Time to Start Sowing Cool Season Flowers and Brassicas

mustard

This week on Facebook, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, a Virginia-based seed company, reminded us to start cabbage, celery, celeriac, cauliflower, and bulb onions indoors (from seed, under lights). However, if you are worried about the dreaded cabbage worm and other pests, Margaret Roach in New York just interviewed Don Tipping from Siskiyou Seeds on her website, awaytogarden.com, for tips on growing brassicas and preventing the cabbage worm. Brassicas are members of the cabbage or mustard family (Brassicaceae) that include cauliflower, collards, broccoli, kohlrabi, kale, and the mustards, among others. Popular vegetables to grow here but they are susceptible to cabbage worm and flea beetle.

love in a mist seed pod

Claire Jones, Maryland garden/floral designer, tells us on her blog, The Garden Diaries, that now is the time to sow cool season flowers. She has sown seeds of calendula, love in a mist, poppies, and bells of Ireland outside, directly into the soil, when it was workable.

If you are new to the concept of cool season flowers, check out Lisa Ziegler’s website, The Gardener’s Workshop. She wrote the book (quite literally) because she has a cut flower farm in Newport News, Virginia. Her website has two virtual workshops (a series of short videos): one to learn how to start seeds indoors and one on growing cool season flowers. Last year, I was inspired and grew snapdragons, calendula, and love in a mist.

love in a mist flowers

snapdragons

Seed Swaps: Share Your Seeds and Try New Varieties

It’s that time of year again — seed swaps! National Seed Swap Day is this Saturday, January 27, 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 organizations 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 to allow bulbs, rhizomes, and cuttings. Others include related activities such as learning to make handmade seed envelopes.

seeds of blackberry lilies are easy to pick and save

Each swap is different but usually organizers have established guidelines. They may prescribe the preferred container, 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 no one want seeds from invasive plants, the organizers should clarify the definition of an invasive plant in that geographic 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 for seed swaps in the Washington DC metro area (three are listed below for this Saturday). Kathy Jentz, owner of the Washington Gardener Magazine, which hosts two events annually, keeps a running list of seed swaps across the country.

tiger beans are not only easy to save but beautiful

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 it would require. 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. Talk with other organizers to learn how to determine guidelines for accepting seed, the process to avoid a mad stampede to the seed table, and possible fun activities or speakers. Determine if you want a simple seed swap or a community event with speakers and an agenda. Now is the time to attend the seed swaps this year in order to plan your swap for next year.

The Washington Gardener Seed Exchange occurs every January-February with speakers and door prizes at Brookside Gardens, Wheaton, MD, and Green Spring Gardens, Alexandria, VA. This year, the Brookside Garden event will be on Saturday, January 27 and the Green Spring Garden event will be on Saturday, February 10. These are from 12:30 to 4:00 pm. There is a fee and registration is done via brownpapertickets.com. 

The Northern Shenandoah Valley Master Gardeners will host a seed exchange with vendors and book/magazine swap at the Blandy Experimental Farm Library, Blandy Farm, Boyce, VA;  January 27, 10:00 am to 2:00 pm, free.

The Central Rappahannock Extension Master Gardeners will host a seed swap, with speakers, door prizes, and refreshments at Central Rappahannock Regional Library, 1201 Caroline Street (theater), Fredericksburg, VA, on Saturday January 27, 10:00 am to 3:00 pm, free.

Discovering New Gardening Products at the Mid-Atlantic Nursery Trade Show

As mentioned in my January 14th article, last week I attended the Mid-Atlantic Nursery Trade Show (MANTS), an annual horticulture trade show at the Baltimore Convention Center.  MANTS is one of the largest shows with over 10,000 attendees and almost a thousand companies exhibiting at booths in the Convention Center. Almost all the companies are wholesale, they are not selling directly to customers or to press such as myself. However, I enjoy attending because it provides me a glimpse of new products and plants and trends in the gardening world.

There were a few products that caught my eye and although the companies attended MANTS for wholesale orders, these companies below said they sell directly to gardeners through their websites.

