Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Video Wednesday: Garden Successes and Failures of 2014

Last night I participated in the live Garden Chatter via Google Hangout with terrific hosts Brenda of #GardenChat fame and Adam Cortell of Digging the Garden. My fellow guests were Linda Ly of and Scot of 

We discussed our gardening successes and failures from the past year and also what we look forward to growing in 2015. What are YOU planning to grow new in the next year?

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Discuss Tulipomania with the Washington Gardener Book Club

For our first 2015 selection, we will be reading: Tulipomania by Mike Dash. I have reserved a meeting room at the Shepherd Park " Juanita E. Thornton" Neighborhood DC Library for Tuesday, February 10 from 6:00-7:30pm. The library room allows food and drink and you may bring your dinner and/or snacks to share.
(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 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.

I will announce the date for the next book club meeting's date and location after each previous meeting. We will meet roughly once each quarter/season.
The other book club selections for 2015 are:

~ Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
~ Beatrix Potter's Gardening Life by Marta McDowell
~ Teaching the Trees by Joan Maloof


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Washington Gardener December 2014 issue: Thomas Rainer at the Intersection of Wild Plants and Human Culture

Washington Gardener is the magazine for gardening enthusiasts in the Mid-Atlantic region.
The December 2014 issue is being sent now as a PDF to all current subscribers.

It is also now posted at:

This issue includes:
~ Thomas Rainer at the Intersection of Wild Plants and Human Culture
~ Praying Mantis: Friend or Foe
~ December Garden Tasks
~ Local Garden Events Listing
~ Growing Citrus Indoors
~ Maryland Master Gardeners End Phone Line
~ Grass Roots Exhibit at US National Arboretum
~ New Grafted Tomato on Potato Roots
~ Season’s Greenings at the US Botanic Garden
and much more...

Note that any submissions, event listings, and advertisements for the January 2014 issue are due by January 10.

SUBSCRIBE TODAY by using the link at the top-right of this blog page.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Video Wednesday: The Flower Show “Celebrates the Movies"

Here is a preview of  the 2015 Philadelphia Flower Show: Lights, Camera, BLOOM theme.
Personally, I cannot WAIT for the combination of my two passions -- gardening and movies!

Travel to the Philadelphia Flower Show Trips 2015 with Washington Gardener Magazine
• March 4, 2015 depart from downtown Silver Spring, MD
• March 5, 2015 depart from Behnke Nurseries in Beltsville, MD

Registration and details on our trips will be posted in the next few days. Save the dates and stay tuned!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Christmas Roses for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day

On the Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day as Christmas approaches, the Christmas Roses aka Hellebores (Helleborus niger) are coming up right on time here in my Zone 7 garden on the DC-MD border. Here is a photo:

In addition to the Hellebores, I have PJM Phododendron and pansies going strong outside. Inside I have an assortment of typical holiday plants -- Paperwhites, Poinsettia, etc. along with a few violets and geraniums hanging on in bloom.

What is blooming in YOUR garden now?

Register now for the 10th Annual Washington Gardener Seed Exchanges

The 10th Annual Washington Gardener Seed Exchanges, hosted by Washington Gardener Magazine, takes place on January 31, 2015 at the Behnke Nurseries in Wheaton, MD AND at February 7, 2015 at Green Spring Gardens in Fairfax, VA. You can attend both or you have a choice on which side of the beltway you want to attend!

Seed Exchange attendees trade seeds, exchange planting tips, hear expert speakers, and collect goody bags full of gardening treats.

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

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

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

Subscribers to Washington Gardener Magazine receive a $5 discount off the admission to the Washington Gardener Seed Exchange.

The registration form is posted below. Please print it page 2 and fill it out, then mail it along with payment by January 25 (see update note below) to Washington Gardener, 826 Philadelphia Ave., Silver Spring MD 20910.

