Updates to Tried and Trues and to Problem Plants

Updates to Tried and Trues and to Problem Plants 

Written by Mary Free and Elaine Mills

Get over that winter funk by planning your spring, summer and fall gardens. Searching for ideas? Take another look at our enhanced Tried and True Plants and Problem Plants resources. We have added 3 native ferns and 5 native ground covers to the Tried and True Plants library. Besides that, we have updated 48 of the Tried and True fact sheets with easier-to-read format, added information, and new images of plants that (mostly) can be visited in local public gardens. Additionally, we have identified those plants included in the Plant NoVA Natives campaign.  Continue reading

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The Long View – Meditations on Gardening – Midwinter


The garden’s bare bones in winter – a miniature Japanese Maple. Photo: Christa Watters

The Bare Bones of the Garden

By Christa Watters

Here we are at midwinter, halfway between the December solstice and the spring equinox. It’s a hard time for gardeners, a time when the garden seems to sleep and it is mostly too cold to contemplate even pruning chores. Here and there, the emerging green tips of spring-blooming bulbs offer hope, but mostly it’s a bleak scene.

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MGNV Volunteers in Our Community: 4-H in Virginia

By Gabriel Eberhardt

unnamedLast week we talked about the origins of 4-H. Now let’s focus on   4-H closer to home. In Virginia, approximately 20,000 adults and teens volunteer their time and energy annually to help more that 170,000 Virginia youth learn leadership, citizenship and life skills while discovering how to build on their own ability to make good decisions, manage resources wisely, work effectively with others and communicate successfully.


Alexandria 4-H Agent Reggie Morris leading a group of junior 4-H members in the 4-H National Youth Science Day Experiment “Maps & Apps!” Photo: 4-H National Council

Many programs and services are offered through the Alexandria 4-H Youth Development Program at the Lee Center. Alexandria’s 4-H program participates in National Youth Science Day, National Food Day, the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program, After-School Enrichment program, In-School 4-H Enrichment and Special Interest Programming, and the highly popular 4-H camping program, which is one of the largest in the country.

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Master Gardeners in Our Community: The 4-H Program

By Gabriel Eberhardt

Master Gardeners don’t  just volunteer with VCE and MGNV. They also share their expertise with the wider community. In the first of this occasional series, Master Gardeners in our Community, MG Gabriel Eberhardt looks at the history of 4-H. Part two of his article (posted next Sunday) will explore 4-H closer to home, here in Alexandria. Continue reading

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Predator in the Urban Garden

DSCN4667By Christa Watters

On a recent morning when I went out to the patio to fill the bird feeder, I looked up and thought maybe the neighbors had put one of those owl statues on their wall to deter unwanted birds and other critters. Then the statue moved – a big, handsome young hawk, an immature Cooper’s I think, judging by the speckled white breast, the long rounded tail and the relatively large size. A handsome, bold predator, maybe hoping for a fat dove at the feeder. When I took his picture, he sat for a bit, then tired of the attention and flew off, at which point the sparrows and jays and cardinals returned, the squirrels took up their chattering and tree-leaping shenanigans again, and life resumed in the walled gardens of my part of the city.

Photo also by Christa Watters

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In the Winter Garden – Reflections from 2012

This article, written by MGNV member Mary Free in December 2012, is worth a repeat.  Appreciating the winter garden makes for a happier all-season gardener! For some excellent native tree suggestions you can explore the MGNV series of tried and true plants. Trees in particular can be found at Tried and True Plants/Trees: http://mgnv.org/plants/trees/

Written by Mary Free, Certified Master Gardener

Herbaceous Plants

As annual flowers succumb to freezing temperatures and many perennials enter a dormant period, one green plant still covers the ground in the woodlands and shade gardens: Polystichum acrostichoides. Also known as Christmas fern, its graceful, finely textured fronds often are used as a seasonal decoration.  Continue reading

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Photo: Michelle Dunkley McCarthy

“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says “Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.”

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass

― Lewis Carroll

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Reflections on Faux-Nuts, Fruits, Berries & Seeds

In this Time of Celebration, Remembering the Bounty of Our Fall Garden

by Judy Funderburk

The bounty produced by the Library Garden this fall captivated many visitors. We Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia (MGNV) loved sharing the beauty and abundance of Nature’s gifts, while also having the opportunity to answer lots of questions elicited by the great variety of seeds, berries, fruits and the one “faux-nut” displayed in our Glencarlyn Library Teaching/Demonstration garden. In this article we hope to capture the beauty and variety with photos, while also giving you descriptions of the trees and plants that produced them.

Red Buckeye Faux-Nut cracked wide open. Photo:  Judy Funderburk

Red Buckeye Faux-Nut cracked wide open.

Faux-Nuts – Red Buckeye: Sporting showy tubular red flowers that attract hummingbirds and bees in the spring, this native large shrub or small tree (Aesculus pavia) grows lovely brown rounded 1 to 2-inch fruit capsules in the fall, each of which holds a large brown seed that looks and feels like a nut. Though the seed/faux-nut is poisonous to most wildlife, it is shiny with one light patch that looks a bit like a “buck’s eye” and is thought to bring good luck to one who carries it in his or her pocket. Growing to 8-10 feet, it can be planted in part-shade in any kind of soil. In the Library Garden it grows on the 3rd Street side, has been very undemanding, and provides great beauty in the spring and high interest in the fall.  Continue reading

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The Long View – Meditations on Gardening – The End of Fall

DSCN4678By Christa Watters

One day the tulip magnolia next to my front door is still green – leaves fringed with yellow, spotted with brown here and there, yes, but basically still green, and on waking the next morning I see it still full of leaves as I pick up the paper, though the stoop is littered with yellowing leaves. By afternoon, a rising wind has stripped the upper branches of foliage, leaving just the gray bark of branches and twigs and the furry gray buds that hold next spring’s pink blossoms outlined against the gray sky. Gray, gray, gray — the dominant shade of November, it seems. But it’s not all gloom out there. Spots of color remain, and some trees are still in full flame of gold or red.  Continue reading

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Exciting Happenings in Glencarlyn Library Garden

First Fruits: Persimmons return to the Library Garden.  Photo by Judy Funderburk

First Fruits: Persimmons return to the Library Garden. Photo: Judy Funderburk

By Judy Funderburk

What do Persimmons, Poe, and Painting have in common – besides the letter P?!? All three were exciting happenings in the Library Garden this fall. Our native persimmon tree (Diospyrus americana) grew her first two orange persimmons. They were so pretty we didn’t try to pick and taste. Maybe next year! Continue reading

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