Thursday, January 29, 2009

Seed Exchange FAQ

I have been getting a number of emails and phone calls about this Saturday's Washington Gardener Seed Exchange. I thought I'd put together the following FAQ. Feel free to pass it on to any fellow gardeners:

- Yes, you can still register. We have plenty of spaces open. The preregistration to have the forms mailed has ended, you can still fill out the registration form and bring it with payment to the event starting at 12:00noon on Saturday. The form is posted here:

- No, you don't have to bring seeds. It is great though if you do bring them. You can bring unused seeds from purchased packs or seeds you gathered from your own garden. Carefully pack and label your seeds as best you can. The more information you can provide, the better. More details on seed packing and labeling are on the registration form.

- The event is at Brookside Gardens and parking should be plentiful for our event. It is near the Glenmont metro and the walk is not far, however it is not that nice a walk as you have to cross busy roads. We recommend a quick cab ride as no buses serve the park area.
Here is a link to directions and a map:
We will be in the Visitor Center in the Main Auditorium.
There is additional parking down the hill at the Conservatory.

- We recommend eating lunch before coming. We will be serving a healthy, light snack break mid-way through the event -- fruit, granola bars, etc. We have spring water - if you have a travel mug, bottle, or cup you like, please bring that to fill up. We will have some plastic/paper cups on hand, but are trying to keep this event as “green” as possible.

- We will have generic blank name tags -- if you have your own name tag from work or another event, by all means bring it. Again, we are trying to recycle and make this event eco-friendly. We may do prizes for the most creative name tags :-).

- When you get your goody bag at check-in, please make sure to label it with your name -- all the bags look alike and can get easily mixed up. Bringing a few sheets of those personalized address labels you get with charity mailings will come in handy for this and for labeling your seed packets, giving out your contact information to fellow gardeners, etc.

- If you are bringing seed catalogs for our give-away table, be sure to rip off the address labels and tear out any order insert with your personal information on it.

- We screen incoming seeds and do not accept any invasives listed in the "Plant Invaders of Mid-Atlantic Natural Areas" booklet from the National Park Service. See the listing at:

- Here is the updated event schedule as of 1/29/09*:
12:00-12:30 Registration and seed drop off to WG Staff & Volunteers
12:30-12:35 Introductory remarks and overview - Kathy Jentz, Washington Gardener magazine
12:35-1:25 “What happened to growing things from seeds? The Forgotten Annuals” presented – Janet L. Draper, Horticulturist, Smithsonian Institution
1:30-2:00 “Seeds Timing – What to Start When” – Cindy Brown, Green Spring Gardens
2:00-2:30 Refreshment Break & Seed Swap Preview
2:30-3:00 Seed Show & Tell**
3:00-3:30 Seed Swap!
3:30-3:45 Garden Photo Contest Winners Presentation
3:45-4:00 Final Door Prizes and closing remarks - Kathy Jentz Washington Gardener magazine

*As with all live events, the schedule is subject to last minute change.

**Show & Tell participation is voluntary. We encourage you to introduce yourself, share some fun facts and background on the seeds you bring, or tell us about any local garden projects or groups that you are involved in.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

How Cool is DC?

Ice cold! And these photos from this morning in my garden are proof. Seriously though, move over NY, step aside London, there is undoubtedly a new center of the universe that has taken main stage and it is located at 38.85 latitude and 77.04 longitude. Yes, Washington, DC has taken its rightful place

Adrian Loving had this to say in last Friday's WaPo Weekend section article asking local hipsters, "What are you looking forward to in D.C. night life in 2009?":

"... appreciate and establish D.C.'s own identity instead of always trying to always compare itself to Miami or L.A. or New York. We are beautiful and the hottest city in America right now!"

Can I get an "Amen!" to that?! Truly DC has grown far beyond the copycat wannabe of old and needs to start acting like the trendsetter and international focal point it now is.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Touring the National Agricultural Library

I arranged for 6 local garden clubs (about 50 individuals came) to tour the National Agricultural Library (NAL) last Saturday morning. A great way to spend a dull winter Saturday. Hey, it will never be on the DC tourist Top 10 list or anything, but it is definitely worth a few hours of your time to come and explore.

