My Garden, My Friends

Although fall is here, October is still a time of harvest in my Virginia garden. I am still picking (and freezing!) tomatoes, peppers, beans, squash and even goji berries and little pumpkins. Zinnias, asters, mums, and dahlias are cut for my office every week. The pineapple sage plants just began flowering and my new mums are showing their colors for the first time. Basil and cone flowers have gone to seed but I let the finches enjoy them. For next season, I have gathered seeds from plants such as marigold, calendula, and okra and later I will collect four o’clock. Right now, the four o’clock plants are still blooming while at the same time, some have seeds nestled in like black eyes and I cannot bear to change this fantastic image.

Despite this abundance, I felt that I was saying goodbye when I was cutting the yellow peppers yesterday. I know frost is around the corner; I have to think about bringing in the hibiscus and bay plants. But the concept of “putting your garden to bed” escapes me. I feel like I garden all the time. If not in my actual garden, then in my house with seeds, bulbs, houseplants, and even microgreens. To me, a garden is alive all the time, it is a living community and it does not go to sleep in the winter. My kids had a math teacher who said “a day without math is like a day without sunshine.” A gardener would say: “A day without plants is like a day without sunshine.”

A few months ago I was listening to Erika Galentin, a clinical herbalist, speak on an episode of the Native Plant Podcast. Erika said something that was a real eye opener. I am paraphrasing below but this is the gist of what she said:

Plants bring something to the human spirit. Plants can communicate to us and it is not through fantastical means, it is through our senses, our eyesight, our sense of smell, our sense of taste, our sense of touch. When I tune in to that and I learn how to “listen” to plants I feel something deep inside me, I feel an understanding, a connection, the knowledge that has transferred from the plant to myself because I am focusing on it, seeing it, I am touching it, I am tasting it, I am growing it. A relationship has formed with that plant and like any kind of relationship that can bring us spiritual enlightenment, it can bring us emotional enlightenment, and it can bring us physical enlightenment.

Listening to Erika made me realize that I have a relationship with my plants in my garden. Conversely, I have lived in my house for over a dozen years and would never say that I have a relationship with my house. Outside, however, I have interacted with my plants through the five senses whether for years, or in recent plantings, for this year only. They have all, however, grown like my own children have grown in this space, a typical suburban plot in Virginia.

I have trained the peas up the trellis, wrapped the passion flower vines around the banister, re-positioned the morning glory to get full sun, and moved many plants to other places in the garden where they could get more water or more sun to be happier.

I have enjoyed the taste and nutrition of fresh vegetables such as beans, squash, peppers and fruits such as raspberries, goji berries, and ground cherries. I even enjoy the relaxing herbal teas made with holy basil, pineapple sage, and roselle. I have enjoyed the smell of fruity melons, pungent rosemary, and sweet hyacinths. While I am picking vegetables in the garden, I hear that satisfying “thunk” when a large red tomato falls to the ground while bees buzz around the zinnias and marigolds. My ornamental grasses rustle in the wind and the birds squabble over the seeds on the dried flower heads.

I have the plants’ cries for water, met their needs for fertilizer, and provided support with bamboo stakes and trellises. I grow many plants from seed, constantly nurturing them inside under lights until they are mature enough to be on their own outside in the ground.

People might think of this as “work” but for me as a gardener and horticulturist it is about having 200 friends who live directly outside my house (some actually in my house). I am always thinking of my friends as I think of my family: are they okay, is it too hot or too cold for them, do they have enough water, do they need food?

Although some people may not be interested in this type of “work,” they too benefit from plants, especially when they visit a garden. The impact of nature on our senses, on our being, is overwhelming and can be and should be championed as the positive experience it clearly is for most everyone. That is the value that gardens and the act of gardening can provide.

Peg’s Picks: October 2017 Gardening Events in the Washington DC Metro Area

October is a happening month — 100 gardening events in the Washington DC Metro area!

