Friday, October 21, 2016

Lilies - A Guest Post by Christine Wegman

Fall is perfect for thinking ahead and planting bulbs. But don't forget lilies - Thea

“Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”  Luke 12:27

You might get a hint from this well-known bible verse that lilies are not very hard to grow, and you would be right.  They take up very little space and can be tucked into many small spots in a mature garden.  They can be grown as singles or in groups.  They come in white and all the hot and warm colors, from reds through oranges to yellows, almost any shade of pink, and vibrant purples.  They come in short, medium and tall varieties, as well as early, mid-season and late bloomers.  And, of course, the later bloomers have matchless fragrance.

It’s not possible to do justice to these beautiful bulbs in a short article, but I will write about a few of my favorites.  Asiatic lilies make a beautiful show in early June and while not fragrant, are especially welcome after the azaleas and tulips have faded.  They are striking grouped together in the garden.  Breeders have been busy introducing many short, variates, some just about a foot tall.

A relatively new type of liliy, the LA hybrids, bloom next.  These are vigorous plants that make a strong show and fill the gap between the Asiatics and the orientals.  Some years ago my husband, Charlie, brought home three white LA hybrid bulbs.  We now have three strong clumps and need to divide them again this fall.  They are among my very favorite flowers.  As you can see from the group of LA hybrid lilies pictured below, the white ones stand out beautifully and give a cool effect as the weather heats up.

Perhaps my very favorite lily is the regal lily, discovered in China in 1910 by E. H. Wilson.
 It is aptly named.  The buds of this lily appear in early June and expand for almost a month before they bloom.  They are equally beautiful in bud and in bloom.  With their yellow centers and dusty pink stripes they will combine will with most flowers.  Plant them where you can enjoy their lovely fragrance.

Last to bloom are the fragrant oriental lilies.  We are all familiar with the pristine white ‘Casa Blanca’ and the deep pink ‘Star Gazer’, but there are dozens of others worth trying.  There are a number of relatively new hybrid double oriental lilies that are exquisitely beautiful and powerfully fragrant, as pictured below left.  These are exceptional plants and deserve a space along a walkway where they can be best appreciated.  They may need to be staked, but you can purchase curved stakes that will make the job easy.  They are also perfect for along a fence.

Lilies are easy to grow.  They will grow in full sun, but are happier with a bit of shade where their colors show to best advantage.  Lilies like to have their roots cool and moist, so if not shaded by other plants, they will need to be mulched.  They are hungry plants and need to be fertilized every couple of weeks with a high potassium fertilizer from early spring until about six weeks after they have bloomed.  Do not cut them back to the ground after the blooms fade or the bulbs will not be able to store enough energy to bloom next year.  You can trim the stems back by about one third.  Unlike tulip and daffodil foliage, spent lily stems are not a garden eye sore.  They just blend in with other foliage.

It’s not too late to plant lilies for next year, as long as they are in the ground before the first frost.  There are a number of good catalog sources for lilies:  Brent and Becky’s Bulbs in
 Virginia, B & D Lilies in Washington, and John Scheepers, the retail arm of the Dutch grower, Van Engelen, are among the best.

Picture credits & sources:  Nat’l. Gardening Assn. Learning Library, Plant Database, Lily; website;  ; website; Van Engelen, Inc.;

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. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Harvest Time - A Guest Post by Diane Marsden

Please welcome our newest blog contributor, Diane Marsden.  Diane and her husband, Lloyd, hail from Sheridan, Wyoming where, it spite of a short summer season and sudden changes in weather, they have managed to create quite a garden paradise.  - Enjoy!  Thea

I love this time of year when we can pick, harvest and process the fruits of labor from our gardens.
Late August and early September is harvest time in Wyoming.   I have about thirty lavender plants that I cut to make make bundles. When I picked the lavender this year and brought the basket in the house, it smelled heavenly. Lavender is lovely in bundles, as sachets and potpourri and can be used for cooking.

We grow a lot of other herbs in our garden, as well. I make pesto from the basil and freeze it, I also use our oregano in my homemade tomato sauce.  We pick tomatoes all fall, then make and freeze quarts of sauce, using our garden onions, garlic, basil, oregano and a spoonful of sugar to give the sauce a little sweetness.

