A note from Nancy...
January  2014

~Greetings of the Season~


Happy New Year!  I hope your holidays were delightful AND restful!      

As winter settles in and we begin a New Year, it is the time to reflect a little on where we've been and where we hope to go in the coming year.  In that spirit,  I'm sharing a successful (and hopefully inspiring) system for caring for a school landscape, an exciting project under construction, a guest-post from a kind client, and a planting crusade you may want to join.        

Wishing you a winter filled with the rosy-cheeked wonder of time outdoors (and cozy time inside too). 


Happy (winter-dreaming-of) Gardening!




A special welcome to new landscape clients, colleagues, and all the lovely educators from the National Association for the Education of Young Children. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to speak at the recent NAEYC conference, and to find such passion from all across the country- literally from Alaska to Florida - educators are eager to create natural play spaces for the children in their care.


Please get in touch if you're ready to start transforming your home landscape or schoolyard. The New Year is a GREAT time to start planning for spring.   



Please use the button at the bottom and share this newsletter with friends who might be interested! (Each month comes with informative and fun-to-read news about great native plants, children and nature; cool, sustainable projects you'll want to know about and more!) 

The Reading Garden is on its way!

With a storytellers' circle under a vine covered pergola, a watery river of words, porch swings and writing walls, the reading garden will be a place that honors literacy, embeds curriculum and makes reading and writing fun for the students at Drew Elementary School in all sorts of new, active ways.

This fall we had all the pavers laid for the patios, poured concrete for paths and made them fun by embellishing them with  

leaf imprints and literary terms. We worked with the Casey Trees foundation. They held a tree rally, taught kids about trees and tree care and then together with teams of Drew students, planted5 beautiful trees in the courtyard.   

Green Earth Landscaping installed the river of words, which will have a spitting dragon head fountain at one end (the school's mascot) and a burbling boulder in the center of the storyteller's circle at the other end. Kids will make word rocks, which can be arranged in the stream like magnetic poetry.

Parents at this Title I school, led by committee chair Julie Gantz, have been working hard (with impressive success) to 

 write grants and organize fundraisers in collaboration with local businesses.    

In the spring we plan to finish construction and hold a planting day where kids will plant an alphabet garden and lots of other beautiful native flowers and shrubs. Stay tuned!

A Milkweed Mission
Milkweed is not really a winter interest plant although the seed pods are VERY beautiful in the late fall.

The reasons to think now about planting milkweed in your garden in the spring is for the butterflies. 

Monarch butterflies. 

Monarchs have evolved alongside Milkweed (Asclepias) and have adapted to the milky-sapped plant so that it is the ONLY plant that Monarch caterpillars can eat. Without Milkweed, there will be nothing for the baby Monarchs to eat, and thus ourbeloved Monarch butterflies will disappear.


Those beautiful butterflies have a uniquely beautiful story.

They are MIGRATORY butterflies.
As you read this, the Monarchs are wintering in Mexico. It takes several generations of butterflies, each living less than a year, to complete the cycle of migration.

It is really almost incomprehensible how literally millions of butterflies from all over North America can tap into a map etched into their genes and each year make the harrowing journey back to their ancestral gathering place. 
 Except it isn't working as well as it used to. The places where milkweed grew wild are rapidly disappearing.  Without their only food source, there are fewer and fewer baby Monarchs born and the numbers who make the trip are declining in a frightening way.  
 In 2011 at El Rosario Sanctuary in Central Mexico, there were 60 trees FILLED with butterflies.  (Can you imagine anything more magical??)  This year, there were only 10 trees.  
We can all help! There are three kinds of Milkweed that will grow in our area, and each is beautiful in a different way. Asclepias syriaca is the big and beautiful native milkweed that grows so prolifically in meadows. Asclepias tuberosa is also known as Butterfly Weed. The flowers are orange and yellow, and in addition to providing food for the caterpillars, adult butterflies love the nectar. And finally, my favorite, Asclepias incarnata, Swamp Milkweed, has beautiful pink flowers, looks great with Echinacea and Clethra, which bloom at the same time, and provides just what those baby caterpillars need to grow big and strong! 

