Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Video Wednesday: Amsonia Plant Profile

Amsonia hubrichtii grows well outside of its limited native range (the mountains of western Arkansas) and is proven to be hardy in USDA Zones 4–9. This herbaceous perennial takes about three growing seasons to reach maturity and is long-lived. A mature plant will have about 50 stems and grows three feet high and wide. This species is also commonly called thread-leaf blue star or Arkansas blue star — or, simply, Amsonia.
   It dies down in the winter and starts to re-sprout in April. It is deer-resistant and well-noted for providing three seasons of interest. In spring, there are clusters of pale-blue flowers. Then, in summer, it has copious amounts of feathery, apple-green foliage. Finally. it has brilliant, clear-yellow foliage for at least a month in autumn. It is most often planted because of this colorful display it provides from October into November.
   You can prune the plant to about 12 inches high immediately after the bloom cycle has ended to encourage a fuller growth habit for the summer. The sap is sticky; so wear gloves when pruning. 
   It produces its best color when grown in full sun. However, it will tolerate morning sun and afternoon shade. Amsonia prefers moist, well-drained soil, but it can adapt to somewhat drier conditions once it has become established. 
   The best method for propagating Amsonia hubrichtii is by dividing the crown in spring. Softwood cuttings are also possible. Starting this species by seed has mixed results, because the seeds sprout erratically.
   Amsonia hubrichtii is known for its effectiveness in mass plantings, informal borders, and naturalistic landscapes. I love seeing it planted along roadsides throughout the Mid-Atlantic states. One famous landscape setting is by the Capitol Columns at the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington, DC. It is a show-stopping display in mid-autumn with the purple aster blooms setting off the golden amsonia foliage.
  Amsonia hubrichtii: You Can Grow That!

 You can read more about Amsonia in the Summer 2011 issue of Washington Gardener Magazine 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Video Wednesday: Beautyberry Plant Profile

Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) is a shrub that is native to our Mid-Atlantic area and throughout the southeastern United States, Beautyberry adapts well to various growing conditions from part shade to full sun, from moist soil to dry. It reaches 4-6 feet in height and width.

It is a show-stopper in late summer/early fall when the brilliant purple berries adorn the branches. Birds and other wildlife are also fond of the berries as a food source so you may find your berry display stripped sooner than you would like.

See more about Beautyberry at:

To see other videos in our Plant Profile series., go to:
~ Japanese Anemones - click here
~ Asters - click here
~ Toad Lily - click here

~ Pink Muhly Grass - click here
~ Phalaenopsis or Moth Orchids - click here
Chrysanthemums - click here 

Monday, November 20, 2017

Win a copy of Container Gardening Complete in November 2017 Washington Gardener Reader Contest

For our November 2017 Washington Gardener Reader Contest, we are giving away a copy of Container Gardening Complete.
   The new book by Jessica Walliser will be the most-comprehensive container gardening book on the market. It hands readers everything they’ll need to create a gorgeous and productive container garden, including potting soil recipes and lists of the best container-friendly vegetable and fruit varieties, herbs, and ornamentals. Container Gardening Complete also features 20 cool DIY container projects that illustrate step-by-step instructions for building creative containers and filling them with the best plants.
   You’ll get to know the ins and outs of gardening in a small space, from the importance of drainage, irrigation, and other watering concerns to ornamental combinations of plants, and the very best vegetables, fruits, and nonedibles for container gardening.
   It is coming out December 12 from Cool Springs Press/Quarto Publishing.
  To enter to win a copy of Container Gardening Complete, send an email to by 5:00pm on November 30 with “Container Book” in the subject line. In the body of the email, tell us what your favorite article was in the November 2017 issue of Washington Gardener Magazine and why. Be sure to include your full name and mailing address. The winner will be announced and notified on December 1.

Thank you to all who entered our November 2017 Washington Gardener Reader Contest.Our winner chosen at random is: Michael Kelley of Berwyn Heights, MD.

Friday, November 17, 2017

November 2017 issue of Washington Gardener Magazine features Brussels Sprouts, Urban Forestry, Spotted Lanternfly Warning, and much more

The November 2017 issue of Washington Gardener Magazine is now out.

