Sunday, December 27, 2009

The 4th Annual Washington Gardener Magazine Photo Contest kicks off!

The 4th Annual Washington Gardener Magazine Photo Contest kicks off now! Time to start sorting and picking out your best 2009 garden shots. Entries are due by January 22, 2010.

And did you hear? A new category has been added this year:

• Garden Vignettes: Groupings of plants in beds or containers, unusual color or texture combinations, garden focal points, and still scenes.

See the PDF for full details.

Best of luck to all!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Hollies - Born, Bred and Raised in Maryland

My article on Maryland's Native Hollies that was published in the December 09 issue of the Takoma Voice, Silver Spring Voice, and Kensington Voice is now available online as a PDF.
Here are direct links to the pages:

And yes, I survived this weekend's blizzard and managed to get the Washington Gardener Magazine Winter issue to the printer before the storm hit. Now I'm alternating rounds of shoveling with updating our mailing list, booking speakers for all my 2010 events, and getting the last of my Christmas prep done.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Christmas Rose for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day

It is the 15th of the month, which means Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day again. To view links to other garden bloggers' blooms and read their collective comments, go to

It has been a soggy, frigid past four weeks. Not great for keeping blooms on any of my outdoor plants. Even on my pansies they turn to a messy mush, but I went out this morning and found these four precious blooms -- two roses and two sweet peas to share.

I direct sowed the sweet pea seeds into my vegetable bed on a whim back in September. They are kind of spindly, but are hanging in there.

The roses are single blooms on my Meidiland grouncover shrubs. Those usually bloom in clusters and are also normally done by October. The rest of these rose bushes are covered in rosehips. I tasted a rosehip both before and after the freezes here in the DC-region last week. I can definitely attest to waiting until after a freeze to harvest your rosehips. The sugars really come out with the cold. Before the freeze, the rosehips are a bit bitter. After it, they are almost as sweet as apples.

I'm deciding if I should leave them out for the wild life or if I should harvest some to attempt some home-made Christmas presents. My schedule may dictate that more than anything. Today I'm getting our Washington Gardener Enews done and sent out, tonight is the annual DCEcoWomen holiday gathering, then I have to get the Winter issue of the Washington Gardener Magazine final layout plus proof done for printing later this week. Next comes processing the new subscriptions and entering the magazine's mail list. Wondering when I'll ever get my present shopping done and tree trimmed. Luckily, I'm done with my cards and cookie baking already. Can you believe there are only two weeks left in 2009?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Happy Poinsettia Day!

Not sure yet how I feel about the dyed Poinsettia trend. I'm on the fence. (I know, can you believe I don't have a strong opinion on this of all things?) Tacky, yes, but really, aren't almost all Christmas and holiday decor items pretty much way over the good taste line? I'm going to give these a pass. If they make you happy, buy them. If not, you'll live and these poinsettias will soon be dropping their funky-colored leaves and in the compost heap by New Year's.

According to (poinsettia marketers extraordinaire), December 12 was "set aside by an Act of Congress as National Poinsettia Day. The date marks the death of Joel Roberts Poinsett, who is credited with introducing the native Mexican plant to the United States. The purpose of the day is to enjoy the beauty of this popular holiday plant."

That last sentence cracks me up. It is just so painfully awkward in wording and concept. So set aside your chores today, folks, and just sit and stare at your gorgeous poinsettias. LOL!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Best and Worst 2009 Film Gardens

Many of you who know me personally, know I'm a movie addict. Seeing three films a week in the theater is not unusual for me. If I add cable/DVD movie viewings, my weekly average would be about 7, I'd guess-timate. Loving movies as I do and seeing so many, it is easy to compare and contrast especially in their treatment of my favorite hobby and the #1 pastime in the world by over-whelming numbers: GARDENING. So what did 2009 bring us onscreen?

Well, let's talk bad first and get that out of the way. The worst landscape of course would be The Road. A truly life-changing, must-see film and book. It is a desolate, bleak version of our future. Hardly a seed survives the unnamed ecological disaster that brings on the end-times. Yeah, depressing, yet oh so compelling. My pick for best movie of the year.

My award though for worst garden depiction goes to Everybody's Fine. *sigh* This film COULD have been so good. The movie's main character, a retired widower father, is a die-hard gardener after all. However, in the first 10 minutes of this flick, gardening is disparaged 3 times. Basically, it is implied that gardening is for old cronies with one foot in the grave and an awful snoring bore. We see the dad out in his North Carolina garden which he meticulously tends doing cruel things to his neighbors shrubs that dare peak over their shared fence. The fact that his window boxes are filled with FAKE flowers is another alarming element. Then there is the depiction of anyone over 50 as an utter idiot and technophobe. I won't spoil it for you should you go, but trust me, if I was in that age-bracket it'd get my hackles up. Insulting and the AARP should take note and sue.
   What gets this my WORST award though is the movie's depiction of powerlines/utility poles. These obscenely ugly scars on our landscape are shown over and over in long, loving cinematic shots. We are supposed romanticize how these lines connect us all. All I see is a blight on our national face. If the film was better, I suppose I could forgive all this. It is about the level of a bad Lifetime special. Skip it and get the Italian original instead Stanno Tutti Bene.

