Category Archives: Events

Learning About Gardening Online

Since we have started this teleworking life, many of us are able to watch more shows online. Although we may be working from home during the day, the absence of a commute, errands, and basically a social life, grants us more time than before. Plant lovers and gardeners can take advantage of this to learn about gardening online in the Washington DC metro area.  Below is a sample of resources for webinars, videos, and online courses. No doubt, there are more; e-mail me if you know of virtual methods for learning about gardening at pegplant at gmail dot com. I may even post an addendum if we find ourselves social distancing for an extended period. This list is in no order; some are free videos while others require registration and payment. My intent is to provide resources of reliable and accurate information instead of having people randomly search on YouTube.

Speaking of YouTube, Good Gardening Videos has more than 1,000 gardening videos curated for accuracy and quality. This is a non-profit, ad-free educational campaign to find and promote evidence-based gardening videos and to help more accurate ones be made.

And if you are on YouTube and Facebook, no doubt you have seen Laura LeBoutillier aka “Garden Answer.” Laura has produced many videos on gardening as well as do-it-yourself projects, which are free to watch. She and her husband started filming gardening videos as a hobby and have become so successful they manage Garden Answer as a full time business. She has partnered with companies such as Proven Winners, Espoma, Gardener’s Supply Company, and Bonide so you will often see her promote products on her shows.  Although she lives to the west in zone 5 most of her videos are applicable to this area.

Another familiar face on Facebook is Philadelphian Doug Oster who has created the Everybody Gardens website and has produced the “In the Garden” video series on YouTube. He is a prolific writer, filmmaker, and author and he also has a radio show. Doug frequently appears on Pittsburgh Today Live Television show as their local garden expert.

And who could forget P. Allen Smith in Arkansas? He has produced so many videos that if you enter his name on YouTube you will see short vlogs, longer videos, and even full-length television shows. Plus, he produces a digital magazine called Naturally Magazine (I view mine on Issuu). When this is over I would love to visit Moss Mountain Farm.

Kerry Ann Mendez of Perennially Yours in Maine is a well-known garden speaker, author, and garden designer. She has a beautiful website, listing many webinars. On YouTube there is a video of her giving a presentation to an audience called “Growing Honkin’ Hydrangeas in the Northeast.”

Lisa Mason Ziegler, owner of the The Gardener’s Workshop in Newport News, VA, manages a very successful cut flower farm. She has written several books, gives presentations (including in the Northern Virginia area), and has produced online courses for seed starting, cut flowers, cool flowers, and flower farming. She is queen of cool flowers and for her books she has produced videos where she discusses each chapter and answers questions. You will often see her on Facebook Live.

Charlie Nardozzi is a well-known garden expert, he has published books, gives presentations, provides garden tours, and produces a library of on demand webinars at his website Gardening with Charlie Nardozzi. Topics include small space edible gardening, cottage gardening, native and invasive plants, organic pest control, and pollinator gardening. Charlie also publishes a free, informative newsletter. He lives in Vermont and I would love to hear him speak if he ever travels to this area.

The Ecological Landscape Alliance is a New Hampshire membership-based organization with a mission of promoting sustainable approaches to landscape design, construction, and management. They host events, some of which are near this area, and distribute a newsletter. Many of their webinars are suitable for home gardeners. For example, there will be a one-hour webinar on protecting pollinators for $10 for non-members or free for members, but some webinars are free.

Bluprint which used to be Craftsy, has popular garden figures such as Ellen Ecker Ogden, Karen Chapman, David Culp, Debra Lee Baldwin, and Jodi Torpey. They provide online courses for which you  must register and pay for on the Bluprint website but if you like their topic or their style you should check out their own websites.

Pith and Vigor Rochelle Greayer is a designer in Boston who has an online course called Garden Design Bootcamp and one called Planting Design Bootcamp. From her website, it looks like she may be producing additional ones. She has published a book and publishes a digital newspaper type of publication.

Karen Chapman is a garden speaker, author, and designer in the State of Washington. I have heard her speak in this area and she is an excellent speaker. She is a container guru with many online courses on creating beautiful containers. Karen has just published a book on deer resistant designs and has a webinar on this topic on her website Le Jardinet.

Gardening Events in the Washington DC Metro Area

free seed swap

At the end of the month, I list the gardening events for the next month in the Washington DC metro area. Last year, in 2019, there were more than 1,000 events and exhibits, which is an average of 90 per month or 3 per day. We have a lot of botanical activity in the Capital Region! I have just posted the March 2020 events and there are more than 100 events. The number increases as the gardening season warms up. To be in the know, you can either check my “Monthly Events” tab or you can subscribe to Pegplant’s Post, my free newsletter, to have the link to the Monthly Events sent to your e-mail box at the end of the month. This is a great resource for planning your social calendar.  It also enables you to reserve your spot in advance — some events are so popular they sell out fast. Plus my list is cumulative, thus serving as a resource if you are a garden club member looking for a speaker or a speaker looking for a venue. To give you an example, below are the activities for the upcoming 2 weeks. For the rest of March, click here.

Local Gardening Events from March 1-15, 2020

1, Sunday, Timeless Fragrance Gardening, Gainesville location, 1:00 pm and free. Merrifield Garden Center. http://www.merrifieldgardencenter.com

1, Sunday, Sunday Funday House Plant Care Clinic, 11:00 am, free, sponsored by Rock Paper Plant and held at Femme Fatale popup shop, 401 Massachusetts Avenue NW Washington DC. http://www.rockpaperplant.com/

1, Sunday, Garden Bed Planning Workshop, Fair Oaks location, 10:00 am, fee and must register. Merrifield Garden Center. http://www.merrifieldgardencenter.com

2, Monday, Bus Trip to Philadelphia Flower Show, 10:00 am to 10:00 pm, fee and must register. Also offered on Wednesday, March 4. Green Spring Gardens, 4603 Green Spring Road, Alexandria, VA. http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/greenspring

3, Tuesday, Bus Trip to Philadelphia Flower Show, 10:00 am to 9:00 pm, fee and must register, Adkins Arboretum, 12610 Eveland Road, Ridgely, MD. http://www.adkinsarboretum.org

