SHRUB: Clethra alnifolia (Sweet Pepperbush, Summersweet)

Clethra alnifolia, Sweet Pepper Bush, Summersweet

Clethra alnifolia, Sweet Pepperbush, Summersweet
Photo © Mary Free

Tried and True Native Plant Selections for the Mid-Atlantic

Summer sweet and spicy is the pleasant fragrance of this pollinator magnate. This tall shrub, common in the Coastal Plain of the Mid-Atlantic Region, naturalizes readily in shady, damp places as well as coastal landscapes. Though not native to NoVA, it grows well in cultivation here.

Learn more . . .

Posted in Demonstration Gardens, MG in the Garden, Tried and True Native Plant Selections for the Mid-Atlantic | Tagged , , ,

Help Desk Highlights, Vol. 2

By Jolene Mafnas, VCE Agricultural and Natural Resources Intern

Anthracnose of maple

Anthracnose of maple
Photos from UMass Extension

Our Horticultural Help Desk receives many queries each week. Thanks to Jolene Mafnas for pulling together some of the common questions and providing answers and additional resources.
This edition focuses on:

  • Anthracnose of Maple
  • Volutella Blight of Pachysandra
  • Dutch Elm Disease

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PERENNIAL: Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly Weed)

PERENNIAL: Asclepias tuberosa

PERENNIAL: Asclepias tuberosa
Photo © Mary Free

Tried and True Native Plant Selections for the Mid-Atlantic

Butterfly Weed is one of the showiest native* wildflowers. Summer waves of orange blossoms brighten open fields, woods, and waysides. Later, spindle-shaped seed pods pierce the air in shades of green, yellow, brown. When pods split open, the seeds’ silky threads glisten in the sun. The Virginia Native Plant Society selected Butterfly Weed as Wildflower of the Year in 1992.

Learn more . . .

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Help Desk Highlights, Vol. 1

Squash bug nympha

Young squash bug nymphs are pale green with black legs, while later ones are gray with black legs
Photo from Help Desk

By Jolene Mafnas, VCE Agricultural and Natural Resources Intern

Our Horticultural Help Desk receives many queries each week. Thanks to Jolene Mafnas for pulling together some of the common questions from early July and providing answers and additional resources. This edition focuses on:

  • Sooty Mold
  • Powdery Mildew
  • Squash Bugs
  • Ticks

Continue reading

Posted in Help Desk Highlights, Horticultural Help Desk, Interns

Early Summer 2017 at Simpson Gardens

By Christa Watters, Certified Master Gardener 

Penstemon Drifts at Simpson

Penstemon digitalis drifts at Simpson
Photo © 2017 Christa Watters

Every year reveals something different about a garden, as the changing weather patterns or the focus of the gardeners’ work emphasizes or favors some plants over others.

This year at Simpson, late spring brought great drifts of Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker red’ throughout our Big Berm and adjacent beds. The graceful white bells on dark reddish stems are set off by their deep green foliage. The surrounding somber black pines and the lighter green of other plants combine to please the eye.

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Regional Gardens: Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens

By Elaine Mills, Certified Master Gardener
Photos by Elaine Mills, Bob Kline & Jennifer Kline

Lotus

View of lotus pond showing blossoms, leaves, and distinctive seed heads
Photo © 2017 Jenny Kline

Summer is the perfect time to visit Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens, the only national park dedicated especially to aquatic plants.  The site, located in the northeastern corner of Washington, DC, boasts 12 acres of shallow ponds which feature hardy and tropical water lilies, lotuses, and other water-loving species. Bordered by 70 acres of fresh-water tidal wetlands, this sanctuary is an ideal location for observing local wildlife. Continue reading

Posted in MG in the Garden, Regional Gardens

Creating Plant Signs for Simpson Gardens

A 2016 Master Gardener Intern Project

By Susan Wilhelm, Certified Master Gardener  

Wild Stonecrop Sign

Wild Stonecrop Sign
Photo © 2017 Susan Wilhelm

Kathryn Kellam and Susan Wilhelm (MGNV Class of 2016) created 25 new plant signs for the Simpson Demonstration Gardens in Alexandria as their intern project. Each sign has a line drawing of the plant and provides the plant’s Latin and common names, height and width at full growth, bloom color and time, moisture requirements, and sun exposure. The signs also list plant hardiness zones and several other types of information, as applicable, such as deer resistance and whether the plants attract bees, birds, or butterflies. A QR code (two-dimensional bar code graphic) on each sign enables garden visitors to link to individual plant information electronically. The information on each sign also is recorded on an Excel spread sheet maintained by MGNV that lists the plant’s location in the Simpson Demonstration Gardens. The signs are sturdy and easy to read even if placed some feet into the garden so as to be close to the plant being identified. Continue reading

Posted in Intern Projects, Simpson Gardens

The Square Foot Garden

By Madeleine Faust, Certified Master Gardener

Square Foot Garden

Square Foot Garden with cool harvest crop
Photo © 2017 Madeleine Faust

A stroll through the Demonstration Gardens of Glencarlyn, Simpson, and Bon Air leads one gently along the curves that define the paths and plantings. The softness and seemingly indeterminate order comfort the eye and make one anticipate the next bend. By contrast, a stroll through the Organic Vegetable Garden (OVG), in Potomac Overlook Regional Park in Arlington, Virginia, is a study in protracted straightness. Bean plantings form straight lines, their pole supports vertical and sturdy. Tidy pathways surround other rectangular beds of eggplant, tomatoes, and chard. Groomed and towering, the garden visually satisfying and inspiring. But tucked in a corner of the OVG, near the country-red shed, lies a bed that is different from all the others. It is neither large nor long nor rectangular. Its crops are not in straight rows. It is a 4-foot by 4-foot square overlaid with a grid of 16 1-foot by 1-foot squares. This is the Square Foot Garden. Continue reading

Posted in Organic Vegetable, Organic Vegetable Demonstration Garden | Tagged ,

Calendar of Events

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Posted in Event

SHRUB: Itea virginica (Virginia Sweetspire)

Itea virginica (Virginia Sweetspire)

Itea virginica (Virginia Sweetspire)
Photo © Mary Free

Tried and True Native Plant Selections for the Mid-Atlantic

Fragrant, showy four-inch spires of white blossoms fall from arching stems in late spring. In autumn, the leaves of Virginia Sweetspire turn a vibrant red to orange. This native* favorite has graceful open growth habit and performs best in partial shade with moist soil.

Learn more . . .

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GROUND COVER: Opuntia humifusa (Eastern Prickly Pear)

Opuntia humifusa, Eastern Prickly Pear

Opuntia humifusa, Eastern Prickly Pear
Photo © Christa Watters

Tried and True Native Plant Selections for the Mid-Atlantic

Eastern Prickly Pear Cactus (formerly O. compressa) is unique. Its natural habitat is in scattered pockets from Ontario, Canada, to Florida and Louisiana, rather than the Southwest. Though infrequent throughout Virginia,* it is native to Fairfax and Prince William counties. Like many of its desert relatives, it is edible, but handle with care!

Learn more . . .

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