Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Take Your Pick

My nieces each show their interpretations of a flower waiting to be picked. One demure, one show-off -- that pretty much sums it up.




















Sunday, July 29, 2007

A Berry Fun Day

As you see evidenced by the containers shown here, my nieces were quite hard at work picking blackberries today. (About as hardworking as I was ;-) We beat most of the rain and were able to visit two local farms on this weekend's Montgomery County Harvest Tour. Our activities included pick-your-own berries and flowers, visiting a beekeeper demonstration, petting rescued farm animals, and learning how wool becomes yarn. We also squeezed in a picnic lunch. Now we are blessed by a nice steady downpour. I hope it keeps up overnight at least.

Friday, July 27, 2007

My Ears Are Burning


The Metro Connections radio show segment "Say Goodbye to Turf Grass Lawns" is now airing. I know this because my web site subscriptions are currently spiking. You can listen to it now at this link. (Note: link may move their archives after a few days. In that case, search for it at http://www.wamu.org/.) I myself will not be listening to it -- is there anything more heinous than the sound of one's own recorded voice? I suppose I SHOULD do so as we talked and taped for a good 30 minutes or so. For learning purposes, I really need to see what was edited out and what was left in. I trust the pros there though that they did a fair and entertaining job. I think the direct increase in subscriptions after the segment airs attests to that.

This weekend is the Montgomery County Farm Tour. I'm planning on getting to a few of the upcounty farms to take photos of the pick-your-own flower fields, bee hives, and such. I'm meeting my nieces at an animal rescue farm where I know I'll be seduced into wanting to adopt ALL of the furry and feathered ones right then and there. I think I've been brain-washed by too many viewings of Rex Harrison's Dr. Doolittle when we know the reality is a lot of feeding and pooper-scooping with a lot less singing and dancing. Anybody got a spare Great Pink Sea Snail I can move into?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

On The Lamb

Here is an online link to this week's The List: Top 5 Home & Garden Events on page 24 of today's print edition in the Washington Examiner. The photos featured in the listing and the ones at left here are by Amy Lamb. (Click on it for larger view.) She is a fellow GWA member and does some really stunning work. Her plant portraits have a real lush feel and you can't help being drawn deeply into them. I think I stood at the Emerging Peony one for a good 20 minutes examining the minute details.

While you are perusing The List, check out the story on page 4 in this issue of the Examiner about a company that sprayed a pubic golf course's grass with herbicide instead of fertilizer. According to the article: "A government contractor mistook a herbicide for fertilizer and scorched 36 putting greens at Hains Point, one of the nation’s busiest golf courses and one of the few public tracks in the District of Columbia." Where do I begin with this one? Why did they even have their tanks filled with such copious amounts of herbicide to make that mistake? This golf course park borders the Potomac River and that pesticide (and the intended fertilizer) washes directly into it. Why are they even wanting to spray vast amounts of fertilizer in late July? That is a complete waste at this point in the growing season! This whole story stinks from top to bottom. Maybe one good thing to come of it will be a reexamining of how our public lands are cared for overall. We, the public whose tax dollars pay for these contractors, should demand that all public lands have organic lawn care policies. That way they won't be able to mistake one toxic chemical for another.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Buzzed About It

I'm excited to report saw my first hummingbird in the garden. It zipped by as I was out doing a bit of spot watering. He was coming from the direction of my trumpet creeper vine (Campsis radicans) so I assume that was what he had visited. Been five years growing this garden and I have a number of "hummingbird attracting" plants and even a syrup feeder for them so it is nice to finally witness one out there. May this be the start of a new trend. Hummingbird Photo courtesy of USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Monday, July 23, 2007

I'll Trade You Boardwalk For Park Place

Spent Saturday at the Kenilworth Waterlily Fest -- what a glorious day weather-wise and a great turn out too. Here is a link to a few of the pictures Chip of GlobalWorming Worm Tea took there. I'm hoping the park rangers will take my suggestion to organize an annual waterlily plant sale day to benefit the park. They can easily divide and sell their fabulous (but overcrowded) hardy waterlily collection to kill two birds with one stone. I can just imagine the turnout should folks get wind of it and we added a nice water garden vendor sales area. Sunday I spent with family and catching up on chores including grabbing a few 75% off plants at Kmart. Hell, they are a bit ragged and dried out, but I can't resist a bargain!

