Signs of Spring in the Shade Garden

By Dina Lehmann-Kim, Master Gardener

To any garden visitor strolling through Bon Air Park’s Shade Garden in mid-January, clumps of snowdrops would have immediately captured their attention given the backdrop of mostly barren garden beds filled with fallen brown leaves.

The garden has two types of snowdrops: the larger, Galanthum elwesii (giant snowdrop), and the smaller Galanthum nivalis (snowdrop). In addition to a larger flower, closer inspection shows that Galanthum elwesii has a broader, blade-shaped leaf that is a paler green than the leaves of its smaller cousin. The smaller snowdrop has narrow, spear-shaped leaves in a much darker shade of green.

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PERENNIAL: Mertensia virginica (Virginia Bluebells)

Mertensia virginica (Virginia bluebell) © Mary Free

Mertensia virginica (Virginia bluebell) © Mary Free

Tried and True Native Plant Selections for the Mid-Atlantic

Spring has finally sprung when the pink buds of Mertensia virginica show themselves in late winter and early spring, evolving from being coiled up like a scorpion’s tail to opening to deep pink or blue nodding flowers in drifts of woodland carpets. The Virginia Native Plant Society named Virginia Bluebell as Wildflower of the Year in 1989.

Read more . . .

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Master Gardeners and the 4-H Junior Master Gardeners Program

Cultivating an interest in gardening – Volunteers welcome!

by Susan Wilhem, Master Gardener Intern


4‑H Pledge
I pledge my head to clearer thinking,
My heart to greater loyalty,
My hands to larger service,
and my health to better living, for my club, my community, my country, and my world.

Basic gardening provides an exciting opportunity to help young people develop curiosity about and appreciation of gardening and the natural world.   In Arlington and Alexandria, 4-H and Master Gardeners collaborate to do this through the 4-H Junior Master Gardeners program.

4-H is the biggest and oldest youth development program in the United States.  Similar to Master Gardeners, 4-H operates under the auspices of the Cooperative Extension Service which began as a way for state land-grant universities to distribute research-based agricultural knowledge and expertise to the public.  The focus of the 4-H program was on young people, who were viewed as more open to new ideas at 4-H’s founding in 1902.   While agricultural best practices are still components of 4-H in rural areas, in Arlington and Alexandria, 4-H provides young people the opportunity to acquire leadership, citizenship, and life skills through a variety of programming.  One of these programs is the Junior Master Gardeners program. Continue reading

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Crazy Mixed up February (and March!)

by Judy Funderburk, Master Gardener

Flowering Quince ( Chaenomeles speciosa) close-up

Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles speciosa) close up view.

“Spring” … sprung or unsprung?

In the middle of what is supposed to be winter, when the days are still relatively short and the nights long, the plants in the Glencarlyn Library Community Garden are responding to the record-breaking high temperatures with a confusing but wonderful mix of blooms, berries, textures, and colors. Never before have we seen such combinations of winter and spring in the Garden. Here are some photos taken on February 21 that made me smile and shake my head and look in wonder. Continue reading

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Notes from the Organic Vegetable Garden

By Master Gardener Nancy Dowling 

Cover crops in March 2017

Cover crops in March 2017

Satisfaction to this gardener is coming back to the Organic Vegetable Garden in March after a 4-month break and seeing beds filled with green foliage. We did absolutely nothing to this garden after we put it to bed in November 2016. Yet, here in March, everywhere you look you see growth. See our harvested baskets: spinach, three kinds of kale, arugula, broccoli, and cabbage for the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC). A generous crop! Our carrots and beets, planted in late August-September, are looking healthy. And our cover crops are ready to cut. I’m including pictures, so please enjoy the show.
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Calendar of Events

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Posted in Event

Spring is here and . . .

the Virginia Cooperative Extension office in Arlington is here with a host of services and programs to help you with all your landscape and gardening needs!!

Lake Valley Seed PacketsFREE Seeds for vegetables and flowers are available during office hours. “Take all you want, but plant all you take” is the rule and you have only to sign out the number of packets you take. Send us photos of what you did with YOUR seeds and we might publish them on our website for everyone to see!

