Subscribe to Pegplant’s Post and Be Eligible To Win Six Peonies!

Cheddar Supreme

Enter your e-mail here to subscribe to Pegplant’s Post, a free monthly newsletter about gardening in the Washington DC metropolitan area. Each issue lists 50 to 100 local gardening events, lectures, and workshops in MD, DC, and VA; recently published gardening books; and articles and tips specific to gardeners in this immediate area. Each issue also features a giveaway product or plant that one lucky subscriber can win. Look for your issue in your inbox during the last weekend of the month.

Bowl of Cream

For the giveaway in the upcoming August issue we have collaborated with Peony’s Envy to offer the White Peony Pack. This consists of two Henry Sass herbaceous peonies (the purest white bloom), two Bowl of Creams (very popular), and two Cheddar Supremes (a Klehm original with a hint of yellow). This is a total of six plants valued at $164!  Not only are the flowers fragrant, the plants are deer-resistant too! Only one subscriber will be able to win all six, which will be shipped directly from Peony’s Envy, bare root, in the fall.

Henry Sass

Peony’s Envy has the most extensive collection of tree, herbaceous, and intersectional peonies in the northeast. In addition, they have a display garden open to the public on a 7-acre, New Jersey property and a peony cutting garden. Check out their beautiful website — they sell all things related to peonies such as kitchen towels, jewelry, neckties, aprons, and notecards. Thank you Peony’s Envy for collaborating on such a generous and beautiful giveaway!

Photos courtesy of Peony’s Envy.

Visiting Local Demonstration Gardens for Ideas and Help

As the summer peaks, I like to visit the local demonstration gardens to see how well the plants and vegetables performed in this area. Demonstration gardens are a great way to learn what works in the Washington DC metro area and how to manage our local issues, such as deer and rabbits. Each county that has a Master Gardener program usually has at least one demonstration garden, managed by the volunteer Master Gardeners. To find such a garden, call your local county Master Gardener program representative (your local extension agent). Some have several to showcase various environmental conditions and some use the garden as a place to teach or host workshops.

The Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia (Arlington and Alexandria) have seven demonstration gardens:

  • Glencarlyn Library Community Gardens, corner of S. Third and S. Kensington Streets, off Carlin Springs Road, Arlington
  • Teaching Garden at Fairlington Community Center
  • Master Gardener Tribute Bench and Garden at Fairlington Community Center
  • Organic Vegetable Garden, Potomac Overlook Regional Park, Marcy Road, Arlington
  • Rock Quarry Shade Garden, Bon Air Park on Wilson Boulevard and N. Lexington Street, Arlington
  • Simpson Park Gardens, E. Monroe Avenue at the end of Leslie Avenue, next to the YMCA in Alexandria
  • Sunny Garden, Bon Air Park, Arlington

The Prince William County Master Gardeners manage a very large “Teaching Garden” at St. Benedict Monastery, 9535 Linton Hall Road, Bristow, VA. Within this large garden are mini gardens to illustrate certain conditions or issues, such as a deer resistant garden, shade garden, vegetable garden, and pollinator garden.

The Loudoun County Master Gardeners uses Ida Lee Park on Ida Lee Park Drive, Leesburg, as a teaching garden.

The Montgomery County Master Gardeners have a demonstration garden at the Agriculture History Farm Park, 18410 Muncaster Road, Derwood, MD, and they manage the herb garden at the National Library of Medicine Herb Garden at the National Institutes of Health campus in Bethesda. Each year, for a temporary period they manage award winning gardens near the Old MacDonald Barn at the Montgomery County Agricultural Fair.

The Prince Georges County Master Gardeners have demonstration gardens at their headquarters at 6707 Groveton Drive, Clinton, MD.

The Urban Demonstration Garden, part of the Capital Area Food Bank at the DC warehouse, 4900 Puerto Rico Avenue NE Washington DC.

The Washington Youth Garden, a program of the Friends of the National Arboretum with support from the U.S. National Arboretum (on Arboretum grounds) in Washington DC.

In addition some plant societies such as the National Capital Dahlia Society have demonstration gardens specific to their plant of interest. Contact the society directly to see if they have one. The National Capital Dahlia Society has the Nordahl Exhibition Garden for displaying dahlias at the Agricultural History Park in Derwood, MD. The Plant NoVA Natives has a list of demonstration gardens that have native plants on their website.

Hardy Hibiscus: Summer-Flowering, Native Shrubs

Amaretto

This summer I am enjoying two hardy hibiscus plants in my Virginia garden. I planted them last year along the perimeter of the backyard where the water runs through like a river when it rains. It is a full sun, exposed area and the plants are blooming their heads off.