Today I was at WAMU taping a "Metro Connection" radio interview that will air with them on Friday I believe. It was a lively conversation about our current cover story on turfgrass alternatives. I expect to get some flack back on this one from the "Lawn Nazis." The tone of the piece was good-natured fun so I really don't think many should take offense though you never know what can set some people off.

Tomorrow I'm off to PANTS to see the latest plant introductions, meet-and-greet with some fellow garden writers, and see if I can't drum up interest in a few ad sales for the magazine. I haven't been up to Atlantic City (pictured above) in a few years so this will also be a chance to see if things have improved any. No offense to AC, but as I recall anything off the hotel strip area was pretty sketchy.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Hop Over to My Lily Pad

Here is an online link to this week's Top 5 Home & Garden Events listing on page 29 of today's print edition in the Washington Examiner. It was on page 24 of the 7/19/07 edition and my waterlily photo was also highlighted on the front page.

In case any of you missed the wonderful article on Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in this past Tuesday's Metro section of the Washington Post here is a link

The only thing I think I would add to it is that to get the full effect of these water plants you need to visit before the heat of the day - 10AM being ideal -- all the blooms close up in the blazing sun and you'd be disappointed to miss the show by arriving in the afternoon.

I'll be there in the vendor area tomorrow and am so excited that it will be in the 80s with a cool breeze! The last two years at the festival I was one big ball of sweat and went through several bottles of water in 3 hours. I don't think I've ever been that hot and exhausted.

BTW the Deanwood metro stop is just a couple blocks away and the day of the festival they put up helpful signage. Yes, it is Anacostia in SE DC, but no, it is not a problem to walk over there. People are fairly friendly and generally minding their own business.

Special Event: Kenilworth Gardens Annual Waterlily Festival

July 21, 10:00am-2:00pm

Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, corner of Anacostia Avenue and Douglas Street, SE, Washington, DC

Enjoy the gardens and sample Asian arts between garden workshops. View the entries of the Kenilworth's own photo contest. Kathy Jentz, editor of Washington Gardener Magazine, will have a table in the displays section. There will be ranger-led tours of the gardens and wetlands. The greenhouse will be open and there is a hands-on Lotus Craft Show.

Fee: $0/Free. Preregistration is not required.

For more information: visit the NPS web site or call 202.426.6905.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Corrections

Two quick corrections to the July 15, 2007 Washington Gardener Enews issue that went out on Sunday:

1. Janet L. Draper, Horticulturist, Smithsonian Institution says, "Just skimmed through your new edition – kudos as always – but did see one glaring oops on the Hydrangea spotlight – Dan Benarcik has never worked at Brookside Gardens ….never worked outside of PA or Delaware. Bio is BS from U of Delaware, then Mt Cuba where we worked together, then think it was Conard-Pyle – where he hated sales -- and then Chanticleer (and QVC now but that is another story) …. No stops at Brookside – Phil Normandy has had that spot for …well… seems like a long time—and deservedly so!"

I agree - Phil should be named "King of Brookside" for life. I'm going to try to track down the plant breeder sources who gave me the Brookside credit information and see if I can figure out how that mistake began. Meanwhile, if Mr. Benarcik is out there online anywhere and reading this, please give us a shout and let us know the straight facts.

2. Loyal reader Sheryl Hovey points out that the Event listing for Patterns in Nature: Photographs by Amy Lamb is a FREE event at the USBG. It is not "$65 at the door."

Yikes! I'm sure Amy would love to command that price (wouldn't we all!), alas that was a typo that crept in the listings as I do them using the 'copy-n-paste' method of HTML coding which as you see is not always the best choice after a long week of travel. This price listing was accidentally swapped with that of the Green Industry Professional Field Day.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Pesticide Free Since 2001

The July 15, 2007 issue of the Washington Gardener Enews was sent out yesterday and is now archived here. The feature article of the issue is cultivating a fragrance garden. Scent is such a volatile subject that I almost nixed this one, but because I personally like a garden full of fragrant plant materials, I forged ahead.