The NAL staff did a wonderful job showing us around. We started at the top floor for views to as far away as the Washington Monument and National Cathedral. Then a talk on one of the 19th C artists the USDA employed for their pomology collection. Afterwards, we split into five groups and circulated among stations around the building.

My group learned that this high tower out in the field is often used for Secret Service training exercises. We also were shown some rare items in the Special Collections by Susan Fugate. My favorite is a journal of the weekly "tramps" to local DC-area natural attractions in the early 20th C by Baltimore botanist, Charles C. Plitt, and his fellow teacher friends. They carefully recorded everything they observed on these treks. I think we should bring those "tramps" back.

We often take for granted what is right in our own backyards. It is paid for by YOUR tax dollars so definitely get by and take advantage. It is open M-F 8:30-4:00 (except Federal holidays). All you need do is show your ID. If you want to access the special collections, you'll need to make an appointment, but that is pretty easy to do as well.

Here is what some tour attendees had to say:

The tour was wonderful, especially seeing the originals and other rare items up on the 5th floor. - Dan

It was indeed a fabulous experience! Thanks, Kathy, for introducing us to this wonderful resource. - Taffy

Kathy, thank you so much for putting together the great trip to the National Agricultural Library today (Saturday). It is a treasure right here on our own back yard. The library staff and volunteers worked hard to get all the exhibits, handouts and logistics in place for us. I think anyone who missed this trip and is interested, might want to visit during the week during business hours. And Udupi Restaurant, where some of us had lunch [afterwards] is one of the best vegetarian restaurants in our area. - Carole
Oh, I know that you have heard it many times about the NAL tour..................WONDERFUL. A great way to spend a winter's day could have stayed for hours with the interesting NAL folks and the amazing material. Thanks a bunch. - Mike

That was truly a delight, and I knew nothing about it before. Wow, such a resource. Thank you. - Jeff

Friday, January 23, 2009

Radio Days

Mike McGrath at WTOP has been a great friend to Washington Gardener Magazine and our Seed Exchange. Today he has been giving great airtime to our upcoming event. Go here to read his brief write-up. His segment should re-air on Saturday too.

I also was interviewed about the current "Compost Happens" theme issue on WAMU's Metro Connection today and that should re-air on Saturday as well. It is archived at this link so you can listen to it anytime online at your leisure.

I'm spending today taking inventory of the sponsor donations for the Seed Exchange's goody bags and door prizes. Many of them have been so generous! They include these recent additions:

Goody Bags
150 Gardener Idea Books from Proven Winners
150 Honeybear seed packs from Johnny’s Select Seeds
150 Encore lettuce seed packs from Johnny’s Select Seeds
150 Rudbeckia Cherry Brandy seed packs from Thompson & Morgan

Door Prizes
T-shirts from Urban Solar Solutions
Cordless Electric Cultivator from Black & Decker
Buckets of potting soil and compost from Pogo Organics

Trudi Davidoff at Wintersown just emailed me and said: "I sent 150 envelopes, inside each is a brochure with info on how to clean tomato seeds, six packs of tomato seeds---everyone gets three reds, a green-when-ripe, a yellow, and a paper packet of seeds (labeled) that has been donated to WinterSown from an ability-impaired advocacy group, and a slip of paper with an address for anyone who wants to donate seeds to WinterSown." Aren't you just drooling right now?

I'll be glad to have my office and storage space back after the the 31st! :-)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Travel to Italy without the High Costs and Long Flight

I've been thinking about "staycations" lately and how much I really do enjoy sticking around home, kicking back, and maybe getting a few long postponed projects done like building that three-room birdhouse kit I have stashed in the utility closet. After all, I have no hotel bed is more comfortable or luxurious than my own. But everyone else in a while you do feel the wanderlust and need to get out and experience something fresh and new, that is where the daytrip comes in. We do a daytrip story in every issue of Washington Gardener Magazine and most everyone I've taken and vetted personally so I know they are worthwhile.