Hardy hibiscus plants (Hibiscus moscheutos) are native to the eastern United States and are common in swampy areas. They typically grow 4-5 feet tall with large hibiscus-like flowers. The flowers only last a day, attracting pollinators, butterflies, and hummingbirds. For years, several cultivars have been available with flowers in the white, pink, and red range.

My bushes come from a new series of eye-popping colors.  I have Amaretto (salmon-colored flowers) and Bleu Brulee (lavender petals with dark red center) from J. Berry Nursery’s Summer Spice Hardy Hibiscus collection. This is a wholesale nursery but their website has a retailer locator. The collection has unusual flower colors – from dark red chocolate to cornflower blue.

Bleu Brulee

My plants were very small when I planted them last summer but they grew quickly. In the fall, after the first frost, I cut the stems down to about 4 inches above the ground. They overwintered well but as with all hardy hibiscus plants, they were late to the dance. Just when I thought the bushes might be dead, I saw new growth at the base in May. The stems grew so fast that by June the bushes were about 3 feet tall (this series also is more compact). Now in July, they are covered in flowers constantly visited by bees. Hardy hibiscus plants are also deer-resistant, although I have seen some Japanese beetle damage on the foliage. I like their large flowers, especially since I can see them from the house. I have a few areas in my garden where there are depressions in the ground that remain damp after the rain or low lying areas through which rain water channels and hardy hibiscus plants are perfect for these areas. In addition, they thrive despite our heat and humidity and provide great color all summer long.

New Gardening Books Published in 2019

Every month I list newly published gardening books on my website under “New Books: 2019” Now that we are mid-year, I thought I would share the 77 titles I have printed so far because this is a great resource for summer reading as well as gift ideas. My 2018 list, which totaled 86 books, is archived under “Books from 2018“. Of course this is not all gardening books, just my recommendations from looking at publishers’ websites, checking with Amazon, or hearing from the authors themselves.

July 2019

Botany at the Bar: The Art and Science of Making Bitters by Selena Ahmed, Ashley Duval, and Rachel Meyer, Roost Books

Compost Teas for the Organic Grower by Eric Fisher, Chelsea Green Publishing

Deer-resistant Design: Fence-free Gardens that Thrive Despite Deer, by Karen Chapman, Timber Press

DIY Mushroom Cultivation: Growing Mushrooms at Home for Food, Medicine, and Soil by Willoughby Arevalo, New Society Publishers

Field Guide to Urban Gardening: How to Grow Plants, No Matter Where you Live by Kevin Espiritu, Cool Springs Press

Grow Your Own Herbs: The 40 Best Culinary Varieties for Home Gardens by Susan Belsinger and Arthur O. Tucker, Timber Press

How to Make a Plant Love You: Cultivate Green Space in Your Home and Heart by Summer Rayne Oakes, Optimism Press

Naturalistic Planting Design by Nigel Dunnett, Filbert Press

Raised Bed Gardening for Beginners: Everything You Need to Know to Start and Sustain a Thriving Garden by Tammy Wylie, Rockridge Press

June 2019

The Whole Okra: A Seed to Stem Celebration by Chris Smith, Chelsea Green Publishing

Plant Parenting by Leslie Halleck, Timber Press

Temperate Garden Plant Families by Peter Goldblatt and John C. Manning, Timber Press

Wildflowers of the Atlantic Southeast, a Timber Press Field Guide by Laura Cotterman, Damon Waitt, and Alan Weakley, Timber Press

Edible Paradise: How to Grow Herbs, Flowers, Vegetables and Fruit in Any Space by Vera Greutink Chelsea Green Publishing

Grow Your Own Botanicals by Cinead McTernan, Octopus

Urban Garden Design by Kate Gould, Octopus

The Bonsai Book: The Definitive Illustrated Guide by Dan Barton, Racehorse Publishing

The Crafty Garden: Inspired Ideas and DIY Crafts from Your Own Backyard by Becca Anderson, Mango

Gardener’s Guide to Compact Plants: Edibles and Ornamentals for Small Space Gardening by Jessica Walliser, Cool Springs Press

Funky Little Flower Farm by Jenks Farmer, self-published

May 2019

Sand and Soil: Creating Beautiful Gardens on Cape Cod and the Islands by C. L. Fornari, David R. Godine Publisher

The Posy Book: Garden-Inspired Bouquets That Tell a Story, Teresa H. Sabankaya, Countryman Press

