Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Video Wednesday: Horticulture at the Virginia Zoo

Horticulture at the Virginia Zoo from plantPOP on Vimeo.

Friend of Washington Gardener Magazine, Marie Mims Butler, did a great job on the Zoo Horticulture video. The plantings are lovely and by necessity very tough. I love Marie's quote, "If the zoo can do it, YOU can do it!" And you thought visiting the zoo was just to see the animals.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Washington Gardener Magazine's Tomato Taste at Market is Back by Popular Demand!

Washington Gardener Magazine's

7th Annual 

Tomato Tasting

 at the Silver Spring FreshFarm Market

It’s ‘Big Boy’ vs. ‘Mortgage Lifter,’ hybrid vs. heirloom, the tomato wars have just begun. Everyone is sure that their tomato pick is the tastiest. Join Washington Gardener Magazine at the FreshFarm Market in downtown Silver Spring, MD, on Saturday, August 23 from 10am-12noon for a Tomato Tasting. Best of all, this event is FREE!

Farmers at the market will contribute their locally grown selections — from super-sweet ‘Sungold’ to not-so-pretty ‘Cherokee Purple’ — and we’ll explore which tomatoes make the short list of favorites. We’ll have tomato gardening tips, tomato recipes, tomato activities for kids, and much more. All to celebrate one of summer’s greatest indulgences — the juicy fresh tomato.

Tip: Your tomato taste voting ballot is also your entry into our prize drawing for a basket full of gardening goodies. The drawing is at 12noon, so be sure to fully fill out your ballot by 11:45am and then stick around for the prize announcement as you must be present to win.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Venting Over Leaf Blowers ~ Washington Gardener Enews ~ July 2014 issue

The Washington Gardener Enews ~ July 2014 issue is now out. It was emailed as a PDF to all Washington Gardener Magazine current subscribers. It is also posted and archived online at:  
Inside This Enews Issue:
• Free Soil Test for DC Residents
• Back Issue Sale
• July-August To-Do List
• Magazine Excerpt: Hosting Honey Bees in Your Garden
• Latest Blog Links
• Local Garden Events Listings
• Venting Over Leaf Blowers
• New ‘Sweet Sunset’ Pepper
• Reader Contest to Win a TrapStik for Wasps

Subscribe to Washington Gardener Magazine today to have the monthly enewsletter sent to your inbox as a PDF several days before it is available online. 

Fenton Friday: One Gardener's Trash is Another's Flowers

This week in my plot at the Fenton Community Garden, we had a few days of really soaking rains followed by unseasonably cool days. I'm not complaining though! Now things are looking lush and really settling in.

Pictured here are two of the edible flowers I'm growing. I had thought the Calendula was gone after wintering over for me for two years and then totally dying during this last nasty winter, but it re-seeded and now is as abundant as ever.


The French Marigolds are not from those that re-seeded in my plot, those were all weak and spindly and in the pathways, so they never had a chance. The marigolds you see pictured here were plants I rescued from our garden's communal compost pile. I am constantly flabbergasted over the things people put in this pile! You can call me Little Miss Trash-digger, but I have no shame in pulling things right back out and planting them or passing them on to good home.  These marigolds were looking a bit sad when I replanted them in my plot, but after just a few days of TLC and watering, they are looking marvelous.

Besides the Calendula and Marigolds, I have Nasturtium, but it has not flowered yet.



My single Okra plant is starting to bear fruit. That means I'll have to stop by daily to check it as it can quickly grow from a tender 3-inch bud to a 10-inch woody stick that is totally inedible. I like to just pick it when I'm out in the gardening and snack on it raw right then and there. And no, it is NOT slimey this way. It is similar in taste and texture to a green bean. Freshness is the key!

What is growing in YOUR edible garden this week?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Video Wednesday: Vegetable Bolting

"Bolting", "Seeding", "Going to Seed". Ever wonder why your veggies suddenly sprout flowers? Kathy Jentz from Washington Gardener Magazine gives great tips in this brief video.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Glad its Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day!

I ran and got this shot of the Gladiola by my back fence in-between waves of the "polar vortex" storms coming though the Washington, DC area this Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. I planted these bulbs in hard-pan soil next to the sidewalk and barely covered them, so I did not expect them to winter over -- especially given out record cold temps last season. This one, and a few others that are in bud and look to be ruby red, prove that zone hardiness in bulbs can be very unpredictable. I'm in solid USDA Zone 7, by the way, hot and humid summers and below-freezing but usually mild winters.

