Landscape Contractor Serving Commercial and Residential
March 20, 2022 0 Comments

Seedy Beginnings

Just the sight of seed racks and onion sets was enough to stir a longing for new growth in the midst of the dreariness and silence of winter. With a plethora of varieties and cultivars, the decision to plant becomes more complicated.  Since this is the best time to get tomatoes and peppers going, I figured I would start there.

Along with the tomatoes and peppers, I got a jump start on my herbs. Usually one basil plant would do me for all my culinary necessities. But how can I have a seed pack with a million seeds and not start a million plants? I guess we will become avid pesto eaters this season!

If you have never planted vegetables and are unsure of when is the best time to plant, what plants do best started inside and which do well in your area, Southern States offers a great summary.

November 24, 2021 0 Comments

Free Seasonal Decorations

Apparently Christmas is upon us . . . at least that is what the Mall was telling me! It used to be that Christmas music didn't make a comeback until after Thanksgiving. Now you can expect it to start piping while the employees are removing the Halloween goods from the shelves. Crazy!

But jumping the seasonal gun aside, now is the time to take a look at what you have in the yard that can assist you in reducing your holiday expenses and bring the beauty of outside inside. A few things to keep in mind when you are collecting your natural decorations:

  • Trim judiciously and only what you need. Try to be even in your pruning. You don't want to harm your shrubs/trees nor leave them looking like frankenshrubs!
  • On the flip side, do not fear cutting them!
  • The aridity in a winter house can cause rapid deterioration of the cuttings. Try to cut them as close to the time to your events to have them at their best. Sometimes misting them can keep them from drying out.
  • Protect your surfaces: if you are setting the cuttings on a table or mantlepiece, make sure that you put something down to keep your cuttings from damaging the surface with moisture or sap.
  • Be creative! Make wreaths, centerpieces, and mantle arrangements from your generous plants

Some great things to look for:

  • boxwood
  • spruce
  • pine  (beware of sap)
  • holly
  • magnolia grandiflora
  • Harry Lauder Walking Stick & Corkscrew Willow for branches
  • pine cones
  • dry seed heads of interest

While you are hunting for decorations on your property, don't forget to slow down and appreciate everything around you.

Happy Fall!


September 30, 2020 0 Comments

Federal Point Development

Small Yard, Big Impact

We just finished up a project for one of our contractors, Federal Point Development, redoing the front of a Reston townhome. Many of the properties there are surrounded by mature trees that make them feel nestled into the woods. The original landscaping had gotten tired and overgrown and the clients were looking for a way to make the entrance more useful and more inviting.

We removed an old tree stump and most of the original plantings to make way for a charming and functional drainage solution with a variety of plants to add interest and beauty.

This lot was only 20' x 25' or so. It is more important to use space well and thoughtfully than to have a lot of it. A well-designed space can add value to your property and provide you with a beautiful respite from the day to day noise.

Tips for enhancing a small space

  • Start with function. What do you need space to do? Is it your primary entrance? Do you regularly sit outside? Do you have pets who use the space? This client wanted a space to enjoy both as an entrance and as a welcoming area to share a cup of tea with a friend. The extra widening of the walk allows for a bench or set of chairs for visitors to enjoy the flora.
  • Use a variety of heights and textures to create depth. Layering is especially important in a small space to provide a sense of depth. In a small space, layer up and down as well as front to back. Plant ground-hugging plants around slightly taller plants that are at the base of yet larger plants/trees. The variety of heights and textures draws the eye up as well as across.
  • Incorporate different mulches. Break up a solid patch of mulch with stone waterways or paths to give a sense of different areas within the small space.
  • Plan for multi-season color. Use bulbs and annuals to have shots of color that do not compete for space at the same time. Bulbs like daffodils and tulips will come and go in the spring before the summer annuals can be put in.
  • Be in harmony with the neighbors. Eccentricity is frowned upon in most communities. If the space you are working with is the front of your home, as in this case, consider the impact of your design on your neighbors and the community. This home happened to be surrounded by other properties that had been evolving over the years into garden yards. Most of the homes had maximized their small footprints by removing the lawn and replacing it with appropriate plantings and patios. This design was in harmony with its neighbors and added value to the property because of it.

If you have a space that needs a creative renovation, contact us today.

Are you a commercial property manager or owner looking to improve the value of your property with creative solutions? Contact us today to discuss how Rivas Design & Landscaping can add value to your property.


July 30, 2020 0 Comments

August Checklist

The hot temperatures of August can turn even the hardiest of gardens into a wasteland.  This is the time to make sure you are continuing watering and other garden maintenance. However, watering can be a Catch 22:  you don't want to drown your garden, yet you don't want it to go through a drought either. So keep these tips as a Rule of (Green) Thumb:

Watering Tips

  • Slightly moist soil is your best bet. If the ground is saturated, the plants will rot at the roots. Not enough water will cause desiccation. In the heat of summer, especially, keep an eye on the plants. The curling and drooping of branches and leaves is an urgent indicator: Water!
  • Watering in the morning or in the evening ensures that the most amount of moisture is reaching the plant and not just evaporating.
  • Check your sprinklers for adequate water supply. Dry or wilting plants indicate water stress.
  • Water more frequently the plants in pots. Potted plants tend to dry out much faster than those in the ground.
  • Clean beds of debris to prevent critters nesting.
  • Deadhead your perennials and annuals.
  • Ensure adequate mulch coverage to retain moisture.
  • Check for water flow and sitting water around the house.
  • Schedule your Fall Project Consultation!