Through a fellow Garden Writers Association member Ruth Rogers Clausen, I met Dorian Winslow, president of Womanswork, a women-owned, family business in New York.  Womanswork specializes in gloves that fit well for women (although they also sell gloves for men), gardening aprons, raffia and cotton hats, gardening tools, and related items such as hand cream and poison ivy soap. This company sells to garden centers and online directly to gardeners. For over 30 years, they have been specializing in gloves designed to fit women’s hands. Ruth attested to that, she has been using the products for so many years, she is even featured in their catalog. Not only was Dorian a delightful person to talk with but I also found out that she was interviewed recently by one of my favorite podcasters, Jennifer Jewell of Cultivating Place.

I also had the pleasure of seeing Mark Highland again, owner of Organic Mechanics Soil Company, a manufacturer and distributor of premier organic and peat-free potting soils and soil amendments in Pennsylvania. Gardeners can buy products from the site or search the retailer locator for stores. Mark gave a presentation at the Garden Bloggers Fling in June and generously gave us samples of Fuhgeddaboudit! Root Zone Feeder Packs. These small packages of fertilizer, mycorrhizae, biochar, azomite, and micronized oyster shell are placed under or next to a plant’s root ball when planting to help the plant get established. At MANTS, he gave a presentation on Biochar Blend, a bag of biochar, compost, worm castings, bone char, azomite, zeolite, alfalfa meal, and kelp meal. Biochar is highly porous carbon that improves nutrition absorption and provides a permanent home for beneficial soil biology. Biochar can help boost yields and increase the effectiveness of plants’ growth — the best part is that it only has be applied once and will last a lifetime. Mark also published Practical Organic Gardening: The No-Nonsense Guide to Growing Naturally (Cool Springs Press, 2017).

One company that was new to me was City Farmer USA, based in Nevada. Bruce Lebish, president, explained that his company sells raised, plastic planters that gardeners could order directly from their website. They have to be assembled (the instructions on their website look simple) and the models they had at MANTS were black with a strong oriental/bamboo texture because of their woven sides. 

Apparently this woven side is a patented ventilation design that promotes healthy root systems and the patented base retain water. The basket (where you put the soil and plants) is either 16 inches high from the ground or 30 inches, eliminating the need to bend down (may also be wheelchair friendly). There are different sizes and if you buy a few configurations and line them up they would create a very beautiful container appearance on a deck or patio.

More new products and plants in future articles!

Peg’s Picks: January 2018 New Gardening Books

Many of you are familiar with my Peg’s Picks of monthly gardening events which I post on my site at the end of each month and on the tab “Classes, Events.” With the new year, I am starting Peg’s Picks of gardening books. This will be posted each month on my site and in the new tab “New Books: 2018.”

I deliberately use “Peg’s Picks” to imply that these are not all gardening books but rather a subset: for adults (i.e., not children’s books), about gardening, and likely about gardening in this area of the world. These books are a collection of what I have heard about from colleagues and read about on publishers’ sites with a link to the publisher’s description of the book. If you have a book that will be published soon, please contact me and I would be happy to list it.

The following books have been or will be published in January 2018. Stay tuned for February’s list which is quite a bit longer!

The Bonsai Beginner’s Bible: The Definitive Guide to Choosing and Growing Bonsai by Peter Chan, publisher is Mitchell Beazley

The New Seed-Starters Handbook by Nancy Bubel and Jean Nick, revised, publisher is Rodale Books

Rodale’s Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening: the Indispensable Green Source for Every Gardener edited by Fern Marshall Brady, Barbara W. Ellis, and Ellen Phillips with Deborah L. Martin, publisher is Rodale Books

An Abundance of Flowers: More Great Flower Breeders of the Past by Judith M. Taylor, publisher is Swallow Press

The Colorful Dry Garden: Over 100 Flowers and Vibrant Plants for Drought, Desert and Dry Times by Maureen Gilmer, publisher is Sasquatch Books

New Cultivars of Wintergreen for Bright Red Berries

This week I attended the Mid-Atlantic Nursery Trade Show (MANTS), an annual horticulture trade show at the Baltimore Convention Center.  MANTS is one of the largest shows with over 10,000 attendees and almost a thousand companies exhibiting at booths in the Convention Center. The companies are wholesale, they are not selling directly to customers or the press like me. However, I enjoy attending because it provides me a glimpse of new products and plants and trends in the gardening world. This year, I discovered several new plants and gardening products which I will describe in future articles.

