Thursday, September 30, 2010

10 Things I Learned at the Garden Writers Meeting

I spent a week earlier this month in Dallas, TX, for the annual Garden Writers Association symposium. It was the usual whirlwind of networking, garden tours, talks, exhibits, and social events. Last year, I was elected as one of the two Regional Directors for the Mid-Atlantic in GWA' s leadership so I also had some official duties to perform at the meeting. Then I volunteered to be an official Mentor to boot. Because that is not stressful enough, I also gave a talk this year on creating Your Own Self-Publishing Brand. This being my 5th GWA annual meeting, I promised to pace myself and to take better notes as it went along. I also promised myself I'd come home with less paperwork and immediately organize what I did haul back. I thought I'd get all the business cards I collected immediately organized and send them notes to check in with all the new folks I met. Ha! None of that has, or probably will, happen. But, if nothing else got done, I did want to at least write this blog post of 10 Things I Learned at GWA. Some are new lessons. Some are things I knew and forgot in the busy-ness of life. Here they are, in no particular order:
1. Be the first speaker on the first day.
My talk followed the keynote speaker on the first morning. Thank goodness! After that I could relax and enhjoy all the other talks. Another side benefit is that my session was SRO and as the event wore on I noticed fewer and fewer people at the sessions. No fault of the stellar speakers, but by the last set on the last day, there was maybe 20 of us in the room.
2. Bring Far More Business Cards than You Think You'll Ever Need
Seriously. I ordered a new box before this year's meeting. Did the same last year. Went through almost all by the end of the event. Disappointingly, by day 2,  I would hand out my card only to be met by many "um, I'm out" responses. You paid how much to come to this networking event and now you are short on cards? Get thyself to a Kinko's pronto and make more -- even if you have to miss the next speaker! No excuses.
3. Pack Plants in My Carry-On
So I interviewed several veteran members on the best way to get your plants home post-GWA and that story gets published just prior to the meeting. Do I obey any of the great advice? No. I end up stufing my extra empty suitcase with papers and tool samples. Ended up using my two permitted carryons as plant holders. You know what? It worked perfectly and I did not have to stress about what the postman or the baggage handlers were doing to my plants. Instead, I got to keep them right at my feet and with me the whole time.
4. Think Like a Poet When Taking Photos
I finally got to attend a photo session by David E Perry. Every year they book his talks against equally stellar speakers and each year I think photos are secondary for me, I'll go for the writing or editingtrack. Then I hear the raves afterwards and want to kick myself. The taped talks afterwards that you can purchase just are not cutting it for those who missed his images. This year I treated myself and sat front and center for Dave's talk. His theme this year was using photos as poetry or story-telling. Excellent tips and definitely slowed me down and changed my photo-taking pace. What do you think of the story being told in the photo I've posted above? (Click on it to see at full size.)
5. If You Do Not Attend, Guess Who Folks Talk About?
If you are not at GWA and you were a past regular, everyone will remark on your abscence and then speculate on why that was. Just saying.
6. GWA Needs to Issue Some Photo and Garden Visiting Etiquette Guidelines
Maybe it was the humidity and heat. Maybe the fact that we just try to squeeze so much into so little time. Maybe GWA members are used to being treated like spoiled prima donna media guests. Whatever the reason, there was an abundance of rudeness in the garden visits and social events. I'm not just talking about the line-cutters at the open bars. We all need to check ourselves and realize there are others trying to get the best shots of the gardens, enjoy their contemplative moments, and maximize our time. These 3 goals are often at odds with each. Official guidelines would help. Like we use "airplane rules" for disembarking the buses, meaning you get off row by row -- you do NOT jump into the aisle and run to front as soon as the bus starts to stop. Let's all be mindful of that and cut each other some slack.
7. We Need to Update the General Public's Image of Gardening
The 'Sustainability Trends" presentation by Kierstin DeWest made the point that the public perception of "gardener" is of an older, elegant active lady. The reality is of young, rebel rule-breakers who are pioneers in their efforts. That is what her numbers show and that is defibitely what I witness on a daily basis. Why the disconnect? I blame arthritis medication advertising by big pharmacy corporations. Let's break that stranglehold and show in our stories and photos what REAL gardeners look like.
8. I Need to Make More Videos
Shirley Bovshow's session inspired me to get back to making more videos. Not that I need to star in any more myself. Truthfully, I don't mind being on camera (ahem). What I do mind is watching and editing myself. Painful! She reminded me about and other ways I can do videos fairly painlessly.
9. Garden Clubs Need to Evolve
The "Reaching Garden Consumers" talk pointed out a novel idea to me -- pay per event not by membership. Hey! That way they just pay for what they attend, no strings or commitment, and the garden organization gets to bring in new folks who may even come back again for more as their busy schedules allow.
10. Sometimes the Grass is NOT Greener
Much as I enjoyed visiting the well-to-do Dallas gardens and saw a few plants I'd like to be able to grow back here in the Mid-Atlantic. I would not trade our climate for theirs. Hoo, boy. No way. No how. I took some time during my extra early days in the city to visit a local friend and I looked at the yards of those who are "regular Dallas folk." What I saw: Dry. Sad. Mostly devoid of green. No thanks. Don't even get me started on their idea of turfgrass lawns -- like waking barefoot on a bed of nails. So glad to be home!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

