Thursday, August 30, 2007

Gardener Barbie Part 2

So I did some more sleuthing and I found Green Thumb™ Fashion Barbie. She is a 1998 Limited Edition doll from the Barbie Millicent Roberts® Collection and, of course, she is no longer available. Even if she was, I would not want her. As Barbies go, she is a bit homely. Here are all the reasons I do not like her (feel free to add your own as well):
1. That hair. Wouldn't that be better suited to "Conservative Politicians Wife" Barbie?

2. Those overalls. Even if I could ignore that unflattering mustard color, the fact that she is in bib overalls (not even shorts!) is a big offense in my book. Do they not watch "What Not to Wear"!?! No one, and I mean NO ONE looks good in overalls. She has a cute figure under there somewhere, I'm sure.

3. The black clogs. I like the clogs, but can we get a nice red or at least green? I don't even think they sell black clogs in any catalogs or garden centers that I've seen.

4. That blouse. Purple with flowers, I can live with, but those contrasting denim cuffs and collar just says, "I can't afford a new shirt so I took two old ones from the charity bin and sewed them together." Thrifty? Yes. Attractive? No.

5. The descriptive text. "There's something so special about a garden! And whether it's vegetables or flowers, Barbie® doll is ready to grow in lemon yellow overalls worn with a stylish garden print long-sleeved blouse. Barbie® dons her gardening gloves, making sure her "straw" hat is firmly in place to protect her from the sun. Her comfortable clogs are perfect for long hours working in the garden with her hoe and shovel." Why is "straw" in quotes? What exactly is that hat made of? I do not see her gloves, hoe, and shovel pictured -- those accessories might make the purchase worthwhile.

Mattel, you are still on my poop list. What are you trying to say? Gardeners can't be hot? I beg to differ. Here at left I have taken one of my older Barbies and dressed her up for a day in the garden. She is sporting a simple, practical ensemble as she tends her flowers. I took the yellow shirt from a stewardess outfit, the jeans are Jordache, and the hat from Pretty Changes Barbie. Had to make do with sneakers, since all the other shoes are pumps or Candies-like high heel slides.

I just stumbled across this. I can't stand Bratz, but they are at least trying and they recognize a good thing in the new green trend. One ebay dealer says: "Gardening is in vogue with Nora and her ultra-cool and environmentally friendly, green-thumb accessories• Bratz Girlz Nora doll comes with flower seeds, a watering can and flowerpot so kids can grow their own flowers• Dressed for the occasion, Nora wears a top made from flower petals and has her own signature floral scent• Includes a hairbrush along with real gardening equipment and flower seeds•" I could do without the scent and the giant head, but overall nice work, Bratz! Apparently there is a whole series of these dolls - I see more on Amazon. Wonder if they are doing any gardening in their new movie?

PS Don't even TRY to right-click on Green Thumb Barbie's photo -- you will get a strongly worded copyright warning from Mattel. If anyone out there knows how they made this piece of web coding work, please contact me. I'd love to do the same for our magazine's copyrighted images that I place online.

Holiday Weekend Ahead

It's Thursday again, so here is an online link to this week's The List: Top 5 Home & Garden Events on page 25 of today's print edition in the Washington Examiner. This being a holiday weekend, the local event pickings are slim as most public gardens expect you to be busy with visiting with friends and family. Myself? I am joining a few colleagues from the Garden Writers group for an informal gathering at Nemours Mansion & Gardens in DE. We are getting a sneak peak as the garden is closed and being restored for a big opening next year. I picked up this image through a "back door" to the site which is currently shut down as well. A 300-acre garden all in the French style! Those DuPonts did not do anything in a small way, did they?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

My Campaign for "Gardener Barbie" Begins

Being a big Barbie fan from way back -- 1971 to be exact. I was inspired by Ed Bruske's The Slow Cook blog post where he posed a Barbie with his cucumber to show to what large size it'd grown. (Okay, wipe that smutty smirk off your face ;-). This inspired me to get out my box of vintage Barbies from the attic crawl space and thinking about inventive ways to pose and use Barbie in garden photos. I looked at my selection and quickly realized that my dollhouse collection and other miniature garden tools I have were way out of scale for this 11.5" doll -- just like Goldilocks everything was too big or too small. Then I thought, "Hey, I bet there is a 'Gardener Barbie' that I can buy and she'll have cool garden accessories that I can use in these pictures." After all, there is a Barbie dogwalker who scoops poop, there is a Barbie astronaut with spacewalk suit, Barbie jockey, etc. Surely there'd be a Barbie representing the #1 hobby in the country!