One scented plant I did not list as a good fragrance garden candidate is Crape Myrtle. I'll be profiling it in the August issue of the Washington Gardener Enews instead. I'm not sure that most people even realize this tree has a nice fragrance. When in blooms, the flowers given off this scent I can only describe as sweet chalk dust. A light, not unpleasant smell when it comes wafting towards you as you walk on by. For me clearly it is a sense-memory thing and reminds me of many hazy-lazy, hot-and-humid DC summers. The bittersweet late summer weeks laced with the apprehension of a new school year approaching.

Pictured above is a small garden sign I made at a little workshop the Takoma Hort Club held yesterday morning. This one is now planted firmly (notice the fork-stake at bottom) next to my front walk. I'm hoping it will inspire neighbors and others passersby to do likewise. I got the idea for this sign from Ed Bruske's blog and the Beyond Pesticides site. I should add "since 2001" on the sign as who knows what the hell the previous owners did or did not do as far as lawn chemicals go.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Tropical Punch

An article I did a while back on using tropicals in the garden specifically for DC-area home owners was reprinted with permission and minor edits in the client newsletter for Landscape Projects, Inc. It should be archived here in a few weeks. Right now you'd only be able to get it if you are on their client list. If you email me directly I can send you a PDF version.

I don't use too many tropicals myself as I think they look a tad odd in my mostly English cottage-style ramble of a garden. I do have several canna in big pots on my sun porch and a few caladiums (pictured here) in my shade garden plus a black-stemmed colocasia in my pond. All of these will need digging and storing for the winter. Will that happen? Judging by my track record in past seasons -- not likely. I don't know if it is laziness or just plain stubbornness, but I just have some mental block of denial when it comes to admitting that our hot, hazy summers are over and that these tender tropicals will not survive a frigid February in DC. Somewhere inside I want to believe our harsh 6-weeks-or-so of winter is not coming. It just seems so improbable!

UPDATE: The link to the July/September 2007 (Tropical Plant Wave) client newsletter from Landscape Projects, Inc. is now online here.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Gardening By Moonlight

Here is a link to a short piece on squeezing in gardening with a busy work-life in today's Washington Post Business section. Vickie had interviewed me for this earlier this week and I wasn't expecting to see it in print so quickly. Hey, they may not give me a feature story in the Home section, but I'm slowly nibbling at the edges ;-).

I just heard from a reader who bought a camper's or miner's light -- the type that is built into a headband - so they can garden after dark. (I think I've seen them in the LLBean catalog.)

Now I myself have been known to curse the shortened days of fall. I'm out there looking like a kook, flailing my arms about practically every 30 seconds to get my motion-sensitive outdoor lights to stay as I weed past 7:00pm in October. I haven't quite made the leap to buying equipment to enable staying out later. Hmm, that might have to go to my Christmas wish list.

I lifted the above picture from thefoodproject.org.uk web site. It clearly shows how very similar gardening at night can appear to be DIY grave digging. "Who? Me? No officer, I'm just planting some seed garlic -- no dead bodies here -- nope, just us wild and crazy urban gardeners."

Butterfly Gossip and Bumbling Bees

Our latest article in the Washington Examiner is out today. Read the article online here (July 13 edition - page 52), or grab the print version at the red street boxes around town today - the article is on R4 (Real Estate section - page 4). It is on the Wings of Fancy Butterfly Show at Brookside Gardens. Photo here of a Malachite butterfly (Siproeta stelenes) is courtesy of Brookside.

I've got a pretty good butterfly garden going. No shortage of fluttering and flitting going on out there. What surprises me is how well they seemed to get along with bees. Every time I try to take pics of them on my lavender plants or black-eyed susans, it seems bees are buzzing about and they are all trying to land on the same flowers to harvest the same nectar at the same time. When a bee and butterfly are heading to the same bloom at the same instant is there some unwritten law of nature that says who gets the right of way? I never seem them crash into each other or even squabble, but neither do they share. From my observations it looks like maybe the butterflies always give ground to the bees?

