Tag Archives: Brookside Gardens

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day: Pineapple Sage

Currently, my pineapple sage plants (Salvia elegans) are blooming in my garden, their bright scarlet flowers are attracting butterflies and hummingbirds. Members of the salvia or sage family, pineapple sage plants are herbaceous, tender perennial herbs. I have two pineapple sage plants, which I bought last year as tiny babies, and I often use their leaves and flowers in the kitchen.

From spring to fall this year, these plants grew fast, developing many lateral branches. Now they are 4-foot high shrubs, several feet wide. All season long, I harvested the leaves and used them fresh as well as dried them to store them. The leaves add a fruity flavor to many different types of beverages (makes a great hot tea), jellies, baking (line a pan with leaves before pouring the pound cake batter or cut leaves and add to batter), muffins, cookies, chicken dishes and chicken salads, butter, cream cheese, ice cream, sorbet, smoothies, etc.

From September to now, these large shrubs are blooming beautiful edible flowers that can be cut for a vase or used in the kitchen as well. Interestingly, the buds begin upside down. Red petals poke through a nodding green flower stalk and then as the stalk moves up more petals poke through until the stalk straightens up to be raceme of bright red tubular flowers. Pineapple sage flowers have the same type of sage or salvia bilabiate (two lips) flowers but larger. The flowers can be used as a garnish, frozen in ice cubes, beverages, fruit salads, butters, cookies, cupcakes, muffins, baked goods, and cream cheese.

In my garden, nothing seems to bother my pineapple sage plants. They are in moist, well-drained soil but one gets more sunlight than the other and I noticed that it has grown much bigger. They seem to prefer light dappled sun or morning sun and afternoon shade. They need space so they it is best to plant them in the back of the garden as long as there is a path to be able to pick the leaves and flowers. I have read that they are hardy to zone 7 and I have also read that they are hardy to zone 8. Surviving the winter is a 50-50 proposition here in my zone 7 Northern Virginia garden. Last winter, I did not do anything to protect them but the winter was mild so I was lucky that they survived. This year, after the frost kills the leaves, I will cut the plants back to stubbles and put down several inches of mulch to ensure their survival. If I had a sun room or a greenhouse, I could have taken cuttings a few months ago to pot up and bring inside.

If they don’t make it, I will buy more next year and will keep an eye out for cultivars such as Golden Delicious, which has golden yellow leaves; Tangerine, which has rounded leaves and a citrus scent; Frieda Dixon, which has salmon pink flowers; and Honeydew Melon, which has melon-scented red flowers with lime green leaves. Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, MD, has a stand of Golden Delicious plants that are blooming right now.

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

Philadelphia Flower Show Celebrates Holland’s Contribution to Gardening and Landscape Design

artist rendition, courtesy of GMR Design LLC

artists rendition, courtesy of GMR Designs

Now is the time to think about planning your trip to the Philadelphia Flower Show, the nation’s largest and longest running flower show in North America. This year the show will run from Saturday, March 11, through Sunday, March 19. The theme is “Holland: Flowering the World.”  Celebrate the beauty and ingenuity of Dutch culture, from vivid flower fields to innovative eco-design. The Philadelphia Flower Show will transport guests to the rainbow landscapes of tulips, hyacinths, and daffodils and the cut-flower and bulb markets that have shaped Dutch history. The Flower Show will explore the innovation that has defined Holland’s approach to its unique landscape from windmills–one of the earliest uses of natural energy–to 21st century ecodomes and the Dutch Wave movement, which takes a natural and sustainable approach to landscape design. Leading designers from Holland, including Nico Wissing, Bart Hoes, Bart Bresser, and New Jersey born Carrie Preston will share their extraordinary floral and garden styles in major exhibits at the Flower Show.

artist rendition, courtesy of GMR Design LLC

artist rendition, courtesy of GMR Design LLC

The Flower Show is held at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, 12th and Arch Street, but you don’t have to drive by yourself. In the Washington DC metropolitan area, there are several nurseries, garden clubs, Master Gardener groups, public gardens, and park systems that offer day trips to the Convention Center. Green Spring Gardens, Brookside Gardens, and Greenstreet Gardens offer bus trips, contact them directly for more information. The Washington Gardener magazine offers two trips on different days: one from Behnkes Nursery and one from Silver Spring. Check out the various venues for date/time of departure, meeting locations, and prices which could include admission ticket, food, or entertainment. This is a walk-till-you-drop event: wear tennis shoes and bring your camera!

