Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Barbie Does Succulents

I decided to take up the Timber Press challenge and pot up some succulents yesterday. They said to "Go Wild!" but I decidedto do one tame and one more creative. The top photo is of a trip of succulents in an old metal watering can I got at a fla market years ago. Notice it is on my bench painted in "Barbie pink." That is because for my second container I went through my Barbie collection and designed a hanging container featuring her. Click on the second photo to see it at a bigger size and observe the details. I call it "Barbie Relaxes." See her sun hat flung on the end of her shovel. Coke in hand and club crackers at her side, Barbie has plopped down under an umbrella to take a well-deserved break. She's got the radio tuned to her favorite gardening show and must of the weeding is done. A basket of her favorite plant is near her side. She plans to move that indoors for a dinner party that night. Now she is thinking what new succulents she can next add to the mix.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Our 5th Anniversary Celebration is Sunday, 5.23

You are invited:

• Sunday, May 23, 2:00-3:330pm
The Future of Local Gardening Panel Discussion moderated by Kathy Jentz, Washington Gardener Magazine's editor/publisher. Come join us after the panel for cupcakes and a sip of something bubbly to mark Washington Gardener Magazine’s 5th Anniversary in print.

We will host a panel discussion on local garden trends and the future of urban gardening in the 21st. Local experts will share their views and we anticipate a lively discussion of where we’ve been and where we are headed next.
Our guest panelists are:

~ Angela Treadwell-Palmer, President of of Plants Nouveau (http://www.plantsnouveau.com/) on plants being bred now and coming soon to retail and your home garden. What exciting new traits and developments are in store?
~ John Peter Thompson of Invasive Notes (ipetrus.blogspot.com) on proposed invasive species laws and the impact of invasives and exotics. Will all non-native ornamental plants soon be banned from import?
~ Sylvia H Wright, author of From Eco-weak to Eco-chic on climate change and enviro-impacts. Is global warming going to make the Lilac a plant of the past in the Mid-Atlantic?

Washington Gardener Magazine, the gardening publication published specifically for the local metro area — Washington DC and its suburbs. We sent out our premiere issue in March/April 2005. The magazine is written entirely by local area gardeners.

This event is part of the DC Urban Gardening Talk series. Presented by Washington Gardener Magazine and the Historic Society of Washington DC. FREE to attend. This event is open to the public.

This is at the Historic Society of Washington, DC
801 K Street, NW
     at Mount Vernon Square
     Washington, DC 20001
Take the Metro or bus - just across from the DC Convention Center

If YOU were a contributor in any way to the magazine these past 5 years whether writing a book review, submitting a My Garden Story, sending in photos, etc., I'd especially like YOU to be there on Sunday so I can thank you in person for supporting the magazine.

UPDATE:  This IS a networking event and we encourage you to bring your business cards, brochures, etc., to exchange and put out on our Local Garden Information table.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Water Garden Annuals and a PINK Blueberry in the latest Washington Gardener Enews

Just published online is the May 2010 issue of Washington Gardener Enews featured inside are Annual Water Garden Plants, the new PINK blueberry, upcoming local garden events, To-Do list for the next month in the garden, and much more.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Blooming Native: Indigo Bush

I planted this Indigobush (Amorpha fruticosa) aka Desert False Indigo or River-Locust a few years ago. It is native from Connecticut to Minnesota, south to Louisiana and Florida. This bush attracts butterflies and host plant for Southern Dogface and Silver-spotted Skipper butterflies. (The bees love it too!) I got it free from some local Arbor Day event and as it was a mere twig, had little hope for it. I put it exactly where it should not go, between my house and a neighbor, until tall oaks, in very deep, dry shade. This probably keeps it in check as some online posts note it can spread by clumps and get rather weedy. Surprisingly, it has grown and stays about 6 feet. Last year, it finally flowered. I awaited those blooms with a sharp curiousity as I'd not seen one in flower before. It is quite fantastic. Large finger-sized plumes of very deep purple with orange-yellow pollen poofs in a halo about it. Unwisely, I did not take photos, that night it stormed. The next day all the blooms were gone. This year, I ran out at the first full blooms opening and took this photo yesterday for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day. Good thing too, as a massive storm with hail and high winds just rolled through this evening. I'm thinking no more blooms are on this bush, but I'm not going out to check. I'll sleep on it and see in the morning. I have yet to see it fruit and am very hoping maybe this year the nuts will form for me -- supposed to be edible and use by Indians to flavor soups. As I have this right next to my bird feeders, I don't I'd get to any before the wildlife does, but if I do, I'll be sure to let you know about my first taste.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Steal This Idea - Pt 1 - Stuff in the Edibles

