Tuesday, September 29, 2009

My Top 10 Things I was Grateful for at the GWA Symposium List


I could go on about all that went wrong or was just plain irritating to me at the recent GWA meeting (when you are an ex-Association exec it is so HARD not to nitpick about other association's meetings), BUT at least our bus did not get stuck in the mud in the North Carolina boonies so I'm going to write this Top 10 Things I was Grateful for at the GWA Symposium List.

I am grateful that:
1. Scott Aker has a similar sense of humor to mine and also laughed whenever someone sat down hard on the brand new concention center chairs aka whoopee cushions.
2. The local host committee (all volunteers!) busted their butts to get us to exciting gardens and fed and organized and informed.
3. Erica Glasener did not clock me for totally blanking on her name. It just flew out of my brain when I saw her and I had just been singing her praises to another fan of her show, A Gardener's Diary. This is why I wish folks were tattooed with nametags on their foreheads upon birth.
4. My travel-mate Cheval Force Opp puts up with my late-night TV viewing and nonstop chatter.
5. JC Raulston Arboretum's crew read my mind and served the Southern BBQ spread of my dreams -- hush puppies, sweet tea, corn pudding, two different kinds of BBQ, peach cobbler, etc.
6. Speakers like Dr. Lowell Catlett, Larry Weaner, and James Chatfield who shared their wisdom and tips. I was educated. I was moved. And, I'm going to take action.
7. Mother Nature who cooperated for the most part and kept us fairly warm plus dry.
8. Bus drivers that got us safely and pretty much ontime to each destination despite putting up with our loud, talkative selves and the stragglers who had to take just-one-more photo at each stop.
9. Exhibitors/sponsors/vendors who supported the meeting and made sure no one went home empty-handed. Though the exhibit area was smaller, coffee break were fewer, and some big garden company names were missing this year, we really appreciated you all who invested in the show despite the doom-and-gloom economy.
10. Bus-mate Judy A. Krasnicke for loaning me paper on the optional gardens tour so I could take detailed notes about each stop.
And one bonus: My neighbor, Joletta, who cat-sit for me and allowed me to have peace-of-mind that my baby, Chantilly, was home safe, fed, and happy.

Here is a link to my photo gallery of any pics I took at the GWA event that had people (or animals) in it -- if you recognize yourselves, please tag or comment on them. I did MUCH better this year, 10% of what I took had living beings other than plants, usually I'm at 1&, you should be proud of me :-).

Saturday, September 26, 2009

With the Garden Writers Tribe

So much for my ambitions to blog every night from GWA meeting here in Raleigh, NC. Internet colnnection here in the pricey new downtown Marriott sucks. For updates, follow our Twitter feed at WDCGardener or go to Twitter.com and search on #gwa to see the stream of everyone's comments. I promise a full report and pics upon my return.

A few teasers -
- our hotel room is FULL of plants
- bought even MORE yesterday Plants Delights & the Farmer's Market
- took tons of pics at JC Raulston Arboretum, Duke, and the private "Willy-Dilly" garden

Friday, September 25, 2009

Basket of Gardening Goodies

If you'll be at the Holy Cross Hospital Gala tomorrow (Saturday, September 26) at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in WDC, be sure to bid on this basket full of gardening goodies that I put together and donated. It includes a year's subscription to Washington Gardener Magazine along with some great tools, seeds, premium gloves, a cap, t-shirt, tote bag, and even eco-friendly bug spray. All you need to get out and garden! It is a great gift for yourself, a gardening pal, or a beginner gardener you want to inspire. Plus, of course, it all goes to a terrific cause. This year's Gala proceeds will benefit the Holy Cross Hospital health centers for the uninsured.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Last Day for End-of-Summer Subscription Sale


Today is the last full day of summer in the Northern Hemisphere. I think I'll light a candle at 5:18pm tomorrow to mark the passing of my favorite season.