1, Sunday (every weekend in fall), Fall Festival, 10:30 to 5:00 pm. Admission fee, Green Street Gardens, 391 West Bay Front Road, Lothian, MD. http://www.greenstreetgardens.com

1, Sunday from 11 to 4 and Saturday from 11 to 6, on October weekends through October 29. Fall Festival. Homestead Gardens, 743 West Central Avenue, Davidsonville, MD. http://www.homesteadgardens.com

1, Sunday, Arcadia Fall Harvest Dinner, 4:30 to 8:30 pm Arcadia at Woodlawn-Pope Leighey, 9000 Richmond Highway, Alexandria, VA. The 4th annual Arcadia fall harvest dinner celebrating the Arcadia Veteran Farmer Program. Fee and must register. http://www.arcadiafood.org

1, Sunday, Tour garden in Bon Air Park, sunny and shade gardens, 2:00 to 4:00 pm, free, no registration required. Hosted by Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia, 850 N. Lexington Street, Arlington, VA. http://www.mgnv.org

1, Sunday, Meadow Ecology, 1:30 to 3:30 pm. Fee and must register and be prepared to walk outdoors. Adkins Arboretum, 12610, Eveland Road, Ridgely, MD. http://www.adkinsarboretum.org.

1, Sunday, Free lectures at 1:00 pm at various locations of Merrifield Garden Center, no registration necessary. See website for street addresses. http://www.merrifieldgardencenter.com

  • Fair Oaks: Standout Foundation Plants
  • Gainesville: Screening and Defining with Evergreens

2, October through 13 November, Community Herbalism Class, 6-week course on Monday evenings at Josephine Butler Parks Center, 2437 15th Street, NW, Washington. E-mail littleredbirdbotanicals@gmail.com with any questions. Fee and must register in advance. https://www.eventbrite.com/e/community-herbalism-class-six-week-series-tickets-37898350988

3, Tuesday, 5, Thursday, and 6, Friday, Gardener’s Focus: Fall Design, 2:45 to 3:30, fee is the admission fee to Hillwood. Also offered on October 10, 12, 13, same time. Hillwood Museum and Garden, 4155 Linnean Avenue, NW Washington DC.  http://www.hillwoodmuseum.org

4, Wednesday, Tree Planting Team Leader Training, 6:00 to 9:00 pm. Free but must register, Casey Trees, 3030 12th street, NE Washington DC. http://www.caseytrees.org

4, Wednesday, Garden Series: Extending your growing season, 6 – 8 pm.  Free. Chinquapin Recreation Center, 3210 King Street, Alexandria, VA. https://www.alexandriava.gov/uploadedFiles/News/Recreation_News/GardenSeriesflyer.pdf

4, Wednesday, Arlington County Library Wednesdays in the Garden Series: Fruit from Vines, Brambles, and Shrubs, 7:00 to 8:30 pm. Arlington Central Library, 1015 N. Quincy Street, Arlington, VA. Taught by Arlington Food Assistance Center volunteers and VCE Master Gardeners, free, no registration required. http://www.library.arlingtonva.us. http://www.mgnv.org

4, Wednesday, Potowmack Chapter of the Virginian Native Plant Society sells native plants from their propagation bed at Green Spring Gardens, 4603 Green Spring Road, Alexandria, VA, on the first Wednesday of the month, April through October, 10:00 am to noon. http://www.vnps.org and http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/greenspring

4, 11, 18, 25, Wednesday mornings at 10:00 am. Monarch Butterflies. The Master Gardener Program of Baltimore County is providing free workshops for the public to learn about monarch butterflies and to take part in ongoing research to help this species survive and thrive. Free, no registration required. Center for Maryland Agriculture and Farm Park, 1114 Shawan Road, Cockeysville. https://extension.umd.edu/events/wed-2017-08-16-1000-monarch-tag-release

5, Thursday and 6, Friday, Third Virginia Urban Agriculture Summit, fee and must register, all day. Arlington Campus, George Mason University, 3351 Fairfax Drive, Arlington https://vafb.swoogo.com/urbanag2017/36853

5, Thursday, Webinar: Fall Gardening with Charlie Nardozzi, 7:00 to 8:30 ET, fee and must register. http://www.gardeningwithcharlie.com/fall-gardening-webinar

5, Thursday, Garden Gulps. Create a terrarium and enjoy wine and appetizers. Fee and must register. 7:00 pm. Historic London Town and Gardens, 839 Londontown Road, Edgewater, MD.  http://www.historiclondontown.org/

5, Thursday. Fall Lecture Series: Candy in the Garden, Ideas and Inspiration to create eye catching drama in any garden setting with Kent Russell, 10:30 am. Fee and must register, Ladew Topiary Gardens, 3535 Jarrettsville Pike, Monkton, MD.  http://ladewgardens.org/

