Category Archives: Gardening

Brookland Is Getting Figgy With It!

Wandering the streets of Brookland lately, I have noticed a good number of fig trees thriving and starting to produce some nice sized figs. Here are a handful of fig trees from Newton, Otis, Irving, and 12th Streets, as well as a tiny alley dweller.

A few years ago my wife and I had a tapas party. The hit of the night was figs stuffed with goat cheese, wrapped in bacon. I know it may sound a bit crazy, but they were delicious! Here is the recipe:

Ingredients: Ripe figs, mild goat cheese (the creamy, spreadable kind), bacon

Directions: Cut off the fig stem. Slice the side of each fig and stuff with goat cheese. Wrap bacon around each fig. Overlap the end of the bacon strips and make sure the goat cheese is covered so it doesn’t ooze out. Bake the figs at 350 degrees for about 5 minutes. We like our bacon extra crispy so we finished them off by broiling for another minute or two. Warm, sweet savory ooey-gooey goodness awaits! They are a bit messy so factor that into your plans.

Brookland Gardens, August 2012 Edition

August is a hard time of year for us DC gardeners. It’s usually blazingly hot, making any activity in the yard a total chore. There is often a drought at this time of year, causing many plants to go dormant or wilt entirely without watering. It’s also a time of pestilence, with every gardener’s bane from spider mites to aphids wreaking havoc on our beloved plants.

So when you find a lush garden in bloom at this unpleasant time of year, you really have to sit up and take notice. And so I did, as I took a wrong turn and accidentally passed by this gorgeous August garden at 1003 Newton earlier today:

Yes, that’s a big bee happily doing its thing  in the last pic–I love seeing gardens that provide a habitat for birds, butterflies, and other critters…..

I don’t recognize most of the flowers except for the roses and zinnias. Can anyone help identify them? You’ll help make my own August garden look better in the future!

Congrats, 1003 Newton, for having such a gorgeous garden at the height of the dog days of summer!

Garden Photography – Contest And Tips

One of my favorite things to do this time of year is photograph my garden so that I can do ‘before and after’ comparisons with how things looked in the spring. It gives me a great sense of accomplishment. But, I’ll be the first person admit that I don’t have very good photography skills. Mostly I just click away with my iPhone and hope for the best.

I came across this article on the Behnke Blog, full of tips for photographing gardens, and I thought I would pass it along. If you don’t feel like reading the whole thing, here is a summary of their tips:

  • Play with blocking out overly bright sun with an umbrella or a thin plastic cutting board.
  • For shooting close-ups, try use a tripod and/or a wide-legged stance instead of the zoom feature. 
  • To highlight a subject in the foreground it’s helpful to throw the background out of focus. Do this while taking the photo by using a wide aperture, or later by using software such as in Photoshop. Or, just place the subject at a greater distance from the objects in the background. (Assuming it is potted plant or something moveable.)
  • Sometimes having a blurred object in the extreme foreground, like a few leaves, brings more attention to the subject.
  • Try putting a tissue or a piece of plastic over the flash to soften its effect. A piece of colored paper could also be used – in a color like orange that would warm up the photo if that’s the effect you’re looking for.
  • Try experimenting with backlighting.

Now that you are equipped with all these great tips, you may consider entering the International Garden Photographer of the Year contest. Even if you don’t sign up, the stunning photographs from previous winners are worth a look. Here are some low-tech photographs from my personal garden.

Who Needs Grass? Brookland Gardener Chose Carefree Variety Instead

Those of us who live in rowhouses with “postage stamp” sized front lawns know that good things come in small packages. My fellow rowhouse owner and neighbor Damali transformed her grass lawn into a lovely bounty of flowers and plants that create a lot of character, texture and flair to the front of her house. She decided to go “grass free” because weeds had overtaken her lawn.  At first, she hoped to preserve the grassy look, but when she read up on everything it would take to get the plush lawn she wanted, she decided to look for alternatives.  She considered rock gardens or something similar, what ever it was, it had to be easy. Happily, she has found that the flowers she planted take almost no time to maintain other than light weekly weeding and watering as necessary. So, she has decided to stick with this option. Her mix of perennials and annuals has filled out nicely over the summer, and next year she plans to add more. Bravo Damali!

Brookland Grows The Best DC Produce- Prove It At The State Fair!

Many people may not be aware of it, but DC does have a state fair. The event has been growing in popularity every year; this year culminating at the Barracks Row Fall Festival on September 22nd. As a novice vegetable gardener, I love the idea. I am spreading the word on this because I am sure Brooklanders with their savvy gardening skills can win in at least a few DC State Fair contests. To check out what contests are open for entries and find the entry forms go here. Be warned, some contests have entry limits or deadlines before the Fair itself in September. For example, the first contest, the Tastiest Tomato Contest, will take place this coming Saturday, August 18, at the Columbia Heights Community Marketplace. Winners get bragging rights for a year, cash, a blue State Fair ribbon, and a 1-year subscription to Washington Gardener magazine. Don’t worry about having any competition from me though, all the  tomatoes I’ve grown so far this year  that weren’t eaten by squirrels were cracked, sunburned messes!

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.