So I looked and looked for a "Garden Barbie" and the only ones I could find were a "Garden Party" Barbie - who is pretty interchangeable with the annual Easter Barbies and Springtime Barbies. Basically, they all have on a nice party frock and some cute accessories like a purse or fancy hat. I like them, but not exactly what I had in mind.

I did come across this "Fairy of the Garden" Barbie pictured here. (Photo borrowed from As they put it, "Watching over buttercups and morning glories, she is a garden sprite young and old alike will adore." In short, she is a true faerie sprite in the original (ore-Disney) definition of those trouble-making creatures -- she is the kind that coddles and blesses our weeds! Still not what I had in mind.

So Mattel, I put it to you. Why is there no "Gardener Barbie"? I'm talking about a doll with jeans, a cloth shirt, a work apron with flirty flower-design pockets, and funky, bright garden clogs. She'd have a sun hat and her hair tied back in a jaunty ponytail. She'd come with a flowerpot with interchangeable plants. Maybe they even mechanical "grow" with a button push or turn-crank. She'd have to have the basic tools tucked in her apron -- gloves and a trowel. I realize a working pruner might be a bit dangerous, but a spade and rake wouldn't be too much to stick in the box with her. Throw in a pack of actual flower seeds and you'd have a real winner among the 4H set and many others who enjoy playing with dirt. Hey, why not partner with Burpee or Jackson&Perkins to throw in those seeds and cross-brand this spunky gal?

And oh yeah, Barbie would be domestically produced, lead-free, and dressed in all organic cotton. Mattel, you know how to reach me. The ball is in your court.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Visit Gardens of the Past and Future

Washington Gardener Magazine will host a Gardens Past & Future Tour on September 20, 9:00am-3:00pm.
Leaving from and returning to West Falls Church, VA and downtown Silver Spring, MD metro stations.
Travel to the past: the William Paca Gardens located in the heart of the Colonial Annapolis Historic District. Our custom tour explores one of America’s most impressive restored 18th-century sites. The Paca Gardens were saved from demolition in 1965 and restored after 10 years of meticulous preservation and archeology work.
Travel to the future: GCA’s Fashion in Bloom at Homestead Gardens in Davidsonville, MD. Sneak a peek at the plants coming out next year! We will see new varieties, new lines, new styles and discussions with breeders and growers. Think of it as the Paris runway for plants with ten designer growers showcasing in gorgeous settings, next year’s new, hot plants.
Fee: $60.00 each or $55.00 each for current Washington Gardener Magazine subscribers. Fee includes lunch, snack, coach travel, and all admissions. Tour attendees receive 10% off Homestead purchases.
For more information: or CALL 703.395.1501 TODAY to book your spot.

Monday, August 27, 2007

DC Boys say DC Girls are Ugly, But Smart

This is a bit off-topic, but I had to report this conversation as it has been disturbing me for the past 24 hours. It took place inside my booth at the Dupont Circle FreshFarm Market yesterday morning as I stood at my table fielding gardening questions and signing up subscribers. A few youngish gentleman began to gather in the booth and stood just one foot behind me talking about the usual Sunday morning matters. I ignored them wondering a bit why they could not move their group elsewhere, but not minding enough to ask them to leave as this "guest-at-market" booth spot is clearly a gathering spot for pre- and post-market socializing. Than my ears pricked up when I heard, "Yeah, there is just no glamour here. That is the difference between girls here and in New York." The others concurred -- shaking their heads in disappointment and scanning the surrounding crowds in obvious disdain. I whipped around then and gave them "the Look" that said stop now or fear for your lives - yet the conversation continued! They said, "You know this city is filled with the high school valedictorians, while New York has the girls voted "most popular." They sighed at their lack of fortune at this local dating pool then mercifully moved on.