5, Thursday, Lecture: Restoring Streams and Stream Valleys: Finding Balance in Altered Landscapes, 7:00 pm, free and open to the public, Rust Library, Old Waterford Road, Leesburg. Hosted by Loudoun County Master Gardeners. http://www.loudouncountymastergardeners.org

7, Saturday, Harvest Festival, family event with farming and gardening activities, 11:00 am to 4:00 pm, admission fee. Sponsored by the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission at the Agricultural History Farm Park (Derwood), 18400 Muncaster Road, Derwood, MD.  https://www.montgomeryparks.org/parks-and-trails/agricultural-history-farm-park/

7, Saturday, Lecture: Fall Gardening in the mid-Atlantic, noon to 1:30 pm. Free but register via Eventbrite. Community Forklift, 4671 Tanglewood Drive, Edmonston, MD. http://www.communityforklift.org

7, Saturday, Residential Tree Planting workshop (for homeowners to learn how to plant trees), 10:00 am to 12:30 pm, free but must register, Casey Trees, 3030 12th Street, NE Washington DC http://www.caseytrees.org

7, Saturday, 9:30 to 4:30; 8, Sunday, 9:30 to 4:30, 9, Monday, 9:30 to 3:00 pm, Orchid Diagnostic and Repotting Clinic With Carol Allen, free but for a fee she will repot your orchid. Behnke Nurseries Garden Center, 11300 Baltimore Road, Beltsville, MD. http://www.behnkes.com/

7, Saturday through 9, Monday, National Capital Orchid Society Show and Sale at Behnke Nurseries Garden Center, 11300 Baltimore Road, Beltsville, MD. Free admission. http://www.ncos.us/fallshow.htm

7, Saturday, Beginner Hands-On Bonsai Class, fee and must register, 2:00 to 4:00 pm, Behnke Nurseries Garden Center, 11300 Baltimore Road, Beltsville, MD.  http://behnkes.com/

7, Saturday, Fall is Here: Prepare for Winter, 10:00 to 11:00 am, free and open to the public, in the demonstration garden, Ida Lee Park, Leesburg, Va. Hosted by Loudoun County Master Gardeners, http://www.loudouncountymastergardeners.org

7, Saturday, Pink Day at Meadows Farm to celebrate breast cancer awareness month. Check website for events and locations. http://www.meadowsfarms.com

7, Saturday, Free lectures at 10:00 am at various locations of Merrifield Garden Center, no registration necessary. See website for street addresses. http://www.merrifieldgardencenter.com

  • Merrifield: Container Garden for Fall and Winter
  • Fair Oaks: Fantastic Foliage: Trees
  • Gainesville: Build a Low Maintenance Garden

7, Saturday, Lecture: From Now to Wow: Pathways to Good Design, 8:30 to 12:30 pm. Fee and must register. Marianne Wilburn and Pam Beck will teach you how to find your path from the less than ideal yard into the garden you have longed for. Green Spring Gardens, 4603 Green Spring Road, Alexandria, VA. http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/greenspring

8, Sunday, Nature’s Interconnectors: Fall Color, Fruits, Buds, Bark, 1:00 to 2:30 pm. No fee for members, non-members pay the admission fee, be prepared to walk outside. Adkins Arboretum, 12610 Eveland Road, Ridgely, MD. http://www.adkinsarboretum.org

8, Sunday, Free lectures at 1:00 pm at various locations of Merrifield Garden Center, no registration necessary. See website for street addresses. http://www.merrifieldgardencenter.com

  • Fair Oaks: Creating a Deer Resistant Garden
  • Gainesville: Perennial Plant Pairings

9, Monday, Lecture: A History of Spices, 10:30 to noon, free and must register, U.S. Botanic Garden, 245 First Street, SW, Washington DC. http://www.usbg.gov

10, Tuesday, Simpson Garden Stroll, 11:00 am to noon, free and no registration necessary. Hosted by Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia. Simpson Park Demonstration Gardens, 420 E. Monroe Street, Alexandria. http://www.mgnv.org

10, Tuesday, 12, Thursday, and 13, Friday, Gardener’s Focus: Fall Design, 2:45 to 3:30, fee is the admission fee to Hillwood. Hillwood Museum and Garden, 4155 Linnean Avenue, NW Washington DC.  http://www.hillwoodmuseum.org