It is also the last day you can take advantge of our End-of-Summer Subscription Sale. See our previous post for printing out the order coupon here.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Decisions, Decisions


So I do a photo shoot back in June in a glorious local garden. The owner is a wonderful artist and gardener. She shares with me an essay she wrote about the garden and its enchanting story. We think this is perfect for our "MyGardenStory" column in the magazine. Fast forward three months.
   I'm now laying out the issue. I open up the daily paper. Wham, bam. All across the front of the Home section is a photo spread on this garden along with an indepth interview with the gardener. I cringe and set it aside for a few days. Mulling it over. Her personal essay is much different than the interview she gave, but still would that make us look like the copycats for using it so soon? Should I set the story aside and hold it for a future issue?
   The added wrinkle, this gardener is 97. If I hold it, I'm afraid it may turn into an In Memoriam piece and I'd rather this gardener get to see and enjoy it with her family while she lives.
    The upshot is, I'm going to roll with it. I hate to look like those news organizations I always mock for not doing any original reporting and just reading off the stack of daily papers or linking online to others stories, but I think this feature is different enough and complementary to the other piece that our readers will really enjoy it.
   Pictured here is the gardener in question, Kathleen Williams of Chevy Chase, MD, in her front yard explaining her preferred pruning technique for the Harry Lauder's Walking Stick.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Extend Your Edible Growing Season

Think the growing season is coming to a close? Ha! Attend these two talks for the 411 on growing edibles in Fall AND Winter in the greater DC area.

• Raising Winter Greens
Saturday, September 19, 2:30-4:00pm
Brett Grohsgal, Even Star Organic Farm explains how the winter garden is a
glorious thing. When blustery nights and frigid days are the rule, when real tomatoes seem years and continents away, when supermarket produce is at its worst, winter fields shine emerald with promise.
The home gardener often can weed, water, mulch, and nurture plants better than the hectic professional farmer with crops spread out over many wind-swept acres. City gardeners also have another major advantage: the urban expanse of concrete and asphalt acts as a heat sink, absorbing
sun in daylight and releasing warmth at night. Great greens are within your grasp! Come and learn what key things are needed for successful winter gardening.
Ages 16 to Adults. No RSVP required.
Presented by the Historical Society of Washington (HSW), DC Urban Gardeners, and Washington Gardener Magazine. FREE.
Historical Society of DC
801 K Street NW
Washington, DC.
www.historydc.org

• GROWING FALL EDIBLES
As summer days shorten and temperatures drop, visions of lettuces, turnips, and spinach should be sprouting in vegetable gardeners heads and hopefully in their gardens. Cindy Brown, kitchen gardener guru, will share her gardening experiences, insights and recipes to provide encouragement to all who dare tackle another gardening season.
Cindy Brown, Assistant Director at Green Spring Gardens, started her gardening career in tandem with her passion for cooking. Her desire to have specialty herbs and vegetables led her to experiment with edibles and test the climatic limits of the mid-Atlantic region. Cindy is a regular contributor to Washi ngton Gardener magazine, appears on local TV and radio shows, and speaks frequently at various horticultural venues. She designs gardens with a mix of ornamentals and edibles for a gourmet garden that appeals to all your senses.
WHEN: Monday, September 21, 8:00PM
Doors open at 7:30PM
WHERE: Brookside Gardens
Visitors Center/Education Building
1800 Glenallan Avenue, Wheaton, Maryland

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Is Your Peace Lily Killing You?


According to this report in The Daily Green, house plants are emitting dangerous VOCs to your indoor air. But wait, back that up, if you actually read past the scarey headline and intro sentence (which few folks do), the research report actually shows it is NOT the plants that are the problem -- it is how they are treated and what materials you plant them in. Here is the 411 (my emphasis added):
"Researchers concluded that some of the VOCs were released by microorganisms in the soil (some of microorganisms in soil are credited with removing VOCs in other experiments). But many of the VOCs came from pesticides applied to the plants at the greenhouses or farms where they were grown, and 11 were produced by the plants' plastic pots. Whatever the source, the plants produced more VOCs in daytime sunlight than at night.
"The scientists noted that they did not determine whether the levels of VOCs produced might be harmful to human health. A cursory glance at the results suggests that, to reduce indoor air pollution, one should choose organic house plants grown without pesticides and pot them in ceramic or other non-plastic pots."
In short, if you pot in plastic and spray with pesticides, yeah, you are going to get poison chemicals released in your inside air. No-brainer, right?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

My Truly Bloody Blogger's Bloom Day

I went around the garden yesterday snapping photos of just about everything in bloom from last year's grocery-store-bought mums they came back and doubled in size to PJM rhododendron putting on a fine second season bloom for my Garden Blogger's Boom Day entry.

