Chesknok Red, a purple-striped hardneck garlic
As fall approaches, thoughts turn to garlic. Growing your own garlic is easy and the cloves are tastier than what you purchase in a grocery store. Typically, garlic is planted in October in the Washington DC metro area but I have planted as late as Thanksgiving Day. You may find “seed” stock (the garlic you buy to plant, not the garlic you buy in a grocery store to eat) at independent garden centers, farmers markets, online seed companies or specialty garlic companies. If garlic at your favorite seed company is sold out, try a company that specializes in garlic because they have more inventory. Continue reading
The American Horticultural Society (AHS) dropped a bomb on Friday, right before the Labor Day weekend. In an e-mail that was sent to AHS members (of which I am one), they stated that they are experiencing financial challenges and are considering merging with the American Public Gardens Association (APGA) in Pennsylvania. To accomplish this, they plan to sell River Farm. River Farm is a historic 25-acre property along the Potomac River in Alexandria, Virginia. Once the merger is complete, APGA will make the final determination about the continuation of various AHS programs.
Many moons ago, I worked for the AHS on River Farm as an editorial assistant. It was a lovely place to work, not only because of the gardens but also because of the historic home. We had staff meetings in the parlor and lunch in a real kitchen. When I first started, the magazine’s office was the master bedroom but we later moved upstairs in the carriage house. I had my own office, which was great for growing plants indoors. This was before the Internet so in addition to writing and copyediting for the magazine and (then) newsletter, I also answered members’ gardening questions via phone and mail. At the time, River Farm was vibrant with parties, guests, and events. Weddings were not possible when I was there but eventually the property became available for weddings for additional revenue. Local garden clubs, including the Potomac Unit of the Herb Society of America, of which I am chair, had meetings in the ballroom. Eventually I left but visited often and have taken many photos of the gardens. When my children were little, I brought them to the gardens to play. As a local horticulturist, I attended networking events under the wedding tents. I attended the spring plant sales and the Christmas receptions where the staff went to great lengths to make beautiful Christmas trees. In fact, I was just there a few months ago, taking photos of their beautiful sunflowers. I had noticed that the wildflower meadow was not in good shape but I assumed it was because of the pandemic; the house was still closed.
I will be sorry to see River Farm sold, it was a lovely garden to visit and a great place to take the family. I am hoping The American Gardener magazine will continue, as well as the reciprocal admissions program (RAP). RAP allows AHS members free admission to participating public and botanical gardens across the country. I for one was looking forward to visiting as many public gardens as I could with my AHS membership card in hand after this pandemic. I hope the APGA keeps this benefit as well as the magazine.
The message in the e-mail is also a statement on the AHS website. On Sunday, Beth Lawton, publisher of the Alexandria Living Magazine wrote an article about this including the reaction of the neighborhood residents. I am sure many people are talking about this, it is such a game changer. According to her article, the property will be up for sale soon at an estimated $15 to 30 million. Maybe our new neighbor, Jeff Bezos, would be interested in buying River Farm. After all, it is a straight shot from the new Amazon headquarters in Crystal City.
Currently, my pineapple sage plants (Salvia elegans) are blooming in my garden, their bright scarlet flowers are attracting butterflies and hummingbirds. Members of the salvia or sage family, pineapple sage plants are herbaceous, tender perennial herbs. I have two pineapple sage plants, which I bought last year as tiny babies, and I often use their leaves and flowers in the kitchen. Continue reading
Paw paw flowers in the spring
It’s paw paw season! Paw paws (Asimina triloba) are native trees that bear fruit in August, September, and October. Fruit of cultivated trees look very similar to mangos—green, kidney-shaped, and about 6 inches long and 3 inches wide. They have a variety of common names such as Indiana banana, poor man’s banana, and bandango. Continue reading
Lemon basil flowering in August
Every summer I grow Mrs. Burns lemon basil, a lemon scented type of sweet basil. Like all basil plants, Mrs. Burns lemon basil prefers warm weather, full sun, and plenty of moisture. I grow mine from seeds in large containers and in the vegetable garden. Continue reading
Fall is the time to purchase spring-blooming bulbs in the Washington DC metro area. There is a wide variety of choices but if you have a severe deer problem, you may want to plant deer-proof bulbs. I know, you say, there is no such thing as “deer-proof” but with bulbs there are a few that are actually poisonous. I spoke with Brent Heath of Brent and Becky’s Bulbs in Gloucester, VA, who explained the difference between deer-proof and deer-resistant. Continue reading
Posted in bulbs, flowers, plants
Tagged amaryllis, bulbs, daffodils, deer resistant, galanthus, Leucojum, narcissus, snowdrops, snowflakes, spring blooming bulbs
August is the time for harvesting the summer’s bounty in the vegetable garden while thinking ahead to a winter’s garden. Even though it is hot and humid, you have to plan now to have even more edibles in the fall and winter. These edibles prefer cool temperatures. Often these plants are not bothered by as much disease and pests as in the summer plus you as a gardener are not bothered by heat, humidity, and mosquitoes. Continue reading
As mentioned in this week’s episode of Gardens ‘n Plants podcast, here is the recipe for the lemon verbena cookies.
Lemon Verbena Cookies
1 cup butter softened
1 ½ cups sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons of fresh, young lemon verbena leaves, minced
2 cups flour
1 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Cream butter, sugar, lemon verbena, vanilla, and eggs together. Then add dry ingredients. Chill for at least one hour. Roll into balls, flatten a little, and place on greased baking sheets. Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Makes about 4 dozen cookies. Use young, small lemon verbena leaves that have not developed the hairs so leaves are smooth.
Here are the photos from River Farm, home of the American Horticultural Society, in Alexandria, VA. It is open to the public Monday through Friday now. I saw beautiful tall sunflowers and very lush, toothache plants (Spilanthes acmella), which I have been trying to grow from seed myself but mine are not this large. I also saw a very spiny plant that is a member of the tomato family called purple devil or five-minute plant (Solanum atropurpureum).
sunflowers in front of the American Horticultural Society office
Purple devil plant (Solanum purpureum)
toothache plant (Spilanthes acmella)
Here is a photo of the new miniature Knock Out rose called Petite. You will find it in nurseries in a light green plastic container with the words “Meet Petite” on it. This is part of the Star Roses and Plants Knock Out rose series so has the same disease resistance but is about 18 inches tall with red flowers and dark foliage.
Don’t forget to read the Monthly Events tab on my website to obtain the details on the upcoming gardening events I mentioned in this episode of Gardens ‘n Plants podcast. Tune in next week to learn about plants, gardens, and gardening in the Washington DC metro area.