10, Tuesday, Dried Flower Wreaths, 10 to noon, fee and must register, Brookside Gardens, 1800 Glenallan Avenue, Wheaton, MD. http://www.brooksidegardens.org

10, Tuesday, The Art of Growing Food, by Ellen Ecker Ogden, 7:30 pm. Vollmer Center Auditorium, Cylburn Arboretum, 4915 Greenspring Avenue, Baltimore, MD. Fee for nonmembers, members of the Horticultural Society of Maryland are free. Hosted by the Maryland Horticultural Society. http://www.mdhorticulture.org

11, Wednesday, Tree Selection, Planting and Care, 7:00 to 8:30 pm, free, no registration necessary. In partnership with the Alexandria Beatification Commission, hosted by the Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia, Mt. Vernon Recreation Center, 2701 Commonwealth Avenue, Alexandria, VA. http://www.mgnv.org

11, Wednesday, Demonstration: Orchid Repotting and Answers to Orchid Culture, 10:30 am to 11:15 am. Free and no registration required. Repeated again at 11:45. U.S. Botanic Garden, 245 First Street, SW, Washington DC. http://www.usbg.gov

11, Wednesdays in the Garden Series: Growing Garlic and its History, 7:00 to 8:00 pm. Arlington Central Library, 1015 N. Quincy Street, Arlington, VA. Taught by Arlington Food Assistance Center volunteers and VCE Master Gardeners, free, no registration required. http://www.library.arlingtonva.us. http://www.mgnv.org

12, Thursday, Tour: Operational Behind the Scenes at the USBG Production Facility, 10:30 to 11:30 am, free and must register, (meet at the production facility, address is on usbg.gov website when register)  http://www.usbg.gov

12, Thursday, Fall Lecture Series: Sculpture in the Garden: A Retrospective with Mary Ann Mears, 10:30 am, fee and must register, Ladew Topiary Gardens, 3535 Jarrettsville Pike, Monkton, MD. http://www.ladewgardens.com

13, Friday, Garden Talk: Composting Fall Leaves, 2-3 pm. Fee and must register. Green Spring Gardens, 4603 Green Spring Road, Alexandria, VA. http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/greenspring

14, Saturday, The Birds and the Bees: Cleaning, Housing and Feeding for the Fall/Winter, free, 2:00 pm. Behnke Nurseries Garden Center, 11300 Baltimore Road, Beltsville, MD.  http://behnkes.com/

14, Saturday, Composting and what to do with all that leaf and yard waste, 10:30 to noon, free and advance registration requested. Fairlington Community Center, 3308 S. Stafford Street, Arlington. Hosted by Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia. http://www.mgnv.org

14, Saturday, and 15, Sunday, Arborfest: Fall Festival and Plant Sale (family event). 9:00 am to 4:30 pm each day, admission fee. Blandy (state arboretum of Virginia), 400 Blandy Farm Lane, Boyce, VA. http://www.blandy.virginia.edu

14, Saturday, Chinese Kitchen Garden: Family Recipes, 1 to 2 pm. Wendy Kiang-Spray will show you how to prepare different Asian vegetables for cooking. Fee and must register. Green Spring Gardens, 4603 Green Spring Road, Alexandria, VA. http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/greenspring

14, Saturday, Garden Tour: Our Woods and Ponds, 10:00 to 11:30 am. Fee and must register. Green Spring Gardens, 4603 Green Spring Road, Alexandria, VA. http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/greenspring

14, Saturday, Regional School Garden Summit, 9:00 am to 7:00 pm, free but must register. DC Greens will host the first annual regional school garden summit to nurture emerging regional network of non-profits, schools, and government agencies interested in capacity and network building around school gardens. Ludlow-Taylor Elementary School, 659 G Street NE, Washington DC. http://www.dcgreens.org/summit

14, Saturday, Under the Arbor: Chile Celebration, 1:00 to 4:00 pm. Free. Presented by the Herb Society of America, National Herb Garden at the U.S. National Arboretum, 3501 New York Avenue, NE, Washington, DC. http://www.usna.usda.gov

14, Saturday, Free lectures at 10:00 am at various locations of Merrifield Garden Center, no registration necessary. See website for street addresses. http://www.merrifieldgardencenter.com