Beyond Rosemary, Basil and Thyme: Unusual, Interesting and Uncommon Herbs to Enjoy by Theresa Mieseler, Shady Acres Herb Farm

Grow Your Own Herbal Remedies: How to Create a Customized Herb Garden to Support Your Health and Well-Being by Maria Noel Groves, Storey Publishing

Straw Bale Gardens: Complete Updated Edition by Joel Karsten, Cool Springs Press

Backyard Medicine: Harvest and Make Your Own Herbal Remedies by Julie Bruton-Seal and Matthew Seal, Skyhorse Publishing

The Kew Gardener’s Guide to Growing House Plants: The Art and Science to Grow Your Own House Plants by Kay Maguire, White Lion Publishing

Creative Terrariums: 33 Modern Mini-Gardens for Your Home by Enid G. Svymbersky, Fox Chapel Publishing

The Art of the Japanese Garden: History, Culture and Design by David Young, Michiko Young, and illustrator Tan Hong Yew, Tuttle Publishing

In Bloom: Growing, Harvesting, and Arranging Homegrown Flowers All Year Round by Clare Nolan, Companion House Books

In the Garden Compendium by Euan Hillhouse Methven Cox (E.H.M. Cox), Manic D Press Inc.

Growing Your Own Tea Garden: The Guide to Growing and Harvesting Flavorful Teas in your Backyard by Jodi Helmer, Companion House Books

Propagating Plants: How to Create New Plants for Free by Alan Toogood, DK Publishing

April 2019

The Plant Hunter: Truth, Beauty, Chaos, and Plants by Georgina Reid, photographs by Daniel Shipp, Timber Press

The Tree Book: Superior Selections for Landscapes, Streetscapes and Gardens by Michael A. Dirr and Keith S. Warren, Timber Press

A Way to Garden: A Hands-On Primer for Every Season by Margaret Roach, Timber Press

Everyday Sanctuary: A Workbook for Designing a Sacred Garden Space by Jessi Bloom, Timber Press

Lazy-Ass Gardening: Maximize Your Soil, Minimize Your Toil by Robert Kourik, Chelsea Green Publishing

Living Décor: Plants, Potting and DIY Projects by Maria Colletti, Cool Springs Press

The School Garden Curriculum by Kaci Rae Christopher, New Society Publishers

Bug-Free Organic Gardening: Controlling Pest Insects Without Chemicals by Anna Hess, Skyhorse Publishing

Nature Play at Home: Creating Outdoor Spaces that Connect Children with the Natural World by Nancy Striniste, Timber Press

Vegetable Gardening Wisdom: Daily Advice and Inspiration for Getting the Most from Your Garden by Kelly Smith Trimble, Storey Publishing

Tulips: Beautiful Varieties for Home and Garden by Jane Eastoe and Photographs by Rachel Warne, Gibbs Smith

Gardentopia: Design Basics for Creating Beautiful Outdoor Spaces by Jan Johnsen, Countryman Press

From Garden to Glass: 80 Botanical Beverages Made from the Finest Fruits, Cordials and Infusions by David Hurst, Universe

How to Grow Roses: A Comprehensive Illustrated Directory of Types and Techniques by Andrew Mikolajski, Lorenz Books

The Herbal Kitchen: Bringing Lasting Health to You and Your Family with 50 Easy-to-Find Common Herbs and Over 250 Recipes by Kami McBride, Conari Press

March 2019

Growing Perennial Foods: A Field Guide to Raising Resilient Herbs, Fruits and Vegetables by Acadia Tucker, Stone Pier Press

Homegrown and Handpicked: A Year in a Gardening Life by Carol Michel, Gardenangelist Books

Beginner Gardening Step by Step: A Visual Guide to Yard and Garden Basics by DK Publishing

A Beginner’s Guide to Succulent Gardening by Taku Furuya, Tuttle Publishing

100 Japanese Gardens by Stephen Mansfield, Tuttle Publishing

Trees of Power: Ten Essential Arboreal Allies by Akiva Silver, Chelsea Green Publishing

Year-Round Gardening: Growing Vegetables and Herbs, Inside or Outside, in Every Season by Lena Israelsson, Skyhorse Publishing

Companion Planting: Organic Gardening Tips and Tricks for Healthier, Happier Plants by Allison Greer and Tim Greer, Skyhorse Publishing

The New Plant Parent: Develop Your Green Thumb and Care for Your House-plant Family by Darryl Cheng, Abrams Image

