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.
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.”
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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 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.
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.
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!
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.
British Gamble is a Division 1 daffodil, with a pale pink, broad, showy cup
Daffodils are great investments for your garden. For very little money, you can plant daffodil bulbs in the fall and enjoy their bloom every spring for years to come. Reliable and dependent, these sunny flowers can be used to landscape your garden or cut for indoor flower arrangements.
Daffodils are long lasting and are not bothered by deer or other animals. They can be divided to increase the numbers or simply left in place. Bulbs are available at local nurseries in the fall or through mail order catalogs. Select large healthy bulbs and plant about 5 to 6 inches deep and apart. Daffodils can be planted in the garden bed, in large swaths for a naturalizing effect, under a deciduous tree, or in containers with other bulbs. One caveat is that after the daffodils bloom, the leaves must be left in place until they yellow so you may want to think about disguising the foliage with other perennials. Do not fold the leaves down, tie with rubber bands, or cut until they are so yellow they detract from the garden’s beauty.
Dutch Master, the classic Division 1 daffodil
Daffodils prefer full sun but will tolerate part sun (a half day of sun). They are not particular about soil but because they are bulbs the soil has to drain well to avoid rot. When planting, apply a balanced fertilizer. On an annual basis apply a low nitrogen fertilizer in the spring and fall. Daffodils do not need to be divided, they multiply naturally, but they can be dug up and divided if you want to increase your number of bulbs. Division should occur after the blooming period, when the leaves yellow. Dig up, divide, and replant immediately if possible. If not possible, store the bulbs in a dry area with good air circulation until can plant in the fall. If you see a decline in blossoms after several years of growing, you can also dig up and divide daffodils because the bulbs may have increased to the point that they are too crowded.
Daffodil Societies and Shows
While most people are familiar with the foot high daffodil with large yellow blossoms, there is a wide spectrum of colors, sizes, and bloom times. In fact the spectrum is so great that daffodils have been categorized into 13 divisions and there are thousands of cultivars. The divisions below illustrate the diversity but for more information contact the American Daffodil Society or a local daffodil society.
In the foreground is Katie Heath, Division 5, and in the background is Pink Charm, Division 2
In the Washington DC metro area, there are three daffodil societies, each with their own spring shows that are open to the public. If you want to know what to plant this fall, visit these shows to see how the flowers will look, meet other daffodil enthusiasts, learn best cultivars for this area, and identify additional resources for purchasing bulbs. There also are local garden clubs that have their own daffodil shows such as the Garden Club of Virginia Daffodil show in Richmond, VA, on March 26; and the District II Federated Garden Clubs of Maryland Daffodil show in Severna Park, MD, on April 9-10. The daffodilfestivalva.org website provides a listing of local daffodil festivals and areas that have substantial daffodil collections.
One flower to a stem (corona is the center trumpet or cup)
Division 1: Trumpet: corona not more than one-third the length of petals
Division 2: Large cupped: corona more than one-third but less than equal to the length of petals
Division 3: Small cupped: corona not more than one-third the length of petals
One or more flowers per stem
Division 4: Double: many petals
Division 5: Triandrus: pendulous blooms, petals turned back
One flower per a stem
Division 6: Cyclamineus: petals turned back significantly and flower at an acute angle to stem
Several flowers per a stem
Division 7: Jonquilla: petals spreading or reflexed, usually has fragrance
Division 8: Tazetta: stout stem, petals spreading but not reflexed, usually has fragrance, have minimal to no chilling requirements, this is the division for paperwhites, which often are forced indoors
Division 9: Poeticus: white petals, short corona with green or yellow center and red rim
Division 10: Bulbocodium hybrids, one flower per stem, petals very small compared to a large corona
Division 11a: Split cup collar
Division 11b: Split cup papillon
Division 12: Other types
Division 13: Species or wild variants
Mary Gay Lirette, a Division 11a daffodil, has flowers that open with a yellow cup that turns salmon and folds back
Local daffodil societies and shows (open to the public)
The Washington Daffodil Society will have their spring show on April 13 & 14, 2019, at the Alexandria Valley Scottish Rite Temple, 1430 W. Braddock Road, Alexandria, VA.
The Maryland Daffodil Society will have their spring show on April 24 & 25, 2019, at a new venue, Vollmer Center, Cylburn Arboretum, 4915 Greenspring Avenue, Baltimore MD.
Join me 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. Take home a starter plant and handout. To register for the “Plants & Design Workshop: Multiply Your Plants” on Saturday, March 30, 9:30 to 11:00 am, call Green Spring Gardens at (703) 642-5173 or register online at https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/parktakes/ using code 586.37E6. Green Spring Gardens, 4603 Green Spring Road, Alexandria, VA.
Join me as I talk about 10 culinary herbs at the Merrifield Garden Center. I will cover cultural requirements, harvesting and preserving techniques, inspiring ways to use the herbs in the kitchen, and local herb resources. Don’t worry if you don’t have land or a garden, these 10 herbs can be grown in containers. Everyone will receive a handout to take home. No reservations required, this is a free lecture on Sunday, March 24, 1:00 to 2:00 pm, at the Gainesville location, 6895 Wellington Road, Gainesville, VA.
Subscribe to Pegplant’s Post, a free monthly newsletter about gardening in the Washington DC metro area. Each issue lists at least 50 local gardening events, recently published gardening books, tips, advice and articles about gardening in this area, and a giveaway. Just enter your e-mail in the subscribe box above.
Peggy’s lectures and workshops
Friday, November 15, 2019, Instructor for the Culinary Herb presentation for the National Capital Area Garden Club’s Gardening School in Virginia.
Wednesday, April 1, 2020, private culinary herb presentation to local garden club.
Saturday, May 30, 2020, 1:00 to 2:30 pm, workshop on culinary herbs, John Marshall Library, 6209 Rose Hill Drive, VA. Free.