Tour Homes and Gardens During the Garden Club of Virginia’s Historic Garden Week

Oatlands in Leesburg, photo courtesy of GCV

Oatlands in Leesburg, photo courtesy of GCV

Sponsored by the Garden Club of Virginia (GCV), Historic Garden Week (HGW) is an opportunity for the public to tour almost 250 private homes and gardens and historical sites in Virginia. “Historic Garden Week has raised millions of dollars for the restoration of public gardens across Virginia,” noted HGW Chairman Alice Martin. “Tour proceeds are used to enhance Virginia’s landscape.” For 82 years, the grounds of Virginia’s most cherished historic landmarks including Mount Vernon, Monticello, and the Executive Mansion in Richmond have been restored or preserved using proceeds from this statewide house and garden tour. The beginning of HGW dates to 1927 when a flower show organized by the GCV raise $7,000 to save trees planted by Thomas Jefferson on the lawn at Monticello. A non-profit organization, the GCV is comprised of 47 member clubs and 3,400 volunteers. Proceeds from the annual HGW fund the restoration and preservation of Virginia’s historical gardens and provide graduate level research fellowships for building comprehensive and ongoing records of historic gardens and landscapes in the Commonwealth.

Old Town Alexandria, photo courtesy of GCV

Old Town Alexandria, photo courtesy of GCV

This year there will be 31 tours hosted by volunteers at local GCV member clubs. The GCV has member clubs in 6 regions: Northern Virginia, Chesapeake Bay, Coastal Virginia, Capitol Region, Shenandoah Valley/Central Virginia, and Southern Virginia.  For example, in the Northern Virginia Region, there will be tours in Old Town Alexandria, Leesburg, Clifton-Fairfax Station, Warrenton, Front Royal-Warren County, and Winchester on various days between April 18 and 25.  “It’s the largest ongoing volunteer effort in the state,” said Karen Miller, HGW Director and Editor of the Guidebook. “In addition to the amazing interiors and gardens on display, the GCV volunteers will create over 2,000 spectacular floral arrangements to decorate rooms open to the public. Most of the flowers will come from their very own gardens.”

Front Royal--Warren County, photo courtesy of GCV

Front Royal–Warren County, photo courtesy of GCV

The schedule is available online at http://www.vagardenweek.org and tickets can be purchased on the day of the tour at numerous locations or in advance. Tours are held rain or shine. Properties can be visited in any order. Also available is the Guidebook, a 240-page, beautifully illustrated publication produced to support the event. The Guidebook can be downloaded, purchased online, or picked up free at designated public places. The Guidebook has descriptions of the tour sites, directions, refreshments, special activities in the area, and other places of interest which usually include historical sites that can be toured at other times of the year (for future reference). The Guidebook is a snapshot of the touring area; it lists names of the sponsoring Garden Club member organizations; area information such as Chamber of Commerce & historical societies; and advertisements from local businesses such as garden centers, antique stores, and restaurants.

For more information, e-mail at historicgardenweek@gmail.com or call (804) 644-7776. The website is http://www.vagardenweek.org. GCV has done an excellent job of providing information and photos on their web site plus they are present on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, and Twitter.

Saying Hi to Old Friends, a Mid-March Walk Around the Garden

I love to walk around the garden in March to see what is coming back but at the same time, I love to start new plants from seeds indoors. This week, mid March, the bright green foliage of parsley has emerged. A biennial, I harvested leaves from this parsley last year; I tend to use parsley quite a bit for meals. This year, the same plant has come back to flower and set seed. I hope to start a parsley patch that will self sow, creating more than enough for the kitchen.

parsley

parsley

The new growth on the tansy is pretty but the old growth is messy, which I will need to trim when it gets a little warmer. Last year, I used the tansy for flower arrangements. This year, I will see if there are more uses for tansy. I always try new herbs each year and a few weeks ago I started two types of fennel by seed in the house. They germinated so fast I had to pot them up and bring them outside for more light. You can’t really tell the difference now but the leafy fennel is on the left and the bulbing fennel is on the right. I have several more pots, I may have to give some away!

