it up and replaced it with these double pink and double red Knock Out roses, a very low maintenance shrub. The blue flowers are catmint (Nepeta racemosa “Walker’s Low”).

Gardening is a tried and true Brookland pastime. Whether it’s a wild cottage garden cultivated for decades by one of the neighborhood’s senior gardeners, or the perfectly manicured gardens of the Franciscan Monastery, Brookland abounds with natural beauty that is sure to soothe the soul whether you till the soil yourself or simply enjoy the sights.

I’m one of the residents who chooses to till the soil. My partner and I bought a home with a good bit of land in Brookland almost three years ago. We both wanted to develop a shared hobby by learning how to garden from scratch, since neither of us knew practically anything about it. The yard was a wild mess of poison ivy, choking vines, out of control shrubs, and buried garbage. Three years later we’ve cleared away most of the ugliness and finished much of the front garden, but the whole thing will still take years to complete the transformation.

During this time I’ve drawn a huge amount of inspiration just from walking the streets of Brookland and seeing what other talented gardeners are doing. I wanted to get a sense for what grows well and what is native to the area, since we’re trying to plant low maintenance native plants whenever possible. The spring and early summer is an especially good time to take such walks, when the heat is not oppressive and most gardens are at their maximum bloom. The sights are simply incredible, and yet most people in DC and environs have no idea about the lovely gardens hidden in their midst.

As a budding gardener (pardon the pun) I intend to share what I’ve learned about gardening in Brookland from doing it myself and from wandering the neighborhood to see what others have done. I’ll also be sharing Brookland’s lushness through photography, highlighting some of the gorgeous landscapes that dedicated Brooklanders have created around their homes.

7 thoughts on “Brookland’s Hidden Gardens, A Secret No More”

  1. It is true that Brookland has lovely gardens! My husband and I recently moved to Brookland on the edge nearer to Woodridge and RIA. Our backyard is currently the mess of poison ivy, choking vines and out of control shrubs along with cement blocks, rusting fence posts and unearthed garbage (including 2 basketballs, 2 soccerballs and a softball…) that you described. We want to have a garden, but are working on how to deal with the mess first…any tips you could me give on- or off-blog? It’s rather overwhelming right now… Nice to have a new blog on Brookland!

  2. Hi Elise, welcome to the Brookland Bridge!

    I feel your pain on the backyard garbage. The previous owners of my house used to fix cars in the backyard, and used a hole in the back as a dumpster for all sorts of things. Who knows what chemicals are in the ground from auto work…

    It can all be overwhelming, so I’d say just pick one thing to clear at a time. It may seem like forever to get the yard better, but one day you’ll take a walk and realize that the place has been transformed. One thing I really wish I had done was to take a lot of pictures of the yard before we started working on it–they would have served as a great reminder of how far we’d come whenever we feel down about how much is left to do! 🙂

    You might want to start with vines. There are some nasty vines around here that grow everywhere and look like morning glory vines. I think they’re called porcelain berry but I’m not sure. They do make berries, and wherever these things land you will get even more of this awful vine. We pull these out by the roots wherever we see them, it’s an ongoing task…but if left alone for a few years they create large stumps and the plant becomes more difficult to eradicate.

    Poison ivy: be careful. This thing will cause skin problems even years after it has died. I hate recommending chemicals because we garden almost entirely organically, but Roundup Poison Ivy may be your best friend here. Put it on the leaves and forget about it for a few months. It’ll die out and eventually shrivel.

    For other ivy: we’ve had pretty good luck removing it just by tearing it out and getting as much of the roots as possible. You have to follow up and keep removing as other shoots come up but the first removal will greatly weaken the plants and you’ll eventually stop seeing new shoots.

    I’d be happy to correspond off blog if you like. Send me your email address using our contact form page, and I’ll send you back my personal email address.

    I look forward to seeing how your garden is coming along!

  3. Thanks for your message Joe! We have raked out a lot of the junk but it was a lot of work with not much improvement. I look forward to the day I can look back at it :). I’ll contact offline. Thanks again! – Elise

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