Invasive Plant Factsheet: Leatherleaf Mahonia (Mahonia bealei)

Sometimes called Leatherleaf Holly, this distinctive evergreen shrub was introduced in the mid-1800s as an ornamental. Although still a popular landscape plant, it has increasingly spread into woodlands from Maryland to Florida, including in Rock Creek and Wolf Trap parks, and is now classified as invasive. It is on Arlington County’s list of invasive plants.

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New Videos of Zoom Sessions Added to MG Virtual Classroom!

Public Education Classes Now Online! 

Foraging for Wild Edibles

Speakers: Becky Halbe & Jane Longan,  Extension Master Gardeners, and Puwen Lee, longtime gardener  & educator.
Zoom session, recorded May 15, 2020


Small Space Gardening for Pollinators

Speaker: Extension Master Gardener Elaine Mills
Zoom session, May 8, 2020


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PERENNIAL: Monarda didyma (Scarlet Beebalm, Oswego Tea) 

Tried and True Native Plant Selections for the Mid-Atlantic

MGNV - Native Plants LogoThis member of the Mint family, native to scattered regions of eastern North America, grows along stream banks and in thickets and open woods. Its distinctive red flowers attract a variety of pollinators, especially hummingbirds,** and it offers herbal and medicinal benefits.

Learn more and see the great new video by Mary Free . . .

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Small Trees Make Big Canopies

Extension Master Gardener Intern Project Launches!

By Pam Quanrud, Extension Master Gardener Intern

First Free Tree Giveaway, Earth Day 2020.
Photo © 2020 Pam Quanrud

As they say, when life gives you lemons . . . you can end up with a lot of trees ready to give away but no place to hand them out!

Undeterred by public events canceled due to COVID-19, Extension Master Gardener Intern Alicia Martin and I figured out a way to launch our “Small Trees Make Big Canopies” Free Tree project from our front stoops on Earth Day 2020.

Our Free Tree project stems from concerns that our region’s tree canopy is shrinking fast as our largest trees fall victim to age, redevelopment, poor pruning practices around power lines, prolonged periods of drought, and record-high flash rainfalls. Many people seek to replant, but the instinct to plant a larger tree can lead to disappointing results, since larger nursery trees need extensive root trimming to be portable enough to sell, and their new owners often fail to give them enough water in their first year to survive.

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Invasive Plant Factsheet: Princess Tree (Paulownia tomentosa)

Also known as Empress Tree, this native of China was imported to Europe in the 1830s and then introduced shortly after into the U. S. where it has been cultivated as an ornamental in parks and gardens. Touted as the fastest growing tree in the world, its aggressive spread into natural areas has caused it to be listed as invasive throughout much of the east coast, including Arlington and Alexandria.

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SHRUB: Kalmia latifolia (Mountain Laurel)

Tried and True Native Plant Selections for the Mid-Atlantic

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This lovely resident of wet prairies, meadows, and marshes has multi- season interest with pink blooms, yellow fall foliage, and interesting bark. The tiny flowers on its spire-like flower plumes resemble those of invasive Japanese Spiraea, for which it is a good native substitute.

See a new video by Mary Free and the Tried and True fact sheet . . .

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Garden Musings


“Please forgive me,” she whispered, holding the cut branch with two baby peppers in her hand. “I wasn’t paying close enough attention.” And, “You fulfilled your lifecycle. You did everything right.” She exhaled deeply, her shoulders dropping in a gesture of defeat.

Pulling out the cold blistered tomato plant, she said “thank you” and took a deep breath. Looking at the empty bed, the rich dark soil, all she could feel was gratitude. It had been her best harvest yet. Despite all the mistakes and miscalculations, she was starting to feel a modicum of trust in herself.

After mulching the last bag of leaves, she noticed that the back wheels of the lawnmower were on the lowest setting while the front wheels were on the second to highest. She couldn’t believe it. Over the growing season, she had poured a lot of effort into renovating her lawn, all on her own. Performing all the required actions laid out in a lecture she attended, it was only now that she realized she had been undermining her best efforts by cutting the grass too low—the absolute worst thing you could do to a lawn. At the realization, panic rose and her thoughts turned to bitter self-recrimination almost unbearable to sit with. She thought she’d have to call someone who could tell her she wasn’t horribly stupid. After a few minutes she snapped “Call yourself. It’s still green. You didn’t kill it. You’ll try again next year.” The bad feeling dissipated. Later she thought to herself, “This is progress.”

by Wendy Mills

Like this piece? We’re trying out short form thoughts on gardening and gardeners. If you have something to say in 300 words or less, poem or prose, send it to us at

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Protecting Yourself From Ticks . . . Without Harming Pollinators

By Joan McIntyre, Extension Master Gardener

Being outdoors—whether in your own yards or walking in the woods—offers solace during this time of social distancing.  While ticks are now entering into their most active periods there are some easy steps to protect from these pests and the diseases they can carry.

Knowledge and vigilance—not pesticides—are our best protection from these pests

Adult Deer Tick

Adult Deer Tick

Understanding the lifecycle and behaviors of ticks is key to protecting ourselves from them.  The four most common ticks in Virginia are the lone star tick, blacklegged (formerly deer) tick, American dog tick, and brown dog tick. (The brown dog tick is not known to carry diseases in Virginia.)  Different ticks can be vectors for different diseases. Most ticks are active April to September, but adult blacklegged ticks are most active in winter, so it’s important to be aware year-round.  The appearance of ticks varies depending on their life stage and whether they are male or female.

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Invasive Plant Factsheet: Yellow Flag Iris (Iris pseudacorus)

This colorful ornamental perennial, introduced from Europe and still sold commercially for use in garden pools, has escaped from gardens and become an invasive noxious weed. It poses a threat to wetlands throughout much of North America, including Arlington and Alexandria, Virginia, as it colonizes in large numbers and competes with native shoreland vegetation.

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