Now for my award for BEST and just squeaking under the 2009 wire as it officially comes out on Christmas Day: It's Complicated. Fellow Gardeners, run, don't walk, to the theater and SEE this. You will get hints of Meryl's character's marvelous garden at her Santa Barbara, CA home throughout the film, you see it at the edge of several scenes. Getting to know her, you just know it is coming. Her children: angelic darlings. Her ex: a cheeky, charming child-man. Her new beau: sweet as pie. Her restaurant: warm and inviting. Her wardrobe: straight out of Chico's catalog. Her hair: care-free and colored just so. Her home: a dream with a seaside view. Her cooking: drool-worthy. Her friends: supportive and hilarious. You just KNOW her garden is going to be to-die-for. No garden on film has ever equaled this one. Rows of perfect cabbages, carrots, and beans -- everything bug- and blight-free. Impossible in real life, but who cares? You want to hate her, but damn, how you want to BE her. This film is will do more to sell gardening than a thousand Michelle Obama photo ops. Relish every minute of it.

(If only you knew how hard I worked to find and copy that one garden pic from the film! Sheesh! See it full and in all its glory in the theaters or online at the Gallery section of the official film web site here.)

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Amen, Sister, Preach On

Executive Publishing magazine's October '09 cover story interview is with Phyllis Hoffman, Media President and CEO of Hoffman Media. She talks about the success of Cooking With Paula Deen and the company's other titles. I found her refreshing and to the point. I wanted to jump up on the Metro as I read the piece and yell, "Amen!" I restrained myself and only muttered it under my breath, causing my seat-mate to switch to another row. Which come to think of it, is not a bad thing. I'll have to keep that weapon in my transit rider article for when it is truly needed. Back to the article, it begins:

When Phyllis Hoffman started her first magazine, Just Cross Stitch, in 1983, she knew a lot about needlework, but next to nothing about the magazine business...

You see, she started with a passion first and then built her business empire. The best part though is contained in this quote:

"We are not out to establish a rate base by giving stuff away to sell ads against," she says. "Our magazine numbers that we deliver to advertisers are real numbers, and they are premium numbers. They are paid, and there is nothing gimmicky about it. So if you buy an ad in one of our publications, your ad goes to readers that have paid for that magazine and are excited about it."

Yes, yes, and yes. Free or "controlled circulation" publications are not the answer and many is the freebie publisher I meet at networking events who regrets that decision and tells me how they envy our subscription base. You can read the whole interview here.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Crocus Sativus - producer of saffron, the most expensive spice in the world

Guest Blog by Wendy Kiang-Spray
Crocus Sativus - this delicate little autumn bloom is the producer of saffron, the most expensive spice in the world.
Sure the bright orange-red stigma is striking against the lavender petals of the crocus, but why all the fuss? Consider the many uses:

•Cooking - candies, liquors, breads, desserts, Spanish paella, and other food from practically every culture. Personally, I love saffron because it is used in many of my favorite Indian dishes.

•Medicinal - cancer suppressant properties, antioxidant, antidepressant, mutation suppressant properties, protects the eyes, and general healing. Saffron has been linked to the healing of over 90 illnesses!

•Other purposes - fabric dye, perfumery, general food coloring.

Believe it...

•Saffron's history reaches back 4000 years.

•One pound of saffron requires 50,000 to 75,000 flowers - the growing area equivalent to a football field.

•One pound of saffron would cost between 500-5000 US dollars depending on the grade (color, taste, and fragrance).

Growing information:

•Plant new bulbs in the very early autumn for bloom around October. To begin with, try planting about 2 dozen.

•Crocus sativus will thrive in full sun, with loose well-watered and well-drained soil (what wouldn't??).

•Bloom period is about 1-2 weeks.

To harvest the precious little threads:
•Be sure to catch the blossoms when they open. Most blooms will last one day and will wilt as the day passes.

•Pluck the 3 orange-red stigmas in the center of the crocus sometime in the mid-morning on a sunny day when the bloom is fully opened.

•Let air dry then store in an air-tight container.

To use the most expensive spice in the world:

•Steep about 1 teaspoon saffron in about 3 teaspoons of hot water or broth for about 2 hours.

•Add both threads and steeping liquid early in the cooking or baking process.

