Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Ring of Fire

Firethorn (Pyracantha) in a ring around a pedestrian bridge spanning the train tracks near downtown Silver Spring.

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Fallen Leaves

When the leaves fall away, the secret worlds underneath are exposed. I took this photo of a bird nest in small tree just off the bike path running along the railway in north Takoma Park, MD. It is now empty and I'm no ornothologist, but whatever breed built it did a sturdy job. It is lined with a thick layer of mud and straw like an upside-down adobe hut. Looked pretty cozy.
A group email from the Landscape Designers Group brought to my attention the obituary of Sigrid von Bremen Thomas in last Sunday's Washington Post. I'd link to it, but I just spent precious minutes searching away on their user-UNfriendly site. If the obit is not published this very day or in the archives prior to August 1, 2007, you have to be a master sleuth to find it. Here is the text that the LDG forwarded:

Sigrid von Bremen Thomas Landscape Designer, Equestrian Sigrid von Bremen Thomas, 75, a former Life magazine photo editor who became a Washington area landscape designer and writer on horticulture as well as an equestrian, died Oct. 22 at her home in Potomac. She had ovarian cancer. Mrs. Thomas designed home gardens for the past 30 years. From 1987 to 2004, she published the Woodland Garden, a quarterly newsletter with advice on growing plants in the suburban shade. She was born in Tallinn, Estonia, and raised on the Baltic coast, where her father, a Baltic nobleman who struggled after the Communist revolution, eventually found work growing flowers and tomatoes. During World War II, she spent part of her childhood in Poland under German control and later under Soviet rule. After the war, she trained as a dressmaker and fashion designer and fled to Allied territory in Germany at great risk in 1951. In her group of 12 escapees, she was one of two who successfully made the border crossing. She chronicled much of her early life in a memoir, "Goodbye Stalin," published this year. Mrs. Thomas entered the United States in 1955 under the Refugee Relief Act and, after working as a seamstress, was a film editor for Life magazine's photo department in New York from 1958 to 1970. She settled in the Washington area after her husband, Rich Thomas, became a Washington-based reporter for Newsweek magazine. She was a former board president of the Potomac Valley Dressage Association. Besides her husband of 50 years, of Potomac, survivors include two children, Karina Thomas of Denver and Stryk Thomas of Potomac; and a brother.
I have a couple back issues of the delightful Woodland Garden (wish I had them all!) and spoke to Sigrid a few times by phone a year or so ago. Just from those brief talks I could tell she was a wonderful, generous spirit. I had no idea of her background nor her interest in dressage! An obit can only tell a fraction of the story and there is so much more to this woman that many of us will never know and mores the pity for it.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Freeze Warning

Just a few days ago I was literally walking around singing the Heat Miser song from The Year Without A Santa Claus. Hey, I got the hair color to pull it off :-) Then yesterday the rains ended and the chill moved in. I changed to flannel sheets and pulled all my sweaters out. It is about this time that we are do for a frost.

To my shock, the local weather alert system sent out a Freeze Warning email this afternoon. Not a frost, an actual freeze!!! After forwarding the alert to the Washington Gardener Yahoo discussion list, I ran outside and threw a bunch of tender things together in a protected corner and draped them in some clear sheeting. I also dug up some coleus and took cuttings to winter them over.

What can I say, I am late in my fall prep duties this year. After having balmy temps into January last year, I guess I got complacent and yes, lazy. But I'm also che... um, frugal, so I try to winter over as many "annuals" as I can. I'd rather spend my gardening budget on more exotic plants at garden centers than cheap filler plants at big box stores.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Westchester or Bust!

Here is an online link to this week's The List: Top Home & Garden Events on page 27 of today's print edition in the Washington Examiner. I won't make any of these great events this weekend as I'm going off to Westchester, NY, for my friend Tara's wedding. I've known her since high school and can recall her talking about having a fall season/cool weather wedding even back then. I remember something about red and green plaid bridesmaid dresses and matching cummerbunds on the groomsmen, I'm thinking her taste may have change since 1985 ;-). Tara is the one pictured here in the veil. I can't wait to see her again and meet her husband-to-be!

