Friday, April 24, 2015

Fenton Friday: Strawberries Soon!

strawberry flower
I stopped by my garden plot quickly this week to harvest more asparagus and was so happy to see that the strawberry plants are covered in blossoms that promise many berries this May-June. I cannot wait for them.

The nasturtium seedlings are also up and I'd almost given up on them coming up at all, so that was another pleasant surprise.

Now, I just have to find a spare 15 minutes in the next few days to thin all my crowded seedlings - especially those radishes!

What is growing in YOUR edible garden now?

nasturtium seedling
About Fenton Friday:
Every Friday during the growing season, I'll be giving you an update on my community garden plot at the Fenton Street Community Garden just across the street from my house. I'm plot #16. It is a 10 ft x 20 ft space and this is our 4th year in the garden. (It opened in May 2011.)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Win Passes to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden “A Million Blooms"

For our April 2015 Washington Gardener Reader Contest,  Washington Gardener Magazine is giving away a family 4-pack of passes to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden to see “A Million Blooms” (prize value: $40).
   See literally millions of blooms, plus view the gardens as art, at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, VA. As part of “A Million Blooms,” a dozen picture frames will be set up throughout the central garden and inside the conservatory to feature what’s in bloom. Peer through the empty frames to view “living bouquets,” ensuring you see the garden’s highlights. The vignettes were inspired by the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts’ “Van Gogh, Manet, and Matisse: The Art of the Flower” exhibit (March 21–June 21) depicting flowers in masterpieces. “A Million Blooms” runs now through Monday, June 1, 2015; daily 9am-5pm. Read more about it at
   To enter to win the Million Blooms Passes, send an email to by 5:00pm on Sunday, April 30, with “Million Blooms” in the subject line and in the body of the email. Please also include your full name and mailing address. The pass winners will be announced and notified on May 1.

Busy Weekend Ahead...

Find Washington Gardener Magazine tabling at the following events this weekend:
  • Friday, April 24; 10am-1:00pm, Friends of the National Arboretum members only, then 1-4pm open to the public;
and Saturday, April 25, 9am-4pm.
FONA Garden Fair & Plant Sale
This annual spring gardening event features an extensive selection of unusual plants, garden supplies, books, art, family activities, and more. Get expert answers to your gardening questions from Arboretum staff. Sponsored by the Friends of the National Arboretum. Free admission. See for more information.

• Sunday, April 26, 12noon-3pm
Earth Day and Soils Celebration at OLD CITY Farm & Guild
Activities include environmentally friendly vendor booths (including  Washington Gardener Magazine), wreath-making with Butterkup Flowers, composting demonstration, beehive displays, local food vendors, and tasty beverages in the garden. Tour OCFG on your own; purchase soil, flowers, and other supplies for your gardening and farming projects. This is a family-friendly event and all are encouraged to attend. Registration is strongly encouraged (no ticket required for entry). They are asking guests to make a “pay what you want” contribution at this event. Details at

We'll also be stopping by this wonderful local event on Sunday morning to show our support:
• Saturday, April 25, 9am-6pm and Sunday, April 26, 8am-3pm
Franciscan Monastery Garden Guild
Held on the Monastery grounds at 1400 Quincy St, NE, Washington, DC. Come early for the best selection of herbs and vegetables, roses, annuals and perennials, shrubs and fruit trees, camellias, and azaleas and Monastery-grown plants. Local food and craft vendors will be there too.

BTW, here is another fast approaching deadline:

Help raise awareness of gardening and gardens in the Washington, DC region
To fund our outreach efforts, we are seeking to raise $25,000 in donations through Indiegogo -- please go to by May 1.


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Invasive Alert: Dealing with Lesser Celandine

Guest Blog by Meghan Fellow

Many of our Weed Warrior volunteers have sent in questions and concerns about Lesser Celandine (Ranunculus ficaria or Ficaria verna Huds.). Yes, it is getting worse. Floods and dispersal events spread this plant throughout our area. They are also extremely good and taking over new ground. Those pesky yellow carpets of weeds have replaced what should be a bounty of spring ephemerals (and their pollinators) are painful to watch -- we want to DO something.

Unfortunately, science has not kept up with our need. There is NO good, reliable way to kill celandine. Here are some popular suggestions: 

Dig it out.