  • Merrifield: Plan and Plant for Spring: Trees and Shrubs
  • Fair Oaks: Amazing Color with Bulbs and Companion Plants
  • Gainesville: Selecting Shrubs for Fall Foliage

14, Saturday, Growing and Healing with Common Garden Herbs by Shannon Winston, 10:00 to noon, fee and must register, Brookside Gardens, 1800 Glenallan Avenue, Wheaton, MD. http://www.brooksidegardens.org

14, Saturday, Chrysanthemum display at the Brookside Gardens conservatories from October 14 to November 25. 10 to 5 daily and free (South conservatory closed Monday November 13). Brookside Gardens, 1800 Glenallan Avenue, Wheaton, MD. http://www.brooksidegardens.org

15, Sunday, Lecture on Designing for Maximum Curb Appeal, 1:00 pm, free and no registration necessary. Gainesville location of Merrifield Garden Center. See website for street address. http://www.merrifieldgardencenter.com

16, Monday, Putting Your Garden to Bed, 7 to 8:30 pm. Beatley Library, 5005 Duke Street, Alexandria, VA. Free and advance registration requested. Hosted by the Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia. This is being offered again on Saturday, October 21, from 10:30 am to noon at the Fairlington Community Center.  http://www.mgnv.org

16, Monday, Lecture: From Front Yard to Rock Garden: Step by Step by Sharee Solow, owner of Solow Horticultural Designs. 8:00 pm, free and open to the public. Hosted by the Silver Spring Garden Club (which has a Facebook page) at Brookside Gardens, 1800 Glenallan Avenue, Wheaton, MD.

17, Tuesday, Workshop: Herbaceous Perennial Division, 9:00 am. Fee and must register. Ladew Topiary Garden, 3535 Jarrettsville Pike, Monkton, MD. http://www.ladewgardens.com

17, Tuesday, Webinar: Nonstop plants making a 365 garden, with Margaret Roach, 6:30 to 8:00 pm ET. Fee and must register, https://awaytogarden.com/garden-webinars-margaret-roach/

17, Tuesday; 19, 20, 24, 26, 27, and 31. Gardener’s Focus: Specialty Mums at Hillwood, 2:45 to 3:30 pm. admission fee. Hillwood Museum and Garden, 4155 Linnean Avenue, NW Washington DC.  http://www.hillwoodmuseum.org

19, Thursday, Fall Lecture Series: The art of gardening at Chanticleer with Bill Thomas (with book sale), 10:30 am, fee and must register. Ladew Topiary Garden, 3535 Jarrettsville Pike, Monkton, MD. http://www.ladewgardens.com

20, Friday, Perennial Plant Conference, all day. Fee and must register. The Scott Arboretum at the Swarthmore College Campus, PA.  http://www.perennialplantconference.org

20, Friday, Lecture: Orchids in the Office, free and must register, noon to 1:00 pm. U.S. Botanic Garden, 245 First Street, SW, Washington DC. http://www.usbg.gov

21, Saturday, Putting Your Garden to Bed, 10:30 to noon. Free and advance registration requested. Fairlington Community Center, 3308 S. Stafford Street, Arlington. Hosted by the Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia. This is being offered again on Monday, October 16, from 7:00 to 8:30 pm at the Beatley Library.  http://www.mgnv.org

21, Saturday, and 22, Sunday, Loudoun County Fall Farm Tour, 10:00 am to 4:00 pm each day, free, self-guided, see website for map. http://www.loudounfarms.org/farmtour

21, Saturday, Saturday in the Garden: The Right Tree: Planting, Care, and Maintenance, 9:00 to noon. Hosted by the Master Gardeners of Prince William County. Demonstration Garden, 9535 Linton Hall Road, Bristow, VA. https://www.mgpw.org/

21, Saturday, Easy Wreath Making and Porch Pot Basic, Decorating in a Day, 2:00 pm, free. Behnke Nurseries Garden Center, 11300 Baltimore Road, Beltsville, MD. http://www.behnkes.com/

21, Saturday, Soup ‘n Walk: Dazzling fall color guided walk and then a vegetarian lunch (soup). 11:00 to 1:30 pm. Fee and must register. Adkins Arboretum, 12610 Eveland Road, Ridgely, MD. http://www.adkinsarboretum.org