IF, and this is a big IF, a cute little lavender flower doesn't appeal to you, IF you don't have a tiny patch of garden to plant some unassuming bulbs, IF you can't use a little extra color in October, and IF the process of harvesting your own very expensive spice from a very cheap bulb doesn't appeal to you, you could think about buying saffron at the store to try. Here are some tips:
•Buy threads, not powdered saffron. The powder could be cut with turmeric, a cheap spice that imparts a similar color. It may be cheaper, but will require more to be used for the same flavor impact.

•Sometimes saffron is dyed to give that red color cooks want. This is not good. You want to look for the real thing - the saffron thread should be red, but the tips should be slightly lighter in color.

Enjoy the color and fragrance of saffron in your favorite food tonight...

Wendy Kiang-Spray is a blogger and gardener in Rockville, MD. She is a high school counselor by day and a landscape architect and master gardener by night in my dreams.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Buy, Listen, and Visit Local in DC

This is BUY LOCAL DC Week and Washington Gardener Magazine is featured in the Washington City Paper guide to supprting the local economy. See for all the wonderful local businesses you can visit online and in person to take care of all your holiday shopping this year.

Last Friday, the Gardening With Kathy Jentz: December Chores segment aired on WAMU 88.5 Metro Connection Show, with repeats over the weekend. It is posted online now here: In a week or so, it will move to the Archives area of the radio station web site and you'll just need to search on "Jentz" for that segment link and all the older ones to pop up for you.

You can save a stamp and a paper envelope by bringing your renewal, new subscription, or gift subscription orders and payment to me in person this coming week in the heart of WDC. I'll be helping my brother out at his "Jentz Prints" booth at the DC Holiday Market. Come by to see me on Mon 12/7, Wed 12/9, and Fri 12/11 from 10:30am-12noon. Look for booth #4, which is close to the 9th street side of the market and very near the mini doughnuts. Just follow the heavenly smell.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Honest Scrap Award

This past weekend, I found out that Wendy Kiang-Spray of blog fame selected me for the "Honest Scrap Award." I did a Google search on it and I'm not sure where it started, but the idea is that you share honest bits of information about yourself.

The award has two components. You have to first list 10 honest things about yourself (and make them interesting), and second present the award to seven other bloggers.

Here are 10 honest things about me:

- I have been watching All My Children since 1978. Yes, I was 10 years old when I got hooked on the Nina and Cliff love story. I think Erika was on only her 3rd husband at that time.

- I creeps me out when I go to someone's home and they have no pets, plants, or books. It feels like a hotel or furniture showroom -- empty and cold.

- I wish I was born either 20 years earlier or later, my generation (Gen X) really got the shaft.

- I'm an eco-green nut, but my greatest luxury is long, hot showers.

- I sincerely believe that the Beatles, U2, and Michael Jackson are seriously over-rated.

- I won't sleep in any hotel room above the 12th floor.

- I'm a proud and unrepentant re-gifter.

- I don't judge people on their cars, clothing, neighborhood, etc. but I sure will judge them and quite harshly on their taste in comedians and movies.

- I think my cat is cuter than your baby.

- I don't mind at all (and sometimes prefer) going to the movies myself, but I dread going to sit-down restaurants alone.

Here are the 7 other bloggers I've dubbed Honest Scrap Awardees. (I hope none were previously awarded!)
- Julie at
- Lydia at
- Dan at
- Jessica at
- Helen at
- Gila at
- Christa at

SOME of these folks I've nominated 'cause the need to get a more recent blog post up hint, hint. :-)

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Reach Local Gardeners with Washington Gardener Magazine

Our new Washington Gardener Magazine editorial calendar, advertising details, and promotional opportunities are now posted in this easy-to-read PDF. We are always open to outside-the-box partnering as well. Contact us anytime to discuss your ideas.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Homegrown Thanksgiving Feast Round-Up

I asked my gardening friends on Facebook and Twitter as well as on our Washington Gardener yahoo discussion list to tell me what they gave grown in their gardens that will end up on their Thanksgiving tables this past Thursday. For my own part, it was just decor -- dried hydrangea, various seedheads, gourds, etc. Though reading through the many replies, I could have done herbs as well. Now giving myself the V-8 forehead slap! Here is a summary of the replies:

Peppers (green and red).
~ Mary F

Parsley, oregano, bee-u-ti-ful kale, potatoes + maybe carrots
~ @wormlady

Pumpkins I grew will be in my pies, sweet potatoes (with maple syrup we made), corn relish that I canned earlier
~ @lisamackhill

Beets w/ greens, pickled lemon cukes, butternut sq -- Oh--forgot the dried corn for cornmeal stuffing!
~ @purloinedletter

Great question! Unfortunately my "garden" consists entirely of decorative houseplants, none of which will be on people's plates
~ @elevenisacharm

