Thursday, October 30, 2008

Little Lost Ladybugs

We wrote recently about the local Ladybug Invasion problems, but it seems certain ladybug species are not doing as well as others. If you guessed those dwindling in number here are the Eastern native ones and that the Western and Asian ones are thriving, you'd get a star from teacher. Seems like all I read about lately is Asian beetle this and imported disease that. Some day it'd be nice to read about an Eastern native plant or bug taking over the West Coast or Asia. Anyone have examples? Or are we Easterners just not made of the conquering stuff?

Back to the lost ladybugs... USDA’s ARS is seeking the public’s help looking for a few special bugs. The researchers are asking people to photograph every ladybug possible and then to send the photos to Cornell Univ. so they can inventory the insects. The scientists are particularly looking for rare species, such as the nine-spotted, two-spotted, and transverse lady beetles. The “Lost Ladybug Project” online allows participants to track and map the ladybug data.

Check out the advice on HOW to photograph your found ladybugs. In particular, they want you to "chill them" so they will be still for their close-up. They say: "Lady beetles can be chilled in a freezer safely for 5 minutes (over six may kill them) and this will quiet them for 2-4 minutes." I don't know about you, but that seems like it could go easily awry. I mean, a kid gets the bugs, pops them in the garage freezer, mom calls him in for dinner, then two days later the bugs are discovered a bit "over-chilled." Here's to hoping people can tell time accurately and that they don't get distracted mid-chilling.
My ladybug photo here was taken without the assistance of chilling, though note that these two they were part of a ladybug release party I attended last year so were pretty groggy, shook up, and hungover at this point when I took the shot.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Washington Gardener Gear Coupon

Choose your style

Choose your color

Choose your size

Get $5 off with Coupon Code: LOOK50

The fine print:
The coupon is for $5 off purchases of $50 more, excluding shipping charges and applicable sales tax. Excludes Gift Certificates, Flip Minos and bulk orders. Coupon code must be entered at check out. Promotion starts on October 29, 2008, at 12:00 a.m. (PST) and ends on October 31, 2008, at 11:59 p.m. (PST). Offer cannot be combined with any other offers, discounts or coupons and may change, be modified or cancelled at anytime without notice.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Ghostly Winds

Due to a weather advisory of hazardous winds (50 mph on up), my video shoot with was postponed until Friday when the forecast looks more friendly. I'm glad we did put it off as it gives me more time to prep and view others' videos. Plus, as I sit here all cozy and bundled up at my computer, I can hear the high winds howling outside. Went out at lunch to retrieve one of my recycling bins from the street and move some fallen branches. Days like today make me very grateful I can set my own schedule and not have to work outdoors.

In other news, a fellow DCWebWomen picked up on a discussion list thread about ghost-written blogs here: "Ghosts" are here to stay well beyond Halloween which included a quote from yours truly. I don't know why it gets me so riled, but dishonest those who pass off other's writing as their own really raises my hackles. Surely I'm not alone in being miffed at fakers in all walks of life. If you must have your company or personal blog writing farmed out, then be up front about it -- give the guest or staff blogger credit. Disguises and masks are for Halloween not everyday life and certainly not suitable for a reputable business.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Weed Warrior Battles

Today I took a short break from the magazine's final layout and proofing to hack back bittersweet vines in Rock Creek Park with the Sierra Club. While there I pull up a big patch of mile-a-minute vine which had sprung back up in a cleared section of the park and was full of pretty berries ready to pop. It felt good to rip it all out and see the tangles of prickly vines pile up.

Meanwhile my own garden is a weed's paradise right now. Somehow it is just more satisfying to weed somewhere else where you can clear an area and say "done" then go home and leave it all behind. Weeding in the home garden is never done and never so easy.
This week brought one big weed surprise as well. I found kudzu growing just a few blocks from my house at a cleared construction site. I did the classic Buckwheat double-take when I first laid eyes on it. My first thought was, "Oh goody, is that a squash vine covering that whole slope?" but as I got closer I saw sure enough that it was kudzu. Que the Jaws theme music as I sucked in my breath and examined the horror of it all. Now, we are technically supposed to be just a tad too far north for this monster, but thanks to global warming and fairly mild Maryland winters of late, it looks to be here to stay. I have alerted the property owners and hope it is removed soon before it spreads elsewhere in the community.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Frost Alert: Save Those Tenders!