In addition, we occasionally host our own daytrips to area attractions. Something I want to expand on this year. First up this year is that we'll once again be going up to the Philadelphia Flower Show. The trip is organized by Cheval's Garden Tours and you can get the full details here. The theme of this year's event is Bella Italia and I was thinking that with this current economic climate that this is as close to Italy as I will get to for some time, so why not make the most of it? I'm going to treat this as my real European vacation this year. I'm going to bone up on my Italian phrases and while there dine on nothing but Italian treats. I'm not sure exactly how to "dress Italian" -- perhaps a Versace knock-off silk scarf will do. I also plan on listening to some Puccini to get in the mood. I hope you will consider joining us.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Welcome to the White House

Librarians rule. Period. I had time to kill last Tuesday afternoon between appointments and went into the MLK Library near Gallery Place to catch up on some reading. On my way out, a display of Inauguration-related books caught my eye and right up front was "White House Landscapes" by Barbara McEwan. How have we missed this resource in all our White House lawn and edible garden discussions? It is copyrighted 1992, but is still fresh and very relevant. She goes right up through the first Bush's administration and her research is spot on.

I grabbed it, checked it out, and perused it that night. Turns out Ms. McEwan lives in Virginia and thanks to some google-sleuthing by fellow garden writer, C.L. Fornari, I spoke to Barbara briefly by phone. She is 82 now and retired from garden writing and speaking. Which is too bad, as I'd have loved to tap her for some local talks. She was not aware of the movement to get the White House lawn to be organic and to add a real edible garden to the estate. "Oh, how intriguing," was her comment. She is online and I hope will respond to this post with her 2 cents on current White House landscape plans.

Some juicy bits from her book that may interest our new President as he decides what to do with the vast amount of White House lawn:

"Before he and Abigail moved to the yet unfinished White House in the new capital city of Washington, Adams demanded only one thing be accomplished by the time they arrived in the fall of 1800: He must have a vegetable garden to supply food for the coming winter. Landscaping was left to his friend and successor, Thomas Jefferson."

"...during Polk's and Taylor's tenures the President's Park was still under the experienced and capable hands of John Ousley and Jemmy Maher. (William Whalen was no longer working as a kitchen gardener by the time Polk arrived.) The two men continued the landscaping plans set forth under Andrew Jackson. Maher, the more enterprising, has his own nursery business to supplement his government income. This relegated Ousley to the role of secondary player in maintaining the grounds. Even had either been inclined to do more, a tight budget provided by Congress would have prevented any new major project. Ousley in effect was a general maintenance man, taking care of his flowers, vegetables, orangery, and lawn, providing the residents of the great house with food and visual enjoyment when it was wanted. The extent of his additional enterprise during this period was confined to selling lawn grass to a livery stable owner, whose employees cut it for hay. A farmer was then allowed to graze his sheep, again for a fee. With the money he received, Ousley bought gardening tools and supplies.
The overall design Maher had labored to produce was now evident. Shrubs were grouped, which made them easier to water and to fence against wandering sheep and horses. Trees, still on the small side and not too many, nonetheless helped provide the proper setting for the kind of small focal points of beauty Jefferson had so much appreciated. Flowers, particularly roses, played their part but never in competition with the house itself or the expanses of lawn."

"Mrs. Mellon [commissioned by the Kennedys for a garden outside the oval office] found herself confronted with much White House history in the process of the garden's construction. Surprises occurred when the old soil was replaced with new. As the area was dig to a depth of four inches, many relics of bygone years, such as pieces of pots from the old greenhouses and Civil War horseshoes, were recovered. The biggest surprise of all was a cable of undetermined significance in one corner of the plot. It was cut -- and the diggers were immediately surrounded by security guards. Unbeknownst to the crew or Mrs. Mellon, this cable was par of the hotline that set off the nation's military alert. (In the haste of installing it during World War II its location had not been accurately recorded.)"

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Local Retail Friendly

We are proud to announce that Urban Solar Solutions in Hyattsville, MD (aka Edmonston, MD) is our newest local retailer carrying current issues of Washington Gardener Magazine. Ellen McBarnette's store is all about energy saving, green, and clean energy products. I've been running into Ellen's for years and local green and gardening events. I'm happy to be part of her newest venture in this way.

