Sunday, August 30, 2015

Tomato Taste 2015 Results: A Stunning Upset!

2015 Washington Gardener Magazine Tomato Taste

We had almost 300 people come to yesterday's Washington Gardener Magazine 8th Annual Tomato Taste at the FreshFarm Silver Spring Market yesterday. Here are the results of the more than 200 ballots submitted.

  1. Black Cherry from The Farm at Our House
  2. Sun Gold from Chicano Sol
  3. Sun Sugar from Spiral Path Farm tied with
    and  Red Currant from our own Washington Gardener Magazine garden plot
  4.  Pineapple from Three Springs Fruit Farm
  5.  Garden Peach from The Farm at Our House 
  6. Juan Flamme from Three Springs Fruit Farm
  7. Valencia from Country Pleasures
  8. Orange Banana Paste from The Farm at Our House 
  9. Sunny Boy from Three Springs Fruit Farm
  10. Green Zebra from The Farm at Our House 

It is amazing that 'Black Cherry' upset both perennial favorites 'Sun Gold' and 'Sun Sugar.' This may indicate a new trend in tomato taste towards more flavorful, less sweet kinds, or it just may be that the youths at The Farm at Our House have a special grower touch that lent their 'Black Cherry' an extra winning zing.

If we had excluded the cherry varieties from our contest, then the 'Pineapple' would have won as it was the top vote-getter of the slicing tomatoes.

Do take a minute to click on the photo link above to view the Flickr album of photos from the event. I think you will agree that the market tomatoes are absolutely gorgeous and very photogenic.

Daphne McCambridge of Silver Spring, MD, won the prize drawing of a market bag full of gardening goodies and $25 worth of market tokens!

Most of the taste attendees were local, though we also had many who came quite a distance. About half live in Silver Spring. Another third live close by in Washington, DC or the towns of Takoma Park, Chevy Chase, Kensington, Hyattsville, Rockville, Gaithersburg, and  in MD. From across the river in Virginia, attendees came from Crystal City. From out of the area, we had attendees from West Bath, ME, Stamford, CT, and Haddon Heights, NJ. And we even had one taster this year from Durham. England!

Thank you to all who came and participated. Thanks to the farmers for growing great tomatoes and to FreshFarm Markets staff for hosting us. Special thanks also to Doree and Martha for helping with all the tomato sample cutting and helping greet all the tasters in the short two-hour event. See you next August!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Fenton Friday: Dry as a Bone

was my wildflower patch
 I know I should not complain about our lack of rain in comparison to my gardening friends out west, but really it has been a brutal month here as well. Just getting missed by nearly every storm has been excruciating. Nothing worse than watching the radar, anticipating a good soaking -- only to see the front break up and disappear or veer north or south around the DC beltway. Ugh!

So now I am at the point of choosing what to let go and no longer water and what I have to haul buckets of water to just keep barely alive. In my communty garden plot, I'm writing off the wildflower patch at the back and also have stopped watering any tomato plants.

I am concentrating efforts on my strawberry patch, which despite a good soaking every few days, looks crispy. I think it should recover okay though.  I'm also making sure my basil, okra, and beans get enough water to keep producing.

It also means I'm delaying planting any fall crops as those would need near constant water and my schedule is to busy to keep running over to the plot for that. Once I see real rain in the forecast, those seeds are going in!

How do you handle drought conditions in your edible garden? What do you prioritize?
strawberry patch hanging on

About Fenton Friday:
Every Friday during the growing season, I'll be giving you an update on my community garden plot at the Fenton Street Community Garden just across the street from my house. I'm plot #16. It is a 10 ft x 20 ft space and this is our 4th year in the garden. (It opened in May 2011.) 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

ADVERTISER OF THE WEEK: Sunshine Farm and Gardens

 Rare and Exceptional Plants for the Discriminating Gardener and Collector

Barry Glick
Sunshine Farm and Gardens
696 Glicks Road
Renick, WV 24966, USA

Every Thursday on the Washington Gardener Magazine Facebook page, Blog, and Yahoo list we feature a current advertiser from our monthly digital magazine. To advertise with us, contact today.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Video Wednesday: Flamingo Collecting

Here is the collection of Yard Flamingos at the Washington Gardener Magazine headquarters garden in downtown Silver Spring, MD. Count along!

