Sunday, December 16, 2018

Choosing Evergreens for Outdoors and Indoors - A post by Christine Wegman


Choose evergreen trees and shrubs for your garden that will 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 my 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. 









Saturday, December 1, 2018

There's a Kid In My Garden! A Post by Thea McGinnis PLUS! a drawing!! See Below!!



If you’ve ever sat down with a gardener, dollars to donuts, they will tell you pretty quickly that they caught the garden bug from a family member – usually their grandparent(s) or parent, aunt or uncle.  While my mother wasn’t into gardening, when we moved to the ‘country’ from New York City, I helped her plant bulbs, iris and marigolds, and she took great pride in her flowering shrubs. My friend Dorinda’s grandmother swept her right into the family tradition of gathering to decorate the church and make the bridal bouquets from their gardens for their family weddings.



The curious child at your knee, watching your hands move, asking questions, leaning in to see what you’re digging at, or what you’re looking at inside that flower bud – touching, smelling, eating - that’s how children begin their relationship with gardening.

When they aren’t right down in the dirt with you, they are also learning all about science and nature in school and in after school activities, too.
I’m very proud of the partnership my garden club has with our local school district.  Our club sponsors two programs in two elementary schools.


One school has a junior gardener program for second grade boy and girls.  Working with the classroom teacher, our club member volunteers from our Youth Activities Committee execute an age appropriate curriculum once a month. The topics each month include seeds, pollination, birds, animals, the seasons, crafts, and culminates with a floral design project in time for the children to bring home for Mother’s Day.


Our other monthly program involves a pre-school class with challenges at another elementary school, with the club members of our Horticulture Therapy Committee. Our monthly lessons include reading aloud about a particular topic related to plants, animals and nature.  Creative lessons include making food for birds, planting seeds, the seasons, the sun and so much more.  Committee members create lesson plans that include dressing up as animals and write books. The children love it.

As well received as our programs are, I cannot discount the joy our club members receive working on our Youth and Horticulture Therapy committees. They are probably the most popular committees our members sign up for each club year, and probably one third of our club’s active membership are involved in these programs.

There are many ways garden clubs can get a Youth Activities committee started. With the many competing after-school activities, junior garden clubs might not be practical in your community. Asking around, I got a good idea what other clubs are doing.  Partnership with organizations like local schools, libraries, Pre-K schools, PTA’s, and Scouting is a good start. The Girl Scouts has a native plant merit badge that would be a great opportunity for club members to get involved in.  Clubs can also offer an age appropriate floral design program. Partnering with a school or a library that has a children’s garden is also a great opportunity to apply our knowledge and experience in the garden. It also creates an opportunity to include a Youth section in your next flower show.


Most school districts have a volunteer liaison that will work with you to find a school with teachers happy to incorporate a junior gardener type program into their lesson plan.  It might be more practical to do a monthly or quarterly gardening program, depending on the size of your club. A Youth initiative in your club can easily blend with your Plant America initiatives, too.

National Garden Clubs, Inc. offers lots of information and support to clubs that want to initiate or restart their footprint in the community with a Youth oriented program.  I can’t think of a better way to foster and enrich children’s lives than being in a garden club that’s a go-to organization in your community.  Here’s a link to NGC’s Youth activities page. As you develop your curriculum, keep in mind that NGC offers two children’s books that would be a great addition. Click ->here<-
for more information.



I also recommend my friend Sharon Lovejoy’s Camp Granny for project ideas and activities you can do with your junior gardeners – or your children, grandchildren, and even the children on your street.

My mass of zinnia flower bed, right outside my front gate, that is a major attraction for birds, bees and butterflies, is a source of endless fascination to the kids on my block.

Feel free to leave a comment and share what your Club’s Youth Activities projects entail.  All commenters will be eligible to win a copy of Camp Granny. The drawing will close December 20, 2018.



Thea McGinnis is a gardener and writer, blog mistress, and a member of District III's Rock Spring Garden Club in Arlington, Virginia. 

Photography by Sarah Farr

Sunday, November 4, 2018

What's In A Name? Varieties, Cultivars, Hybrids, Patents and Trademarks - Part Two - A guest post by Christine Wegman


This article continues Christine's discussion on botantical nomenclature. See Part 1 here  Your comments are welcome!

Last month I wrote about identifying a plant’s genus and species, which is always in Latin and italicized, or underlined if handwritten.  This month’s article is about the rest of the name, or that part that identifies it more specifically.  In botanical nomenclature we always go from the largest to the smallest, or most specific.  Think of the Latin binomial (two-part) name as the family name and the rest as the given name.  Varieties and cultivars are all more specific epithets (names) than genus and species.

