SHRUB: Aronia melanocarpa (Black Chokeberry)

Tried and True Native Plant Selections for the Mid-Atlantic

Aronia melanocarpa Black Chokeberry

Aronia melanocarpa Black Chokeberry
Photo © Elaine Mills

This attractive native member of the Rose family is often found in bogs, swamps, and moist thickets and sometimes on drier balds and rock outcroppings throughout eastern North America.  Its common name refers to the astringency of the fruit, although it is used as a flavoring in many processed foods. More information . . .

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The New Flora of Virginia Mobile App

Flora App Home ScreenBy Elaine Mills, Certified Master Gardener

Last spring, while perusing the Winter 2017 issue of Sempervirens, the quarterly publication of the Virginia Native Plant Society, I came across a short article announcing plans for a mobile app version of the Flora of Virginia. At the bottom of the article was an invitation to test-drive the prototype. I had made frequent use of the voluminous reference tome in researching information for the series of “Tried and True” fact sheets on our web site and was intrigued by the idea of having this wealth of information eventually stored on my phone or on a tablet.


In mid-March, I contacted Bland Crowder, the executive director and editor of the Flora of Virginia Project, to see if I might be a beta-tester for the app. He responded, telling me there would be many more volunteers than available slots and that testers would be chosen to represent a range of experience in both plants and apps. I indicated that I had been growing native plants for seven years and preparing educational materials on them since joining the Master Gardener program but that my experience with apps was limited.

A month later, I was invited to join the team testing the iOS prototype of the Flora of Virginia App. Nearly 50 volunteers worked with the app on various platforms. Over the spring and summer, we tested seven versions and reported back on our experiences until the initial release Sept. 30, 2017.  As announced on the Flora of Virginia Project web site, the app is now available for purchase on Google Play and the Apple App Store. High Country Apps, a company experienced in creating apps on grasses and wildflowers for five other states, developed the app.

Menu Screen

Menu Screen

Here is a preview of the many features of this helpful app. Note that the accompanying screen shots represent images taken on an iPhone; the Android version may differ slightly. The menu screen clearly leads to the app’s various features.

The 3,164 species of Virginia plants can be browsed by species, genus, or family using  either scientific or common names. Resources for each individual species include beautiful photographs and line drawings from the Flora volume, detailed textual descriptions, and a range map that was first introduced in the online Digital Atlas of Virginia Flora. Both native and naturalized plants are included, as are the conservation status and invasiveness information. Individual species can be added to a list of favorites by clicking a star icon in the upper left corner of the images screen.

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Graphic Key

Graphic Key

To assist in identification in the field, a graphic key with icons that represent plant characteristics should bring up a list of candidates, if not a single species. Users can filter plants based on their geographical location. A more precise, traditional dichotomous key is in development and should be added by the end of the year.


Botanical Help

Botanical Help

The menu category Botanical Help includes profiles of the 928 genera and 189 families of plants in Virginia; charts of basic flower parts and leaves, which will be familiar to Master Gardeners from the botany classes during their training; and a glossary of botanical terms.

Finally, the Reference Library portion of the app includes three lengthy illustrated articles on the history of botanical exploration in Virginia; the nature of Virginia flora resulting from the interaction of geological, climatic, and biological factors; and 50 “hot spots” for Virginia field botany.

Posted in MG in the Garden, Tried and True Plants | Tagged , ,

PERENNIAL: Solidago rugosa (Rough-Stemmed Goldenrod)

Tried and True Native Plant Selections for the Mid-Atlantic

Solidago rugosa Fireworks in landscape

Solidago rugosa Fireworks in landscape
Photo © Elaine Mills

Golden sprays of flowers brighten the garden from late summer to frost, supporting 115 species of moths, butterflies, native bees, and other insect pollinators.  The cultivar ‘Fireworks’ is more compact, easier to contain, and flowers more vigorously than the species.

Find out more about Solidago rugosa and see a great video with pollinators . . .