21, Saturday, Master Class Program: Planning Spring, presented by David Culp, 9:15 am to 12:15 pm. Fee and must register. Green Spring Gardens, 4603 Green Spring Road, Alexandria, VA. http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/greenspring

21, Saturday, Free lectures at 10:00 am at various locations of Merrifield Garden Center, no registration necessary. See website for street addresses. http://www.merrifieldgardencenter.com

  • Merrifield: Shrubs for Small Spaces
  • Gainesville: Spring Blooming Bulbs

22, Sunday, Oatlands Harvest Festival, 10:00 to 4:00 pm. Admission fee. Oatlands Historic House and Garden, 20850 Oatlands Plantation Lane, Leesburg, VA. http://www.oatlands.org

22, Sunday, McCrillis Gardens Sunday walks with a guide, 2 to 3:00 pm, free. Meet at the McCrillis house, 6910 Greentree Road, Bethesda, MD. Hosted by Brookside Gardens staff, http://www.brooksidegardens.org

22, Sunday, Lecture: Finding Peace of Mind in your Garden, 1:00 pm, free and no registration necessary, Gainesville location of Merrifield Garden Center. See website for street address. http://www.merrifieldgardencenter.com

22, Sunday, Belle Grove Barn Series: Williamsburg Holiday Display. Create Williamsburg style swags and mantel decoration. Hosted by the Northern Shenandoah Valley Master Gardeners. Belle Grove Plantation, 336 Belle Grove Road, Middletown, VA. http://www.bellegrove.org  and  http://www.nsvmga.org

24, Tuesday, Tour: Rediscover Bartholdi Park, 10:30 to 11:30 am. free and must register, meet at the Bartholdi Park fountain, U.S. Botanic Garden, 245 First Street, SW, Washington DC. http://www.usbg.gov

24, Tuesday, Champion Tree Tour, a bus tour of champion trees in the region, fee includes charter bus transportation and drink, bring a lunch. 10:00 am to 3:00 pm. Fee and registration required. Brookside Gardens, 1800 Glenallan Avenue, Wheaton, MD. http://www.brooksidegardens.org

25, Wednesday, Conservation Landscapes and Rain Gardens, 4 to 7:00 pm, fee and must register. At Brookside Gardens, hosted by the Department of Environmental Protection. Brookside Gardens, 1800 Glenallan Avenue, Wheaton,MD. https://apm.activecommunities.com/montgomerycounty/Activity_Search/33635

25, Wednesday, Webinar: Garden Writing for Everyone, with Margaret Roach, 6:30 to 8:00 pm ET. Fee and must register, https://awaytogarden.com/garden-webinars-margaret-roach/

25, Wednesday, Native Orchids, 1:00 to 2:30 pm. Free for members, non-members pay admission fee. Must register. Adkins Arboretum, 12610 Eveland Road, Ridgely, MD. http://www.adkinsarboretum.org

25, Wednesday, Glory of Fall Garden Tour with Phil Normandy, Brookside Gardens staff. Join Phil for a walking tour of Brookside gardens to see plants that have fall colors or bloom in the fall. 1:00 to 2:30 pm. Fee and must register. Brookside Gardens, 1800 Glenallan Avenue, Wheaton, MD. http://www.brooksidegardens.org

25, Wednesday, Tour: Phenomenal Plants: The USBG Medicinal Plants Collection, 10:45 to 11:30 am, free and must register, U.S. Botanic Garden, 245 First Street, SW, Washington DC. http://www.usbg.gov

25, Wednesday, Lecture: Woody Plants and Plant Explorations by Kevin Conrad, curator at the National Arboretum, 7:30 pm. Free and open to the public. Beltsville Garden Club, James E. Duckworth School, 11201 Evans Trail, Beltsville, MD. http://www.beltsvillegardenclub.org

26, Thursday, Webinar: Kerry Ann Mendez, owner of Perennially Yours, will be talking with guest Dr. Allan Armitage, author of Of Naked Ladies and Forget-Me-Nots, 2:00 pm ET. Fee and must register. https://pyours.com/webinar-allan-armitage

26, Thursday, Native Grasses and Sedges for the Home Garden, 7:00 to 8:30 pm. Free and advance registration requested. Burke Library, 4701 Seminary Road, Alexandria. Hosted by the Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia. http://www.mgnv.org