Varieties are naturally occurring types of plants that will usually come true from seed.  Varieties are denoted by listing the genus and species followed by the abbreviation “var.” and then the Latin varietal name.  For example the large leaved white false indigo is denoted:  Baptisia alba var. macrophylla.  (Note var. is not italicized.) 

Cultivars, that is cultivated varieties, are plants produced by selective breeding.  They will usually not come true from seed.  Most of the ornamental plants in our gardens are cultivars because, over time, plants have been bred for improved hardiness, disease resistance, beauty, etc.  New cultivars are officially registered by the breeder through a number of different horticultural organizations.  The American Rose Society, for example, is the official registrar for all new rose cultivars.  As a general rule, the name of a cultivar is placed after the genus and species, is enclosed in single quotation marks, and is not italicized or underlined:  Camellia japonica ‘April Blush’. 

Hybrids are plants produced by crossing two or more plants, sometimes within the same species, sometimes between two or more different species.  There are a few different ways to designate hybrids. 

1)     Hybrids occurring within a single species are usually denoted with the genus and species followed by the plant’s specific (cultivar) name, such as Camellia japonica ‘April Blush’.

2)     Complex hybrids between two or more species are designated by simply dropping the species name.  Camellia ‘Winter Star’, for example, is a hybrid of Camellia oleifera and Camellia hiemalis.  

3)     In some cases, a hybrid becomes its own species.  A good  example is  the hybrid holly, Ilex x aquipernyi. It is a cross between I. aquifolium (English holly) and I. peryi (Perny holly).  The “x” before the species name denotes that it is a hybrid species.  The popular Dragon Lady holly is a cultivar of Ilex x aquipernyi ‘. 

A plant patent is government license conferring an exclusive marketing right for 20 years to an inventor who has discovered and asexually reproduced a distinct and new variety of plant, other than a tuber.  (There are other types of patents that apply to seed reproduction, and they those are used for such things as edible crops and turfgrass.)  The first plant patent was granted in 1931 for a rose, and since then more than 27,000 plant patents have been granted.  Generally, plant patents are granted using the official registered name of the cultivar. 

A plant trademark is a legal monopoly on a name for a particular cultivar, but it is not the official name of the cultivar.  Trademarks are designated with the symbol TM or a circled R.  While plant patents are limited to 20 years, trademarks do not have an expiration date.  Patents protect the plant; trademarks protect the name.  Thus, in theory, even when the patent protection expires, the breeder will still own the marketing name of the plant. 

Increasingly, as breeders seek the additional -- trademark -- protection for their patented introductions, official cultivar names have become nonsensical.  New holly and rose introductions usually have names that begin with the first three letters of the breeders last name.  The Dragon Lady holly’s official name is ‘Meschick’, incorporating breeder Kathleen Meserve’s last name into the official cultivar name.  Dragon Lady is the marketing name.  ‘Meschick’ is not really a name that will catch a potential customer’s fancy, so although the patent on this plant expired in 2003, Ms. Meserve still owns the name, Dragon Lady.  That means, if you want a Dragon Lady holly, you will get the plant that is licensed by Ms. Meserve; however, if you want the actual plant, ‘Meschick’, under any name you might be able to get it a little less expensively. 

Let’s take as another example the beautiful rose, Scepter’d Isle, introduced by David Austin in 1996.  It is registered with the American Rose Society, under the name, Rosa ‘Ausland’, and this is its official name.   Austin applied for and in 1999 was granted a patent for Rosa ‘Ausland’.  He also applied for and was granted a trademark for the name Scepter’d Isle, by which the rose is generally known.  Like the Dragon Lady holly, you will probably look for a Scepter’d Isle rose and not an ‘Ausland’ rose, so David Austin has, in fact, continued to protect his plant even though the patent has expired. 

The Missouri Botanical Garden lists this rose as:  Rosa ‘Ausland’ SCEPTER’D ISLE.  Rosa, the genus name is italicized; ‘Ausland’ the official cultivar name is enclosed in single quotation marks; and SCEPTER’D ISLE, the trademark name is capitalized.  There is no official rule about how to designate a trademark name, although they are most often designated in all capital letters.  But, since they are not the official cultivar name, they are never enclosed in single quotation marks. 

There is no escaping that the world of plant nomenclature is a confusing business.  Talk to most nurserymen and they are likely to respond with rolled eyes and complaints.  Plant taxonomists, those who group and organize plants into categories, often add to the confusion by retroactively renaming genus and species.  A few years ago, most chrysanthemums were renamed Dendranthema.  Loud cries of anguish went up and the name eventually was changed back to Chrysanthemum.  In the end, the best way to find the correct botanical name of a plant is to look it up on the Internet.  Simply enter the search term, “botanical name for …” and you will usually find the answer. 

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.