Parsley, sage, green onions are all making it into the dinner.
~ @reddirtramblin

Sage, rosemary, leeks, and Brussels sprouts from my garden will be part of our dinner.
~ @C_Vanderlinden

Beans and herbs! Also pork and chicken which have occasionally spent time uninvited in the garden...
~ Holly Heintz Budd

Pumpkin for the pumpkin pie; raspberries in the raspberry pie; mesclun and lettuce for the salad; freshly steamed broccoli; carrots and rutabaga slices as crudites; and mashed potatoes.
~ Denny Schrock

Fresh rosemary on the turkey.
~ Stephanie Simpson

Decor is good. I will use some rosemary and sage and...drum roll...chestnuts - plus decor.
~ Helen Yoest

Sage, rosemary, thyme, chives, carrots, onions
~ Miriam Brescia

Sage, rosemary and thyme. The parsley is from Eastern Market . . .
~ MD Smith

Yes, I am using the sage and rosemary,
~ Dene

Parsley, thyme, turnip greens. Still got kale going. Separate thought of use for decorative cabbage/kale - I bought a bouquet at Whole Foods that I love – decorative cabbage cut up the stem so it looks like a bouquet. I love that look and idea.
~ Kit

Cauliflower (two large ones), brussel sprouts (baked with bacon and pecans), sage, and rosemary
~ Trudy
So what do you grow this year that ended up on your havest feast table?

Disclaimer: that is NOT my table pictured here, but one of my relative's. Those of you who know me well, know I don't even have a formal dining room!

Monday, November 23, 2009

How to Gather Seeds and other Winter Prep Chores

Continuing on my video posting kick, here are links to a few videos I filmed with last year. Enjoy!

How to Winterize Your Vegetable Garden

Save Seeds Before Winter

Winterize a Vegetable Garden - Last Harvest

Sow a Cover Crop and Mulch Before Winter

Create a New Garden Bed Without Digging

How to Clean & Preserve Garden Tools

Winterize a Vegetable Garden - Shutting Off Water Sources

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Brookside Garden of Lights Video Preview

Washington Gardener Magazine is a sponsor again this year of Brookside Gardens annual Garden of Lights Show. This video preview is just a small sample of what you'll see. Turn up the volume so you can hear the pig, frog, and other woodland creatures. The event runs nightly from November 27 through January 3 (with the exception of December 24 & 25th). Hours are 5:30 to 9:00pm, with the last car admitted at 8:30pm. Admission is $15 or $20 per car/van depending on what night you attend. You drive in (squeeze in all your family and friends), then get out and walk so bundle up!

BTW, You can enter our Reader Contest for a chance to win a free pass to the Garden of Lights Show! Scroll back through our recent blog posts to find the link to our November '09 issue of the Washington Gardener Enews, open it, read the online issue, and see how easy it is to enter.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Gather Your Garden Vignettes

Yesterday I met with our photo contet judge and a past multiple contest winner for tea, we three discussed possible changes to the Washington Gardener Photo Contest for our next round. We ended up concluding we need to add a fourth category to our Washington Gardener Photo Contest:

Garden Vignettes

This is a new class for those images that fall between the wide Garden Views (landscape scenes) and the macro Small Wonders (flower or plant part close-ups). Examples of Garden Vignettes include groupings of plants in beds or containers, unusual color or texture combinations, garden focal points, and still scenes.
In case you are OCD and wondering what the other category is to make it a total of four, it is Garden Creatures, which can be at any composition size. You see I had to separate the creature photos out after the first year of the contest when the judges and I realized there was an abundance of burd, butterfly, squirrel, etc. entries and they were beating out all the beautiful flowers and funky plant parts. For a garden-themed photo contest, that was just not right, so we gave them their own special category.

Pictured here are some of our past winners. These are among my favorites because they show that garden photos need not all be taken during the first week of May nor should they all be tight close-ups of a red rose. Our judges give equal wait to the following criteria when evaluating the entries: technical merit, composition, impact, and creativity.

Now is a good time to gather and sort your images. Note that eligible entries must have been taken in the 2009 calendar year in a garden setting within 150-mile radius of Washington, DC. The entry period will start on January 1 and you have just a few weeks to submit your winning photos. They are judged and then announced at the end of January at our annual Washington Gardener Seed Exhange. Full details and rules will come shortly...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Unusual Colors for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day

The rains have finally stopped from that darn Nor'easter spawned by Hurrican Ida and I could get out a take some pics for today's Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. What I found was lots still in bloom including the Mutabilis (Chinese butterfly) rose, PJM rhododendrons (pictured at left), alyssum, impatiens, lantana, etc. But also lots of interesting colors in plants I don't normally think of for autumn interest, like these:


