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flowering tree

Inspired Trees

“The planting of a tree, especially one of the long-living hardwood trees, is a gift which you can make to posterity at almost no cost and with almost no trouble, and if the tree takes root it will far outlive the visible effect of any of your other actions, good or evil.”
— George Orwell

flowering tree

Choosing the perfect tree for your yard can be an overwhelming process. With thousands of tree species in the world, and hundreds that live in the northeast, there are a daunting number of options. We will break it down for you over the next few weeks into size categories, starting this week with small trees. Size is one of the most important factors to take into consideration when buying a tree.

Planting the wrong-sized tree in the wrong place can be detrimental to the tree and public/ private property. If you have a powerline running through your backyard and decide to plant a mighty red oak underneath it, eventually you will be dealing with a bunch of disgruntled neighbors and PSE&G workers. If you place a tree with a wide canopy too close to your home, it might cause damage to your siding and roof, as well as to the tree. Picking a proper-sized tree is the first step toward creating a beautiful, balanced, and safe landscape.

Small trees are perfect for houses with limited outdoor space and overhead obstructions. They are ideal for owners who want to make a wow statement with their tree choice, as small trees tend to be more ornamental than bigger varieties. Here are our top four picks… and one you should definitely stay away from.

Japanese maples
Japanese maple (Acer palmatum)- Native to Korea, Japan, China, Mongolia and parts of Russia, the Japanese maple is perfectly suited for our sometimes intense New Jersey winters. Hardy, strong, smooth, and vibrant, the Japanese maple is an excellent addition to any landscape or garden. The mature height of this tree generally ranges anywhere from 2-30 feet. The smaller varieties usually have a lovely draping quality similar to a weeping willow, and can be planted close to a house in a front garden bed. Others grow in a straight up pattern with branches that fan out to form cloud-like canopies (picture on left below), and should be planted farther away from a house to give the branches room to spread.

Japanese maples are known for their deep red leaves, but some, like the coral bark Japanese maple (picture on right below) kick it up a notch and put all of their red pigmentation into their branches and boast lime green leaves instead. This is one of showiest of landscape trees and is sure to impress.

Whichever variety you choose, and there are hundreds, be sure to check the tree’s tag for size and sun requirements. Almost all thrive in full sun, with just a few exceptions. Japanese maples can get pricey quickly, especially the smaller varieties, so be sure to check the price tags before ordering.

Japanese maple tree

American redbud
American redbud or eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis)- Hardy and well-suited for the cold northeast climate, the eastern redbud is a breathtaking small tree that grows 20-30 feet high. While it thrives in full sun or part shade, be aware that if planted in full sun it will need to be watered regularly. With an elegant, spreading canopy, heart-shaped leaves, and pink, pea-shaped buds that put on a striking flower display in April (pictured below) this tree can also serve as a good shade tree for small spaces. Spring may be the high point for redbuds, but the rising sun eastern redbud is spectacular in the fall when the outer leaves transform into oranges and yellows and the others remain green, creating an ombre effect.

American redbud tree

Dogwood trees
Dogwood trees (Cornus florida)- A classic tree known for its beautiful four-petaled flowers, dogwoods come in both white and pale pink varieties. They bloom for 3-4 weeks in late March, and grow 20-30 feet tall with a spread of 20-30 feet. The trunk of this tree is noticeably different from other trees, boasting a handsome “alligator” pattern of dark gray/brown scales. An added plus for this small tree is the fact that it is native to the northeastern region of the United States, which means it does well in variable soils and seasons. The only soil that should be avoided are very moist soils found in ditches and low lying areas. Dogwoods like full sun, part sun, or part shade, making them a good tree choice for yards with variable lighting conditions.

Dogwood tree

Sweetbay magnolia (Magnolia virginiana)- The sweetbay magnolia flowers in spring and grows to a height of 10-20 feet with equal spread. The flowers are creamy white, which contrasts well with its dark green glossy leaves. Magnolia blossoms give off a subtle citrusy smell. Magnolia crowns tend to fan out in a sky-filling manner, which makes it a particularly successful shade tree. The sweetbay magnolia does well in full or part sun and thrives in most soils. Young caterpillars eat magnolia leaves for sustenance, and since more caterpillars mean more butterflies, this is a great choice for those looking for small ways to help support pollinators and the environment.

magnolia tree

Finally, the one small tree you should avoid at all costs is the Callery pear tree (Pyrus calleryana). Sometimes called Bradford pear, this tree was once considered the perfect choice for producing shady tree-lined streets in the suburbs. Unfortunately, the Callery turned out to be anything but perfect. The structure is prone to breaking, making it especially dangerous in the increasingly intense storms experienced on the east coast. The limbs are heavy, brittle, and destined to fall, causing damage to homes, cars, and worst of all, people. The Callery is awful for biodiversity, as it has become a prolific reproducer and invades many spaces in New Jersey housing native plants. Planting this tree in your yard is a poor choice not only for you, but for the well-being of the ecosystem around you.

Looking forward to spring!


If you would like to read more information on gardens and indoor plants check out our Get Inspired newsletter.

Indoor Plant Containers example

Choosing Indoor Plant Containers

“If I see it in nature, I know it will work in a home.”
—Miles Redd

Indoor Plant Containers example

Pairing your plant with the perfect pot is no easy feat. Size and drainage requirements are essential factors, and finding a pot that accentuates the beauty of your plant is key. To help you sort through it all, here are ten tips to keep in mind when choosing indoor containers.

1. Buy your plant first, then the container. It’s much harder to find the right plant to fit the container.

2. Keep your plant in the nursery grow pot. It makes it easier to change containers, won’t disturb the roots, and grow pots have better drainage because of the extra holes. Remember to always take the grow container out of the “nice” container to water your plant.

3. We love West Elm pots, but they are often too wide for standard-sized grow pots. While the height might be right, the width will likely be off.

4. While we are on the subject of West Elm, keep in mind that their pots rarely have holes for drainage. Drainage holes are a MUST for any pot.

Indoor Plant Containers example

5. Make sure your container is at least a ½ inch bigger in diameter than the nursery grow pot. You should be able to lift the grow pot up and out of the container. If your grow pot is 10 inches, choose a container that is at least 10.5 inches.

6. If you want to transplant, your planter should be about 1-2 inches larger than your grow pot.

Indoor Plant Containers example

7. For groupings, buy pots in the same color scheme and in mixed heights.

8. Stay away from all green pots as they don’t provide needed contrast with the leaves.

9. For larger plants, try a self-watering container. Check out our recent article for more info.

Indoor Plant Containers example

10. Order your containers from The Inspired Garden! I’ve spent many hours researching and testing to make sure grow pots will easily fit into our containers.

Happy (indoor) planting,


If you would like to read more information on gardens and indoor plants check out our Get Inspired newsletter.

indoor houseplant example

The Dos and Don’ts of Houseplant Care

“My green thumb came only as a result of the mistakes I made while learning to see things from the plants’ point of view.”
– H. Fred Dale

indoor houseplant example

Nothing transforms the energy in a room more than a plant. Plants bring a bit of zen and beauty into any space… something we need now more than ever. Not much of a green thumb? Not a problem. I’ve helped many nervous clients navigate their first plants, as well as plant-challenged clients who have killed their fair share. My dos and don’ts guide will give you the knowledge and confidence you need to keep your houseplants happy and healthy for years to come.


It doesn’t take a bunch of plants to make a dramatic difference in a room. Just one plant can change everything!


Many plant owners try to keep things simple by watering on a schedule. This is a huge mistake because every plant is different, and each has different needs. Some need to be watered every week, and some every month. Some are in colder rooms, and some are near radiators. Plants grow slowly in the winter months and require less water. If you water every plant on the same day, you will end up overwatering most of them.

indoor houseplant example


I tell all of my clients to purchase a soil meter. It’s a total game changer. Most people water way more than a plant really needs, whereas a meter will guide you as to when to water and when to stop. When a client calls me with plant problems, it’s easy for me to understand what’s happening just by reading the soil measurements. I promise this will be money well spent.