We are in the midst of the Mid-Atlantic regions garden tour season and that means I'm spending a lot of time taking pics in othe people's private gardens and not much time in my own. I don't mind though, as I always pick up at least one new idea from every tour I attend. This year, I determined I'll share as many of those ideas as I can with you here on the blog, so first up in our "steal this idea" series are edibles in containers. I'm not just talking here about throwing a patio tomato in a half whiskey barrel or stuffing a few herbs in a strawberry pot and being done with it, I'm talking about thinking really outside the box on what you can do with planting edibles in a tight space. Here are a few photos to illustrate my point.

At top, is a birdbath filled with soil and planted up with two kinds of lettuce. It almost looks like the face of a sundial. This is surrounding by a make-shift box of herbs squeezed in between the lettuce-birdbath and an iron fence. This was at a shady Capitol Hill garden in Washington, DC, on a corner lot. Go around the bend in this same garden and see these produce baskets (at left) of more herbs hanging from their tree!

In another Capitol Hill garden, on a small backyard balcony is this big copper tub of herbs. Newly planted, but nicely accessorized.

A tiny garden in Georgetown had this hypertufa of herbs up on side wall. I assume in all of these examples shown here that this is the only spot of real sunlight available to these gardeners and I applaud their use of that small space!

A small raised bed is in a garden just outside DC, in the Takoma Park, MD neighborhood of Hodges Farm. In the same garden, twine runs to the side fence and by the back porch a laundry drying rack has been strung with twine as well. The gardeners have placed pots of peas and beans underneath the strings and are training the edibles to grow up. 

Look for more ideas to steal in coming days and weeks. 

Monday, May 10, 2010

AU Garden on WAMU

In the Spring 2010 issue of Washington Gardener Magazine, our DayTrip column is a visit to the American University campus in NW, Washington, DC. A busy urban university is not your typical public garden, but Cheval Force Opp writes about the 84-acre campus' rich botanical history including recently being named an Arboretum. Along with a history and how-to on visiting and touring it, the article inludes and interview Kate Pinkerton, one of the students who help organize a community garden on campus. Kate joined me last week for an interview on WAMU's Metro Connection show. (Shown here, WAMU producer David Furst records Kate's answers at AU.) You can listen to it online here.

Want to volunteer at AU's community garden or learn more about it? They have a Google Group that can be contacted via au-community-garden@googlegroups.com and because this is the 21st C you know they also have a video up on Youtube all about their new garden. View it here.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Happy Mother Earth Day!

Happy Mother's Day to the Mother of us all: Planet Earth!

For our April 2010 Washington Gardener Magazine Reader Contest we asked readers to send in how they are Earth-friendly in their gardens for a chance to win an ecotote. The entries were all so good, I awarded not on quality but by random drawing. The winner was Marth C Souder of Silver Spring, MD. Congratulations, Martha, your ecotote is on the way!

Here are some of the wonderful entries from DC-area gardeners:

It is my goal to make my garden Earth Day friendly EVERY day. This year I created a Mary Garden, in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mother. This is my Mother's Day gift to MY mom, who is named Mary! There are various plants that are symbolically linked to the Virgin Mary and I plan on planting them after May 15th. While keeping this in mind, I also want to provide food for the hummingbirds and bumblebees, so I will merge these two themes together.

