A Screen Porch with a New View Every Day

My screen porch in northern Frederick County overlooks a deceptively tranquil-looking native landscape. It’s my favorite place for sipping coffee, because a few seconds into my first, morning “ahhh” I usually get a little newsy surprise of some kind or another. This morning I notice the bluebirds must have hatched their first little family in the box near the aster meadow, because they are flitting  in and out of the box carrying prize insects gleaned from the garden.

Although it sometimes looks serene, it’s actually not such a quiet and peaceful place. Last week, while the cranberry viburnum was unfurling its showy white majesty of bloom, two pileated woodpeckers came barnstorming in, cackling and cawing back and forth to each other as they swooshed from tree trunk to forest floor beneath the blueberry bushes, tossing leaves up from the ground, ransacking the place in their exuberant search for beetles.


It is my privilege as a landscape designer to help homeowners create native gardens like this—alive and teeming with color, texture, and biodiversity. So that they can enjoy the quick flutter of wings in the garden and watch the buzzing, hopping, and scurrying of all the creatures that will quickly find refuge within.

I hope to reach out, with this column, to share with you some beautiful native plants for use in your home landscape. Incorporating even a few natives into your garden can lead to good things.  I’d like to share some tricks for easing  maintenance in the garden, and increasing enjoyment. How to create pathways and sitting areas. How to enhance the visual appeal and biodiversity value of a “flat” landscape by adding layers. And techniques for reducing or replacing lawn with strategically designed, lower-maintenance native plant beds.

I have, I hope, a pretty solid background for writing about these topics. I teach native plant landscape design classes at Adkins Arboretum in Ridgely, MD. I hold a masters degree in sustainable landscape design from George Washington University.  And I’ve been designing gardens both on  Maryland’s Eastern Shore and here in Frederick, Montgomery, and Carroll counties since 2007. So stay tuned, and please also feel free to reach me at www.paxgardens.com or chrispax@paxgardens.com.