3, Tuesday, Stop! Smell and Touch Our Plants, 1 to 2:30 pm, free and registration required. Also offered on Saturday, March 7, at 10:30 am. U.S. Botanic Garden, 100 Maryland Ave. SW, Washington DC. http://www.usbg.gov

3, Tuesday, Gardener’s Focus: An Orchid-Filled Greenhouse, 11:00 am or 1:00 pm, included in suggested donation to enter Hillwood. Also on many other days in March, check website for specific times. Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens, 4155 Linnean Avenue, NW Washington DC. https://www.hillwoodmuseum.org/

3, Tuesday, Bus Trip to Philadelphia Flower Show, 8 am to 8 pm, fee and must register. Also offered on Thursday March 5, 9:00 am. Brookside Gardens, 1800 Glenallan Avenue, Wheaton, MD. http://www.brooksidegardens.org

3, Tuesday, Bus Trip to Philadelphia Flower Show, 8:00 am to 9:00 pm, fee and must register. Homestead Gardens, 743 West Central Avenue, Davidsonville, MD. https://homesteadgardens.com/

3, Tuesday, Bus Trip to Philadelphia Flower Show, via Alexandria or the Lothian store, fee and must register, Greenstreet Gardens, see website for times. https://greenstreetgardens.com/events/

3, Tuesday, Eat, Sleep, Garden: Top Annuals for Your Cut Flower Garden, 11:30 to 12:30 pm. Fee and must register. Greenhouse classroom, Cylburn Arboretum, 4915 Green Spring Avenue, Baltimore, MD http://cylburn.org/

3, Tuesday, Microgreens: What Are They, Why They Are So Fabulous, and How to Grow Them, 7 to 8:30 pm. Free and registration requested. Barrett Branch Library, 717 Queen Street, Alexandria. Sponsored by Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia. http://www.mgnv.org

4, Wednesday, Lecture: Horticulture and Women in History with Martha Keen. 7:00 pm, free, open to the public. Annapolis Horticulture Society, St. Anne’s Parish Hall, 199 Duke of Gloucester Street, Annapolis, MD. http://annapolishorticulture.org/lectures/

5, Thursday, Roots and Reflections: Orchids, 2 to 3:30 pm, free and registration required. U.S. Botanic Garden, 100 Maryland Ave. SW, Washington DC. http://www.usbg.gov

5, Thursday, Political Appetites: Culinary Activities in the Early Republic with Nancy Siegel, 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm, fee and must register. U.S. Botanic Garden, 100 Maryland Ave. SW, Washington DC. http://www.usbg.gov

5, Thursday, Tour: Medicinal Plants Yesterday and Today, 1:30 to 2:30 pm, free and will be offered again on March 12, same time. U.S. Botanic Garden, 100 Maryland Ave. SW, Washington DC. http://www.usbg.gov

5, Thursday, Spring House Plant Swap, 6:30 pm, fee and must register. Sponsored by Rock Paper Plant and held at Femme Fatale popup shop, 401 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington DC. http://www.rockpaperplant.com/

5, Thursday, Bus Trip to Philadelphia Flower Show, 9:00 am to 9:00 pm, fee and must register. Also offered on March 3, Tuesday, 8:00 am. Brookside Gardens, 1800 Glenallan Avenue, Wheaton, MD. http://www.brooksidegardens.org

5, Thursday, Lecture: The Gardens of Spain, 7:00 pm, free. Rust Library, 380 Old Waterford Road, NW Leesburg, VA. Sponsored by the Loudoun County Master Gardeners. http://loudouncountymastergardeners.org/

5, Thursday, Grow What You Eat! 7 to 8:30 pm, free and registration requested. Arlington Mill Community Center, 909 S. Dinwiddie Street, Arlington. Also offered on Sunday, March 8. Sponsored by the Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia.  http://www.mgnv.org

6, Friday, HOAs and Condo Association: Sustainable Solutions to Landscaping Headaches, 9:30 am to 1:00 pm, free but must register. The Forum Meeting Room, Richard J. Ernst Community Cultural Center Building, Northern Virginia Community College Annandale Campus, 8333 Little River Turnpike, Annandale. Sponsored by Plant NOVA Natives, register at https://www.plantnovanatives.org/symposiums-for-hoa-and-condo-assoc-

6, Friday, Invasive Plant Workshop, 1 to 5:00 pm, fee and must register. Sponsored by the Blue Ridge Prism and held at Blandy Experimental Farm in Boyce, VA.  https://www.facebook.com/events/202662360920681/?active_tab=about
http://blandy.virginia.edu/home

7, Saturday, Plot Against Hunger 7th Annual Spring Garden Kick Off, 10:00 am to 2:00 pm, free but should rsvp. Arlington Central Library, 1015 N. Quincy Street, Arlington VA. https://afac.org/afac-events/plot-against-hunger-spring-garden-kick-off-2020/

7, Saturday, First Saturday Guided Walk, 10:00 am, free for members, free with admission for non-members. Adkins Arboretum, 12610 Eveland Road, Ridgely, MD. http://www.adkinsarboretum.org

7, Saturday, The Science of Spring Blooms, Merrifield location; Common Plant Problems and Solutions, Gainesville location; From Seed and Stem to Nursery, Fair Oaks location. All 10:00 am and free.  Merrifield Garden Center. http://www.merrifieldgardencenter.com

7, Saturday, Gardening in the Valley Symposium, 8:00 am to 4:00 pm, fee and should register. Shenandoah University, Hester Auditorium, Henkel, 1460 University Drive, Winchester, VA. Sponsored by the Northern Shenandoah Valley Master Gardener Association. http://nsvmga.org/events/symposium/

7, Saturday, Stop! Smell and Touch Our Plants, 10:30 am to noon, free and registration required. Also offered on Tuesday, March 3, at 1:00 pm. U.S. Botanic Garden, 100 Maryland Ave. SW, Washington DC. http://www.usbg.gov

7, Saturday, U.S. Botanic Garden Production Facility Open House, fee and must register, will be at various times and will be at the facility. See website for details. U.S. Botanic Garden, 100 Maryland Ave. SW, Washington DC. http://www.usbg.gov

