Monday, December 30, 2013

Seed Exchanges 2014

Register NOW to Save Your Seed Exchange Spot

It's that time again! Washington Gardener Magazine's Seed Exchanges are coming up on Sat Jan 25 in Maryland and Sat Feb 1 in Virginia. I hope you can make one (or both) of those dates. We are limited to 100 attendees at each location so sign up soon to reserve your spot.

The full information and registration form is posted here:

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Monday, December 23, 2013

Favorite Flower Colors for DC-Area Gardeners

For our December 2013 Washington Gardener Magazine Reader Contest, we asked readers to tell us: "What flower colors do you like best and least for planting in your garden?" Here are their responses:

"My favorite flower colors in the garden are burgundy/claret and pale green.  With some limited exceptions (daffodils, for example), I tend to avoid yellow."
~ Linette Lander, Takoma Park, MD

"What flower colors do I like best and least for planting in my garden? I am really surprised to discover after designing and redesigning over the last decade or two that my most-used color appears to be… pink. I was never a pink lover growing up; it was "girly" in a way I didn't want to be. But now, moving beyond sexism in gardening, I'm recognizing the strength of all the various pinks out there, from pale to bright, and how well they work with other colors, especially yellow, which is the second-most prominent color in my flowerbeds.
    I don't think I have a least favorite color - just whichever one doesn't work with everything else and I have too much of for some reason. I have discovered over the years that the flowers with the most vibrant, clash-prone colors are the ones that come back when they're not supposed to, like the 10-plus-years-old orange tulips growing in 8 inches of clay by my mailbox, or the chartreuse and magenta gladioli that someone gave me, that lived outside through two winters before succumbing. Flowers with strong personalities."
~ Erica H. Smith, Germantown, MD
"Best -  red and Least - lavender."
~ Wendy Bruno, Silver Spring, MD

"I like pink/purple/blue flowers the best and tend to stay away from orangey/bright yellow."
~ Katie Rapp, Gaithersburg, MD
"Least favorite - hot/neons in pink, purple, orange. also not crazy about some yellows and reds.
Most Favorite - layered textures & greens. also white and soft-med purples/blues."
~ Jennifer Gardiner, Washington, DC 

"Favorite color flowers are whites, particularly any white that is long-lasting.  This time of year, a Snow Flurries Sasanqua camellia is divine.  Resplendent double white flowers that blooms over and over again from October through February.
   Least favorite is harder to define.  Maybe pink, but only because it is sometimes over used and can seem a little jolting in the Spring."
~ Jeff Trunzo, Takoma Park, MD

"I love pinks and azaleas."
~ Lisa Titus, Leesburg, VA

"I want all colors in my garden beds, but always try to have as many orange flowers as possible. I less prefer white, but am learning to use it because it accents everything else really well!"
 ~ Alison Mrohs, Rockville MD
Congratulations! Each of the above entries received a vehicle pass to the Garden of Lights at Brookside Gardens. Enjoy illuminated giant flowers, snowflakes, a rainbow and showers, and more. Walk along the easily accessible paths and you’ll see what sets this light show apart from others. This festive, secular light show, now in its 16th season, is a popular family tradition in the Washington, DC area drawing close to 40,000 visitors each winter.

Why did I think assume would be some consensus or trends amongst our responses? Each entrant's taste in flowers was unique. If anything can be extracted from among this varied group, I would say that overall cooler shades are preferred over the warmer more intense ones.

Personally, my tastes have changed over the years. At one point I strived for an all-white garden, now I have paired most everything white out as I dislike the look of the spent white blooms. My favorites now are chartreuse green and lavenders. I also find that I'm adding very dark (black) blooms where I can find them.
So, what flower colors do YOU like best/least in your garden?

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Growing Green Dreams at Local Schools!

GUEST BLOG by Anna Benfield

Gardening is hard work. So is being a public school teacher.

It’s no surprise then that school gardens are such an uphill battle for DC teachers and administrators. This letter from one of the Washington Youth Garden’s partner schools helps show why partnerships are so valuable. If you agree, please consider contributing to this work.

Below, Mel Jones, the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Coordinator at John Burroughs Education Campus shares more about why she values the Washington Youth Garden and the programming the partnership enables.

Since beginning as a science teacher here over ten years ago, I have made repeated attempts to start a garden. I knew my students would have a better understanding of science if there was more hands-on learning. However, despite my efforts, I didn’t have the expertise or the time to develop a real, working garden.
In 2011, our partnership with the Washington Youth Garden made the dream of a school garden come alive as third graders filled new raised beds with soil and transplanted lettuce, which they later harvested for salad pitas. Since then, the garden has become a part of every student’s experience—from compost investigation projects to school-wide sweet potato tastings.
The garden continues to expose students to new fruits and vegetables and provide an outdoor science laboratory. With grant funding, we’ve hired a School Garden Coordinator who regularly teaches our Early Childhood classes and collaborates with teachers to integrate the garden into science and literacy lessons. Plans are in progress to install a kitchen classroom to give our students year-round opportunities to cook healthy foods and learn about science and nutrition. The Washington Youth Garden has made a truly wonderful difference for our students and our school!
If your believe that under-served kids deserve gardens and garden-based instruction at school, please support the Washington Youth Garden’s online campaign to raise $7,000 by the end of the year.
Learn more and GIVE TODAY!

