Gardening…. Style by Contessa

We are pleased to present “before “ and “after” videos of a late summer, early fall 2021 project in the 1200 block of Martha Custis Drive. Our homeowner, was not in residence,  but his property was being prepared for a new rental opportunity.

We met in a brief outdoor, on the sidewalk visit in front of the property on a Saturday,  before our owner departed for a new military assignment in Texas. We received instructions to remove everything in the beds, except three well established Azaleas and one Hydrangea. But we’re given permission to remove those as well if we felt they were not suitable. We raised the level of soil in the beds by three inches, deep edged the beds and weeded like crazy. These beds had approximately ten years, with three different tenants who planted randomly. The beds were horribly overgrown and certainly no plan had been adapted regarding plant heights, or consideration given toward sun/shade and Virginia weather. It was in way overgrown shape. We also amended the soil with two different new soils

We received a $200 deposit and began work one week later after a 20 minute “brief.” All permissions and reports of work, including progress by photos and video were how we communicated for three weeks with our homeowner. This was a 22 hour project. It was a smooth and very easy communication by txt “process.” And it was loads of fun. We were given a great assignment and we were up to the challenge.

It turns out our homeowner is a military “General” in the USAF, who had been given abrupt orders to move to a Texas assignment. Such a great person to work for. His trust and confidence in our work was a true gift.  He was extremely pleased with our work and he has now very successfully rented his Parkfairfax townhouse. 

It was our joy to help. We are going to follow up as soon as spring arrives, and we are being tasked with purchasing a couple new bushes and perhaps a few perennial flowering plants. It was our honor to serve this  gentleman. We worked very hard, but the end result was very gratifying.

The “end of story” here, is that if you want the job done well, you need to hire us to do your work; we are precise, we do not cut corners, we are hard working, creative, knowledgeable and we respect your opinion, on exactly what you want to achieve. And we will honestly interject our opinion on what we think will work best. We love a new challenge and will give you all the “time” needed to complete your assignment.  It is our pleasure!



“CONTESSA” says, It’s all good. 

Chicken Feathers

January 27, Thursday

Kind words heal and help; cutting words wound and maim.
-Proverbs 15:4

Years ago, I served as the chaplain for the University of South Carolina Fighting Gamecocks football team. One year, after losing to our arch rival Clemson Tigers, I received a giant box filled with chicken feathers with this note: “Found these scattered all over our football field. Thought your Gamecocks might want them back!”  I kept that box one year. Before the Clemson game the next season, I opened the box of feathers, read the note, and threw the feathers all over the team and locker room! I said, “You’ve got your feathers back. Now let’s go show them how Gamecocks fight!” We won that year!

Words are powerful. They can wound and maim, or they can heal and help. They can even fire up a football team for a big game. So let me ask you: How are you going to use your words, your “box of feathers” today

Gardening Yesterday – 50 degrees – YES!

Gardening Friends,

It was a perfect opportunity yesterday to sneak in a couple hours for one of our clients. We did a check on all the new bushes that we had installed last spring. Three Azaleas and two Knock Out Roses, and one Blue Hydrangea. We trimmed tiny pieces to make sure green growth was coming through. All is well. We can see growth in every bush. Great Success!

We tidied the beds, repositioned mulch around all the bushes, re-established firm placement and trimmed dead growth from the Pansies. This will encourage them to bloom once more. And we “deep edged” half of the largest bed. On our next nice day we’ll put in a couple more hours to finish what we refer to as our “mid -winter clean- up.”  It was necessary. To finalize and provide a finished look, we raked the entire property. Believe it…. we had four bags of debris for the community yard dumpster.

Video above is for the two hours completed yesterday.
It was such fun…..and we left our client very pleased.


Please do think about scheduling some mid winter clean and tidy time with us. Next week is looking promising for milder temps. We are happy to work around your schedule and if you happen to work from home,  we can confer in person once we arrive, to commence with your work requests. It’s a great time to trim bushes and clear under them. A fresh new look. “Give it a go.”

We thank you for your support, and we always enjoy meeting up with you when we come round.

CONTESSA” says…..It’s a good thing!

God is Faithful


2 Corinthians 5-7

We will walk by faith, not by sight.

Good  Morning Lord, 

…. my Lord…sometimes I  feel far away from you. My path to heaven seems like a long journey. But I know that you are with me on my way to joy…..with you in heaven. My vision is sometimes limited, but you see my personal journey to fulfillment. I desire to always trust you and keep taking small steps in my faith-walk. If I get discouraged, I pray for your encouragement to remind me that my path is guided completely by you. In your hands, I place all my problems and limitations.

Help me to always remember that you alone had to suffer, so that my path to heaven and eternal life would be open for me. Thank you for clearing the way for me to be with you in heaven.  Amen.

John 14:6
Jesus said to [Thomas]

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.”

Psalm 16:11

You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.