Master Recipes from the Herbal Apothecary: 375 Tinctures, Salves, Teas, Capsules, Oils, and Washes for Whole-body Health and Wellness by JJ Pursell and Photographs by Shawn Linehan, Timber Press

Living with Air Plants: A Beginner’s Guide to Growing and Displaying Tillandsia by Yoshiharu kashima (Protoleaf) and Yukihiro Matsuda (Brocante), Tuttle Publishing

Do It Yourself Garden Projects and Crafts: 60 Planters, Bird houses, Lotion Bars, Garlands, and More by Debbie Wolfe, Skyhorse publishing

February 2019

The Inspired Houseplant: Transform Your Home with Indoor Plants from Kokedama to Terrariums and Water Gardens to Edibles, by Jen Stearns, Penguin Random House

Buffalo-Style Gardens: Create a Quirky, One-of-a-Kind Private Garden with Eye-Catching Designs by Sally Cunningham and Jim Charlier, St. Lynn’s Press

A Taste for Herbs: Your Guide to Seasonings, Mixes and Blends from the Herb Lover’s Garden by Sue Goetz, St. Lynns’ Press

A Garden Can Be Anywhere: Creating Bountiful and Beautiful Edible Gardens by Lauri Kranz, Abrams Publishing

Gardening with Biochar: Supercharge Your Soil with Bioactivated Charcoal: Grow Healthier Plants, Create Nutrient-Rich Soil, and Increase Your Harvest by Jeff Cox, Storey Publishing

Herbal Handbook for the Homesteaders: Farmed and Foraged Herbal Remedies and Recipes by Abby Artemisia, Voyageur Press

Practical Cactus and Succulent Book: How to Choose, Nurture and Display 200 Cacti and Succulents by Fran Bailey and Zia Allaway, DK publishing

The Kitchen Garden: A Month-by-month Guide to Growing Your Own Fruits and Vegetables by Alan Buckingham, DK publishing

Vegetables, Chickens, and Bees: An Honest Guide to Growing Your Own Food Anywhere by Carson Arthur, Random House

Rustic Garden Projects: Step-by-step Backyard Décor from Trellises to Tree Swings, Stone Steps to Stained Glass by Marianne Svard Haggvik, Skyhorse Publishing

Shrubs: Discover the Perfect Plant for Every Place in Your Garden by Andy McIndoe, Timber Press

Pruning Simplified: A Step-by-step Guide to 50 Popular Trees and Shrubs by Steven Bradley, Timber Press

The Proven Winners Garden Book: Simple Plans, Picture-perfect Plants, and Expert Advice for Creating a Gorgeous Garden by Ruth Rogers Clausen and Thomas Christopher, Timber Press

January 2019

The Herbal Recipe Keeper: My Collection of Healing Plant Remedies and Essential Oil Blends by Francoise Weeks, Timber Press

Mastering the Art of Vegetable Gardening: Rare Varieties, Unusual Options, Plant Lore and Guidance by Matt Mattus, Cool Springs Press

The New Farmer’s Almanac, Volume IV by Greenhorns (a ten-year-old grassroots organization whose mission is to promote, support and recruit the incoming generation of organic farms and rangers), Chelsea Green Publishing

Farming for the Long Haul by Michael Foley, Chelsea Green Publishing

Heirloom Rose Giveaway to Pegplant’s Post Subscribers

Anne Hathaway, photo courtesy of Heirloom Roses

I am very excited about the giveaway for the July 2019 issue of Pegplant’s Post. Heirloom Roses has graciously offered a $65 gift card to one winner. The winner can pick the particular rose plant he/she wants for the garden. Heirloom Roses is a family-owned business in Oregon with a terrific online presence. They have every type of heirloom rose plus a lot of information on growing them, including videos. They also have related products for sale such as fertilizer, shears, gloves, and plant ties. All of their roses are grown on their own roots, no grafting. Even if you don’t win the gift certificate, check out their website to learn more about growing roses. This giveaway opportunity is for subscribers of Pegplant’s Post, an online, free newsletter about gardening in the Washington DC metro area. Each issue provides at least 50, and often more than 100, gardening events for the month; newly published gardening books; local tips, advice, and articles; and a monthly giveaway contest. Subscribe now by clicking here or visit pegplant.com and enter your e-mail address in the box above “subscribe!” on the right column. Pegplant’s Post will be issued on the last weekend of the month.

Garden Centers and Nurseries in the Washington DC Metro Area

I have updated my list of garden centers and nurseries in the Washington DC metro area. If I missed one, please let me know.

