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Outdoor Living: Green Thumbs

Good landscape designers, garden shops, nurseries, and more to help bring your dream yard to life.

Are you looking to create a garden from scratch or make over an existing one? Will your project involve building a patio or retaining wall, or is planting your priority? Is your budget big or small? If you’re looking to hire a landscape professional, the answers to these questions can help you figure out whom to call.

If your project is large and complex and involves a lot of building, a landscape architect is your best option. Most have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in landscape architecture (DC doesn’t require landscape architects to be licensed; Maryland and Virginia do) and are equipped to deal with structural elements such as patios, driveways, drainage, swimming pools, and retaining walls. Landscape designers often have expertise in this field, but they don’t have to—they tend to focus more on horticultural aspects of garden design. A landscape designer is a good choice for smaller projects and is usually less expensive.

As with any renovation project, personal referral is the best way to find a landscape professional. If you like a friend or neighbor’s yard, ask if she used a designer she’s happy with. Most landscape architects have Web sites with portfolios to peruse. Once you have recommendations, talk to a few designers about what you need.

“The aesthetics of each designer can be very different, so it’s great if you can identify some who are doing the kind of work you like,” says Nancy Somerville of the American Society of Landscape Architects. “Then talk to previous clients about what it was like working with them.” Most designers will be happy to refer you to someone else if they feel they’re not the best person for your project.

Prefer to do the work yourself but looking for guidance? Some designers offer consultations—for a small fee they’ll visit your yard and recommend ways to get the most out of your space.

There are other ways to find a good landscape professional. Both the American Society of Landscape Architects and the Association of Professional Landscape Designers have lists of members online. Web sites such as Home Solutions Connection, Home Connections, and ServiceMagic screen companies to offer a free list of recommended landscape professionals. Angie’s List provides a similar service for a $15 membership fee and $8.75 a month. Washington Consumers’ Checkbook ($34 for two years) offers subscribers a forum to share feedback about companies they’ve worked with.

What follows isn’t a comprehensive list of the best Washington landscape professionals—there are many more creative and efficient companies in the area. These are the names recommended most often by architects, remodelers, garden centers, other landscape architects and designers, and readers. Included are design/build firms, which can do things such as build walls and patios, and landscape-architecture firms, which provide only design services but often have relationships with contractors who can do the actual work.

Landscape Professionals

Arentz Landscape Architects, 4543 44th St., NW, 202-537-8020; 8014 Charnick Rd., Marshall, Va., 540-341-4330. Richard Arentz and his team of three landscape architects specialize in detailed, sustainable design. Arentz also owns Ironwood, a landscape construction company.

Chapel Valley Landscape Company, 3275 Jennings Chapel Rd., Woodbine, Md., 301-924-5400; 21617 Cedar La., Dulles, 703-406-0802. This large design/build firm specializes in installing large trees, exterior lighting, and irrigation.

Clinton & Associates, 5200 Baltimore Ave., Suite 201, Hyattsville; 301-699-5600. Horticulturist and landscape architect Sandra Clinton started her design/build firm a dozen years ago. It emphasizes lush planting and livable outdoor spaces.

Fine Earth Landscape, 16815 Budd Rd., Poolesville; 301-983-0800. Joel Hafner and Bernie Mihm’s design/build firm specializes in complex, high-end projects and the installation of patios and retaining walls.

Fine Landscapes, 21558 Stonetree Ct., Sterling; 703-421-7441. A high-end design/build firm doing projects mostly in Great Falls, McLean, and Leesburg.

Garden Gate Landscaping, 821 Norwood Rd., Silver Spring; 301-924-4131. This 46-year-old residential design/build firm has seven landscape architects and designers and excels at renovating existing gardens.

Graham Landscape Architecture, 229 Prince George St., Annapolis; 301-858-5330. Jay Graham’s team of 12 is highly recommended for its attention to detail and careful blending of landscape and structure.

Gregg Bleam Landscape Architect, 110-B Second St., NE., Suite 202, Charlottesville; 434-977-3232. This firm is known for its modern, minimalist designs and does projects all over the country.

Jane MacLeish Landscapes, 3743 Upton St., NW; 202-966-8279. A small design/build firm specializing in country estates with an English feel and whimsical gardens with a sense of fun.

Jordan Honeyman Landscape Architecture, 711 Florida Ave., NW; 202-986-0711. This 20-year-old firm is known for its site-specific planting designs, arbors, and gazebos.