If you are a local DC-area 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)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Washington Gardener Seed Exchange 2009 Registration Opens

The Fourth Annual Washington Gardener Seed Exchange, hosted by Washington Gardener Magazine, takes place on January 31, 2009 at the Brookside Gardens visitor center in Wheaton, MD. Seed Exchange attendees trade seeds, exchange planting tips, hear expert speakers, and collect goody bags full of gardening treats.

Registrations are streaming in now and we expect a sell-out. We urge you to pre-register to guarantee yourself a spot.

The event also includes such “green” features as the garden book and catalog swap. Participants are encouraged to bring their gently used garden books and mailorder garden catalogs to trade with each other. Any leftover publications at the end of the swap are donated to the National Agriculture Library in Beltsville, MD.

The first annual Washington Gardener Seed Exchange was held on January 26, 2006. After that event’s success, seed swaps in other cities across the nation have joined in celebrating National Seed Swap Day each year on the last Saturday in January.

Subscribers to Washington Gardener Magazine receive a $5 discount off the admission to the Washington Gardener Seed Exchange. The event is limited to 125 attendees and is expected to sell out. Registrations are encouraged to send in their registrations by January 26.

A PDF of the registration form is linked here. Please print it and fill it out, then mail it along with payment by January 26. If you cannot view or download the PDF, send an email to washingtongardener (a) to have the form sent directly to you.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Blustery Bloom Day a Bust

The deep-freeze sweeping the continent has reached us here in the Mid-Atlantic and no blooms are to be found for Garden Blogger's Bloom Day. Unlike last year's Jan 15 post, I have not a bloom in sight. Earlier this month I had one vinca minor flower pop open prematurely. That has long blown away though. What I do have are a lot of things about to bloom. *sigh* Here are some photos of bulb foliage popping out, winter jasmine buds, hellebore flowers emerging, and my window box pansies frozen for now. Depressingly, even indoors my paperwhites are over and my amaryllis and forced bulbs are still a few weeks away. I found one tiny white bloom on a begonia and some flower heads on the assorted coleus I'm forcing in the kitchen windows. I should really pinch back those coleus, yet right now do not have the heart to do so. I'm writing today for the Washington Gardener Enews about cut flower care. That does add a bright note of color at this drab time of year. I'll put a blog post link to that Enews story tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Photo Contest Extended to 1/22

I just now found out that the USPS may have serious disruptions in our area on 1/20 due to the inaugural. Coming after a holiday weekend with no mail on Monday (MLK day), this is giving me serious concerns regarding the entries being submitted for the Washington Gardener photo contest we run annually. Therefore, I'm extending the deadline for entry by one day to 1/22.

If you are mailing anything due next week for work or personal purposes, you might want to take similar action or check that your local post office is open. They are removing many neighborhood street postal boxes in DC as well. Here are some details from the USPS.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

The MANTS-on Family

It was like Old Home Week at MANTS yesterday. It seemed in every aisle, I heard "Hey, Kathy" and turned around to see and get a hug from someone I'd not seen in months, if not years. Many of these folks I'd interviewed for Washington Gardener or have exhibited next to at other events or just know from the local gardening world. It has made me re-think whether or not to get a booth at MANTS myself next year for the magazine as this definitely is the place to be in the local horticultural universe. I'm still waffling on whether that would be worth it for us or if being able to run-around the show untethered as I have been is the still the better option.
Pictured here are a few fun, new-to-me things are saw on the show floor. The camelia in bloom is from the Cam Too booth. The Salad Table and doghouse with green roof are both from the MD HGIC/Master Gardeners display just outside the hall. The stone wine rack, manels, pavers, etc. are all made from tufo volcanic stone from Italy. Finally, the suspended water plant baskets are from VanBloem Gardens. The tradeshow continues today and Friday -- get over there if you can.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Yes, Virginia, Compost Happens

Smart Gardeners Knows That Compost Happens
– and How to Spread It Around

For gardeners in the DC-area, soil quality is essential. Some have too much sand, but most have too much clay and the key to breaking up all that hard, red earth is rich, organic materials. Smart gardeners know that they can create clay-busting, organic matter for free from their own kitchen and yard waste. They compost. Then they spread it around. The basics of composting are outlined in the new January/February 2009 issue cover story of Washington Gardener Magazine.