7, Saturday, Vegetable garden series (topic is managing pests, vegetable profiles, food safety). Part three of three topics, free but seating is limited so register at master_gardener@pwcgov.org. Other dates were February 1 and 15. Sponsored by Prince William Master Gardeners. Held at Bull Run Library, 8051 Ashton Avenue, Manassas, VA.  https://www.pwcgov.org/government/dept/vce/Pages/Horticulture-Classes.aspx

7, Saturday, The Basics of Gardening, Session Three: Rain Gardens, Insects, and Diseases and IMP. This is part three of a three session series, other sessions were on February 29 and March7. Free but space is limited, register at pwcgov.org/grow or e-mail master_gardener@pwcgov.org  Sponsored by Prince William Master Gardeners. Held at Haymarket Gainesville Community Library, 4870 Lightner Road, Haymarket, VA.  https://www.pwcgov.org/government/dept/vce/Pages/Horticulture-Classes.aspx

7, Saturday, Great Shrubs for Home Gardens, 10 to 11:30 am, fee and must register. Green Spring Gardens, 4603 Green Spring Road, Alexandria, VA. http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/greenspring

7, Saturday, Nine Ways You Can Help Bee and Other Pollinators at Home, 9:00 am to 10:00 am, free but make reservations. Loudoun Wildlife Conservatory. Held at Wild Birds Unlimited, 44110 Ashburn Shopping Plaza, Ashburn, VA. http://www.loudounwildlife.org

7, Saturday, Grow Your Own Microgreens, 11:00 am to noon, fee and must register. Cultivate the City, 910 Bladensburg Road Northeast, Washington DC. http://www.cultivatethecity.com

8, Sunday, Bon-Chi! Learn and Practice the Art of Bonsai Using Edible Plants, 1 to 2:00 pm, fee and must register. Cultivate the City, 910 Bladensburg Road, NE Washington DC. At the H Street Farms at W.S. Jenks and Sons. http://www.cultivatethecity.com

8, Sunday, The Art of Pruning Workshop at Fair Oaks location, 1:00 pm, fee and must register. Merrifield Garden Center. http://www.merrifieldgardencenter.com

8, Sunday, Grow What You Eat! 3 to 4:30 pm, free and registration requested. Beatley Central Library, 5005 Duke Street, Alexandria. Also on Thursday, March 5, sponsored by Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia. http://www.mgnv.org

8, Sunday, Create and Sip: Succulent Potting Party at Gainesville location, 1:00 pm, fee and must register. Merrifield Garden Center. http://www.merrifieldgardencenter.com

8, Sunday, through 10, Tuesday. Full Moon Hikes, 7:30 pm, fee and must register. Sponsored by the Friends of the National Arboretum, at the U.S. National Arboretum, 3501 New York Avenue, Washington DC. https://www.fona.org/fullmoonhikes/

8, Sunday, through 10, Tuesday, Full Moon Forest Bathing, 7:30 pm, fee and must register. Sponsored by the Friends of the National Arboretum, at the U.S. National Arboretum, 3501 New York Avenue, Washington DC. https://www.fona.org/fullmoonhikes/

9, Monday, Selecting Native Plants for your Home Garden, 7 to 8:30 pm, free, registration requested. Westover Branch Library, 1644 N. McKinley Road, Arlington. Sponsored by Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia. http://www.mgnv.org

10, Tuesday, Lecture: Botanical Bullies with Carole Bergmann, 7:30 to 9:00 pm, free for members, fee for nonmembers, and open to the public. Vollmer Center Auditorium, Cylburn Arboretum. Sponsored by the Maryland Horticultural Society. https://mdhorticulture.org/

11, Wednesday, Seed Starting and Plant Propagation. 7:00 pm, free. Bluemont Room, Arlington Central Library, 1015 N. Quincy Street, Arlington. Sponsored by the Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia. http://www.mgnv.org
https://afac.org/plot-against-hunger/pah-events/

11, Wednesday, Not in Our Backyard: How to Fight Spotted Lanternfly, 7 to 8:30 pm, fee and must register at Sustainability Matters Facebook page. Sponsored by Sustainability Matters and will be at the Blandy Experimental Farm, 400 Blandy Farm Lane, Boyce, VA.
https://www.facebook.com/events/808773166253213/
http://blandy.virginia.edu/home

12, Thursday, Turf Talk: How to Have a Healthy Lawn, 7:00 to 8:30 pm, free and registration requested. Fairlington Community Center, 3308 S. Stafford Street, Arlington. Sponsored by the Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia. http://www.mgnv.org

12, Thursday, Workshop: Hypertufa Containers and Desert Plantings, 6:30 to 8:30 pm, fee and must register. U.S. Botanic Garden, 100 Maryland Ave. SW, Washington DC. http://www.usbg.gov

12, Thursday, Mounted Orchids, 6:00 – 8:00 pm, fee and must register. Sponsored by Rock Paper Plant and held at Steadfast Supply (Navy Yard), 301 Tingey Street, #120 SE, entrance on water street, Washington DC. http://www.rockpaperplant.com/

12, Thursday, Piecing Together Nature’s Puzzle with Alonso Abugattas, 7:30 to 9:00 pm, free. Hosted by Potowmack Chapter of Virginia Native Plant Society. Held at Green Spring Gardens, 4603 Green Spring Road, Alexandria, VA. https://vnps.org/potowmack/events/natures-puzzle-the-interconnectedness-of-our-world-depending-on-plants-with-alonso-abugattas/

13, Friday, Houseplant Haven Grand Opening, 6:00 to 9:00 pm, free. Homestead Gardens, 743 West Central Avenue, Davidsonville, MD. https://homesteadgardens.com/

14 and 15, Saturday and Sunday, Homestead Gardens Spring Kick Off, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, free. Homestead Gardens, 743 West Central Avenue, Davidsonville, MD. https://homesteadgardens.com/

14, Saturday, Propagation and Cloning Workshop, 11:00 am to noon, fee and must register. Cultivate the City, 910 Bladensburg Road NE Washington DC, at H Street Farms at W.S. Jenks and Sons http://www.cultivatethecity.com