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

View From the Glencarlyn Library Community Garden

by Judy Funderburk, Certified Master Gardener

Finding just the right pumpkin!

Finding just the right pumpkin!  
Photo © 2017 Patrick Gregerson

AutumnFest was celebrated in the Glencarlyn Library Community Garden, a Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia/Virginia Cooperative Extension (MGNV/VCE) demonstration garden in Arlington Virginia, with a feast of pumpkins, people, and plants. On Sunday, September 17th, a beautiful late-summer/fall day, Master Gardeners and Interns were delighted to welcome over 225 visitors.

Continue reading

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PERENNIAL: Vernonia noveboracensis (New York Ironweed)

New York ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis)

New York ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis)

Photo © 2016 Christa Watters

Tried and True Native Plant Selections for the Mid-Atlantic

Fluffy deep purple blooms atop 8-foot tall sturdy stalks draw bees and butterflies from mid-summer into fall.  This member of the daisy family is at home in fields, along stream banks, and in freshwater marshes. The Virginia Native Plant Society named New York Ironweed Wildflower of the Year in 1995. More information . . .

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

November 2017 Public Education Events

The following are free public education events offered by VCE for November 2017.

Holiday and Winter Containers (Note that the class is offered twice)

Holiday greenery

Wednesday, November 1, 7:00 – 8:30 p.m.
Fairlington Community Center, 3308 S. Stafford St., Arlington, 22206 

OR

Saturday, November 4, 2:00 – 3:30 p.m.
Barrett Branch Library, 717 Queen St., Alexandria 22314

Come learn some tips and tricks for keeping greenery fresh and for selecting plants for winter-long interest in containers. This fun and popular class is part winterizing your garden pots and part flower-arranging, as well as an opportunity for getting some hands-on experience.

Free. Advance registration requested at mgnv.org. Questions 703-228-6414 or mgarlalex@gmail.com. Continue reading

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Chanticleer Gardens—the Book and the Garden

By Susan Wilhelm, Certified Master Gardener

“To create a garden is to search for a better world.  Every gardener is like Oscar Hammerstein’s Optimist, for the very act of planting is based on hope for a glorious future.”

Adolph Rosengarten Jr., founder of Chanticleer Garden

The Art of Gardening—Design Inspiration and Innovative Planting Techniques from Chanticleer by R. William Thomas

The Art of Gardening—Design Inspiration and Innovative Planting Techniques from Chanticleer by R. William Thomas and others, is the next best thing to actually visiting Chanticleer Garden (Chanticleer), an amazing public garden in Wayne, PA. Filled with fabulous photographs and detailed descriptions, the book is both inspirational and practical.

The Art of Gardening was written collaboratively by Chanticleer’s executive director and head gardener, R. William Thomas, and the horticulturists responsible for each of Chanticleer’s seven distinct gardens. The introduction starts with an informative discussion of what Chanticleer is—a pleasure garden of plants and art, a demonstration garden, and a museum, and what it is not—an event location or arboretum. Next is an overview of Chanticleer’s history, starting with Adolph Rosengarten Sr.’s purchase of seven acres in 1912, and going on to describe the property’s subsequent evolution from a private estate to a public garden under the stewardship of Adolph Rosengarten Jr. and his wife Janet. Continue reading

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Native Grasses for Fall and Winter

By Elaine Mills, Certified Master Gardener
Photos: Elaine Mills 

Want to learn more about Native Grasses?
Sign up for Elaine’s October presentation!

Green seed heads of northern sea oats backlit by morning sun at the National Arboretum

Green seed heads of northern sea oats backlit by morning sun at the National Arboretum

As summer’s annuals are beginning to fade and fall perennials are putting on their last show of bloom, native grasses take on a more prominent role in the natural landscape. Some of these members of the Poaceae family are well-suited to the home landscape, where they can bring structure, subtle color, texture, and even sound to garden beds well into the winter months.