About the Author
Anna is the Education Programs Manager at the Washington Youth Garden, which is located on the grounds of the US National Arboretum in Washington, DC.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Win Passes to the Garden of Lights

For our December 2013 Washington Gardener Magazine Reader Contest, Washington Gardener is giving away passes to the Garden of Lights at Brookside Gardens.

    Enjoy illuminated giant flowers, snowflakes, a rainbow and showers, and more. Walk along the easily accessible paths and you’ll see what sets this light show apart from others. This festive, secular light show, now in its 16th season, is a popular family tradition in the Washington, DC area drawing close to 40,000 visitors each winter.

   To enter to win a pass to the Garden of Lights at Brookside Gardens, send an email to by 5:00pm on December 23 with “Garden of Lights” in the subject line and tell us: What flower colors do you like best and least for planting in your garden? In the body of the email, please also include your full name and mailing address. The calendar winner will be announced and notified by December 25.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Mail-Order Gardening ~ Washington Gardener Enews ~ December 201

The Washington Gardener Enews ~ December 2013 issue is now out. It is also posted and archived online at:

• Back Issue Sale
• Mail-Order Gardening
• Garden To-Do List
• Latest Blog Links
• Local Garden Events Listings
• Magazine Excerpt: Kudzu Bugs Attack Soybeans
• New Holly ‘Berry Heavy Gold’
• Photo Contest Details
• Reader Contest to Win Passes to the Garden of Lights at Brookside Gardens
• Seed Exchange 2014 Details and Registration Form

Subscribe to Washington Gardener Magazine today to have the monthly enewsletter sent to your inbox as a PDF. 

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Voila! Violas

On this unusually chilly and windy Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, my outdoor garden is fairly bloom-free. In DC/MD Zone 7 at this time in past year, I still had some summer annuals going! But this past month has been one of frigid temps and early ice storms, bah humbug! I'm hardly able to get out and do anything due to the frozen ground. Glad I got my spring-blooming bulbs in early, at least.

I thought I might have no outdoor flowers to report this month, but I actually found two bloomers:

Hellebore aka Christmas Rose

What is blooming in YOUR garden today?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Video Wednesday: Assembling Longwood's Poinsettia Baskets

The gigantic poinsettia baskets that grace the Orangery during A Longwood Gardens Christmas never fail to add "The WOW Factor." Watch a little of the behind-the-scenes action as the volunteers assemble a basket.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Indoor Bulbs: You Can Grow That!

How to Get Spring Blooms in the Dead of Winter
By Kathy Jentz

Didn’t get all your bulbs planted before the ground froze? Don’t discard them! Instead pot them up for indoor forcing and enjoy an early springtime in the depths of winter.

If you were a good little gardener and got all your bulbs in the ground on time, there are still a few bulbs hanging around unsold at local area garden centers and on major markdown sales on the web and through mail order, snap them up now at these bargain basement prices and consider yourself a savvy customer. Next year, when you place your bulb orders, add a few extra to your quantities to set aside specifically for forcing.

Never forced bulbs before? Nothing to it. Here are the basics and a few extra tips I've learned from past experiments:
1. Bulb Selection. You don't need to buy any specific variety or kinds. You can just select a few bulbs from those that you would buy for outside plantings. After they are done livening up your winter home, you can plant them outside after the last frost so that they will return annually with your other bulbs. One note of caution, indoor bulbs can sometimes give off potent smells. Some people love them, some don't -- paperwhites and hyacinth are especially notoriously in the love/hate category. Experiment a bit, and you'll soon learn which scents are to your tastes and which are just too overpowering for inside your home.
2. Timing. Keep in mind that bulbs bloom within three-four weeks of removal from cold storage, which lasts about 12-16 weeks. So if you want blooms for a specific occasion, you need to work about 16-20 weeks in advance for planting time.

3. Bulb Planting. Regular bulbs should be planted in soil, but at a shallower depth than you would outside. The top of the bulb should be even with the soil line and have about 2" of soil below for root development. The container should have drainage holes. Because it will be inside your house and no one likes a leaky mess on their furniture, I recommended lining the bottom of the pot with scrap landscape fabric and placing the pot on a good-sized saucer filled with a layer pebbles. Place the bulbs pointy side up and with the "flat" side towards the outside of the pot and as tight together as you like. Crowding them actually makes a nicer visual effect than spacing them far apart. Tight quarters also helps the foliage from growing out too much and flopping over. Water the newly planted bulbs well. Place the pots in plastic newspaper sleeves to maintain a moist environment.

4. Cold Storage/Removal for Flowering. Place the potted-up bulbs in cold storage for about 12 weeks. Cold storage should be roughly 40-50 degrees and without light. Storage areas might include your basement, garage, or the crisper drawer in your refrigerator. Different bulbs have different cold cycle times but most are between 12-16 weeks. (Tulips need the most time at a full 16 weeks.) Mark your calendars so that you don't forget about them. When you first remove them from storage, place them in indirect light and away from a heat source to prevent “legginess.” After two weeks, when they have sprouted and are several inches high, move them to a sunny, warm window. Once a flowerhead or bud starts to develop, you can then move it to your desired location with indirect sunlight to prolong the bloom life. Keep them watered regularly as soon as you remove them from cold storage. Enjoy!