Maryland

Ace Hardware stores in MD, check website to see which sell plants, http://www.acehardwaredc.com

American Plant
5258 River Road, Bethesda, MD (301) 656-3311
7405 River Road, Bethesda, MD (301) 469-7690
http://www.americanplant.net

Chesapeake Natives
9640 Rosaryville Road
Upper Marlboro, MD
by appointment only or at select times, check website
http://www.chesapeakenatives.org

Country Nursery
3330 Spencerville Road, Burtonsville, MD (301) 471-9593
http://www.countrynurserylandscape.com

Denchfield Nursery and Garden Center
5950 Ager Road, Hyattsville (301) 949-5000
http://www.dlandscaping.com

Fehr Nursery
4340 Sandy Spring Road
Burtonsville, MD (301) 384-5222
http://www.fehrnursery.com

Gambrills Flower Farm
800 Annapolis Road, Gambrills, MD (443) 292-6999
http://www.gambrillsflowerfarm.com

Greenstreet Gardens
1721 West Braddock Road, Alexandria, VA (703) 998-3030
5905 Richmond Highway, Alexandria, VA (no phone)
391 West Bay Front Road, Lothian, MD (410) 867-9500
http://greenstreetgardens.com

Grey Goose Farms, 5539 Olney-Laytonsville Road, Laytonsville, MD (301) 977-7555
http://www.greygoosefarm.com

Homestead Gardens
743 W. Central Avenue, Davidsonville, MD (410) 798-5000
522 Ritchie Highway, Severna Park, MD (410) 384-7966
http://www.homesteadgardens.com

Johnson’s Florist and Garden Centers;
5011 Olney-Laytonsville Road, Olney, MD (301) 987-1940
10313 Kensington Parkway, Kensington, MD (301) 946-6700
http://www.johnsonsflorists.com

Meadows Farms
Over 20 locations in Maryland & Virginia, check web site or call headquarters
(703) 327-3940
http://www.meadowsfarms.com

Patuxent Nurseries
2410 North Crain Highway, Bowie, MD (301) 218-4769
http://www.patuxentnursery.com

Potomac Garden Center
12024 Darnestown Road, Potomac, MD (301) 948-8890
8710 Fingerboard Road, Urbana, MD (301) 874-3400
http://www.potomacgardencenter.com

Putnam Hill Nursery, 2105 Putnam Road, Forest Hill, MD (443) 722-2012
http://www.putnamhillnursery.com

Stadler Nurseries
6815 Olney-Laytonsville Road, Laytonsville, MD (301) 944-1190
5504 Mt. Zion Road, Frederick, MD (301) 473-9042
10200 Stadler Place, Bristow, VA (703) 257-2800
http://www.stadlergardencenters.com

Sun Nurseries
14790 Bushy Park Road, Woodbine, MD (410) 442-2090 or (301) 854-6107
http://www.sunnurseries.com

Susanna Farm Nursery, 17700 White Ground Road, Boyds MD (301) 972-7513
http://www.susannafarmnursery.com

Thanksgiving Farms, 1619 Buckeystown Road, Adamstown, MD (301) 662-1291
http://www.thanksgivingfarmandgarden.com

Virginia

Ace Hardware stores in VA, check website to see which sell plants, http://www.acehardwaredc.com

Abernethy and Spencer Greenhouse and Garden Center, 18035 Lincoln Road, Purcellville, VA (540) 338-9118
http://www.abernethyspencer.com

Betty’s Azalea Ranch
12507 Lee Highway, Fairfax, VA (703) 830-8687
http://www.bettysazalearanch.com

Burke Nursery & Garden Centre
9401 Burke Road, Burke, VA (703) 323-1188
http://www.burkenursery.com

Campbell & Ferrara
8351 Richmond Highway, Alexandria, VA (703) 354-6724
http://www.campbellferrara.com

DeBaggio’s Herb Farm and Nursery, 43494 Mountain View Drive, Chantilly (703) 327-6976
http://www.debaggioherbs.com

Greenstreet Gardens
1721 West Braddock Road, Alexandria, VA (703) 998-3030
5905 Richmond Highway,  Alexandria, VA (no phone)
391 West Bay Front Road, Lothian, MD (410) 867-9500
http://greenstreetgardens.com

Heather Hill Gardens, 811 Ox Road, Fairfax Station, VA (703) 690-6060
http://www.heatherhillgardens.com

Holly, Woods and Vines
8453 Richmond Highway, Alexandria, VA (703) 799-1607
http://www.hollywoodsandvines.com

Hybla Valley Nursery, 2801 Beacon Hill Road, Alexandria, VA (703) 768-1100
http://www.hyblanursery.com