September Reader Contest

For our September 2010 Washington Gardener Magazine Reader Contest, Washington Gardener is giving away a $60 gift certificate from CSN Stores ( CSN Stores has over 200 online stores where you can find everything from stylish handbags, to modern bar stools, or great cookware!

CSN Stores has an extensive Patio & Garden collection. Turn your backyard into an outdoor living room with their impressive selection of outdoor furniture. Looking to enjoy the great outdoors? Check out their camping gear, binoculars, and optics in our outdoor recreation section. Love to grill? Browse their outdoor cooking for the best in barbeques, smokers, and grills.

To enter to win the iris collection, send an email with “CSN” in the subject line to by 5:00pm on Friday, October 1. In the body of the email please include your full name, email, mailing address, and your favorite Fall Foliage plant and why it is your favorite. The winner will be selected at random, then announced and notified by October 2. NOTE: Some of the contest entry responses may be used in future online or print articles.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Top 10 Fall Foliage Trees: Washington Gardener Enews monthly issue for September 2010

The latest Washington Gardener Enews monthly issue for September 2010 is now out and online.

Peak inside for tips on Top 10 Fall Foliage Trees, a Reader Contest, Mid-Atlantic Garden To-Do List, New Burpee Vegetable Introductions for 2011, Local Garden Events, and much more.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Freaking Awesome Food at Red Fruit Fest

Share photos on twitter with TwitpicThe first annual Mid-Atlantic Red Fruit Festival was last Friday eve. It combined 15 contest winning recipe entrants paired with renowned regional chefs who prepared them. Pictured here are MacKenzie Severson and Cookology Chef Brad Spate serving up Caprese Cupcakes. The mini cupcakes were a bit savory and sweet. Hard to describe, but delish, I assure you. I enjoyed talking to MacKenzie who lives near Dulles, VA, and is a military wife. She is a die-hard gardener and all the tomatoes used in her tasting preparations that evening were from her own home garden. That was rare at this event, which definitely was more on the eating tomatoes side of things, rather than the growing of them. I talked to several of the attendees who readily admitted being totally ignorant of the differences in tomato varieties served in various dishes. They just knew it was all good.

Many of the tasting recipes that evening treated tomato as a true fruit, in other words, sweet and dessert-like, rather than as a savory fare. Hey, this sweet tooth was not objecting to that concept! When I bit into April Fulton’s Tomato Tarte, I expected rustic, earthy flavors and was pleasantly surprised to find it was closer to a crispy pie. The candied mint leaf on top was just the right note to top it off.

Other pleasant surprises of the evening were a fried basil leaf on one dish and basil whipped cream on another. These treatments of the common herb sent me over the moon.

I also enjoyed Maria Alvarez’s Simo’s Bloody Mary prepared by Mixologist Brendan Dorr. I'm not a Bloody Mary fan and this one won me over. It was all about the ice cube -- a frozen cucumber syrup. Everyone was walking around sucking every last drop up of those cubes. I need to steal that idea for next time I make a Pimm's Cup.

My fave of the tastings at the Red Fruit Fest was the Green Tomato Marbled Goat Cheese Ice Cream made by FrozenFix. I left the event so stuffed, yet I still debated with myself over going back for seconds of this plate of heaven. I know it does not sound good, but trust me, you will be floored at first bite.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Urban Garden Talk Series - CANCELED - for now...

Due to a lack of grant funds, our DC Urban Garden talk series with the Historical Society of Washington, DC (HSW) has been cancelled. We are rescheduling the 3 urban garden talks at other venues this fall in/around DC. Please check this blog, our yahoo discussion list, and our Facebook page for updates.

