Monday, December 31, 2018

Garden PHOTO CONTEST Kicks Off!

The 13th Annual Washington Gardener Magazine Photo Contest kicks off now! The entry period is January 1-22, 2019. 

Note that eligible entries must have been taken in the 2018 calendar year in a garden setting within 150-mile radius of Washington, DC.


~ Garden Views (landscape scenes)

~ Garden Vignettes (groupings of plants in beds or containers, unusual color or texture combinations, garden focal points, and still scenes)

~ Small Wonders (flower or plant part close-ups)

~ Garden Creatures (any living creature in a garden setting)

Remember that garden photos need not all be taken during the first week of May nor should they all be tight close-ups of a red rose. Look for the unusual and for beauty in the off-season too. Our judges give equal weight to the following criteria when evaluating the entries: technical merit, composition, impact, and creativity.

Anyone can enter: professional or amateur, adult or student, local area gardener or visiting DC tourist. Past winners have included teenagers entering their first-ever photo contest and home gardeners trying out their new digital cameras. Our next Grand Prize Winner could be YOU!


Also, here is the entry form text:

Washington Gardener Magazine Photo Contest Entry Form:
• Name -      
• Full address-
• Phone number –
• Email –
• Years of photography experience-
• Whether you are a Pro or Amateur-
• Image File name and title-
• A brief description of each image-
• The category each image is to be entered in -
• The location where each image was taken -
• All available photographic information regarding the image (i.e. camera type, lens, lighting, etc.)

For any contest inquiries, contact

*A PDF of the rules is available on request, if the JPG is not legible for you.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Living Coral: Pantone's 2019 Color of the Year

This year's Pantone's 2019 Color of the Year is Living Coral, a dark peach shade. This mix of pink-orange is one that is flattering to many skin-tones, but moreover, it is gorgeous in the garden.

Here are my picks for flowers in that apricot-adjacent tone to add to your growing beds and bouquets in the coming year.

Peony 'Coral Charm' photo by

Dahlia 'Pablo' from Brent and Becky's
 Rhododendron japonicum at the US National Arboretum
Martagon Lilies 
Rose 'Abraham Darby' photo by by David Austin Roses

Friday, December 21, 2018

What Happens to the Parks and Plants During a Federal Government Shutdown?

Looking at the recent past, each Federal Government shutdown is unique. Some have been partial and had limited impact, while others affected every department. Some have extended for weeks and other were basically overnight. In this current one, a quarter of the government will cease operation at midnight tonight. That "quarter" includes the Departments of the Interior (Parks) and Agriculture (USDA). 

According to the Washington Post, "Many national parks would be accessible to the public, for example, as they were during a brief shutdown last January, but their visitor centers and restrooms would be closed and there would be no trash collection or park rangers on duty. Historical homes and areas of parks where roads cannot be plowed would be closed. Roads and trails and open-air memorials would stay open."

The Smithsonian's museums and gardens (including the National Zoo) will remain open for this current shutdown until January 1. "After January 1, officials plan to reevaluate the situation," writes Beth Py-Lieberman of Smithsonian Magazine. "In January 2018, a similar shutdown threat occurred, and Smithsonian officials used 'available prior-year appropriations' for the lapse period to allow museums to continue operating and fund staffing for security and other significant positions throughout the museums and across the Institution."

Should those funds run out, there is a back-up plan. Barbara Faust of Director of Smithsonian Gardens said, "When the government is closed down, we have a skeleton crew that takes care of the gardens, greenhouses, etc. We also have one supervisor on duty each day. Typically staffing levels are equal to our weekend duty roster. We do have about four staff members who are paid from trust (private) funds, so they are able to work a normal work schedule. When it snows, we bring in as many people as we need to handle the response to weather conditions."

The U.S. Botanic Garden (USBG) announced, "The U.S. Botanic Garden is open through the holiday season as scheduled.Devin Dotson, USBG's Public Affairs and Exhibits Specialist said, "Our plant collections are cared for year-round by our dedicated employees in horticulture and operations. Our plans ensure care for both plants and facilities even during times when we are not open to the public." (Note that the USBG is under the the Architect of the Capitol and is not a part of the Smithsonian system, as some assume from its location on the National Mall.)
   Update: Devin said that the USBG is "funded for the fiscal year - through end of September 2019."