Lake Ridge Nursery and Garden Center
3705 Old Bridge Road
Woodbridge, VA (703) 590-0178
http://www.lakeridgenursery.net

Meadows Farms
Over 20 locations in Maryland & Virginia, check web site or call headquarters for closest one (703) 327-3940
http://www.meadowsfarms.com

Merrifield Garden Center
8132 Lee Highway, Merrifield, VA (703) 560-6222
12101 Lee Highway, Fairfax, VA (703) 968-9600
6895 Wellington Road, Gainesville, VA (703) 368-1919
http://www.merrifieldgardencenter.com

Nalls Produce, 7310 Beulah Street, Franconia, VA (703) 971-4068
http://www.nallsproduce.com

Silverbrook Nursery and Landscaping
8408 Monacan Road, Lorton, VA (703) 690-1231
http://www.silverbrooknursery.com

Stadler Nurseries
6815 Olney-Laytonsville Road, Laytonsville, MD (301) 944-1190
5504 Mt. Zion Road, Frederick, MD (301) 473-9042
10200 Stadler Place, Bristow, VA (703) 257-2800
http://www.stadlergardencenters.com

Wolf Trap Nursery, 9439 Leesburg Pike, Vienna, VA (703) 759-4244
http://www.wolftrapnursery.com

Washington, DC

Ace Hardware stores in DC, check website to see which sell plants, http://www.acehardwaredc.com

Ginkgo Gardens
911 11th Street, Washington, DC SE (202) 543-5172
http://www.ginkgogardens.com

Little Leaf Shop (houseplants)
Logan Circle, 1401 S Street, NW Washington DC (202) 506-2131 and pop up shop at Union Market, 1309 5th Street NE Washington DC
http://www.littleleafshop.com

Urban Jungle (houseplants, orchids, succulents)
2603 Sherman Avenue, NW Washington DC (202) 740-8483
http://www.urbanjungledc.com

Cooperative Extension Offices Can Help You With Your Garden

The Cooperative Extension System is a nationwide, non-credit educational network designed to help individuals with many activities, one of which is gardening. It is actually managed on a federal level within the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). NIFA provides federal funding to the system. Each state and territory has a state office at its land grant university. The state office then manages county extension offices. For gardening assistance, you will want to reach out to your county extension agent and depending on the office, you can:

  • Get your soil tested free
  • Find out what is wrong with your plant
  • Get plant/pest information
  • Obtain publications on specific topics
  • Attend lectures and workshops sponsored by them
  • Get involved in the Master Gardener Program

In Maryland, the University of Maryland manages the Maryland Cooperative Extension. For gardening assistance contact your county extension agent or the Home and Garden Information Center, 12005 Homewood Road, Ellicott City, MD 21042, (410) 531-5556.

In Virginia, the Virginia Tech University manages the Virginia Cooperative Extension program. Headquarters is at Virginia Cooperative Extension, 101 Hutcheson Hall, 250 Drillfield Drive, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24061-0327; (540) 231-9347.  Contact your Virginia county extension agent for gardening assistance.

In DC, the University of the District of Columbia manages the Cooperative Extension Service through its Center for Urban Agriculture and Gardening Education. This is part of the College of Agriculture, Urban Sustainability and Environmental Sciences at 4200 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Washington DC 20008, (202) 274-5000. They offer classes, workshops and the Master Gardener program.

Bunny Mellon’s Gardens at Oak Spring Garden Foundation

The Formal Garden is enclosed by buildings and white washed stone walls

This past April, I was fortunate to visit the Oak Spring Garden Foundation with one of my gardening clubs. I say fortunate because the estate is not open to the public yet. They have just started to open to gardening clubs by lottery, with a limit of three clubs per year. Because they could only accommodate 30 people and very few cars, we carpooled on a misty Friday morning to Upperville, Virginia. The short trip put us in horse country, very remote with no other property in sight.

Bunny and Paul Mellon

The Oak Spring Garden Foundation was established by Rachel Mellon, known as “Bunny,” before she died in 2014 at the age of 103. Bunny was born to a wealthy family in New Jersey. Her grandfather was the inventor of Listerine and founder of Lambert Pharmacal Company. She married Stacy Barcroft Lloyd Jr. in 1932, divorced him in 1948, and married Paul Mellon. Paul, a recent widower and son of Pittsburgh financier Andrew W. Mellon, had already purchased the estate then known as Rokeby.

