As part of a larger effort to provide information on regional gardens and landscaping in America, here you'll find my personal take on the Virginia landscape. See other blogs (links at bottom) by other wonderful landscape designers in other areas on this topic!
Please also visit my extensive website Landscape Design Advice
Being from the Northeast, I've noticed some interesting landscape features of Virginia since I've lived here. Growing up in another area ...New Jersey/New York...has given me an interesting perspective on the differences in the two regions.
Here are some of my observations.
The Virginian Landscape
The first thing that comes to mind is how I think of Virginia as compared to the Northeast. Virginia is a beautiful landscape, made up of rolling hills, mountains, appearing and disappearing vistas, and lets not forget the cows and horses grazing throughout the land! Rather than being made up of individual, segmented homes and gardens, it is the total landscape that gives Virginia its character.
It also has what I would term "farm" lawns. Acres of lawn can be seen. However, instead of being pristine, always green and perfectly mowed, these lawns are "green" in the environmental sense of the word. There are no sprinkler systems using up valuable water, no chemicals are used, and mowing, or "bush hogging", is done only a couple of times a year.
This is not to say that there are not developments (or sub-divisions as they are called here) with regular lawns. It's just that they do not dominate the landscape and proportionately, land-wise, they are in the minority.
As an aside, these observations are for the Central Virginia area, close to Charlottesville. As you venture out into the more populated areas, many of this does not apply.
More Detailed Information
A Long Gardening Season
Virginia has a fairly long gardening season. As I am writing this, I look outside at about 20 inches of snow. However, this is quite unusual! In the six years I have been here, there has been little snow. In addition, contractors are able to work mostly throughout the year, with the exception of a sometimes relatively cold spell in January and February.
This long growing season means that before you turn around, it's planting time again. How nice. I remember the long winters of New Jersey and the longing for spring.
On the other hand...I find myself missing the real winters. Being snowed in, bundling up when you go outside, lots of roaring fires for an extended period of time, and so on. For a northerner, there is something odd about stepping outside in the "winter" and it not being really cold...in the time I have been here, anyway.
While I miss the White Birch, which typically does not grow here unless you go up into the higher temperatures of the mountains, I do love the Southern Magnolia, which flowers. To see a large flowering evergreen tree is quite nice...huge white flowers appearing among the evergreen foliage in the summer.
Another lovely flowering evergreen, a large shrub, is the Camelia. I recall walking around Richmond at Christmas time and seeing these lovely plants in bloom with their beautiful colorful, large flowers.
The last plant I have come to like is Nandina, the species. This too is an evergreen shrub. It gets rather tall, albeit narrow, but is covered with berries in the winter.
I recall when I first moved here and was working on a landscape design. It was for a large property with quite a bit of land. The clients wanted a swimming pool. As appropriate, I contacted the county to find out the zoning setbacks. When I asked about this regarding a pool, the response was "What do you mean"?
I began to understand that zoning in Virginia is not nearly as regulated as in New Jersey! Who cares what the setbacks are for a pool when it is surrounded by 10 acres?! Once again, in the more populated areas, zoning regulations are in place and must be followed. I have found them to be less strict though.
The rural life has its pros and cons. A slightly slower pace, bounds of greenery and views, and a more countrified existence are things that can be very welcoming and peaceful. But only a New Yorker would understand it when I say "I sometimes really miss New York!"
Please visit these other blogs for more great articles on regional diversity in the landscape to see what they have written!
Jocelyn Chilvers (Wheat Ridge, CO)
The Art Garden
Susan Cohan/Susan Cohan Gardens (Chatham, NJ)
Miss Rumphius' Rules
Michelle Derviss/Michelle Derviss Landscape Design (Novato, CA)
Tara Dillard (Stone Mountain, GA)
Landscape Design Decorating Styling
Dan Eskelson/Clearwater Landscapes (Priest River, ID)
Clearwater Landscapes Garden Journal
Scott Hokunson/Blue Heron Landscape Design (Granby, CT)
Blue Heron Landscapes
Susan Morrison (East Bay, CA)
Blue Planet Garden Blog
Pam Penick/Penick Landscape Design (Austin, TX)
Laura Schaub/Schaub Designs Fine Gardens (San Jose, CA)
Genevieve Schmidt (Arcata, CA)
North Coast Gardening
Ivette Soler/(Los Angeles, CA)
Rebecca Sweet/Harmony in the Garden (Los Altos, CA)
Gossip in the Garden