This is my every-two-months, crazy-busy week of getting the magazine layout done, proofed, and off to the printer. So I'm basically working 20-hour days and not seeing the outside world except in spurts as I run to get cat food or bring in the newspaper. But I did surface enough to cut a bunch of coleus cuttings and to pull in some of my more tender plants as the temps hear are dropping to the low 30s at night. Next week I'll have more time to prep plants for a proper winter inside. For now I'm doing what I'd call "plant triage" and praying a real freeze does not hit us quite yet.

Monday, October 20, 2008

A Legend Dies

Sad news for many of us in the horticulture community came when we heard Dr. Cathey had passed away recently. AHS is hosting their annual Dr. Cathey Day this Thursday and it will be an especially poignant event this year, coming so close on the heels of his death. He was one of my first interview subjects for the magazine and was a most gracious subject. For it, I had gathered quotes about him from some of his hort industry colleagues. I know he was very pleased when he read them and so I thought I'd share a good bit from the interview and some of those tribute quotes here. You can read the full article on pages 14-15 of our July/Aug 2005 issue of Washington Gardener magazine.

Dr. Henry M. (Marc) Cathey is an internationally honored horticultural scientist. If you’ve ever put a plant in your garden, you’ve been touched by Dr. Cathey’s work.

Dr. Cathey was born in Statesville, NC. He was in the 4-H and inherited his intense interest in plants from his grandmother. His enthusiasm led him to his bachelor’s degree from N.C. State in 1950, and to master’s and Ph.D. degrees from Cornell. He studied in the Netherlands as a Fulbright Scholar and joined the USDA as a research horticulturalist in 1956-1980. His studies of light, chemical and temperature interrelations led to industry and consumer guidelines on how to use light and chemicals to control the size, shape, color and flowering of a large number of ornamental plants.

He served as professor of Plant Physiology at George Washington University from 1958 to 1967. In 1981, Cathey became the fourth director of the U.S. National Arboretum. While there, he was instrumental in the development of the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map, one of the most valuable tools available to gardeners today. He also oversaw the addition of many new features to the Arboretum including the Capitol Columns (see related story in this issue), the Asian Valley, and the restoration of the Brickyards on New York Avenue.

From 1991-1993, he served as National Chair for Florist and Nursery Crops Review, USDA. He has assessed the research, marketing, and export potentials for the green industries. He formed a coalition of over 60 national trade and professional organizations, created a directory of over 1,000 scientists, and held 15 convocations in the U.S. and England.To promote the ease of gardening, he has appeared on numerous television and radio programs. Currently he is a commentator on National Public Radio. He gives regular talks at gardens up and down the East Coast, and has received many industry awards and is one of the most widely published authors in the industry.

Cathey was president of the American Horticultural Society (AHS) from 1974 to 1978 and from 1993 to 1997. In his honor, the society created the H. Marc Cathey Medal for research in horticulture. He was President Emeritus at AHS until his retirement.

"Dr. Cathey has been ‘Uncle Marc’ to many young people over the years and has inspired these folks to become professional horticulturists or at least very devoted amateurs. Sometimes Marc’s reach has exceeded his direct contact, and I am a case in point. I knew of Marc Cathey long before I ever met him, as a very good friend of mine frequently confessed to hearing Dr. Cathey give presentations about horticulture at several gatherings while growing up. As I was raised in Baltimore and had parents both in the medical field, I’m guessing my friend just assumed that I must have been influenced to go into horticulture as was he, by hearing a talk from Dr. Cathey, who worked in Beltsville, MD, at the time. Though this was not the case, hearing my friend talk of Dr. Cathey’s speeches, as if he had been to a horticultural revival, certainly made me long for a career in horticulture. And Marc’s enthusiasm, once it infected me live over a decade and a few college degrees later, certainly reinforced in me the knowledge that I had chosen a rewarding career path. I’ve known Marc personally for over 20 years now, and his enthusiasm for our industry has continued to inspire me and I know many others."
- Dr. Marvin N. Miller, Ball Horticultural Co.