Elsewhere in my garden being pounded by a third wave of storms right now I have in bloom: 'Vanilla Strawberry' hydrangea and several other hydrangrea varieties, coneflowers, black-eyed susan, sunflowers, hollyhocks, balloon flower, heuchera, abelia, butterfly bush, trumpet creeper vine, and lots and lots of annuals from lobelia to marigolds to zinnias.

What is blooming in YOUR garden today?

Friday, July 11, 2014

Fenton Friday: My Favorite Flower

 In my 10x20 plot at the Fenton Community Garden, I have edged one of the borders this year with Lisianthus flowers. Next to herbaceous Peonies, Lisianthus are my absolute favorite flowers. I am always surprised at how little-known they are among home gardeners!

They are annuals and they do need full sun. I had tried them in previous years direct-sown from seed in planting box in part-sun with mild success, but this year I wanted to ensure a good crop for cutting. So I jumped on the offer by Carol Carrier, a local cut flower grower, to sell me a tray of her Lisianthus plugs this spring. I potted up half of them and we sold them at the Silver Spring Garden Club's annual GardenMart fundraiser sale. I realized I should have gotten many more of them from Carol, when one of the first customer to arrive at the Mart bought up all we had. (And maybe, too, we should have charge more?)

The other half, 20 plugs marked purple or white , I planted in my plot along the string border as I anticipated they might grow tall and leggy and need staking. The sat for weeks not doing much of anything. Finally, they shot up a few weeks ago when the summer heat came on and flower buds started to form. Earlier this week, several of them jumped into bloom at once and I was ecstatic. I cut them immediately for small bud vases around my house.I anticipate cutting many more bouquets as the summer progresses.
Elsewhere in my garden plot, the Tomatoes are looking much better -- despite a "weak" derecho coming through on Tuesday night! They are all fairly short plants so the 60+ mph winds and pounding rain did not do too much damage.

I have one Okra plant and it is starting to form flowers finally. The cutting Lettuce is still hanging on and I might get one more decent salad out of it. I planted Swiss Chard seedlings and it is starting to take off. I gathered up tiny Basil that self-sown into the plot pathways and among the beans and transplanted those into one neat row. Hoping to make pesto soon with the Garlic I harvested a few weeks ago!
How is your edible garden growing?

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Winterberry: a Native Shrub with Pollinator Appeal

Guest Blog by Rachel Shaw
Last month I wrote about Penstemon, calling it a bee magnet. A week or so after I had written that, my Winterberry (Ilex verticillata) came into bloom and I was reminded that for attracting bees, nothing in my yard beats this native holly. The flowers on this small tree are tiny, but when they are in bloom the plant literally hums with pollinator activity. My bee identification skills are not well honed, but I can say that the number and types of bees attracted to Winterberry is amazing. There are honeybees, bumblebees, the occasional wasp, and a variety of smaller native bees. 

Winterberry is also a very pleasing plant in winter, with its prolific crop of bright red berries. These remain on the tree for part of the winter season. The berries are a sort of back-up food source for birds; apparently their relatively low fat content means that other food sources will be eaten first, but the winterberries become more important later in the season when other berries have been eaten. Fruit production requires a male and a female plant.

One of my plants was unfortunately put in as a foundation planting, and I have hacked at it ruthlessly when branches obscured the house number or got in the way of the path; it is a little misshapen at the moment, but the bees don’t care. The other, in a better spot, has never needed any pruning, and has a very pleasing form.

The Winterberry blooms for a relatively short time in June. As for what’s currently blooming in my yard: Beebalm (Monarda didyma), Butterfly Weed (Aesclepias tuberosa), Swamp Milkweed (Aesclepias incarnata), Blazing Star (Liastris spicata), and Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea). I’ve even seen a couple of blossoms of Wild Petunia, Ruellia humilis, one of my more recent acquisitions.

What native plants are blooming in your yard or nearby?

About the Author

Rachel Shaw focuses on vegetable gardening and growing native plants in her small yard in Rockville, Maryland. She blogs at

Check back on the 10th of each month for the next installment in this series