Friday, December 30, 2016

Happy New Year! Warm Wishes From All Of Us At National Capital Area Garden Clubs

Just because it's winter time doesn't mean we cannot enjoy visiting gardens in our area.  Be sure to check out the U.S. Botanical Gardens in downtown DC, the US National Arboretum, as well as Hillwood Museum and Gardens.

Orchids in Hillwood's greenhouses

The Four Seasons Display at Hillwood

Our local gardens like Meadowlark Botanical Gardens has their festival of light walks through January 8.  Lewis Ginter Gardens have a wonderful lights display, too. There's never a wrong season to visit Longwood Gardens.

Lewis Ginter Gardens and Conservatory
Maymont House and garden views

Longwood Gardens conservatories

Stay local or enjoy a day trip to a regional garden.  It's also a great way to get ideas for your spring gardens.  Have a wonderful and peaceful garden year 2017!  

FMI, here's links to those gardens mentioned above.

Monday, December 5, 2016

The White House Holiday Decorating Elves

In garden club, we all volunteer to help with the myriad of projects we enjoy doing for our communities.  The White House depends on its crew of volunteers that include local garden club members, to decorate for the holidays!  Here's a clip from NPR - enjoy!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Giving Thanks And An Impromptu Visit To The National Cathedral - Thea McGinnis

Thea here.  A phone call from my friend and fellow garden club member, Anita, prompted a visit to the National Cathedral in Washington, DC.

We drove over last week in the early afternoon. We enjoyed particularly good weather and hoped to get a peek into The Bishop's Garden.  The Cathedral is a must-visit for guests to our Nation's Capital, but this day, it was quiet yet busy with tours, students from schools, and worshipers.

When we walked into the Cathedral, though, we also got a delightful surprise.  The Alter Guild and Flower Guild members for the National Cathedral were busy at work adorning the many interiors with autumnal decorations. Anita and I found them breathtakingly gorgeous.

This is a huge endeavor for these teams of volunteers and the beauty of the floral designs and displays.  Next week, I expect they will begin with their Christmas and Holiday decorations.  Here's some shots (taken with my iPhone - sorry!).
We caught the floral team in the middle of creation, and it was fascinating to see how they planned their designs.

The cathedral has many chapels and most have their own baptismal fonts. 

Sunlight filtered through the stained glass windows created quite an interesting light display. 

After touring the cathedral and visiting their fabulous gift shops, we went outside for a bit to explore the Bishop's Garden.  The roses were still blooming!

For visitors, the cathedral has underground parking with elevators to ground level. For more information on the National Cathedral, The Alter and Flower Guilds,  and the All Hallows Guild that takes care of the beautiful gardens, I'm including their links.  It was such a treat to see the Thanksgiving florals. I plan to make another trip soon to see the Christmas florals.  I highly recommend a visit to the National Cathedral.  I believe the All Hallows Guild also sponsors Tea on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons. FMI  

Post and all photos by Thea McGinnis. 

Monday, November 14, 2016

Bountiful Autumn - A Guest Post by Jenny Sullivan


It is autumn, the best time of the year in the opinion of this gardener and many another.  We plan road trips to Skyline Drive to swoon over the fiery trees. We find ourselves humming “The Autumn leaves (doodly doodly doodly doo) drift by my window (doodly doodly doodly doo). / The falling leaves of red and gold.”  The stop-you-in-your tracks beauty of those splendid, bold colors stirs the heart to give thanks in this season of Thanksgiving.

But my favorite autumn poem never mentions leaves at all! It celebrates the harvest, that other feature of autumn that makes any reasonable gardener grateful to creation for this amazing phase of the diurnal process. Here is the first stanza of John Keats’ poem, “To Autumn.”

 Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
 Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun; 
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
 With fruits the vines that round the thatch-eaves run; 
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd and plump the hazel shell 
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more, 
And still more later flowers for the bees,
 Until they think warm days will never cease,
 For summer has o’erbrimmed their clammy cells.

Let’s slow down and go back. This 24-year-old Englishman, writing in 1820, is taking us on a tour of the abundance of autumn. If, like me, you have ever required your children or grandchildren to “stop and smell the roses,” you might want to follow the lead of Keats, whose poem invites us to look closely with awe and wonder at things we might be foolish enough in this busy world to fail to notice.

For instance, just look at those verbs, verbs that accentuate the abundance of autumn— deep, rich, wonderful autumn. Keats tells us that autumn and his close buddy, the sun, are “conspiring” together, hatching a plan to bring forth bounty.  They don’t want the vines to be puny or piddling. No, they want to “load” the vines, and in loading them, to “bless” the vines with fruit, with the blessing of food. These vines are so full of nature’s energy in this race to the harvest that they “run” around the thatch eaves.

The apple trees do not merely have apples hanging from the braches. Autumn and his friend the sun have caused those trees to “bend” with the weight of the abundant apple crop. Autumn and the sun “fill” and “swell” and “plump” the fruit and the gourds and the nuts all the way to their centers with ripeness.

The flowers, perhaps like your zinnias at this moment, just keep budding and budding so that the confused honey bees think that maybe the warm weather will never end. They are reaping such a grand autumn harvest because a lingering Indian summer has “o’erbrimmed” their cells, cells that look ready to spill a cascade of abundance.

Go back and read that stanza again if you like. I never tire of reading it any more than I tire of walking in an orchard, strolling through a garden, or looking out my window at the falling leaves.

Keats creates cornucopia of imagery in this poem, a word appropriate to our Thanksgiving season when images of fruit pouring out of cornucopias are pictured on the fronts of greeting cards and floral designers use the cornucopias in their arrangements for their Thanksgiving tables.

This might also be a good time to check out the Cornucopia Institute, a group working to promote family-scale farming.

Their website is full of interesting articles such as one by Cathy Clabby from North Carolina Health News about “the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians . . . using research and new partnerships [with Virginia Tech] in expanding access to wild foods at the heart of their culture.”  They are tracking and cataloguing the wild food of the Great Smokey Mountains, maybe some of the same kinds of food at the first Thanksgiving and perhaps, in the future,  food that will again appear on  this autumn holiday’s bountiful table.

Jenny N. Sullivan is a gardener, author and garden club member in Northern Virginia, and the daughter of a storyteller. Instead of reading nursery rhymes and fairy tales to little Jenny, her mother told her about "the olden days," the 1920s in her beloved small hometown in south central Virginia. Those stories provide the atmosphere, the local color for Sullivan's first novel, From My Father's House. Sullivan grew up in Norfolk, Virginia, received a B.A. and an M.A. in English from Old Dominion University and went on to a long teaching career in the Virginia Community College System in the Tidewater area and in Northern Virginia

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: