Monday, December 25, 2017

Happy Holidays!

the lovely home of our state president, Robin Hammer

FROM OUR GARDENS TO YOURS, HAPPY HOLIDAYS AND ALL THE BEST FOR A VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR 2018!  - From all your friends at National Capital Area Garden Clubs!

Monday, December 11, 2017

US Botanic Garden Presents The Latest Poinsettia Varieties - A guest post by Carole Funger

Having guests coming to town? The Poinsettia collection at the US Botanic Garden is the place to go!  Enjoy this lovely and informative article by Carole Funger. - Thea

One of the many beautiful poinsettias at the US Botanic Garden

I’ve been to the US Botanic Garden (USBG) many times and have always enjoyed the beautiful displays that change with the seasons. But in December, I bypass the holiday dazzle of the evergreen-draped lobby, work my way through the steamy medicinal plant and orchid gardens and head straight to the restrooms. There, behind the glass atrium in a quiet passage all its own is the USBG’s best-kept secret: a one-of-a-kind poinsettia display.

And the collection grows year after year to include an increasing array of spectacular varieties. Sharing the limelight with the traditional reds are the latest, eye-catching hybrids in bright white, soft yellow, light pink and salmon. There are marbled varieties, spotted ones and some that are the result of crossbreeding with other species (more on that below.)

US Botanic Garden poinsettia passage

The effect is of a rich winter garden filled with unusual, multi-colored flowers. Luckily there are benches just across on which a visitor can sit back and take it all in.

The leaf is not the flower

It’s important to note, when looking at a poinsettia, that it’s the bracts (modified leaves) that provide the color. The real blooms are the tiny yellow buds called cyathia in the center. Once the flowers have shed their pollen, the plant drops its bracts and leaves. Because of this, it’s always good when shopping for a poinsettia to select a plant with little or no pollen showing.

Poinsettia flowers are yellow

Poinsettias are referred to as a short-day photoperiod crop, meaning they naturally flower once the nights become longer. To create their colored bracts, the plants require at least 12 hours at a time of darkness over a period of at least five days in a row. Once they have completed the process, however, poinsettias require bright sunlight during the day to attain the brightest color.

Once considered a weed

In its native Mexico, the poinsettia is a perennial flowering shrub or small tree that typically grows to a height of 10 to 15 feet. A member of the spurge family, it goes by the botanical name Euphorbia pulcherrima. Poinsettia shrubs were once considered weeds. Today they are the best selling potted plant in the United States and Canada, with more than 100 varieties available.

A poinsettia shrub as it might appear in the wild

The Dogwood poinsettia, Euphorbia cornastra, was first discovered in 1973 growing in the high elevation tropical forests of Mexico. Although similar in growth habit and inflorescence to Euphorbia pulcherrima, it has gray-green foliage and is summer flowering. Dogwood poinsettia is prized for its pure-white bracts. This year’s USBG display includes a stunning example.

Dogwood poinsettia, Eurphorbia conastra

Close up of Euphorbia conastra's brilliant white inflorescence
White varieties followed traditional red

The first white poinsettia varieties were introduced in the 1970s. Since then, there have been many improvements. An example is Euphorbia ‘Princettia Pure White’, which features pure white bracts and barely visible flowers. The Princettia series has a unique bract form whose blooms mature early, resulting in a more clean-looking ‘flower.’

Cross-breeding has spawned an array of new colors

Growers have been tinkering with hybrid poinsettias for some time now, making the plants more compact and increasing their longevity. The past five years, though, have seen a surge in cross-breeding specifically to produce unconventional colors. The new hues are created by crosses between poinsettia and other euphorbia species.

‘Luv U Pink’ is one such variety produced by the Paul Ecke Ranch for Breast Cancer Awareness. Its hot pink bracts have a thin, pale pink edge. The bracts have an otherworldly iridescent shimmer.

Euphorbia 'Luv U Pink'

A newer variety incorporates a white splash.

Euphorbia 'Luv U Pink Splash'

You can’t lose these marbles

The marbled varieties, first pioneered in the 1970s, provide a spectacular contrast to the traditional reds. I love their painterly quality, almost as if someone has splashed them with a brush.

Euphorbia 'Red Glitter'

Eurphorbia 'Peppermint Ruffles'

Euphorbia 'Christmas Feelings Red Cinnamon'

Euphorbia 'Ice Punch'

Pretty in pink

Then there are the soft pink varieties, which provide a quiet respite from all the bright hues. Among them, these three are standouts:

Euphorbia Love U Soft Pink'

Euphorbia 'Princettia Pink'

Euphorbia 'Autumn Leaves' 

Back to basics

Of course, traditional red still makes up the bulk of the sales, with growers hesitant to spend the time and money it takes to develop too many new varieties. Usually they choose just a couple to focus on and leave the rest of their energy for the reds. Below, USBG’s 2017 display includes Euphorbia ‘Jester Red’, Euphorbia ‘St. Louis’ (shrub) and a beautiful rose-shaped variety called Euphorbia ‘Winter Rose Early Red’.

Traditional reds: "Euphorbias 'Jester Red', 'St. Louis', and 'Winter Rose Early Red'

Close-up of Euphorbia 'Winter Rose Early Red'

Before you go rushing to the nursery (as I did) to purchase some of these gorgeous new varieties, though, it’s worth noting that many are not yet commercially available. Still, I was delighted to find two varieties of the marbled ‘Jingle Bells’ at my local grower. Here’s hoping more hybrids will come onto the market in the coming years.

For more information on poinsettias’ namesake, Ambassador Joel Roberts Poinsett, and how the plant came to be so famous, click here for my blog post on the Paul Ecke Ranch here .

For more information about visiting the US Botanic Gardens, here's the link US Botanic Gardens

All photographs copyright @2017 by Carole Funger 

 Carole Funger is a member of District IV's Hoe and Hope Garden Club in Bethesda, MD area. Carole is also a freelance writer and Maryland Master Gardener, and owns a gardening business ,Here By Design LLC,that includes clients from all over the Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia area.  Carole is also the co-chair a demonstration garden in Montgomery County that draws thousands of visitors annually. Carole's blog, Here by Design is about gardens and gardening; about living life in harmony with the environment and appreciating the intrinsic beauty of the natural world.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Welcome, December!

Thea here - 

The Capital region has been enjoying warm temperatures lately and it's given us all some extra time to get our gardens cleaned up and ready for Winter.

Okay, I'm going to be perfectly frank.  Winter is not my favorite season, but it's in my top four. There are parts of it I really love, and you probably do as well.  Like hot chocolate with lots of mini marshmallows, and parties, and shopping, and baking, and eating, and that first snow fall and tree limbs precisely outlined with a snow, and Hallmark Channel's lineup of holiday movies...

Every evening I drive home through my neighborhood and the houses and apartment buildings are starting to glow with holiday colors, hologram spotlights, fresh wreathes and pine roping on fences. Oh, and let us not forget the blow up Santa and his workshop helpers.  The littles in my family really get a kick out of them and during the day we walk a few blocks, noting the decorations.  Mondays are the best for walks, of course, since our neighbors have been busy elves over the weekend.

I was out early this morning and saw lots of Christmas trees in pick up trucks and station wagons, heading home to be decorated.  Are you partial to fresh trees, too? Good advice: if you're putting up a fresh tree, give it a good soak overnight before putting it up.  I usually cut off the bottom and soak in warm water.  You might notice your tree gives off that wonderfully pungent evergreen fragrance.

Being a gardener, I like to keep my decorating natural. So I'm definitely using my evergreens like holly and magnolia leaves from my garden to create floral designs for my table and sideboards. I haven't had much luck keeping poinsettia alive all year, but I love them surrounding the fireplace. So I'll buy them soon.

My only words of wisdom to kickstart your December, it to do everything with deliberation and with a smile on your face. In other words, slow down and have some fun! If you have time, leave a comment and let us know what your favorite decorating ideas to welcome the holidays to your home.

P.S. - Holiday Lights - a perfect family experience: just click the links

In Maryland:  Brookside Gardens in Wheaton/Silver Springs. FMI:

In Northern Virginia: Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna. FMI:

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

We Wish You All a Wonderful and Happy Thanksgiving!