Philadelphia Flower Show http://www.theflowershow.com

Green Spring Gardens http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/greenspring

Brookside Gardens http://www.montgomeryparks.org/brookside

Greenstreet Gardens http://www.greenstreetgardens.com

Behnkes Nurseries http://www.behnkes.com

Washington Gardener magazine, Kathy Jentz, http://www.washingtongardener.blogspot.com

Winter is Witch Hazel Viewing Time in the Washington DC Metropolitan Area

Early Bird

Early Bird

One of my favorite winter bloomers is witch hazel, a small shrub like tree.  The flowers themselves are small, only a few inches big, 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.



Witch hazels are deciduous, about 15 to 18 feet tall and wide, with wavy-edged, hazel-like leaves. In the fall, the leaves turn a striking yellow, sometimes with orange or red tinges, before dropping to reveal an open vase structure.

There are many Hamamelis species but the more common ones are: Hamamelis japonica (Japanese witch hazel); H. mollis (Chinese witch hazel); H. vernalis (Ozark witch hazel); and H. virginiana (common or Virginia witch hazel). The first three are hardy to zone 4 or 5 while the last is hardy to zone 3. Common witch hazel is known for its use as an astringent in cosmetics. Hamamelis x intermedia is a cross between H. japonica and H. mollis – many cultivars have been bred from this to extend the flower color range as well as fall color of leaves.



Witch hazels like well-drained but evenly moist soil. They are forest understory plants, small enough for suburban properties but possibly requiring shade from the summer sun unless one can guarantee against drought. Usually they are not troubled by pests or diseases.

Witch hazels plants are easy to find and purchase at local nurseries in the spring but now is the time to view them in gardens in order to select your favorite flower color.  In Alexandria, Virginia, Green Spring Gardens has more than 200 Hamamelis plants. Green Spring Gardens’ witch hazel collection became an official Plant Collections Network (PCN) collection in 2006. PCN, a part of the American Public Gardens Association, is a network of botanical gardens and arboreta that coordinate preservation of germplasm. Member gardens make the germplasm available for studies, evaluation, breeding, and research. While Green Spring Gardens has the most extensive collection in the Washington DC area, you also can see them in bloom in other public gardens such as Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, Maryland, and the U.S. National Arboretum in Washington DC. Check out these perfect plants for the winter garden today so you can add few to your own garden this summer.

Hamamelis intermedia "Hiltingbury'; Hiltingbury WH


All photos are from Green Spring Gardens, courtesy of the Fairfax County Park Authority.

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day: Blueberry Ice Bougainvillea

Blueberry Ice bougainvilleaIt’s Gardener Bloggers Bloom Day, the 15 of every month. Winter is a good time to visit the local conservatories to get one’s fix of “Bloom.” Recently I discovered Blueberry Ice bougainvillea at the Brookside Gardens conservatory in Wheaton, Maryland. This plant fascinated me because it was exactly opposite of the type of bougainvillea I grew up with in the Philippines, Thailand, and Indonesia. In the tropics, we had bougainvillea vines climbing up the sides of houses and buildings, as common as wisteria is where I now live in Northern Virginia. The green leaves and papery thin salmon flowers (really modified leaves called bracts) colored the buildings for months at a time.  So I was intrigued by Blueberry Ice at the conservatory because it had cream/green variegated leaves, it was only about 2 feet tall, and it had bracts the color of grape popsicles. Think of how useful this small tropical plant could be here in the Washington DC metropolitan area. Grown as a summer annual, Blueberry Ice would thrive in a hanging basket, window box, or container. It will scoff at our heat and humidity and reward us with color all summer long. I love it when a new cultivar changes the paradigm and gives new meaning to what a bougainvillea could be in my garden.

