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

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