Kathy Jentz is Editor of Washington Gardener Magazine. This winter she is forcing two dozen apricot tulips as holiday gifts for friends --- shhhh!
   Washington Gardener Magazine, is the only gardening publication published specifically for the local metro area — zones 6-7 — Washington DC and its suburbs. The magazine is written entirely by local area gardeners. They have real-world knowledge and practical advice with the same problems you experience in your own gardens. They share their thoughts on what to plant in deep shade, how to cover bare spots, which annuals work best throughout the humid DC summers, and much more. If you are a DC area gardener, you’ll love Washington Gardener magazine!

The magazine is published four times per year with a cover price of $4.99. To subscribe to the 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 at

Washington Gardener Magazine also makes a great gift for the gardeners and new home owners in your life!

All who are involved with You Can Grow That! (YCGT!) believe that plants and gardening enhance our quality of life. We want people to be successful with what they grow and to become more aware of the many gifts that horticulture brings. Find out more at

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Buy Local Special for Small Business Saturday

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I'm running this subscription special through December 5 in gratitude for all my online friends, followers, fans, and frequent commenters.

Print out the coupon above, fill it out and mail it in with your check/money order to get 10% off a year's subscription to Washington Gardener Magazine. It is a local garden magazine for the greater Washington, DC region. By local gardeners, for local gardeners. All about what grows in zones 6-7. Independent, woman-owned. It is also a certified Green Business.

Please tell all your local gardening friends to Buy Local this Small Business Saturday!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Garden Task Procrastination Epidemic

For our November 2013 Washington Gardener Magazine Reader Contest, we askedWhat Garden Task You Always Procrastinate On and Why?”

We received a tremendous response and I have grouped the dreaded chores below. It seems that no aspect of gardening is immune to being put off to another day. Even the most devoted gardeners I know seem to find one chore that they loathe and ignore from weeks on end. For me, it is cleaning out the beds in early spring. I think that it is more the cold than anything that makes me out it off.

We selected one of the submitted entries at random to the Washington Gardener Local Gardening Task Calendar. Each month includes a list of what to do in the garden for local DC-MD-VA and Mid-Atlantic gardeners, along with a gorgeous photo of a seasonal flower from a local DC-area public gardens’ collection. The calendar winner of our hot-off-the-press 2014 Local Gardening Task Calendar is Ellen McBarnette of Washington, DC. Congratulations, Ellen, we hope the task calendar hopes curb your procrastination in 2014!
If you did not win a calendar, you can order one for yourself and as gifts for your favorite local gardeners by going to: (Note that you can select the calendar to start with whatever month you choose.)

What Garden Task You Always Procrastinate On and Why:


UGH... pruning the three azaleas in front of my front bay window! Since these three rarely get to flower due to their being located outside my deer exclosure and therefore constantly de-budded, they do need to be trimmed back every year to keep the scraggly branches below the window area. So, constant, tight-space, maintenance, and NO FLOWERS!!!! (Thanks! Love the mag!)
~ Alison Regan

I procrastinate on pruning because I always forget when I'm supposed to prune the different types of bushes.
~ Mary Lane Renninger

The garden task I most procrastinate in doing is trimming the bigger bushes.  Of course, a good reason they are bigger is because I keep putting off the shaping and trimming.  But it’s so much work to do it right - clip, eyeball it, clip again.   The best ones are those that need minimal clipping, like the nandinas.  But those spireas are a challenge to keep in their space.  And in order to keep them blooming, I need to trim them 2 or 3 times/ season.  Ugh!
~ Alberta Mikulka


Another year has passed, and my resolution to eliminate the horrible oriental bittersweet in my woods is still unfulfilled. In the spring and fall, I am too busy planting, in the summer it is too hot and the ground too hard, and now it is too cold. I should knuckle under and hire someone!
~ Margaret Fisher

Weeding, because it's tedious work.
~ Sylvia Midgett


What I most procrastinate on: Planting! I buy plants at a sale because they’re cool and of course don’t have a clue where I’m going to put them. So they sit under the maple tree in the front yard until I figure it out. Also: spraying plants to keep the deer away. Just nasty!
~ Sherry Marshall

I always procrastinate on planting my bulbs in the fall. I keep thinking we'll get one more warmish day... and then I end up out there planting on a not-so-warm day.
~ Anastasia MacDonald

The task I procrastinate on the most is planting!  Sometimes I find something irresistible at the nursery, and buy it without a specific place in mind for it.  Things that I buy for a particular spot generally get planted promptly, but I suffer from terrible gardener's indecision for the others.  (The plants sometimes suffer too, as they wait and wait to get in the ground.)  This can get to be a sizeable problem, since I'm a sucker for anything new and different at the nursery.  This fall, I have an absolute goal:  My garden club is going on a great 4-day garden and nursery tour next spring, and I will not allow myself to sign up for it unless everything--everything--that's still in a pot has a home.   Because I'm bound to find a few more irresistible things on the trip.
~ Lucy Goszkowski