We usually harvest our garlic and tie in a braid for drying over the winter.  We store our potatoes, carrots and beets in our basement over the winter.  This year we grew watermelon and pumpkins, but will not harvest them until later in the fall, if we don’t get an early freeze.   We are still harvesting broccoli; even with the hot weather, it is still quite good.

Our property incudes a small orchard and we have several apple trees. We harvest apples for making applesauce or we cut and freeze for pies we will make later. Our apples are especially sweet this year.

We don’t grow them, but we get peaches from Colorado and usually can over 20 quarts. 

We grow corn and green beans and they are usually ready to harvest this time of year.  Some years we freeze the corn off the cob, but mostly we share our harvest.

While we try to keep the wildlife like blackbirds and raccoons out of the garden, we realize sometimes we just have to share. The raccoons are very cute. Lloyd leaves the radio on to deter the critters.

My husband makes delicious wine from chokecherries a local bush berry.  He has also made wine from wild plum and Nanking cherries and sometimes rhubarb or apple. Thus, we enjoy wine all year and share with our friends. Lloyd even made a wonderful wine cellar in our basement.

The exterior of the cellar is made of limestone with an old door, aged to appear as if the wine cellar is very old. The temperature inside stays at 55 degrees and we can also store carrots, potatoes and beets in there.

We harvest our concord grapes and make grape juice or sometimes wine. This year we decided to make juice. We pick the grapes off the vines and de-stem them. Then we crush the grapes, run them through a press and then we can them in glass jars.  The juice is wonderful.

I enjoy using the bounty from the garden to decorate for Fall. This time of year my sunflowers and zinnias are lovely in the garden.  I dry them for fall arrangements. In my flower gardens, the perennials that are now blooming include coneflowers, blanket-flowers, balloon-flower, veronicas, Russian sage, Joe Pye weed, shrub roses, sedums, and asters. The blooms are so cheerful and I love how the sunflowers seem to follow the sun.

My husband also grows a black bearded wheat. 
We cut these into shocks and use for fall decorating.  We have used the same seed for planting the wheat from the original bundle in bought in Montana many years ago. It looks lovely with pumpkins in the autumn season.

I’m looking forward to the Autumn season -  the season of color - and I’m excited to decorate with my corn stalks, home grown pumpkins, asters and baskets of mums.

photography by Diane Marsden 

Diane Marsden moved West from the East Coast for college and never came back (except for visits with her family and friends!)  She is a photographer specializing in wildflowers and natural landscapes, master gardener, poet, writer, and world traveler. Diane and Lloyd opened their garden this past June for THE ART IN THE GARDEN, an art show displaying the work of local area artists – including Diane’s photography and Lloyd’s exquisite woodworking. Here’s a link for more information on their garden tour:

Friday, September 9, 2016

A Not 'Too' Southern - Southern Garden Club - A guest post by Teresa Payne

I cannot think of a better way to celebrate garden club membership and the enduring friendships created there than to honor a long time garden club friend in this special way.  Read along with me and enjoy this wonderful tribute by guest blogger Teresa Payne  - Thea

I love all things Southern – maybe because I have family roots in Goldsboro, North Carolina – where my grandfather was a farmer of tobacco, cotton, and corn, among other things, and my grandmother made homemade biscuits daily and got her hair done every Friday at Naomi’s hair salon.  Every time my parents travel through the state, I always ask them to bring me back a pint or two of barbecue – vinegar based, of course –  for my family to enjoy.

When I moved into my neighborhood over a decade ago, I received the most amazing homemade pecan pie from my new neighbor – the most genteel Southern woman you would ever like to meet!   Even though my address is in Northern Virginia, I quickly noticed from my welcoming committee that we were clearly South of the Mason Dixon Line.  I never imagined that years later,  I would be a member of her garden club, the Red Hill Garden Club.  Membership comes with the privilege of admiring her stunning arrangements and beautiful horticulture, and enjoying more of that delicious pecan pie.