tansy

tansy

shallots

shallots

The slender shallots braved the snow; they were this size this last fall when I transplanted the seedlings to this bed. As the weather warms up the shallots will continue to grow and make little bulbs for cooking. Their cousin, the chesnok red hardneck garlic, was planted last fall to be harvested this summer. Their perennial cousin, the walking onion or Egyptian onion, has been thriving in the garden for years now and feel quite at home among a tulip and a hyacinth.

leaf fennel on left and bulb fennel on right

leaf fennel on left and bulb fennel on right

 

 

Chives: Easy to Fit in the Garden as a Landscape Edible

chives coming back in early March

chives coming back in early March

Chives are a great addition to the garden, any garden, does not matter what is growing already, add chives. These perennial herbs are great landscape edibles; they come back year after year. Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) are narrow plants, about a foot tall, so they can be tucked in between ornamental shrubs and flowers as long as they receive full sun. In my Virginia garden, my plants are already poking through the soil in early March and I can’t wait to cut the leaves for scrambled eggs, chive butter, and mashed potatoes.

To keep up with my family’s demand for fresh chives, I have several plants so after I cut the leaves back on one, I leave that plant alone until it rejuvenates and then harvest the leaves of another plant. Usually we are harvesting the leaves so often we do not see the pink, clover-like flowers but the flowers themselves are edible and pretty in a wildflower-country-garden-way.

In the spring, I divide my current clumps to create more plants, both for the garden as well as for friends. Chive can be grown from seed but it may take a while for the plants to mature to harvest so it is best to buy a few small containers in the spring and tuck them in different places in the garden (near the door so you can pop out with scissors before dinner). I always wash the foliage of course before eating but I have never seen pests.

To make chive butter, simply let the butter come to room temperature, stir in chopped chives to taste, then refrigerate in a container. This can be done with soft cheeses as well. Chives can be preserved in the freezer, dried, or in ice cubes. Chives also can be used in herbal vinegars. Fresh minced chives add green to potatoes, soups, and rice dishes. Really, chives are so versatile in the kitchen and so easy to grow in the garden, there is no reason not to have them in your garden.

Salad Burnet: Pretty Landscape Edible

baby salad burnet plant

baby salad burnet plant

The photo that has been on the top of my website for the past year is salad burnet, which has thrived in my Virginia garden for 5 years. The toothed foliage is pretty, almost fern like, and from spring to fall I would cut the young leaves for green salads, egg salads, herbal vinegars, cheese spreads, and iced drinks. This week, when I was pushing away autumn’s leaves, I noticed that the mother plant had disappeared but left a few young seedlings. I remember that last summer the mother plant was flowering quite a bit for the first time, maybe it knew its end was near. I saved the seed: just cut the dried seed heads and put them in a paper bag. Today, I pulled the stems out of the bag and rubbed the seeds off so I could plant more salad burnet in the garden. I actually was pleasantly surprised at the amount of seed I have, I am anxious to grow more this year to replenish my supply. Salad burnet is a perennial culinary herb, hardy to zone 4. It is easy to grow; it only needs full sun and well-drained soil. The plant is about 6 inches tall and maybe a foot wide. The inch-long flowers bloom on wiry stems but they are so pale and small, they blend into the background. A landscape edible, salad burnet (Sanguisorba minor) is a pretty addition to the garden. Either buy as a plant at the nursery or grow from seed.salad burnet

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day: Forcing Hyacinths!

Hyacinth Blue Pearl, first flush of flowers

Hyacinth Blue Pearl, first flush of flowers

For Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, the 15th of each month, check out my forced hyacinths. It is easy to force hyacinths to bloom early indoors, just pop bulb into paper bag, put in fridge in the fall, weeks later, take bulb out and plant in soil or water. Last year, on November 13 I put three Blue Pearls in a brown paper lunch bag and put them in the fridge. I wrote a note to pull them out in 10 weeks but really forgot about them and pulled them out after 11 weeks on February 2. I put mine in my three forcing vases, which are pinched vases that allow the bulbs to sit above the water. I have these forcing vases for so many years I don’t know where they came from but you can buy them at large independent garden centers, through online garden supply stores, or sometimes as a boxed combo of bulb and vase. It is not necessary to use these; you can place the bulb on a layer of pebbles or marbles in a wide-mouthed jar, such as a jam or Mason jar; or you can put them in a container of soil.

