And how does your garden grow…? How do you want it to grow? Or don’t you know?

Then it may be time invest in the knowledge and skills of an expert landscape designer.

Ah, were those dollar signs flashing before your eyes? Take a deep breath. While many nurseries and landscape firms focus on big contracts—corporate campuses, government facilities, large private estates—there are companies that can refer you to designers who are happy to help you with that patch of soil around your patio or the three acres around your home. 

Holly McCrann Raymond
Holly McCrann Raymond

One of western Loudoun’s favorite nurseries is Abernethy & Spencer, located in the village of Lincoln two miles south of Purcellville. David Lohmann, owner of Abernethy, keeps a list on his website of several designers he knows do superior work. Among them is Holly McCrann Raymond, best known for her design work with homeowners. She’s been working with Abernethy & Spencer for more than 10 years. 

As a landscape design consultant and master gardener, Holly will help clients from the time they sign a deed for a brand new house with little landscaping or for a historic one with old plantings that have seen better days.

With our planting season shifting into full gear, Holly is generously sharing valuable advice here to meet a variety of challenges:

If you’re moving into a new house, don’t put pathways in right away. See how you go from the house to the yard, the garage to the front door.  Consider how you use the property, and that means avoiding the temptation of looking at the house and saying, “There should be a beautiful walkway here.” 

Think about how you want a larger property to look in three years. Avoid the temptation to put in shrubs around the foundation and leave the rest of the grounds bare.

If you need a privacy screen, put it in right away. 

Plant only native species: right plant, right place.

Temper your expectation for plants’ growth. They need time and space to sleep, creep, and grow.

“Because people are afraid that a landscape designer will run up their costs,” Holly explains, “I’ve created a smaller offering for the reticent homeowner who’d like to get started with a new plan or a renovation while watching the budget. It’s what I call a ‘Walk and Talk.’ I spend an hour to an hour and a half with the property owners discussing their dreams and how to realize them. Or, as is often the case, I’ll suggest optional plantings that might be more affordable or better suited to our soil and climate.

“I’ll also help people learn how to amend the soil, prune properly, and nourish stressed plants, shrubs and trees. If I see a tree that may be suffering from mold or root rot, I’ll recommend local arborists to treat it professionally.” Like other landscape designers, she also works with her affiliated nursery, basing her costs on the estimates for plants and labor.

With wise counsel, it’s possible to save money on your landscape over the long haul. 

Remember, the sticker price on that pretty fruit tree 

at the nursery is not its full cost. You have to get it into the ground, and that takes labor. Maintenance can also be costly, even if you’re doing it yourself. Plant your property with maintenance in mind.

And take your four-legged neighbors into consideration, too. As a local resident, Holly knows all too well about returning from vacation only to discover your beautiful garden served as salad for the local deer. 

If you’re in search of inspiration, Holly Raymond suggests visiting nearby public gardens and historic sites. Among them are Oatlands Plantation in Leesburg (gardens and grounds now open 10-5 daily, $10 admission); the State Arboretum of Virginia at Blandy, near Boyce (open dawn to dusk 365 days); and Glen Burnie House at the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley in Winchester (gardens open April 1, Tues.-Sun., 10-4 on a donation basis).  

For more information email Raymond at

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