Monthly Archives: May 2014


Blog 5-28-14 small photoGardeners are inquisitive.  Let’s face it:  you walk down the street and see a sliver of a garden.  You want to go and see it.  You drive by a house and see a sliver of a garden.  You want to see it.  You are talking to your neighbor and see some interesting garden refuse in their “plant waste” barrel, and you want to see where it came from.  Can whatever it is be divided?

We are inquisitive, but with a purpose if we are honest.  Behind the smiles and oohs & ahhs, we want to know what you have, does it look better at your house and do we need to run out and buy one too?  Hopefully the last one so we can brag about it.

I may exaggerate here, but as a bonafide garden aficionado, I want to see gardens, and I MAY have some mildly competitive tendencies.  I want to get inspired, see plants in different arrangements and see how people use their space.  I want to see things that surprise and delight me.  And I want to compare.  Thankfully, I can be happy for others when I see their plant “x” outperforming my plant “x”.  Otherwise gardening would be a depressive activity.

So I muse on about this because The Garden Conservancy has arranged for 9 private gardens in the West Roxbury area to be on view on Sunday June 8th.   Often a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see a private creation, each garden is chosen for its merits; visitors decide which gardens they want to visit and in what order.  There is a $5 admission at each garden or $30 ticket at the host site, the Wakefield Estate in Milton.

Two Christie Dustman & Company, Inc. gardens will be featured on the tour:  the “Dustman-Ryan Garden”, and another I designed and maintain- the “Resplendent Spring Garden” in West Roxbury.

For the addresses of the nine open gardens in the West Roxbury area on June 8th, please find the list below.  We hope you will come by to see all of these special gardens.

Greater Boston Open Day

For more information as to how to visit these and many more beautiful gardens, please go to:

Help…when do I prune spring flowering shrubs and trees?

5-15-14 blog new shoots on Lilac

The show is over…spring blooming shrubs and trees have put on their much appreciated display.  With blossoms just passing by, your plant is already planning for spring 2015.  It is hard for us humans to remember that this is the right time to prune those same plants.  Timing your pruning correctly will positively manage the shape and health of the plant as well as promote their bloom performance in the years to come.  As a general rule of thumb: don’t prune spring blooming shrubs and trees more than a month or so after they finish blooming unless you are willing to sacrifice some bloom. Plants like Forsythia will now start developing their 2015 flower buds so waiting too long to prune will eliminate some of next year’s display.

Spring bloomers like Forsythia and Lilacs renew themselves by sending up new stems at or near ground level each year. As plants age, older stems begin to crowd each other and the plant will flower less than desired.  Cutting away some old stems will make room for new vigorous ones to take their place and gives the new shoots time to grow and bud up this year for flowers next year.  Making selective pruning cuts to older stems promotes the overall good health and vigor of the plant.  This is also a good pruning approach for Red Twig Dogwood and other multiple stem shrubs like Spirea. Do this type of thinning now.

For more bushy shrubs with side branches off of a main trunk, like Azaleas, Rhododendrons, Pieris, and Kalmias, they can use some shaping after they bloom too.  Consider their current shape and make some cuts inside the plant to increase air circulation and sunlight penetration.  All too often, these shrubby plants get too dense and the flowering decreases.  Shrubs that have been pruned incorrectly in the past or outgrow their location may require more radical considerations.  This is often called rejuvenation or renovation pruning.  Some mature or neglected shrubs may need several seasons of renovation pruning to bring them back into scale with the landscape and restore their full beauty.

To do any of this pruning, sometimes you need courage, sometimes you need coaching and sometimes you need a professional to take charge.  We’re available if you need help.


blog post 5-12-14 the Team!

I wrote a blog about a Career Day panel that I was on recently.   Funny thing – being on a Career Panel.  The audience was comprised of landscape design students, each eager to gain insight into what it means to be a garden designer.  It is kind of like facing your Maker and answering penetrating questions, one of the most difficult being: “What are you proud of?”

First I mentally ticked through the many things I have done as a garden designer: the designs I’ve created, the clients I cherish, the plants I cultivate, the obvious successes, and the occasional mistakes.  But then I started to settle in on something bigger that I am proud of:  being an employer.  In a million years, I never thought I would be a business owner who employed 6 people.  Initially I just needed to get a lot of gardening done and hiring one person made an exponential difference.  I know, not rocket science, but two people can do a lot more than one person.  Then I needed two, three, etc.

As a business owner, I could easily focus on my own capitalist drive and exaltation (ok so the company is named after me -an early misstep) but instead I get to build an engine that generates jobs for 6 people who are trying to live meaningful lives, just like me. We create a team, one that is more about the way we work together than it is about simply planting a garden or pruning plants.   It is more than getting the work done – it is the deeply satisfying way in which I am not all about me.   I am responsible and am held accountable to others, I make a difference for others, I support those around me and make every effort to make a small number of people’s lives better.   And so when I’m asked that hard question, I say that this is something I am immensely proud of.  What are you proud of?