UPDATE: Back from the weekend at Tara & Greg's wedding. What a wonderful event. Your classic Irish Catholic wedding. I danced my booty off and do NOT want to see the video or photos they took of that! The happy couple is now honeymooning in St. Martin. They deserve some R&R! Not only did they also dance their collective booties off, but they both worked the room like professional party hosts. Don't you hate the weddings where you never even get to say "boo" to the new couple?

It rained the whole drive up, through the day and night, and then most of the drive back. I came back to gloriously drenched soil and buckets full of water that I'd left out next to my overfull rain barrel. Thank goodness we finally got some and now I can finally get started on bulb planting.

Monday, October 22, 2007

"I know you are, but what am I?"

Sheri Ann Richerson at the blog writes that she likes my recent Garden Rant quote about the unique personality of garden writers. When you are holed up in your own little home office and garden all day, you generally don't run into other garden writers except for online or by reading their work. You don't realize just how much you actually share in terms of personality traits and motivations.

One of my favorite movie speeches of all time is from Pee Wee's Big Adventure. Pee Wee is trying to breakup with a pesky, needy girlfriend. He tells her: "There's a lot of things about me that you don't know anything about, Dottie. Things you wouldn't understand. Things you couldn't understand. Things you shouldn't understand. You don't want to get mixed up with a guy like me. I'm a loner, Dottie. A rebel." Then later in the movie he runs into Mickey who tells him, "I'm bad, Pee-wee. You don't want to get mixed up with a guy like me. I'm a loner. A rebel." and Pee-wee responds, "Deja Vu."

This is much funnier when Paul Reubens read those lines -- trust me (or go rent/Netflix it tonight). The reason I love that loner-rebel speech is that so many us think of ourselves in those terms -- even if we are as clearly innocent and wide-eyed as the child-like Pee-Wee. We garden writers like to talk a big, bad-ass game, but underneath that toughened bark exterior is a tender green sap just oozing out.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Email Errors & Guest Rant email is experiencing technical difficulties. Please send all correspondence dealing with Washington Gardener Magazine to For the last week I have not been getting any of my email sent to any of the "" addresses. Please resend anything you might have sent from October 15 on to our address.

The problem started up Monday morning -- I think we got pegged as spammers due to the high volume of mail I was getting right after the Washington Post interview came out and our Washington Gardener Enews was sent.

Since this is our deadline week I'm in the middle of getting our Nov/Dec 07 issue of the magazine to the printer, this has been doubling frustrating. As if sitting on the phone with your ISP and various email program providers is such a joy on a normal day. I simply don't have time any longer to spend several hours a day hunting down the fix while trying to get the final layouts done and corrections in. So until this issue is safely to bed, I ask that you all use the AOL address. After this week, I'll go back to square one and see if I can get all the email addresses reworked and forwarding correctly.

For more entertaining news, checkout my Guest Garden Rant here. It is about my experiences at the GWA meeting in OKC a few weeks back. Pictured above are some of those same GWA garden writers in the All-America Selections display garden at Oklahoma State University. They are getting a close-up view of the new ornamental peppers.

Thursday, October 18, 2007


Here is an online link to this week's The List: Top Home & Garden Events on page 30 of today's print edition in the Washington Examiner. The top event is the DC School Garden bus and bike tours which are actually this Saturday, not Friday as they printed. This time they stripped the actual dates off the layout, which is odd, but people should confirm the details on the web links in any case. I'm planning on attending at least a portion of the DC Enviro Conference including the Safelawns seminar also listed here. In the middle of getting the Nov/Dec issue out and it is crunch-time, so will see what I can swing.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Photo Sales and Reprint Permission

I just love this display from Homestead Gardens in Davidsonville, MD. I took the photo to file in my "ideas to steal" folder. I think this could work with lots of different messages and on various occasions -- from a birthday party to a corporate event to displaying your street address seasonally. The letters are painted on the Ghost pumpkins in this case, but you could carve and light them or use different squash, plant pots, etc. for the words.