UPDATE 1: The speakers have been announced, See their details here:

UPDATE 2: We still have some spaces left, so you may register on-site at the Washington Gardener Magazine 2015 Seed Exchange on Saturday, January 31 12:30-4pm at Behnke Nurseries in Beltsville, MD. On-site Registration opens at 12:00noon. The program begins promptly at 12:30pm. We recommend that you print out the registration form and fill it in and bring it along with a check made out to "Washington Gardener" in order to speed things up and keep the registration line moving quickly.
    We also still have spaces left for the Seed Exchange on February 7 at Green Spring Gardens in Alexandria, VA. You can still mail in your registration for that, please ensure that it will arrive by February 5.
    And yes, you can attend and participate, even if you have no seeds to swap. We always have plenty of extra to share with new and beginning seed starters!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Win Passes to Lewis Ginter's GardenFest of Lights in Washington Gardener Magazine's December 2014 Reader Contest

For our December 2014 Washington Gardener Reader Contest, Washington Gardener is giving away a family 4-pack of tickets to Dominion GardenFest of Lights in Richmond, VA.

The Dominion GardenFest of Lights,  A Legacy in Lights:  120 Years from Bicycle Club to Botanical Garden rins through January 12, 2015. (Note that it is closed December 24-25). A holiday tradition featuring more than half-a-million twinkling lights, hand-crafted botanical decorations, model trains, holiday dinners, firepit with s'mores and hot chocolate (for purchase); nightly family activities & more. The region's ultimate holiday extravaganza! Here’s more on this year’s show:

To enter to win the family 4-pack of tickets to the Lewis Ginter Gardenfest of Lights, send an email with “Gardenfest of Lights” in the subject line to by 5:00pm on Friday, December 19. In the body of the email please include your full name, email, and mailing address as well as your New Year's gardening resolutions. The ticket winner will be announced and notified by December 21.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Natives Spotlight: Red Osier Dogwood

Red Osier Dogwood (Cornus sericea), can be a bit unruly during the growing season. The two in my backyard tend to flop as the season progresses, perhaps because the large shade leaves weigh down the slender stems. Once the leaves fall the stems return to a nice upright position. This is the time of year when these shrubs come into their own, the red stems providing winter cheer, especially when highlighted against snow.

I usually prune my Red Osier Dogwood pretty hard in February, to encourage new growth and bright stems. The tradeoff is that I don’t get flowers, since they bloom on new wood. This year I plan to experiment with cutting a few older stems to the ground and leaving others. Even though the floral display is not considered this shrub’s strongest feature, it would be nice to have some blossoms, as well as berries for the birds.

This spring I learned by accident just how easy it is to propagate these plants. I decided to use some of the trimmed stems to make a funky little trellis for my pea plants. I put three stems upright in the ground, and loosely attached some stems to them horizontally, using several of the shrub’s flexible small twigs to tie the pieces together.  Later in the spring I noticed that leaves were unfurling on one of the upright stems. Voila, I had inadvertently started a new dogwood in my vegetable garden!

Red Osier Dogwood is a native that is widespread throughout the U.S. except for the southern states. It likes moist soil, but should do well in all but the driest areas, and can handle a range of light conditions from sun to shade. Plant these shrubs where you can seem them from a window in winter and they are sure to lift your spirits in the dark months.

About the Author 
 Rachel Shaw focuses on vegetable gardening and growing native plants in her small yard in Rockville, MD. She blogs at
   This guest blog post is part of a monthly Native Plants series that Rachel authors for Washington Gardener Magazine around the 10th of each month.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Video Wednesday: The Story of The Park at LeDroit

Watch this lovely video from Casey Trees as it shows the transformartion of The Park at LeDroit in Washington, DC, through the gift of trees and community volunteerism.

UPDATE: Oddly, fo some this video is displaying as "private." If that is the case for you, here is the direct Youtube link: 

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Local Gardening Talk Series on Capitol Hill next March-April

I'll be giving this Local Gardening Talk Series on Capitol Hill at the Hill Center next March-April. Sign up soon to reserve a space.