Washington Gardener Magazine’s January/February 2009 issue is jam-packed full of terrific timely articles for gardeners in DC, Maryland, and Virginia. Inside it is:
· 9 New Plant Picks for 2009
· An Organic Approach to Growing Edibles
· Gardening by Mail
· Managing Stormwater with a Rain Garden
· Trifoliate Orange, A Sharp Surprise
· Visiting Virginia’s State Arboretum
· Grow Winter Hazel for Gorgeous Winter Color
· When a Dead Tree is a Good Tree
· Top Tips for Garlic Mustard Control
· Local Green Industry Events
· And much, much more.

Washington Gardener magazine ( is the gardening publication specifically for the local metro area — zones 6-7 — Washington DC and its suburbs. Washington Gardener magazine’s basic mission is to help DC area gardens grow better. The magazine is written entirely by local area gardeners. The content of the magazine gives real examples that residents of the greater DC region can use immediately in your own garden.

Washington Gardener is a local, independent, and woman-owned business based in Silver Spring, MD. The publication is dedicated to promoting the best practices for area gardening.

To subscribe to our magazine: Send a check for $20.00 payable to Washington Gardener magazine to: Washington Gardener, 826 Philadelphia Ave., Silver Spring, MD 20910 OR click on the “subscription” link at to subscribe online using a secure credit card transaction.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Flower Photo Tips and Tricks

I got a call yesterday to be on local CBS affiliate WUSA9 early this morning to talk about the 3rd Annual Washington Gardener Photo Contest and give some garden photo tips. Since I brought my camera along today as part of the talk, I thought I'd use it for a taking a few snaps of the studio during a commercial break. The photos propped up on the coffee table are some of last year's contest winners.

On the air, we gave a top 10 of garden photo tips. This is a list that I've shared with readers before. They come courtesy of our first year contest judge Josh Taylor, Jr. of Archiphoto Workshops. Here they are in case you missed it:

Top 10 Tips to Photograph Flowers
1. Above all else, photograph them in early morning or at dusk, not in bright sunlight. Flowers grow there, but don’t take photos of them in direct sun.
2. Capture them singularly as a portrait much like you would a human subject.
3. Flowers must be holding hands or kiss to photograph them in groups of two. There should be no separation between them; the petals must touch.
4. Pick groups in odd-numbered groups. When you have three flowers, they should form a triangle.
5. Select mass groupings of blooms just for the color.
6. Look for patterns in the foliage, such as veins in the leaves. Sometimes the foliage is the more attractive element in a plant.
7. Turn it over. Often the backside of a flower (where the stem junction is) makes a very impressive picture with the contrast of green against the petals.
8. Use a low camera angle, if you shoot on a day with a cloudless, clear blue sky and use it is a background to make the flower really pop.
9. Avoid dead foliage and flowers past their prime. Groom them out of the shot if possible. Seek out the insects among the flowers – examine the flower closely and choose those without blemishes or defects.
10. Hold the camera steady and avoid movement.

I'd add to this list: Have patience! Great photos take work and time.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

First Bloom of the New Year

This tiny flower appeared yesterday on my small patch of Vinca minor (common periwinkle) covering up a manhole near my back sidewalk. At least four months early and braving frigid, 55+ mph winds, it is a little New Year's miracle. The bloom is barely the size of a pea, but it stood out to me in the stark gray-brown landscape.

Pat Howell of Deephaven Landscapes in Takoma Park, MD, who we profiled in the magazine last year, does an annual what's-of-interest-in-the-garden survey among her circle at this time of year then shares it with the Takoma Voice readers. This year, she has asked me to help and gather the images that folks send along with their responses. I'll post any here that I get in a week or so. Should be interesting to see if anyone else had a spring bud or two burst open ahead of schedule.

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