I always procrastinate planting fall bulbs. Why? First I want to make sure the ground is cold, and second, something in me is reluctant to give up on the chance that there will be more balmy days to come.
~ Anne Hardman

In my pursuit of the eternal summer and the warm season's harvest, I put off replacing my summer garden for my fall one til it's all too clear that if I wait any longer, it'll be too late to plant even that. Strange thing is: I enjoy my fall garden every bit as much as my summer one! 
~ Sue Gleason

I procrastinate on starting seedlings. I don't have much space for starting them in my house, and don't have any special lights set up.  This makes me think I shouldn't bother....and then in late March when you can smell the earth warming up the urge is too great, and I start a few seedlings, wishing I'd done so earlier.
~ Alexandria Lippincott


I shrink from the odious task of thinning my baby plants.  I know it needs to be done, but I feel just awful cutting their little heads off. After all, I brought them into this world. But then, .........I just shake it off and do the deed!
~ Arlene M.

Thinning seed babies because I want to try and save them and pot them separately to make more plants.
~ Nancy L. OConnor


Raking leaves is the task I procrastinate.   I claim I'm not procrastinating, that I am using the leaves to keep my garden from freezing.  
~ Annie Shaw

I leave fallen leaves everywhere -- flower beds, open spaces, driveways, anywhere they land. Why? Perhaps because I think they should stay there, right where nature put them. I'd mulch them but my mower's broken (this year's excuse). Usually I wait till I'm ashamed to have the neighborhood's messiest front yard. Maybe I'll leave the back yard leaves where they are this year. 
~ Carol Jaka

When you live in an old neighborhood with lots of trees, especially oaks, doing something with the leaves becomes almost a full time job. Raking, blowing, composting - whatever is your "pleasure."  In addition, the real procrastination comes from blowing leaves off an almost flat roof (tar and gravel).  You have to climb up a 20' ladder, haul up the blower and electric cord.  In addition to that you need one or two mulch bags to gather up all of the fallen branches from the trees. Then you have to blow out the leaves from the gutters and be careful that you don't clog up the downspouts. Of course then what do you do with the leaves that came off the roof. Using the word procrastination is a very mild way of putting this situation.
~ George Graine


About my yuckiest garden task…We have a terrible deer problem at my house.  Fencing the property is not an option because of its layout, so I have to use deer netting for those plants that really need protection – mostly azaleas, hydrangeas and mountain laurel. The job I procrastinate most on in my garden is checking and moving netting when a plant has grown through it. It has to be done three or four times a year, and for plants closest to the house I do pretty well. But the plants farther out in the garden get neglected, and then it takes a really long time to cut away the netting and put new netting up. I hate standing there and cutting for the long time that it takes to disentangle lots of new growth – aaargh!
~ Shirlie Pinkham


Turning the compost heap. Reason for procrastination: I find those great big grubs that live in there intimidating...
~ Ellen McBarnette


The task I often procrastinate about is clearing old desiccated plant material - particularly tomato vines - at the end of the season in my community garden plot.  I've even tried to excuse it by telling myself the old vines provide good bird habitat.
~ Linette Lander


I always procrastinate on edging my garden.  I see all the landscaper companies around making everything look "just so" and I think it is a matter of pride that my garden definitely has a home-done look, until I finally finish it off and clear the edges.  
~ Patty Friedman


I always seem to put off the garden pond maintenance for fall. After all, you have to wait until the lilies stop blooming, right? Then I find myself climbing into frigid cold water up to my unmentionables to pull up the lilies and prune them, then drop them back. While I'm in there I also prune the iris and any other plants. I check on the fish (which I do daily, just not from on top of them), and finish up by cleaning out my skimmer filter and basket. If I've been smart enough, I brought a towel, otherwise I'm shivering on the patio while I remove my pond sneakers. Maybe next year I'll do better. :-\
~ Howard Gorinson

What garden task do YOU procrastinate on?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Video Wednesday: How to Save Seeds Before Winter

How to Save Seeds Before Winter
In this video, Kathy Jentz, Editor/Publisher of Washington Gardener Magazine, demonstrates how to save seeds before winter. I hope you are saving and carefully labeling your seeds for our upcoming Washington Gardener Magazine Seed Exchanges this coming January/February! 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Win a 2014 Local Gardening Task Calendar

For our November 2013 Washington Gardener Magazine Reader Contest, Washington Gardener is giving away a hot-off-the-press 2014 Local Gardening Task Calendar.
   Each month includes a list of what to do in the garden for local DC-MD-VA and Mid-Atlantic gardeners, along with a gorgeous photo of a seasonal flower from a local DC-area public gardens’ collection.
   You can order one for yourself and as gifts for your favorite local gardeners by going to: (Note that you can select the calendar to start with whatever month you choose.)
   To enter to win a Local Gardening Task Calendar, send an email to by 5:00pm on November 27 with “Garden Calendar” in the subject line and tell us: What Garden Task You Always Procrastinate On and Why. In the body of the email, please also include your full name and mailing address. The calendar winner will be announced and notified on December 1.