26, Thursday, Fall Lecture Series: Artificial Nature: Renaissance Rome and the Birth of Garden Design with John Marciari (with book sale). 10:30 am, fee and must register. Ladew Topiary Garden, 3535 Jarrettsville Pike, Monkton, MD. http://www.ladewgardens.com

27, Friday: Garden Talk: Get Ready for Winter, 2:00 to 3:00 pm. Fee and must register. Green Spring Gardens, 4603 Green Spring Road, Alexandria, VA. http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/greenspring

27, Friday, Guided Tour of Tudor Place Gardens, 10:30 to 11:30 am. Free for members, fee for non-members and walkins are welcome but can register in advance. Tudor Place, 1644 31st Street, NW, Washington DC.  http://www.tudorplace.org

28, Saturday, 9:30 to 4:30, and 29, Sunday, 9:30 to 4:30, Orchid diagnostic and repotting clinic with Carol Allen, free but for a fee she will repot your orchid. Behnke Nurseries Garden Center, 11300 Baltimore Road, Beltsville, MD. http://www.behnkes.com/

28, Saturday, Terrarium workshop, 10:00 am to noon, fee and must register. Blandy (state arboretum of Virginia), 400 Blandy Farm Lane, Boyce, VA. http://www.blandy.virginia.edu

28, Saturday, Brookside Gardens walks with a guide, 10:00 to 11:00 am. Free. Brookside Gardens, 1800 Glenallan Avenue, Wheaton, MD. http://www.brooksidegardens.org

28, Saturday, Showy Fall Natives and Companions, 10:30 am. to noon. Take a walk with Green Spring Gardens’ horticulturist, Brenda Skarphol to learn of some of Green Spring Gardens best fall natives, perennials, shrubs, and trees. Fee and must register. Green Spring Gardens, 4603 Green Spring Road, Alexandria, VA. http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/greenspring

28, Saturday, Floral Workshop: Wickedly Wonderful, 9:30 to 11:00 am. Create a festive Halloween floral design with a professional floral designer. Fee and must register. Green Spring Gardens, 4603 Green Spring Road, Alexandria, VA. http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/greenspring

28, Saturday, Two Season Garden Container Workshop, 2:00 to 3:30 pm. Create an outdoor container layered with early to mid-spring flower bulbs and winter interest with horticulturist Susan Eggerton. Fee and must register. Green Spring Gardens, 4603 Green Spring Road, Alexandria, VA. http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/greenspring

28, Saturday, Free lectures at 10:00 am at various locations of Merrifield Garden Center, no registration necessary. See website for street addresses. http://www.merrifieldgardencenter.com

  • Merrifield: Good Bug and Bad Bug
  • Fair Oaks: Just for Kids: Halloween Scavenger Hunt
  • Gainesville: Pet Friendly Plants

21, Saturday 1 to 5, and 22, Sunday, 10 to 3, chrysanthemum show at Fair Oaks location of Merrifield Garden Center, free, no registration necessary. See website for street address. Hosted by the Old Dominion and Potomac Chrysanthemum Societies. http://www.merrifieldgardencenter.com

Keep an eye out for

The White House opens up its gardens for tours in the spring and fall but you never know exactly what weekend until the last minute so keep an eye on this link below to find out when in October you can see the White House Gardens, free but timed tour. https://whitehouse.gov1.info/visit/white-house-garden-tour.html

And around the corner

1, November, Trees Matter Symposium, 7:30 am to 4:00 pm, fee and must register, Silver Spring Civic Center, Silver Spring. https://www.montgomeryparks.org/about/divisions/arboriculture/trees-matter-symposium

In a Vase on Monday: Marigolds for Autumn Color

Just good old fashioned marigolds but makes a great fall flower for the vase. Have been saving the seed each year and planting again until I forget where they originally came from. Easiest flower for saving seed. #inavaseonmonday

 

 

Drought-Tolerant Okra Offers Colorful Pods in the Garden

Yellow okra flower, similar to hibiscus

When I was at Rooting DC last February, I received six seeds of “African red okra” from a person who was talking about preserving seed diversity. Intrigued, I planted them later in the season just to see how they would grow. Four of the six seeds germinated resulting in two plants in the front garden in full sun and dry conditions and two in the back garden. The two in the back lived with the tomatoes in morning shade and afternoon sun and did not lack for water since the diva tomatoes get all the water they need.