The Red Hill Garden Club was founded in 1955 in Alexandria, Virginia and was named for the area of roads branching off old Braddock Road, which was originally known as Red Hill.  Red Hill is featured in “Virginia Ghost Stories and Others” by Marguerite DuPont and Lee Publishers in Richmond, Virginia.  Charter members of the club lived in this area.  Today, the club is still thriving with 36 active members and a waiting list of new applicants who want to join.

 I look forward to the monthly garden club meetings where it seems that at least one item on the menu hails from the South.  Last month, it was the homemade cheese straws appetizer.  The rosemary gives them an earthy taste while  a hint of spiciness from red pepper flakes and cayenne pepper add the zing.  Our members are always happy to share recipes, too – that’s part of their Southern hospitality.

While attending a garden club field trip on the Eastern shore of Maryland – still South of the Mason Dixon Line, but barely  –  my neighbor, the Southern pecan pie woman,  truly became my friend. That day, I learned many interesting facts about Mrs. Em Rusch.  She is the longest active member of the club, joining in 1978; is a past President, and is a Shomo Award winner. 

(The distinguished Shomo Award is given to an active member of Red Hill Garden Club who supports the services and activities of the club, and exemplifies the ideals set forth by the founding members through her enthusiasm and dedicated participation.)
As we meandered through mature gardens of magnolias, boxwood, and azaleas Mrs. Rusch told me a beautiful story of how she fell in love with her husband, Al, of nearly 50 years.  She met him in Bermuda; he in the military and she a teacher.

Just dating - Enjoying a rugby game in Bermuda
 They dated until her term expired and she went back to Virginia.  On the plane home, tears welled up in her eyes and she never thought she would see him again.  Two weeks later, he got a weekend off and showed up on her doorstep.  As they say, the rest is history. 

They got married and lived in New York City while he attended law school and she taught school.  She grinned at me, the edges of her mouth turning up slightly, and sweetly said in her Southern drawl, “The funny thing is, I never thought I would have married a Yankee.”

Mrs. Em Rusch on her wedding day

We laughed and I thought to myself how fortunate I was to have spent the day with her on a garden tour and remember the moment where she transformed from being a contemporary of my mother’s into my new Southern friend.
Mr. and Mrs. Rusch, Bermuda 2015

This year, Mrs. Em Rusch decided to change her status to Honorary, which is permitted for those members who have been active in the club for a minimum of 35 years. Her new Honorary status is certainly a testament to her dedication, commitment and love of our Red Hill Garden Club. She still plans to attend several meetings throughout the year - and it will be an honor to see her there!

Teresa Payne was born and raised in Alexandria, VA where she also currently resides.  Teresa joined the NCAGC's District II Red Hill Garden Club in January 2014.  Her mother, Janet Baker, is also a long-time member of Red Hill and is Teresa's inspiration.  When she's not gardening, writing and parenting, Teresa works full time for the federal government.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

You Are Cordially Invited to a Small Standard Flower Show! Saturday, August 20, 2016

You are cordially invited to the last flower show event  in NCAGC this summer!

What's really special about NCAGC DIII Director Jane Smith's District III garden clubs (serving communities in the northern Virginia area), is that they are hosting a wonderful flower show on Saturday, August 20, 2016 in conjunction with Historic Vienna, Virginia,  that has sections open to the public.  So if you've been growing tomatoes, squash, fruits and vegetables, select your finest, prettiest and plumpest specimens and come enter for competition.  Is there a junior gardener in your family? Children are welcome to compete their horticultural specimens, too!  There's something for everyone so bring the family.

And here's the  District III Small Standard Flower How "Schedule." - For those of your unfamiliar with flower show terminology, a 'schedule' is every detail and rule pertaining to a specific flower show.  Specific rules for a flower show where a non-garden club person might enter give you direction on preparing your horticulture specimens for judging.  Make sure you take ripeness, color, shape and size into consideration. You may want to bring several specimens for the judges to inspect. So do be sure to read the schedule carefully.  

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Summer School! or How I Learned to Love Judging Tagetes

Thea here. I hope you are all having a wonderful summer - at home in your gardens, at the beach, on a road trip, or a trip to somewhere you've never explored before.  Most garden clubs in National Capital Area Garden Clubs take the summer off from formal monthly meetings, but that doesn't mean garden club activities cease. Clubs and councils around our area are busy putting the final touches on their new club year, and councils are planning out workshops and schools.