   Then I started obsessively taking pics of the Sanguisorba obtusa* 'Lemon Splash' aka Japanese Burnet I had gotten as a small pip during a plant swap with the Four Seasons Garden Club last year. I potted it up then placed it by my fairly-shaded back door. Though known as a landscape plant, I potted it because I knew it was moisture-hungry and I rarely give my garden any extra water except for those items in containers, which I can keep a closer eye on.
    Everyday my eyes fall on it as I rush in and out. I just adore the funky mottled leaves. Some are lightly dotted, while some seem dipped in yellow, and still others are more streaked.
   A few weeks ago it started to send up flower spikes. This was a surprise to me as I'd thought of it as just an interesting foliage plant. Now the cone-like flowers are turning red and they are one of most interesting blooms in my garden. True to the sanguine-name, it looks like a cotton swab dipped in blood. It is an appropriate plant to add to your garden during this current Vampire craze and this haunting time of year.
*Some sources list it as S. OFFICINALIS.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Living Tribute to 9-11 Victims

This past Friday was 9-11. I'm sure that many of you reflected on the events of 2001 that day. One of things it has re-affirmed for me is to celebrate life and to focus on the living. The Remember-Me Rose Garden project does that by creating living tributes to those who lost their lives that day. Pictured here is the Patriot Dream rose, one of a collection of 11 new rose varieties commemorating the heroes of that day. It was planted at LaSalle-Backus Education Campus in NW DC at a ceremony attended by educators, city officials, and the press as well as friends and family of loved ones on Flight 77. I have posted a series of photos from the rose planting ceremony at LaSalle here.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Petting my Peeves

I feel like this week is specially scheduled for working my nerves. Besides the metro Red Line still sucking, FedEx Office costing me extra work on a newsletter I'm volunteering to copy plus mail for a local garden club, and the weather going unseasonably chilly overnight, I'm running into my old pet peeves at every corner, like:

The seed company (who shall remain nameless) that I'm ordered custom seed packs from who sent me a proof of the packet with "Washington Gardner" on it. That "typo" always irks me, but I restrained myself and sent a gentle correction letting them know Gardener has two E's in it. Comes back "Gardneer" - deep breath, DEEP breath.

Then I'm on Twitter. Starting to notice that some folks just do NOT get it. Your follow/following numbers should be in the ball-park of each other. Not saying you should follow everyone or they should follow you, but 380-400 is a pretty good ratio, while 5-700 or 360-6 is not. If your ratio is that far off, what is the point and WHY are you on Twitter?

Drivers who make U-turns directly in front of my house into oncoming traffic. Just watched ANOTHER speeding sports car go up and over the median and demolish the street signs. Then follows an hour of tow-truck drama and scraping noises plus hearing the driver whine on their cell phone to their one friend loudly outside my office window. Appointment not so urgent now, is it?

Posting all of an article that you did not write or publish to your discussion lists, blogs, direct emails, etc. I know all of us want to see our local newspapers and favorite publications live on, so in that shared goal could we not copy whole articles and forward them? Instead, please just pull a headline and excerpt a few lines then give the link back to them so they get "credit." This helps in several ways besides giving them ad-click revenue and readership numbers, it allows folks on receiving in to choose whether they want to read further. Most of all it shows to the publishers what articles are getting clicked-on the most and believe me they keep a careful count of that. The more we click on articles on subjects that we like, the more we will get.

Off to do some aromatherapy in my garden, the smell of lavender always sets my mood back to normal.

PS I'll have subscriber table there signing and renewing folks & have single issues for sale at Friends of Brookside Gardens PLANT SALE on Sat 9/12 10am-3pm(ish) - if raining, I'm inside the Visitors Center lobby.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Garden Where You Can!

Guest blog by Rachel Shaw


After several years of struggling to grow tomatoes in a backyard that’s just a bit too shady, I’ve started a driveway garden for my warm weather crops. We have a gravel driveway that gets lots of sun, with more than enough room for our one car, so this location works pretty well.

Planting tomatoes in pots wouldn't be my first choice, especially as I want full size indeterminant heirloom tomatoes, not the more manageable patio size plants. This means the tomatoes have to be supported in the pots. I used tomato ladders, tall/narrow u-shaped cages. They worked pretty well, though when the vines got heavy they had to be tied to the cages to keep them from breaking under their own weight. Next year, I’ll try a little more aggressive pruning when the plants are small. The other disadvantage of pot growing is the necessity for daily watering; on very hot days two waterings may be needed.