We are rescheduling two of the the three urban garden talks at other venues this fall in/around DC:
• On Sunday, October 24, you can hear Kathy Jentz on “Getting the Most out of Small-Space Urban Gardens” at the GreenFestivalDC at the Washington Convention Center.

• On Monday, January 17, you can see Michael Twitty on “In Search of African-American Heritage Seed” at the Silver Spring Garden Club meeting at Brookside Gardens, Wheaton, MD.
Please keep checking in with us for details and future talk updates.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Big C and Gardening

I'm loving the new Showtime series "The Big C" starring Laura Linney as "Cathy" along with fabulous supprting cast including sexy Idris Elba. This week's episode "Blue-Eyed Iris" really struck a nerve. Cathy visits her local garden center and looks at a stack of bagged iris bulbs then ends up buying several pots of already blooming iris instead. Cathy, you see, has the "Big C" aka terminal cancer and next spring for her may not come. Gardening is an exercise of hope and patience. You are often planning and planting for the future. Delayed gratification and sweet anticipation is built into the system. But what if this was your last planting season... ever. What would you grow? Would your gardening change? I know mine would. I'd put in more annuals and instant color. I'd buy plants that are larger and more mature. I'd plant things that I've always wanted to try, yet never got around to doing. So then I have to ask myself, if it would change with a terminal illness and we all know that life is fleeting, why am I not already doing that now?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Miss Me?

Whew, two weeks without blogging feels like forever! I was away for 8 days in Dallas visiting a friend and attending the annual Garden Writers meeting. After that, its been a whirlwind of activities from the National Agricultural Library heritage apple festival to Children's Day at Brookside Gardens to holding the Silver Spring Garden Club's first ever plant swap. Things should be settling down a bit now. Still a bit of unpacking to do and lots of sample plants to get into the ground from both the Dallas meeting and the plant swap.

Here are some photos albums of those recent events that I put up on FaceBook for you all to enjoy:

~ Dallas Area Gardens
~ Natl Ag Library (USDA-ARS) Apple Fest:!/album.php?aid=43912&id=145383542145752&ref=mf
~ Brookside's Childrens Day!/album.php?aid=43891&id=145383542145752&ref=mf

Since I totally missed Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, I thought I'd post a picture at top here of a flower I saw in every garden we visited in Dallas-Ft Worth, TX. They call it "Turk's Cap," which shows you how useless common names are as THIS (pictured at left) is what we call a "Turk's Cap" here in the Mid-Atlantic. It is Lilium superbum and is a Lily relative that is native to the Eastern US. It likes wet spots like pond edges.
   The Texas one is a Hibiscus relative and is native to that state. The Latin name is Malvaviscus drummondii (M. arboreus var. drummondii). It prefers dry situations. Both clearly resemble their common namesake and are easy to grow, perennial natives that bloom in late summer. Viva la difference!

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Garden Mysteries Solved for Free

Got a gardening question you need answered? Send your questions to and use the subject line “Q&A.” Please also include your first name, last initial, and what city plus state you are writing from. Photos are also encouraged. Then look for your answered questions in upcoming issues of Washington Gardener Magazine in our "KnowItAll" column.

Our Q&A columnist, Debra Ricigliano (pictured here), is a Certified Professional Horticulturalist. She has worked as a Horticulture Consultant for the Maryland Cooperative Extension Home and Garden Information Center since 1997. Debra enjoys gardening at her home in Highland, MD. Debra is a graduate of the Institute of Applied Agriculture at UMCP and a talented, all-round horticulturist.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Washington Gardener Hires New Advertising Representative John Peter Thomson

Washington Gardener Magazine is please to announce that John Peter Thompson is their new Independent Advertising Representative. He will be taking over the magazine’s ad sales and promotional opportunities effective immediately. John Peter can be reached at or by phone at 301-440-8404 .

John Peter Thompson is uniquely connected in the Mid-Atlantic gardening universe. Among his memberships and positions: Board member, Behnke Nurseries; President, National Agricultural Research Alliance - Beltsville; Vice Chair Prince George's County Historic Preservation Commission; Consultant - Invasive Species; Trustee, Prince George's County Memorial Library System; Member, Maryland Invasive Species Council; LBJ Wild Flower Center Sustainable Landscape Standards Technical Advisor; Immediate Past Vice Chair, National Invasive Species Council Advisory Committee; former Chair, Prince George's County Chamber of Commerce; Chesapeake Conservation Landscape Council; former President, Maryland Nursery & Landscape Association (MNLA) and Mid Atlantic Exotic Pest Plant Council (MA-EPPC); Member PlantWise Advisory Comm.