On behalf of Robin Hammer and the National Capital Area Garden Clubs, we wish you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving.

We are so very grateful to all the generous and hardworking members of the National Capital Area clubs that do and share so much of themselves all year long.  Thank you!

Thanksgiving in the City and Sweet Emotion - A guest post by Teresa Payne

It has been too long since I have had the inspiration to sit down and write.  Life has been busy and moving way too fast.  So, I sit here – old school style with a pen and pad of paper – and channel my inner Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City even though she is way more stylish, dramatic, and articulate than me.  In contrast to her fast-paced lifestyle, I really enjoy my relaxing Friday nights watching a romantic comedy with a glass of wine rather than hitting the latest trendy urban bar or restaurant.  If you haven’t seen the movie Green Fingers yet, I highly recommend it!

Susie Poseman

Last night, though, I did venture out and attend a wonderful design event held by District III's Rock Spring Garden Club.  Susie Poseman from Heavenly Hydrangeas in McLean inspired us with her creative holiday wreaths and centerpiece arrangements.  I also picked up some handy tools of the trade, such as ribbons, glass frogs, and flower adhesive to try my hand at my own pumpkin design with succulents for the Thanksgiving table.  Check this out!!

I did it!

I arrived nearly late after battling rush hour traffic (in the city), but just in time to hit the buffet table after saving a seat for my dear friend who was similarly stuck in traffic.  I was parched, so I filled up my plastic cup from a container that held fruit in the bottom.  I quickly gulped down the clear liquid thinking it was water, only to realize it was white wine.  Not planning on imbibing on this Thursday evening, I decided, “c’est la vie,” and thoroughly enjoyed the spritzer.

We watched the speaker from Heavenly Hydrangeas inspire us with her creative holiday wreaths and centerpiece arrangements.  I also picked up some handy tools of the trade, such as ribbons, glass frogs, and flower adhesive to try my hand at my own pumpkin with succulents for the Thanksgiving table.

It was so fun to be able to connect with people who also love gardening and flowers as much as I do.  I attended the event with one of my oldest friends from elementary school.  She and I are in the same garden club, so we are lucky enough to see each other at least once a month.  I only hope we did not disturb the nice gentleman next to us in the front row while we were whispering and giggling (a little) just like in grade school.  After the inspiring program, we had time to shop and socialize some more.  I met some wonderful women from District 3 who all love garden club!

During a brief group chat with a bunch of women, we all introduced ourselves.  What a serendipitous moment when I found out that I was talking to the one and only Thea McGinnis!  We have only communicated over the past few years through emails about articles that I have submitted to THIS blog, but we have never met in person.  It was a perfect way to meet her – by pure coincidence, at a garden club event, after I was already talking to her about, you guessed it, garden club.  We hugged each other like we were long lost friends and she gave me the inspiration I needed to start writing again.  She challenged me for a Thanksgiving article – due within 3 days!!!  No pressure there, but how could I let that challenge go unanswered?

On my way home I started mulling over the evening and thinking about the best part.  The unexpected wine, learning something new about flower arranging and design, or shopping?  All of those things are lovely, of course, but going to the event with an old friend, and meeting a new one, was priceless.  As I was listening to the radio, Steven Tyler from Aerosmith started belting out the song “Sweet Emotion” through the car speakers. Click here to hear I turned up the volume, started singing along (I’m glad I was alone so nobody could hear me) and thought what a perfect song to end a perfect evening.

This Thanksgiving I will pay it forward to everyone out there to discover your own sweet emotion.  I challenge you to take time out of your busy schedule and connect with an old friend and maybe you will meet a new friend along the way.  Happy Thanksgiving, y’all! - Teresa

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.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

You Are Cordially Invited to A Standard Flower Show on November 4 & 5, 2017! Free and open to the public!


 Hi all!  The purpose of an NGC  National Garden Clubs, Inc.) flower show is: to educate club members and the viewing public; to stimulate interest in horticulture and floral design; to provide an outlet for creative expression; and to communicate NGC goals and objectives. 

I am pleased to announce National Capital Area Garden Clubs' District IV is hosting a flower show!  It will feature chrysanthemums and SO MUCH MORE!  This is a flower show not to be missed!