Espaliered fruit tree

Bunny and Paul renamed the 4,000-acre property Oak Spring. This was a working farm, with cattle raising, thoroughbred horse breeding and racing, fox hunting, and gardening. They also owned residences in Cape Cod and Nantucket, Massachusetts; New York City; Washington, DC; and Antigua. Together they were very interested in collecting artwork, much of which has now been donated to museums. Bunny was a keen gardener and landscape designer. She was especially interested in the art of pruning and topiary. Bunny was friends with Jack and Jacqueline Kennedy and redesigned the White House Rose Garden and redesigned the White House East Garden that was later dedicated to and renamed the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden. She actually designed other gardens as well including the gardens of her other properties. Bunny liked all things French and was an avid collector of horticultural books and manuscripts. She amassed a collection of 16,000 books, manuscripts, and botanical artwork now housed in a singular building on the property. Today, this library is open by appointment for researchers and scholars but the Foundation is digitizing some of the collection. Several books have been written about Bunny. Paul, who predeceased Bunny at age 91 in 1999, wrote an autobiography.

Formal Gardens

Part of our tour was to see the Oak Spring Garden Library but we were not able because of the humid weather. Angie Ritterpusch welcomed us and although she showed us other parts of the estate, this article is solely about the gardens.

We gathered under the famed crabapple allee, with our umbrellas and boots. The allee, made up of Mary Potter crabapples trained to arch over and create a tunnel, connected the Formal Garden with the Lord & Burnham Victorian-style greenhouse. Horticulturist Judy Zatsick led us through a large wooden gate into the walled, formal garden (see video below). It was like stepping into a forgotten secret garden that flourished during war-torn France. Evidence of time passed was reflected in the white washed walls, the lichen encrusted trees, and the old brick paths. Bunny’s garden was restrained and purposeful. The half-acre was a composite of many, small garden beds enclosed by stone walls and small buildings, such as the basket house and guest houses. The land was laid out in three levels ascending (from the gate) to the back of the house.

We immediately walked towards the backside of the house and on to the Sunday Kitchen Patio, which afforded us the view of the Formal Garden and the greenhouse in the distance. From there we could see the three levels and the central axis path that went directly from the house to the gate as well as a parallel path to the left side of the enclosed garden. Because it was spring, pansies, tulips, aquilegia, viola, and daffodils were blooming. The fruit trees had greened up and there were large hostas, untouched by deer. You would think that with their wealth the garden would be ostentatious but it wasn’t, it was relatively formal because of its geometric design and symmetry. However, the plantings made it simple and delightful. The garden encapsulated Bunny’s motto that “nothing should be noticed and nothing should be obvious.”

Sunday Kitchen Patio

The Sunday Kitchen Patio was a brick-laid patio directly off the house and kitchen. There was a small dogwood tree and seating area with a narrow bed of irises. From there we stepped on an old circular millstone down to the next level, the Upper Terrace. The Upper Terrace was paved with fieldstone so old that plants grew in the cracks. There was a small White Garden and a Rose Garden off to the side.

Square Garden in foreground with Upper Terrace in background

Using the main axis, we descended down stairs to the Middle Terrace. The paths were paved with fieldstone. The Square Garden on the left was a square patch of lawn. The Tea Garden and Butterfly Garden were on the right. The Tea Garden was full of herbs for making tea and the Butterfly Garden had butterfly shapes in the ground with plants to color the wings. Descending down stairs again was the Lower Terrace with gravel paths. On the left and right were large vegetable and herb gardens with a wishing well. Throughout the formal garden were espaliered fruit trees on the walls, cordon-style fruit trees to border the small gardens, a few clipped trees as well as large old trees.

East Vegetable Garden with Croquet Lawn on right

On the perimeter were more garden spaces such as the croquet lawn, pantry garden, and shade bed. This is the type of garden where you could spend a lifetime exploring and enjoying each small space, differentiated by plants, season, and light. Bunny’s design motto was that “Nothing should stand out. It all should give the feeling of calm. When you go away, you should remember only the peace.”

Oak Spring Garden Foundation

Bunny established the Oak Spring Garden Foundation so her library, gardens, and home would be a resource for those who love horticulture. The vision is to host scholars, writers, artists, and interns to not only learn about horticulture but also to learn from her library of over 16,000 original manuscripts and books.

View of South Vegetable Garden from Basket House

The Foundation also hopes to serve as a site for academic conferences. The Foundation mission is to support and inspire fresh thinking and bold action on the history and future of plants, including the art and culture of plants, gardens, and landscapes. Access to the gardens and library is by appointment only.  In 2020, the Foundation plans to open the gardens to the public for Virginia Historic Garden Week, which takes place in April/May.