"Marc has been a ‘Champion’ for gardeners, the floral industry and for floral research. He has been a brilliant scientist and a true visionary for gardening practices and has shared information very effectively through his interactive radio show, comprehensive and informative books, and exciting and stimulating talks. His research was the basis for development of the poinsettia as a flowering potted plant and germination requirements for various bedding plants. The Society of American Florists has recognized Marc as a member of the Floriculture Hall of Fame and is pleased to celebrate his career of successes for the floral industry for six decades."
- Terril A. Nell, Chair, Environmental Horticulture Department, University of Florida, and Society of American Florists President

"The USDA performs mission-orientated research. Dr. Cathey helped teach me the meaning of this type of research. Mission-orientated research has at its root a practice problem. The solution to that problem usually involves basic theoretical research. This solution then requires additional applied research to put that solution into practice. Dr. Cathey’s research involved all aspects of a problem from basic to applied. Finally, Dr. Cathey was the ultimate salesperson. His tech transfer activities convinced the industry of the merits of the new practices. Very few scientists today have the breath to perform both types of research."
- Rob Griesbach, Floral & Nursery Plants Research, U.S. National Arboretum

"Through his work with radio, writing, lecturing, and television, Dr. Cathey brought fun, color, and drama to the world of horticulture making it more accessible and certainly more entertaining."Holly H. Shimizu, Executive Director, United States Botanic Garden
"Dr. Marc Cathey is brilliant in every sense of the word, incredibly smart, a bright shining light, and a man of remarkable pizzazz! He has been the guiding force of American horticulture and the American Horticultural Society for decades. As both an accomplished artist and research scientist, as both an effective communicator and educator, Dr. Cathey has brought vision and direction to the this important national organization which represents the broad scope of horticulture in America -- from research scientists to the green industry, garden professionals, garden writers, and backyard gardeners."
- Katy Moss Warner, President and C.E.O., American Horticultural Society

"Dr. Cathey’s research while he was at USDA Beltsville on the influence of temperature and light on ornamentals was an inspiration to all young professors like myself, and became a building block for environmental research still being conducted today. His work with the Cold Hardiness Map and subsequent drawing of heat tolerance guidelines for gardeners and landscapers puts him in a rarified group of very influential people in Horticulture in this country. And of course, no one who has ever met Dr Cathey will leave his side without being told to: ‘Get out and garden!’ He is a true Legend of Horticulture."
- Dr. Allan M. Armitage , Professor of Horticulture, University of Georgia

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Economy in the Toilet? Free Plants are the Cure

So your 401K is going down faster than a vampire in broad daylight? Never fear that you can't afford gardening. Free plants can be had in many ways -- from propagation to seed collection. My personal favorite though is the garden club plant exchange. Today I attended the bi-annual exchange of the Four Seasons Garden Club at Jim Dronenberg's place in Knoxville, MD. (A few photos of the event are posted here.) I brought a bucket full of purple iris (variety unknown) to trade and came home with a box of daffodil bulbs, a large fern, an unusual rudbeckia, and several other interesting plant specimens.
You too can partake of the bounty by gathering your fellow garden club members, neighbors, co-workers, family members, etc. and setting up a plant exchange of your own. My only warning is that it is addictive and you'll go home with much more than you bring, so I hope you have room in your garden beds.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Brown is Beautiful?

So last week I get this press release from Plow & Hearth’s Campaign to Re-Forest America Campaign asking, "what do you think America's favorite fall foliage color is?" If you guessed any color but brown, you'd be joining me in my belief that brown is blah, drab, and just downright depressing in the garden. Apparently though, this opinion is not shared by our neighbors to the south.