The US National Arboretum (USNA) located in NE Washington, DC, is under the USDA's Agricultural Research Service. It is CLOSED for the Federal Shutdown period. A veteran USNA staffer commented that during a shutdown, "There is a small list of essential employees who check the greenhouse systems and check water in all the greenhouses as well as monitor the bonsai collection. Luckily. most of the checking and watering for us can happen within 2-3 hours per day."

The DC Government is stepping in and will collect litter for the 125+ National Park Service (NPS) properties within the city's boundaries. In related news, "Washington's Mayor Muriel Bowser has given an extra $900,000 to increase rat control efforts."
If needed, the city will also plow snow on NPS maintained roadways, such as those within Rock Creek Park.

We will update this page as further details are released on these closings.

UPDATE 1: It is now January 1 and the Smithsonian has announced they will close indefinitely starting January 2. This includes the National Zoo, gardens and grounds, as well as all their museums.

UPDATE 2:  There are still-open public gardens like Hillwood, Dumbarton Oaks (not on Mondays though), Brookside Gardens, Green Spring Gardens, Mount Vernon, etc. to visit. Note that Tudor Place is closed for all of January for annual cleaning.

UPDATE 3: Citizen volunteer groups are forming to keep the National Mall and Federal parks within the city clean.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Japanese Maples, Fava Beans, and much more in the December 2018 issue of Washington Gardener Magazine

The December 2018 issue of Washington Gardener Magazine is out.

You can view it online at:

 Inside this issue:
·         25+ of the Best Japanese Maples for Winter Interest
·         Visiting the North Carolina Arboretum
·         Your Garden Task List
·         Fabulous Flavorful Fava Beans
·         Trees Matter to Bees and Local Business
·         DC-MD-VA Gardening Events Calendar
·         Meet Joe Howard: The Big Tree Man
·         And much more….

Note that any submissions, event listings, and advertisements for the January 2019 issue are due by January 5.

>>  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, December 06, 2018

Discuss The Roots of My Obsession with WG Garden Book Club

For our next Garden Book Club selection, we will be reading: 

"Why do you garden? For fun? Work? Food? The reasons to garden are as unique as the gardener. The Roots of My Obsession features thirty essays from the most vital voices in gardening, exploring the myriad motives and impulses that cause a person to become a gardener. For some, it’s the quest to achieve a personal vision of ultimate beauty; for others, it’s a mission to heal the earth, or to grow a perfect peach. The essays are as distinct as their authors, and yet each one is direct, engaging, and from the heart."
Our Winter 2018-19 club meeting will be on Thursday, January 3 from 6:30-8pm at Soupergirl, located right next to the Takoma metro stop. Soupergirl offers soups for sale that are incredibly healthy. They are 100% plant-based, low salt, low fat, and most importantly, absolutely delicious, so plan to come a bit early to purchase and eat your dinner with the garden book club. 

Please RSVP to washingtongardener (at) or at the book club event page at, so we know how many chairs to reserve for our group.

The Washington Gardener Magazine's Garden Book Club is free and open to all. We meet quarterly on a weekday evening near a metro-accessible location in the DC-area. We will announce the details of each upcoming meeting about two months in advance. Please check back on this blog for schedule updates and announcements.

Want to read ahead? The next book club selections are:


Monday, December 03, 2018

Beet Reporter

Beet Seedlings
By Ashley O’Connor

I’ve never been inside a community garden prior to interning at the Washington Gardener, let alone grow something myself from seed. But this experience taught me everything from the importance of composting to the terror of finding a baby bunny in the plot.

With the guidance of editor and publisher Kathy Jentz, I decided to grow beets: a vegetable tempered for the cool-season. We later added a third row of Swiss chard for good measure.

I was forced to replant after a September day of heavy rains that washed away my seeds.  And a hailstorm in November froze portions of the Swiss Chard plants.