I'm not saying they are wrong, per se. There IS a difference not just in the girls' attitudes and fashions here, but also in the boys as well. When I go to concerts or clubbing in New York or Philly, there is a big difference in the number of eligible, attractive young men to choose from. Yet, when you actually get a chance to chat with them, you get the immediate impression that the pretty gift wrap contains an empty box. Still I was annoyed at many levels later on when I got home and had time to mull this conversation over.
First, these are the types of thoughts you share in private, on a blog rant, or keep to yourself. You do not have them within earshot or in the personal space of the subjects of your talk.
Second, why is glamorous better or more valued than being ultra-smart? No, they did not actually say DC girls are "ugly," but it was definitely the implication that they are generally dowdy and drab. Should we be spending more time dolling ourselves up early on a Sunday morning to make a quick dash to the local farmer's market? Is this really how we should be spending our busy lives - preoccupied with how we look at every second of the day? I'd personally rather have those smart girls devoting their downtime thoughts to how we can solve world hunger and global warming than to what high heels will hurt the least and look the best on their five block walk to the market and back.
Third, is it really right to judge all DC females by the selection at this time and location? I'm thinking these young men need to broaden out from a known gay-neighborhood. And the timing is not really optimal. Normally, I'd be in church -- where the fashions are more on the dressy side and we are all a bit more groomed for the day -- therefore, perhaps a bit easier on the eyes than those who just rolled out of bed, grabbed a basket, and headed over for some cucumbers and peaches.
I'm curious to here other's takes on this -- should I have been offended by this chat? Is it normal guy talk? Do you agree with their assessment of the local scene?

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Sunday Reflections

According to a recent edition of the Wooden Horse Magazine News
~ HORTICULTURE - down 72%
~ GARDENING HOW-TO - down 67%
Ouch! I'd heard rumors about Horticulture and certainly received stacks of renewal notices for Gardening How-To (even though I'm set for several more years at this point!), but those are pretty drastic numbers. I believe this stat reflects newsstand sales only, not subscriptions. Still, glad to know mine are growing and not facing such glum futures. I enjoy both publications and hope they are around for years to come.

Spent yesterday at the Silver Spring FreshFarm market and today at the Dupont Circle one. Pretty decent sales results for me and good market attendance overall. The market managers take a crowd count every half-hour and log them in a book so they can easily see when it is well above average -- which this weekend was -- despite the Hades-like temps. I generally like it hot, but the rivers of sweat running down my back are just not a good look. By the end of yesterday's market, I literally wrung my clothes out.

The photo of a nice heirloom tomato market display reminds me of a photojournalism class assignment I had back in college. It was to use a lot of color with the goal of capturing vivid eye-catching images. Up until then, we had shot strictly black-and-white, so color was a big challenge. To find a great display of assorted colors, I flipped through magazines and was sucked in by those vivid car ads. So thinking I could capture some rows of shiny new cars, I went down to the corridor of dealerships on 355 in Rockville-Gaithersburg. All of the car dealers were empty of customers when I arrived on a weekday afternoon. Most of the salesman (never did see a saleswoman) were standing around looking bored or chatting with each other. And ALL, but one was extremely rude and had no time for a college kid on photo assignment. One even told me to "F^%k Off" before I, camera in hand, even got the request out. The one that did make time? Cadillac. To this day I have not forgotten that they went out of their way to help me capture some decent images -- even offering to re-park cars in color groupings for me. I also learned a big lesson in "customer service" that day, not to mention good public relations with potential members of the local press!

Another lesson I learned: car photography is an art and hard as hell! It takes a lot of special lighting to prevent glares and reflections in the car's finish. And, oh yeah, always wet the pavement down. Trust me, it looks much better that way. You'll never see a car ad in print or on TV that does not look like it was filmed just after a refreshing morning rain.