Crape Myrtle

Lily of the Valley


Friday, November 13, 2009

Things I've Dug Up

A couple of days ago I tweeted (and FBed) a question: What is oddest thing you've dug up while gardening? Here are the collected answers from the cute to the macabre to the downright bizarre:

TheNatrlCaptl: A Masonic ring. And horseshoes, about 10" deep.

tinkhanson: I found a civil war cannon shell digging in our yard, unexploded - still have it

bcbolin: We are down the hill from Bunker Hill Road (very old road b/t Bladensburg port & Georgetown) & we've found canister shot

Plantweenie: We dug up about 50 pairs of panty creepy. All while trying to plant one shrub.
OurLittleAcre: I once found a door peephole thing while planting a tree. Odd, since this was native woods before house was built in 1975. That peephole thing made a great gazing ball stand (w/ a marble on top) in a fairy garden!

AdrienneB: A dead mouse, which promptly ended my gardening.

For my own digging, I mostly find pennies, small plastic toys, pieces of old bottles and ceramics, and lots of metal things like door hinges, large engine screws, sections of old pipes, etc. Nothing crazy, but I have many more years of digging to go.

Then there are all the things I have not had to "dig" for per se, but were thrown into my yard by creeps and the careless, which I then discover under shrubs or in the groundcover-- crystal brandy tumblers, baby blankets, tennis balls, condoms, broken bike locks, credit cards, school papers, the odd earring.

One day I found a Greyhound ticket to Texas dated for the following week. I walked it over to the bus station a few blocks away. They were not exactly enthused about getting it turned in. I suppose I could have sold it and the people in line there told me I was crazy not to (apparently it has some street value), but I naively thought whoever was visiting and lost it might retrace their steps and check back at the station for it. Next time, if there is one, I'll do it differently.

What have you found in your gardening adventures?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Call me MS. New Regional Director

I'm the new Region II Director for the Garden Writers Association. I join my fellow Region II Directors, Denise Cowie and Steve Maurer, in setting the regional meetings and programs. Region II is compact, it contains the Mid-Atlantic states of DC, MD, DE, PA NJ, and PA, but annoyingly does not include northern Virginia. (That is a long story for another time.) We are the smallest region by land area, though our membership numbers are high and we are one of most active. It doesn't hurt that we are an easy day trip to each other and we host one of the GWA's biggest regional meetings at the Philadelphia Flower Show each year.

How did I get this prestigious post you might ask? I said I'd do it. As in most things in life, I showed up, I piped up, then I was picked out. The squeaky wheel gets the grease. I'm thinking this MAY be a case of "be careful what you wish for." Only a few weeks into the volunteer leadership position, I have received a big notebook of rules to be observed, endured an over two hour conference call with our executive leadership, and received numerous requests for regional meetings by members for locations close to them. I'm hoping this is just an initial flurry and things will settle down as my newness wears off.

My reasons for doing this is that I want to see GWA change and adapt to the 21st C. This is a great group of talented garden communicators and many of them worry about the future of this profession. I see GWA's role as bringing us together to network and brainstorm ways in which we can elevate both the profile and worth of garden communicators.

If you are a garden-related book author, editor, columnist, freelance writer, photographer, landscape designer, television/radio personality, consultant, catalog publisher, extension service agent, etc. and want to learn more about GWA and joining the Association, don't hesistate to drop me a note.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Five Reasons to Buy Locally Grown Plants

See my guest blog on Locally Grown Plants for Homestead Gardens at their new store blog here. Susan Harris of Garden Rant set this up and edits it for Homestead.

I took this photo last fall at Homestead's Davidsonville, MD, location. For anyone who says pansies and ornamental cabbage are boring, I say look again. The key here is planting in abundance and with a keen eye for color. Love the addition of lime green fillers to this display to make it really pop.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Local Retail Friendly

We are proud to announce that the Natural Art Garden Center at 27358 Old Valley Pike, Toms Brook, VA, is our newest local retailer carrying current issues of Washington Gardener Magazine. Lynn Phillip's manager of the new store and I met and chatted through Twitter. Who says that tweeting is just a waste of time? Thea brand new garden center in the Shenandoah Valley is all about creating art in your landscapes. Perennials, annuals, vegetables arrive each week with the newly budding and ready to go in your garden.

If you are a local DC-area/Mid-Atlantic retailer and are interested in having Washington Gardener for sale in your store, please do not hesitate to contact us at 301.588.6894 or wgardenermag (a) or via Twitter at WDCGardener.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Fall Fireworks at Brookside Gardens

Spectactular Fall Fireworks are on display now at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, MD. Entry is FREE as is parking. You can get there by taking metro to Glenmont on the Red line or by Metro/Rideon bus to stops on nearby Georgia Ave or Randolph Road, then you'll walk about a mile downhill to the entrance. It is open every day of the year from sunrise to sunset.

