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July 1, 2009

Several of them, actually. First off, this is my 100th post to this blog. This blogging thing is kind of addictive, and I’ve gotten some great comments and emails about some of my posts. Seeing what search results have sent people here has been pretty funny, too.

Second, tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary of taking the business full time. While I officially started in 2005, I ran David Marciniak Designs as a non-competing sideline to my job with a landscape design/build firm in northern Virginia. Business slowed, and it soon became apparent that if I was to continue designing landscapes,  my only choice was to go it alone. Despite her misgivings, MJ agreed, and has supported me throughout my first year. And what a year! I’ve designed tiny little planting beds, and large estates; I have projects where I’ve built personal relationships with my clients, and I’ve done more anonymous, large-scale commercial projects, like subdivision streetscapes, entry monuments, and model homes. My job involves constantly meeting new people, analyzing their properties, solving their problems, and creating something beautiful and functional that they live with every day. I also get to color, and occasionally play with my clients’ dogs and cats. I love what I do, I’m blessed to be able to do it, and I bring that energy to every single project.

And apparently, that energy is contagious! My third milestone is a big one: my business has grown into Prince William and Loudoun Counties, to the point that I have acquired an office in Manassas Park. It’s not big, it’s not flashy, but it’s a space that can hold a six-foot drafting table and a whole lotta love for landscape design. So consider this post a gigantic thank you  to all my friends, clients, and colleagues, who have alternately supported me and pushed me, depending on what I needed at that moment. Keep watching this space- there’s a lot of cool stuff coming.

And check out this video, and enjoy his love for his art. This video just makes me happy:


Recent Project- Drystacked Walls & Plantings

June 24, 2009

Just finished this one, a tearout of most of the exisiting landscape and new drystacked fieldstone retaining walls and  plantings.

Here’s the before:Before

And, the after:DSCF0004

Deer are a huge issue in this neighborhood, so selecting deer-resistant plants was a must. It’s apparent that the deer population is getting out of control, because at this house I saw evidence of two plants, widely regarded as ignored by deer- Rhododendron and Aucuba Japonica- severely munched on. One of the plants I used- that I consider to be an under-used gem of a plant- is the Japanese Plum Yew (in this case, Cephalotaxus harringtonia var. ‘Prostrata’). It’s similar in habit to a Weeping English Yew (Taxus baccata ‘Repandens’), but the needles (fronds? leaves?) are larger and longer. Most importantly, they have a reputation as a plant that deer hate to eat.DSCF0006

You may also wonder, how did that stone retaining wall get installed if the site was so flat? Well, the grade at the sidewalk remained the same, and we built the stone wall at the edge of the bed. Then we just brought in enough topsoil to raise the grade to the wall, and sloped it gently back to the sidewalk. It allowed us to add the wall and gave us a nice raised planting space, that should drain a lot better than the native soil already on site.

Any questions, let me know!

Weekend Update

June 21, 2009

June 21 2009 (12)The great thing about gardening is that it gets exciting all at once. The pole beans and cukes are working their way up the fence, and the bush beans are flowering (above). Tomatoes are coming along quite nicely too!June 21 2009 (16)

Speaking of getting excited, I braved the morning downpour (and subsequent humidity) and went to the Piedmont Alternative Energy Expo Saturday. If you didn’t go, you missed a great show- bookmark RLEP’s website, and make sure that next year’s show gets on your calendar!June 21 2009 (1)

The indoor exhibitors were a mix of solar power dealers and installers, architects, geothermal heating companies, a company out of Fredericksburg selling residential wind turbines, and several other providers and organizations. I picked up a ton of literature, met some great, passionate people, and learned a lot. Among the outdoor exhibitors were electric cars and their builders. On the one hand, it was a little discouraging to see how far we still have to go: the incredibly awesome-looking car pictured above would never get me through a 200-mile day on just one charge. But the technology changes so fast, who knows how far the next generation will go?

On the other hand, it was great to see the innovation going on. I’m not just talking about big companies, either. I got to talk with someone who converted an older Mazda pickup truck to a completely electric vehicle. Now, he’s not your average tinkerer- he’s an auto mechanic- but still, the technology is available today, and within the reach of those of us who aren’t independently wealthy. With what I do, I’m not yet in a position to get away from the internal combustion engine, but electric cars are getting much closer to a viable option for many.

So, the bottom line? The show is a great way to spend a few hours, and the five bucks is a ridiculously good bargain. I’m glad I went; it was a great way to recharge my batteries! (Get it?)