When: Mon, 03/09/2015 - 6:30pm to 8:00pm
Repeats every week until Mon Apr 13 2015 (except Mon Mar 16 2015).
Cost: $50 per class or $235 for Entire Series
Category: Food and Garden
Join Kathy Jentz of Washington Gardener for this wonderful 5 class series as she helps you prepare your garden for Spring. These classes are great for non-gardeners and expert gardeners looking to brush-up. Register for the entire series HERE.

Kathy Jentz is editor and publisher of Washington Gardener Magazine. A life-long gardener, Kathy believes that growing plants should be stress-free and enjoyable. Her philosophy is inspiration over perspiration.

Session 1: Local Gardening Resources and Sources (Register for this class HERE)
What annual garden festivals are worth attending? Which public gardens fit my needs? What are the best places to shop? Where do I find out more? You will receive a special reference handout listing local gardening classes, shows, public gardens, web sites, garden books, and much more.

Session 2: Regionally Adapted Plants (Register for this class HERE)
Plants that have proven themselves in the Mid-Atlantic. Low-maintenance gardening is the goal of many of us in our busy lives and the key is planting the right plants got our local climate. We'll talk about some native plants, of course, but mostly we'll explore the tried-and-true plants that can take clay soil, deer, and/or periods of drought. Season-by-season, we'll share our favorite plants that excel in our local gardens.

Session 3: Local Gardening 201: Common Challenges (Register for this class HERE)
So you have been gardening for a few years, but still feel like there are some holes in your gardening knowledge and you are frustrated by a few obstacles? This class is for you. We'll take it to the next level and talk about local gardening challenges like poor landscape drainage, gardening on a slope, dealing with deer, planting in clay soil, etc. We'll examine case studies of local gardeners who have conquered these common garden challenges.

Session 4: Getting the Garden Ready for Spring (Register for this class HERE)
Can you feel the difference in the air? Birds and buds are waking up as spring fast approaches! There is so much to do in the garden, but where to begin? We'll look at what to tackle first, what can wait, and what you need not bother with at all. Get organized and get inspired for a new growing season ahead.

Session 5: Small Space Garden Design – Squeezing it all in to your Urban/Suburban Garden (aka Getting the Most out of Small Space Gardens) (Register for this class HERE)
Using examples from area gardens, Kathy Jentz, editor and publisher of Washington Gardener magazine, will illustrate basic design principles for maximizing garden space. Kathy will address common small-space challenges such as creating privacy and adding light to shady areas. She will also give ideas for low- or no-budget solutions.

Register Here »

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Paperwhites (Narcissus papyraceus): You Can Grow That!

Paperwhites (Narcissus papyraceus) are a great holiday season project for beginning gardeners and for doing with children. These Mediterranean bulbs are pre-chilled for you so they are virtually ready to "pop" once you place them in water. 

They are generally inexpensive, around $1-2 each, so you can buy several and pot them up as gifts for everyone on your list. 

I like to place them individually in votive candle holders or heavy-bottom rocks glasses then line them up on windowsills, down the middle of a dining table, along the fireplace mantel, or singly next to the bathroom sinks. You can also take a large glass bowl or tall vase and place several bulbs in together to make a forest of paperwhites. I have used fishbowls, teapots, and old watering cans. Really anything that is water-tight can be used, so look around your home for inspiration.

To anchor the bulbs in and preventing them from toppling over as they grow leggy, you can place the bulbs in a variety of decorative media from aquarium pebbles to glass marbles. (You can always use potting soil to plant them in, but that is messy and not as pretty, IMHO.) I like to use hydrating water beads that you can get from florist supply and craft sources. They come in many shades, but I tend to stick with the classic clear ones. Whatever media you use, keep the water level only up to about the bulb's hip area so as not to rot it. If your home is as dry as mine in winter, you will need to top off the water every few days, so keep an eye on that.

Once "potted," place them in a sunny window until the leaves emerge and a stalk with flower bud started to form (usually about 10 days to 2 weeks), then place them wherever you'd like to display them.