On my Facebook page I put together two preview slideshows of the current Mum Show running in the Conservatory and of the Fall Colors throughout the gardens. Enjoy the fireworks while they last, both displays are fleeting and should be enjoyed now.
On a side note:

Michaeleen Farrington of Springfield, VA is our October 2009 Washington Gardener Reader Contest winner chosen at random from the email entries. She is getting a one-pound bag of ENCAP’S All-In-One Flower Kit Butterfly & Hummingbird mix (worth $6.95 plus postage) that covers up to 50 sq.ft. and contains seed, mulch and soil conditioner in the mix.

ENCAP’S All-In-One Flower Kits contain their patented Advanced Soil Technology™ (AST™) that improves soil structure by creating millions of microscopic "spaces" in your soil that will: help water soak in better and stay longer; help seed germination by allowing more sunlight to warm the soil; and, helps soil and nutrients stay in place to enhance root system development. The Seed Watering Technology™ (SWT™) tells you when and how much to water. Special crystals imbedded in the mixture absorb water and sparkle in the sunlight to tell you when you’ve watered enough.

Congratulations to Michaeleen and thanks to all our entries!
We will announce our November Washington Gardener Reader Contest on 11/15 in our monthly Washington Gardener Enewsletter. If you would like to get our free monthly Enewsletter, just send your email to us at WashingtonGardener (at) to be added to the Enewsletter distribution list. The Enewsletter is a sister-publication to the Washington Gardener Magazine and includes different, but complementary, content than the print publication.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Pretty Poison

On this All Hallow's Eve, I bring you photos of a truly frightening plant -- the lovely native vine known as Poison Ivy. This time of year in the DC-area it is turning a marvelous rainbow of colors, making it very easy to spot in your lawn grass, leaf piles, or browning perennial borders. It is a vine, but it can also disguise itself as a spreading groundcover or even as a seedling tree. Don't confuse it with another color-turning, native vine, Virginia Creeper, which is stunning in fall, but has a quite different leaf shape and growth habit.

This is the best time of year to catch up before it takes over next spring and you are no longer easily able to distinguish from all the other new, green things. My control method is similar to a hazmat team. Before I even start, I open up my clothes washer and set a path from door to the washer and to my shower so that I do not have to touch any walls, doorknobs, light switches, etc. to get to them after exposure. I put on leather gardening gloves then grab some newspaper sleeve bags. I pull those on my hands up to my elbows and then put rubberbands over to keep them in place. I often double-bag my arms to be sure of no break-through. I then get grocery bags and rip out the poison ivy and put it in one bag, then double that bag. Then carefully peel off my arm bags and place them and the poison ivy-filled bags in another bag for good measure. Never, ever compost it or burn it.

Note that I took all of these photos this morning in one 20-yard patch of Poison Ivy on the edge of a park and a state highway in Montgomery County, Maryland. The amount of color variation is amazing and runs from bright yellow-green to dark green through yellow to oranges and burgundy red. This is just feet from a playground and a metro bus stop, so BEWARE in your travels and haunts where you step! Have a wonderful Halloween!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Future of Community Gardens in DC and Beyond

I wrote this Guest Blog for the USDA web site in early September, I'm not sure if they ever posted it or where to link if they did, so I'm posting it here as well so that you all can read and share your thoughts on the future of local community gardens.

The last week of August was proclaimed Community Gardening Week by USDA Sec. Vilsack, and the new People’s Garden project outside the USDA headquarters fronting on the National Mall was a perfect place to discuss community garden in the greater DC-area and take a long at its future. I joined a local farmer and USDA staff to talk about growing tomatoes, maximizing your harvest, and community gardening.

At Washington Gardener Magazine, we are seeing the requests for community garden plot space double each year. We see this trend generated not so much by economics as it is by a desire to be able to be in touch with the Earth and living a more simple, sustainable life-style. Going a step beyond buying local or organic, gardeners that grow their own food have complete control of its production and feel a real sense of accomplishment.

Land use issues are prohibiting many potential gardeners from growing where they live. From Home Owner Associations to small town ordinances, folks are fighting rules that prohibit front yard edible gardens. Many must turn to community garden plots to provide needed growing space. Those in apartments, rental homes, in shady older neighborhoods, etc. are also seeking out community garden plots to grow in.

In a related trend, urban land owners are offering their un-used yards to neighbors who want to grow, but may not have the space. Web sites that match landowners with potential gardeners are springing up in cities across the nation. Many ask for a small share of what is grown in exchange for the land use. This is a win-win for everyone

One new trend in community garden is combining plots and working them together to share the harvest. Instead of each gardener having their own small area, they pool the land and decide as a group what will be grown that season.