My garden is open to all creatures. I feed one, I feed all! Everyone is welcome to the seed and oranges that I put out. Because we have so many creature visitors, I also will not use herbicides or pesticides. I want Mother Earth to stay healthy!Keep the poisons away!
~ Martha S


Here’s a few of the things I’ve done recently or am doing to make the environment a little healthier:
>Stopped growing things like cannas and pulled up weeds that attracted Japanese beetles
>Hang my clothes out to dry rather than using a dryer (beginning my third season)
>Installed a second rain barrel
>Transitioning from non-native, invasive species like barberries and yellow flag iris to natives like tricolor willow and turtlehead
>Shelved any rabies fears and decided to keep actively-used bat house in place on the side of our house (where they moved when we blocked them out of our attic)
~ Kathy T


I am planting lemon queen sunflowers along the back edge of my vegetable garden to attract pollinators to my garden to pollinate my vegetables. This sunflower is supposed to attract bees. Along the front of the vegetable garden I plant zinnias which attract hundreds of swallowtail butterflies, also pollinators.
I plant small zinnias and very large ones. Last year the large ones were eaten by deer!
~ Joan R


I am adding in edibles to provide fresh organic food , and improving my soil quality through regular top dressing with leaf compost. I chop up my autumn leaves and dump them on my garden, and never use herbicides or pesticides on my plants.
I share plants with folks who want them, and find new plants for my garden in all kinds of places including the curb next to trash cans.
~ Melanie I


No Till: This year I am not tilling my entire garden to minimize the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. I am only disturbing the soil where I plant my vegetables and flowers. The remaining areas will be bedded with organic mulch (leaves and grass clippings).
~ Mark M


We just moved into Leisure World and I'm doing the best I can with the small outdoor area we have. Put all my bird houses on outdoor patio and planted several small trees and many butterfly perennials.
~ Gloria S

Earlier this year, I had the good fortune to spend some time on the island of St. Martin in the Caribbean. While there, I spent one one of the most memorable and relaxing days in a butterfly farm. The witty & dry, British ex-pat proprietor of the farm gave an earnest plea that when all the North Americans in the group returned home we do our part to help Monarch butterflies. Like so many species, Monarch are losing native feeding sources at alarming rates and in particular need access to more milkweed.
   I have a community garden plot in Old Town Alexandria, and this season I am focusing on attracting and feeding butterflies, and in particular, Monarchs. The butterfly farmer had a link on his website to www.livemonarch.org which for just a few dollars will send you huge packs of the kind of milkweed best for your region, along with seeds for other butterfly attracting plants. I've already got those seedlings going in my plot and hope soon to add a butterfly 'drinking fountain' - basically a low arrangement of rocks w/ water that they can alight upon and have a sip. I've also spread the word about the Monarchs to friends who garden and already have one friend on the West Coast who has started milkweed in his own garden.
~ Katya W


I get teased a lot for my obsession with paper towels. Each Sunday I wash my veggies for the week and wrap them in paper towels. Instead of throwing them away I have them fluffed in a stack in a out of the way place. Then during the week I use them for wiping my hands after a quick wash, or picking up spills, animal mishaps etc. If clean enough and the material was ok, I can then compost it. Three uses from one towel that hopefully will go back to earth in my garden. I just started the third step this year since I didn't realize I could compost them until this year.
~ Faith H

How do YOU garden in a Earth-friendly way?

Friday, May 07, 2010

National Public Gardens Day is May 7

In Washington Gardener Magazine, we have done DayTrip columns to over 25 public gardens in the greater Washington, DC region. You'd think we'd start to exhaust our local supply, but you'd be wrong. Cheval Force Opp of Garden Tours has written many of them for the magazine and she keeps a list of potential gardens and we add to it all the time. Just this past weekend at the Southern Garden History Society meeting held this year in Alexandria, VA, we came across at least three more we needed to add to our public garden visit list. So many more to go and many "big" ones that I've had Cheval hold off on so we can wait for a an upcoming anniversary event or new building/exhibit opening that we know is in the works. I'll let you in on a little secret, we are working on an Ebook of those collected DayTrip columns and some bonus material as well. Stay tuned for that. Meanwhile, get out to one of your local public gardens today and enjoy!