 Our leaders at the District level are planning interesting activities.  They might even be hosting a flower show. (Psst! District III is hosting a flower show this month! Hope you can join us.) Last week, I and several other club members from NCAGC  area, as well as students from other states, attended Course III of Flower Show School in Northern Virginia.

Flower Show School students brainstorming together

Scoring a variety of tomato samples

who knew marigolds (tagetes) were so fascinating

In order to kick off a successful course for FSS, quite a bit of organization on the part of our FS School chair and registrar takes place. Members of our local Judges' Council created designs and helped gather plant specimens.

plant collection design by Dottie Howatt
Design by Betty Galway

design by Thea McGinnis
Students were also asked to create floral designs that will be dissected as part of the instruction. More designs and horticulture were created by Judges from the Council for scoring exams. Students and teachers needed to be fed.  For instructors, a rigorous curriculum and exams needed to be prepared and presented. You might imagine the myriad of details that go into ensuring every students gains to most value from this challenging and incredibly interesting three day class.
Design Instructor, Julia Clevett (Virginia), demonstrating her own cretive design
Horticulture Instructor, Dottie Howatt (Delaware)
Flower Show School is a great example of how garden club members pass on their knowledge and expertise in design, horticulture and judging along to their fellow members. NGC provides students with TOP NOTCH instructors who have committed to years of learning to become experts in their field.
Julia Clavitt clarifying point scoring during practice
We also see that sharing of knowledge at the garden club level - during club meeting activities and committees that work in local schools, nursing homes and community gardens. That knowledge gets passed on at the District and State level as well.
sharing experiences

In each of our schools - Flower Show School, Environmental Studies, Gardening Studies and Landscape - NGC offers garden club members an opportunity to push their own personal boundaries and strive to be more and learn more - to leave your comfort zone in, say, traditional floral design and give creative, more abstract designs a go - and to know that you can master enough knowledge to be able to judge designs and plant material for the benefit of members and the public.

Do check out NCAGC's website here for upcoming workshops and schools this coming Fall.  I believe there will be FSS Course IV scheduled in November.  The courses do not have to be taken in order so please plan to join us.  I can honestly say that while I love taking courses and continuing my own personal commitment to life long learning, what is most important to me are the friendships and relationships I have forged by participating in garden club activities, especially at the NGC schools.  Come on. Take a course. It's fun!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Keeping It Cool In The Garden With Summer Whites - A guest post by Christine Wegman

The great Impressionist artist, Monet, was also a well-known and respected gardener.  It has been said of him that, had he not been a great painter, he would nonetheless be known today as a great landscape designer.  He corresponded with Gertrude Jekyll in England and many other famous landscape designers of the day.  His restored garden at Giverny attracts thousands of visitors every year.

Monet used his artist’s sense of color to design his garden, and the garden in turn provided a favorite subject for his paintings.  Most of Monet’s signature color schemes at Giverny included white flowers.  He liked to have sprinklings of white to give a sparkling effect to an array of colorful flowers.  White, of course, is the coolest of cool colors, and drifts or sprinklings of white will give a refreshing, cool effect to any garden on a hot day.  Below are some ways to bring white into your garden.

Shade Garden Whites.  I like to look for white, or near white, in foliage because it will endure throughout the growing season. 
In a shade garden, nothing could be easier to achieve.  There are any number of green and white hosta, such as Hosta ‘Undulata Variegata’ with white centers or Hosta ‘Undulata Albomarginata’ with white edges.  Newer varieties include ‘White Feather’, ‘Brim Cup’, ‘Fire and Ice’, or smaller-leaved varieties like ‘Diamond Tiara’ and ‘Ginko Craig’.  Japanese painted fern, although more silver than white, will give the effect of white and looks lovely with hosta.  Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’ will sparkles   Add some green and silver variegated coral bells and an annual green and white caladium or two and you will have a very cool and showy shade garden. 