If I had that assignment to do again today, the local farmer's market would be my first and only stop. Tomatoes are naturally gorgeous on their own without all the fussing and primping (or rude salesman).

Friday, August 24, 2007


Yesterday on the Channel 4 segment about groundcover alternatives, I mentioned you can find good moss sources online. Here are the links I recommend:
~ Moss Acres
~ Spring Hill Nurseries

Pictured here is my shady front path that I'm cultivated moss in and around. There was a wonderful lawn of moss I saw on the Brookland Garden Tour a couple years ago, but I cannot find an image of it in my photo records. It was a backyard near the Franciscan Monastery and was impressive for its size, uniformity, and grooming. As anyone has tried to cultivate a nice patch of moss from scratch knows, it takes a lot of painstaking weeding if you want it to be perfect. I'm not personally into the tweezers and magnifying lens level of maintenance, but if you have the time and inclination, who am I to judge? I'm sure it is very Zen-like. For my lazy gardener maintenance regime, I just weed-whack the area every month or so down to below one inch. That usually takes care of any errant turfgrass and other weeds that are trying to start up in the moss.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


It is Thursday, so 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.

Notice that combined as event #1 on The List are my two appearances this weekend at the FreshFarm Markets in Silver Spring on Saturday and Dupont Circle on Sunday. I took this photo at the Takoma Park farmer's market a few weeks ago. I can't imagine anyone who would not love getting a bunch of these "just because." Wish my own sunflowers had done something this year, they never did get much of a start.

Those "meet the public" events and my Channel 4 at 4pm segment today remind me that I need to get a signature outfit/look and fast. Yesterday I ran into the Question Mark Guy, not once, but twice! He was sitting in the coffee shop two blocks from my house then last night passed him in Bethesda on way to a screening of The 11th Hour. (BTW that film was "just okay," I really like many of those interviewed. I could listen to Betsy Taylor and Bill McDonough for hours, but in general the film's tone is pedantic and a downer. I can see this being a hit on the high-school-film-while-teachers-meet-circuit.) So I still have no idea what to wear that is immediately recognizable as a "garden expert," looks decent on camera, and can be worn in many weather situations. Often I'm out in close to 100 degrees, as is predicted for this weekend, and also I'm freezing my tutu off at indoor events where they crank the AC or at events in early spring that can be frostbite weather. I'm open to suggestions and not above copying from those who have paved the way before me.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Wonder Twin Powers Activiate!

Trust me, this headline is freaking hilarious if you are a GenXer - Baby Boomers, please look elsewhere for your humor dose today.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


I finally took a few minutes to fill out my application to be a Certified Wildlife Habitat with the National Wildlife Federation a few weeks ago. Had this on my long "to do" list for literally a couple years now! Truth be told, I was stalling cause those original yard signs they had were butt-ugly and I was not about to pay for one of those and put that up in my yard. (I'll let you digest your last meal and not show it here. If you must see it -- here is a link to one. The colors are dreadful, worse in real life than what is pictured. It reminds me of all the flesh-tone houses I see in the DC suburbs. Why, oh why, is that color ever chosen by anyone? Who goes to the paint store and says, "You know, I like the look of a pasty white man's stomach flab - can you match that? I'm convinced these folks are the same ones who think "jeans go with everything" and wear fanny packs to the movies.)

So my certificate and beautiful new yard sign arrive last week. I'm all excited and immediately put the sign out in a very visible spot in my front yard than go to brag about it on my blog - then who steals my thunder? That be-atch, Martha Stewart! Seriously, I love you like a sister, Martha, but you couldn't throw me a bone and wait a few more days? Now I look like another Martha copycat! Well, I suppose there are far worse people I could be compared to or mistaken for -- I'm talking to you, Charlie Dimmock. ;-)

Monday, August 20, 2007

Ribbon Cutting

I picked up my fair ribbons yesterday - six in total (pictured here). Two more than I thought, a first and second, which was a surprise since they weren't there when I visited the for last week. They were for two asters I'd entered and as no one else was in the category -- I was a shoe-in :-)! Other categories had dozens of entries -- for instance, French Marigolds is one I need not enter again unless I have a fabulous specimen. And I certainly have learned my lesson in the fresh herbs category -- presentation is everything! When I saw the other entries, I wanted to grab mine and hide it from view. There it sat all week long with my name and address plain as day for any fairgoer to come by and say, "Who entered this bunch of weeds?!" Ugh.