Hope to see you all there!

Presented By
National Capital Area Garden Cubs, Inc.

Bountiful Harvest
An NGC Flower Show
 A Standard Flower Show

 Brookside Gardens
1800 Glenallen Avenue
 Wheaton, Maryland 20902

Free and Open to the Public
Saturday, November 4, 1:30 – 5:00 p. m
Sunday, November 5, 9:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. 

Member of National Garden Clubs, Inc.
Central Atlantic Region of State Garden Clubs, Inc.
National Capital Area Garden Clubs, Inc.

Entries open to Members of the
District IV Garden Clubs
And by Invitation

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

A Gardener's Legacy and Remembrance - The Kitty Pozer Memorial Garden - by Hildie Carney

Talk about Plant America in action, and over many decades as well! 

Mrs. Kitty Pozer grew up in the City of Fairfax and was an active volunteer in many organizations.  She was a founding member of the Garden Club of Fairfax and an officer in the Garden Club of Virginia and the Garden Club of America.

Gardening was her particular interest, both personally and professionally.  She was the first to write a gardening column for the Washington Post as well as writing for gardening magazines. She travelled nationally and internationally touring gardens in pursuit of gardening knowledge.

In 1925, the Posers purchased the oldest house in the City, the Ratcliff-Allison House, built in 1812 by Richard Ratcliff.  They added a new section in the back facing property that extended over a one-half block area.  Mrs. Pozer then began to plant this area which resulted in a “park like” garden,  including a boxwood garden, trees and many popular plants of that era.

Mrs. Pozer was a “friend” of the Fairfax Ferns Garden Club and in 1979, she invited the members of the Club to a tea and a tour of her garden at which time she identified the plants.  Long standing members have a clear memory of her garden and have carried them forward into the planning of the “Memorial Garden.”

Before her death in 1981,  Mrs. Pozer willed her property to the City of Fairfax. The house and the gardens were maintained by the Historic Resources Division. In 2013, the City began construction of “Olde Town Square” and planned to demolish Kitty’s garden.  Historic Fairfax City, Inc.(HFCI), an organization that oversees the City’s historic sites, lobbied to save a portion of the garden as a memorial to her efforts.

Fairfax Garden Club member Hildie Carney also serves on the Board of HFCI, and was appointed Chairperson of the project.  Hildie enlisted the help of the Club’s members, many who have extensive knowledge of horticulture and design.  Karin Rindal, who is a Past President of the Club, is Co-Chair of the project because of her experience in designing other gardens.

Three years later and much work by the Club, the garden is coming to life with the historically accurate plant material of Mrs. Poser’s original garden.  Many of the original plants were moved to members’ gardens and nurtured until they could be replanted.  This is an on-going  project for the Club as they continue to maintain, water, and plant other material.  It’s a labor of love as a tribute to “Kitty and her garden.”  

The Kitty Pozer Memorial Garden will be officially dedicated in the spring of 2018.  Thanks to NCAGC District III's grant program,  Fairfax Ferns Garden Club has applied grant money over the last two years to include historically appropriate plant selections.

Photography by Karin Rindal and Eileen Tumelty.  

Hildie Carney and Karin Rindal are members of Fairfax Ferns Garden Club in Fairfax, Virginia.  Hildie has been a member for fifty-one years, and is her club's longest standing member.  

Monday, September 25, 2017

Early Autumn Glory - Dahlias !

You've probably heard about Fibonacci numbers - Golden Spirals, Golden Ratios - and that they occur in nature. And reoccur - especially in flowers like dahlias, zinnias, and sunflowers. Dahlias are the perfect flower for illustrating this amazing repetition in nature.  (For more information, here's a link about  Fibonacci in Nature - click here).

The National Capital Dahlia Society hosted their 2017 Annual Dahlia Show at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, MD. this past weekend. Part of the exhibition included a delightful flower show. Check out these whimsical floral designs that were part of their Wizard of Oz show – using gorgeous dahlias!