Another new trend is urban farming. In which a group buys up a piece of unused land with the express purpose of growing edibles and dividing up the produce among the share-holders. Sometimes they sell the excess produce at local farmer’s markets or grow for an express purpose such as a food bank donation.
School gardens are an expanding trend. Many schools use gardens for teaching science, math, art, etc. and now they are growing food in them to supplement what children are eating in their cafeterias. Colleges are also jumping in by allowing students to set aside a portion of their campuses for community gardens.

All of these community garden trends are converging and the result is that more Americans are gardening. Learning about food, and eating what they grow.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Learn about Urban Trees and How to Winterize Your Garden

I have two upcoming talks. Both are free to attend and are open to the general public.

This Wednesday, 10/28, at 7:30pm in the James E Duckworth School located at 11201 Evans Trail in Beltsville, MD, I will be at the Beltsville Garden Club meeting giving my talk on Trees and Shrubs for the Small Garden. This talk was postponed from last January due to bad weather, I just know Mother Nature will be kind to us this go-round.

On Saturday, 11/7, at 1:00pm at the Historical Society of Washington, DC, I'll present How to Winterize Your Garden. This will be the last of the DC Urban Garden series talks for the year. Attendance at this one will be a BIG determining factor in whether we continue this free series of talks in 2010, so please spread the word.

Friday, October 23, 2009

WaPo Goes LoCo

So the new Local Living insert to the Washington Post came out yesterday. Basically, it combines the two Thursday inserts -- Home and Extra -- into one. Home includes the paper's gardening section. It has its pros and cons.

- Love the tabloid format. Wish the whole paper made the leap to that sizing when it launched its news look this week. So much easier to read on Metro or the bus. Easier to store in my tote bag, spread out on the table while enjoying with a tea, etc.
- Like that all the columns from both previous versions were kept. I'd be really mad about losing the Animal Doctor, Dr Gridlock, Digging In, etc.
- Lots of color ink splashed about and actual white space used. Much less crampy feeling than the test of the "new" Post.

- The cover design makes it look like an advertorial section, like the real estate sections of other papers. Many will throw it out without reading it. The ad banner across the bottom further cheapens it. It doesn't help that Long Windows does almost idenitical ad on the Washington Examiner.  Does the Post really want to invite those copycat comparisons?
- There are already layout glitches, Barbara Damrosch's header (at least in my MoCo edition) is completed botched and unreadable by some overprinting. Also, I see several places where a column header is missing or duplicated. I assume these kinks will be worked out.
- Section dividers looks like this: ///////////////////. Couldn't a more elegant or whimsical divider design have been used? This one just looks like a bad school newsletter done using Notepad.
- The black ink sketches of columnist look old-fashioned and just not friendly. Give us a nice, new color photo and would a half-smile kill anyone? What the sketches DO point out is how many older, white men write for the Post. Surprise!
- In their own words, it will cover "personal health and family matters." First, there already is a health section. Second, what the heck are "family matters?" Which ones of those two areas does gardening fall under? This phrase is bordering on insulting. You might as well have just said "women's issues" and "not important fluff" and be honest about the condescension.
- The "Going Out Guide" only covers what is in my county. For someone who lives within a few yards of the city border and less than a mile from another county, I find this ridiculous and arbitrary. Events in Derwood do not interest me, but events in College Park and Adams-Morgan do. I'm not asking for multiple editions broken down by what is close by to every single zip code, but at least acknowledge that most of us do not spend our lives within just one county's border and be more inclusive in "local" area event listings.

My Verdict: C-
What grade do you assign it?

And on a related note, the WaPo Garden Book is available to PostPoints members for just 500 points. Other PostPoints awards are 2,000 points for a $5 gift card. So by my calculations 25% of $5 is $1.50. Now THAT is a sale considering the cover price is $18.95 for this 1998 publication. I got mine at a used book store for maybe $2.50, but I still see it  for sale at local book stores full price. This makes me wonder if the Post is just clearing out their inventory or whether there is a new edition in the works making the old version soon obsolete.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Who Gonna Check Me Baby Boo?

Love these Baby Boo pumpkins! If I have 10, I want 20. Never enough! Not very "Zen" of me, I know, but "tiny & cute" brings that harvest greed out in me.

My "Feng Shui in the Garden" article in Pathways Magazine's Fall 09 issue that came out last month is online now here -- scroll to pages 59-61.
Also, an article on "Apple Picking Time" I did for the TP/SS Voice this month is online here.

You can still read either issue the old-fashioned way -- in print and for free. Both publications are available at street boxes and in pick-up bins all over DC and the suburbs. I get mine at the Whole Foods in downtown Silver Spring.

Monday, October 19, 2009

New Fall 2009 Issue Out: Apples, Anemones, & Persimmons

The Fall 2009 issue of Washington Gardener Magazine has been printed and mailed. This issue’s theme includes apple-growing tips for the Mid-Atlantic, a trip to Green Spring Gardens, and dealing with invasive bamboo.