14, Saturday, Winter Pruning for Woody Plants, 1 to 2:30 pm, free and advance registration requested. 4029 N. Tazewell Street, Arlington. Rain date March 21. Also offered on March 29. Hands on training and outside. Bring your own tools. Sponsored by Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia. http://www.mgnv.org

14, Saturday, Lecture: Exploring Orchid Evolution, Ecology, and Biogeography with Todd Brethauer, 2 to 3:30 pm, free and registration required. U.S. Botanic Garden, 100 Maryland Ave. SW, Washington DC. http://www.usbg.gov

14, Saturday, Lawn Care Q&A, Merrifield location; and Planting Herbs and Vegetables in Ground and in Containers, Fair Oaks location, both at 10:0 am and free. Merrifield Garden Center. http://www.merrifieldgardencenter.com

14, Saturday, Workshop: Growing Vegetables in Containers, 2 to 3:00 pm. Fee and must register, space limited. The Greenhouse Classroom, Cylburn Arboretum, sponsored by the Maryland Horticultural Society. https://mdhorticulture.org/

14, Saturday, Orchid 101: How to Get Your Orchid to Rebloom, 10:00 am to noon, fee and must register. Also offered on 15, 20, 28, and 29. Check website for specific times. Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens, 4155 Linnean Avenue, NW Washington DC. https://www.hillwoodmuseum.org/

14, Saturday, Orchid Workshop: To Repot or Not? 2:00 to 4:00 pm, fee and must register. Also offered on 15, 27, and 29. Check website for specific times. Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens, 4155 Linnean Avenue, NW Washington DC. https://www.hillwoodmuseum.org/

14, Saturday, How to Get Your Orchid to Rebloom, 1 to 2:30 pm, fee and must register. Brookside Gardens, 1800 Glenallan Avenue, Wheaton, MD. http://www.brooksidegardens.org

14, Saturday and 15, Sunday, Friends of Brookside Gardens Orchid Festival at Brookside Gardens, 10:00 am to 4:00 pm on Saturday and 10:00 am to 3:00 pm on Sunday. Brookside Gardens, 1800 Glenallan Avenue, Wheaton, MD. http://www.brooksidegardens.org

14, Saturday, St. Patrick’s Day Floral Arrangement, 11:00 am, fee and must register. Willow Oak Flower and Herb Farm, 8109 Telegraph Road, Severn, MD. http://www.willowoakherbs.com

15, Sunday, Orchid Family Day, 1 to 4:00 pm, free and no registration required. U.S. Botanic Garden, 100 Maryland Ave. SW, Washington DC. http://www.usbg.gov

15, Sunday, Hydroponics and Vertical Gardening, 1 to 2:00 pm, fee and must register. H Street Farms and 910 Bladensburg Road NE Washington DC. Cultivate the City. http://www.cultivatethecity.com

15, Sunday, Native Plant Picks for Spring, Gainesville location, and Lawn Care Q&A at Fair Oaks location, both at 1:00 pm and free. Merrifield Garden Center. http://www.merrifieldgardencenter.com

Seed Swaps: Fun Way to Get New Seeds!

It is that time of year again — seed swaps! National Seed Swap Day is Saturday, January 25, 2020, 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. Seed swaps can be a vehicle to teach others how to save seed, the importance of seed diversity, heirloom seeds, and other aspects of gardening. Some exchange more than seeds; tables may be set up to collect used gardening books, magazines, tools, pots, and nursery catalogs. Some may expand their definition of seeds and allow bulbs, rhizomes, and cuttings. Others include related activities such as learning to make handmade seed envelopes.

Each seed swap is different but usually organizers have established guidelines for the seed such as the type of container to use, the number of seed in each bag, and the information required on the label. Organizers should clarify if commercial seed packages or hybrid seeds are accepted. Although swaps do not want seeds from invasive plants, the organizers should clarify the definition of an invasive plant in their area.

If you are interested in attending a seed swap, ask your local county extension agent or Master Gardeners if they know of seed swaps in your area. Check out my monthly list of local gardening events at pegplant.com for seed swaps in the Washington DC metro area.

If you are interested in starting a seed swap, visit a few first to see the range of activities that could take place and the number of volunteers required. Read Seedswap: The Gardener’s Guide to Saving and Swapping Seeds by Josie Jeffery and download the Seed Savers Exchange’s 8-page handout on how to organize a seed swap. To learn how to save seeds, read my article entitled “How to Save Seeds from the Home Garden.” Happy #seedswapday!

American Heritage: Native Paw Paw Trees

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. When cut in half, the interior reveals a yellow, custard-like pulp with two rows of large seeds. Paw paws can weigh from ½ to 1 pound. Technically a berry, they are the largest North American edible fruit. Paw paws taste like a cross between a banana and a mango with a splash of pineapple. They can be eaten raw or used in ice cream, pudding, smoothies, butter (such as apple butter), baked goods like cookies and pies, and even beer, brandy, and wine!

From Florida to Texas, north to New York, and west to Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, and Nebraska, paw paws are native to 26 states and grow as understory trees in hardwood forests near streams and rivers. In the wild, the trees grow to 15 to 30 feet and sucker, creating colonies. Reminiscent of cucumber magnolias, they have foot-long, dark green leaves. Unlike other fruit trees, paw paw trees are not subject to a high level of pests and diseases.

Paw Paws in American History and Folklore

Paw paw trees are part of American history and folklore. Jamestown colonists wrote about them in the 1600s. John Lawson, an Englishman, described them in his travels in the Carolinas in the 1700s. Danielle Boone enjoyed eating them. Members of the Lewis and Clark expedition ate paw paws for pleasure as well as sustenance. George Washington grew paw paw trees at Mount Vernon and ate the fruit as dessert. Thomas Jefferson grew them and sent seeds to his colleagues in Europe.  William Bartram, a naturalist, described the trees in Bartram’s Travels. His father, John Bartram, a botanist, sent seeds to Europe. During the Civil War, soldiers as well as African American slaves collected the fruit in the wild to supplement their meager diets. There is even a popular folk song called “Way Down Yonder in the Paw Paw Patch” about collecting ripe paws paws from the ground and putting them in a basket.