Anyone out there want to throw me a few thousand Benjamins to start a study on this behavior. It could make a great short for next year's Silverdocs. Are bees deliberate bullies or just ignorant and uncivilized -- the Ugly Americans of the winged set -- taking what they want without checking if others also might be in range? Are butterflies the insect equivalent of wimpy British schoolboys -- nonconfrontational, but later on gossiping behind the bees' backs about how rude they all are? Or maybe I need to stop anthropomorphising these critters and get to doing some much needed housework this weekend!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Plant a Wildflower In Memory of a Great Lady

Here is an online link to this week's Top 5 Home & Garden Events listing on page 29 of today's print edition in the Washington Examiner.

I would be remiss today if I did not note the passing of Lady Bird Johnson and say just a bit about her legacy. She was a little before my time so I don't have direct knowledge of her to write on. Reading up on her history, I see that she was a little ahead of most people of her own time as well! Her efforts to be environmentally aware and add some green to our Nation's capitol city along with wildflower plantings in 40 states were laughed at and she was treated in a patronizing manner by many. The reality is, her work was significant and has a lasting impact on the lives of millions. How many of us can say that? Even other First Ladies?

The picture I used above was borrowed from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. I've used them as resources for articles in the past and I can't tell you how helpful their staff has been. I hope you will all visit them whenever you are in Austin and show your support of their ongoing mission.

This reminds me that I have a column idea for the magazine that will profile those Washingtonians who are not currently with us, but who have left us with wonderful additions to our local gardening scene. Once ad sales are up and I can add more editorial pages, this is tops of my list.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Home Sweet Home

I leave town for a few days of R&R in downtown Minneapolis and come home to find all hell breaking loose on Ed Bruske's Slow Food blog. It seems some folks in Columbia Heights section of DC have a problem with his growing veggies in his front yard. To them, I say, "Watch and learn from Ed, my friends. The way our government and major corporations have been screwing us over in the past few decades the writing is on the wall and soon all of us will be growing our own edibles if we want to eat." Take a lesson from the resourceful Cubans and start collecting those seeds now.

Speaking of growing edibles, I came home to a gardener's nightmare on Monday night. No rain since the day I left. And that wouldn't have been so bad, if it hadn't been so freaking blazing hot and humid. It sucked the life right out of my watermelon vines and my tomato plant has lots of fruit, but the leaves had shriveled up to resemble a bunch of corn flakes glued on a brown stick. My herbs suffered, but they'll be okay. Upon my return we got a ferocious thunderstorm and another one today. Both of which I'm very grateful for as are my big Oaks and other wee green friends. It is my own fault really for not setting up a gardening-buddy-vacation-water-swap thing, but truthfully I barely got myself packed in time and out the door. I blame this on the fact that it'd been such a long time since my last real trip - and I used to be such a jet-setter too! I did such a horrible packing job in fact that I neglected to include any make-up, which was desperately needed as I attended 3 concerts and 2 parties on my trip and got photographed several times by friends plus the local media! I also shorted myself on undies by one day. Now I have put away my suitcase with a BIG note inside that lists my "must not forgets" before taking another multi-day trip.

Pictured above is a fantastic plant combination idea which I'm going to borrow -- pairing Echinacea with Monarda behind it. Currently mine are nowhere near each other and I need to remedy that. I snapped the photo this past weekend in MPLS while at the Walker Art Center's stellar sculpture garden. They really put the "garden" into it and didn't just plunk down a bunch of sculptures among blobs of liriope and daylilies. I've visited there twice before and plan on going many times again. Along with the Tate in London and the Cooper-Hewitt in NY, it is in my top 3 museums. Is that blasphemy to say that in DC - land of 156 museums?

Thursday, July 05, 2007

New Issue Out

The July/August issue of Washington Gardener Magazine is out and mailed. It actually hit the streets on Sunday, but this being a holiday week things get pushed back. (USPS - grrr!) This one features Groundcovers. Specifically, how to replace that water, energy, and time-sucking turfgrass lawn. Although there are a few items in here for those who still want to groom a grass expanse.