Download our Summer Checklist!

June 25, 2020 0 Comments

Front Entrance Renovation

Looking to renovate or re-imagine your home outside?

This project took on a space that was needing some attention. The client already had the wall in place, the original plantings had just been lost over time. They wanted to elevate the front entrances to be warm and inviting for all who came to visit or pass by.

We are always trying to create new ways to add value to our clients. Something we have added to our project process is providing better notes, better concepts, and better communication so we can ensure that our clients are happy with the ideas and understand what they are signing up for. It enables us to work out the issues ahead of time as well as to effectively communicate with our crews.

Contact us today for a consultation.



May 8, 2020 0 Comments

Late Spring Frost

This spring has definitely been different, so it should be no surprise that we would have a late Spring frost. Some hardy plants can handle light frosts, others can handle the dips below freezing. Few, however, can remain intact when the temps drop much below 32 degrees.

I recommend covering young plants as best you can, and if you have potted plants, bring them inside, or even under a covered patio or garage.

Here are some materials you could use to cover:

  • Old sheets, drop cloths, tarps, burlap, or newspapers.
  • Cardboard boxes, open them on one end, turn them upside down and place them over your flowers. Tape any cracks to keep out the cold air.
  • Empty pots, buckets, milk jugs with the top cut off, or other containers made of wood, plastic or clay to cover your plants (just be sure they’re tall enough to fit over plants without crushing them.
  • Pre-made row covers (from a gardening store)


  • Place covers over your plants before the temperatures hit freezing. If you’re using plastic covers, wait until twilight to avoid the sun cooking your plants through the plastic.
  • If your cover is lightweight enough to blow away in the wind, weigh it down with rocks or bricks.
  • Remove cardboard or fabric covers as soon as the weather warms up.
  • Remove plastic covers as soon as the sun rises.


June 27, 2019 0 Comments

July: Too Early, Too Late or Just Right?

July is that mid-summer month that comes too late to the party to make the spring planting window, yet too early for a safe entry into fall. It is, however, the perfect time to really appreciate all your earlier labors and to re-evaluate the needs that have yet to be met.


  • DO weed your beds and remove debris to the compost pile
  • DO water every day when rain has not been regular; watch your plants for signs of dehydration in the way of droopiness
  • DO deadhead your perennials and annuals. Geraniums notoriously need attention as do all your spent perennials.
  • DO cut your hydrangeas and zinnias and fill vases throughout the house with fresh flowers.
  • DO freshen up your mulch
  • DO fertilize your plants


  • DO NOT divide plants or transplant
  • DO NOT travel without making property care arrangements

July is also a great time to do a quick mid-summer spruce up to keep your property looking its best for the summer festivities!

HAPPY JULY 4th and beyond!

April 4, 2019 0 Comments

It’s April — What Should I Prune?

I find this time of year to be one where it is easy to get pruner-happy. While most things can survive a poorly timed pruning, there are a few that will make you skip a year of beauty if you cut at the wrong time. What can be cut now?

  • old perennial growth
  • dry branches and leaves
  • old grass growth
  • some fruit trees, vines--depending on whether they bloom on year old wood
  • old flower heads

What to avoid cutting now?

  • Rhododendrons and azaleas: the buds were set in the fall and should only be pruned immediately after the bloom
  • Forsythia -- wait until done blooming
  • Hydrangea macrophylla (mop head hydrangea) -- except to remove old flowers. Wait until new growth comes on before pruning out dead

If in doubt, wait. 

November 29, 2018 0 Comments

New Playground in Upperville, VA

We were recently a part of a playground build in Fauquier County as the landscape contractor. We worked along some of the best contractors to bring this project to fruition. Thank you Donovan Paving, Custom Park Services, KomPan, Cara from Lardner Klein Landscape Architects and Fauquier County Parks & Rec. This was a beautiful project in a beautiful setting, with breathtaking mountain views and expanses of farmland.

Our contributions to the project were to install all plants and trees per the county plan, sod and seed,  and install Engineered Wood Fiber (EWF). The project required that we work together to coordinate each phase of the project to ensure timely and professional completion.

Interested in working with Rivas Design on your next commercial project? Contact us at to discuss your needs.



August 9, 2018 0 Comments

Ahead of the Game

Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer . . .

Lazy days of summer always get me in a lull. I drink in the warm weather, enjoy the freedom of a looser routine and forget about the looming workload...that inevitable flux of work generated by the perfection of the season.

With the summer quickly nearing its end and the fall hustling to get in place now is the perfect time to get ahead of the game. Instead of considering your garden needs in the short weeks of the fall planting window, start the process now. Some things to consider for you autumn aspirations:

  1. Fall is the best time to transplant/divide so make arrangements to have that done now rather than in the spring. It gives the relocated plants a time to acclimate and has them undisturbed for the spring when they will be growing a strong root system to support the new arrangement.
  2. Though it is not as hot, you will still want to keep watering--especially if there is a long period without any moisture.
  3. Try to avoid planting evergreens in the fall. The winter can be harsh on them since their leaves stay attached. Deciduous, or plants that lose their leaves, tend to manage much better. Perennials are champs when planted in the fall.
  4. Don't forget the bulbs. This is the time to get your bulb planning done so that you have some color in the spring.
  5. Prepare your vegetable garden now with cow or horse manure so it is ready to go in the spring--the time allows the manure to mellow so its potency doesn't burn the young plants.