On of our summer interns, Daven Desai, shot the video. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Garden Book Donations to Brookside Garden's Library

Guest blog by Gaby Galvin 

On July 29, 2015, the Washington Gardener team took a trip to Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, MD, to donate 25 gardening and landscaping books to the Horticultural Reference Library in the Visitor's Center. This donation marked 197 total books donated by us with a total value of $5,506.66 since 2013.

Jared Ashling, volunteer coordinator at Brookside, said Washington Gardener Magazine’s donations have been helpful in keeping their library collection up-to-date and relevant. They have more than 7,000 books for horticulturists to conduct research. They rely mostly on donations.

Kathy Jentz, editor and publisher of Washington Gardener, received many of the books as review copies from the books’ publishers and authors. She expects to have another large crop of reviewed books to donate this fall.

Ashling said the Brookside Gardens' library has many generous donors who support them and that over the years they have received more than 5,400 books through donations. They accept gardening and horticultural books in good condition as donations. They inspect each book before adding it to their library. Books that don’t meet the criteria are either sold to earn money to buy more books or put in one of the three free little libraries on the grounds, where anyone can come and take them. 

About the author:
Gaby Galvin is a Washington Gardener Magazine summer 2015 intern who is studying multiplatform journalism at the University of Maryland. She does some gardening at home in Davidsonville, MD, with her mother and grandparents. 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Win Passes to Brookside Gardens Wings of Fancy Butterfly Exhibit

For our August 2015 Washington Gardener Magazine Reader Contest, Washington Gardener is giving away the five sets of passes to the Brookside Gardens Wings of Fancy live butterfly exhibit in Wheaton, MD (each set has two passes and is a $16 value). 

   Running daily through October 25, from 10am to 4pm, Brookside Gardens South Conservatory features live butterflies. Come witness the butterfly life cycle as tiny eggs hatch into crawling, chewing caterpillars, which then encase themselves in jewel-like chrysalides and emerge as sipping, flying adult butterflies. Learn about the best annual and tropical plants, and hardy shrubs that are used as nectar sources, to attract butterflies to your own garden. See more details at

   To enter to win a set of passes, send an email to by 5pm on Monday, August 31, with “Wings” in the subject line and in the body of the email. Tell us which was your favorite article in our August 2015 issue of the magazine and why. Please also include your full name and mailing address. The pass winners will be announced and notified on September 1.


The winners chosen at random from among the submitted entries are:

~ Melissa Merideth, Bethesda, MD 
~ Stephanie Richard, Rockville, MD
~ Katie Rapp, Gaithersburg MD
~ Madeline Caliendo, Washington, DC
~ Joletta Humpert, Silver Spring, MD
Congratulations and enjoy the butterfly exhibit!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Fenton Friday: Fair Awards

 I finally got over to the Montgomery County Fair to be able to check on my entries. I did poorly in comparison to previous years which I blame on two factors: 1. I submitted the entries on Friday evening, when I normally wait until Saturday entry time, as judging is not until Sunday. I was so booked-up last Saturday though, that I had little choice in the matter. And 2. When I put the cut flowers in the vases, the water was HOT to the touch as the pre-filled glass vases apparently sat out in the sun all afternoon. I tried to choose the coolest of what was offered, but I still think that was a very bad decision to have made in haste. I should have insisted they be dumped out and refilled with cold water. I'm sure my entry submission wasn't the only one that evening that was harmed by that snafu. Anyone who works with cut flowers knows that hot water is the death of fresh-looking blooms.

Anyway, I did win some ribbons for my efforts. A first fora  multi-flora red rose, a second for my dried herbs, and several others for my edible entries -- carrots, tomatoes, and potatoes. I took pictures of some of my winners (see them at left).

I also learned some lessons for next year's entries, like to pre-make my own fancy labels for the fresh herb submissions. I had thought that was not allowed and the judges/entry volunteers did that.

There were a few categories that I definitely could have placed in had I entered like garlic, okra, and chard, so I've noted those as well.

Have you entered home-grown items into your local fair? How did yours do? Any winning strategies and tips to share?