Most people know not to pull it out -- those pesky underground bulbils stick around and thrive in the disturbed soil. So people have resorted to digging out the clumps whole. This can work in areas where the soil, moisture and all other factors are inline. It generates a ton of waste (soil and plant matter) and does a number on the health of the soil you're leaving behind. This waste cannot be home composted, so the only option is to send it to the county yard waste compost. This works best in garden beds or in very small infestations (1-10 plants). 

Dowse in 20% Acetic acid.

20% Acetic acid has been herralded as the organic alternate to glyphosate. Many people forget that when you're using it to kill plants it is a pesticide (not allowed for volunteers to use on parkland). However, let's explore this tool as to whether it is useful in a private situation. The mechanism of how it kills is important to consider when trying it out on a new species/situation. It is a top "burn" killer. Meaning above ground plant parts will die, but the roots do not die. Therefore this would best used on an annual plant, or in a situation where you could apply it repeatedly (not more often than every 2 weeks). 20% Acetic acid is actually recommended for sidewalk/driveway cracks and in gravel. But do be careful and wear protective gear, this is a strong acid and can burn. Household vinegar is 5% acetic acid and appears to have no consistent effect.
Lesser celandine is a perennial -- 20% acetic acid is unlikely to have any long term effect. I know of no direct, replicated experimental studies on the species/treatment, only anecdotes.

Burn it with flame weeding.

Flame weeding using a propane based torch is another method that achieves the top "burn." It leaves no residues at all in the soil. The roots/bulbils may or may not be affected. It has been used extensively for stiltgrass -- key thing to note, stiltgrass is an annual. Theory says flame weeding should not work on lesser celandine, but a few Weed Warriors and I have an extensive trial set up in Sligo, Little Falls and Capitol View Homewood Parks. We have been working on this since February. I hope to finish collecting data by late May, analyze it this summer and maybe have a new method for next year. Or at least an answer as to whether it might work.

Apply Glyphosate.

The only current reliable method of killing lesser celanine is to use glyphosate. As you all know we only use herbicides when it is absolutely necessary, and then in the minimum amount required. The protocol for lesser celandine control is to foliar spray celandine in the time in the spring after it has leaves but before it goes to flower (typically less than 50% of the plants have buds). This is an incredibly narrow window that we are now out of. This year it was about March 27-April 6. You must repeat this cycle for 3 years in a row.
 I read this summary as there is no good method for controlling celandine. Many people have told me what worked for them in their own garden, and we appreciate that -- we are looking at extensive infestations throughout parkland. All of the stream valleys and many of the parks in between do have celandine. This is a massive infestation. 

What can you do?

  • Avoid areas with celandine. Avoid digging in them or even walking through them. In a few months (usually by mid-June) the celandine has senesced and you can go back to work.

  • Garlic mustard on the other hand is out now, and there are key spots in the county that could use a lot of help (Sligo for one). Please pick garlic mustard! 

  • Support efforts to research better ways to kill celandine.

  •  Grow native ephemerals, if you can, in your own spaces. Studies have shown private yards can provide refugia for native pollinators and insects. 

  • And please remind people not to plant lesser celandine! I've been told a number of stories of people removing it from parkland to put in their yards as it was "so pretty."

I know this is a species that we have a great worry over. Thankfully there is a very small group of plants that are impossible to control with current methods. Unfortunately, this is one of them.
About the Author:
Meghan Fellows is the Weed Warrior Volunteer Coordinator with Montgomery County Parks. She can be reached at (301) 962-1343 or 
For more on invasive plants, see: Follow her on Twitter at
Photo sources:
top --
Leslie J. Mehrhoff, University of Connecticut,
middle --  Meghan Fellows, Montgomery County Parks

Friday, April 17, 2015

Washington Gardener Magazine April 2015 issue features a Bluebell Growing Guide and Best Local Spots for Viewing Virginia Bluebells and much more

The April 2015 issue of Washington Gardener Magazine is now out and is posted at:
This issue includes:
~ Bluebell Growing Guide  and Best Local Spots for Viewing Virginia Bluebells
~ Arrest the 10 Most Unwanted Weeds
~ April-May Garden Tasks
~ Small Space Solutions  for Growing Edibles
~ Groovy Ground Beetles
~ Spring Tonics from the Garden
~ How Hormones Help Plants Respond to Stress
~ EXPANDED! Local Garden Events Listing
~ Reader Contest to Win Passes to Lewis Ginter Garden's A Million Bloom
and much more...