Hyacinth Blue Pearl in Forcing Vases

Hyacinth Blue Pearl in forcing vases

My Blue Pearls sat in a sunny windowsill in the office and on February 24, within 3 weeks, they were in full bloom — one month before they would have bloomed if they been out in the garden. Colleagues admired the beautiful flowers in my office and could not help commenting on the strong perfume. Three bulbs create such a sweet fragrance they are almost pungent. I cut the flowers and gave each one to a friend, as a cut flower in a vase. My bulbs continued to send up flower stalks for a second flush of flowers in the beginning of March. I cut those and now have a third flush of flowers. These are not as full and large as the first flush but that is okay because the scent is not as strong either. Next time, maybe one hyacinth in the office will suffice.

Hyacinth Blue Pearl, second flush of flowers

Hyacinth Blue Pearl, second flush of flowers

Try buying hyacinth bulbs in the fall to force them to bloom early inside. Compared to other bulbs, hyacinth bulbs are cheap, less than two dollars for high quality, individual bulbs or six or seven dollars for a package of three. From my bulbs, I got three flushes of flowers over a month’s time plus I will be able to plant them in my garden in April for flowers next spring. Hyacinths are very reliable here in Virginia; squirrels and deer do not bother them and they continue to flower year after year. Have you forced hyacinths before and if so, which type?

New Kid on the Block: DCGardens.com

There is a new resource for Washington DC area gardeners: DCGardens.com. DCGardens.com is a grassroots media campaign to promote the major DC-area gardens that are open to the public and gardening itself for DC-area residents. Targeting primarily visitors, both local and from out of town, it uses digital images collected of each garden by month and distributes them widely to travel, general and gardening media, both local and beyond.

In addition to images of the gardens by month, DC Gardens will serve as a hub for tours and events and will list gardening and conservation organizations, community gardens, gardening email groups, local gardening media, volunteering opportunities, places to purchase plants, etc.

On March 2, DCgardens.com started an indiegogo fundraising event, with a $25,000 goal. This will fund DCGardens for all of 2015, their “demonstration year.” The campaign will end April 13. See http://www.dcgardens.com to learn more about the site and https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/dc-gardens-beyond-the-cherry-blossoms to learn more about the fundraiser.

Donate Used Garden Tools to Support Washington DC Metro Communities

garden toolsAfter this snowfall, I will be ready to get out and garden! But first, I have to take stock of what I have, need, and can afford to replace. Community Forklift must have read my mind — they are joining forces with nurseries to collect donations of garden tools and supplies for a good cause. Community Forklift is a nonprofit, reuse center for building materials and architectural salvage. In March, they will be looking for donations of patio furniture, lawn and garden supplies in working condition (mowers, hoses, hand tools, power tools or lighting), or decorative landscaping items (pottery, birdbaths, arbors, edging, brick or stone). The following nurseries will accept the donations on their behalf:

March 7, 10 am to 4 pm, Johnson’s Florist and Garden Center, 5011 Olney-Laytonsville Road, Olney, MD
March 14, 10 am to 4 pm, Campbell & Ferrara, 8351 Richmond Highway, Alexandria, VA
March 14, and March 21, noon to 5 pm, and March 21, noon Behnke Nurseries, 11300 Baltimore Avenue, Beltsville, MD

Needless to say, donations are tax-deductible and if you are unable to attend the collection events, or if you have a large donation such as a riding mower or building materials, e-mail Donations@CommunityForklift.org to schedule a free pickup at your home.

Community Forklift will host its annual Garden Party and Sale on Saturday, March 28, to welcome the spring gardening season, complete with free workshops, live music and a lemonade lunch. Gently-used garden supplies and patio furniture will help make this fundraising event a success. Proceeds from the sale of the garden items will support Community Forklift’s work to lift up communities in the Washington DC metro region by reducing waste, creating green jobs, and making repairs affordable.

To learn more about the garden tool collection event or Community Forklift’s Garden Party on March 28th, contact them at (301) 985-6011 or e-mail Aderyn@CommunityForklift.org.
Community Forklift is located at 4671 Tanglewood Drive, Edmonston, MD 20781. http://www.communityforklift.org