Friday, September 29, 2006

Outdoor Living Trends

Whenever I hear the phrase "outdoor living," why do I always think of Tarzan? Specifically my mind jumps to the Johnny Weissmuller era and the tree house that Jane fixed up real nice. Now THAT is outdoor living. I recall Jane always had an orchid in her hair, lots of fresh fruit, and a nearby waterfall to play in -- much preferable to a drafty old stone manor back in the damp UK. Hmm, that and the beefcake view is not bad either.

"Outdoor Living" is the hot marketing trend for garden businesses right now. It is also the topic of a two-part article we are running in the Washington Examiner newspaper this Friday and next. You can pick up a copy today at any metro station around town. See page 5 of the Real Estate section. Online you can access it at (or and scroll to page 61 of today's print edition.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Guerilla Gardening

Okay, I'll fess up I have used extras from plant exchanges to beautify and green-up properties that are not under my legal ownership. For instance, if you ride the metro or Marc between Takoma Park and Silver Spring, you may spy a few of my orphan plant groupings out the window along the rail line.

Last year I got a River Birch tree at an Arbor Day event and snuck that into a neighbor's yard. The house was and is vacant -- been sitting for-sale several months now. The current owners never mow, maintain, or visit it -- so I figured they'd never know the difference until the tree is well-established.

Pictured here is a pepper plant of unknown variety that I picked up at a "freebie" table during a garden club meeting in a DC library this spring. It was a scrawny little thing started from seed and just getting its second set of leaves. I had little hope for it. I put this one out at the foot of a traffic light pole. It is a very harsh spot -- exposed to direct wind, vehicle + foot traffic, hardpan clay, and dry as the desert. Even the weeds barely make it in that spot. When I pass by on my way to the Silver Spring metro a few times a week I try to give it a bit of water out of the bottle I always carry in my purse and pull out any errant weed I may see. Other than that, it is pretty well on its own. This is the second crop of peppers on it. The first fruits were picked clean about a month ago -- not sure if by human or animal. Whomever it was had a good meal.

Been doing any guerilla planting of your own? Confessions can be made anonymously by posting a comment here...

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

I'll Show You Mine...

I have a Plant Exchange with the Takoma Hort. Club this Saturday. We do this every spring and fall. It is actually my favorite part of membership and a big reason why I joined in the beginning -- to fill up my empty garden with others' cast-offs. Well, due to the magazine and various garden events I've missed going for the last two years. But this time I set aside the date and no matter what, I'm there.

The tough choice is figuring out from my own garden what to bring. I mean I have plenty of perennials that need dividing and groundcovers that have overgrown their bounds. The real trick is what do others actually WANT. Nobody wants to bring a total dud that sits unwanted on the exchange table at the end and is relegated to the compost pile. What does that say about you as a gardener? That you have horrible taste? That your plants are diseased, bug-infested wrecks? That your plants are so common everyone has them and no one can use anymore?

The last reason listed here is actually the case. I've been to exchanges when everyone brought the same thing -- masses of daylilies, iris, or black-eyed susans. In some clubs it is a running joke of the "one plant that no one can give away." Funny thing is, each club has a different make-up with a different vilified plant. A newbie can easily walk into that trap.

Well, I'll take just about anything. As much as my spindly arms can carry really. In the beginning of my current garden, it is mostly all lawn and I'd take any unwanted green stuff to fill in the beds. Now I've gotten a bit more picky. If I can't find a place for those plant orphans at my place, I'm sure I can squeeze them into the median strips near me (daylily heaven) or in secret "vacant" spots in my surrounding neighborhood.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Ready for my Extreme Close-up?

Yesterday morning was my 5th (I think) appearance on WUSA-Channel 9, our local CBS affiliate. They try and do a garden segment each Sunday around 8:45 am. This time I did our current issue's theme: shade gardening. All was going well when I arrived. I set up our plants on the "weather terrace" (pictured). Then the winds started and cloud cover gathered. Rain was not predicted until afternoon, but sure enough I felt a few drops about 10 minutes prior to our segment. A few more drops joined them and I stepped just inside to go over my notes. Right as the anchor came out -- less than 60 seconds prior to the live segment. The rain started a steady sprinkle. She freaked out - she "did not do rain" and neither did her hair. With 20 seconds to on-air our choices were slim, We picked up and moved the table to the shadow of a large satellite dish on the roof and went to TIGHT close-ups with a handheld camera. This is LIVE television so you gotta think on your feet. I think it went all right from the viewers' vantage. For me, my head was still trying to wrap around the "my hair doesn't do rain" thing for the entire 4-minute segment. As a wash-and-wear kinda girl, that was pretty alien for me. Meanwhile, lesson learned -- always have a plan B. Oh yeah, the rain stopped a few minutes later and my plants survived the trip to the studio, around town, and home pretty well. Now off to plant them back in the garden.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Pay No Attention to the Screams in the Background