One plant in particular stood out for me.  I was struck by how many times I saw Gaultheria procumbens in containers either as a decoration or as a new cultivar. I have seen the species for sale in local nurseries before but they were always so small and scrawny I never bought them. The plants at MANTS were large with exceptionally large berries.

Briggs Nursery had a display of Berry Cascade and Cherry Berries. Cherry Berries has very large red berries, almost like cranberries, while Berry Cascade had berries appearing the entire length of the stem, forming a cascading effect. Because Briggs is a wholesale nursery, you would have to ask your garden center to order these if they don’t already have them in stock.

Cherry Berries

Berry Cascade

Monrovia, a plant company that sells directly to consumers via their website and through garden centers, had beautiful, healthy plants in their signature containers. Their website features two types: Very Berry and Red Baron. Red Baron has more and larger bright red berries.

Monrovia’s Gaultheria plants

I was lucky to find Peppermint Pearl at MANTS. Peppermint Pearl is unusual in that the berries first appear white in the fall and change to pink by early spring.

Peppermint Pearl, already turning from white to pink

Botanical Collections, a wholesaler of Kew pottery from London’s Royal Botanic Gardens, used the red berries of Gaultheria to show off their products.

Red berries add color to Botanical Collections’ pottery

And here is another photo of Gaultheria modeling this container.

Gaultheria procumbens, also known as teaberry or wintergreen, is a groundcover that prefers shade and moist, acidic soil (think “woodsy environment”). Hardy to zone 3, Gaultheria is an eastern North American native plant. It blooms small, white flowers in the summer followed by the berries in the fall. The berries can last until spring and are edible but it is the leaves that produce that aromatic wintergreen scent. Native Americans used the leaves to make a medicinal tea, hence teaberry, to alleviate pain (much like aspirin).  The name wintergreen comes from the fact that the plant is an evergreen. Its green leaves turn bronzy red or purple with the cold weather and remain above ground throughout the winter. Although the plant should be grown outdoors, its red berries make it a great holiday gift plant. Now that there are new cultivars with even larger berries, I will have to add Gaultheria to my Virginia garden as a native herb evergreen groundcover with winter interest!

Seed Catalogs, Seed Catalogs, Get Your Seed Catalog!!

In anticipation of a great 2018 gardening season,  I have updated my list of seed catalogs on my website under the tab “seed catalogs” to include 38 companies. Note that many catalogs are free, just contact the company. I am starting to get seed catalogs in the mail but I usually wait until I have a quorum and then we sit down to chat. They say “buy me, buy me, I am new and better!” and I say “Yes, I want, I want, I want BUT do I have enough space? Do I have enough time?” And so it goes for weeks….

Updated List of Local Garden Centers and Nurseries in Washington DC Metro Area

Johnson’s Florists and Garden Centers have announced that they will close their Washington DC location, effective on or before January 14, 2018. They have a letter about this on their website. Their other stores in Olney and Kensington will remain open. Of course they are putting the DC inventory on sale, so you may get good deals. The interesting piece of news is that they are offering a 20 percent discount on items in the Olney and Kensington stores from January 15 through December 31, 2018. You are eligible for the discount if you live in DC and in particular zip codes in Maryland and Virginia (you have to bring identification to prove this). For a list of the zip codes, see their letter on their website but basically they are the zip codes that are located in the Washington DC metro area.

I updated my list of local garden centers to reflect this. I also added two new plant shops in DC and deleted Cravens Nursery in Virginia and Garden World of Virginia, which are not in business anymore.