About Fenton Friday:
Every Friday during the growing season, I'll be giving you an update on my community garden plot at the Fenton Street Community Garden just across the street from my house. I'm plot #16. It is a 10 ft x 20 ft space and this is our 4th year in the garden. (It opened in May 2011.) 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

ADVERTISER OF THE WEEK: The Eric Stewart Group

The Eric Stewart Group of Long & Foster Real Estate is considered one of the premier Realtors® in the DC metro area. With a comprehensive approach to marketing and a knack for negotiation, Eric has established his group as a force to be reckoned with in the world of real estate. He also hosts a weekly radio show on WMAL to dispense timely information on the local real estate market. Eric has established a reputation for being highly motivated, hard-working, and professional.

Every Thursday on the Washington Gardener Magazine Facebook page, Blog, and Yahoo list we feature a current advertiser from our monthly digital magazine. To advertise with us, contact today.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Video Wednesday: Kenilworth Lotus and Waterlily Festival 2015

On July 11, 2015, the much-anticipated Lotus and Waterlily Festival took place at Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens in Washington, DC. From 10AM to 4PM, thousands of people gathered to walk through a vast array of lotus and waterlilies in full bloom.
   Children enjoyed making lotus flower hats, getting their faces painted, and painting demonstrations. There were also gardening workshops, traditional Asian and African dance performances, and lotus tea tasting for the adults. Visitors also had the opportunity to make lily pad hats and Japanese fans to keep them cool in the summer heat.
   Visitors enjoyed many other displays of entertainment, including educational and cultural exhibitors with a Civil War reenactment that was followed by a history lesson about the Civil War for all interested.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Washington Gardener Magazine August 2015 issue now out! Inside read all about Local Butterfly Houses, When to Plant Fall Crops, Protecting Your Coneflowers, and much more!


The August 2015 issue of Washington Gardener Magazine is now out and is posted at:

This issue includes:
~ Top 5 Local Butterfly Houses

~ Autumn Edibles Planting Chart
~ Your Garden Tasks To-Do List for August-September
~ Neat Little Native Plant: Yellow Star Grass

~ Local Garden Events Calendar for August-September
~ 8 Steps to Reduce Garden Water Usage
~ Curbing a Coneflower Catastrophe
~ 10 Things You Didn’t Know You CAN Compost!
~ Hashtag Mysteries Revealed
and much more...

Note that any submissions, event listings, and advertisements for the
September 2015 issue are due by September 10. 

Subscribe to Washington Gardener Magazine today to have the monthly publication sent to your inbox as a PDF several days before it is available online. You can use the PayPal (credit card) online order form here:

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Native Plants for Bloom Day

It is Garden Blogger's Bloom Day again! On the 15th of each month, we gardeners from all over the world share a few bloom photos on our blogs. My garden is in the Mid-Atlantic USA (USDA zone 7) on the DC-MD border.

Here is my Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica L), a native perennial plant, along with its white version growing right next to it. Both blooming away in my garden and last for weeks.

Though I have not designed my garden to be exclusively native plants, I find that I actually have more of them and am more successful with many of them than those who are striving for an all-native landscape. 

My personal philosophy in the natives vs nonnatives debate is that variety is an essential element in all aspects of our lives -- diet, friends, pastimes, etc., so I'm not certainly going to limit my plant choices to just one narrow growing region, but experiment and explore with what works best and what succeeds, stays -- the rest, adios!

Aside from these Lobelia, native plants blooming now in my garden include Asters, Goldenrod, Echinacea, Rudbeckia, Obedient Plant, Sedum, Sunflowers, Blanket Flower, Mountain Mint, and Salvia.

What is blooming in YOUR garden today?

Friday, August 14, 2015

Fenton Friday: Carrot Harvest

Once again my community garden plot exceeds my expectations. I had thought I'd run over for a quick minute this morning to clear out a handful of carrots to make room for fall season seeds, but that turned into a half hour of digging up lots of carrots and leaving still more in the ground for when I have more time. Carrot soup recipes, anyone?

I also have given up keeping up with all the tiny currant tomatoes. I pick a pint of these little guys each day and almost as many end up on the ground. Ah well, feast or famine, right?

Following up on last week's report of bean flowers forming, the green/pole beans are now starting to come in. Only a few today, I will check back in a couple days and see if I have enough to make a meal from at that point.

How is your garden growing this week?

About Fenton Friday:
Every Friday during the growing season, I'll be giving you an update on my community garden plot at the Fenton Street Community Garden just across the street from my house. I'm plot #16. It is a 10 ft x 20 ft space and this is our 4th year in the garden. (It opened in May 2011.) 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Tomato Tasting Time!