Swiss Chard
Because of the weather issues, the results weren’t extraordinary; many of the red variety didn’t grow beyond tiny roots. (The roots are still edible) But there were enough fully formed white beets and Swiss Chard greens to make a nutrient-packed salad, dressed with EVOO, salt, and pepper. Eating something that came from my own efforts—digging in the hot summer sun, watering in the cold fall winds—was truly special. In the future I would like to start a small garden of my own.

About the Author:
Ashley O’Connor, a senior multi-platform journalist at the University of Maryland. This autumn, she is an editorial intern at Washington Gardener.

Saturday, December 01, 2018

DIY: Fairy Houses

Birdhouses make the ideal base for creating a Fairy* House. They are readily available at craft stores or you can easily make your own birdhouse from a kit or if you have basic carpentry skills. To make the birdhouse into a Fairy Abode, it only take a bit of paint, some glitter, and a few whimsical accents. 

This is an ideal rainy-day activity for doing with children or could be a nice activity for a whole garden club to undertake and create a fairy village.



Step 1- Sand off any rough edges on the birdhouse. Then wipe off any dust with a damp rag. Wait for it to dry, then you cover your work surface with newspapers. There may be a ledge sticking out for the birds to land on. Snap that off as faeries are expert flyers and don't need these.

Step 2 - Start painting. I prefer washable craft acrylics and using a foam brush for base coats, then moving to finer brushes for painting finer details. My Garden Faeries like tones of purple and green, but your resident faeries may have different tastes.

Step 3 - Plug in your glue gun and glue on accessories. I found round window frames in my dollhouse supplies that fit perfectly over the birdhouse hole to convert it into the side window. I also found a windowbox that was the perfect accent for under that. I then made my own door using some scrap balsa wood and glued that on.

Optional: I raided my jewelry box, craft supplies, and dollhouse for extra bits and baubles to decorate the house. You can dismantle lost-its-mate earrings to make the door hinges, as I did, or use your imagination to come up with other creative uses for your glittery odds and ends.

Step 4 - Paint the roof with a thin layer of Mod Podge or other shellac, then place the house in a cookie tray and gently sprinkle the glitter over it. This is where he magic happens, so take your time and do just a bit, then layer on more as desired. You don't have to stop at just the roof and can glitter up the whole thing -- do whatever your inner faerie tells you to do!

Step 5 - Add several more layers of Mod Podge or other shellac, waiting an hour or so between coats. This will ensure the longevity of your fairy house.

  • Decorate with found objects from found objects in your garden. These may not be as long-lasting as manufactured items, but can add a touch of "fairy realness." Try pine cones and acorns for roof shingles, birch bark for architectural accent pieces, and seeds for decorative accents.
  • Put your fairy house outdoors in a protected spot, such as under a large tree, and it will likely last a year or more out in the elements. The weatherization and decay are part of the charm of it.
  • You can use stencils to decorate the house with vines and flowers, if free-hand painting is not your strong suit.
  • This craft can be as complex or simple as you desire. Stop when you are happy with it or keep going and adding to it as you like.
*I personally prefer the spelling Faerie or Fae, but went with the more common term for this post.

This is a monthly blog series on DIY projects for the beginning home gardener. Look for the other installments in this DIY blog series by putting "DIY" in the search box here at

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Top 10 Garden Books of 2018

Here is a list of the best gardening books that came out in 2018 as reviewed in Washington Gardener Magazine. These 10 selections are in no particular order. 

Buy a few of these for yourself and for the plant geeks, garden lovers, and horticultural nerds in your life! (Note that if you click on the links, it takes you to the book's Amazon page and we get a few pennies if you order it from there.)