Note that any submissions, event listings, and advertisements for the May 2015 issue are due by May 10.

Fenton Friday: Seedlings Up!

Arugula seedlings
This week at my community garden plot we had several days of rain and wind, so it was hard to get over and do too much. We are still awaiting our compost and mulch delivery so we can re-do our common pathways and add leaf compost to the raised beds, so I'm keeping the straw cover in place for now.

Most of the seeds I planted last week are now up including arugula and radish. I'm also seeing a hint of the carrots.

The pea seedlings are coming along nicely and are starting to form tendrils and reach out for their supports.

I was able to harvest another couple handfuls of asparagus spears as well.

Pea seedlings
Surprisingly, the kale from last fall has started to bolt (set flower). It has not been that warm or sunny, so I'm not sure what sparked that off.

I hope to get over this coming week and start thinning out the seedlings and maybe seed some annual flowers in also.

What is growing in YOUR edible garden now?
Bolted kale
Asparagus spears in strawberry patch
About Fenton Friday:
Every Friday during the growing season, I'll be giving you an update on my community garden plot at the Fenton Street Community Garden just across the street from my house. I'm plot #16. It is a 10 ft x 20 ft space and this is our 4th year in the garden. (It opened in May 2011.)

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Spring has Sprung for this Garden Blogger's Bloom Day

Daffodils 'Curly Lace'
Garden Blogger's Bloom Day again! On the 15th of each month, we gardeners with blogs share a few bloom photos from our gardens. Here in the Mid-Atlantic USA (USDA zone 7) on the DC-MD border, we finally have entered spring!

I have so much blooming in my garden now that I don't think I can list it all, here is a partial list and a few quick photos: regular Hyacinth and Muscari (Grape Hyacinth), Daffodils (many varieties), Hellebores, Weeping Cherry Tree 'Higan,' Flowering Plum Tree 'Thundercloud,' Forsythia, Primula, Tulips are just starting, Violets, Lungwort, Veronica, Phlox ground cover, Redbud tree, Cyclamen, and much more.

What is blooming in YOUR garden today?

BTW I have been sharing a bloom each day, most from my own garden, on my Instagram account (@WDCgardener). Please follow me there and see many more local flower pictures!
PJM Rhododendron

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Cherry Blossom Viewing Alternatives in the DC Region

(One of our most popular and imitated annual blog posts -- updated for 2015.)

It is Cherry Blossom Festival madness again in Washington, DC. If you have been there/done that, hate the crowds, or just can’t get enough of those dainty pink and white blossoms and want more, here are a few local alternatives to the Tidal Basin display:

Public Gardens

~ The National Arboretum has a splendid and more varied display and LOTS or parking. Stroll around Fern Valley and the other gardens as well while you are there. Take the Self-Guided Tour: Beyond the Tidal Basin: Introducing Other Great Flowering Cherries  to explore the arboretum’s collection of over 2,000 cherry trees representing 600 different cultivars, hybrids, and species of various shapes, sizes, flower colors, and bloom times, including trees that have been created by arboretum scientists. Note: The free tour covers several miles of arboretum roads, and can be driven, biked, or walked. Pick up a brochure in the Administration Building. (The USNA is now back open all week -- hurray!)

~ Tudor Place hosts three Cherry Blossom Teaa and also a Blossoms and Bubbly night. Or take a stroll on your own through the spectacular Yoshino Cherry Blossoms during the full bloom. Inside the Historic Mansion, enjoy an up-close look at Tudor Place’s collection of early 20th century Japanese fans. Event and entry fees apply.

~ Dumbarton Oaks in Georgetown, WDC, has a marvelous orchard of cherries. There is an $8 admission fee that goes to support the gardens. Parking is also a bear in that neighborhood -- I recommend you walk or take the bus.

~ Hillwood Estate in NW DC is pleased to celebrate the National Cherry Blossom Festival with short guided tours of Mrs. Post’s Japanese-style garden. Docents will be available to answer questions between the tours. The suggested entry donation to Hillwood is $12 per adult.

~ Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, MD, also has beautiful cherry blossom trees and many other flowering trees like plum, apricot, magnolias, and quince in bloom right now, and you don’t have to fight the crowds to see them. The gardens are also full of flowering bulbs like hyacinths, tulips, and hillsides of daffodils.

~ Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, VA, has over 100 cherry trees surrounding a lovely lake that you can stroll around. Admission to the gardens is $5

Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond, VA, has a ring of Yoshino cherry trees around their lake and Okame cherry blooms throughout the gardens. There is an entry fee of $10 to visit the gardens.


~ The Bethesda, MD, neighborhood of Kenwood for their stunning display. Park and walk in for an immersion in cherry tree lined streets.

~ An anonymous post to my blog, tipped me off that there are several blocks of cherry blossom trees creating an arch above the streets of Garrett Park Estates in Kensington, MD. Take Strathmore Road near Holy Cross Church, turn onto Flanders and then I think it’s Waycross. The trees span several streets, are lovely, and totally free of crowds!

~ Adam Bailey let me know that “Stanton Park and Lincoln Park on the Hill — and the Capitol Hill neighborhoods in general — have a good display of blossoms, too.”

~ "Scott Circle, at Massachusetts & 16th, also has some great cherry blossoms," reports John Boggan.

~ Katie said, "There's a neighborhood off Query Mill in North Potomac that has streets lined with cherry trees. Not as fantastic as Kenwood, but if you're in the upper Montgomery County, it may be more accessible. Streets include Moran and Bonnie Dale. It blooms a few days later than Kenwood."

Grow Your Own!

~ In the very first issue of Washington Gardener Magazine, we did a PlantProfile column on the selection and cultivation of cherry trees for our area. Ever since getting my weeping ‘Higan’ cherry, I feel no need to rush downtown. I keep a daily watch on my baby tree and celebrate loudly when the buds finally burst open. I highly recommend it.

Got other DC-area Cherry Tree viewing locations? Please share them in the comments below.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Fenton Friday: April Asparagus

Rejoice! I was able to get a real harvest Asparagus this week for the first time from my community garden plot! Having to three years from the initial planting date was a real test of my patience, but the wait is worth it. They are so tender fresh from the garden that I do not bother to cook them in any way, I just snack on them raw.

If I had to do it all over again, I definitely would have started off the first year in the plot with asparagus, instead of waiting for year two. I also would have planted much more of it. I started with only three rootlets and I am harvesting a decent amount, but I am greedy for this wonderful vegetable and I want more!

What are you growing in your edible garden? Any early harvests?

About Fenton Friday:
Every Friday during the growing season, I'll be giving you an update on my community garden plot at the Fenton Street Community Garden just across the street from my house. I'm plot #16. It is a 10 ft x 20 ft space and this is our 4th year in the garden. (It opened in May 2011.)

Native Spotlight: Spring Native Plant Sales


Guest Blog by Rachel Shaw 

Happy spring! (I think I can say that at last.) I am going to be taking a little hiatus from this monthly column in order to focus on some family matters. I expect to be back by mid-summer. In the meantime, native plant sales are happening soon in our area. The EPA has a really nice site with links to information about native plant sales throughout the Mid-Atlantic region:

In DC, an excellent sale is associated with the Lahr Symposium held in March at the National Arboretum. Unfortunately it has already taken place this year, but check out this year’s program and keep it in mind for next year. You can go to the sale without attending the conference, but symposium registrants get in to the sale an hour before the general public.

Below I’ve listed a few other sales I like and details on when and where they will be held this year. (They’re all on the same weekend, so arrange your schedule accordingly!)

Saturday, April 25, 10 am - 4 pm
Sunday, April 26, noon - 4 pm
Adkins Arboretum, 12610 Eveland Road, Ridgely, MD
2015 Native Plant Nursery Opening Weekend. See website to pre-order.

Friday, April 24, 3-7 pm
Saturday, April 25, 10 am - 3 pm
Sunday, April 26, 1-3 pm
Black Hill Regional Park, Boyds, MD. Sale to be held at greenhouse; signs will be posted. See website for additional information, including plant list with photos.

Saturday, April 26, 9 am - 2 pm
Parkfairfax / Northern Alexandria Native Plant Sale, 3601 Valley Drive, Alexandria.
Multiple vendors. See website for directions and vendor list.

On the homefront, I’m happy to see that Bloodroot (Sanguinaria Canadensis) has pushed its way up and started to flower. What’s going on in your yard now?

About the author:
Rachel Shaw focuses on vegetable gardening and growing native plants in her small yard in Rockville, MD. She blogs at
This guest blog post is part of a monthly Native Plants series posted around the 10th of each month. Rachel is taking little hiatus from this monthly column in order to focus on some family matters. WE anticipate that this series will return in mid-summer.