Paw paw fruit develop in clusters

Finding Paw Paw Trees and Fruit

Currently, Washington DC residents can see paw paw trees in the wild along the C&O Canal and Potomac River and as native plant representatives in public gardens. There are paw paw trees at the Smithsonian Pollinator Garden, next to the National Museum of Natural History, and at the U.S. Botanic Garden’s newly renovated Bartholdi Park and their National Garden’s Regional Garden of Mid-Atlantic Native Plants. 

Although paw paws are part of American heritage, you may not find them in grocery stores. When the fruit is ripe enough to eat, it drops to the ground and is highly perishable. The thin skin bruises easily, discoloring to black. Paw paws are best eaten immediately or preserved by removing and freezing the pulp. You may find them at local farmers markets in peak season and you will definitely find them at paw paw events across the country in the fall.

Growing Paw Paws in the Home Landscape

Paw paw fruits can be eaten raw

“There is a paw paw renaissance now,” said Michael Judd, owner of Ecologia, an edible and ecological landscaping service in Frederick, MD. Author of Edible Landscape with a Permaculture Twist and For the Love of Paw Paws, Michael hosts an annual paw paw festival which will be on September 21 this year at LongCreek Homestead. “I call the paw paw an edible landscape all-stars because the tree is very attractive, low maintenance, and very fruitful.”

As native, hardy trees, paw paws can be grown in typical suburban plots. “Paw paws grow easily here,” said Michael. “This is paw paw country.” Although they are not self-fertile, that is, there must be two trees to cross pollinate to produce fruit, one can trim the trees to fit in residential properties. Michael recommends growing the trees in full sun, 10 to 12 feet apart, and cutting the central leader back to keep the trees at 8 feet. This shorten stature also makes them easier to harvest the fruit. Therefore, homeowners could have two 8-foot trees in the yard producing 50 pounds of fruit each year. If full sun is not possible, they can grow in part shade but will produce less fruit.

Paw paw trees have a pyramidal shape

Michael recommends purchasing either a grafted tree, a select seedling, or a specific cultivar. Starting from seed takes years to produce fruit. Also starting from a wild paw paw seed will result in less than desirable fruit. The taste of wild paw paws varies plus the fruit is small with a poor pulp to seed ratio.  Breeders spend years selecting desirable characteristics such as large fruit, a high pulp to seed ratio (more pulp, less seed), and good flavor.

You can’t go wrong planting paw paws. They are native, deer resistant trees that provide fruit and pretty yellow fall color. “Paw paw trees are very ornamental, they have a beautiful pyramidal shape,” explained Michael. “The leaves turn to a beautiful yellow golden color in the fall and when the leaves drop they reveal a tree with nice architecture in the winter.”

All photos taken by Michael Judd.

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

Garden Clubs and Plant Societies in the Washington DC Metro Area

There are many local garden clubs, plant societies, and horticultural organizations in the Washington DC metropolitan area, too many to list here. But here is a start for those of you who are new to the capital region or new to gardening. If you cannot find what you are looking for here, search the internet for a larger umbrella organization to inquire about the local unit or search by plant name or city for a neighborhood garden club. If you know of a local club that I missed, feel free to let me know via the comments section.

The American Horticultural Society

The American Horticultural Society is a national membership organization and its physical location is River Farm, 7931 East Boulevard Drive, Alexandria, VA. The property was part of George Washington’s tract along the Potomac River. It is open to the public but best to call first as they also rent their space for weddings and private events. River Farm has a beautiful view to the river, gardens, a children’s garden, and a gift shop. They also have annual events such as plant sales and sometimes they have special lectures.

River Farm in Alexandria, home to the American Horticultural Society

National Garden Clubs, Inc.

The National Garden Clubs, Inc., has 50 state garden clubs that are further broken down into regional clubs and local clubs. The National Garden Clubs is headquartered at 4401 Magnolia Avenue, St. Louis, MO. In this area, the state level clubs are the Virginia Federation of Garden Clubs, headquartered at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, 1800 Lakeside Avenue, Richmond, VA; and the Federated Garden Clubs of Maryland, Inc., at 4915 Greenspring Avenue, Baltimore, MD. The local regional unit is the National Capital Area Garden Clubs and within the National Capital Area Garden Clubs are many “neighborhood” clubs with differing meeting times so it is best to contact them for a local unit near you.

Garden Club of America

The Garden Club of America is headquartered at 14 East 60th Street, 3rd Floor, New York, NY. There are only a few in this Zone VI area (according to their map). There is the Garden Club of Chevy Chase, MD; and the Trowel Club and the Georgetown Garden Club in DC.

Clubs can often gain access to visit private gardens

Garden Club of Virginia

The Garden Club of Virginia is headquartered at the Kent-Valentine House, 12 East Franklin Street, Richmond, VA. There are many local units across the Commonwealth so contact headquarters for one near you. The Garden Club of Virginia is famous for its annual Historic Garden Week in April when private and public gardens are open to the public for a week and the local units’ volunteers not only help to put on this event but make floral arrangements for the homes.

Local Chapters of Plant Societies

Many clubs have plant sales and are great resources for unique plants

There probably is an association for every type of plant and most have local chapters. Search the internet for the plant and related association or call your local public garden or extension office. These are the local chapters in order of the plant name in boldface type.

Mid-Atlantic African Violet Society and the Baltimore African Violet Club

Northern Virginia Chapter of the Azalea Society of America

Potomac Branch of the American Begonia Society

Northern Virginia Bonsai Society

Potomac Bonsai Association

Baltimore Bonsai Club

The American Boxwood Society

National Capital Cactus and Succulent Society

Camellia Society of the Potomac Valley

Old Dominion Chrysanthemum Society

Potomac Chrysanthemum Society

American Conifer Society

Maryland, Virginia and DC Daffodil Societies

National Capital Dahlia Society

National Capital Daylily society

Free State Daylily Society

Northern Virginia Daylily Society

American Fern Society

National Capital Area Chapter of the Gesneriad Society

American Gourd Society. There is a Virginia Lover’s Gourd Society

Potomac Unit of the Herb Society of America

Colonial Virginia Holly society

Potomac Hosta Club

Chesapeake and Potomac Iris Society

National Capital Orchid Society

Mid-Atlantic Peony Society

Middle Atlantic Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society

And Potomac Chapter

And Mason-Dixon Chapter

Potomac Valley Chapter of the Northern American Rock Garden Society

Potomac Rose Society

Arlington Rose Foundation

Local Chapters of Native Plant Societies

There is a Maryland Native Plant Society in Silver Spring and a Virginia Native Plant Society headquartered at 400 Blandy Farm Road, Unit 2, Boyce, VA. Contact them for local chapters.