After the flowers start to fade, pull the bulbs out of the water and pry off any marbles/stones/glass that you want to re-use next year then throw out the whole plant in your compost pile. In our Midatlantic USA region, they are not winter-hardy so there is no need to try and plant or save them for next season. 

Warning! The scent of paperwhite blooms is a love/hate thing. I personally fall on the "not-my-favorite smell" end of things, so I keep paperwhites in well-ventilated rooms and out of any bedrooms. If you really cannot stand the scent, there are paperwhite varieties that are lighter in fragrance than the mass-produced 'Ziva' that you find everywhere. These you will need to special-order from bulb catalogs long before the holiday season. They include 'Inbal' and 'Galilee.'

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

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Video Wednesday: Button Farm

Button Farm: A Living History 
A short documentary video produced by Docs In Progress Intro to Documentary Production students Jihan Madyun, Peggy Tevis. The video profiles Button Farm, a living history center in Germantown, MD. People of all ages come to learn about 19th century slave plantation life and the heroic story of the Underground Railroad.

Friday, November 28, 2014

NEW DC-MD-VA Gardening Calendar 2015 from Washington Gardener Magazine

Now available! The Local DC-MD-VA Gardening Task Calendar 2015 from Washington Gardener Magazine. It includes monthly task lists for local DC-MD-VA (zones 6-7) gardening and photos of gorgeous flowers from Washington, DC-area public gardens.

All new art for 2015!

The calendar is a great gift for yourself and any area gardeners you may know!

Order here:

NOTE: Be sure to specify on the initial order page what month you wish to start the calendar with as you can customize it for any 12-month-span you like.

Here is a sample of one of the interior art pages:

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Video Wednesday: Jan Kirsh, Eastern Shore Landscape Designer and Sculptor

Here is a video share from Garden America Radio Show:

"From Maryland, Jan Kirsh has worked with Eastern Shore clients to help them with residential landscape designs so that their outdoor living spaces are places of beauty and respite. She also creates fruit and vegetable sculptures in any size out of oil-based clay, then cast and fabricated in materials suitable for indoor or outdoor displays. Similar to her signature landscape designs, her sculptures express exuberance and joy. This morning she will share some of her ideas for landscape design and incorporating sculpture in the garden. Visit her website at"

Monday, November 24, 2014

Reader Contest: Win a Copy of Windowsill Art

For our November 2014 Washington Gardener Magazine Reader Contest, Washington Gardener is giving away a copy of Windowsill Art: Creating One-of-a-Kind Natural Arrangements to Celebrate the Seasons by Nancy Ross Hugo (retail value: $18.95).
   Local Virginia author, Nancy Ross Hugo, demonstrates how to use the windowsill as a platform for small, simple displays that celebrate the seasons and reflect the personal style of their creators. Her fresh approach uses bottles, jars, and other small vases to showcase arrangements of locally collected leaves, seedpods, flowers, fruits, and twigs.
   Windowsill Art is published by St. Lynn’s Press, an independent publishing company based in Pittsburgh, PA. See the review in the curreny Washington Gardener Magazine issue on page 10.
   To enter to win the book, send an email to: by 5:00pm on November 28 with “Windowsill Art” in the subject line and in the body of the email please also include your full name and mailing address. Tell us: “What is your favorite way to decorate your windowsills?” The book winner will be announced and notified by email by November 30.

Congratulations to our "Windowsill Art" book winner: Leah Cohen of Winchester, VA!
Please be sure to enter our next reader contest.
Enjoy your Thanksgiving holiday week!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Upcoming Classes at On The Purple Couch

I have two upcoming classes at One The Purple Couch in Kensington, MD. See the flyers above for full details (click on them to see at full size) and also visit to learn more and to register. The class on November 30 is all about Holiday Plants and include bulbs two-ways -- Paperwhites for now and Tulips forced for enjoying later. Then, the class on December 3 is all about Terrariums and we'll make some lovely Terrarium Ornaments together.