Isn't digital photography just fabulous? Ten years ago would I have "wasted" film on something so frivolous? Probably I just would have jotted it in my little notebook and then promptly forgotten all about it.

BTW, if you like this photo or ANY photo you see on this blog, in our Washington Gardener Magazine, Washington Gardener Enewsletter, or on our web site, and want to purchase it. Please contact me at 301.588.6894 or I have sold a few photos so far just randomly. One to a real estate agent for a postcard promotion. Another to an area calendar.

If the photo in our publication was not taken by me, I'm happy to put you in direct contact with the original photographer. Our main staff shutterbug, Drena J. Galarza, has taken some wonderful shots for us as have Dan Weil and our other freelancers.

Note: Any photo seen in our publications -- on line or in print -- require our reprint permission to use them elsewhere. At a minimum we ask you to credit Washington Gardener and to link back to our web site. Our prices are very reasonable and in many cases we will allow photo use in exchange for non-monetary compensation.

I hear horror stories about stolen images popping up all over the web and I understand that is the nature of the Internet beast. It is one reason I keep our magazine content fully offline. It is also why I post low-res images to this blog and our other online outlets. Almost all the photos you see from us have high-res and alternate versions.

Once I was mortified when someone implied I'd stolen a photo they'd taken. In fact, I had the proof that I had taken it in a local park. It was of a hellebore bloom and his photo was strikingly similar -- as many plant close-ups can be. Still after that incident I'm more scrupulous than ever in crediting and attributing all photos that appear in Washington Gardener publications.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Why the 15th?

Seems the 15th of the month is getting very popular online, I was so busy I missed both Blog Action Day and Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. Looking at the other bloggers' blooms I see a lot of mums and pansies and can say, "Same here!" For my belated Environmental Action, I suppose it'd be writing about buying Locally Grown Plants. It is the subject of the feature story in the latest issue of the monthly Washington Gardener Enews. It has been sent out to readers and is now archived here. It is free to view and sign up for our online issues. Note that the content of the Enews is different from our print magazine and, of course, we'd love for you to subscribe to Washington Gardener Magazine in order to support our free online efforts: this blog, our web site, our yahoo group, and, of course, the Enews.

I've been sending out the Enews faithfully on the 15th of the month since January '05. This one was another squeaker to get out on time as I spent the morning at the DC School Garden Week launch event (Mayor Fenty is pictured here reading his proclamation). As part of the launch event, the winners of the first ever DC School Garden Photo contest were announced. View them here. I helped judge and must say it was a fun, but tough job. We also kicked in a free year's subscription to our magazine to the grand prize winner. Hope to see more budding gardeners and garden photographers coming from this.

Also last night was the monthly meeting of the Silver Spring Garden Club where one of our most prolific and entertaining book reviewers, Jim Dronenburg, spoke on the creation of his hilltop garden in Knoxville, MD. Jim did such a good job, the whole club wants to make the trek north to visit his property in person next spring. I've visited there myself and can attest it is a garden lover's delight. I approve of his "plant more, weed less" philosophy. Life is too short to worry too much about neat borders and clear paths.

Yesterday was also the deadline for those of us who applied for a tax filing extension. Thank goodness I bit the bullet and hired pro tax accountants to take care of this for me finally. Why everything has to be due on and take place on the 15th is beyond me. When I chose that date for the monthly Enews, I naively thought moving it away from the beginning or end of the month was actually a smart move!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Who me?

My "Making It" profile is in today's Washington Post Magazine. You can read it online here. The photo currently up on the web page is from last week's profile an interior decor person holding a bolt of fabric. Hoping they out my correct one up soon - holding a trowel and garden gloves. Not that this lady is unattractive, just that I'm sure it is confusing as to why this garden magazine editor has a silk tassel fetish. A different version of the correct photo is currently shown here on the teaser page. Truthfully, I like this teaser one better than what was used in print. (I lifted it from their page and placed it with this post at top, left.)

