Sunday, April 14, 2019

Crazy About Daffodils - A post by Thea McGinnis

Across America, the daffodil season has begun or soon will! Here in the National Capital area, it's both cherry blossom and daffodil time, and this spring has been rather spectacular for both species.

Last weekend, fellow NGC flower show judges Connie Richards, Anita Brown and I attended Course I of the Amercan Daffodil Society's Daffodil Judge School.  Exciting, too, was that the course was  held at Brent and Becky's Bulb Farm in Gloucester, Virginia. I highly recommend you visit their farm if you are down that way. What a beautiful place! What a fascinating learning experience!  For more information on Brent and Becky's, click here

Following the course, we attended Gloucester's Daffodil Festival. We're talking parades, history, daffodils, food, music and attending their splendid Daffodil Show.

Look! The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts on the road museum! 

Back here in the National Capital Area this past weekend, I competed in the Washington Daffodil Society and Mid-Atlantic Region Daffodil Show.  Show leaders told me they had record attendance. 
My triandrus, 'Thalia' even won a blue!

One thing I've learned in the last month is how many people are fascinated by growing and showing

 daffodils.  And for some, it's not just competing. It's about spring and poetry.

For more information on joining the American Daffodil Society, click here  and for more information on Virginia Fine Arts Museum on the road museum bus, click here

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Late Winter in the Nation's Capital - A post by Thea McGinnis

Every time I think spring is going to break through, it snows!  School is cancelled.  We sit home, mostly, reading our seed catalogues.  I did get out last week, however, when my best friend from third grade came into town.

We toured two historical homes: Tudor Place( here) and ( in Georgetown, which is a lovely home with historic connections from George Washington on into the twentieth century.  It also boasts a lovely garden.

Hillwood's cutting garden in late winter - they just turned the soil
The other home was Hillwood, a garden I've featured here (here) before.

Even though it was brisk the day we visited, we couldn't resist a stroll into the gardens. They've turned the dirt on the cutting garden but there's not a lot of action yet...except in the Orchid green houses.

Yowza! Enjoy!  Thea

Monday, March 11, 2019

It's Flower Show Time In Our National Capital Area - Mark Your Calendars! A post by Thea McGinnis

The purpose of an NGC Flower Show

.  To educate club members and viewing public
.  To stimulate interest in horticulture and floral design
.  To provide an outlet for creative expression
.  To communicate NGC, Inc. goals and objectives

Last month, National Capital Area Garden Clubs held Flower Show School Course I.  Over 30 garden club members from National Capital area, Maryland, and Virginia attended, with 23 future
student judges taking the final exam.

NGC Design Instructor, Jackie Davis
I think that is a very healthy sign for our organization.  The two expert National Garden Club Instructors were, frankly, fantastic.  Sue Kirkman from Kentucky, and Jackie Davis from Pennsylvania, had an incredible amount of information to convey to our students. They each explained, in great detail, flower show procedures and aspects of judging horticulture and design. In my opinion, Flower Show School is the most challenging of the excellent courses of study and certification offered by NGC.

Another indicator of organizational health - and the fun part -  is the clubs and districts that will host an NGC flower show this spring.  Flower shows are free and open to the public. I'll post more site specifics as I get the information. Here's the list so far - mark your calendars!

April 5, 2019 - District II will host a Standard Flower Show at River Farm in Alexandria, VA.

May 8, 2019 - Tanta Cove Garden Club will host a Small Standard Flower Show, "Sing A Song of Spring," at the home of Shirley Nicolai in Fort Washington, MD. (1:30 - 3:00 p.m.)

May 16, 2019 - Rock Spring Garden Club will host a Horticulture Specialty Flower Show, "Poetry In the Garden," at Little Falls Presbyterian Church, Arlington, VA. (2:00 - 4:00 p.m.)

May 22, 2019 - Manassas Garden Club will host a Standard Flower Show.

June 6, 2019 - The Garden Party and Friendship Garden Clubs will host a Small Standard Flower Show.

Leave a comment if you want to know more details about NCAGC garden shows happening this spring.  And if your club or district is hosting a show - let me know!  T

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Hellebores - February is the Time to Prune!

A word about hellebores. . . .

A lot has been written about hellebores.  These wonderful plants bloom at the end of the winter just when you are beginning to wonder if spring will ever come.  If you are lucky enough to have some in your garden, now is the time to prune them.  Their leaves are indeed evergreen, but by February many are looking a bit frayed and could do with some rejuvenation.  The way to prune most hellebores is to cut off their leaves – yes, all the leaves – just as the buds are emerging.  This will not harm the plant and the buds will be followed quickly by new leaves.  The advantages of this are that the flowers are easily visible and not hidden by ugly old foliage, and the new foliage will look lovely and fresh. 

If you have Corsican hellebores (Hellebore argutifolius) this advice does not apply.  Corsican hellebores bloom a little earlier than lenten roses on top of two to three foot stems.  Prune each flowering stem down to the ground after the bloom has faded, or when the weather permits.

In recent years dozens of new hellebore introductions have come to market.  Traditional colors are more intense and a pallet of new colors has been added, especially purples, yellows, vibrant reds, and even greens.  Flower forms now include doubles, as well as cut and picotee edges.  

I was skeptical about yellow hellebores, but I have changed my mind because they are the most visible ones in the garden, and are a good choice for planting at a distance from the house or path.  I particularly like those with mottled green foliage, since it is very decorative for the rest of the year, after the flowers are finished.  