Pictured here: Relaxing in a public garden on the DE/PA border, I'm at left, Cheval is at right.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Mind Your Manners: House & Garden Tour Season Starts

Take a Peak Into Some of the Washington Area’s Most Beautiful Gardens
Always wanted to know what was hidden behind that neighbor’s brick wall or front door? House and garden tours allow you to indulge your nosiness and take a look into the homes and backyards of others – to contrast and compare with your own.

A number of home and garden tours are coming up in the Washington region. You’ll have access to some breath-taking homes and luscious gardens in neighborhoods all over the city and nearby towns. You can also feel good about the nominal tour fee you pay as most of them benefit local historical societies and charities.

Coming up this weekend is the Annual House and Garden Tour sponsored by the Capitol Hill Restoration Society. Go to http://www.chrs.org/ to learn more. Also this Saturday is the Georgetown Garden Tour, see http://www.georgetowngardentour.com/.
When on a house and garden tour, you are a guest in someone else’s domain, please be aware at all times that the open house or garden is a sacrifice for your host. They expect a certain amount of minimal damage from inviting in the crowds, but try to respect their property as you would have them act at your own. The following rules well help you move through house and garden tours with the greatest of ease while giving the least offense.
• Wear comfortable shoes that you can easily slip on and off. You will be doing a lot of walking and stair climbing. Also, many home tours ask you to remove your shows before entering a house so wear clean, mended socks or get a pedicure if needed.

• Dress is layers and where a hat plus sunscreen. Going from home to garden and back again can involve a number of temperature changes as well as more sun exposure than you might expect.

• When entering a home, room, or garden gate, allow those who want to leave to exit first.

• When approaching a flight of stairs, look up first to make sure there is no one wanting to come down first. If there is, allow them to exit before you ascend the stairs.

• In general, home and garden tours are not designed for young ones. They are easily bored and exhausted as there is a lot of stair climbing, crowds, and adult conversation. Please leave your children at home.

• This same applies to pets. Please do not bring them. Garden hosts and homeowners thank you for your consideration.

• Take along a camera and notepad plus pen to take copious notes and record of all the great ideas you’ll see. Digital cameras are ideal for taking images of plants and their labels.

• When you stop to take a photo or notes, do not impede traffic and try to step aside to make way for others. Conversely, if someone is trying to take a photo do not jostle them or push past them. An “excuse me” works most every time.

• Listen and read. Nothing is as irksome to a host as repeating the same information 15 times that is already printed in your tour program. Additional questions are always welcome, but please keep them on topic and limit them to just a few to not monopolize their time.

• You have the same plant, paint color, or furniture at your home? Who cares! The home owner does not need to know this.

• Watch your step! Keep to the garden paths and inside a home stick to the designated tour areas.
• Keep your hands to yourself. Do not pick flowers, seeds, or branches. Do not touch household items. In addition, leave the plant labels exactly where they are.

• Watch your backpack and your bags. Do not smack them against other people, household furnishings, or plants. Leave big bags at home and pack as light as possible.

• Leave the “weeds” alone. The gardener-in-residence may not agree with your assessment of what a “weed” is nor will they appreciate the veiled criticism your grooming implies.

• Take your trash with you. Most tours also provide a rest stop, so use that opportunity to dispose of any items and use the restroom if needed.

• Do not expect refreshments, though many tours may have a break area or children selling lemonade and cookies to raise funds – many others do not. Bring a bottle of water and a snack to hold you over until your next meal.

• Park only where directed to – be aware of neighbors’ driveways, fire hydrants, plantings, and street signage.

• If the home or garden is not to your taste or liking, please keep your comments to yourselves. If you must voice your opinion, do not do so until you are well away from the tour and other tour attendees. That person near you in the next home or garden could be the previous home’s owner!

• If you meet the home owner or gardener compliment them lavishly and at the very least thank them for opening their spaces up to public scrutiny. It is a lot of hard work and takes a great deal of bravery to do so.
Home and garden tours can be delightful experiences for all involved. Not only will you see examples of beautiful homes and gardens, but you will learn what grows well here and what doesn’t. Get ideas for plant combinations and positioning. Most of all get inspired to get out there and plant a wonderful garden of your own.