Washington Gardener Magazine's
8th Annual Tomato Tasting
at the Silver Spring FreshFarm Market

 It’s ‘Big Boy’ vs. ‘Mortgage Lifter,’ hybrid vs. heirloom, the tomato wars have just begun. Everyone is sure that their tomato pick is the tastiest. Join Washington Gardener Magazine at the FreshFarm Market in downtown Silver Spring, MD, on Saturday, August 29 from 10am-12noon for a Tomato Tasting. Best of all, this event is FREE!

Farmers at the market will contribute their locally grown selections — from super-sweet ‘Sungold’ to not-so-pretty ‘Cherokee Purple’ — and we’ll explore which tomatoes make the short list of favorites. We’ll have tomato gardening tips, tomato recipes, tomato activities for kids, and much more. All to celebrate one of summer’s greatest indulgences — the juicy fresh tomato.

Tip: Your tomato taste voting ballot is also your entry into our prize drawing for a basket full of gardening goodies. The drawing is at 12noon, so be sure to fully fill out your ballot by 11:45am and then stick around for the prize announcement as you must be present to win.

The results are in! Check them out here:

ADVERTISER OF THE WEEK: Yard By Yard Makeovers

Specializing in Garden
Renewals & Renovations
Yard By Yard Makeovers, LLC
7304 Carroll Avenue, #229
Takoma Park, MD 20912
We can reshape and beautify
neglected yards.

Every Thursday on the Washington Gardener Magazine Facebook page, Blog, and Yahoo list we feature a current advertiser from our monthly digital magazine. To advertise with us, contact today.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Video Wednesday: Wings of Fancy

Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, MD, holds an annual Wings of Fancy Live Butterfly and Caterpillar Exhibit. The seasonal display features hundreds of live butterflies from all over the world.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Open Garden Invitation

Washington Gardener Magazine’s Open Garden is back by popular demand! Everyone is invited to their annual gathering, which is also a celebration of their 10th anniversary!
   On Sunday, August 23rd, from 5-7PM stop by with your gardening questions, see the trial gardens in progress, or just come hang out with us for some late-summer tropical fun!
   Come if you have to renew or subscribe to the Washington Gardener Magazine in person, purchase gift subscriptions to the magazine, or come pluck a weed or two as a souvenir! Single copies of Washington Gardener Magazine back issues and current issues will also be for sale.
   Take photos of whatever is in bloom for our upcoming Garden Photo Contest and enjoy light refreshments and cold drinks. Children’s activities include ping-pong throw, sidewalk chalk, bubbles, and a fairy garden while adults peruse the information table on various area garden events and groups. There will even be surprises and prizes.
   The Open Garden is shine or light rain. We’ll quickly duck in the gazebo if it drizzles. In  case of a big storm, the rain date is Sunday, August 30th same timing and other deals. Please pass this invite on to your DC-area gardening friends and family.
  Dress in your best compost couture (i.e. natural fibers) and see you there!

Come to the corner of Fenton Street and Philadelphia Ave. /Rt. 410), Silver Spring, MD - then go into the garden party area which is inside the white fence directly across from the Public Storage building at 7800 Fenton
Look for the pink flamingos!
Please walk, bike, bus, metro, or car-pool. We are a 10-15 minute walk from either the Silver Spring and Takoma Park metro stops. Also, several Metro and Ride-On bus routes run right by.
If driving, there is limited free parking nearby on King Street , but there is much more available in the public garages/lots along Fenton and at the old police station on Sligo Avenue a few blocks away

Monday, August 10, 2015

Native Spotlight: Rose Mallow

Guest Blog by Rachel Shaw

A year ago I acquired Rose Mallow (Hibiscus moscheutos) at a native plant sale. At least I think I did. I always like to check out plants on the USDA plants database web site before I write something about them. Common names are notoriously unreliable, but I was a bit concerned when I saw the plant referred to as Crimson Eye Rosemallow. Almost every description and photo I’ve seen shows the flower with a bright red center, whether the petals are white, pink, or red. My flowers are pink with a white center. When I looked through the multiple photos of this species on the USDA web site, I found one that exactly matched mine, provided by the Smithsonian’s Department of Botany. I guess that will have to do.