Private Garden Clubs

Annapolis Horticultural Society

Bethesda Community Garden Club

Burtonsville Garden club

Beltsville Garden Club

Falls Church Garden Club

Four Seasons Garden Club

Greater Brookland Garden Club

Greenbelt Community Garden Club

Horticultural Society of Maryland

Hyattsville Horticulture Society

Sandy Spring Museum Garden Club

Silver Spring Garden Club

Takoma Horticultural Club

Friends of Organizations

The All Hallows Guild takes care of Bishops Garden at the National Cathedral in DC

There are opportunities to volunteer at public gardens, which is like being a member of a garden club. For example, there is a Friends of Green Spring in Alexandria, VA; Friends of Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, MD; and the Friends of the National Arboretum. There is an organization called the All Hallows Guild of the National Cathedral, which has extensive grounds and a garden at Massachusetts & Wisconsin Avenues, NW, Washington, DC.

Historic Garden Week: Tour Private Virginian Homes and Gardens

Historic Garden Week has begun! Starting yesterday, Saturday April 27 through Saturday May 4, 2019, 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.

Private McLean home will be open on Tuesday, photo by Donna Moulton

A non-profit organization, the GCV is comprised of 47 member clubs. Proceeds from the annual HGW, which originated in 1927, 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. For more than 80 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.

Private Roanoke home open on Saturday, photo by Sharp Top Studios

This year there will be 31 tours hosted by volunteers at local GCV member clubs. The 31 tours are divided into 8 regions: Northern Virginia, Potomac, Coastal, Tidewater, Capitol, Southwest, Blue Ridge, and Foothills. This annual event is coordinated and managed by 3,300 volunteers who spend months planning in advance. Many members create beautiful floral arrangements for the homes. It is estimated that 2,200 floral arrangements will have been made for this year’s event.

Private Lynchburg residence open on Tuesday, photo by Becky Giles

The schedule is available online 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 216-page, beautifully illustrated publication, which 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.

An example of one of the many arrangements made by volunteers, photo courtesy of GCV

Volunteering at Public Gardens in Washington DC

April is National Volunteer Month and this week, from April 7 to 13, is National Volunteer Week. I originally posted this article in December 2018 but in honor of National Volunteer Week/Month, I am re-posting for you to think about volunteering at one of DC’s public gardens. The Washington DC area has many opportunities for people with a passion for plants and gardening to volunteer. This article focuses on three opportunities where the entities are not non-profits, they are actually part of the federal government. Thus, they share several unique characteristics.

This article provides a broad overview and compares and contrasts three places. However, it is best to reach out to the organization that interests you for more detailed information. Opportunities to volunteer are like the tide, they ebb and flow depending on the season and annual events. To learn about additional organizations that may need volunteers, view this list of public gardens and contact them directly.

U.S. Botanic Garden

The U.S. Botanic Garden (USBG) was established by Congress in 1820 and is one of the oldest botanic gardens in the country. The USBG is comprised of the Conservatory, the National Garden, and the Bartholdi Park. It is administered through the Architect of the Capitol. It is a prime tourist attraction, open every day of the year, and within walking distance of metro stations.

“Volunteers are vital to the support of the Botanic Garden,” said Elizabeth Barton,Education Specialist and Volunteer Coordinator, who oversees about 250 volunteers. People interested in volunteering at the USBG should first complete the application form on the USBG website, which gives Elizabeth a sense of timing, availability, and interests. After she receives the application, she calls the applicant to set up a meeting with her and possibly another staff person. Applicants can apply between January and early October.

U.S. Botanic Gardens’ production greenhouses

The USBG has a public programming team and a horticultural team. Volunteers who work with the horticultural team work with the plants either inside the conservatory, outside with the gardens and grounds crew, or at the USBG production facility in Maryland (large production greenhouses). Volunteers who work with the public programming team assist with the public programs, such as lectures and children’s programs, answer questions at the visitor’s desk, manage the Discovery Carts, or serve as docents.

All volunteers attend a general volunteer orientation. Starting in 2019, all volunteers will attend an accessibility awareness training where one learns to interact with people who have special needs and disabilities. There may be further training depending on the assignment. “None of the volunteer duties require prior horticultural knowledge,” explained Elizabeth. “We work with you where you are. The horticultural team loves working with people who have horticultural experience but they also love working with people who have no horticultural experience but have enthusiasm. As long as you have the enthusiasm, we can teach you about the tasks.”

Docents obtain additional training on how to give a tour and basic botany and plant morphology. Docents focus on a particular area of the Botanic Garden to learn about those particular plants. For example, a docent who leads tours of the National Garden outside would get additional training on the National Garden before leading a tour.

Elizabeth emphasized that there is also the opportunity to explore a special interest. A volunteer can present an idea to USBG staff who will discuss it to see if the idea fits with current programming. She explained how a volunteer had an interest in conifers and thus developed a conifer Discovery Cart. (Discovery Carts are informal, pop-up educational opportunities on specific topics such as conifers, chocolate, or poinsettias.)

Volunteers need to commit to 100 hours per year, which could be a 4-hour shift every other week or 2-hour shift every week or a condensed number of weeks. It varies because some people live nearby and can easily commute to work a few hours at a time while others live further away and prefer infrequent trips and a longer day.

A well-known volunteer giving a lecture at USBG

Because USBG is part of the federal government, volunteers need to go through the background security check and fingerprinting process that is required of all feds. If you are a current or retired government employee, you would have been through this process before.