Landscape Architecture Bureau, 714 Seventh St., SE; 202-543-6550. Formerly the Fitch Studio, this design/build firm specializes in urban designs with a creative use of space and color.

Lila Fendrick Landscape Architects, 6904 West Ave., Chevy Chase; 301-907-7700. This small firm, highly recommended by peers, is known for its design versatility and extensive range of projects.

McHale Landscape Design, 6212 Leapley Rd., Upper Marlboro; 301-599-8300. A large design/build firm with its own masonry and carpentry divisions; recommended by peers for its outdoor kitchens.

Oehme, van Sweden & Associates, 800 G St., SE; 202-546-7575. Wolfgang Oehme and James van Sweden are internationally known for natural, contemporary gardens. Two dozen landscape architects are on staff at this design/build firm.

Scott Brinitzer Design Associates, 2300 Ninth St. S., Suite M-1, Arlington; 703-892-0266. A small design/build firm founded in 1987 and specializing in classic residential designs.

Shimizu Landscape Corporation, 6101 Bryn Mawr Ave., Glen Echo; 301-229-9483. Osamu Shimizu’s designs fuse Eastern and Western styles and often incorporate water. The firm also does building.

Tom Mannion Landscape Design, 3219 N. Fourth St., Arlington; 703-528-9098. This one-man design/build company creates lushly planted, contemporary gardens that usually include water.

Garden Shops

Alden Farms, 19215 Beallsville Rd., Beallsville, Md.; 301-972-7183. Unusual annuals and perennials, eclectic garden accents, and handcrafted stone birdbaths and sculptures by owner David Therriault.

American Plant, 5258 River Rd., Bethesda, 301-656-3311; 7405 River Rd., Bethesda, 301-469-7690; 10106 Georgetown Pike, Great Falls, 703-438-8880. This nursery is recommended by designers for its extensive selection of annuals, perennials, shrubs, and trees. Landscape designers, architects, and an installation crew are on staff for home consultations; the store carries a variety of organic fertilizers.

Behnke Nurseries, 11300 Baltimore Ave., Beltsville, 301-937-1100; 9545 River Rd., Potomac, 301-983-9200. The original Beltsville site dates to 1930, and this nursery is considered one of the area’s best. Design and installation services are available. The store also has a wide variety of orchids.

Betty’s Azalea Ranch, 12507 Lee Hwy., Fairfax; 703-830-8687. In addition to a vast azalea selection, this nursery has trees, perennials, annuals, water-garden materials, statuary, and bulbs. Landscape-design and -installation services available.

Brent and Becky’s Bulbs, 7900 Daffodil La., Gloucester, Va.; 804-693-3966. More than 1,300 flowering bulb varieties including daffodils, tulips, and lilies as well as seeds and perennials, all available for online order.

Cravens Nursery, 9023 Arlington Blvd., Fairfax; 703-573-5025. Open since 1973, this nursery has lots of annuals, perennials, trees, and shrubs as well as orchids, bonsai, tropical plants, pottery, and garden accents. Hardscape designers on staff design and install patios, driveways, and walls.

DeBaggio’s Herb Farm & Nursery, 43494 Mountain View Dr., Chantilly; 703-327-6976. DeBaggio’s specializes in herbs and vegetables, including more than 100 tomato varieties. Also carries perennials, annuals, and fruit shrubs, including raspberry, blackberry, and blueberry.

Garden District, 1740 14th St., NW; 202-797-9005. This eight-year-old Logan Circle store sells annuals, perennials, trees, shrubs, pottery, mulch, and organic products. Staff is knowledgeable about planting, and owner Joe Carmack provides home consultations.

George Bridge Boxwoods, 5105 Griffith Rd., Gaithersburg; 301-482-2128. Bridge, a landscape designer, specializes in large, mature, and unusual plants but is best known for his boxwoods. Recommended by everyone from landscape designers to Martha Stewart.

Ginkgo Gardens, 911 11th St., SE; 202-543-5172. Oriented to urban gardens, this Capitol Hill shop specializes in perennials, small trees, shrubs, houseplants, pots, and outdoor furniture for rowhouses. Also provides design, installation, and maintenance services, primarily in DC.

Holly, Woods & Vines, 8453 Richmond Hwy., Alexandria; 703-799-1607. Annuals, perennials, trees, shrubs, patio furniture, pottery, and garden accents. The staff offers design and plant installation services.