Working from home is one of the best things about starting your own business. However, there are a few challenges. For instance, the friends who ask when you are going to move to a "real" office space. Uh, never. Why would I pay rent to someone else and add a needless commute to my day? Then there is being located within 3 yards of my refrigerator. Discipline takes on a whole new meaning these days.

But the biggest current work-at-home challenge I have is my cat. Yes, the stereotypical office cat just sits and purrs on your scanner while you busily work away on the computer. Mine? Most of the day she sleeps about 5 ft. behind me on a cushy chair, but the rest of the time she spends harassing me. Literally. If I answer the phone, this is her cue to start screaming in loud yowls. I often get asked, "Is that your baby?" Kinda. That is Chantilly at left admiring the goldfish while keeping a healthy distance from the pond's edge.

Or if I answer the door for package or printer drop-offs, she bum-rushes the deliveryperson. Very professional! When she is hungry or really wants outside time, she starts a circling pattern around me -- in tighter and tighter circumference as if the she is a hawk hunting its prey. Her final act of desperation is misbehavior of some kind (like tearing paper) that will have me roaring out of my desk chair and chasing her. Got to hand it to her, it works and often results in her getting my full attention.

Yes, she has me trained. In exchange, she does help weed the garden by chomping on any stray grass that may stray into my planting beds. She is also becoming a good hunter and has the moles on the run. But mostly she serves as a nice art accent to any garden view she occupies.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Open Garden Day Set

I've finally set the day for the next Open Garden. It was tough to do as there are no weekend days without competing garden events that we'll also be attending -- often multiple events! We also did not want to go past October as November can be freezing here -- with dreary rain likely -- and that is not just fun. So I'm going with Columbus Day Monday since the Federal and local governments have it off as do local schools and many workplaces. I've invited several local artists to set up here as well and will invite the general public, our readers, and anyone who has contributed to the magazine to stop by.

Here are the details:
Washington Gardener Autumn Open Garden Day - Columbus Day, October 9, 3:00-6:00pm826 Philadelphia Ave (Rt. 410), Silver Spring, MDBack by popular demand! Washington Gardener magazine will host one Open Garden Day this fall. Come by with your garden questions and see our trial garden in progress. You can sign up for subscriptions or renew in person. You can also buy back issues, current issues, and gift subscriptions. Additionally, we will have guest artists and various plants for sale. The Open Garden is rain or shine. We are an easy walk from both the Silver Spring and Takoma Park metro stops. Also, several Metro and Ride-On bus routes pass nearby. If driving, please pull in our driveway off of Fenton Street - this is directly across from the Public Storage building.Fee: $0/Free. Registration is not required. For more information:

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Mums The Word

The September 15 issue of the Washington Gardener Enews is now posted to the archives. You can view it here. To subscribe, just go to the same link and click on the 'subscribe' button. The Enews comes out every month on the 15th and has completely different content from our magazine. Mostly the more time-sensitive things like a garden to-do task list, links to area garden events. etc. Please support the Enews by also subscribing to the Washington Garden Magazine which features the real "meat and potatoes" of the local garden scene. We can't bring you the Enews for free without the Magazine's subscription support.

In this Enews, the feature story is on mums. I just bought two more today -- at 4 for $12 at Whole Foods and Safeway -- they are like a drug. Cheap, easy, and instant color for the front porch and then great garden filler after that.

Also in this Enews, we let readers know about the Green Fest and our 2-for-1 special coupon available just for our Magazine subscribers. We will also have a subscriber giveaway of Green Fest passes in the upcoming weeks leading up to the event on October 14-15.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Dirty Lawn-dry

My latest article for the Washington Examiner commuter newspaper is out today (9/15/06) at A teaser is on page 53 (real estate page 1) and the story on page 62 (real estate page 10).

This is my first "pro" lawn piece. I wrote it grudgingly and only because of the high volume of questions we get on this subject. *Sigh*, so if you must have to have one -- here is how to do it right.