Formal Garden map, courtesy of Max Smith and the Oak Spring Garden Foundation

Smithsonian Gardens’ Campus-Wide Habitat Exhibition

Sign of the Dragonfly exhibit

The Smithsonian Gardens staff have installed a campus-wide exhibition with a single theme: habitat. From now until December 2020, fourteen exhibits across the Smithsonian campus in Washington DC, both inside and outside, will be available for the public to view.

This Habitat exhibition illustrates diverse stories about habitats and the plants, animals, and humans that exist within those habitats. The message is simple: Protecting habits protects life. This theme was selected for its relevance to the Smithsonian Grand Challenge of “understanding and sustaining a biodiverse planet” and to the Smithsonian Gardens’ mission to “inform on the roles people and plants play in our cultural and natural worlds.”

Dead Wood Is Life exhibit

Three key messages are woven into all the exhibits: habitats are homes, habitats are interconnected and fragile, and habitats need to be protected. Informative signage at each exhibit explains concepts such as indicator, keystone, and foundation species; symbiotic relationships; and ecosystems.

During the exhibition’s run, Smithsonian Gardens staff will host a variety of habitat-related events and educational programs. A map showing the location of the exhibits is on the Smithsonian Gardens website.

  • Sheltering Branches, west side of the National Museum of African American History and Culture
  • Dead Wood Is Life, east side of the National Museum of American History
  • Life Underground, west side of the National Museum of American History
  • We Need You, Victory Garden, east side of the National Museum of American History
  • Nests, northwest side of the National Museum of Natural History
  • Bug B&B, Pollinator Garden, east side of the National Museum of Natural History
  • Biomes, S. Dillon Ripley Center
  • Foundation of the Sea, Enid A. Haupt Garden
  • Key to the Forest, Enid A. Haupt Garden
  • Sign of the Dragonfly, Moongate Garden, Enid A. Haupt Garden
  • Homes, Mary Livingston Ripley Garden
  • Habitat of Flight, Northeast side of the National Air and Space Museum
  • Native Landscape, National Museum of the American Indian
  • Monarchs on the Move, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

Bugs B&B exhibit

U.S. Botanic Garden’s New “Gardens Across America” Exhibit

Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens’ Flamingo Display

The U.S. Botanic Garden (USBG) has a new exhibit called Gardens Across America. The exhibit showcases 21 public gardens through vignettes created by each garden displaying plants and items illustrating the gardens’ stories. The displays were chosen from a call for entries to all gardens across the country. The vignettes are located throughout the outdoor area of the USBG in Washington DC and range in size and scope. For example, Fort Worth Botanic Gardens is showcasing its begonia mascot; Pittsburgh Botanic Garden is demonstrating cleaning mine water and creating new gardens; Tucson Botanical Gardens has cacti and agaves in its barrio garden; Atlanta Botanical Gardens has carnivorous pitcher plants; and the State Botanic Garden of Georgia has native pollinator plants. The exhibit demonstrates the diversity and beauty of the more than 600 public gardens in the United States. Throughout the exhibit run, which ends on October 1, the USBG will offer programs, workshops, lectures, and tours related to the exhibit.

Tucson Botanical Gardens’ Barrio Garden

The USBG is open to the public, free of charge, every day of the year from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm with outdoor gardens having extended hours until 7:00 pm from Memorial Day through Labor Day. The USBG is at 200 Maryland Avenue SW on the southwest side of the U.S. Capitol. Photos are courtesy of the USBG and gardens include:

  • Atlanta Botanical Garden, Georgia
  • Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, Colorado
  • Bookworm Gardens, Wisconsin
  • Denver Botanic Gardens, Colorado
  • Edison and Ford Winter Estates, Florida
  • Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, Ohio
  • Lockerly Arboretum, Georgia
  • Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, South Carolina
  • Mt. Cuba Center, Delaware
  • Norfolk Botanical Garden, Virginia
  • North Carolina Botanical Garden, North Carolina
  • Paul J. Ciener Botanical Garden, North Carolina
  • Pittsburgh Botanic Garden, Pennsylvania
  • Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, California
  • Sarah P. Duke Gardens, North Carolina
  • Smithsonian Gardens, Washington DC
  • State Botanical Garden of Georgia, Georgia
  • The Botanical Research institute of Texas and the Fort Worth Botanic Garden, Texas
  • Tucson Botanical Gardens, Arizona
  • U.S. National Arboretum, Washington DC

Pittsburgh Botanic Garden’s Water Filtering System