Many shrubs have variegated varieties.  Hydrangea macrophyla ‘Mariesii Variegated’ is a beautiful choice.  The leaves are variegated with white margins and the flowers are lavender with large white sterile blossoms at the edges.  Pieris japonica ‘Variegata’ is another effective choice.  
Variegated leaved plants are not usually as vigorous as the plain-leaved cultivars, but their advantage is that they will usually stay compact.

For long lasting white flowers in the heat of summer, there is just nothing like hydrangeas.  For the shade garden it’s hard to beat our native Smooth Hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens).  ‘Annabelle’ is the most popular cultivar and will grow in sun or shade.  There are also a number of mactophylla or French hydrangeas that have white flowers.  ‘Fuji Waterfall’ is a particularly beautiful example with star-like pristine white blossoms. 

Sun Garden.  In a sunny garden, you must depend more on flowers than foliage for a cool effect.  Still, with a little planning, you can have white flowers all through the summer.

Summer flowering trees and shrubs provide long-lasting effects with less care than perennials or annuals. Among the most beautiful flowering trees are Southern magnolias, with their velvet white flowers and their wonderful lemon scent.


  White crape myrtles, especially, are long-blooming and easy to grow.  The most popular are probably the best: Lagerstromia ‘Natchez’ and L. ‘Acoma’.  Although ‘Natchez’ is the most widely planted crape myrtle in the country, at a 20-foot mature height it is a splendid tree with beautiful cinnamon bark that stands out in winter.  For a slightly smaller white crape myrtle, ‘Acoma’ tops out at about 16 feet and has lighter bark that looks pinkish in winter.  Both have an overall umbrella shape that always looks graceful.  I have a row three ‘Acoma’ crape myrtles at the back of my garden.  They are under-planted with ‘Annabelle’ hydrangeas, hellebores, and green and white hosta.  They look cool in summer, and attractive throughout the whole year. White crape myrtles, especially, are long-blooming and easy to grow. 
oak leaf hydrangea

Among shrubs the mainstays are, again, hydrangeas.  Our sun loving native oak leaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) has white panicle shaped blooms in June.  They fade to pink after a few weeks and when the flowers are spent you are left with the beautiful oak leaf shaped foliage that turns red in fall, and for which the plant is named.  Later in the summer the panicle hydrangeas (Hydrangea paniculata) put on their show.  The old PG hydrangeas, short for Hydrangea paniculata ‘Grandiflora’,  are the best known, but many newer and smaller varieties widely available.  ‘Limelight’ grows 6-8 feet high, but can be kept within bounds by pruning back to the ground in late winter. 

Another white flowering shrub worth mentioning is the old favorite, Rose of Sharon (Hybuscus syriacus).  My favorite is the National Arboretum introduction, ‘Diana’, with pure white flowers that bloom from July to September.  This is an easy shrub to grow and when the blooms are spent, they fold themselves up neatly and drop off the bush.  No need to clip off spent flowers. 

There are plenty of white flowered perennials that make a garden look cool in summer heat.  My particular favorites are lilies and summer phlox. 


Summer phlox (Phlox paniculata) is a long-blooming staple of many summer gardens.  It is prone to mildew in our hot climate and needs a lot of air, so it is best planted in a fairly open situation.  I have found that it does well in dappled or afternoon shade.  ‘David’ or ‘Mt. Fuji’ are two mildew-resistant varieties, whose gleaming white flowers immediately draw the eye.  Lillies can be planted in small groups among shrubs and perennials to give the sparkling effect Monet valued.  Among the most beautiful whites are the oriental lily, ‘Casa Blanca’, and the newer LA hybrid lilies that bloom earlier than ‘Casa Blanca’.  There are a number of good whites, including ‘Bright Diamond’.  Regal lilies, while not pure white, add a classic touch to any garden.  Visit Brent and Becky’s Bulbs on the internet to find a good selection of high quality lilies. 

If you don’t have as much white as you would like, there are plenty of annuals that will instantly produce the effect you want.  Plant annual white flowered euphorbia at the edges of a flower border, or plant some white cleomes further back to add a little sparkle.

There are lots of ways to incorporate white into your summer garden, many of them quite consistent with low maintenance.  Even a few touches of white throughout the summer will provide a refreshing foil for hotter colors.  Once you start looking for whites, there are literally hundreds of choices. 

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.