Volunteers not only benefit from helping others, they learn more about horticulture and gardening. “Volunteers learn a lot no matter what they are doing here,” said Elizabeth. “They also are able to give back to the community, that is, the USBG is a great resource to the community.”

USBG staff host two volunteer appreciation events every year for the volunteers, a holiday and a spring social event. If volunteers have volunteered for a set minimum number of hours, they are able to attend a one day educational and appreciation event hosted by the Horticultural Consortium of the Greater Washington area (HCGWA). The HCGWA is a group of local organizations that depend upon a cadre of volunteers. Each year, one of the organizations hosts and develops the agenda and invites the volunteers from the other organizations.

Smithsonian Gardens

The Smithsonian Institution was established by an act of Congress in 1846 and is a unique public-private partnership that receives federal funds. In 1972, the Smithsonian Gardens was established to manage the Smithsonian museum grounds and is comprised of the Grounds Management Operations, the Greenhouse Nursery Operations, and the Horticulture Collections Management and Education. The outside gardens are open every day of the week and there are several nearby metro stops.

Alison Kootstra, Volunteer Program Coordinator, explained that even though they have a small volunteering program, less than 100 volunteers, they have a very high retention rate. As with the USBG, applicants need to first complete the volunteer application form on the website. Alison reviews the application and contacts the applicant to set up an in person interview. Interviews are conducted at the Smithsonian Gardens office on Maryland Avenue (next to L’Enfant Plaza metro station) or at the Suitland, Maryland, production greenhouses, depending on the location of the volunteer opportunity.

There are three different types of opportunities: grounds maintenance, greenhouse, and docents for exhibitions. Alison most frequently recruits for the grounds maintenance position where volunteers work alongside staff horticulturists in the Smithsonian gardens. Tucked among the Smithsonian museums on the National Mall are 13 thematic gardens.

Volunteer at Smithsonian Gardens event
Photo courtesy of Smithsonian Gardens

Volunteers are asked to commit to working from April to October, one day per week. Because staff work Monday through Friday, volunteers also work during the work week and not on the weekend. Recruitment occurs every year and three to eight people are chosen to work in specific gardens. “Experience is not required,” explained Alison. “It is more important that the person has enthusiasm, the willing to learn, and the ability to follow instructions.”

The Suitland greenhouses are not open to the public so the environment may be quieter than the public gardens, which are frequented by tourists. Tasks include planting, transplanting, and taking care of orchids and tropical plants. This opportunity is less frequent because volunteers tend to stay for a long time. Again, since volunteers are working with staff who work weekdays, the opportunity is also on weekdays.  

There are opportunities for docents for exhibitions but this is less frequent, depending on the need or exhibit. Because the Smithsonian Gardens is responsible for an orchid exhibit that begins in February 2019, Alison just recruited 20 new volunteers to serve as docents. This exhibit is open every day so the opportunity to volunteer would be on the weekday or weekend and would require quite a lot of interaction with the public.

Alison ticked off the benefits of volunteering with the Smithsonian Gardens, which mirror Smithsonian employee benefits. Volunteers receive 20 percent off at Smithsonian gift shops and many of the public food eateries, access to behind the scenes tours or enrichment activities within the Smithsonian, discounts on some ticketed Smithsonian programs, and reciprocal arrangements with other museums across the country.  In addition, Alison plans an enrichment activity every other month such as a tour of another public garden or a trip to see a local museum exhibit. Like the USBG, if volunteers have volunteered for a set minimum number of hours, they are able to attend the HCGWA event.

Volunteer in the Smithsonian’s Ripley Garden
Photo courtesy of Smithsonian Gardens

Smithsonian volunteers must also undergo the background security check and fingerprinting.They must attend an orientation and an annual security training. There may be additional training as needed for specific positions, for example, grounds staff may have more safety trainings than docents.

U.S. National Arboretum

The U.S. National Arboretum (USNA) was established in 1927 by an act of Congress. According to their mission statement on their website, the USNA enhances the economic, environmental, and aesthetic value of ornamental and landscape plants through long-term multi-disciplinary research, conservation of genetic resources, and interpretative gardens and exhibits. The USNA is administered by the U.S.Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Services. Located in Northeast DC with entrances on New York Avenue and R Street, the Arboretum is made up of 446 acres and many plant collections. There is no nearby metro stop but plenty of free parking.  

 “We get inquiries from people interested in volunteering from our website or they walk in to the Arboretum and ask if there are volunteering opportunities,” said Carole Bordelon, Supervisory Horticulturist and Acting Volunteer and Intern Coordinator. Carole asks interested applicants to complete an online form. She looks at the applicant’s interests while asking staff how many volunteers they can support, and then tries to match the two.

Volunteers cleaning seed at USNA
Photo courtesy of USNA

“We have several different types of volunteers but the majority are working outside in the gardens and assisting staff with weeding, pruning, mulching, and planting,” said Carole. “Although the Arboretum is open to the public on the weekends, the staff work during the week so the volunteer positions are only available during the work week. In addition, depending on the collection, the staff horticulturist may want a volunteer to work on a specific day.”Currently, they have about 75 volunteers that come in on a regular basis and work in the various collections. They also have a need for volunteers to work indoors on the herbarium, archives, exhibits, image database, and public programs.

“There are some volunteers who have been here a long time so there is no need for volunteers in that particular garden area but in some areas they need volunteers for the spring/summer months and not the winter. There are some volunteers who work in one collection outside and then on bad weather days, work inside on the herbarium.”

They do require 4-6 hours per week, usually 4 hours. “We set up a schedule and most of volunteers who work outside are asked to come on a specific week day,” said Carole. 

Volunteers planting in the USNA’s Fern Valley Meadow
Photo courtesy of USNA

Volunteers learn about the plants in the collection and proper techniques, but they also enjoy the ability to meet new people. The Arboretum is a tourist attraction; volunteers may interact with visitors from all over the world. In addition, the USNA staff put on an annual volunteer recognition event where they invite a guest speaker and distribute service awards. Staff arrange outreach field trips to other public gardens and volunteers are encouraged to go to the Smithsonian In-Service Days in the winter months. Similar to the other two, USNA volunteers may attend the HCGWA event. USNA volunteers must complete the background check and fingerprinting.

