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GHI Office Garden Make-Over

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Greenbelt Homes offices with "before" landscape

GHI members and visitors will remember this main entrance to the office on Hamilton Place, where old, overgrown Junipers encroached on the doorway and were then sheared back with electric tools.

Greenbelt Homes offices with "before" landscape with dead juipers

This is the view leaving the building’s other entrance, with lots of needle-browning and branch die-off caused by shearing – the type of pruning that’s fast but unfortunately, ultimately unsightly in its result.

So, four members of GHI’s Task Force on Yard Solutions for a 21st Century Garden City volunteered to help re-do the landscape in this highly visible but problematic area, with Junipers not just scratching passersby but also making the entrances too hidden and unsafe-feeling for female staffers leaving the building at night. A true garden dilemma.

GHI General Manager Eldon Ralph discusses landscape with volunteer gardeners

Here we are meeting with general manager Eldon Ralph – a very knowledgeable gardener himself – to discuss possible remedies and redesign. From left, Nancy Newton, Rachel Channon, and Annie Shaw.

Existing Junipers

The solution we came up with started with removing altogether (with the help of an excavating backhoe) the Junipers closest to the sidewalk. But that left another problem – the Junipers next to the ones removed had LOTS of dead parts, caused by their having been shaded by the removed Junipers.
"Before" landscape photo of dead juniper at Greenbelt Homes offices

Juniper in front of Greenbelt Homes offices with dead parts removed

So all the dead parts had to be removed, resulting in a more sculptural-looking shrub. Next spring there may be some new growth along those bare trunks, now that they’ll be getting plenty of light. (I asked a bunch of experts and the answer was  –  maybe.)  But not to worry – new shrubs and perennials will largely hide the bare Juniper trunks.

Greenbelt Homes offices after removal of some old junipers

Stepping back, here’s one of the garden beds with a couple of Junipers removed and plenty of room for new plants, mostly ones that will flower! Here are the new plants we installed this month.

New Flowering (Leaf-Dropping) Shrubs

Ninebark 'Diablo' shrub

Two ‘Ginger Wine’ Ninebarks,
 which are native to this region. They have purple leaves and in the spring, pinkish flowers. They grow fast, and we like how the purple leaves will contrast with the green Junipers. Added in 2018: three ‘Gumdrop Burgundy Candy’ Ninebarks..

'Ogon' Spirea
‘Ogon’ Spirea

Five ‘Ogon’ Spireas
. They have chartreuse, willow-like leaves and white flowers in the spring. Another contrasting leaf color.


New Evergreen Shrubs

Goldmop Threadleaf False Cypress and groundcover juniper

Three Golden Mops’ Threadleaf False Cypress we chose for the yellow leaf color to contrast with the deep green of the Junipers.

One Blue Rug Juniper, a blue-hued groundcover shrub donated by Suzette Agans. Three ‘Silver Mist’ Junipers, very similar to “Blue Rug” groundcover-type. Very drought-tolerant, and not eaten by deer.

New Perennials



Left to right: Black-eyed Susans, Catmint, White Coneflower.

Left to right: Butterfly Weed, Kahori Scarlet Pinks


Most of the new perennials were either divisions from elsewhere around the building, or donated by members and even a nonmember (News Review editor Mary Lou Williamson) at great savings to GHI! They’re also very low-maintenance, needing no fertilizers or pesticides and virtually no supplemental watering after their roots are established (which takes roughly one season). They are:

Black-Eyed Susans, a native and the Maryland State Flower.  This cheerful long-bloomer is so popular in Old Greenbelt, it’s almost our signature plant.

Purple Coneflower, another native, has very long-lasting blooms that we’ll leave up in the fall for the goldfinches that love their seedheads. This is a white-flowering variety.

Garden Phlox. also native, blooms in a variety of colors – and we won’t know until next season which colors we have.

Low Catmint has dark lavender-blue flowers. ‘Walker’s Low’ is the variety.

Liriope is an evergreen groundcover we’ve taken divisions of from other places around the building to line the edge of the planted area. It’ll fill in fast.

Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) is an orange-blooming native plant that’s great for pollinators.

Kahori Scarlet Pinks (Dianthus hybrid) bloom almost continuously throughout the season.

New Bulbs


We chose spring-blooming bulbs that are long-lasting and generally critter-proof – daffodils (Dutch Master, February Gold and others) and Grape Hyacinth.


GHI Sign, Too

Entrance sign for Greenbelt Homes in spring

This sign at the corner of Ridge and Hamilton also got some new plants: more daffodils, plus Black-Eyed Susans and Purple Coneflowers for summer color.

After-Phase-One Photos

Progress made in landscape make-over at GHI offices
All the new phase-one plants are in the ground, which we’ve then covered with GHI’s own free wood chips as mulch. (They’re available for pick up behind the office building during office hours. More free wood chips are available near the mulch pile on Northway.)

Progress made in landscape make-over at GHI offices

The new shrubs don’t look like much yet, so please scroll back up to see what they’ll look like after a season or two of growth. Fortunately for us, the donated perennials are already full size and ready to look their best next year.


Garden Info for Members

Starting next spring we’ll be providing plant and care information online so that members can learn from this landscape+demonstration garden. (Plant care will definitely include how to prune these shrubs.) We’ll discuss the need for easy, low-maintenance plants here and how we’re preventing weeds (without any weed-killers, organic or otherwise).

This is the kind of low-maintenance, eco-friendly garden that so many members want to create in their own yards, based on their responses to the Yards Task Force’s survey. But the top priority seemed to be for beauty. Similarly, our goal for the GHI office garden was to create a nice design and lots of color (in both flowers and leaves) for everyone to joy.

Thanks for the Donations!

We thank these members for the many plants they’ve donated for this garden: Luisa Robles, Suzette Agans, Laura Moore, Beth Leamond, Annie Shaw, and Nancy Newton.  Nonmember Mary Lou Williamson also purchased some Sedums to donate to the cause. (Did I forget anyone? Please let me know!)

We can also thank John Scheepers Bulb Co. for the large box of bulbs they sent me in hopes that I’ll write about them, which I will.


Spring update to landscape make-over at Greenbelt Homes offices
Both sides of entrance sidewalk farthest from Ridge Road.



Spring update to landscape make-over at Greenbelt Homes offices
Early April, with daffodils and much-pruned Junipers.
Follow Susan Harris:
Susan started blogging about Greenbelt soon after moving here in 2012, and that first blog has grown into this nonprofit community website. She also created and curates the Greenbelt Maryland YouTube channel. In 2021 Susan joined the Board of Directors of Greenbelt Access TV. Retired from garden writing and teaching, she continues to blog at GardenRant.com.

  1. Claude
    | Reply

    Thanks for beautifying GHI and Greenbelt!

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