Post-tour, there’s now a- 172-photo album of the Greenbelt Garden tour by Washington Gardener Magazine editor Kathy Jentz -it’s great!

And we have a video!  Also on Youtube, it was made by Marcia Van Horn, who lived in Old Greenbelt in the ’80s.

These gardens were on Greenbelt’s “Less Lawn, More Life” Garden Tour.  That means they all used most or all of the land for something livelier than just turfgrass – more trees, shrubs, perennials, ponds, patios, etc.  It was a wonderful event with an estimated 100+ visitors from across the D.C. area and the 15 gardeners are thanked for their hospitality and good gardening through the years.

They’ve also agreed to allow photos, descriptions, some plant IDs and in some cases even names and addresses to stay here to inspire other gardeners.  If the address isn’t given, please don’t contact the gardener for a private viewing because you missed the public tour.

The Greenbelt “Less Lawn, More Life” Garden Tour was co-sponsored by Greenbelt Homes, Inc, the Greenbelt Gardeners Yahoo Group, the former Greenbelt blog and its editor, tour organizer Susan Harris. Thanks to the Greenbelt Museum for distributing tour brochures and to Museum volunteer Chris Stark for printing more copies at his own expense!


#15  Peter has gardened here 30 years.  In ’09 he killed the lawn on the service side and minimized it on the garden side, while adding a patio.  After losing a large tree he was surprised to see most of the shade shade-loving plants still thriving, including ferns, bluebells, astilbe and azalea.



ll3#14  1D Woodland Way –  Front OnlyRichard and Erin Olsen’s garden is transitioning from a pure potager garden with edible ornamentals to an eclectic collection of plants with a sprinkling of herbs and vegetables. Its hellstrip (curb-side) is packed with plants that love full sun and good drainage, and includes a connecting thyme-walk with other perennial herbs, evergreen perennials for structure, and showy annuals or tender perennials. The upper terrace is designed to maximize capture and storage of rain, and includes a Japanese-Zen-modern rain garden. A small patch of lawn functions as a connecting swath of green, where tender perennials take certain stage until the slower growing woody plants catch up.





#13  Annie Shaw moved here in 2009.  On the service-side, privacy is created by hedges of euonymus and azaleas, with seasonal blooms from spring-blooming bulbs, dayliies, hostas, brown eyed susans and a glorious Tri-Color beech. Annie removed turf from the garden-side and now both front and back reflect her desire to attract birds and to grow edibles. Containers of herbs, flowers and vegetables fill both yards and a decreasing area of green (mostly white clover) remains in the garden-side yard.


#12   (Front) Only   The lawn here was torn up for pipe replacement work and no grass has been willing to grow in the pure clay left behind.  The solution currently is lots of mulch, with potted plants in the center and along the borders.  Nice!

Directly across the sidewalk is:


#11  Service-side (Front) Only – The homeowners improved drainage here by building raised bed and a soil, so that their shade perennials would thrive – which they have, with help from a soaker hose in each bed for hot, dry spells. There’s also a generous slate path to the front door.  It’s a great example of a good-looking, low-maintenance garden in a shady spot.



#10  Just outside the townhouse community, this sunny front garden features annuals like cleome, cosmos and salvia that re-seed from year to year. The flagstone path along the side of the house leads to an Asian-themed arbor that frames the entrance to the back garden. In the back there’s a large pond with two cascading waterfalls, tropical water lilies, burgundy colocasia, and a tall white ginger plant. The patio includes tropical plants in pots, including two large banana trees, brugmansia, begonias, hibiscus, ginger and abutilon (flowering maple).  A variety of ferns, hostas, lobelias, and shrubs provide texture and color throughout the seasons.



#9   Overlooking the lake:  At 14 years old, this large garden sports plenty of sun-lovers in the front yard.  The shady back includes a koi-filled pond and a great view of the lake.  Just recently the gardener extended the garden to the edge of the lake path.





#7  The small sunny front garden has a tiny lawn and borders packed with perennials and shrubs like Joe Pye Weed, Scotch broom and Amsonia, smokebush, St. John’s Wort, and Beautyberry.  The shady back, designed by Old Greenbelt garden designer Ditte McInnes, has generous deck, paths, shrubs and perennials.




#6  On the service side, this gardener turned a blank slate 9 years ago into a garden with continuous bloom. Blooming now are goldenrod, zinnia, cosmos, roses, and mums.  Beneath the potted plants along the sidewalk are tulips and lilies.  Soon she’s remove all the lawn and replace it with a small path of stepping stones, making room for larger borders.  On the garden side, it’s mostly shade, with plenty of seating, borders, and a patio.


#5  13T Ridge Road –  Kevin Donnelly.   This superb 17-year-old garden is a hidden gem and a favorite of many locals.  The service-side is inspired by Japanese elements, with careful pruning and a small fish- and frog-filled pond.  Notice the use of dead leaves as mulch? Kevin won’t let any nutrients leave his garden. The garden-side is packed with annuals, perennials, and shrubs, and has something in flower every day of the year.  (The heathers flower throughout the winter.) Prominent plants include asters, obedient plants, and 2-story-tall Sky Pencil Holly.  Don’t miss the bonsai collection against the back side of the house.




#4  The service-side garden is filled with groundcovers, perennials, seating, and a prominent climbing hydrangea.   The garden-side has lots of charm, with its cobalt blue bird bath, shade perennials, more climbing hydrangea hiding the fence, and lots of shrubs for screening.

Next door…


Swale with fig tree in the background
Swale with fig tree in the background


#3  This gardener has lived at this address since 1970. When she moved in there were three trees (holly, a large pin oak and a good sized Southern magnolia in the corner of the garden side rear), privet hedges and grass, lots of grass to be mowed.  She likes shade, color, slate paths, stone borders and lots of perennials; also birds, butterflies and water.  The original swale for run-off on the site has been preserved and delineated, now going all around the property and ending in the front.


#2  Garden writer (and Behnkes blogger) Susan Harris recently moved to Greenbelt and immediately ripped out the lawn and installed two terraces and a porch.  Everything except a large Japanese maple is new, most of the plants in their first full season, so she’s impatiently waiting for the perennials to fill in and the screening plants (Arborvitae, Hollies, Nandina and Cryptomeria) to grow up. Dominant ground covers are a Sedum, ‘Ice Dance’ Carex, and Creeping Jenny.


#1  8A Ridge Road  Lola Skolnik. The street-side front is packed with perennials around a center tree, and in the back are shrubs with a view into forest from the Skolniks’ brand new screened-in porch.  Lola writes:  “The first thing I did 30 years ago was start eliminating the grass and moss in the back and front yards. The yard has evolved over the years and change came gradually. I like gardens that fit with the setting and are organic in shape. No formal gardens or straight lines here. Shrubs and plants retain their natural shapes and are placed to enhance the shapes, textures and colors of surrounding plantings. The path and patio were meant to resemble a river bed and blend in with the woods that frame the yard.”

“Less Lawn” is an important trend in gardening that started in the arid West but is moving eastward, with more homeowners switching to plants that require fewer resources and do more for pollinators.  Get lots more ideas at