I'm not totally anti-lawn, but I'd say that 99% of the time for home and commercial landscapes a turfgrass lawn is not the best solution. I constantlys ask people: "WHY do you have it? Are you playing golf on it? Do you even allow people to walk on it? How much weekly maintenance time is it taking up?" If it is your consuming passion and you Zen-out in your biweekly mowing of it. Then by all means - have a lawn. The rest should really rethink if another groundcover or landscape use (vegetable garden? rose garden? fruit tree grove? pond?) might be right for you.

We'll be at Green Spring Gardens with our own booth tomorrow from 11 am - 4 pm. Come by to subscribe, buy back issues, chat, etc. We'll be right next to the Native Plants Sale. Here are the details:

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Newbie Magazine Publishers Beware!

Meg Weaver, in the Wooden Horse News, an enewsletter on the magazine business and magazine writing, reports that University of Mississippi journalism professor Samir Husni commented on the new trend of shorter- and shorter-lived magazines in the US today. "According to his research, 45% of magazines launched in 2003 are still being published. By comparison, only 38% launched in 2005 are still alive. In other words -- 2003: 454 launched; 204 are still published and in 2005: 350 launched; 133 are still published."
That is a big yikes! Well, we made it in through year 1 and are fast coming up on our second anniversary - January 1, 2007. Our first print issue came out March/April 2005, so we have defied the odds. Time to celebrate! I'm thinking of hosting some kind of Fall Harvest shindig - an open garden mixed with a thank you to our readers, writers, contributors, and advertisers. Am scanning the calendar for a good date for this, but so far all weekends in fall look tightly scheduled and I'm afraid to go too late into the season for fear of the coming freezes - and that would be no fun for a garden party! I'll try to pin down the date by this weekend and get the ball rolling.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Quotes of Note

I was interviewed a few weeks back for the Northwest Current, a local community paper in DC that is distributed biweekly basically to the more affluent sections of town. The writer had done a feature story on me and the magazine start last year. Unfortunately, this paper only has a bare bones web site so nothing to really link here. (If you'd like to see a copy, drop me an email at and I'll send you the two-page PDF scan.) This time around it is a general story on fall plantings, specifically edibles. Anything to get the magazine out there more.

Can't tell you how frustrated I was last week at a local garden club meeting I attended and trying to explain no, I'm not affiliated at all with the Washingtonian magazine or the Washington Home and Garden freebie advertorial or Washington Post newspaper. But I shouldn't be too upset, these same folks actually dropped a few veiled racist remarks during the event and the average age of membership hovers somewhere around 85. Yeah, as you can surmise, I won't be joining them again anytime soon.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Photo Genic

In the current issue of Washington Gardener magazine (Sept/Oct 2006) there is a ZoneBuster story on Cardiocrinum cathayense. Dan Weil took the photos (including the one posted here) and Jim Dronenburg wrote the piece on this "Giant Lily." We could only use one photo in the article layout and I managed to squeeze one more onto the table of contents page, but he took so many great pics it was a shame we could not use more. If you'd like to view them all, Dan has posted his photos to: This is just one example of the many editorial choices we have to make -- words over images? personal essays verus hard plant info? aim content to beginners or veterans? We'll keep working on that balance on filling our readers' needs and wants the best we can.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

I've Ranted

Check out my "guest rant" report on the Garden Writers Association annual symposium over at the Garden Rant blog. They do a great job of stirring up the pot and adding some spice to the online gardening world. I make a point to visit their blog daily and try to leave a comment when I can.

Monday, September 04, 2006

New Issue is Out

The Sept/Oct 2006 issue is now out and mailed to subscribers - with the holiday weekend I'm hoping it is not delayed by the USPS. Please forgive my abscence, I was in PA at the Garden Writers Annual Symposium from the 24th to 30th. I'll have more on that meeting and many more developments over the next few weeks.
Here is the current issue's cover and note that it is about a current hot topic: Shade Gardening. If you don't have much shade now, don't worry - just wait a few years and you will! Then you'll join the chrous of: "Where did all these trees come from? What do I plant? How do I get color?" You can order the single issue direct from us, subscribe and start with this issue, or buy it at area stores such as Alchemy in artsy, trendy SoPo section of downtown Silver Spring, MD.
Also in this issue are features on growing Figs, Hosta care and selection, a trip to Oatlands Plantation, and creating a Native Woodland garden. Enjoy!

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