See below for a sample calendar page for December. Click on the image to see it at full-size.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Video Wednesday: The Archangel Ancient Tree Archive Story

At today's second annual Trees Matter Symposium hosted by Montgomery County Parks they shared the story of the Archangel Ancient Tree Archive. David Milarch, co-founder of the archive, was unable to attend in person due to health issues, but chimed in via remote connection. The topic of collecting DNA and cloning ancient tree materials is fascinating. It will be interesting to see how his project develops over the next 20 years.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Gifts from the Garden ~ Washington Gardener Enews ~ November 2013

The Washington Gardener Enews ~ November 2013 issue has been sent to all current Washington Gardener Magazine subscribers.

~ Gifts from the Garden
~ Top Local Garden Events Calendar for November-December
~ Magazine Excerpt: Getting to the Root of Growing Great Carrots
~ Mid-Atlantic Garden To-Do List for November-December
~ Reader Contest: Win a Local Gardening Task Calendar
~ Mum’s The Word
~ Washington Gardener's Recent Blog Post Highlights
~ New Plant Spotlight: Clematis ‘Sweet Summer Love’
~ What NOT To Do in the Garden Now
~ Washington Gardener Magazine Back Issue Sale!
and much more... 

You can access it as well as all of the other Washington Gardener Enews back issues online now and anytime in the future at

Friday, November 15, 2013

Gazebo Gazing on Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day

For this month's Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day share, I decided to take a walk around the plantings at the base of my gazebo to see what was flowering there. The gazebo is in part-shade and generally is a little more protected from the elements than the rest of the garden. Here are the four blooming plants I found:

Nippon Daisy

Toad Lily
Encore Azalea

Annual Salvia
Elsewhere in the garden, we got zapped by a wintry freeze this week. I have lost some summer annuals, but others hang on -- including some wave petunias, begonias, sunflowers, nicotiana, and even a few zinnias. I will probably clear them all out this weekend though as we have also had very little rain and I don't think it is worth continuing to water them at this point in the season.

What is blooming in YOUR garden today?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Video Wednesday: Maryland Farm & Harvest


A new series is debuting on Maryland Public Television this coming week all about agriculture, farms, and local growing in the state. Here is a preview clip from the series. It will air 7pm on Tuesdays and then repeat over the weekend on MPT and MPT2.

I'm really looking forward to episode #2 which will feature: "A 5th-generation Kent County grain farm family grows radishes to help clean up the bay. Women farmers network to market their products. Heirloom tomatoes grown and sold locally." Also, episode #5 caught my eye for a segment on "the big business of plant nurseries." I hope that in future episodes they explore more of the states' Eastern Shore wholesale nurseries that supply so much of the East Coast's ornamental plants.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Washington Gardener Magazine Book Club 2014 Selections
With the success of our first full year of the Washington Gardener Magazine Book Club, we are announcing our 2014 selections and schedule so that you can get a head start on obtaining the books and reading them.

For our first 2014 selection, we will be reading: Flower Confidential by Amy Stewart.

I am reserving a meeting room at a DC Library in early February. (We will move the location around to various DC library locations near public transit for each meeting pending library staff approvals, the location will be confirmed to you when you RSVP.)
The room allows food and drink and you may bring your dinner and/or snacks to share.

The book club meetings are FREE and open to anyone who would like to attend.
Please RSVP to "WG Book Club" at I will be limiting attendance to 20. If you need to cancel, let me know ASAP so we can give your spot to someone else, should we have a wait-list.

In case you like to read ahead, the other book club selections for 2014 are:

~ American Green: The Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Lawn by Ted Steinberg
~ Into the Garden with Charles by Clyde PhillipWachsberger
~ The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

I will announce the date for the next book club meetings after each previous meeting. We will meet roughly once each quarter.


Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Garden Frights: What is Lurking in Your Flower Beds?

For our October 2013 Washington Gardener Magazine Reader Contest, we asked our readers to tell us: “What is the scariest creature you have ever encountered in your garden? What made it so scarey?” Here are a few of their answers.

~ The scariest creature I've seen in my garden is pictured here. Wondering what it is? Well, I certainly was. It's actually two assassin bugs mating. As if the image of this creepy-crawly times two was not creepy enough, it's location on my daughter's swing set clinched our fear factor ten-fold. Of course, my child found this bug curiously fascinating - not scary at all. Leave it to the adult Master Gardener to be creeped out by a bug. When I looked it up, I found that the assassin bug "attacks its prey with a vicious stabbing motions, using the 'fang' at the front of its head." While I was looking it up, my daughter went back outside and gently transported it to safer ground. All I could say was, "Oh, thanks sweetie." She's none the wiser, or is she?

 ~ The scariest creature I found was a Cicada Killer. It was almost 2" long and looked like a giant yellow jacket coming out of the ground. I thought at first is was a plastic toy insect. Something one might see especially as Halloween approaches.  

~ The creepiest thing I ever found in my garden was while turning over my compost pile. I dug in with my garden fork and flipped over a large, matted section and saw a perfectly preserved bird skeleton. I quickly mixed it back in figuring the calcium was good for my plants.

