Regional Gardens: Christmas At Longwood

By Elaine Mills, Certified Master Gardener
Photos by Elaine Mills and Bob Kline

Evergreens and blue-themed flowers interspersed with permanent collection in the East Conservatory.

Evergreens and blue-themed flowers interspersed with permanent collection in the East Conservatory.
Photo © 2015 Elaine Mills

December is an ideal time to visit Longwood Gardens, the expansive botanical gardens located in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, about 120 miles from Arlington. The principal attraction is the holiday horticultural display inside the Conservatory. This greenhouse structure, comprising 4.5 acres and 20 indoor gardens, annually features stunning arrangements of over 6,000 seasonal plants. Continue reading

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January 2018 Public Education Events

MGNV LogoThe following events are scheduled by VCE Master Gardeners in Arlington and Alexandria in January 2018.

microgreensMicrogreens: What Are They, Why They Are So Fabulous, and How to Grow Them

Monday, January 8, 7 – 8 p.m.
Barrett Branch Library
717 Queen St., Alexandria 22314

OR   

Saturday, January 13, 10:30 a.m. – noon
Westover Branch Library
1644 N. McKinley Road, Arlington 22205

Microgreens – You’ve likely seen them, but what makes them so good for you?  Join us to learn their many benefits, and some simple ways to grow these delicious, nutritious and inexpensive baby plants and sprouts in your own home.  Plus, we provide supplies for you to plant your own container, so come prepared to get a bit dirty while you make your own microgreen garden in class!

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

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GROUND COVER: Mitchella repens (Partridgeberry)

Tried and True Native Plant Selections for the Mid-Atlantic

Mitchella repens, Partidgeberry

Mitchella repens, Partidgeberry

Photo © Elaine Mills

Partridgeberry is a sweet trailing plant with shiny rounded evergreen leaves with a distinctive stripe down the mid-vein.  The paired snow-white tubular flowers have four fringed petals that form half-inch stars in summer. More information . . .

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MGNV has a new look!

MGNV

We are happy to unveil our new logo!

Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia

Thanks to the Logo Committee: Sue McIver, Carol Goldberg & Elena Rodriguez
and to Patti Maurer at Skinny Cat Designs 

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TREE: Acer rubrum (Red Maple)

Acer rubrum, Red Maple

Acer rubrum, Red Maple
Photo © Elaine Mills

Tried and True Native Plant Selections for the Mid-Atlantic

The Red Maple tolerates the widest variety of soil conditions of any North American forest species.  Its leaves turn brilliant scarlet, orange, and yellow in the fall, making it a popular ornamental tree. More information . . .

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The Long View – Meditations on Gardening

Occasional essays by Christa Watters, Certified Master Gardener

Fall Reckoning for the Gardener 

Chrysanthemum

Some of the mums have wandered rather far afield of their points of origin.
Photo © 2017 Christa Watters

Fall is the time to tally up the results of our gardening year. We plan, we plant, we weed, prune, maintain. Sometimes more, sometimes less. Life happens, and sometimes we don’t attend to all the chores we meant to do.

This year, in my home garden, I left a lot of volunteer seedlings of various sorts, curious to see how many would thrive and live. Later, I would thin them. When later came, I decided they would make a splendid show if I let them all bloom. The Dianthus japonicus (Japanese dianthus), for one. And indeed they grew into a thick border of glossy green leaves along the brick paths near my front door. Later in the summer, when some of the nearby perennials were starting to look a bit seedy, the Dianthus were in full bloom, a feathery pink mass that attracted butterflies and looked lovely leaning out over the bricks. Now, they have seeded out and hundreds of tiny seedlings are sprouting at the edge of the bed. The parents will mostly die down completely – I’ve already pulled most of them, but not before shaking more seeds around generously. I think I want a repeat next year. Continue reading

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Native Plants for Winter Interest

Fruit of American holly supports birds such as the cardinal, American robin and eastern bluebird.

Fruit of American holly (Ilex opaca) supports birds such as the cardinal, American robin and eastern bluebird.

By Elaine Mills, Certified Master Gardener
All photos © Elaine Mills

A number of plants native to our region provide continuing value and interest in our gardens into the winter. Their evergreen foliage or interesting bark add beauty to the landscape, while their berries, seeds, or stems provide support to wildlife through the cold months. 

The familiar berry-like drupes of American Holly (Ilex opaca), often used in holiday decorations, remain on this evergreen tree from October into winter on female plants, providing food for 18 bird species. (A male tree is required within 200 feet to assure fruit production.) The 15- to 40-foot tree can be used in the garden as a specimen or a tall hedge, providing cover and nesting sites for birds. Continue reading

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GRASS: Muhlenbergia capillaris (Muhly Grass)

Muhlenbergia capillaris, Muhly Grass

Photo © 2016 Elaine Mills

Tried and True Native Plant Selections for the Mid-Atlantic

The thin blades of this spectacular species droop at the tips to form a fine textured skirt for the airy, rosy-red plumes displayed in a spherical crown. The genus name of this plant honors Henry Muhlenberg whose study of plants earned him distinction as America’s first outstanding botanist. More information . . .

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Garden Myth Busters! Using Bleach to Disinfect Tools

Winter PruningBy Rachel Vecchio, Master Gardener 2016 Intern
and Libby Good, Certified Master Gardener

THE MYTH: The best way to disinfect pruning tools is to use a bleach solution.

THE REALITY: A common and much-debated garden myth is that a chlorine bleach solution is the best way to disinfect pruning tools. So popular, in fact, that a Google search on the topic comes back with 1.7 million results!  Continue reading

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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.

Continue reading

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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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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

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