All summer long I have been watching the okra grow in my Virginia garden. When people think of okra plants, they think “vegetable.” True, the immature pods are harvested for many types of dishes and are highly nutritious. Other parts are edible: the leaves can be eaten raw or cooked (like spinach) or used as a thickener in a stew. The seeds, if roasted and ground, can be used as a coffee substitute and if they are pressed, they can yield oil for cooking.

mature pod splits open to reveal seeds

I never intended to eat the pods, I just wanted to see how the plant would fare as a garden plant, a summer annual. Now in September, I think they have reached their full glory. These plants are about 4 feet tall with sparse foliage but plenty of pods and flowers. Because okra is a member of the hibiscus family, the small, yellow flowers look like hibiscus flowers but are not as flat. The thick pods are red and green, with five broad sides that taper into a point. The pod points upwards, much like a hat. Some pods have already matured enough to split open, revealing many dark black seeds (which mature to a soft gray later on). These I cut and put in a paper bag to prevent okra babies in my garden next year. The mature pods can be dried and used in floral arrangements such as wreaths. The young pods, if sliced in half, can be used to make flower designs by pressing the cut half into an ink pad and pressing down on paper.

Although not deer resistant, these plants have proven to be pest-resistant. I have read that okra plants are the most heat and drought-tolerant vegetable species in the world and they certainly were drought-tolerant in my garden. They are known to grow in poor soils with heavy clay and intermittent moisture. Technically okra is a perennial but in our zone 7 area, the plants will die from the cold this winter.

I like their strong vertical shape but because the foliage is sparse, they would work best if many were grown together yet with enough space to see the pods. There is actually quite a lot of diversity with okra with regards to the pods: they can be spiny, smooth, thin, thick, short, or long and have many more ridges than five. Pods can be green or green and red or burgundy red. However there is little diversity with the flowers, basically yellow or white. There are some varieties with gorgeous burgundy red pods that would be very interesting to try in the garden, especially in a mass up against a house, as a backdrop to other plants. Instead of growing okra for cooking, try growing okra as an ornamental garden plant and let the pods mature into unusual colors and shapes. The yellow flowers are a bonus!

young, immature pods are best for cooking

In a Vase on Monday: Salvia and Persian Carpet Zinnias

Persian carpet zinnias (Zinnia haageana) are one of my favorite annuals. Their yellow, orange, red, and burgundy colors appear in different patterns on each flower. These flowers provide a great contrast to the purple salvia ‘Rockin’ Playin’ the Blues’, a new Proven Winners introduction. #inavaseonMonday

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day: Heavenly Blue Morning Glory

Morning glories are well known and popular; they need little description. I plant them every year along a wooden banister. Their brightly colored faces greet me in the morning as I go to work. By summer’s end, they have become close friends with the other plants, clasping their thin tendrils around the branches of neighboring shrubs and perennials.

Growing morning glories from seed is easy if you bypass that hard seed coat. Either soak the seeds in water overnight before planting or nick the seed coat with a file to allow water to permeate. I start my seeds by soaking in water and then planting in a small plastic cup with soil, under lights in my house. I start in late April and transplant after last frost, typically after Mother’s Day here in Virginia. Morning glory seeds can be direct sown but I do not have luck with that. They do need support so make sure they are planted in a place where the tendrils can clasp on to something.

Each year, I try different varieties and this year it was Heavenly Blue from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. Heavenly Blue is an heirloom with bright blue flowers and a white throat. Other varieties have pink, white, magenta, or purple flower colors. I have even grown morning glories with variegated green and white foliage.

Morning glories have to be grown in full sun in order for the flowers to open up in the morning. They prefer well-drained soil, not too rich or one gets more foliage than flowers.

Even though I associate morning glories with summer they can often start blooming later in the season. Some people call them “back to school” vines because they seem to start (finally!) blooming in the fall.

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day occurs on the 15th of the month. Garden bloggers around the world post their articles about blossoms in their garden. #gardenbloggersbloomday

In a Vase on Monday: Rudbeckia ‘Cappucino’

When a flower is more than the vase, here is Rudbeckia ‘Cappucino’ grown from seed in my Virginia garden for today’s #inavaseonMonday. Seed courtesy of Renee’s Garden.