Inside this issue:
- Brushing Up on Brussels Sprouts
- Scary Tales about the Spotted Lanternfly
- Latest Research Findings in Urban Forestry
- How to Prepare a New Bed Using the No-till Method
- Plant Swap Finds Can Bring Home Noxious Weeds
- Your Garden Task List
- Tips for Growing Amaryllis
- DC-MD-VA Gardening Events Calendar
- Meet Filmmaker Karyl Evans
and much more…

Note that any submissions, event listings, and advertisements for the December 2017 issue are due by December 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:

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Garden Books Gifted to Brookside Horticultural Reference Library

By Uyen Nguyen

Holly Stover accepts the book donation on behalf of Brookside.
Washington Gardener staff stopped by Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, MD, last Saturday to drop off a donation of books that will be added to the Horticultural Reference Library.
Editor and publisher Kathy Jentz has featured reviews of several of the books in previous editions of the magazine. The books cover a wide range of horticultural topics, such as propagation techniques, miniature bonsai trees, and landscape design.
The value of this batch of donated books is about $300, which added to a previous donation made earlier this year for a total of about $1,000. Last year’s book donations came to $683.01, and in 2015, Washington Gardener gave $535 in donated books. The magazine’s largest yearly donation was in 2013, with $3,070.94 worth of books donated.

The mission of the Horticultural Reference Library at Brookside Gardens is to be a resource for Brookside Gardens and Montgomery County Parks staff, the citizens of Montgomery County, MD, and any other individual interested in learning about the science and art of Horticulture. Volunteer librarians are there and ready to help you find answers to your plant questions; they are available Monday through Friday at 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., or by appointment.
About the Author:
Uyen Nguyen is a senior multiplatform journalism major at the University of Maryland. This autumn, she is an editorial intern at Washington Gardener Magazine.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Video Wednesday: Chrysanthemum Plant Profile

Chrysanthemums or "mums" are an asset to any perennial garden. They provide quiet foliage all through the growing season and then set bloom right when most everything else is finished. From gold to pink to white and maroon, there is a color for every planting scheme. Don’t limit yourself to just the pompon cushion variety either...

Read more about mums at:

To see other videos in our Plant Profile series., go to:
~ Japanese Anemones - click here
~ Asters - click here
~ Toad Lily - click here

~ Pink Muhly Grass - click here
Phalaenopsis or Moth Orchids - click here

Friday, November 10, 2017

Fenton Friday: Freeze Alert

I missed checking in last week with a Fenton Friday post as I was at the Turning a New Leaf Conference in Herndon, VA. It was such a nice day at the meeting, that a garden writer friend and I took our lunch break outside the hotel. Little did I know that it would be once of our last chances to do so this year. The arctic front has moved down to our region and several cloudy/rainy days are now followed by frigid temps tonight. This is likely the end of the growing season for the most part.

We dug up some 'Icicle' radishes and 'Purple Top' turnips a few days ago. I saw that my garlic had sent up some green shoots and piked a few last zinnia blooms.

The broccoli under the row cover had grown a bit, but it appears that slugs had snuck under the protective blanket and did some serious damage to the foliage. I applied some organic Sluggo-Plus pellets yesterday and hope that takes care of them.

How is your vegetable 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 6th year in the garden. (It opened in May 2011.)

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Succulents with Sparkle Terrarium Class

UPDATED: Because the 11/25 and 12/10 classes were so popular, we have added a third (final) class on 12/27 from 6-7:30pm - see details and registration at:

We are offering a bit of holiday stress relief -- join us for a Succulents with Sparkle Terrarium Class.

Take a creative break this holiday season at the Catylator Makerspace in the basement level of the World Building in downtown Silver Spring, MD.

We will be making a glass terrarium with succulents and adding a touch of sparkle to it. All materials are included as well as care instructions to keep your succulent happy and thriving. 

No prior gardening experience required -- beginners welcome! 

(Must be 10 years old and over to attend.)

Light snacks will be served. 

Catylator Makerspace is located in the iconic World Building in downtown Silver Spring Md at 8121 Georgia Ave, Suite LL1. It's a 10 minute (0.4 mi) walk from the Silver Spring Metro stop on the Red Line. Parking is available in the county garage on Fenton and Silver Spring Avenue (free on weekends).

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Click Here to visit the Brown Paper Tickets event page.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Video Plant Profile: Ornamental Peppers

Heat up your autumn with these little balls of fire! Ornamental peppers make great container and foundation plants. They really are three-season plants, but fall is when they put on their best show. The peppers come in a range of colors from white to orange/red to purple to black -- often with multiple hues on the same plant. The plants are short and compact. The foliage is also colorful. Look for plants with almost black leaves or ones with bright variegation that contrast with the fruits.