~ I came face-to-face with a Black Widow Spider when cleaning out a brush pile. Shiny and aggressive -- she charged right up my shovel towards me. I'm not ashamed to say I screamed and ran.

What  scarey encounters have YOU had in your garden?

From the submitted entries we chosen one winner at random to receive a 1-quart bottle of LavaMite ( Congratulations to Brenda Lynn Kouyoumdjian of in Fairfax, VA! The prize retail value is $35. LavaMite is an organic spray designed specifically to kill spider mites without hurting the host plant. It can been used on many different types of plants, including fruit and vegetable bearing plants, houseplants, and more. Simply spray LavaMite onto the leaves of the affected plant and all spider mites that come into contact with the spray will be dead within 30 minutes. 

Monday, November 04, 2013

A Cutting Garden: You Can Grow That!

A home full of fresh-cut flowers is a welcoming, warm place. When those flowers come from your very own garden it is even more rewarding. It is a joy each time you look at the blooms t in your own home or at your work place to know they came from your own labor of love. A hand-cut bouquet from your own garden is always the perfect gift. When you grow a cutting garden, you’ll have plenty to gather for yourself and to share. 

The cutting garden is simply a bed of flowers and foliage plants which the gardener has grown specifically to use in flower arrangements. Often situated at the backs of vegetable beds, along the sides of houses, and skirting fence lines, the cutting garden is a practical alternative to the age-old gardener dilemma of not wanting to cut your most beautiful blooms from your carefully landscaped gardens.

When designing a cutting garden, there is no need to worry about the overall looks of the growing beds as you will be using it for continual materials for your flower arrangements. Pick a site with full sun and good drainage. Cutting gardens can be started from seed, much as you would your vegetable garden, or you can use divisions from your perennial plants. You may also purchase an assortment of potted annuals to add to the mix.

Your cutting garden can be a place for experimenting with new plants and colors that you would not have otherwise chosen in your landscaped beds. A few tips to make yours a success include planting in wide rows for easy harvesting, deadheading regularly to promote flower (nor seed) production, and choosing a variety of early, mid, and late season flowers.

When making selections of plants for a cutting garden, the plant choices are almost endless. You may want to stick to those annuals and perennials that are long-stemmed, sturdy, and do well once severed from their host plant. Here is a list of suggested cutting garden flowers and foliage plants suitable for growing the greater Washington, DC metropolitan area:
  • Artemisia
  • Asters
  • Black-Eyed Susan
  • Celosia/Cockscomb
  • Cosmos
  • Dianthus
  • Echinacea/Coneflowers
  • Gladiolus
  • Goldenrod
  • Lavender
  • Liatris
  • Lilies
  • Lisianthus
  • Mums
  • Peony
  • Sages/Salvias
  • Shasta Daisy
  • Sunflower
  • Verbena bonariensis
  • Yarrow
  • Zinnia
Of course, you can always supplement your cutting garden arrangements with flowers, grasses, branches, and foliage cut from other plants in your gardens, but having a growing bed dedicated just for cutting purposes encourages you to use them more and to not worry about the old "to cut or not" debate.

All who are involved with You Can Grow That! (YCGT!) believe that plants and gardening enhance our quality of life. We want people to be successful with what they grow and to become more aware of the many gifts that horticulture brings. Find out more at

Friday, November 01, 2013

Fenton Friday: Last Basil of the Season

It is time to close out my garden plot at the Fenton Community Garden. I will still be visiting it over the cold months and harvesting greens and root crops. It has really slowed down now, so this will be my last "Fenton Friday" post until early Spring.

Unlike most of the rest of the DC-metro area, our community garden got a few light frosts but not a hard freeze yet. Tonight though things may change as a low of 28 is predicted. I will pull out the remaining the tomatoes and basil plants. I am thinking one last batch of pesto for the freezer.

Then, next weekend, is our communal garden clean-up gathering where we weed and mulch the shared pathways and garden areas. My hope is that this time, it will not be an all-female gathering and that representatives from more than just 5 or so of the 44 plots at the Fenton Garden show up. What is it with all the lazy men at our garden? Sometimes one or two new people or even a few males show up and help for a bit, but they usually show up way late and have some excuse to leave early.

Sorry for generalizing, but it really is irksome to see the heavy work taken on by the same few ladies each time. What do you experience at your community garden? Do both genders take on the necessary chores equally?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Summer-Fall 2013 Washington Gardener Magazine Issue

Summer-Fall 2013 Washington Gardener Magazine Issue

Do a "little gardening" by plant a miniature world!

The Summer-Fall 2013 Washington Gardener Magazine issue is now out. To subscribe, send a check for $20.00 payable to Washington Gardener Magazine today to: Washington Gardener 826 Philadelphia Ave. Silver Spring, MD 20910 or go to .

Our Summer-Fall 2013 Washington Gardener Magazine issue is now mailing to all current subscribers. The cover story is on creating Magical Miniature Gardens also known as Faerie Gardens.
   You’ll also find in this issue:
• Carrot Growing Tips
• Plant Profile of Abelias
• Kudzu Bugs Threaten Beans
• Rose Rosette Disease Spreads
• Annmarie Sculpture Gardens
• Easy-to-Make Stepping Stones
• Native Nashville Breadroot
• Preventing Powdery Mildew
• And much, much more...