Tonight, On the Purple Couch is having an open house from 5-9pm and I'll be there with a table previewing both classes as well as selling our "Keep Calm and Garden On" buttons and magnets, current and back issues of the magazine, and demonstrating what you'll make in the classes described above. There will also be other demos and pop-up shops so come out and bring your friends for a lovely pre-holiday evening!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Washington Gardener Magazine ~ November 2014 issue ~ Growing Lovely Leeks, Fabulous Fringe Tree, Stopping Spider Mites, and much more...

Washington Gardener is the magazine for gardening enthusiasts in the Mid-Atlantic region.
The November 2014 issue is being sent now as a PDF to all current subscribers.

It is also now posted at:

This issue includes:
~ Growing Lovely Leeks
~ American Umbrella Leaf
~ November Garden Tasks
~ Local Garden Events Listing
~ Guerilla Gardening
~ Meet Stamp Photographer Cindy Dyer
~ Stopping Spider Mites
~ A Deadly Leaf Fungus Can Affect Gardeners
~ Fabulous Fringe Tree
~ Detecting Lead Hotspots in Urban Gardens 
and much more...

Note that any submissions, event listings, and advertisements for the December 2014 issue are due by December 10.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Video Wednesday: How to Get Spring Blooms in the Dead of Winter

Bulb Forcing 101: 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!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Chilly Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day

Encore Azalea

This Garden Blogger's Bloom Day is frigid. It feels more like the dead of winter than late autumn here in the Mid-Atlantic USA (zone 7). One bright spot is this Azalea, one of the reblooming Encore series. I was sent it as a trial plant years ago and it is finally living up to its name and giving reliable blooms all year round.

Also still in bloom in my garden, despite the deep freeze, are sunflowers, salvia, snapdragons, pansies, alyssum, and Nippon daisies.

What is blooming in your garden today?

Friday, November 14, 2014

Fenton Friday: Final Garden Plot Report of the Season

It is official. The polar freeze came through last night and the summer crops in my plot at the Fenton Community Garden are done. I'll be ripping them all out and putting down a layer of compost then mulching with straw. At this point I'm calling the plot "done" for the season. I still have some onions and garlic bulbs to put in and some more hardy greens I want to start from seed. I will also be continuing to harvest from my cool season crop beds that include broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, arugula, parsley, radishes, and carrots. This will be my last Fenton Friday report for 2014. Look for the weekly community garden plot updates to start back again next March. Keep checking this blog though for news on the upcoming Seed Exchanges, trips to the Philadelphia Flower Show, Garden Photo Contest, and much more!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Video Wednesday: Shutting Off Water Sources for Winter

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This week's video on Shutting Off Water Sources is incredibly timely with a huge cold front moving into the Mid-Atlantic area. If you have never had trouble with a water pipe freezing and bursting, count yourself lucky. I hear many horror stories from new homeowners who were never told they needed to turn off their outdoor water for winter nor even where the shut-off valve is -- if you don't know where that valve is, make it a point to find where yours is today!

This one is another production. BTW, you may have to wait a few seconds for the video to load while listening to a brief sponsor commercial. If the above viewer screen, does not work, you can go to to watch it her
OR go directly to:

Friday, November 07, 2014

Fenton Friday: Cold Crops Coming In

Broccoli heads forming
This week at my garden plot in the Fenton Community Garden we dodged the frost/freeze that hit points south and west of us, but it looks like this weekend may may dip to the '20s and that may be that. As you see pictured below, my tomatoes are still producing well, but I think the flavor is really lacking and I may just pull them out, even if we don't get hot by this predicted frost.

Elsewhere in my plot, the cool season crops are revving up. The Broccoli and Brussels Sprouts are heading and my goal of having them by Thanksgiving to feast on is looking actually realistic!

I harvested my one and only Kohlrabi today as I doubt that it will get much bigger and, well, I wanted to see what it tasted like. I eat mine peeled, then cut up raw with a ranch dip. How do you like your kohlrabi?
Brussels Sprouts sprouting

Garlic emerging

Kohlrabi done and harvested

Last of the 'Sun Gold' Tomatoes

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Video Wednesday: Top 5 Summer Annuals

Watch Norfolk Botanical Garden’s Les Parks as he reveals the NBG top 5 summer annuals from this past season. I totally concur with Coleus 'Redhead' -- mine keeps going on and on. Keep this list handy for next year.