Piedmont Alternative Energy Expo This Weekend!

June 17, 2009


This weekend is the Piedmont Alternative Energy Expo, to be held Saturday June 20th from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm. It’ll be at the Brumfield Elementary School, 550 Alwington Blvd, Warrenton, VA 20186. Adults are $5, children and students are free!

I had every intention of doing a booth this year, and then my season exploded and I just got too busy to plan for it. Lesson learned for next year. That said, I’m still planning to attend this Saturday; if you see a big guy who looks like a kid in a candy store, that may well be me. Come say hi! They have over 50 exhibits planned, including solar race cars:Solar Car race


Larry Billings, of Larry’s Garage, will be showing off the truck he converted to run on electrical power:EXPO 2008 020

…and there will be, according to the speaker sheet I received, ten speakers at various times throughout the day. Fellow Culpeper Chamber of Commerce  member Andrew Grigsby, of Commonwealth Sustainability Works, will be giving a talk titled “The top ten cost-effective energy improvements for any home.”

All in all, this year should have something for everyone: practical information and resources for the folks who just want to live a little greener (and maybe save some money at the same time), and inspiration for those of us who find stuff like gasifiers and solar electricity to be the coolest things ever. Hopefully I’ll see you there!

Recent Installation- Fieldstone Steps

June 16, 2009

June 16 2009 (4)

This is a little project that just finished in Loudoun County, Virginia. We started with a steep slope that didn’t allow for much use of the small side yard. The homeowner wanted a set of natural fieldstone steps, along with room for plantings. A lot of stone was used to create these steps- over five tons- but the end result will give the people who live here a walkway that will stand the test of time.June 16 2009 (7)Because the tolerances were so tight, the steps had to go right up against the air conditioning unit. Naturally, it’s not the prettiest feature in the yard, so I created a trellis to screen it. I generally allow a good 24 inches of clearance all the way around mechanical equipment for air flow, but I was able to cheat the trellis closer by using larger lumber, with a wide spacing. The plant at the base is a yellow honeysuckle whose name escapes me; in a short time, it will cover the trellis and screen out the air conditioner, without impacting its performance. To screen the sides, there was a pieris on the uphill side of the unit, and we relocated a Rose of Sharon to the downhill side.

Happy homeowner, and I got to work with big slabs of stone? That makes for a fun project!

Garden Status, Mid-June

June 15, 2009

June 15 2009 (3)Lettuce FAIL. The seeds were three years old, and I sowed with a light hand. Plus, I did a lousy job of working the fresh compost into the soil, so I know for a fact that the lettuce was trying to take root amongst particles that were way too big. Haste makes waste, etc. However, the lettuce that has managed to make it has been really tasty. One of the advantages to my lackadaisical attitude towards weeds in the lawn is that I have a nice crop of sorrel coming along, that got there all on its own. That’ll make a great, tangy addition to salads. If you’ve never tried it, you really should.

June 15 2009 (7)The tomatoes, on the other hand, are doing amazingly well. Granted, these aren’t the ones we started from seed, but ones we purchased as starter plants from Morningside Farms and Waterpenny Farm. We must have a good half dozen tomatoes on the vine already, and plenty of blossoms. I’m getting excited!

On the critter front, the yard has remained secure from rabbits and groundhogs. We’re at DefCon One, though, because our next door neighbors also critter-proofed their backyard, and they got hit hard this weekend. We’re guessing it’s a groundhog, because of the amount of damage it caused. If he shows his face in our yard, I’ve got a Havahart trap with his name on it. Don’t worry, I’ll take him someplace nice… just far, far away from our yard.

June 15 2009 (6)And, the credit card companies are contributing to the compost pile with all the offers they send us. Paranoid consumer that I am, they all get shredded, and it makes a good addition to the compost. Speaking from past experience, though, be sure that it’s spread in a THIN layer, and turn that section of the pile frequently. Last year, I dumped three hoppers of shredded paper on the heap and let it sit; I ended up with a lovely, crusty papier-mache mountain in the backyard. Because this is all brown (carbon), I’ll definitely have to get a good layer of green (nitrogen) mixed in with it. Luckily, MJ and I are cooking again, which means lots of kitchen scraps!

We’re Back!

June 9, 2009

At least I have an excuse for this most recent lack of posts: we were in RI, for my niece’s graduation. In case anyone was wondering, it’s a long drive- but it was totally worth it!