They need full sun for best coloration, but will do alright in part sun. They are not very fussy plants. Pinch back any new growth in order to encourage branching and fullness. Keep the soil evenly moist. You can also bring them indoors as a houseplant once the night temperatures dip -- placing them in a sunny window through winter and then back outside once the last frost has past.

I like to cut a branch for use in dried flower arrangements or in a seasonal wreath. I also string some using floral wire to make a holiday garland. When working with them, be sure to wear eye protection and gloves when handling the fruit so you don't feel the heat from these potent plants.

Ornamental Peppers are deer-resistant. Nor will squirrels or rabbits touch them, but birds may give them a try. And yes, they are technically edible, but you really wouldn’t want to consume them as they are very hot and not bred for flavor, and therefore are not very tasty. Also, as they are grown as ornamental plants they made have had pesticides applied to them by the grower. 

My favorite varieties to grow are 'Black Pearl', "Sangria', and 'Calico' -- and new ones are being bred and introduced all the time. It is fun to try a few new ones out every year in my garden.

Ornamental Peppers: You can grow that!

To see other videos in our Plant Profile series, go to:
~ Japanese Anemones - click here
~ Asters - click here
~ Toad Lily- click here

~ Pink Muhly Grass - click here

Phalaenopsis or Moth Orchids - click here 

Saturday, November 04, 2017

Phalaenopsis or Moth Orchids: You Can Grow That!

It is a myth that all orchids are necessarily hard-to- grow, expensive, and are only safe in the hands of experienced gardeners. The most commonly available orchids are the Phalaenopsis or Moth Orchids. These so-called “grocery store” orchids are tolerant of the conditions inside most homes and make ideal “beginner” plants for first-time orchid growers. They are also quite inexpensive now due to cloning or tissue-culture reproduction, which has really brought down the prices of these plants in the last decade.

They have long-lasting blooms, often going for several months. The height of their natural bloom season is from November through March, but you will find them for purchase forced into bloom at all times of the year.

Phalaenopsis orchids need lots of air movement, even moisture, and several hours of indirect (but bright) sunlight each day. Avoid direct sunlight, which is too harsh for them.

They prefer temperatures no lower than 60 and not much higher than 85 degrees. They dislike sudden temperature changes. Cold temperatures will cause the leaves to turn yellow and drop. If this occurs, remove the yellow foliage and continue caring for the plant normally.

Water them when dry and allow the soil to dry out between watering.  The plant uses more water when it is in flower. However, it does store moisture in its canes, and can withstand short dry periods. Add a weak solution of liquid orchid fertilizer to the water, but cut that back during its blooming time.

And whatever you do, don’t add ice! Despite what the marketers tell you, these tropical plants do not appreciate freezing cold water on their root zones.

Repot them every year or two in a slightly larger pot and use a potting mix specifically formulated for orchids. Your orchids will also appreciate a “summer vacation” outside in a lightly shaded spot, just remember to bring them inside before a frost.

For more about orchid care, visit the National Capital Orchid Society at, the Maryland Orchid Society at, or the Virginia Orchid Society at

To see other videos in our Plant Profile series., go to:
~ Japanese Anemones - click here
~ Asters - click here
~ Toad Lily- click here

~ Pink Muhly Grass - click here

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, November 01, 2017

Video Wednesday: Pink Muhly Grass

Muhly Grass is a tough, native, ornamental grass that is topped in late summer and fall with fluffy plumes of cotton-candy pink. It is airy and beautiful. You cannot resist brushing your hands through it as you walk by.

It grows to about 3 feet high and wide. Pink Muhly makes a great border or edge plant. It combines well with the pink-flowering forms of Echinacea, Sedum ‘Autimn Joy,’ and other ornamental grasses.

It is native to the southern United States and Mexico. The genus (Muhlenbergia) contains over 150 species, but only a few are commercially available.

It prefers full sun (6-8 hours), but can tolerate part-sun. It grow best in well-drained soils, so place it on a slope and amend clay soil well with compost for best results. This grass can tolerate drought conditions, high heat, humidity, and nutrient-poor soils. 

Pink Muhly is disease -and pest-resistant. The only maintenance needed is to prune it back to about one foot high in late winter/very early spring.

There is a white version called 'White Cloud' that is equally as stunning and traffic-stopping. 

This is the fourth video in series of plant profile videos aimed specifically at the Mid-Atlantic home gardener. See the other videos in this series:

~ Japanese Anemones - click here
~ Asters - click here
~ Toad Lilyclick here

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