Update on Channel 4 at 4pm appearance -- I'm now set to be on this Thursday, 8/23. Look for me around 4:45pm. Even if you are not in DC you can watch it on their web feed. Loving these last few days of rain - but need to get on the air while it is still August and the issue is still current!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Ah, Crapes!

The August 15, 2007 issue of the Washington Gardener Enews is now out and archived at The images seems to be linking to the wrong stories, while I've double-checked the coding and all is correct. I'm asking the web host now to take a look at the problem. I may pull it and repost it today.

The feature article is on Crape Myrtles. The spelling of which drives me crazy. I want to always spell it Crepe Myrtle, as in crepe paper. To further complicate things the USNA now officially has it as one word "crapemyrtles," though most all other references go with the "a" spelling, but leave it still as two words.

It is Thursday, so here is an online link to this week's The List: Top 5 Home & Garden Events on page 26 of today's print edition in the Washington Examiner.

My appearance on Channel 4 at 4:00pm today has been postponed due to the storms moving through. Looks likely to be rescheduled for next Tuesday, 8/21. I'll keep you updated with any new details. I'm not too upset as I could really use the time to finish the layout on the Sept/Oct 07 issue I've been working on furiously all week and our gardens can certainly use this much needed rain!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Officially a "Prize Winning Garden"

At the fair yesterday I quickly checked my entries. They shifted the displays all around so it was a bit tough to locate all of them. I won at least four ribbons including a first place for my Cosmos flower. The irony is that the few Cosmos plants I have this year are volunteers that self-sowed from one packet of Martha Stewart brand seeds I put in three years ago. Some would consider them weeds, but I let them grow where they fall and occasionaly cut a few for indoor bouquets. That's it -- no watering, fertilizing, grooming, or pampering in any way. Meanwhile, the tomatoes and other flowers I'd fussed over failed to place at all. Go figure.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Eye of the Tiger

Working on the Enews and getting the Magazine to the printer probably will have few blog posts for the next week or so. Did want to mention a new web site from Garden Ranter Susan Harris. She writes: "I'm happy to announce It's a compilation of my articles in the Voice newspapers, answers to the questions I get asked in my garden coaching, and meaty links and blog posts from my favorite writers. I welcome your input."
If you get by the MC Fair this week, you can see I entered a bunch of flowers, some herbs, and my cherry tomatoes into competition yesterday. The drought made the entries pretty weak this year, but I have high hopes that I'll get at least a few ribbons. Judging is today. I'm going tomorrow morning with my nieces. Will see what I rated -- if anything. Note that last year my nieces were completely unimpressed with my assortment of ribbons -- unless I got that huge purple "best in show/division" one (pictured here), I was a loser in their eyes. Kids can sure keep you grounded. LOL!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Pick It, Pick It Good

Our latest article in the Washington Examiner is out today. Read the article online here (August 10 edition - page 59), or grab the print version at the red street boxes around town today - the article is on R11 (Real Estate section - page 11). It is on Cutting Gardens and Pick-Your-Own Flower Farms. Photo here was taken at Rock Hill Orchard in Mt. Airy, MD.

When I started researching the list of local pick-your-own flower farms, I had no idea how difficult it would be. It seems most all area flower growers are strictly to the trade/wholesale or they are by appointment only for large-amount customers like wedding planners. Many growers cut and sell theirs at area farmer's markets and most of those are on weekends -- the same timing folks would want to come out and cut their own. So I see the difficulty in being all able to offer fields for public picking. Still it'd be nice to see more fields set aside for this purpose.