Johnson’s Florist & Garden Centers, 4200 Wisconsin Ave., NW, 202-244-6100; 10313 Kensington Pkwy., Kensington, 301-946-6700; 5011 Olney-Laytonsville Rd., Olney, 301-987-1940. Annuals, perennials, statuary, garden art, furniture, and cut flowers.

Lilypons Water Gardens, 6800 Lily Pons Rd., Adamstown, Md.; 800-999-5459. Open since 1917, Lilypons sells water-garden products including plants, fish, pond filters, pumps, and lights. Cleaning and maintenance services.

Merrifield Garden Center, 8132 Lee Hwy., Falls Church, 703-560-6222; 12101 Lee Hwy., Fairfax, 703-968-9600; 6895 Wellington Rd., Gainesville, 703-368-1919. A garden center, nursery, and landscape-design/build company carrying everything from flower and vegetable seeds to houseplants and trees.

Nicholls Gardens, 4725 Angus Dr., Gainesville; 703-754-9623. Thousands of irises along with daylilies, hostas, peonies, cyclamen, and other perennials. Primarily mail-order; it’s best to set up an appointment before visiting.

Susanna Farm Nursery, 17700 White Ground Rd., Boyds, Md.; 301-972-7513. Specializes in unusual evergreens and Japanese maples.

Thanksgiving Farms and Orchard, 1619 Buckeystown Pike, Adamstown, Md.; 301 662-1291. A good source for unusual vegetable plants and annuals as well as perennials and shrubs, plus unusual garden ornaments. In the summer it sells vegetables and fruits from its own orchard.

Furniture and Accents

Brookstone, multiple Maryland and Virginia locations. Outdoor furniture, grilling accessories, games, and lighting.

Country Casual, 7601 Rickenbacker Dr., Gaithersburg; 301-926-9195. Recommended by designers for its teak garden furniture such as Adirondack chairs, porch swings, and dining tables.

Crate & Barrel, multiple area locations. Contemporary outdoor furniture, grilling accessories, lighting, and pottery.

Frontgate, 800-263-9850. A catalog and online source for high-end outdoor merchandise including fire pits, professional-grade ovens, and weatherproof HD televisions.

Janus et Cie, 3304 M St., NW; 202-333-8111. Designers love the range of fabrics at this ultra-stylish furnishings store. Chairs, tables, sofas, and day beds in stainless steel, teak, acacia, and Vertex (faux wicker).

Lunaform. An online source for pricey but beautiful permanent garden pots in sizes from medium to estate-scale. Also has free diagrams for installing water fountains in pots.

Notting Hill Gardens, 815-B King St., Alexandria; 703-518-0215. High-end European garden furniture and accessories—urns, containers, tools, and watering cans. Also offers design/build services.

Offenbacher’s, Rockville, 301-881-8565; Fairfax, 703-591-9840; Sterling, 703-444-8882; Springfield, 703-569-5700; Columbia, 443-276-0331. A large selection of outdoor furniture in aluminum, wrought iron, wicker, and wood., 8022 Leesburg Pike, McLean, 703-827-0099; 824 Rockville Pike, Rockville, 301-309-0025. Extensive selection of patio furniture and accessories along with outdoor games.

Plow & Hearth. A catalog and online store with a large selection of traditional outdoor furniture, some with a country flair.

Pottery Barn, multiple area locations. Stylish outdoor furniture, accessories, and items for entertaining.

Restoration Hardware, Georgetown, 202-625-2771; Alexandria, 703-299-6220; Tysons Corner Center, 703-821-9655; Columbia, 410-772-8070. Outdoor furniture in wicker, wood, and durable aluminum as well as heaters, fire pits, lighting, and other accessories.

Room & Board, 1840 14th St., NW; 202-729-8300. The first Washington outpost of this 30-year-old company, scheduled to open in mid-June, has upscale furniture and accessories.

Sheffield Furniture & Interiors, 1582 Rockville Pike, Rockville, 301-881-6010; 21080 Dulles Town Cir., Suite 1, Dulles, 571-323-6000. The area retailer for Brown Jordan, a designer-recommended line of steel, cast-iron, teak, and aluminum outdoor furniture.

Spring Valley Patio, 4300 Fordham Rd., NW; 202-966-9088. Outdoor furniture in teak, wrought iron, wicker, and aluminum; also hammocks and swings.

Sur la Table, 5211 Wisconsin Ave., NW, 202-237-0375; 1101 S. Joyce St., Suite B-20, Arlington, 703-414-3580; Tysons Galleria, 703-749-1125. Tableware, party items, ice buckets, and coolers.