The upside of growing in pots is that the tomatoes get a steady supply of moisture, which they like, and which helps prevent blossom end rot. And it's easy to provide good soil -- I used half finished compost and half potting soil for mine. Fresh soil means there's less likelihood of fungal diseases that affect tomatoes. These can remain in regular garden soil over a period of several years, once tomato plants have been infected. The recommendation for in-ground gardens is to plant in different locations from year to year, but that can be hard to do with a small yard.

The really fun experiment has been growing watermelon and butternut squash in containers. The vines spill over the containers, of course, and spread out along the ground. I don’t exactly have a prolific crop: two “Moon and Stars” watermelon and two butternut squash. I think the watermelon will be harvestable. The squash are still small, but I’m hopeful.

All in all I’m happy with the driveway garden, and plan to expand it next year. Okra, Malabar spinach, even beans – why not?

Rachel Shaw gardens in Rockville, MD and blogs at http://www.hummingbirdway.blogspot.com/. Rachel is on the Washington Gardener Magazine's Volunteer Reader Panel, a group of readers that review books for the magazine, tests products, gives content feedback, amd much more. To join the Volunteer Reader Panel or to submit a Guest Blog, send a note to wgardenermag@aol.com.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

A Matter of Taste

This post is long past due. Last month, I was one of the judges of the NatureSweet Tomato Challenge. When you edit a garden magazine, you get asked to do all sorts of fun and off-beat things. Last year, I turned down a Chili Cook-off judgeship -- mostly because I'm not big on red meat and felt that'd be really unfair to the competitors. I could not pass up this one though. The idea of tasting sweet, fresh-from-the-garden tomatoes sounded like the job for me!

It turned out to be a broiling hot day in the Virginia Commonwealth and we were out in the middle of the parking lot baking on the asphalt waiting for the entries to stream in. I watched as tomatoes of all shapes and colors were submitted for sugar (Brix) testing. We judges only tasted the top 3 sugar-content tomatoes in two categories -- cherry and large. That meant only 6 tomatoes total to taste and judge. That was fine by me as I had imagined we'd have to taste ALL the entries and that would result in me never wanting to eat another tomato for the rest of the summer.

When judging time came, it was serious and dead quiet on the panel. We tasted and noted our ratings plus any comments. How many ways can you say "sweet and tasty" or "just plain yummy"? I tried my best to channel one of the Top Chef Celebrity judges vocabulary and to come up with a pithy comment like, "If this tomato had been born a human it would have been Shirley Temple," but I think I ended up scribbling things like "Hell, yes."

Afterwards, while they totaled our scores, we judges compared notes and favorites. Interesting to find the chef, food writers, kitchen gardener, and I had very different ideas of what makes the best tomato. I'm a big texture-person with a huge sweet tooth so those ruled for me. Some of the other judges preferred a hit of acid and a definite tomato-y flavor. Guess it is all a matter of taste!

See the entire photo gallery here.

Here is the official press release listing the winners:

NatureSweet Tomatoes congratulates Trevor Devore of McLean, VA for winning the $2,500 grand prize in the small tomato category at the August 15 Homegrown Tomato Challenge. Devore won the competition with his Cherry variety of tomatoes. NatureSweet Tomatoes also congratulates Scott Robertson of Fairfax, VA for winning the other $2,500 grand prize in the large tomato category. Robertson won the competition with his Heirloom variety of tomatoes. This year’s competition was held at the Giant store located at 1454 Chain Bridge Road in McLean, VA.

While Devore and Robertson can now claim to be two of America’s best tomato gardeners, they each faced stiff competition by the following runners-up, who all received $250 Giant gift cards for their premium tomato entries: Joseph Manelski (Beefsteak variety), Nazir Dossani (Lemon Boy variety), Crystal McKenna (Grape variety), and Cindy Clown (Yellow Cherry variety).
NatureSweet’s distinguished judges included Cynthia Brown, Green Spring Gardens; Pat Casciato, Fairfax County Master Gardeners; Kathy Jentz, Washington Gardener Magazine; Michele Kayal, AP Reporter and Food Writer; and Michael Reed, Giant Chef.