Gratitude for Wisdom and Direction

Psalm 139.14

Good Morning my Holy Father,

….you who are all-knowing of me. Please teach me your ways. I humbly ask for your wisdom and insight in my gardening assignments. I want to learn and to understand more, so that I can walk in this path you lay before me. Teach me to listen carefully. Teach me to resist any selfish temptations, and to share my knowledge in a teaching, but humble and helpful way. As I do this I learn more. You are all knowing and it is my hearts desire to please you. I want to build a more beautiful world in your honor. I thank you for this foundation that you helped me create. I am grateful for your calling, and this opportunity to work in my occupation that I not only love, but helps me to learn and enjoy my work with a full and thankful heart. I feel very blessed to receive this work and your generous provisions. You Father are very wise, so please nurture me in your path. I seek to spread the love we share with each other – to the people I am working for. It is all my honor to be with you in your earthly gardens. All glory and honor to you, my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen 


Contessa’s Gardening – 1200 Block Martha Custis (REVISED – 1/24/22 – 4:30 pm)


Today we are looking back at some completed and some ongoing projects from last year, 2021.  We take videos of our work from the beginning, up to the point of the seasons completion. We thought we would share a project that was a referral. This clients next door neighbor used our services. Referrals are always welcome. We think it’s good to show folks just what progress has been made. And it’s also great for us to view these projects as a reminder of things that we can pick up on for this next year. Our clients rely on us to touch base with them to discuss what we can do for them as each new gardening season approaches. We enjoy seeing these  “before and after” videos. In many cases we’ve come a long way. We have quite a list of clients at this point, and each year we meet so many new folks as well. And our PFF community office now refers to us when you call the office as the “communities gardener.”

It is our pleasure to spruce up and tidy your yards. We live in such a fantastic community and the more we all care for our properties the better Parkfairfax gets. It’s such a pleasure to work with all of you, and we are really looking forward to spring 2022.

Please plan your consultation now, for the month of April. It is honestly not too early to do so. Our calendar will fill up very quickly. Each year you all call at the same time and to be fair to everyone, current and brand new clients, we want very much to be able to accommodate everyone without causing too much delay. As you know, once we start, it tends to “commence” pretty quickly. We are ready to take appointments now.

Thank you very much,

The Garden Contessa



REVISED – 1/24/22 / 4:30 pm 

Our text is somewhat lengthy and we included videos, but we think a compiled list of specific tasks might be helpful for your consideration. This then gives you a “soup to nuts” perspective on the total package of the work we completed.

• Invitation was set to trim all bushes ( they were all very overgrown and growing into each other) We trimmed them 15 inches from the ground, and away from the back brick wall 20 inches. A clean, tidy and manageable distance for being able to properly care for them, without being crowded and making it much easier and more manageable to care for them. This had never been done. Now they look fresh and have lots of room for new growth, and it’s an extremely tidy and clean appearance.  And everything will bloom much better

• Cut back all summer/fall plant bed growth

• Transplant and divide  three (3) Lenten Rose making more plants for next year.

• Trim all undergrowth away from under the bushes. Allowing for easier access to clean up the beds

• Remove all plants from the center courtyard. Thirty years worth of old and “has been” Hostas. (plans now include a visit to the nursery in the spring, to select new hardy perennial plantings at our clients cost) new plants or bushes to stand the test of time. Most  likely flowering

• Mulch all beds.  Haul away 10 bags of dead growth and debris to the community dump

• Rake the property and edge the beds

This project, for two units, side -by-side was billed at a total of six (6) hours.

We hope this gives you a perspective on everything we were tasked with doing. We certainly look forward to helping this great client again in the spring. We have created a friendship and an ongoing client. And other members of this courtyard  have expressed an interest in using our service this year, 2032.

“CONTESSA” says:  It’s a good thing”

Indoor and Outdoor Design

So many ideas. We have a huge interest in so many different venues. Gardening is our number #1 passion, but today we were reminiscing so many different things we enjoy and our photo library is so large,  we decided to share some “favs” with you. It’s interesting that once you have design in your blood it seems to carry  over into so many avenues of interest. From time to time we will share from our photos collection.  ENJOY!


January Gardening Plans and Tasks (REVISED)

Plans and Tasks

We think “first things first” is in order. Meaning what tasks did you want to accomplish last year, but you just didn’t get to them. Perhaps doing those things first is a good place to begin. Such as finishing up mulching around the trees in the yard or trimming back the Lori-ape or Vinca Vines that are under a tree or bordering a bed or sidewalk. It’s not too late. Both can be completed in January. You alone will know what those tasks are, but it might be good to finish those tasks now. Surely we will have a couple warmer days before we end our month. The outcome will make you very happy once we get closer to spring? as you will reap “new fresh growth.”

Winter Bedding Plants

Next on your January agenda could be planting a few “winter bedding plants.” We are pretty sure the nursery will have a few things you can fill in with, for a little garden appeal. Such as hardy cold climate Ivy, Pansies, Violas, ornamental Cabbage, Cyclamen, Camellia and evergreen grasses. You will glean some great satisfaction from planting something on a chilly….but sunny day. And then as we get closer to spring you will have a few ready made starters. Shortly Primrose will be available. Three of these Primrose will cheer  you and they prefer the cold, so let them entertain you. Best part is they will bloom again for you next year. Doing these few things will ebb your cravings for spring to come sooner.  After all,  we have at least two more months of “real winter.”