The Fall-Winter 2013 issue is in the works with a cover story on Fabulous Ferns!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Surprise Pumpkin Patch

UPDATED Guest Blog by Arlene Montemarano of Silver Spring, MD

Here is our surprise Pumpkin Patch! This vine popped up and took over our front lawn. We have promised the local day care around the corner that they can enjoy it. They come by and have picked out the pumpkins that they would like to have.  I fear that the pumpkins, though pretty big, will not orange up in time for Halloween. (My husband suggested Orange Rustoleum.) I am planning to help that along by removing the sun blocking leaves where the pumpkins are located, as soon as everything dries up again. We are having so much fun with this astonishing uninvited guest!

We harvested on Sunday, with the help of my seven grandchildren. The results were 26 pumpkins, with some interesting varieties mixed in. Nearly all given away now. It amounts to a lot of free food.

One pumpkin weighed in at 28.5 38.5 pounds. I neither planted or took care of any of it.

Astounding. And furthermore, my grass, buried underneath these big leaves for months, is still green, though a little shaggy.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Win a 1-quart bottle of LavaMite

For our October 2013 Washington Gardener Magazine Reader Contest, we are giving away a 1-quart bottle of LavaMite ( The prize retail value is $35.

   LavaMite is an organic spray designed specifically to kill spider mites without hurting the host plant. It can been used on many different types of plants, including fruit and vegetable bearing plants, houseplants, and more. Simply spray LavaMite onto the leaves of the affected plant and all spider mites that come into contact with the spray will be dead within 30 minutes.

   To enter to win a 1-quart bottle of LavaMite, send an email with “Mite” in the subject line to by 5:00pm on Wednesday, October 30. In the body of the email please include your full name, email, mailing address, and tell us: “What is the scariest creature you have ever encountered in your garden? What made it so scarey?” The winner will be announced and notified by November 1. Some of the entry responses may be used in future Washington Gardener online or print articles

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Video Wednesday: Re-Dedication of the Bishop's Garden

On October 9, 2013, the All Hallows Guild hosted a Re-Dedication of the Bishop's Garden at the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, DC. The garden was re-stored after being damaged when a large construction crane brought in for earthquake repairs to the cathedral two years ago fell across the garden. The massive machinery decimated many specimen trees and planting long with the stone entrance arch and wall.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Fenton Friday: Sweet Potato Harvest Time

I'm a bit behind on my working my Fenton community garden plot and am finally getting to digging up my patch of sweet potatoes. This year I only grew the tried-and-true Beauregard.

A few people on our Washington Gardener yahoo discussion list have asked about how to harvest and  cure them for storage. Proper curing makes a big difference in how sweet the potatoes are, so I'll go through the basic steps here:

1. To give yourself room and a better view for digging up your sweet potatoes, you can cut back the vines.
2. Next, use a garden fork or spade and start loosening the soil a good couple of feet back from the crown of the mound. I made the mistake last year of going in too close and stabbing a bunch of good tubers, mea culpa.
3. Work your way around the mound and gently pry up your tubers.
4. Brush off (gently!)  as much of the soil as possible.
5. Snip off with clean pruners if they are attached to a large root. Otherwise, leaves the small whiskers and such on them.
6. Lay out a layer of newspaper in a warm, humid, and dim space. I use my sun-porch with the blinds drawn. You do not want them to get cold though, so try to have the space be at least 80-degrees even at night. A greenhouse space works great for this.
7. Leave for 7-10 days.
8. Now they are cured and ready for cooking or storing.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

How to Store Winter Squash, Carrots, and Beets ~ Washington Gardener Enews ~ October 2013 issue

The Washington Gardener Enews ~ October 2013 issue is now sent to all current Washington Gardener Magazine subscribers. It is also posted and archived online at:
~ How to Store Winter Squash, Carrots, and Beets
~ Top Local Garden Events Calendar for October-November
~ Drink Your Garden
~ Magazine Excerpt: DayTrip to AnnMarie Sculpture Garden
~ Tulip Growing Tips and Sources
~ Mid-Atlantic Garden To-Do List for October-November
~ Ripen Green Tomatoes
~ Reader Contest: Win a 1-quart bottle of LavaMite
~ Washington Gardener's Recent Blog Post Highlights
~ New Plant Spotlight:New Rose Varieties Inspired by “Downton Abbey
~ Washington Gardener Magazine Back Issue Sale!
and much more... 
You can access it as well as all of the other Washington Gardener Enews back issues online now and anytime in the future at

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day: Trial Plants

It is Garden Blogger's Bloom Day again! On the 15th of each month, we gardeners with blogs share a few bloom photos from our gardens. Here is the Mid-Atlantic USA (USDA zone 7) on the DC-MD border, we had a very dry September and now a very wet October. The temps have been mild though, so most all my summer annuals and tropicals are still out and thriving.

For this month's GBBD, I thought I'd share photos of the the current blooms on three trial plants I was sent this past spring. All have done very well with pretty much total neglect on my part. The Dianthus and Lantana never stopped blooming from May to now. That is pretty darn great, IMHO.