By Julie Thompson-Adolf
Our reviewer Ashley O’Connor said, "This is a great beginner’s guide, full of visual guides and informational blurbs to have anyone gardening like a master. Thompson-Adolf covers a lot of ground in this book, telling readers everything from biological breakdown of a seed to planning your garden. The book’s photographs and layout are beautiful, full of colorful dotted borders, modern outlined plant illustrations, and thoughtful typography. But make no mistake; the author doesn’t glamorize gardening to her readers. It’s a dirty, disordered labor of love, but, when done right, can be a fulfilling and delicious venture."
By Lisa Eldred Steinkopf
Our reviewer Andrea F. Siegel said, "This book does more than try to rescue us from being bad or ignorant plant parents who overwater, underwater, improperly fertilize, watch creeping things suck the life out of leaves, scorch shade-lovers in bright sun, and wring our hands as a small plant overgrows into a jungle. It’s a how-to resource book. The author clearly tells us that we have to meet our houseplants’ needs if they are to thrive. She advises us on how to do just that, so we can reap the health and other benefits of having houseplants. Her book offers guidance for all houseplant lovers, down to the horticulturally challenged or first-timer houseplant owners. The details the author presents in each plant profile—size and growing conditions—provide vital guidance. She advises readers to understand a plant’s complete profile to help create successful matches between us and our indoor plants. She’s encouraging all of us to include houseplants in our homes—to enhance not only our d├ęcor, but in our lives."
By Dr. Qing Li
Our reviewer Racquel Royer said, "This book about forest bathing or “Shinrin-Yoku” explains the benefits of forest bathing, our human connection to trees—specifically in Japanese culture, and a look into the science behind it all. Overall, this book was a great read and the layout made it easy to take in small chunks at a time. I’ve always understood the profound power of nature, but this book gave an engaging cultural perspective on the importance of nature and scientific proof of how it can better your life. There is not too much talk about gardening, but there are many reminders of why nature is divine, and how we can be mindful of that to improve our health and the future."
By Mark Highland
Our reviewer Erica H. Smith said, "Highland’s book is a good overview of the principles and practices of this complicated system, covering everything from the all-important soil preparation to dealing with pests and diseases naturally. Unlike many other organic gardening texts, it doesn’t remain inside the vegetable garden fence, but also strolls across the lawn and down the landscape paths, although edible plants still dominate the discussion. I’d recommend this book for experienced gardeners who want to take up organic gardening or improve their techniques.  This book is refreshingly up-to-date on scientific information. I cheered at the mention of how adding gravel to the bottom of containers doesn’t improve drainage and, in fact, creates a perched water table that stops the soil from draining properly. There are many other examples that show how closely Highland is following horticultural findings. The sections covering soil composition and conservation, keeping the garden watered, and interacting with both pest and beneficial insects are all terrific. The book also covers plant propagation, garden planning, lawn maintenance, and many other topics."
By Lorraine Ballato

Our reviewer Andrea F. Siegel said, "What with the ongoing development of new hydrangea cultivars—smaller shrubs, reblooming plants, hardier plants, showier blooms, and foliage—these days, there’s a lot more to know about them. Among the hydrangea books out recently is this one by horticulturist/garden writer/instructor Lorraine Ballato. Hers is a highly organized 13-chapter book to help you make sense of the increasing choices and understand what the plants need to thrive. The book’s easygoing style makes all the material understandable. The nearly 150 color photos are helpful because they show hydrangeas up close, as well as in varied settings. A lot of explanation is devoted to pruning. Whether your plant blooms on old wood, new wood, or both plays a large role in what and when to prune to have flowers at all. That’s one good reason to understand as much as possible about the characteristics of your particular hydrangea."

6. Vegetables Love Flowers: Companion Planting for Beauty and Bounty

By Lisa Mason Ziegler

Our reviewer Jamie Moore said, "Lisa Mason Ziegler had minimal gardening experience when she got married and took over growing vegetables on the family homestead. This book shares the story of her gardening journey and presents her answer to the question of 'What business do pretty flowers have in a vegetable garden?' Flowers in a vegetable garden are both ornamental and functional.  Ziegler calls flowers 'the best dose of medicine' for her garden. The body of the book provides practical information about growing cut flowers, from seed sowing to harvesting advice. This book is well-written, includes effective illustrations, and contains a lot of practical advice. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in building a healthy garden ecosystem full of life and beauty."

7. Container Gardening Complete: Creative Projects for Growing Vegetables and Flowers In Small Spaces 

By Jessica Walliser

Our reviewer Teri Speight said, "This is not your basic how-to book. The author strives to demonstrate not just techniques, but multiple planter options as well—from building a cedar planter to creating hypertufa containers. Walliser points out that one of the main keys to successful containers is using the proper light, fluffy, and blended mixture of ingredients. Providing multiple recipes for creating your own special container soil blend is a plus. Most gardeners will want to know the content of the soil that we are growing our plants in. With the many reference lists, plant recommendations, and tips, Walliser has written a resource-filled and informative book. I thoroughly enjoyed this book because it empowers any gardener to consider creatively growing in a container or two."

