the 1960s, Jeff Willett’s father was a career union
pressman running a large commercial printing press. Off
the job, he had a passion for growing vegetables.
his only son at home I was by default his built in
laborer," says Willett, 59, now living in
didn’t like it at the time, but early on in my career
I was very appreciative of my initial introduction into
gardening. My father and eldest sister were instrumental
in guiding me toward the horticulture field."
Willett is a landscape designer for McDonald Garden
Center in Hampton, Va., where his 41-year career has
included positions in sales, management, production,
installation and design.
says his landscape style is eclectic, a personal style
he’s developed from more than four decades of watching
other people in the industry. He likes to mix styles —
contemporary with formal elements or large woody masses
with heavy perennial influences. He also favors
decorative hardscapes and garden art.
am not a cookie cutter designer," he says.
don’t feel a particular style of architecture requires
a specific garden style. Style is an evolutionary
believes landscaping should not strike fear in your
heart. Instead, research, and think outside the box, he
encourages homeowners looking for a different look in
you like something that is culturally compatible with
the area, go for it," he says.
of your property like you do your home — as a series
of rooms that you don’t need to decorate all at once.
Take baby steps."
you do a landscape makeover, analyze your property’s
layout, determining exposures such as sun and shade.
Study your home’s architectural details and equipment
around it, such as trash cans/enclosures and heating/air
conditioning equipment. Know your soil’s growing
conditions, evaluating different spots because soil can
vary from the front to the back of your property.
determine a budget.
is, in my mind, a cerebrally calming endeavor,"
planting things in the ground, doing something
environmentally responsible and most importantly you’re
making your property more beautiful."
maples for ornamental values; there are hundreds of
cultivars and one for every design need.
birch for its upright habit and exfoliating bark; fast
oak for fall color
myrtle for bark color, form and flower power.
European hornbeam for great formal habit and fall color.
barberry for leaf color and minimum maintenance.
Wheeler’s dwarf pittosporum for its tropical
appearance and minimum maintenance.
Hinoki cypress for its interesting texture and
for long-lasting flowers.
roses for Knock Out rose-like features without the large
size; most Knock Out roses outgrow planting spaces.
for great texture in shade.
as better ground cover substitute for overused liriope.
Night salvia for superb blue color.
nicknamed coral bells, for fabulous color range and
or tickseed, for continuous blooms and wonderful
choosing plants on your own or with the help of a
professional landscape designer, consider plants that
will behave and be happy where they will grow, Willett
in my career I planted several spec houses in a
development with shrubs that looked great in
three-gallon pots at the time — flash ahead two years
and you can’t see out the first floor windows,"
like to use the analogy that a Great Dane puppy is great
in a studio apartment. A full grown Great Dane in a
studio apartment is probably a big mistake."