Winners were chosen based on overall appearance/color test and Brix testing. Brix tests determine sweetness -- the higher the Brix number, the better the taste. The finalists were then taste-tested by the judge’s panel. All remaining tomato entries were donated to Capital Area Food Bank after the Challenge.

Now in its seventh year, the popular Homegrown Tomato Challenge continues to trek across the country as NatureSweet seeks out America’s best homegrown tomatoes.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Are You Wasting Time Doing Garden Busywork?

I started thinking about "garden busywork" when a reader asked about our To-Do list in our August Washington Gardener Enews and whether "cutting back iris foliage" was really necessary. You now what? It is NOT. Actually, there is no real reason to do so, but garden tradition handed down from those fussy Victorians. I am striking it from our To-Do list henceforth.

You know what else is absolutely not needed? Tying up your spring bulb foliage into neat, little packages. Leave it alone. Let it soak up all the sun's nutrients and then die back on its own. Then clean it out. You'll get a bigger, better crop of bulbs next year as a result. Of course, you have to live with messy, floppy, dying foliage for a few weeks, but don't be so anal. You'll live. Trust me.

How about pruning Crape Myrtle seedheads? Forget about it. You gain nothing by it and neither does the plant. Spend the time instead with a good book and relaxing in your favorite garden chair.

Who started that foolishness anyway about plucking the blossoms off your azaleas after they start to go brown? I think I'll give the Victorians a pass her and blame the Brits for this one. Guess what? Azalea blooms self-shed and quite cleanly without any human interference. No need to dead-head them -- ever. Maybe they are not doing it on your schedule, but hey, it doesn't ever rain when I want it to either. Relax and let Mother Nature do her job.

Come to think of it most pruning, topping, and hedging folks do in the garden is unnecessary and likely harmful to the plant's health. Most likely they are doing it out of habit or because the previous owners did or just because they feel compelled to "make it neat."

Then there are the lawn warriors who must cut their turf down on a regular schedule no matter if it grew any or not. No matter that a longer turf grass is a healthier grass and does better in shading out weed seeds. Some folks just need to get out there and ride the gas-fume express.

Take a look at what you are doing in the garden and ask yourself, "Self, is this what I really need to be doing now?" You may be surprised at the answer.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Things I've Tweeted

If you aren't on Twitter, why not? You can find me over there at WDCGardener or check in on my Twitterfeed posted in the right-hand column of this blog page.

Anyway, here are few recent tweets I thought you all might enjoy or find interesting:

 ~ In #DC this FRi 9/4? take lunch with us @PeoplesGarden to talk community gardening & see Chef Carlton Crockett http://bit.ly/r3Eo9 #gardenDC

~ Excited that MPT (MD's PBS stations) folks are giving me Flipcams to have area community gardeners document & blog on MPT.org #gardenDC

~ Summer is ending when green cicadas lose mating energy & land exhausted on your backporch http://twitpic.com/g809x #gardenDC #dc

~ best live window display - Aveda on Wisc Ave in G-town - wish more stores made the effort http://twitpic.com/g74fb #dc #gardenDC #gardening

~ Good news from Garden Center Mag! Late blight won’t overwinter in Northeast, experts say http://bit.ly/Co2z3 #gardening #gardenDC

~ RT @VisitVirginia Another beautiful day! Loving September. Check out all there is to do in Virginia this month http://shar.es/Lfry #gardenDC

~ RT @TheNatrlCaptl Mtg tonight at Rock Creek Park Nature Ctr about reducing deer population - comment until 10/2 http://ow.ly/nIzC #gardenDC

~ RT @NaturesGardener Stop blaming goldenrod (Solidago) for seasonal allergies! The real culprit is giant ragweed (Ambrosia trifida) #gardenDC

~ RT @trueepicure Rose Hayden-Smith, Victory Garden: Join the Gardens Revolution, at U.S. Botanic Garden this Frid http://ow.ly/nvDO #gardenDC

~ See video of WH garden progress http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/ #DC #gardening #gardenDC

~ RT @tangledbranches Rockfish Gap Hawk VA reported 71 migrating hummingbirds yesterday; a new record. http://bit.ly/7Eeqh #gardenDC

~ RT creativedc A tour of bee-keeping facilities on the grounds of the Franciscan Monastery in Brookland http://brooklandavenue.com/ #gardenDC