Christine Wegman is a Rock Spring Garden Club member in National Capital Area Garden Clubs' District III.  She is one of the go-to 'hort' experts in her club. Christine and her husband, Charlie Flicker, are avid and generous gardeners and have cultivated a delightful garden (for any season) in Arlington, Virginia. 

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

The Weather is Frigid! A post by Thea McGinnis

Yes - it's cold everywhere! But that isn't stopping the Superbowl or National Area Garden Clubs' activities!

 This weekend we start a new Flower Show School Course I, with more than 30 new students! Volunteers from NCAGC and NCAGC Judges Council have been extra busy getting our classrooms, displays, horticulture and designs ready for our two expert National Garden Clubs, Inc. Instructors. 

I'll be there and I'll post pictures next week - Thea

Monday, January 14, 2019

Choosing Evergreens for Outdoors and Indoors - a guest post by Christine Wegman

Choosing evergreen trees and shrubs for your garden have the added benefit of making beautiful winter arrangements for the holidays and beyond.

By this time of the year we all have a pretty good idea of what landscape designers refer to as the “bones” of our gardens:  those plants that act as structural elements by their shape, size and color.  Structural plants look much the same throughout the garden year.  Often focal points that draw the eye to perennial and annual color, they remain handsome during the winter.  Mostly evergreen shrubs, some are deciduous trees and shrubs that remain an attractive presence through the winter because of their beautiful form or the color of their bark.  They are the elements that give a garden winter beauty.  

Now is a good time to take a look at your garden with an idea to improving its structure.  Annuals have gone to seed and perennials have died back.  It is easy to see where planting a small tree or evergreen shrub would improve the overall look of the garden, both in summer and winter.  This could be a tall, narrow conifer for the back of a border, a small crape myrtle with attractive winter bark, or even some low-growing juniper for the front of a border.  Making room amongst the flowers for a few conifers or small broadleaf evergreens can make a garden beautiful all year.  Visiting a few conifer nursery websites – Iseli is a good example – will give you lots ideas for how this can be done.  There is a conifer or small evergreen for just about any place in a garden, even heavy shade.  This winter, make a note of where some evergreen plants are really needed and then search the web to find what might work in your situation.  As you plan for more winter structure, keep in mind those plants that are good for winter arrangements.  If you plant strategically, you can have a bit of fresh greenery in the house through much of the winter.  And, of course, you can bring a branch in to one of our meetings for horticulture credit.

Conifers are the quintessential greens for holiday decoration, and almost any conifer you plant in the garden will look beautiful indoors.  Some conifers last better indoors than others.  Juniper, arborvitae, cryptomeria (false cypress), cedar and cypress are all long-lasting for holiday arrangements and will grow in our area.  Pine is another one that is beautiful in holiday arrangements, but I have had better luck with short needle pines than long needle types indoors.  Color, as well as texture, is an important factor, and there are many new small conifer introductions with colorful yellow or blue foliage that will make any arrangement pop.

Broadleaf evergreens are another staple of holiday decoration.  Magnolia is a southern favorite because it looks beautiful and is lasts well.  The leaves of the ubiquitous skip laurel are perfect for indoor greenery.  Boxwood is unparalleled for arrangements and will last throughout the holidays.  There are a number of variegated varieties that are easy to grow and make a beautiful eye-catching addition for any indoor arrangement.  Aucuba is a plant that many of us grow; it too lasts well indoors, and if kept in water, will often take root.  Nandina gives a light airy effect to arrangements, and ivy – variegated or not – does well in wreaths or arrangements.  Holly is not as long-lasting as some of the other broadleaf evergreens, but the berries (on female plants) are the best source of red, and are pretty on their own with the leaves clipped off.

Bare twigs and branches give any arrangement added structure and interest.  If you plant red or yellow twig dogwoods, now is a good time to begin pruning them.  They will need to be pruned back in the spring, and if you have a mature plant, you won’t miss a few stems.  Harry Walker’s Walking Stick is another plant that works well in arrangements.  I have never had any success with willows, curly or otherwise, as we can’t offer them their preferred moist, sunny environment.

Harvesting evergreens for holiday arrangements is not difficult.  Think of it as pruning the plants, rather than just cutting what you need for indoors.  This will give you a lot of leftover foliage, but will retain the plant’s good looks for the rest of the season.  The foliage will grow back in spring and the plant will be healthier for a good pruning.

I make two wreaths for the holidays and this strategy has worked pretty well for me over the years.  I still need to get yellow cedar foliage from your local Garden Center, but for the rest, I can bring it in from the garden.

Christine Wegman is a Rock Spring Garden Club member in National Capital Area Garden Clubs' District III.  She is one of the go-to 'hort' experts in her club. Christine and her husband, Charlie Flicker, are avid and generous gardeners and have cultivated a delightful garden (for any season) in Arlington, Virginia. 

Monday, December 24, 2018

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Dear Garden Friends, 

May the peace and joy and beauty of this Holiday season grow like our gardens and bring us all a wonderful New Year. Health & Peace & Happiness to All in the National Capital Area family and all our NGC friends!

Lots of fun coming—rest, reflect, and recharge this Holiday season. In the meantime, take time to go back through this blog for some wonderful articles about gardening in the National Capital area.

See you all in 2019!

Robin Hammer, NCAGC President