What’s up with those Cicadas?

by Mary Free, Certified Master Gardener

Brood X 17-year cicada straggler exoskeletons.

Brood X 17-year cicada straggler exoskeletons.
Photo © Mary Free

If you think it is too early to find the exoskeletons of annual cicadas scattered along the sidewalk, then you are correct. What you see are the exoskeletons of periodical cicadas. Some of the Brood X 17-year cicadas have started to surface–four years early–in Virginia, Maryland, DC, Delaware, Ohio and Tennessee. Called stragglers or precursors, these early emerging cicadas will become more numerous as the weather heats up over the next couple weeks. They comprise less than one percent of the large Brood X, so don’t expect to see thousands of periodical cicadas under foot until 2021. Continue reading

Posted in MG in the Garden

Simpson Gardens in May – Open House Draws Bird Lovers

By Christa Watters, Certified Master Gardener

Lunaria annua (money plant) is in bloom in the pollinator garden now. In late summer and fall its coin-shaped seed heads will provide food for birds

Lunaria annua (money plant) is in bloom in the pollinator garden now. In late summer and fall its coin-shaped seed heads will provide food for birds.
Photo © 2017 Christa Watters

Simpson Gardens work parties began on March 7 this year, but in a hit or miss Tuesday pattern with a couple of rescheduled dates because of rain-outs. We have drawn interns from the fall class as well as from our regular roster of volunteers. Early spring’s blooming pattern was a bit unusual, as in all our gardens, with some plants putting on a show much earlier than usual. But the early warmth also enabled us to get our garden cleaned up and into shape much sooner than in some years.

The team held two potting-up parties, digging up volunteer seedlings, splitting clumps, and thinning beds that had become overgrown. These plants are being tended at Carol Kilroy’s house in anticipation of the May 20 plant sale at Green Spring Gardens Park.


Continue reading

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TREE: Cornus alternifolia, Pagoda Dogwood

Cornus alternifolia Leaves

Cornus alternifolia Leaves
Photo © 2017 Elaine Mills

Tried and True Native Plants of the Mid-Atlantic

Layers of horizontal branches tapering in size toward the top give this highly prized ornamental tree its common name.  This native of the understory of woods in the eastern United States is a favorite tree of ecologist and entomologist Doug Tallamy because of its value to pollinators and birds.

Learn more . . .

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MGNV Plant Sale Greenspring Garden

greenspring_plant_sale_2015Saturday, May 20, 9 a.m.- 3 p.m.

Green Spring Gardens
4603 Green Spring Road,
Alexandria, VA.

Love the idea of using native plants, but can’t find them? Come buy native plants at reasonable prices that are specially-suited for this area, and meet with Master Gardeners who will answer all your questions and help you pick out the plants that will grow the best in your yard. This sale also helps support our local Master Gardener program. Continue reading

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Five things you may not know about  . . . bonsai

Compiled by Marsha Mercer, Certified Master Gardener

Museum sign at the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum

The National Bonsai and Penjing Museum Photo © 2017 Elaine Mills

In honor of World Bonsai Day on May 12, we looked into the history and art of bonsai. You may know the proper pronunciation is “bones-eye” or “bone-sigh,” but did you know the Japanese weren’t the first to practice the art or that a gardener of tiny bonsai plants might need a crowbar? Read on. Continue reading

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Alexandria Earth Day

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Alexandria Earth DayMaster Gardener Silvia Boada-Salom organized a contingent of MGNV volunteers to staff a table at this year’s Alexandria Earth Day celebration, held at Lenny Harris Memorial Fields at Braddock Park on Mt. Vernon Ave., on Saturday, April 29, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

This year’s theme was Clean Water Starts With You and featured exhibits from the city’s water and sewage utilities as well as many other exhibits and demonstrations.
Silvia and other volunteers passed out free seed packets, offered soil testing kits, and distributed extension information on planting times, sustainable landscaping, pollinators, and other gardening practices.

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View from the Garden – Glencarlyn Community Library Garden

by Wendy Mills, Certified Master Gardener

Aesculus pavia: Seeds of the Red Buckeye tree.

Aesculus pavia: Seeds of the Red Buckeye tree Photo © 2017 Elaine Mills

A growing body of research is proving what we know intuitively: Nature is good for us—physically, mentally, and cognitively. When we spend time in nature—whether in a national park or a backyard garden—we feel better. We breathe easier and deeper, our heart rate slows, and our blood pressure drops. Also, problems feel more manageable and solutions that eluded us may appear effortlessly, coaxed into awareness by birdsong, the crunch of leaves underfoot, or the hint of pine in the breeze. Continue reading

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GROUND COVER: Tiarella cordifolia (Foamflower)

Tiarella cordifolia, FoamflowerTried and True Native Plant Selections for the Mid-Atlantic

Moist woods and stream banks are home to this charming wildflower that is less common to absent in the eastern portions of the Mid-Atlantic Region and is indigenous in NoVA only in Fairfax County. It looks as wonderful as a ground cover in shady locations as it does in a container on a patio or balcony. The plant’s tiny, star-shaped flowers and fine-textured stamens resemble foam, accounting for its common name.

Learn more . . .

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Simpson Strolls

Learn about our wonderful Simpson Park Gardens!
Join us at the Monthly stroll- we look forward to seeing your there.

Stroll on by Simpson Park GardensOn the second Tuesday of the month, 11am to Noon, the Master Gardeners of Arlington and Alexandria will be in the garden to answer questions and feature a monthly highlight.Tuesdays 11am–Noon April 11 May 9 June 13 July 11 August 8 September 12 October 10 2017 Location and Directions Simpson Park Gardens is located at 420 East Monroe Avenue, Alexandria, VA 22301, within Simpson Park, between the YMCA and Eugene Simpson baseball stadium. Parking is available in the YMCA lot.

Special Date
Fall Open House
Sunday, September 24, 1–3pm

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PERENNIAL: Polygonatum biflorum (Smooth Solomon’s Seal)

Polygonatum biflorum

Tried and True Native Plant Selections for the Mid-Atlantic

This native understory plant of moist woods is noted for its graceful arching stems, its dainty bell-like flowers, and the conspicuous veins of its leaves.  Its name may come either from the scars on the leaf stalk that are said to resemble the ancient Hebrew seal of King Solomon or from its wound sealing properties.

More information . . .

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