Target, multiple area locations; Inexpensive outdoor furniture in wood, wicker, and metal as well as grills, gardening equipment, statuary, lighting, fireplaces, and other accessories.

Urban Country Design, 7117 Arlington Rd., Bethesda; 301-654-0500. A home-furnishing store with a selection of outdoor pieces from Brown Jordan and Lee Industries.

Urban Essentials, 1330 U St., NW; 202-299-0640. Contemporary teak furniture, mosaic tables, and outdoor glassware and accessories.

West Elm, Tysons Corner Center; 571-633-0227. A small selection of contemporary outdoor furniture, including dining tables, sofas, lounges, and umbrellas.

Williams-Sonoma, multiple area locations. High-end grills, accessories, dinnerware, and outdoor furniture.


Magazines such as Garden Design, Horticulture, and Fine Gardening provide good ideas. Here’s a list of Web sites, public gardens, and organizations that can also help you get started on your dream garden.

American Society of Landscape Architects, 636 I St., NW; 202-898-2444. Though many ASLA members do commercial or large-scale projects, the Web site has a residential-firm finder.

Association of Professional Landscape Designers, 4305-A N. Sixth St., Harrisburg, Pa.; 717-238-9780. The Web site has resource links and a searchable member database.

Brookside Gardens, 1800 Glenallan Ave., Wheaton; 301-962-1400. Fifty acres of gardens, special exhibits, lectures, classes, family events.

George Washington University’s Landscape Design Graduate Certificate Program, 202-973-1130. For-credit program with a concentration on small-scale landscape design. Many well-known area designers are graduates.

Green Spring Gardens, 4603 Green Spring Rd., Alexandria; 703-642-5173. A 27-acre park offering lectures, demonstrations, classes, family activities, and rentable garden plots.

Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens, 1550 Anacostia Ave., NE; 202-426-6905. A park with more than seven acres of ponds including many varieties of water lilies and lotuses on display. Educational programs and a gift shop offer information on aquatic gardening.

Landscape Contractors Association MD-DC-VA, 9707 Key West Ave., Suite 100, Rockville; 301-948-0810. The Web site has a searchable database of landscape professionals, links to plant databases, and landscaping tips.

Montgomery College Landscape Technology Program, 20200 Observation Dr., Germantown; 301-353-7803. Courses in horticulture and landscape design and technology.

Professional Landcare Network, 950 Herndon Pkwy., Suite 450, Herndon; 703-736-9666. The Web site provides tips for finding a landscape contractor as well as a searchable database of contractors.

United States Botanic Garden, First St. and Independence Ave., SW; 202-225-8333. A national plant museum showcasing unusual ornamental plants that grow well in the Mid-Atlantic. Educational events include lectures and tours as well as programs for children.

United States National Arboretum, 3501 New York Ave., NE; 202-245-2726. Specialized gardens including azaleas, dogwoods, herbs, and perennials. The Friendship Garden is a signature New American Garden by Oehme, van Sweden. Also education programs and lectures.

Virginia Tech School of Architecture and Design, 1001 Prince St., Alexandria; 703-706-3003. The bimonthly report DesignIntelligence ranked Virginia Tech’s bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture number one in the country. Master’s and PhD programs are offered as well as summer workshops for high-school students.

Other Resources

Charles Luck Stone, 1700 S. Sterling Blvd., Sterling, 703-674-2240; 43060 Jackpit La., Ashburn, 703-723-1050; 12202 Clarksville Pike, Columbia, 443-535-0543. Thousands of stone products from around the world for walls, patios, pathways, fireplaces, and more.

Fogdog Sports. An online source for outdoor sports equipment including basketball hoops, croquet and bocce sets, and trampolines.

Irwin Stone, 601 E. Gude Dr., Rockville; 301-762-5800. This store supplies flagstone, slate, building stone, wall stone, boulders, gravel, and specialty stone to many area designers as well as homeowners.

Outdoor Illumination, 5161 River Rd., Bldg. 2, Bethesda; 301-907-4999. Custom lighting design, installation, and maintenance.

Sport Systems, 10078 Tyler Pl., Ijamsville, Md.; 800-609-9966. Installs high-end backyard game courts, such as half- or full-court basketball courts, tennis courts, and multiuse backboards for tennis, lacrosse, and inline ska

Tri-State Stone, 8200 Seven Locks Rd., Bethesda; 301-365-2100. A good source for Carderock stone and other types of flagstone and wall stone.

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