How to purchase a copy? You can subscribe and start with this issue. You can also order just this one issue, if you prefer, via our web site, direct from us by sending a check in the mail, or you can see us in person at one of our upcoming event appearances. The issue is also available for purchase at local stores including the USNA Arbor House, Alchemy, Politics & Prose, and DC-area Borders, B. Dalton. and Barnes & Noble stores. We hope to be in Olsson's andthe Brookside Gardens gift shop shortly as well.

Happy Reading! I'm taking a few days break this weekend - I think my first pure vacation in at least 2 years. Chat with you when I'm back.

Home-Grown Art

Here is an online link to this week's Top 5 Home & Garden Events listing on page 25 of today's print edition in the Washington Examiner. This being a holiday weekend, local events were spotty, but we featured the funky art exhibit at the Adkins Arboretum. I'm starting to really get into these landscape art installations. In my own yard I've created a faerie glen of sorts (pictured here) and am starting to work with dried branches of curly willow and bamboo to form visual barriers and gateways between separate garden rooms.

One of the talks I went to at APGA had W. Gary Smith, an artist/landscape architect, present his current "Art Goes Wild" installation at New England Wild Flower Society in Framingham, MA. Have to say his talk was one of the few there I took any notes on -- love his ideas and I shouldn't have been surprised that he is also the genius behind the best children's garden I've ever visited -- the Enchanted Woods at Winterthur. He designed it for "kids 35 years and older." And he hit that target right on the mark. I'm planning a return trip up there in nearby Delaware as last summer I did not get to stay half as long as I'd have liked too during the Garden Writers conference.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

A Day in Photos

Happy Independence Day! ( Do NOT say "Happy 4th of July" around me - grrr!)






Thought I'd give you a few photos to stare at that chronicle my adventures so far today...


First, I attended the Takoma Park Independence Day holiday parade. I met up with Ed Bruske, Susan Harris, and Judy Tiger (formerly of GROW).
This gentleman gives you a little of the flavor of the parade participation. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Downtown Takoma Park is only a 15-minute walk from my house and is often called "Berkeley of the East."






Towards the end of the parade I hot-footed it over to the protest in support of our First Amendment Rights. Along the way I paused to snap this picture of a young robin. Even though he would not turn around for his close-up, I think you can still see his cool Mohawk and baby feather fluffs. Too cute.






At the peaceful protest, I spotted this lady with a marvelous sign. I think it says it all. I was sign-less myself, but I had my camera and a patriotic-themed outfit on. You'll see lots of reports on this event in the local media over the next day or so, so I'll leave my summary at that.
Then I headed home for some gardening. Here is my first "crop" of 'Sun Gold' cherry tomatoes. Impressive, no?
Okay, it is pretty paltry, though probably more than I'll eat in a week. I grow them more for the experience than the actual consumption. Wow, I just re-read that last sentence -- makes me sound like a spoiled rotten rich American. Growing edibles just as a hobby! Well, I'll join the rest of my spoiled rotten fellow citizens for the rest of the day in taking it easy and maybe checking out the local fireworks display.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Match Game

The Rockville Green Expo went well last Saturday. My seed matching game was a big hit. Maybe even too popular as people were still playing it as the other vendors packed up around us. One thing I discovered about it was that it works across cultures and languages -- had Asian and Hispanic families joining together to play it. Equally hard for all. Matching the flower seeds (Cleome, Cosmos, and Hollyhock) to their photos is a real stumper even for veteran gardeners. I threw in a few easy ones too (acorns and pumpkin seeds), though you'd be surprised by how many people have NO idea that an oak comes from an acorn!

The weather has been so spectacular this past week -- don't recall it ever being so gorgeous and perfect - blue skies, fluffy clouds, no humidity and highs in the low 80s. Usually on the 4th of July, I'm watching the local parades and fireworks in a pool of sweat. I hope the tourists know just how very lucky they are to visit this week! Only thing we are lacking is a decent rain. My garden is really parched and my incidental watering is just not making a dent in our lack of accumulated inches this year.

I took this photo of Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea 'White Swan') somewhere on the USBG grounds last week. If you asked me which garden flowers I like the best, Echinacea in any its forms would not even make my top 25. However, I find myself taking lots of photos of it wherever I go and giving it more ground in my planting beds every year. So somewhere inside I must be developing a deep affection for this hardy perennial.