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. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Flower Show Season - A Gift to Everyone

Thea here.  Today I'm celebrating garden club flower shows.  I took these pictures on my phone so it's strictly amateur hour, but here are some of my favorite shots from flower shows I attended, including District II's Standard Flower Show, District I's Small Standard Show, and Rock Spring Garden Club (that's MY club, BTW) -

Multi Rhythmic Design by Jane Smith
National Capital Area Garden Club's membership did an outstanding job hosting Small Standard and Standard Flower Shows over the last few months.  Each District has hosted a flower show within the last year, and District III will host a small standard flower show this coming August.

Monarch educational exhibit
I cannot emphasize enough the purposes of a Standard Flower Show:  to EDUCATE club members and the viewing public; to stimulate interest in horticulture and floral design; to provide an outlet for creative expression; to convey to the community objectives of National Garden Clubs, Inc..

Having attended and participated in my own club's hosting, and entering horticulture and floral designs and educational exhibits for competition, I have learned so much, made many new friends, and, well, I had a blast!
My buddy, Joan, working and having fun

I truly believe the most important part is having our flower shows open to the PUBLIC.
Club Member, John, discussing his award winning flower show specimens with guests
 I cannot think of a better way to let people know that there are active, thriving and interesting people working, learning and sharing information that promotes gardening, highlights environmental concerns, promotes beautification in their communities, partners with schools and other civic organizations, and provides a way to continue your journey of life long learning.

Hi Renee! friends working together
Horticulture specimens ready for judging

Very creative staging by Mary Cottrell

Poss Tarpley's award winning creative design

Having a garden club organization invested in your community is a blessing.  Feel free to contact me if you are interested in joining a club in your area.

District I  small standard flower show top award displays for horticulture

Monday, May 30, 2016

Flower Shows In the Month of June in National Capital Area - And You are all Invited!

Spring and early Summer are quite popular times for garden clubs in National Capital Area Garden Clubs to host a Standard or Small Standard Flower Show.  Many people ask what exactly is a standard flower show and here is it's definition:

The purposes of a Standard 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 convey to the community objectives of National Garden Clubs, Inc.

We are pleased to announce three flower shows that will happen in the month of June - and they are NOT to be missed!

Vienna, Virginia's Five Hills Garden Club is hosting with Meadowlark Gardens a Standard Flower Show, "A Walk in the Garden" on Thursday, June 7, 2016.  This show is free and open to the public from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. in Meadowlark Garden's Atrium Building, 9750 Meadowlark Gardens Court, Vienna, Virginia (near Wolf Trap and Route 7).  Five Hills Garden Club is a member of National Capital Area Garden Clubs' District III (Northern Virginia).

Then, on Saturday, June 11, 2016, National Capital Area Garden Clubs' District I is hosting a Small Standard Flower Show, "Summer Serenade," at 12325 Hatton Point Road, Fort Washington, MD.  This sure-to-be wonderful show is free and open to the public from 2:30 - 4:00p.m.  

And to finish off the splendid month, District IV is hosting a Standard Flower Show, "Yankee Doodle Dandy," at the Strathmore Mansion, Rockville Pike, Rockville MD, that is free and open to the public on Thursday, June 23, 2016 from 1:00 - 4:00 p.m.; and on Friday, June 24, 2016 from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.  

Do come and see one  or all of our exciting garden club events this month!  

Monday, May 9, 2016

Orchid Meditation - A Guest Post by Teresa Payne

I love to write – so I do.

I love to garden – so I try.  And, for me, to combine the two is pure bliss.  

In the garden, inspiration is omnipresent - an ode to a rose, a poem about a newly planted camellia bush, or a novel about a small town that gathers around a sycamore tree. 

I am an extrovert by nature.  However, I have also learned to appreciate the quiet times when I can sit down and write, or examine my roses and wonder if I will have a worthy specimen at peak bloom for the next garden club meeting. 

Gardening must be in my blood.  My mother is an avid orchid grower.  This is both good – and bad – for me.  When she travels, which is a frequent occurrence, I am the one responsible for keeping them alive. I enjoy visiting her house to care for her plants – it is quiet and still and I can be alone with my thoughts. It gives me time to think while I am filling up watering cans and moving from room to room to make sure I attend to every plant. 

This wouldn’t be considered a chore – except for the little white mealybugs - that will not go away.  I have treated the leaves with alcohol several times over the past few months to rid the plants of all evidence of disease while she is away, only to have them come right back upon her return. 

We all have our pesky mealybugs to deal with from time to time as we make the journey through life.  Recently, my father had some unexpected medical issues arise that needed attention.  My mother was busy and preoccupied.  My offer to help cook, clean, or drive, was declined.  What was a daughter to do?  I simply did what any other self-respecting gardener would do.  I repotted my mother’s orchid collection of a dozen or so plants.  I completed the job while she was out of the house so that she did not have to see the mess that I made!  

The assembly line of potting mix, alcohol, scissors, and more alcohol was efficient and I quickly became the fastest re-potter this side of the Potomac River!  Time will tell if the orchids are rid of all of the bugs.  But, for now I have hope!  It was a nice feeling to help my mother by doing something I love and taking at least one small thing off her plate during a stressful time. My father has fully recuperated and my mother is back to watering her orchids – until her next trip.

The mealy bugs appear to be returning, sigh.  I asked my fellow Red Hill gardeners for some advice and they suggested insecticidal soap.  One avid gardener told me that she sprays her orchids about every 6 weeks with insecticidal soap as a preventative measure. 
To be sure, a bottle of insecticidal soap will be wrapped up for my mother on Mother’s Day! 
Through all of this, I have learned to treasure every day, hug my family a little more often, and spread kindness through doing what I enjoy.  

Above all, instead of just looking at my roses and pondering the blooms, I will stop and smell them more frequently, too.  

How I repotted the orchids: I took the orchids out of the plastic containers and discarded all the old bark.  I cleaned the containers with mild soap and water, and also scrubbed them with rubbing alcohol.  Then, I cut the dead roots off the plants which are stringy and hallow feeling to the touch.  I added new orchid bark to the pots about ½ way up, placed the plants in the middle, and continued to add bark to the tops.   During the assembly line process, I was careful to separate the newly repotted orchids with the infested ones to try to avoid any cross-contamination.   I watered thoroughly and set them back in the eastern facing window.

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.