FREE Soil Test Kits and instructions for finding out what your soil pH is and what nutrients your plants need to thrive. Need help with your soil test results?  Call during the hours of 9am -noon at 703 228 6414 or email us for a replacement-

Sustainable Gardening Series 2017FREE Public Education Classes:  Go to calendar of programs for a full schedule of all of our classes on sustainable landscape management and urban agriculture in Arlington and Alexandria 

FREE Walk-In Diagnostic Services for your insect, weed, plant disease identification and management questions.  Daily. 9-noon at the Fairlington Community Center 3308 S. Stafford St. Arlington 22206  For more information, call: 703 228 6414 or email us at mgarlalex@gmailcom

Come get the real-deal, science based information
for sustainable landscape management on mosquito and tick control, invasive plant management, and landscape and household pests.  And come visit us at upcoming public events:

Celebrate National Nutrition Month logoNational Nutrition Awareness Month
March 26, 2-5pm
Arlington Central Library, 1015 N. Quincy St, Arlington 22201

Earth Day - Come Play with usEarthfest
April 12, 10-noon
Arlington Mill Community Center  909 S Dinwiddie St, Arlington, VA 22204, 

Alexandria Earth DayAlexandria Earth Day
April 29, 10-noon.
Braddock Park, 1320 Braddock Pl, Alexandria 22314 Saturday, 

Arlington Home Show and Garden ExpoArlington Home Show and Garden Expo
April 29 10 am-4pm
Thomas Jefferson Community Center, 3501 2nd St S, Arlington  22204, 

and don’t miss the Wednesday Night Series: Central Library Garden Talks, featuring a different timely gardening topic each week.  7pm every Wednesday thru October at the Arlington Central Library, 1015 N. Quincy St, Arlington 22201. Check, o

Check out our Plant Clinics!  The Arlington Central Library Plant Clinic has opened and will operate from 6:45 to 8:45 p.m. every Wednesday to October 25, 2017. It is located in the East Lobby of the library, 1015 N. Quincy Street. (Directions/Map). 

Arlington Farmers’ MarketThe Arlington Farmers’ Market Plant Clinic opens April 15 and will operate every Saturday morning from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. through September. The Farmers’ Market is located at N. 14th St. and N. Courthouse Rd.  (Directions/Map). 

Our other Plant Clinics will open in May.

Posted in Event, Public Education

April Public Education Events

The following are free public education events for April 2017.  They are open to all!

Printable Flyer – MGNV March 2017 Public Education Events
Printable Flyer – Garden Talks at Arlington Central Library 2017

Sustainable Landscaping 3: Plant Selection, Design & Planting

American Wisteria, a new native plants introduced into the garden.

Saturday, April 1, 9am – noon.
Fairlington Community Center, 3308 S. Stafford St., Arlington, 22206

Learn how to select plants that will function best in your location, focusing on the 3,000 native and naturalized plant alternatives to commonly used non-native plants. You will learn about designing with the propagation and habit of plants in mind, best practices for planting, companion planting, and identifying and removing invasive plants.

Free. Advance registration required as space is limited, at
Questions, telephone 703-228-6414 or email Continue reading

Posted in MG in the Garden, Public Education

TREE: Amelanchier arborea (Downy Serviceberry)

Amelanchier arborea

Tried and True Native Plant Selections for the Mid-Atlantic

Common in woodlands throughout the Mid-Atlantic Region, this native provides seasonal interest from early spring blossoms through vivid fall color. Edible fruit is ready for picking early summer, but there will be fierce competition with the 58 wildlife and 35 bird species that use this tree.

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Gardening as Occupational Therapy

By Master Gardener Puja Gellerman
Therapeutic Gardening by Phyllis Turner, PhD, RN, Virginia Cooperative Extension Master Gardener, Bedford County, VAGardening, as a purposeful and meaningful activity, has been cited as far back as 1932 in Occupational Therapy literature (Wagenfeld & Atchison, 2014, p. 1). At that time, Occupational Therapists (OTs) worked primarily in hospitals to support a patient’s engagement in hobbies and leisure activities through active participation. This year Occupational Therapy turns 100 and OTs everywhere are proud to be working not only in hospitals, but schools, adult day centers, correctional facilities, private homes, and many other settings – including gardens. Continue reading

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FERN: Osmunda cinnamomea (Cinnamon Fern)

Tried and True Native Plant Selections for the Mid-Atlantic

Whether by themselves on the woodland floor or coming through shade-tolerant ornamentals, Cinnamon Fern fronds are beautiful when they unfurl in spring and then turn vibrant shades of gold and orange in fall. Fossil records date back 75-180 million years. This versatile, easy to grow fern is still found frequently to commonly throughout much of the Mid-Atlantic Region.

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