I did get a lot of recognition at the Takoma Park Farmer's Market today and a number of emails. Will see how the rest of the week goes and if this results in any direct subscription increase.

Update: The photo on the page is now corrected and is actually me. I'm getting recognized by strangers in the grocery store now and have calls from long-lost friends. Weird, but entertaining.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Schoolyard Habitats

Our latest article in the Washington Examiner is out today. Read the article online here (Real Estate section - October 12 2007 edition - page 11), 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 the DC School Garden Week that takes place October 15 – 20.

At a meeting earlier this week when I mentioned the School Garden Week activities, someone, who should know better, scoffed at the idea of even the possibility that DC school gardens actually existed. As if all DC schools are built like Alcatraz and there is no available green space in this city. I don't know why, but I took personal offense at this ignorance. Are people really that out of touch? Do they just take as fact the stereotypes they see in gritty inner-city gangsta films and paint all local schools with the same concrete jungle brush? Have they even ventured into the District in the last few decades? DC schools have water gardens, native habitats, veggie patches, woodland walks, big containers filled with annual flowers, and much, much more. Given the dimwitted perceptions out there, I think the upcoming school garden tour and other activities next week should go a long way to reeducating some of these fools.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Bulb Sale Part 2

Here is an online link to this week's The List: Top Home & Garden Events on page 26 of today's print edition in the Washington Examiner. The top event is the Takoma Hort Club's bulb sale at this Sunday's Farmer's Market in downtown Takoma Park. I'm current President of the THC so have a vested interested in making sure we sell all of our fundraiser bulbs. Our prices, quality, and selection are exceptional and I urge everyone to buy by the bagful for your own gardens and as gifts. (Guess what everyone on my list this year will be getting?)

Coincidentally, this Sunday is also the 25th anniversary of the market. I talked to the market's director, Louise Swartzwalder of Takoma Kitchens, this week and she said she joined a year or so after the market started and that there are at least three farmer-producers who have been there since the beginning. I think that is really something to celebrate!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Nose to the Grindstone

I bet you thought I dried up and blew away! I’m still here – just been so swamped I haven’t had a chance to post even a sentence here. From the GreenFest DC all weekend to the Open Garden I hosted here on Monday, I’ve been on the run to one appointment after another. All self-inflicted of course and I hate that about myself, over-scheduling and over-extending are my downfall. Anyone got a pill for that? I still need to unpack from Oklahoma City GWA meeting last week and my desk looks like a hurricane, so if I don’t return your emails or voice mails in a timely manner, please be patient. I hope to be able to regroup by this weekend and get back to somewhat regular schedule. Right now I’m off to the Purple Line Now benefit party. Hope to see many of my fellow pro-transit and green friends there.
I dug up this old pic of me trying to single-handedly tackle a 10-cubic-yard sized mulch pile. It is the perfect metaphor for how October has been for me thus far.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Fall Harvest Open Garden

We'll be holding another Open Garden from 3-6pm on Monday, October 8. It is Columbus Day and I figured that many of you might have the day off and could stop by if you like. Nothing fancy or formal, just me out in the yard hacking back weeds and unruly shrubs. Our Summer Solstice Open Garden back in June was cut short by a sudden storm so I thought I'd add this Fall Harvest Open Garden to the schedule while the weather is still decent.

I'll be on hand to answer your garden questions, sign you up for subscriptions and gift subscriptions, sell current and back issues, or just show your around my overgrown lot. Stop by for a few minutes or come over to sit for a spell.

The Fall Harvest portion of the event: we will be collecting your excess garden produce and delivering it Tuesday to Shepherds Table. They are a nonprofit, community-based organization providing assistance to the homeless and needy. I've volunteered there myself a few times and can attest that they do great work. They welcome whatever you can glean from your gardens so if you are inundated with tomatoes, peppers, squash, apples, etc. Just bag them up and bring them over during the Open Garden hours on Monday.