So do it. Plant some milkweed! 

For a free seed packet of all 3 types of milkweed, beautiful photos of migrating butterflies and more info --check out www.monarchwatch.org

A testimonial:  About Working with Nancy   

by Cheryl Moore, Arlington, Virginia


The Impetus
I have lived in my house for almost 21 years, and had never done very much with the yard before this project.  We had small children and dogs so it didn't seem worth it to invest in the yard.  The house still had some of the old foundation plantings from almost 50 years ago, along with a few azaleas we planted, and looked really dated.  I always felt like it lacked curb appeal.
Now that the kids are grown and we no longer have a dog, it was a good time to re-invent the yard. 
I have read gardening magazines for years, and I know a little about plants, but I didn't feel like I had the vision to design the landscape myself.  I also didn't want to do all of the manual labor!  Hiring Nancy to design the landscape, and having her preferred contractor, Green Earth Landscaping, do the installation, was a perfect solution. 

The Process   
Before our first meeting, Nancy had me fill out a detailed questionnaire so that she could get a
 sense of what colors I like, how we use the yard, what style of landscaping we prefer, how much  maintenance we're willing to do, etc. It was a good exercise because it made me think about  some of those questions for the first time.  She also had me look at several landscape books and  pick out photos that appealed to me, indicating what it was that caught my eye.  

Nancy took my answers and translated them into a beautiful and workable design.  As is her preference, she suggested almost all native plants.  I liked the idea of using them for their natural beauty, the fact that they attract birds and butterflies, and one established they will need less water and care.  In addition, she was amenable to incorporating a few plants and shrubs that we already had and wanted to keep, making great suggestions of where to use them in the new design.  She was also helpful in researching a rainwater collection system, which was important to us. 

I was happy to have Nancy with me every step of the installation process-- from the day the first plants were delivered, to the final walk-through.  She very calmly took care of any issues that arose during the installation (and there weren't very many), gave clear instructions to the crew, and thoughtfully listened to my questions and suggestions.  It was very clear that she wanted me to be delighted with the end result-- and I am!   


The Result

I love my new landscape! 

It looks very natural and uncontrived, but it also appeals to my sense of order because you can see that it was carefully and thoughtfully planned. 

My front yard now has a lot of curb appeal, with curved beds, fieldstone edging, interesting and attractive perennials and shrubs, and a "landing spot" with a new bench near the front door. 

My backyard is a peaceful sanctuary with a stunning basalt fountain that is already attracting birds.  I am looking forward to seeing all of the colors, shapes and textures that will emerge throughout the seasons as the plants grow and mature.   

The Signs are the Secret...

 (plus lots of pizza)

For so many of the school projects I work on, the conundrum is how to care for it once it's installed/built/planted.  Here's a solution to that question that brings me joy. 

I've been the volunteer chair of the Grounds Committee at my son's high school for the past 3-˝years. 

He'll be graduating in the spring and I will finish up my term with, if I don't say so myself, a great system in place for caring for the campus landscape. 

It turns out that teenagers can do just about everything.  The key was figuring out how to harness their abundant energy for the good of the grounds.

About EarlySpace
Nancy Striniste has transformed acres of schoolyards and home landscapes from lawns to habitats, lush with native and edible plants, rainwater harvesting and sustainable materials. She has worked with hundreds of teachers and parents throughout the mid-Atlantic and beyond sharing ideas and strategies for connecting children to nature.  Her designs have brought rich and beautiful natural play and learning spaces to dozens of public and private schools and early childhood programs.
 To see her work, visit:  www.earlyspace.com

If you are ready to start creating the landscape of your dreams,

 contact Nancy at info@earlyspace.com to schedule a free call.

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Nancy Striniste is a landscape designer and former teacher. She specializes in creating natural play and learning spaces for children, sustainable landscapes for homeowners and teaching teachers about how to use outdoor space. Sign up for a FREE subscription to Nancy's Earth-friendly Landscape E-news filled with creative ideas and useful tips at  www.earlyspace.com