Plow & Hearth's results were as follows: Red and orange led in preference (36% each) followed by yellow (14%) and brown (11%). Regional preferences did play in the results. Those living in the Midwest are most likely to choose red or orange (38% each), while North-Easterners are most likely to choose orange (44%). Those on the West coast are most likely to like yellow (20%), and Southerners have the highest propensity to like brown (16%).

These survey responses leave me wondering if those taking the survey were not answering what their favorite or preference was, but just reporting what is actually out there window each autumn. A brown leaf to me is a dead leaf, but maybe I'm missing something here. Any southern brown-leaf-lovers out there that can explain why this particular color affection?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Growing Moss Gardens and Lawns

The Washington Gardener Enews ~ Vol. 4, No. 10 — October 15, 2008 ~ is now out and archived.
This feature story on moss was something I'd had in the back of my head for a year or two now. I've got one "moss lawn" patch I'm trying to nurture along and it is doing much better now that the last two year's of drought seem behind us.
What didn't make the article was Al Benner of Moss Acres said is coming down the pike. Namely, moss wall units! His company is supplying moss for green roofs already and so this was a natural next step. He is looking at next spring to have the moss wall kits on the market. I cannot wait to see how they do and what creative uses people come up with. I'm already envisioning making a line of moss wall striping around my house and maybe even doing my back door as a fully mossed surface. Then it will be on the interior for moss table-scaping and moss chair cushions. A wearable moss dress is not too far behind.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Sunny Garden Bloggers Bloom Day

Another Bloom Day to share. It is a gorgeous 80 degree day here - well above our normal average. I'm in shorts and a t-shirt now and am loving it. The cold weather will come soon enough. Here are a few blooms from around my garden today.

The zinnia at left was one I seeded very late in the season - ahem, August - in the sidewalk strip. It and a few of its sisters managed to live despite the drought and my neglect. I'll be collecting those hardy seeds as soon as they ripen.

These other three are:
- A bloom of the Little Blue Chip buddleia (aka miniature butterfly bush) that I'm trialing now. It is in a big pot and doing well.
- A sunflower blossom from a mixed seed back. I love how the long petals curl and it has such a tiny face.
- Verbena-on-a-stick (verbena bonariensis) still going strong and putting out more and more flowers. I shared a bunch of this with Green Home Tour attendees and expect it will self-sow well to return next year.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Blandy a Bust

So last weekend was gorgeous, picture perfect actually -- blue skies and warm temps with a very light breeze. Was it TOO nice out, though? The Arborfest at Blandy Farm was a bust for me - I could have sold more subscriptions and issues setting up a card table on my own street corner for an hour.

The highlight of the day was during the set-up hours early Saturday AM when a fellow vendor pulled his truck and wagon hitch out. The truck cleared a small tree ringed wit a steel deer fence, but the wagon did not. There was a tremendous metal scraping noise and a lot of shouting as the driver backed up and they tried to extract the deer fence and tree from the wagon. For the rest of the event I sat staring at the mangled fence and damaged tree partially about 20 feet in front of me. I found it fairly ironic.

Pictured here was a friendly animal visitor that made the rounds. There just was never any real crowds out there and those that did come did a free craft or two and rode on the hay wagon but few were buying much of anything from myself or fellow vendors. At least I was outside for all the gorgeous weather...

Thursday, October 09, 2008

A Little Squirrely

The Washington Post's Sunday Source had a feature story on squirrels in DC and IMHO the best photo the Post has ever printed ran with it. Finding out from the Post's piece that the squirrels were actually brought in here to replenish their population was a shocker. Seeing that public funds went to feed them was even worse. I don't know why I'm surprised though, this is the same government that brought in the plagues of Japanese beetles and kudzu.

Like many Washingtonians I have a love-hate thing with these little rodents. They are fun to watch, feed, and play with. However, they are destructive and in growing numbers are aggravating to many local gardeners. They steal tomatoes before they're ripe. They pull out your bulbs, take one bite, and thrown then to the side. They raid bird feeders. They throw your annuals out of the window boxes to bury a tiny acorn there. I could go on and on about their dirty deeds from home invasion to electric pole destruction. One wonders just how much squirrels have cost us over the years in property and garden destruction. You have to admit though, they are pretty darn cute.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

ArborFest: Trees are the Answer!