Make sure your containers have drainage holes at the bottom or your plant can get root rot. If you have a dish under your pot, empty it or the roots will become overwatered.

indoor houseplant example


I am a big fan of keeping plants in their plastic grow pots, and then placing these into the “nice” containers. This makes switching plants around much easier. The grow pots also have extra holes that are better for drainage. Remember to take the plant out of the “nice” container to water.


When you go on vacation, remember your plants won’t do well if you turn off your heat in the winter or turn off the air conditioning in the summer.

indoor houseplant example


Many times a plant isn’t doing well simply because it isn’t in the right spot. Here’s a quick primer:

  • Bright light is when the sun comes directly through a window and hits your plant. Most plant’s leaves will burn if they are in direct light.
  • Indirect bright light is the sweet spot. Either trees or a curtain dapples the light, or it is away from a bright window.
  • Low light doesn’t mean no light, it just means that the room gets some sun but it isn’t very bright. If you can read a book in a room during the day the light likely isn’t low.

Happy (indoor) Planting!


If you would like to read more information on gardens and indoor plants check out our Get Inspired newsletter.

flowering garden

What is an Inspired Garden?

The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul.
— Alfred Austin

flowering garden

What is an Inspired Garden?

An Inspired Garden makes you smile. It’s filled with the colors, scents and flowers you love—colors that might resemble your wedding bouquet, scents that evoke memories of your favorite vacation spot, flowers that remind you of a garden you once loved to play in. An Inspired Garden will reflect your personality and style, and whether you choose a cottage garden with a soft and dreamy palette, or a bold and bright design with a dramatic flair…If it’s true to who you are, it will make you feel happy and peaceful for many years to come.

Get Inspired

In my Get Inspired newsletter, I will share my philosophies, ideas, and how-to’s on creating gardens, window boxes, and containers, as well as tips on caring for your indoor plants. I’ll fill you in on what plants are easy and dependable and teach you how to get a layered garden with blooms going all season. As I share my approach to gardening, I’ll let you in on a few secrets for capturing the look I am known for.

So let’s begin! With this first edition, I am excited to offer four key pieces of advice that I have shared hundreds of times with my clients:

1. Don’t waste time on plants you don’t love.

Over and over I hear from clients, “I absolutely hate that plant!” to which I respond,“Why is it still here?” There’s no obligation to care for the plants you inherit when you purchase a home. Filling the garden with your personality can be the final step in making your home fully yours. If something is overgrown or you just plain don’t like it, then get rid of it. Get over the guilt and let it compost back to the earth.

2. Do your research.

Search on Pinterest, Instagram and Houzz for flowers that speak to you, but make sure they are suitable for your zone. Many clients fall in love with the image of a cottage garden with delphiniums and hollyhocks, but don’t realize that those don’t do well in hot and humid areas. Be aware of the kind of light you have. A wildflower garden will not work in a shaded area. A garden full of ferns for a zen feel will burn in the hot sun. To know what is working well and thriving around you, take pictures of gardens you admire in your area. Don’t be fooled by what you see at nurseries—they often sell plants that won’t do well in your climate. Save yourself the frustration of plants that won’t grow well and do your research first.

flowering garden

3. Set realistic expectations.

Many of the gorgeous pictures you see on social media are snapshots of the peak bloom time of a garden that has matured over years. Even the images on a plant’s tags can be misleading— they show what a perennial will look like when it matures and is in full bloom. When you plant in early spring, it may be two months before the plant resembles the picture. It could take years for some perennials to really get going.

4. Just jump in!

It’s normal to be nervous about starting a garden, but all you need to begin is a desire. As long as you are willing to water regularly that takes care of about 90% of the necessary maintenance. You’ll run into a few bumps along the way, but trial and error is how most gardeners learn!

flowering garden

Final Thoughts

An Inspired Garden is a place of joy. We’re living in a world of uncertainty, and now more than ever we need our happy places. I’ve found that planning and caring for a garden can be extremely therapeutic, even for those who have never gardened before. I never tire of hearing clients talk about the peace their gardens have brought them and their families.

Looking forward to next time…

If you would like to read more information on gardens and indoor plants check out our Get Inspired newsletter.