Some plants and shrubs thrive in the summer heat, and front yards in Forest Hills are using them in various ways. I drove around and took photos of some of the more interesting ones.
We’ve forgotten that it was Lady Bird Johnson’s Beautification Campaign in the 1960s that got a lot of this planting going. Lady Bird had seen development eating up the beauty of our cities, and she got her husband to back a bill that gave funds to cities and towns to plant trees on major streets.
DC responded by setting out a lot of crepe myrtles and dogwoods, and more people began to look at their property with a “green” eye.
This red crepe myrtle is the centerpiece of a front yard full of flowers. The garden is planned to have a succession of bloom throughout the warm months.
Crepe myrtles are a tree common in the southern states, and they came originally from southeast Asia. They bloom pink, purple, white and red, and they tolerate heat well.
Perennial hibiscus shrubs are at their peak here in July and August. They are another import from southeast Asia that can take the heat, and they have been extensively hybridized by nurseries to produce red, pink, and white blossoms.
Hibiscus are a member of the mallow family, and their distant mallow relatives include cotton, okra, and the cacao bean tree. The blossoms of these relatives are very similar to the ones in the photo. (How one turns into a cotton boll is a puzzle to me.)
This household uses their front yard to grow Chinese vegetables – bitter melon and an assortment of greens for cooking.
Cream-colored blossoms against dark green foliage make for an elegant palette. July is the month for this hydrangea – the blue ones are finished. Hydrangeas came to Europe from South America and Asia about 300 years ago. They have been much hybridized in shape and color – in my youth we called this shape a “PeeGee” hydrangea.
This yard makes the most of grasses, setting their airy grace against a backdrop of dark evergreens. Landscaping with grasses is fashionable now, but it really started in the 1980s when attention turned to “natural” plantings. Grasses are low maintenance because they tolerate heat and drought well. With climate change, we will see more of them.
You don’t need a front yard to put on a show. In recent years, merchants and landlords along Connecticut Avenue have stepped up plantings of shrubs and flowers, making it a pleasant walk to a shop or a restaurant. Apartment buildings all along the Avenue have jumped on the bandwagon – an improvement for all who live here.
This is a recent planting in the Van Ness Main Street area.
Let’s hear it for Forest Hills! We can be proud of our flowers – and proud too of the trees and lawns maintained so carefully by everyone in the neighborhood. Send a photo of your pride and joy to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll include it here.