This weekend I'm up in the northern tip of VA for the ArborFest 2008 at the Blandy Experimental Farm which is the State Arboretum of Virginia. I'm there for the ArborFest and Plant Sale. Go here to print out a coupon to attend the Arborfest for FREE.

If you are like me and have never ventured up to Blandy before, here are a few tidbits about it:

~ The Arboretum is home to the largest collection of boxwood cultivars in North America and more than half the world’s pine species. We also have an herb garden, perennial gardens, azalea garden, daylily garden and the woodland portion of the Virginia Native Plant Trail.

~ Blandy Experimental Farm is a research station for the University of Virginia Department of Environmental Science. The Arboretum is for public enjoyment and nature study, and also serves as a resource for the University.

~ The Tuleyries Mansion is the original estate of Graham Blandy, the New York stockbroker who left 700 acres of his 900-acre estate to UVA upon his death in 1926. The home and 200 acres remain private and are not open to the public.

And I'll be doing double-duty by collecting info on the garden for a future DayTrip story for the magazine. With a slogan like "Trees are the Answer," I'll be sure to ask lots of questions.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Confessions of a Green Thumb - I Can't Cook

We did a new garden segment last week Tuesday, 9/30 on NBC4 at 4pm. It was on fall garden edibles and getting another flush of blooms from your roses. Both are featured articles in our current issue of Washington Gardener Magazine. If you watched you saw one minor flub -- the cameraman focused on the Swiss Chard when the teaser headline said "Fall Rose Blooms." But hey, that was just to test if you all were paying attention.

For me, the deer-caught-in-the-headlights moment was when meterologist Chuck Bell asked me how one actually prepares that Swiss Chard to eat it. I think I recovered quickly enough to blurt out "you cook it" and then moved on to the other edibles. Whose idea was it anyway to put two non-cooks live on-air discussing growing edibles? Inevitably the topic of how to prepare and eat them would arise. I can't blame Chuck for that -- though I can question why he assumed I would know the answer.

Don't you know some of us gardeners just grow things to see if they will actually grow? No intention of consuming them ourselves you see. Instead, we just pass on any bounty we create to those who enjoy the kitchen arts. That pot over-flowing with herbs? I have not once used so much as one leaf in food prep this year. Those red, ripe tomatoes? Left on the vine until the squirrels steal them. Sure I feel the occasional twinge of guilt that I'm not making the most of my edible patch, but in my head they are all grown as "experiments" and were I to actually have to rely on them for sustenance, it'd be a rather sad diet.

Harvest Collection Follow-Up

FYI to those who donated food for our Harvest Collection on Sunday, 9/28. Your contributions were much appreciated!!! Please see the note below my signature here from the MD Food Bank. We hope to do the collection annually each autumn. If you want to donate at other times of the year, you can drop your extra garden edibles off with the Plant A Row coordinator, Jessica Rozmus at AHS River Farm ( OR you can donate the fresh produce directly to area food banks and just let Jessica or myself know the amount of food donated (in pounds) so that we can report it for the Plant A Row Campaign totals.For more on Plant A Row for the Hungry, see

Thank you for your donation of fresh produce to the Maryland Food
Bank. Your donation will help us in providing food to the hungry
throughout the state.

Each week, over 50,000 different people rely on free food from soup kitchens, food pantries, shelters, and other feeding programs to avoid going hungry. Annually, the Maryland Food bank provides emergency food for 235,000 different people.

Below are some demographics on hunger in Maryland:

77% of households served are food insecure. Food insecurity is defined as limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate foods. By contrast food security is
defined as access by all people at all times to enough food for an active
healthy life.

23% of households served by Maryland's charitable food
providers are food secure. The reasons they are using emergency feeding sites
vary--it may be sudden job loss, high fuel costs or unexpected medical expenses.
These people are teetering on the edge of food insecurity.
Among households with children under the age of 18, 81% are food insecure or at risk of hunger. Among households with adults over 65, 50% are food insecure or at risk of hunger.