And now is also a great time to begin sorting your seed packets. And be sure at the same time to make a list of seeds you want to purchase. Sort seeds in the order by which you need to plant them. If you do this now you will be ready once the nurseries start displaying new seed packets. In our area they arrive and sell out quickly, so if you have your list made, you can begin asking your local nursery when the seeds might begin to arrive. It’s best to be ready. Divide your list into what you have on hand; and what you need to buy. Now is a great time to Oder seed catalogs. Our Prairie Moon Nursery “winter” Catalog just arrived. Please do txt us if you would like to view it. We are happy to drop it by your house. It’s very inspirational.  

Seed Catalog

Pot and Planter Cleaning  

Another great task is cleaning up you pots. Discard all old dirt outdoors in a large container but reserve for use later. Wipe out your pots with old newspaper. Every day you can bring one in to clean it thoroughly. Make it a daily project and then it seems less overwhelming. You can wash them with sudsy water and use a brush to clean off any moss buildup or mildew. Rinse thoroughly and set aside to dry  While you are at it take inventory, if you are missing saucers; make a list of the sizes you might need. Measure and take notes. Again all these tasks help you when spring arrives. And your winter “duldrums” will disappear as you see the progress you are making. It becomes a fun project.

Tool Preservation

In a previous post we  provided a sure and perfect way to care for your hand tools (see our post entitled: Protecting Your Gardening Tools , JanWe have a goid task list started. We will list again tomorrow with additional winter preparation jobs that will keep you busy and focused on being engaged. It’s fun and inspiring.

We think we have a good start on our winter January preparation projects. Do stay tuned and tomorrow we will continue. Again , please txt us if you wish to add tasks,

….my gardening friends,

Good Afternoon!


REVISED POST – January 23rd

We began this post with plans and tasks. We left off with caring for our hand tools. This treatment applies to our watering cans and our large garden tools as well. And if you have a shed or storage area it’s best to store your hoses, sprinklers and wooden handled gardens tools inside. Do your best as they are costly, but more importantly, one becomes accustomed to the performance and the “feel in the hand” of our very own tools. Our tools are like our right hand. A comfort to bring them out in the spring. Familiar…..

Please remember to care for your Watering Can. This vessel takes some neglect once the season closes. Often you will find it tucked away in a corner so the fall winds don’t carry it away. Very often it’s filled with dead leaves and dirt/muck. And you might even find a tiny animal buried down inside. Please try to remember at the end if the fall season fur careful washing out. Bring it indoors and rinse it throughly with soap and water. Dry carefully. Use some baking soda mixed with water to give it a thorough cleaning and remove odor. Again rinse and dry. Do let it dry for a few days. Surely you will have a little mineral oil left over from preparing your tools for their “tub” storage. With a soft cloth rub the entire outside and inside with some of the mineral oil. A light coating is all it takes. It will soak into the crevices and prevent any rust buildup. It it is a safe and great way to keep you watering can in great shape and you should be able to then use the same watering can for years to come. Most of us have vintage metal watering cans and as they are becoming more rare, do take care of yours.

Lastly, if you have hanging baskets with annuals that have died back, now is the best time to clean them out. If some of the soil is moist and soft reserve it in a large container.  It can be added to new soil and it often contains  dead leaf material and is great for a compost starter.  Even if your hanging planters are plastic it’s best to clean them out and January is a great time. Wash out an save them until you see what you need in the spring. Most hanging pots have removable hanging handles. Just give them a hard “push out” near the  rim and they will come off; so much easier for  storage purposes.

Again we invite your comments and helpful additions to our gardening posts.  Every gardener has their own tips and tricks, and it’s so fun to share.

Please continue to follow our blog.  We will cover bed cleanup, soil amendment, as well as edging beds in our next post.

Great to share…..and be with you.



My Friday Devotional

2 Corinthians 4:16

We do not lose heart. Though our inner self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.

Day by day we are being renewed. If you had a bad day yesterday, just begin today “new.” Think only about pleasing Jesus. Talk to him. Ask him to help you walk in his way. He will do this little by little, as you walk with Him all through your life. Problems and pains sometimes come but if you stay close to him and walk together you will have joy and peace because he is with you every step of the way. Call out to him. He listens and he will never leave you. As you trust in him he will renew you. Thank Jesus always along the way, even if you are going through a painful time. He will help you and hold your hand. He is always preparing you for glory.


Psalm 73: 23-24

Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me to glory.

* AMEN *

Gardening in January

We are preparing a list now, of gardening tasks for January. If you have your own ideas, please forward them to us. We will revise our list as your suggestions come in. We are looking forward to hearing from you. Planning now and brainstorming for our 2022 gardening season is essential, so do send us a note with topics you have special interest in. Thank you so much. Stay tuned……