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.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Late Summer Blooming Favorites

For this month’s Washington Gardener Magazine Reader Contest we asked readers to share their favorite late summer blooming plants. One entry was chosen at random to receive one set of six (6) reblooming iris corms. The collection of six plants includes: ‘Corn Harvest,’ ‘Marita,’ ‘Constant Companion,’ ‘Immortality,’ ‘English Cottage,’ and ‘Earl of Essex.’

This iris collection was donated by the Chesapeake & Potomac chapter of the American Iris Society. The society’s web page,, is an informative and helpful resource to all kinds of iris information.

The winner is: Jean Mensh of Alexandria, VA. Congratulations, Jean! Your iris collection is in the mail.

One reason I picked this particular entry question was due to my own frustration over the fixation by Washington, DC/Mid-Atlantic region gardeners with May blooms. Many of them insist that the height of spring is the only attractive season in their gardens. Sure there is a lull in late June through July, but I know that late summer is just as spectacular here in our area and the responses to my query prove it.
Here are the entry submissions. Great choices, all!

Jeavonna Chapman of Baltimore, MD, said her favorite late summer blooming plants are mums and asters. “I love the mums and asters because there are so many to choose from and they are extremely hardy -- dogs, kids, snow -- they can survive anything. I like the Shasta daisy-looking ones and the purple ones that fade to white. (several varieties fit that description and I'll grow whichever one is available).”

“Muhly Grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris) is my current favorite,” commented Mary D. Pierce of Springfield, VA. “Early in the morning, when the sun hits my garden, while the dew is still on the plants, the pink plumes sparkle like jewels. I also love this native plant because it provides a sense of motion to the garden as it sways gentle in the breeze. It also reminds me of grasses that grow on sand dunes and that the summer weather is coming to an end and with that the glories of the fall as trees begin to color our landscape.”

Kenneth Moore of Washington, DC, shared, “My favourite late-summer-blooming plant is Trombetta Squash from Renee's Garden. The plant's leaves are humongous and gorgeous, and when it blooms with its huge yellow flowers, I know that in a few weeks, I'll have three to four foot long squash to eat! Nothing makes me happier than a beautiful plant that I know will yield delicious food!”

“My favorite late summer blooming plant is Caryopteris (Blue Mist Shrub), remarked Tom Torrance of McLean, VA. “In the dog days of August, I enjoy looking out my back deck as the buds on the caryopteris swell and then burst into intense blue clusters of flowers. I have a long border of caryopteris that frame the "blue garden" bed in front of the white blossoms of Limelight Hydrangea that line the creek.”

Madeline Caliendo of Washington, DC, named ornamental cabbage as her favorite. “Because they are adorable and I love the purple and other fall-ish colors. I also like the idea of food as art and these ornamentals are just that.”

“My favorite late summer blooming flower are the sunflowers that are gracing my yard in August,” wrote Carrie Biggs-Adams of Colmar Manor, MD. “I enjoy seeing all the pollinators having a great time among all the colors of sunflowers that have done so well in my yard. Then come the finches who are eating the seeds of the heads as they mature. It makes for a colorful buzzing lively yard!”

Melissa Merideth of Bethesda, MD, favored clematis vines that rebloom in late summer. “Why: always such a nice surprise to see the beautiful blooms again!”

Spider Lily (Lycoris radiata) were the top choice of Katie Rapp of Gaithersburg, MD. “I love these unexpected red blooms that pop up out of nowhere in late summer/early fall. They just speak to me of long, lovely Indian summer days. I lived in Chapel Hill, NC, when I first saw them. I see them infrequently in the DC area. I tried to grow them in my garden, but with limited success. They came up for a couple years, but deer ate them (or kids broke them). We'll see if one comes up this year (I think I was down to one blooming last year).”

Anne Hardman of Silver Spring, MD, picked the Japanese Anemone. “It is light and airy, and it's blossoms seem to float free in the breeze. After blooming a fuzzy seed head persists like down floating through the air.”

Jean Mensh of Alexandria, VA also picked Japanese Anemone (Anemone tomentosa 'Robustissima' ) “Delicate flowers and the plant looks fresh despite the harshest summer conditions,” said Jean.

Pictured at top from your editor's pwn garden last September, from left to right, Sweet Autumn clematis, Japanese Anemone, and Chrysanthemum.

What is YOUR late summer blooming favorite?

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