Nearly half - 48% - of households have at least one employed adult.
67% of clients served have incomes below the federal poverty level; which is
$1, 613 per month for a family of four. 58% of all households have a monthly
income of less than $1,000.

48% of clients served have completed high school and 20 percent have some higher education.

46% of clients served choose between paying for food and paying their mortgage or rent, heating costs or medical bills. 54% of clients have unpaid medical bills and 27% of clients have no health insurance. An additional 27% of clients use Medicare and the rest operate with some form of health insurance (be it private or state).

The racial composition of those seeking emergency food assistance in Maryland is 25% white, 42% black and 30% Hispanic. 53% of adults served are women.

We provide volunteer opportunities for individuals and groups to who want to help
our mission. Our volunteer opportunities provide a rewarding, hands-on
opportunity for individuals and groups, and offers team-building

If you would like additional information on how you can help combat hunger in Maryland or for volunteer information, please visit our website at

Again, thank you.
Maryland Food Bank
2200 Halethorpe Farms Road
Maryland 21227
(410) 737-8282
(410) 536-0438 Fax

Monday, October 06, 2008

DC School Garden Week - Grow Kids Grow!

It is the start of the DC School Garden Week. This morning was the kick-off event at Ann Beers Elementary in SE DC. Sandra Nitchie, Monarch Sister Schools Program, and Jim Gallion, Wildlife Gardening Adventures, were there putting in a butterfly labyrinth and garden with the children. Both Jim and Sandra have been featured in our magazine as butterfly gardening experts. It was inspirational to see them part of the transformation that is making a compacted piece of yard into a place of learning and growth that will touch the lives of many children for decades to come.

I had the fun task of presenting the winners of the DC School Garden Photo Contest that I helped judge. Click on the DCUrbanGardener's site links below to see the winners:
Category I: Kindergarten-2nd Grade
Category II: 3rd-5th Grade
Category III: 6th-8th Grade
Category IV: 9th-12th Grade
The grand prize winning photo is pictured above - it was taken by Melissa Wood of Horace Mann School. I don't know about my fellow judges -- professional photographers Stephen Brown and Steve O'Toole, bloggers Ed Bruske and Christa Carignan, and gardening coach Susan Harris -- but I had a very tough time deciding on my top picks this year. I hope next year the number and quality of submissions increase even further and make it even harder for all of us judges.

Don't miss all the other great DC School Garden Week events including the Capitol Hill Walking Tour of School Gardens on Saturday, October 11. Three elementary schools in the Capitol Hill area welcome you to an "open garden." In this self-paced walking tour, discover how three different elementary schools in the Capitol Hill area are planning and planting educational gardens and greening their schoolyards. Visit one or visit all three, but come away with new ideas. Come anytime from 10:00am-12:00pm. Locations: Brent ES (301 North Carolina Ave, SE), Tyler ES (1001 G St, SE), and Watkins ES (420 12th St, SE)
Information: Contact Cheval Force Opp or call 703-395-1501.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Gift Basket of Goodness

We are donating a subscription and gift basket full of gardening goodies again to the 2008 HOLY CROSS HOSPITAL GALA on Saturday, October 18, 2008 at 6 p.m. Bethesda North Marriott Hotel and Conference Center. The event is Benefiting Holy Cross Hospital
Women and Infants’ Services and our basket will be part of the Silent Auction. There is also a
Live Auction and Car Raffle. Make your plans now to attend and bid.

We do about 10 of these gift basket donations a year and I try to focus them on local charities, green groups, and woman-related causes.
It crossed my mind at one point to start selling the gift baskets with subscription included as an "upgrade" to regular gift subs. I changed my mind though when I realized how labor-intensive it already is for us to process gift subscriptions and the custom cards we do already. Adding the basket-business layer would be yet another big time burden, not to mention would need to address the delivery options for them. I have yet to apply for our own UPS or FedEx account and frankly, don't want to have to do so at this point.

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