Friends of the National Arboretum

Although the Friends of the National Arboretum (FONA) is a non-profit organization, it is important to mention because FONA works in tandem with the USNA and FONA volunteers work on the Arboretum property. People interested in volunteering may find themselves at the Arboretum for one-time events or long-term projects managed through FONA.

To volunteer, applicants need to complete the online form at the FONA website. “Many of our opportunities are seasonal,” explained Melinda Peters, Volunteer Programs Manager. “For example, recruiting for volunteers for the annual Garden Fair and Plant Sale in April will start up later. Our busy time will start at the end of February and into March and that is when I will start contacting applicants.”

To help distinguish between the two, the Arboretum manages volunteers who work in the plant collections or in the Arboretum’s Administrative Building while FONA manages volunteers for annual events such as the Garden Fair and Plant Sale, summer concerts, and Full Moon Hikes and for long-term projects such as the Washington Youth Garden and the Springhouse Run restoration project.

Volunteer pruning in the Asian collection
Photo courtesy of USNA

For the past 2 years, volunteers have restored Springhouse Run which is actually two streams that run through the Arboretum and into the Anacostia River, the Springhouse Run and the Hickey Run. The stream has been restored to a more natural flow and volunteers have planted many native plants. The Washington Youth Garden helps DC’s youth learn to garden and volunteer opportunities exist from April to early November, Tuesday and Saturday mornings. The Full Moon Hikes are guided walks around the Arboretum in the evening, under a full moon,which requires volunteers to serve as tour guides. The Garden Fair and Plant Sale is an April weekend where many different types of plants are for sale to the public, either from the Arboretum’s holdings, local garden clubs, or nurseries. This is a purely volunteer-run event at the Arboretum managed through FONA.

Unlike the three federal entities mentioned above, FONA does not require a background security check and fingerprinting except for the Washington Youth Garden volunteers who have to complete a more extensive onboarding process. However, volunteers for one-time events may have to sign a liability form.

There is more flexibility in terms of hours if one volunteers through FONA. Volunteers can work on weekdays, weekends, and in the evenings, depending on the event.  Also, corporations that want to or universities that require service hours can work through FONA to complete one-time service activities such as mulching on the Arboretum grounds.

Volunteer cleaning up in USNA’s Azalea collection
Photo courtesy of USNA

As with all volunteering opportunities, the benefits are socializing, learning, and giving back to the community. “For single events, we provide snacks, tools,and training,” said Melinda. “It is safe to say that food is always involved somehow.” FONA volunteers are invited to an annual volunteer appreciation event and as with the other three entities, volunteers may attend the HCGWA if they meet the required hours. Melinda also explained that the Full Moon Hike leaders receive a stipend because they have to undergo a more rigorous training program and commit to a certain list of guidelines.

To summarize, there are many different opportunities to volunteer with these prestigious organizations, you just have to figure out which is the best match for you in terms of your time, interests, and ability. Some will require digging in the dirt while others will require public speaking. But with all, horticultural experience is not a requirement so do not hesitate if you do not have plant experience. Just show up with enthusiasm and a willing to learn and you will become connected to DC’s horticultural network!

Multiply Your Thanksgiving Cactus Through Cuttings

stem cuttings twisted off Thanksgiving cactus plant

Taking cuttings of your Thanksgiving cactus is easy and yields many more plants to give away as gifts. Now that the holidays are over and your plant has finished blooming, this is the perfect time to increase your holdings.

Line up a few clean, small plastic containers such as yogurt containers, fruit cup containers, or plastic cups and puncture the bottoms to allow for drainage. Fill with packaged seed starting mix and water each cup so water runs through the drainage holes.

To take the cutting, simply twist off a piece of stem about three to four segments long. The stems are made up of joined rectangular segments. Each segment is called a cladode. The length should be long enough to insert into soil and stand up. You want to twist so you have the end of a segment or cladode, not mid-way into a segment. Insert into the container, water again, and tamp to ensure the stem is standing upright. You can insert several per container or just one per container.

Place on a tray, in a well-lit place, out of direct sun. The room should be warm, “room temperature,” not a cold, drafty basement.  It is not necessary to place the container in a plastic bag or to fertilize.

stem cuttings planted on February 6

Some people insert the cutting directly into the soil while others wait a day or two for the cut part to form a callus. This is done to prevent rotting. I have never had a problem with rotting so I simply insert the cutting into the wet soil.

I do not use a rooting hormone because the plant roots easily. A Thanksgiving cactus is an epiphytic plant that grows on trees in Brazil’s coastal mountains. In their natural habitat, they have aerial roots, which is an indication that the cuttings will root easily without added hormones.

For the first few weeks, I water the containers often enough so the soil is moist but not waterlogged.  Because the containers are very small, the soil will dry out faster than a full grown plant in a large container. After a few weeks, I check to see if roots have formed by gently pulling to see if there is resistance. Also, if the plant is still turgid, there is a good chance it has survived the cut and is still trying to form roots. If the plant is obviously wilted or rotted, I throw away the entire plant and container into the trash. This is one advantage to having one cutting per container; if it does not work, you only lose the one cutting and container, not many cuttings in one container.

roots formed on cuttings on February 23

Eventually, the cuttings will form enough roots so you can transplant to a larger container with potting soil. For the cost of seed starting mix, cuttings are an inexpensive gift for friends and family. Makes a great teacher’s gift too!

close up of small white roots with seed starting medium attached

The Thanksgiving cactus is an example of a stem cutting and I will be talking about this technique as well as others at my “Plants & Design: Multiply Your Plants” workshop. Join me at Green Spring Gardens on Saturday, March 30, from 9:30 to 11:00 am as I demonstrate how to multiply plants through simple techniques that you can do at home. Learn how to take stem cuttings and divide plants to save money and enhance your garden. This is a hands-on, get dirty workshop so you can take home a starter plant plus handout. To register, call Green Spring Gardens at (703) 642-5173 or register online at https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/parktakes/ using code 586.37E6. See you at Green Spring Gardens, 4603 Green Spring Road, Alexandria, VA.