This article originally appeared in the May 18, 2006 edition of the Washington Examiner newspaper.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

A Sneak Peak

Documentary filmmakers came by my place recently to film a short piece about "why we garden." They are taking a class with Docs In Progress. Here in Silver Spring, MD, home of Discovery Communications and the annual AFI Silverdocs Film Festival, documentaries are a big growth industry.

The final cut will soon be up on Youtube and I'll link to it when it is live. Here I've turned the tables on them in my own kitchen and show you what it looks like to stare into the lens.

You don't get to see the lighting guy to my left though holding up a white vinyl shower curtain we dug out of my paint supplies closet to use to bounce the light and fill in the shadows.

You also don't get to see me dabbing powder on my shiny "fivehead" (aka bigger than your average forehead) that apparently distracted the camera operators. Yes, I have made a hair appointment to get my overgrown bangs cut so they'll once again cover up my large, glaring expanse of head. Meanwhile, I'll try not to blind you if I see you on the street.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

When Bloggers Collide

So much has been happening this spring, I can hardly keep up on my Twitter or Facebook feeds, much less here on the Blog. One thing I forgot to share was meeting up with fellow garden writers/bloggers Robin Ripley of the Bumblebee Blog and Susan Harris of GardenRant a few weeks ago. Both are Maryland-based, like myself. Susan is just up the road from me (a mile as the crow flies), but Robin is "way out" in Calvert County so we don't get to see her as much. We all got together for dinner here on my turf in downtown Silver Spring, MD, on April 19 before Robin spoke to the Silver Spring Garden Club at Brookside Gardens.

Oh yeah, I'm president of that club as well and do the speaker bookings, so when Robin mentioned doing a talk on The Artful Vegetable Garden at a conference that I could not make, I snapped her up for an encore at my own club.

We had time to kill between the dinner and the talk so we took Robin for a nickel-tour around Brookside. We ran around pointing out the beautiful Viburnum over here and the terrific Redbud over there. We must've been convincing guides as first-time visitor Robin was impressed enough to declare she'd make the hour-plus trek back, despite a hectic spring schedule, to spend more time to explore the collections on her own.

Pictured above: Robin in black sweater, me in yellow sweater. Susan Harris is behind the lens. Note to self, next time get somebody to take a pic with all 3 of us in it!

Pictured below, one of the many gorgeous vistas at Brookside.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Finally the Finalists!

Exciting news this gray Monday morning! We made the short list of finalists in the Mouse and Trowel garden blogger awards. Please take a second to vote for us for "Best Company Blog" here.

I see I am among much good company. I've put in my own votes for "best of" in several other categories, though I won't reveal my voting preferences here as many categories I had to make the tough choice between a few garden blogging friends. *sigh* Some of it is so subjective too and really a matter of personal taste - best writing and best photography being chief among them. Those bee-yatches are all fierce and talented in my book. Good luck to all and in my best RuPaul's Drag Race voice, "May the best Garden Blogger win!"

Saturday, May 01, 2010

A Ticket to Paradise on the MD House & Garden Pilgrimage

In our Spring 2010 issue of Washington Gardener Magazine, our BeforeAfter story is all about the Cole's residence which is #5 on today's Maryland House & Garden Pilgrimage in Baltimore County, MD. Nancy Cole tells us all about her transformation of a weedy, overgrown woods to a beautiful, woodland garden setting overlooking Lake Roland. The Coles have spent over 30 years lovingly coaxing this garden into existence. At left here is a sample photo to wet your appetite.

The Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage (MHGP), a non-profit organization, is dedicated to the preservation and restoration of architecturally significant properties in the State of Maryland. Each year, the staff and volunteers of the MHGP coordinate a multi-county spring tour that gives visitors an inside look at extraordinary historic and contemporary sites and, at the same time, a fun way to support a worthy cause. The annual spring tours are a central component of the organization’s efforts to cultivate awareness of Maryland’s rich architectural and cultural heritage, from historic to contemporary settings.

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