All posts by Jonathan Smith

Planting Strawberries in Your Yard

When I moved into my house in Durham several years ago I noticed that one of the garden beds planted by the previous homeowners was full of a low growing, evergreen plant.  I wasn’t sure what the plant was, so I left it for the time being and worked on other projects.  Come spring I was surprised to find that the plants were full of strawberries, and that they had produced more fruit than we could eat, without any care or maintenance.  Now when clients ask about incorporating edibles into their garden, strawberries are often the first plant that I suggest.  Read on to learn about adding strawberries to your garden.

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Selecting a Hydrangea for your Garden

One easy way to surprise someone with your plant knowledge is to tell them about all of the varieties of hydrangeas that can be grown in North Carolina.  From traditional mophead varieties to hydrangea trees and Hydrangea arborescens to Schizophragma hydrangeoides read on to learn about these exciting plants.

There are two native hydrangeas available to North Carolina gardeners – the Oakleaf and Smooth Hydrangeas.  These are two very different plants – the Oakleaf is larger, with boldly toothed leaves, panicle flowers, and fantastic fall color while the Smooth has white mophead flowers, great sun tolerance, and can be pruned to the ground every season.

The hydrangea that most of our clients are familiar with is the blue and pink blooming bigleaf hydrangea.  In addition to this great plant, there are lots of other interesting types including red blooming varieties, those with variegated foliage, and a range of lacecap varieties.  All of these grow best in partial shade, suffer from deer damage, and need to be pruned immediately after blooming or not at all.

Probably the least known hydrangea types are the hydrangea vines and the panicle hydrangeas that can be pruned as trees.  Hydrangea vine comes in two species – Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris and the Schizophragma hydrangeoides, which though not a true hydrangea is very similar in appearance.  Both are shade tolerant, vigorous climbers, with great flowering.  The panicle hydrangeas are the largest shrub variety, and are often seen ‘limbed up’ to give them a tree like appearance.  Panicle hydrangeas are very sun tolerant and are considered deer resistant.

With all the varieties of hydrangea available there is one to fit in every yard.  Interested in adding one to your garden?  Contact Bright Leaf Landscaping at 919-475-1015 or fill out our online contact form.  Design and installation are our expertise, and we are always happy to meet with new clients to discuss potential projects!

Designing Around Pines

In central North Carolina a common plant found in the landscape is the Pinus taeda or Loblolly pine.  These native trees are found throughout the woods, and in many clients’ properties.  With their tall stature, short branching, and seasonal shedding, pines create a unique environment for gardeners.   Read on to learn about my favorite plant combination with pines.

In areas without deer I love to plant a mix of azaleas, hydrangeas, and ferns underneath the dappled shade of pines.  Azaleas provide evergreen interest and spring blooming, which is followed up by the emergence of fern fronds and the summer blooming of hydrangeas.  All of these plants grow well in a part sun/part shade environment, and are large enough to stand up to the needles shed by pines every fall.

Interested in adding plants to the pine woods on your property?  Contact Bright Leaf Landscaping at 919-475-1015 or fill out our online contact form.  Design and installation are our expertise, and we are always happy to meet with new clients to discuss potential projects!

Landscaping Job in Durham

We are looking for a self-motivated Landscape Crew Leader to join our growing Durham NC landscape company. This position is responsible for directing 1-3 crew members in daily operations. The daily activities of this position include, but are not limited to, reading scaled plans, supervising the loading of all necessary materials, driving trucks, trailers and some equipment, preparation of jobsite, layout based on plans provided and coordination & supervision of the installation of plantings, hardscape and mulch. The Crew Leader must possess a high attention to detail and effectively communicate with subordinates, peers and his/her supervisor. It is the Crew Leader’s responsibility to ensure that the crew provides quality service that meets or exceeds our customer’s and management’s expectations. Ideal candidates will possess a friendly, customer service minded attitude and will conduct themselves in a professional manner, and treat all crew members with respect.  Continue reading Landscaping Job in Durham

A Winter Staple – Juniper!

Juniper is both one of the most versatile plants that I use in my designs, and the one that is the most difficult for me to sell to clients.  Clients tend to think of juniper as the overused, ugly, prickly plant that they would prefer not to have.  I think of it as a tough plant that can be beautiful if sited correctly, and rely on it to solve problems from poor soil to full sun, while being deer resistant and evergreen.  Read on to learn about some of my favorite junipers and how they can work in your garden. Continue reading A Winter Staple – Juniper!

Callicarpa americana and Ilex verticillata – Plants I Love In Fall

Generally I try to design without respect to the current season – I like to plant perennials in winter, evergreens in summer, and everything in between to achieve a garden that looks great year round.  But, there are plants that I am reminded to use more of when I see them putting on a great display come fall.  Read on to learn about two native plants with dramatic fall berry displays – Callicarpa americana and Ilex verticillata. Continue reading Callicarpa americana and Ilex verticillata – Plants I Love In Fall

Fall Blooming Perennials for Shade

As summer ends and fall begins hot colors abound in the garden. Plants such as Goldenrods, Asters, and Sedum are at their peak and Cannas and Echinaceas are continuing to bloom as well. Given the length of the summer growing season in central North Carolina, by the end of August I find myself fatigued with the hot colors that I was so excited to see just a few months ago. I know that it will be weeks before cooler temperatures and fall foliage displays begin, but I want something fresh and cool to tide me over until then. Read on to learn about two of my favorite plants for this time of year. Continue reading Fall Blooming Perennials for Shade

Adding Water to the Garden: How to Select a Fountain

Water is a common element found throughout garden design – often when we meet with clients they ask us about adding a water feature or fountain to their property. Water can add visual interest, sound, encourage wildlife, and be the finishing touch that makes your landscape pop. Water features can also be high maintenance, and we regularly see properties where they have fallen into poor repair and disuse. Read on to learn about some important things to consider when adding water to your garden.


(This fountain creates a centerpiece within the patio above, and is positioned to be viewed from the property owner’s home office)

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