If the video does not play above, then you can go to watch it at:

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Herbaceous Peonies: You Can Grow That

Herbaceous Peonies are among my favorite flowers. Peonies are easy to grow and will reward you with armfuls of luscious blooms every May-June. Once established, the only care they need is to have the old foliage cut back in fall.

Select a sunny, well-draining spot in your garden for peonies. Be sure to give them space to grow as well as this perennial grows to shrub-like proportions in a single season. Having said that, 
herbaceous peonies really do play well with others in your perennial borders and combine well with roses and clematis.

The only "trick" to herbaceous peonies is to not plant them too deep. When you get a peony root division, you will see the red-ish "eyes" (new emerging plants). Plant them with the tips of the roots pointed downward andthe eyes set just an inch or so below the surface of the soil. Amend the planting hole with peat. Then mulch it over with leaf compost. Do not add in any fertilizer.

Herbaceous peonies are shallow-rooted so try not to dig or bother the plants too much around their crown area. When you weed, just cut them off at the soil level.
You may have to give the heavy blooms some staking and support, but I find I cut them at the bud stage to enjoy indoors often enough to not have to worry about the characteristic peony flop.

If an early summer storm is brewing and your peony is in full bloom, run out and cut all the blossoms that you can as a hard rain can often pummel and destroy these beautiful flowers. So disappointing to go out after a storm and see your peonies beaten to mush!

Mid- to late-autumn is the best time to prune back the peony foliage to within a couple inches above the soil. 

Peonies don't need dividing and they actually resent being disturbed. But, if you want to separate and share them, do so in early fall for the best results.

Pictured above is 'Do Tell' peony at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, DC.

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, October 31, 2014

Fenton Friday: Frost Coming, No Body Panic

'Sun Gold' tomatoes
As you have likely seen in my last blog post, we have a frost/freeze warning for the region this weekend. That means will soon be draining the cistern at the Fenton Community Garden, so I went over today and filled up over a dozen kitty litter and milk gallon containers to have water on stand-by over the long winter as I hate lugging it from home.

My tomatoes, especially 'Sun Gold' apparently love these cool nights as the plants have taken off like crazy and are crowding out my pathways and I picked over 30 ripe tomatoes today and had harvested another couple dozen earlier this week. All those that were split or green I left behind. We shall see if the forecasts are correct, but until they actually get frost-bitten, I'm leaving the tomatoes and other summer crops in the ground.

In related news, garden writer wrote up a piece on community gardening for Parade online. Read it here. I supplied here with a few quotes about my experiences as a childhood community gardener and more recently at the Fenton Community Garden. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about other garden writer's experiences as well. And now I know where C.L. Fornari gets all her energy -- it is all those fresh-grown veggies!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Giving Tender Plants Extra Frost/Freeze Protection

