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Friday, May 18, 2018

Public invited to tour sustainable gardens

The Carosella residence.
If you’ve always wanted to create a backyard oasis that focuses on sustainability, the annual Sustainable Garden Tour, hosted by the Northern Virginia Soil and Water Conservation District, is a great way to see some examples.

The 2018 tour, on Sunday, June 10, 1-5 p.m., features homes, a church, and a school in the Annandale/Falls Church/Fairfax area. The sites include rain gardens, native plant landscaping, rain barrels, edible gardens, backyard wildlife habitats, and composting.
The Booker residence.
The tour is free and open to the public. There is no need to register. Visitors can explore as many, or as few, gardens at they want at their own pace. The sites are indicated on an online map.

Here are the locations:

Carosella residence, 2903 Rosemary Lane, Falls Church – The homeowners created a beautiful garden heavily shaded by an old stand of tulip poplar trees with hostas, azaleas, native ferns, and spring ephemerals. Roof runoff feeds several water features.

Booker residence, 3442 Surrey Lane, Holmes Run Acres, Falls Church – The stormwater challenges of this hilly property are mitigated by a rain garden, rain barrels, water-diversion logs and channels, a permeable walkway, and extensive plantings. There is a small meadow and multiple shady bird-viewing areas.

Sawhney residence, 4212 Saint Jerome Drive, Annandale – This Certified Wildlife Habitat is a chemical-free garden sanctuary with extensive landscaping, shade-tolerant plants, and several water remediation efforts, including a backyard swale, to mitigate runoff from the road.

Belvedere Elementary School, 6530 Columbia Pike, Falls Church – An outdoor classroom
and courtyard feature native plants, paths with permeable pavers, and a rain garden that filters runoff. There’s a “timeline garden” in front of the school with native and edible plants from various historic periods and a meadow on top of a slope with milkweed to attract monarch caterpillars studied by second-graders. Last year, the caterpillars were raised to butterflies, tagged, and released as part of the Monarch Watch initiative.

Daniels Run Peace Church, 3729 Old Lee Highway, Fairfax – This property has several gardens, including a fenced 800-square foot organic garden with raised vegetable beds, a rain garden with plants that attract pollinators, and edible landscape beds.

King residence, 4023 Roberts Road, Fairfax – There are two sustainable gardens here, including a rain garden with native plants in the front yard that receives water runoff and a backyard garden with native plants.

Chesterfield Mews Community Association, 3170 Readsborough Court, Fairfax – The shared garden area has two erosion control and drainage management projects. Residential downspouts are linked to a large infiltration trench to slowly release rainwater runoff. A permeable-paver walkway over a French drain redirects additional runoff to the trench system.

Meara Residence, 7211 Arthur Drive, Falls Church – A rain garden captures rainwater diverted from the roof via a reconstructed downspout system and has an under-drain as a precaution against future loss of permeability. The lawn has been replaced with native plantings.


  1. Great article and very much of interest for attending.

    The only problem is that many in Mason District, particularly the boarding houses park all over their front yards or have paved a good deal of the front yard so they can park their array of tenant vehicles. So much for a rain garden, all of this water shed ends up in the road gutter because their is not enough lawn or nature to capture the rainfall and the vehicle oil that runs off with it.

    Sustainable gardens is the future, particularly with the cost of water and the municipal services required to process runoff. Too bad leadership does not impose a tax on the bad homeowners that contribute to this environmental problem. If they did they would make up for the County's budget shortfalls.

  2. I don’t know about more taxes, but rescinding the rule that allows people to pave part of their front yards and requiring a return to a permeable surface would be a start. Seems to me if they can afford to pave their yard, they can afford to get rid of the concrete.

  3. Pavement is an obvious problem for storm water, but so is lawn folks. According to experts 40 million acres of land in the US are farmed as lawn and it might be hard to hear but lawn & pavement have the same environmental benefit. That is because our lawns are so compacted they no longer provide the function of infiltrating water, so it just runs off and doesn't replenish our groundwater which is how it was designed by nature. Even if you aerate the soil it doesn't get deep enough to create the sponge effect soil is supposed to have. It may be difficult to hear but reducing the amount of grass you have and creating more natural environments is something can do to help capture water before it runs off.

    1. Totally disagree, do your own test, lawn is much more permeable than pavement. Lawns also provide a cooling affect instead of heat islands caused by pavement. Although you are correct that there are better ways to manage storm water run offs through different methods of planting it is hard to do in a suburban environment without the knowledge, maitenance and the expense of changing out a typical 1/4 acre lot.

    2. I agree on heat island affect, but not on grass. There is no grass that is native. Native plants have much larger and deeper root structures and are drought tolerant. Lawn in general was a marketing pitch from the chemical companies who joined forces with the home builders to sell suburbia in the 1940's, and they did a terrific job. What man can't relate to the ultimate fight against the dandelion? Only in America can we sell working 40 hours a week and come home to work all weekend on a lawn that provides no environmental benefit other than making someone feel like they've accomplished the goal of eradicating dandelions? Water runs off grass, that is why we have to pay for so much stormwater infrastructure and reconstruct our streams from the top down. Now we know the consequences of this high impact development and we have over 60 years of proof of the negative impacts.