We are at 826 Philadelphia Avenue (Rt. 410) in downtown Silver Spring. It is a red brick house with white fence right at the corner with Fenton and the Public Storage building faces our back drive. I recommend that you park on nearby King Street, walk, bike, or take public transit.

Please help spread the word. Free acorns for all visitors! ;-)

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Green Weekend

Thursday arrived this morning foggy and with zero visibility. Wishing some of that moisture in the air would form into actual precip. Here is an online link to this week's The List: Top Home & Garden Events on page 27 of today's print edition in the Washington Examiner. The featured event and pictured at left here is the GreenFestivalDC. (Photo courtesy of GreenFest.) We are exhibiting there in booth #658 -- please come and visit either Saturday or Sunday. This event is not a gardening one per se. It is about everything green -- from bamboo fiber clothing to recycled art to promoting public transit. I love this show and if I was not working at it would be spending all two days attending those incredible speaker sessions. I'll be able to sneak out for a few minutes at a time and since our booth is near the main speaker stage hope to catch bits and pieces as I can. Last year by the end of the two days my voice was gone and my energy shot. I'll try to pace myself better this go-round. Any advice on how to keep up the pep from fellow show vendors is appreciated!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Bulbing with Pride

A big congratulations to Becky Heath of Brent & Becky's Bulbs in Gloucester, VA, for her appearance on Martha Stewart yesterday (being rerun on some cable channels tonight). Wow!!! I just knew there had to be a good reason she did not stay at the GWA meeting for the Karaoke Party! She is usually a headlining act at that event and truly has a melodious voice, not to mention is a generous, wonderful person aside from her singing talent and bulb knowledge.

In OKC, Brent again invited me down to visit them next spring at the height of the bulb displays and though I failed to carve out a few days to make it this year, I'm determined to do it in 2008. Pictured here is a photo of Becky and Brent that I borrowed from their About Us page on their web site. Next GWA event I am going to make it a point to take more photos of my favorite people and not just of the plants and gardens!

BTW it IS bulb planting season now. If you failed to order spring-blooming beauties through mail order, don't worry there are plenty available at your local garden center and I know you'll sign up now for the Brent & Becky's catalog mail list so you are much more prepared next year. Another fantastic source of bulbs this year is the Takoma Hort Club's annual fundraiser bulb sale at the Takoma Street Festival this coming Sunday, October 7. The club's bulb sale is back by popular demand after a two-year break. The bulbs are right off the ship from Holland (literally just got here a couple days ago) and are of the highest quality. Selections were made with DC-area gardeners in mind and prices are very good. And if you want to save a few dollars more, join the THC before or even at the sale and get a THC member discount. Full disclosure, I'm currently President of the THC and am the bulb sale chair, but truthfully I'm the best customer as well. Bulbs are the easiest and most rewarding part of gardening IMHO.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Back from OKC and I'm Hungry to Garden

Am back today from the GWA meeting and thought I'd post a few quick photos from yesterday's garden tours in OKC. Most of the gardens were of the "wish I had been born to that kind of money" variety and were not tended by the homeowners themselves. See the Zen garden and Italianate gardens pictured below. These are great to visit, but would you want to live there? Kind of like cotton candy -- sweet and enjoyable, but not satisfying or filling.

The first picture (here at left) was of a gardener's front beds. I believe she did her own puttering about. The pairing of goldenrod (tall yellow plumes at the back) and lantana (spilling yellow-flowered plant to the fore) was just my cup of tea. In fact, I think I'll borrow this very plant combo idea next summer in my own garden as my crop of goldenrod are a good-for-you-but-boring diet without a spicy side-dish to set them off.

I'll write much more on this trip when I have time to digest all I've learned as a guest post on my experience for the gals at

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