“Bundle up,” your mom always advised you when you went out to play in the frigid winds. The same advice applies for your tender and newer outdoor plantings. The freezing northern winds and freezing nighttime temps can damage or kill those annuals, perennials, shrubs, and trees that are more marginal in our Mid-Atlantic planting zones. If a plant is classified as hardy only to zone 8 or above, than it is wise to take a few minutes to evaluate it for frost/freeze protection needs. Here are the top methods to give your plantings a bit of warmth and relief during any freeze/frost alerts:
  • Take it indoors. You may not have a greenhouse, but you probably have a garage, cellar, or protected porch. Sometimes all your potted tender plant needs is a sheltered spot for those worst weeks of the year. You can also wrap a blanket or burlap around the base of the pot to keep it insulated. Alternatively, group a bunch of pots together and stuff the area with leaves.
  • Plant it right. The warmest part of your yard is most likely at the base of a southern-facing wall. This is the spot to plant your camellias, figs, and others in your zonal edge.
  • Mulch it. Pile up mulch around the base of the plant to give its root-zone a nice blanket of warmth. Grafted trees and shrubs especially are vulnerable to die-back, so give an extra mulching to your fruit trees and rose bushes now. Be sure to pull pack that mulch layer at the first signs of spring.
  • Cover it. If you have just a few small tender plants to cover or want to give an early start to next season, use a cloche or glass bell. (An assortment of Colonial era cloches is pictured here.). You can make a modern cloche out of plastic soda bottles or milk jugs. Be sure to take them off or vent them during the day. To vent them, you can prop them up with a small stick or on stones.
  • Blanket it. Watch the local weather closely and on the coldest nights of the year, have cover cloths or old blankets/sheets on the ready to throw over your plants. This is a good precaution to take on nights with an ice warning. Many plants that are solid Zone 6 and 7 can still suffer severe frost damage and breakage, so go ahead and cover them when an ice storm is predicted. Then uncover when the danger of icing has passed.
  • Insulate it. Surround your most vulnerable plants with a metal cage (like your old tomato cages) or plastic mesh and stuff the frame full of leaves. You can also wrap the plant burlap tied with twine to achieve the same purpose. Then unwrap and un-stuff your plant in early spring.
Finally, if you find you have a real cold spot in your garden that is a frigid micro-climate, consider more long-term solutions for this spot... 

See the rest of the article in the Washington Gardener November 2011 issue posted here:

Note: I may earn a small commission for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial, and/or link to any products or services from this website. Your purchase helps support my work in bringing you real information about local gardening.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Video Wednesday: Save Seeds Before Winter

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Here is another "vintage" video from our productions. It is about Save Seeds Before Winter. Enjoy! (BTW, you may have to wait a few seconds for the video to load while listening to a brief sponsor commercial.)

Speaking of Seed Saving, our dual Seed Exchanges are set for early 2015. In the drab, dreary heart of winter, join us for seed swapping, expert speakers, great goody bags, and much more. Save these dates: January 31, 2015 at Behnke Nurseries in Beltsville, MD and February 7, 2015 at Green Spring Gardens in Alexandria, VA. Registration and full details will be posted in early December.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Announcing the Washington Gardener Magazine Book Club 2015 Selections

With the success of another year of the Washington Gardener Magazine Book Club, we are announcing our 2015 selections and schedule so that you can get a head start on obtaining the books and reading them.

For our first 2015 selection, we will be reading: Tulipomania by Mike Dash. I am reserving a meeting room at a DC Library for a weekday evening 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 library 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.

I will announce the date for the next book club meeting's date and location after each previous meeting. We will meet roughly once each quarter/season.
The other book club selections for 2015 are:

~ Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
~ Beatrix Potter's Gardening Life by Marta McDowell
~ Teaching the Trees by Joan Maloof 


Friday, October 24, 2014

Fenton Friday: Full Plot and New Markers

 Yay! We got new plot markers this week at the Fenton Community Garden, which is great as the old wooden stakes were rotting and mine no longer could stand up. I find my new marker in the middle of my neighbor's plot and quickly moved it lest he think I was staking a claim on his Swiss Chard!

My plot is busting out of bounds, but I still have lots of tomatoes ripening and annual flowers blooming so I will keep stuffing cool season crops in around them as best I can. The photo above is an overview of the whole plot. Going clockwise from the top-left corner are: tomatoes on top pf potatoes, cosmos tangled with a morning glory vine, parsley and cilantro, cool season crops (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, kohlrabi, arugula, carrots, and radishes), strawberry with asparagus in the middle, a pot of hot peppers, a dying okra, marigolds, Swiss chard, celosia and lisianthus. I'm sure I've forgotten a few things, but that gives you a good overview and what a contrast to way back to the start of the season pictured here!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Video Wednesday: Create a New Garden Bed Without Digging

Here is another video from our "classics" vault:

In this video, Kathy Jentz, Editor/Publisher of Washington Gardener Magazine, demonstrates how to winterize a vegetable garden including how to create a new garden bed without digging.

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