A tall woodland grass that can be seen in the southern parking lot bed of our own Glencarlyn Library Community Garden is northern sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium). This perennial grows in upright clumps with arching stems, bamboo-like leaves, and eye-catching oat-like seed heads that rustle and shimmer in the breeze. The green spikelets are beautiful in summer when backlit by the sun. Continue reading

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

TREE: Magnolia virginiana (Sweetbay Magnolia)

Magnolia virginia

Photo © Christa Watters

Tried and True Native Plant Selections for the Mid-Atlantic

Lovely, lemon-scented, cup-shaped flowers appear mid-spring and bloom intermittently throughout the summer, followed in the fall by showy conelike fruit. This elegant, semi-evergreen tree is native to the lowlands and freshwater swamps primarily along the Mid-Atlantic and Gulf coasts. More information . . . 

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

Monarch Butterfly About to Take Off!

By Judy Funderburk, Certified Master Gardener

Carlin Hall Preschool children and their teacher Carly Moser release 'their' Monarch Butterfly.

Carlin Hall Preschool children and their teacher Carly Moser
release ‘their’ Monarch Butterfly.
Photo 2017© Elaine Mills

The Carlin Hall Preschool children gathered round their teacher, Carly Moser, to release the Monarch butterfly they had nurtured in their classroom through all its wondrous stages.  It arrived as a tiny black and white baby caterpillar that was found in the Monarch Watch Garden of the Glencarlyn Library Community Garden, chewing on Asclepias syrica (common milkweed). With daily feedings of milkweed leaves, it shed its skin five times (each shedding is called an “instar” and allows the caterpillar to grow into its next stage), finally becoming a gorgeous striped bright yellow, black and white two-inch long adult. The children checked on their caterpillar every day and waited impatiently during its two-week chrysalis stage. Finally, the chrysalis cracked open and the butterfly emerged, ready for them to take her outside and wish her well on her journey to Mexico!

Posted in MG in the Garden

PERENNIAL: Eutrochium dubium (Eastern or Coastal Joe-Pye Weed)

Tried and True Native Plant Selections for the Mid-Atlantic

Eutrochium dubium, Eastern or Coastal Joe Pye Weed

Eutrochium dubium
Eastern or Coastal Joe Pye Weed
Photo © Mary Free

This more diminutive Joe Pye Weed is native to the eastern coastal plain and can be found in swamps, shores, and wet meadows.   Its beautiful pink-headed stems wave in the summer breeze and provide landing platforms attractive to butterflies and other insect pollinators. Eupatarium dubium is now called Eutrochium dubium by Virginia Flora.

Find out more about Eutrochium dubium and see a great video with pollinators . . .

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Master Gardener Tribute Bench & Garden Dedication Ceremony

by Peter Hickman, Certified Master Gardener  & 2017 President of MGNV

The idea for the Master Gardener Tribute Bench and Garden originated as a way to honor Mary Newton. Mary served as MGNV President fifteen years ago. It was a time of transition for MGNV as we went from a period of working without an extension agent and being “in charge,” to supporting the work of the agent. Mary led the organization through the transition with grace. She was patient, kind, and a good listener —a true gentle gardener. She passed from this life in September 2015.

Photo of Mary Newton

Mary Newton
Photo © 2017 Leslie Fillmore

As Master Gardener friends thought more about a tribute to Mary, they realized that she probably would not have wanted it to be all about her but would have wanted to honor the work all Master Gardeners past and present. An ad-hoc committee formed to pursue this idea. With the support of the MGNV Board, this ad-hoc committee developed a proposal and won Arlington County approval for this project last December. Once the handicapped accessible bench was installed, the ad-hoc committee prepared the soil and lovingly installed the Garden and have been keeping an eye on it ever since. In April, the Tribute Bench and Garden officially became the latest demonstration garden. Continue reading

Posted in Tribute Bench and Mini-Garden