Spring-Blooming Crocus

crocus

crocus at Brookside Gardens

February brings the spring crocus. These ephemeral beauties are actually perennials. After blooming in February and March, they go dormant in the summer and reappear next spring. Crocus are grown from corms, which are relatively small and cheap compared to other spring blooming bulbs. Continue reading

Growing Potatoes: Easy, Fun, and Delicious!

leavesWhen you are ordering your seeds, don’t forget to order your seed potatoes. “Seed potatoes” are potatoes for planting, not a true seed. Think of them as “starter” tubers. Seed potatoes are planted outdoors about 4 weeks before the average last frost date. In the DC metro area, this is March and many gardeners use St. Patrick’s Day as the traditional day of planting but later in March is okay too. Continue reading

Sixteen Seed Starting Tips

marigoldsGardeners like to start seeds indoors to get a jump start on warm season plants such as tomatoes, peppers, and melons. They also start seeds indoors to be able to grow plants that have a longer growing season than the season in which they live. Before you begin to sow seeds indoors, read these sixteen seed starting tips to have as much success as possible. If you haven’t ordered your seeds yet, here is a list of seed companies. Continue reading

What Does GMO Really Mean for Home Gardeners?

no gmo signI love seed catalogs. Reading them is an easy, simple way to learn about growing plants and new plant introductions. I grow many of my edibles from seed — it’s fun, economical, and rewarding. But I am not willing to pay extra for the “non-GMO” or “GMO-free” claim I see on almost every catalog now. Even more importantly, seed catalogs should make it clear that they are offering non-GE seed, which isn’t even available to the home gardeners anyway so they are not really “offering” any more than the next seed catalog. Continue reading

Winter Blooming Witch Hazel

Early Bird

Early Bird

One of my favorite winter bloomers is witch hazel, a small shrub like tree.  The flowers themselves are only a few inches, but their unique shape and ability to cover dark, bare stems with flashes of color add quite a bit of excitement in winter gardens. The flowers are really clusters of four petals shaped like thin ribbons emanating from a dark, leathery base called a calyx. Depending on the cultivar, these inch to two inch long ribbons are translucent yellow or mustard yellow, red/orange or brown/orange, or scarlet red or rust red. On warm winter days, the ribbons unfurl but as temperatures drop, the ribbons curl back as a protective mechanism against the cold. Continue reading

Appreciate Your Houseplant Today

Small Arrowhead Plant

Today, January 10, 2021, is Houseplant Appreciation Day. To celebrate, consider purchasing one (or all) of these low-light, low-maintenance houseplants. Houseplants should be appreciated — they have a lot to offer us.  Houseplants improve air quality by removing chemicals and carbon dioxide and supplying oxygen. Houseplants provide a positive psychological impact by increasing memory retention and concentration and reducing stress. They add beauty and color and can be used as a structural component to divide a room. Continue reading

Growing and Cooking with Oregano and Marjoram

Flowering Greek Oregano

When I give my presentation on culinary herbs I always talk about oregano and marjoram together. I treat them as cousins, and in this country, they are most known for the “oregano” flavor. Although we use the term “oregano” for a specific type of culinary herb, it really is a flavor produced by different types of plants. Some of these are not related to what we think of as the oregano plant.

Continue reading

Seed Sources for Flowers, Vegetables, and Herbs

Time to ring in the New Year with 2021 garden plans, including more seed packets! Below is a list of online seed companies as well as companies that still publish and mail seed catalogs. Many of these catalogs are free.

Continue reading

A Gardener’s Christmas Poem

I read an old version of A Gardener’s Christmas in a Garden Club of Virginia journal. The author is unknown so I took a few liberties to bring it up to date. Merry Christmas! Continue reading

Herbs for Holiday Cooking, Baking, as well as Decorating

pie

pumpkin pie with sage and mums

When I think of herbs for Christmas, I always think of the Simon and Garfunkel Scarborough Fair song:  “Are you going to Scarborough Fair? Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme.” Sure there other herbs and plenty of spices but these herbs seem to be the most popular during the holidays. I think it is because these plants are still green in the garden. In my zone 7 Virginia garden, I can still harvest in December to use in the kitchen. I also use mint for the holidays which overwinter well in containers. Continue reading