In this issue is our PlantProfile on Japanese Anemone, a fall favorite. Several of the bloom photos are from your editor’s own garden.

We also cover Saving Tomato Seeds (yes, you can do-it-yourself), visit the USDA People’s Garden, spotlight the Eastland Gardens Flower Club, and focus on the Native Meehan’s Mint.

We share tips on battling Apple Tree Pests, stopping Squash Vine Borer, and propagating Sweet Potato Vine.

Do your tastes run to the more exotic? You’ll love our EdibleHarvest column on growing Persimmons, which includes a guide to the best Persimmon varieties.

Our Before-After piece is all about a “Sexy and Sustainable” front yard in northwest Washington, DC.

In the “Did You Know” category, we share the latest research on a link between visiting public gardens and senior health. We also share a study on the rapid spread of invasive weeds in western Maryland that points the finger at roadside maintenance crews.

Finally, we interview Michael Twitty, an heirloom gardener and expert in local Afro-American foodways. He helps dispell the myths and misconceptions many people have about traditional African-American gardens.

To subscribe to our magazine: Send a check/money order for $20.00 payable to “Washington Gardener” magazine to: Washington Gardener, 826 Philadelphia Ave., Silver Spring, MD 20910 OR to pay via Paypal/credit card click on the subscribe link.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blog Action Day - What's Blooming in My Garden

In honor of Blog Action Day theme of Climate Change and Garden Blogger's Boom Day, I'm proud to add this new blue "bloom" to my garden. Washington Gardener Magazine is all about being green and I've made great strides in making the print publications environmentally friendly including used 50% recycled paper and soy ink in our printing, but I'm always looking for ways to improve our energy and resource efficiency. I've talked, blogged, and wrote letters to the editor many times before about my efforts to source locally and with the least impact on the environment as possible. This past week my final paperwork was processed switching the Washington Gardener headquarters (i.e. my house) to 100% wind power energy, hence the new blue "flower" in the garden.
   On my wish list now is adding a second rain barrel for my side edible garden, too bad I don't have it already today. As you can see in the photo, we are getting a half-inch today and more over the next few days. Hope my new plantings are happy!

Friday, October 09, 2009

DC School Garden Photo Contest Winners

Here at last are the winners of the DC School Garden Photo Contest Winners. I had the tough job of judging from among the many excellent entries along with fellow judges Lisa Helfert, Karen Helfert, and Christa Carignan. We announced the winners at the DC School Garden Week Kick-off Event this past Monday at Watkins ES in SE, WDC very near Eastern Market and Capitol Hill. To see a slideshow of the kick-off event go here. Many of the young winners were present along with their proud parents and siblings. The winning photos will likely be on display later this year at the MLK Library near Gallery Place in WDC. Stuned for an invite to that.

Without further ado, here are the winners:

A Category (K-2nd grade)

1st place and Grand Prize: Caitlin Cooper - 2nd grade at Horace Mann "Golden Flight"

2nd place: Katie Brady - 2nd grade at Horace Mann "Spring Awakening"

3rd place: Inrid Hager - 2nd grade at Horace Mann "Yucca Buds"

Honorable Mention: Marco Shaik - 1st grade at Horace Mann "Sunny Bee"

Honorable Mention: Dmitri Vassilion -1st grade at Horace Mann "Good Morning Butterfly"

B Category (3rd - 5th grade)

1st Place: Cardea Bannister - 5th Grade at Draper Elementary "Beautiful"

2nd Place: Christina Range - 5th Grade at Horace Mann "Waiting for Spiderslings"

3rd Place: Camille McDermott - 5th Grade at Horace Mann "A Bounty of Beauty"

Honorable Mention: Lashaun Wilkins - 4th Grade at Achievement Prep "Dreams at the Sky"

Honorable Mention: Shade Carter - 5th Grade at Achievement Prep "Sweet and Nothing"

Honorable Mention: Latrell Reed - 3rd Grade at J.O. Wilson Elementary "Yellow Paradise"

C category (6th - 8th grade)

1st place: Monay Minor - 7th grade Barbara Jordan "My Flower"

2nd place: Justin Neely - 6th grade Ferebee Hope "Storm"

3rd place: Cedric Harper - 6th grade Barbara Jordan "Great Green"

Honorable Mention: Moshay Minor - 7th grade Barbara Jordan "Moshay's Flowers"

D category (9th - 12th grade)

1st place: Rocio Ramirez - Cardozo

2nd place: Laneisha McCauley - Cardozo

3rd place: Kimberley Caldera - Cardozo

Honorable Mention: Joel Gibson - BJCPS "My Little Tree"

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