Dianthus 'Dash Violet' Pan American Seed
Hardy Mum 'Fireworks Igloo' Blooms of Bressingham
Lantana Viva 'Chapel Hill Yellow' Monrovia

So what is blooming in YOUR garden on this bloom day?

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Washington Gardener Magazine is offering a *Govt Shutdown Special*

Washington Gardener Magazine is offering a *Govt Shutdown Special* tomorrow (Sat 10/12) at the National Capital Orchid Society Show from 9am-5pm.
  Remember that the NCOS Show has moved because of the shutdown from its usual home at the US National Arboretum to Behnke Nurseries in Beltsville, MD!
   Govt Shutdown Special Details: 10% off on all new subscriptions and renewals to Washington Gardener Magazine placed at the NCOS show. Everyone is eligible -- no Fed Govt ID required!
   Don't forget to bring your camera -- the orchid competition displays are simply gorgeous!!!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Fenton Friday: Rain Delay

It has been pouring rain this past week, today looks like another 2-inch day and it is predicated to continue on like this through to Sunday. I'm not complaining though! After the weeks of drought, this is a blessing. But due to it, I've stayed out of my community garden plot for fear of compacting my good soil. When I do get back in, I need to plant my garlic and dig my sweet potatoes. All in good time though.

Meanwhile, I'm keeping more than busy outside the garden giving garden talks and attending local gardening events like the re-dedication of the Bishop's Close Garden at the National Cathedral (pictured here). More on that here next Wednesday, when I share a video I'm putting together of that ceremony.

Stay dry and enjoy some indoor garden shopping at the NCOS Orchid Show and the Meadows Farms' Pink Day this weekend!

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

How to Take Coleus Cuttings and Over-Winter Your Coleus

Washington Gardener Magazine ( shows you how to over-winter your coleus plants by taking cuttings from them and rooting them in water.

I posted this two years ago, but somehow it never made it onto our main Youtube channel.

My cat, Santino, was a BIG help filming this one. Because he would get out of the shots, I worked him into the video. I think a star is born!

Monday, October 07, 2013

Furloughed in the Garden!?!

DC-area gardeners, as well as gardeners throughout the country, are being directly impacted by the Federal Government Shutdown in several ways.

First, there are the gardeners who rent community garden plots on Federal land within Rock Creek Park. They are officially barred from accessing their plots and harvesting, planting, watering, etc. Can you imagine?!
   The nonprofit Neighborhood Farm Initiative's Kristin Brower says, "We cancelled our workday on Wednesday, but we need to go out! So since we have access (unlike the Washington Youth Garden) we are still planning to have a secret workday." Many gardeners share her sentiment that "I'm not going to have my garden shut-down just because of the shutdown!"
   The Washington Youth Garden on the grounds of the US National Arboretum (USNA) similarly cannot host volunteers or field trips in their garden. The Friends of the National Arboretum report that USNA collections are being watered as they are an "essential" activity, but all other access and activities at the USNA is at a standstill. Same thing goes for the US Botanic Gardens (USBG) on the National Mall. If you were signed up to take a class or go to an event at these public gardens, they are canceled for the time being. If you are a garden speaker, as I am, and you were set to speak to a class during this shutdown, you do not get paid.
   In addition, gardeners, visitors, and volunteers are prohibited from fully accessing the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens , Mt Vernon, and Claude Moore Colonial Farm. The latter two properties are privately funded and access was/is being blocked to their parking and roads, which may or may not technically by legal
   Gardener groups who hold their meetings and events at these public gardens have had to cancel them or scramble for alternatives. The National Capital Orchid Society (NCOS) has their big annual show and sale at the USNA each October and was fortunate to be able to move it to Behnke Nurseries in Beltsville, MD, this upcoming weekend. It will not be the same, but at least it will go on.

Second, gardeners are being cut off from vital information. The USDA plants database is down, as reported on GardenRant, and the National Agricultural Library is closed to the public. That means I'm also cut off from researching stories and accessing photo files. I cannot interview experts, nor even get official quotes for this blog post since all the press offices are closed.

Third, small gardening businesses are being severely hurt by the shutdown. Federal workers and contractors on furlough have told me in the last week that they have cut all purchasing to the bone. Which means, the plant sale at Green Spring Gardens last Saturday was not as well attended as in previous years, despite a perfect weather day and great selection of vendors.
   As fed workers and contractors are on furlough, landscape crews and landscape designers are having jobs canceled both due to the workers going the DIY route with the extra time of their hands and for the anticipated lack of pay once this is all over.
   For my own small, local business, I'm seeing that renewals and new subscriptions to Washington Gardener Magazine have slowed down to almost nothing this week as well. I also have single issue sales of our publication at the Arbor House store, which sits at the now-shuttered USNA property. This is directly impacting our bottomline.

I'm not reporting all of this for sympathy or to stir up political debate (plenty of other online venues for that!), just to relate that this shutdown has a far more reaching impact than the general media and our leaders acknowledge. Have you been directly affected by the shutdown?

Warning: Many of the links above do not work because of the shutdown -- try them again once it is over.

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