Since last year, my plant has gone from one tall, strong stem to multiple stems from the same base. This is a plant that wants some room. The flowers are quite lovely, although they don’t last more than a day or so. When I look into the flower, there is often a bumble bee deep inside gathering pollen from the long stamens, its back comfortably supported by the innermost part of the flower.

Ideally, the plant would be in a wet spot, but this has been hard to come by here in Rockville, MD, since early July. I’ve planted mine next to a Swamp Milkweed, on the theory that if things got really dry, it would be easy to water both at once. I have done that, but I probably need to be a little less stingy with the water at this point; the quarter-inch of rain last week seemed like a lot at the time, but didn’t go very far when the ground is so parched.

I’m a little concerned that the plant will be a spreader, especially as it is developing many seedpods. I’ll have to keep a close eye on this; much as I like it, I don’t think there’s room for more than one Rose Mallow in my front yard.

About the author:
Rachel Shaw focuses on vegetable gardening and growing native plants in her small yard in Rockville, MD. She blogs at


Friday, August 07, 2015

Fenton Friday: Beans Late. But Better Than Never

This is a flower on a 'Blue Lake' pole (green) bean plant. You better take a good look at it as it will be a bean in a matter of hours. I never noticed the flower before, but it is actually pretty and a bit like a snapdragon.

The interns planted these beans at the back of my community garden plot on on June 24 and just six weeks later the plants are over our heads and producing dozens of flowers. I expect to be picking scads of beans this coming week. We timed them to produce before their summer internships ended and I think we will meet that goal.

A bonus of this late crop is that the county fair entry is next weekend and we might have enough good-looking beans to put in an entry for them. Not going to jinx things by saying too much more. I do not have many other things that I'm looking to enter at this point, maybe some of the cherry tomatoes and a variety of cut flowers. I can also see if my herbs will make a decent collection entry.

How is your garden growing this week? Anything you have your eye on for possible fair entry?

About Fenton Friday:
Every Friday during the growing season, I'll be giving you an update on my community garden plot at the Fenton Street Community Garden just across the street from my house. I'm plot #16. It is a 10 ft x 20 ft space and this is our 4th year in the garden. (It opened in May 2011.)  

Thursday, August 06, 2015

ADVERTISER OF THE WEEK: GoGardeners Garden Coaching

GoGardeners Garden Coaching

"My mission is to introduce people to the wonders of nature through their own backyards, and to show them how to enrich their lives and the environment by taking charge of their outdoor space." - Elise Stigliano,
Garden Coach &
Founder of GoGardeners
Phone: 301-518-8333

Every Thursday on the Washington Gardener Magazine Facebook page, Blog, and Yahoo list we feature a current advertiser from our monthly digital magazine. To advertise with us, contact today.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Video Wednesday: UDC Green Roof Opening Tour

The University of the District of Columbia's College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability and Environmental Sciences (UDC-CAUSES) debuted its green roof /urban farm in July 2015. The  40,000-square-foot green roof is on top of Building 44 on the Van Ness campus. It is mostly geared towards food production with a small pollinator garden of native plants also included.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Orange Cosmos: You Can Grow That!

Orange Cosmos (Cosmos sulphureus) is a prolific annual flower that re-seeds liberally, so once you have this plant, you will have it return each year in abundance.

To start it off, sprinkle (direct sow) a pack of seeds in mid-spring. The 'Bright Lights' seed mix is popular and widely available.

The seeds are easy to collect, so it is likely that you can get some free from fellow gardeners or at a local seed swap. If you do not want it to re-seed in your garden, deadhead and collect the spent blooms regularly.

This cosmos has ferny foliage and is covered with orange/yellow/gold flowers from mid-summer to frost. It is a wonderful cut flower, though it only lasts a few days in a vase. It is a pollinator magnet -- beloved by bees and butterflies. Finches enjoy eating the seed-heads.

It is native to the desert areas of the USA, so that gives you a big clue as to its growing preferences. Sulfur Cosmos (aka Klondike Cosmos or Sulphur Cosmos) grows best in full sun, but tolerates poor/clay soil and it thrives in heat and humidity. I never give mine any water unless we have a prolonged period of no rain and excessive heat.

Orange Cosmos is a bright spot in my garden and one of those old-fashioned reliable plants that is the backbone of my cottage garden.

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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