By Shawna Coronado

Our reviewer Erica H. Smith said, "If you’re looking for a whimsical, colorful book full of inspiration to make your garden more interesting and successful, check out this new volume from 'lifestyle advocate' Shawna Coronado. Throughout the book, she tries hard to follow current scientific guidelines, along with finding ways to make gardening easier, more fun, and completely organic and eco-friendly. Coronado defines hacking as 'the concept of breaking traditional rules to discover a creative way to accomplish something—a clever trick that saves cash for the thrifty or solves a problem elegantly.' Even if the title is just trendy marketing, beginning and experienced gardeners can find new and/or useful ideas here about both edible and ornamental gardening. How do you want to improve your garden this year? This is a great book to browse through for some ideas."

By Kerry Ann Mendez

Our reviewer Allison O’Reilly said, "This is a short, but sweet, guide to creating a beautiful outdoor space with as little cash as possible. Mendez uses dynamic formatting and colorful, eye-catching pictures that make her writing easy to follow and informative. Mendez explains how to wisely navigate garden centers and nurseries, mail order companies, and other small plant sellers like farmers’ markets and garden shows. She dives into how smart design choices in your garden can provide ease on the wallet, and how to make container gardening a frugal process. The bulk of this book is valuable advice about saving money while keeping up your gardening hobby. It is full of useful information about a variety of topics—all curated into one place, written out plainly and in strong detail. This book offers great takeaways for gardeners of all skill levels and passions."

10. Essential Native Trees and Shrubs

By Ginger Woolridge and Tony Dove

Our reviewer Jim Dronenburg said, "I admit at the start to a prejudice in favor of this book because the authors are local, which means that the 'personal experience' component of this book is local. Each plant has a short description of the plant and its major uses. Some, not all, cultivars are listed (holly has, at a guess, hundreds; this book lists a dozen). Nevertheless, the selections are carefully chosen for a good spread of size, berry color, and attributes. The book points out that hollies are for the most part dioecious (that is, they are male or female) and lists a good pollinating male. (Other dioecious plants in the book are also identified in their sections.  There is one caveat, which the book itself makes; a native will not prosper where people have altered conditions grimly from what they should be. Research the plant, and if your conditions fit what it wants, go for it.  Otherwise, don’t plant something until you can suit it. Overall, this is a very good book to have, a good read. It belongs in your collection."

Gifts for Gardeners - Gardening Gift Ideas - Cool Gardening Gifts

Do you have a gardener on your gift list for the holiday season? Maybe a winter birthday or wedding is coming up and you are looking for that perfect gardening gift?

I thought I'd again share the garden products I use almost every day. These are the tried-and-true work tools that make my garden grow, save my back from breaking, and generally make life a little easier.

BTW, they are linked to Amazon, so if you click on them and order any, I get a couple pennies added to my account. My full Amazon storefront is at:

1. Dramm 12446 2-Liter Injection Molded Plastic Watering Can, Berry 

2. 4-Port Deluxe Rain Barrel


3. Foxgloves - Medium, Moss

4. Sloggers Garden Clog

5. Scala Wide Brim Garden Hat

6. Garden Kneeling Pad

7. Corona AG4930SS Long Straight Snip, Stainless Steel

8. CobraHead Weeder and Cultivator

9. O'Keeffe's Working Hands Hand Cream, 3.4 oz., Jar

10. Alaska Fish Fertilizer 5-1-1 Concentrate 1 Quart

And, if you like this list, you may enjoy these gift lists as well:

Gardening Christmas Gifts

~ Gift Ideas for Garden Cats

Gifts for Gardeners in Winter

~ Top 10 Garden Books of 2018

Featured Post

Gifts for Gardeners ~ Gardening Gifts ~ Cool Gardening Gift Ideas

Today is Amazon Prime Day, so I thought I'd again share the garden products I use almost every day. These are the tried-and-true w...