Val's Sunny Backyard Retreat

My Great Outdoors

Name: Val
Location: Arlington Heights — Arlington, Virginia

While a lot of people would not look once at a 900 sq. ft. house with one bathroom, I think I fell in love as soon as I saw the photos of the empty, sunny backyard. What began in 2009 as a weedy lawn with an apple tree, a lilac, and barely four other perennials is now a weedy lawn surrounded by eight vegetable beds, herb beds, a row of strawberries with blackberry and raspberry on the fence, a native plant garden, and perennial beds featuring blueberries.

I've spent more than I'd like to count on compost to amend the clay soil (I could never make enough on my own) as well as plants, but many are "pass-along" plants — namely the bearded irises and a peony. The Magnolia was the only major purchase — necessary to replace the privacy lost when the apple tree was felled by "snowmageddon." The perennials were purchased at garden centers, the Arlington Farmers' Market, and the biannual Parkfairfax native plant sale. (Note that seeds are cheap, and county mulch is a great deal.)

This is a working space, where I grow as much food as I can — no reason to ever buy herbs or greens (year-round!), plus tomato sauce, okra, peppers, beans, and berries are put up. Most important, it is a respite from the world for my husband and me, even though we are minutes from DC. The old neighborhood trees help a lot in that regard. It is, like any garden, a work in progress — the concrete patio needs to be replaced, and we plan to convert the aluminum-siding shed that is attached to the house into a sun room. (The backdoor awning desperately needs painting, but a house finch built a nest inside before I could get to it.)

In addition to the relaxation and bird-watching and entertaining space it provides, my favorite thing about the garden is how it changes throughout the year. In a month, it will look completely different. I chose current photos to show that aspect as well as the idea that a place does not have to be "finished" to be enjoyed.

Thanks, Val!

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(Images: Val)

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