One Virginia flower farmer discussed the current drought with me. Obviously they are as hard hit by this as any other farmers, but she said the standbys (zinnias, sunflowers, etc) still did okay for them. If you plan to go flower picking this weekend, call first to check on availability of what is in bloom.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Daylily: The Perfect Perennial

Here is an online link to this week's The List: Top 5 Home & Garden Events on page 27 of today's print edition in the Washington Examiner. The photo here and with The List is actually from Andre Viette. Andre is well-known for his daylily introductions and his radio show. I had the pleasure of profiling him way back in our Jan/Feb 06 issue. Someday soon I hope to make it down to visit him in Fishersville, VA. Right now I have to settle to for the occasional meetings when he speaks in the DC-area or tuning into the radio program when I can.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Spoiled Rotten

So I get this sales email a few days ago from Gardener’s Supply. Maybe it is the heat or maybe just in a general funk, but when the images downloaded and I saw this (at left) I was perturbed. Sure, it is cute and I'm not singling out this otherwise fine company, but isn't this a bit whack? Is our society really that wasteful? Is food as decor the sign of the coming apocalypse? I mean I know excess zucchini can be a real pain to give away to overloaded friends, neighbors and coworkers, but you can always drop a sack of fresh produce off at your nearest soup kitchen or church. I called a few today, they all said bring on the eggplants and summer squash -- fresh produce is in rare supply for them. I'm thinking now of the pumpkin carving I relish each year. Is that any different? Why does this just feel 'off,' but the pumpkin ritual seem okay? Maybe because with the 'kins I save and roast the seeds - then give the carcass to the compost heat (aka open squirrel feeder) afterwards. Or maybe it because the jack-o'-lantern pumpkins are bred to be thin-shelled for carving, thereby not so hot for cooking, and are grown specially for this purpose. Is it obscene to use food as a decor item when people are starving -- not just in far-off lands -- but down the street?

Monday, August 06, 2007

A Bounty of Coverage

Yesterday morning I did another guest stint on Channel 9 News. They have out web site link up in the Info to Go and maybe add the whole clip of the segment to their Living Green page. The piece was on our current cover story of turflawn alternatives. I had six flats of examples of groundcovers that were generously provided by The Perennial Farm, a local wholesale grower that provides plants to area garden centers. Here is a photo of them laying in my yard prepped and ready to go on-air. Most of the donations come from the Treadwell collection meaning they can take light foot traffic and work well as edging, among stepping stones, and in areas of your yard where you are not playing croquet on a regular basis.

Now that the segment is done they will be added to my own garden to fill in any holes and to test out how these groundcovers take. I'll also be using some of the selections for our August reader contest and donating any leftovers to a local park and to a church landscape project. The plants that go to these latter two sites I can personally check on myself and see what works as I walk by them several times a week. It is a great pleasure to pass by a green plot that you've helped go from neglect and weeds to a real contribution to the local community's quality of life.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Hot Enough For Ya?

I had to take this photo of one of my resident squirrels cooling his balls on a stepping stone by my gazebo. In his clutches is a nectarine pit he fished out of the compost pile. This is not the only thing he fished out! See the next photo. Apparently the proper place for a gnawed on corn cob is a decorative hanging flower basket!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

On Point

Here is an online link to this week's The List: Top 5 Home & Garden Events on page 27 of today's print edition in the Washington Examiner. Our next cover story for the magazine is on Succulents so the timing of this show could not be better. I'll be visiting the show and taking many more photos like the one here that I snapped at the USBG terrace this spring.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Cat & Mouse

Chantilly finally catches her mouse (or perhaps it is a vole?). A very proud moment for our household. While I gardened, her vigil was almost constant -- to the point of obsession. For the past year or so, she has spent several hours practically every day staring at the hole under my bird feeder. Her hard work has paid off and pictured here is the prize. My sympathies to the victim's family, but I did lavish praise on kitty and gave her extra treats for this crowning achievement. Now the neighborhood rodents are on notice -- you mess with the cat, you get the claws.

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