Before the pandemic, I visited the annual water lily and lotus festival at Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens. The free, family event was all day long in July. I arrived early to park nearby but there was a shuttle that ferried people from the metro station and other parking lots. The music had already started. There was a stage with a band, plenty of picnic tables, and paper lotus-shaped lanterns strung from trees. People from several local organizations were setting up tables to either inform the public of their organization, offer crafts for kids, sell or make the paper lanterns, try lotus tea, and other activities. Many families brought coolers to eat lunch. Later I spied several food trucks parked on the street. There was a small gift shop, plenty of bathrooms, and very informative rangers. There also were volunteer from the Friends of Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens distributing brochures. Continue reading
Eyre Hall on the Eastern Shore, photo by Diane Ginsberg
Historic Garden Week is back! The last time I wrote about this great event was in 2019, before the pandemic. Although some gardens were open last year, this year Historic Garden Week is back full scale. Starting Saturday April 23 through Saturday April 30, 2022, you can tour private and public gardens throughout the commonwealth of Virginia. Sponsored by the Garden Club of Virginia (GCV), Historic Garden Week (HGW) is an annual event for the public to tour almost 200 private homes and gardens and historical sites in Virginia. Continue reading
It is that time of year again — seed swaps! National Seed Swap Day is Saturday, January 29, 2022, the last Saturday in January. Seed swaps are a great way to obtain new seeds, share your favorite seeds, and attend a fun event. A seed swap can be as simple as friends getting together to share seeds they saved from the previous gardening season to an all-day planned event with speakers, door prizes, and refreshments. Continue reading
The annual Philadelphia Flower Show, sponsored by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS), will be at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Park from June 5-13, 2021, to allow for a safer experience given the pandemic.
Here is an update to the fate of the American Horticultural Society (AHS). As you know I mentioned in my September 7 article that the AHS board was thinking of selling River Farm and merging with the American Public Gardens Association (APGA) in PA. This week, the board chair, Terry Hayes, sent an e-mail to AHS members (of which I am one). Apparently, there has been such an uproar with the local community, gardening clubs, and members that the board has decided to venture down a different path. They have decided to remain as is, an independent national non-profit organization with its own board, staff, and headquarters. They will not merge with APGA but may have a collaborative relationship with them and other like-minded horticulture/gardening organizations.
According to Terry, the AHS board will “develop a model that would allow the varied programming and resources that our members across the United States know and enjoy to continue while adding new programming to keep AHS relevant and help it make a connection between people and plants. As part of this new model, we are focused on building collaborative relationships with APGA and other like-minded organizations who have a shared interest in building and expanding horticultural programming and other initiatives across the country.”
However, to generate revenue to continue its existence, AHS will still have to sell the River Farm property. This is a loss to the community because the historic property is a beautiful place to visit. The size, scenic beauty, and historic home makes River Farm an ideal location for plant sales, garden club meetings, events, and even weddings. Currently they are having in person workshops and virtual events (see their website). Visit the grounds while you can to get a refreshing mental health boost. We will miss you River Farm.
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.
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
If you listened to the latest episode of the Gardens ‘n Plants, we mentioned several upcoming events. These are not all events but just new items for the upcoming weeks. I also share events on my Facebook pegplant page. Tune into the next episode of Gardens ‘n Plants on June 8 to hear about more gardening events or check out my Facebook page. Continue reading
Before COVID-19, every month I would list local gardening events in the Washington DC metro area on my website. These were in-person lectures, workshops, and garden tours. Now of course, I am not able to list in-person events but there is still plenty happening virtually. During the Gardens ‘n Plants podcast show, I highlight several events in the upcoming 2 weeks (the podcast is biweekly). Continue reading