Thanks for garden club member Kate Abrahams for her photographs. For more information about the National Capital Dahlia Society, click here National Capital Dahlia Society

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Dreams of a Cutting Garden - A guest post by Jenny Sullivan

“SUMMER ends now; now, barbarous in beauty.” So begins G. Manley Hopkins’ poem, “Hurrahing in the Harvest.” And isn’t that the charm of autumn, its ruggedness? The air is chillier, the sunlight is deeper, the leaves are aflame, the asters and the marigolds flourish, and the turnips and dark leafy greens have their day. But I am harvesting flowers seeds, hurrahing in my harvest in preparation for establishing a cutting garden for next spring.

I have belatedly come to understand that I need a cutting garden. I need one because I am so unwilling to cut flowers from my beds. They look too pretty. The color or composition will be “off” if I take those bachelor buttons or deprive that bed of a single bee balm. I cannot imagine actually ever cutting a lily! So I run to Safeway and grab a bunch of carnations or alstroemeria for my centerpiece and then go stand in my doorway admiring the unravished beds.

Visiting some of the famous gardens in our area, I have developed a thoroughgoing appreciation for cutting gardens.  When my garden club friend Joan took me for my first visit to Hillwood, the estate of Marjorie Merriweather Post, two things wowed me: the cutting garden and the elaborate arrangements of flowers from that garden that were positioned all over the house. My talented friend, who volunteers at Hillwood, is responsible for some of those incredible arrangements. The flowers grow in the cutting garden like rows of corn or soybeans but are crops of poppies, daisies, lilies, and ranunculus. They are lined up like soldiers in their uniforms one after the other after the other, at attention and ready for inspection—and cutting.

I have seen the cutting garden at Dumbarton Oaks only from the distance. As I stood on a rise and listened to the docent tell me what was so magnificent about the spot that I occupied, my attention was drawn instead to the cutting garden off to the side, way down a slope in a sunny clearing fifty yards away. Of course that bed is not technically designed for beauty, but the rows and rows of blooming flowers and the rows and rows of budding flowers were somehow more exciting to me than any of the magnificent gardens I saw on the tour. And they are magnificent.

So I decided I need a cutting garden. And now, in the autumn that comes before the spring when I want my garden to bloom, the planning and preparation must begin. First come the essentials of planning. I knew that I needed an area of my yard that met three criteria: (1) it had to be sunny, (2) it had to out of my line of vision from my doorway or my patio, and (3) it had to be somewhere as yet unused as a garden bed.

Here’s why. (1) Being sunny needs little explanation. Most flowers need lots of sunshine to grow well, certainly the ones I will choose to plant. (2) If I can see the cutting garden from my doorway or the patio, I will fall in love with it just as I fell in love with the cutting gardens at Hillwood and Dumbarton, and I will never cut a single flower. (3) The bed must be empty because I cannot uproot existing plants any more than I could throw out my cat because I want a parakeet. So here is the place I selected.

It (1) is definitely sunny with no trees in sight. The one you see in the upper right is in the front yard, so it poses no problem. (2) To the left, past the reubeckia, you can see my patio and my door, but I cannot see this scrubby little bed from either. And (3) I do not have anything planted there.  Why would I? The steps at the railing lead down to my basement. The cement slab holds my AC unit and my metal compost bin. Leftover patio slate tiles and splash pans complete the look of this part of my yard. It is not where I bring guests for lemonade in the summer. But most importantly, the bed is not already planted. The sad Japanese holly is on its last leg (or should I say limb, ha ha). I will cut it way back to give all the surface of the bed more sunshine. The orange flags are protecting a 3 inch redbud seedling from my garden club friend Lynda, and it is slated for transplanting somewhere else anyway.

So this fall, I have two duties. First, I must improve the soil. I will amend it for better texture and drainage and feed it a bit. Then I must harvest seeds from my favorite flowers in other beds around the property. I will also start thinking about what seeds and seedlings I will buy in the spring. Here is what I expect it to look next summer.

You laugh now, but just you wait and see.

Jenny N. Sullivan is a gardener, author and garden club member in Northern Virginia. Her first novel, From My Father's House., was published in 2015.  Her latest book is an illustrated children's book, The Purpose-Driven Alphabet, available now on Amazon. Sullivan grew up in Norfolk, Virginia, enjoyed a long teaching career in the Virginia Community College System in the Tidewater area and in Northern Virginia.