Philadelphia Flower Show in Five Weeks!!

2015FSposterNow is the time to book your trip and buy your tickets to the Philadelphia Flower Show, the nation’s largest and longest running flower show in North America. This year, the theme is “Celebrate the Movies.” From Saturday, February 28, through Sunday, March 8, the Flower Show will “Celebrate the Movies” with the world’s great floral and garden designers taking inspiration from the world’s great cinema. All proceeds from the Flower Show will support the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society and its acclaimed urban greening programs including City Harvest.

The Flower Show is held at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, 12th and Arch Street, but you don’t have to drive there by yourself. In the Washington DC metropolitan area, there are several coach bus trips that make it easy to access the show. Coach bus companies offer trips, and many nurseries, garden clubs, Master Gardener groups, public gardens, and park systems offer day trips to the Convention Center. Green Spring Gardens, Brookside Gardens, and Greenstreet Gardens offer bus trips, contact them directly for more information. The Washington Gardener magazine offers two trips on different days: one from Behnkes Nursery in Maryland and one from Silver Spring. Check out the various venues for date/time of departure, meeting locations, and prices which could include admission ticket, food, or entertainment. This is a walk-till-you-drop event: wear tennis shoes and bring your camera!

Philadelphia Flower Show http://www.theflowershow.com

Green Spring Gardens http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/greenspring

Brookside Gardens http://www.montgomeryparks.org/brookside

Greenstreet Gardens http://www.greenstreetgardens.com

Washington Gardener magazine


Peg’s Picks December Gardening Events in the Washington DC Metro Area

Many public gardens and historic homes are decorated for Christmas and have wreath making classes, open houses, and gift shops full of goodies. Here is just an example of “green” holiday happenings in the Washington DC metropolitan area for December.November2014 082

American Horticultural Society at River Farm

December 13 Saturday Holiday Open House from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm (mansion will be decorated for Christmas); There is a holiday tree display from December 1 through December 24, both free; 7931 E. Boulevard Drive, Alexandria, VA 22308; (703) 768-5700; http://www.ahs.org

Brookside Gardens

The Garden of Lights is cancelled for 2014 due to construction but the Conservatory Winter Display is open from 12/6 to 1/11 and the Garden Railway Exhibit is open from 11/28 to 1/11, free; 1800 Glenallan Avenue, Wheaton, MD 20902; (301) 962-1400; http://www.montgomeryparks.org/brookside/

Green Spring Gardens

Sunday, December 7, noon to 4:00 pm, Gardeners’ Holiday Open House, free but must register and pay for puppet show and trackless train ride, have a gingerbread house contest; 4603 Green Spring Road, Alexandria, VA 22312; (703) 642-5173; http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/greenspring/November2014 085

Hillwood Museum and Gardens

Decorated for Christmas and in December, every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday, staff horticulturist Bill Johnson gives a 20-minute tour focusing on the “bones” of the winter garden; Fee and register in advance; 4155 Linnean Avenue, NW, Washington DC 20008; (202) 686-5807; http://www.hillwoodmuseum.org

Mt. Vernon Estate and Gardens

Decorated for Christmas with special activities all month long.The “Garden and Groves: George Washington’s Landscape at Mt. Vernon” exhibit is inside and the admission is included with the purchase of the general admission ticket;3200 Mt. Vernon Memorial highway, Mt. Vernon, VA 22121; (703) 780-2000; http://www.mountvernon.orgNovember2014 078

Oatlands Historic House and Gardens

Decorated for Christmas in 1940s style, many activities in December; Admission fee and closed on 12/24 and 12/25; 20850 Oatlands Plantation Lane, Leesburg, VA 20175; (703) 777-3174; http://www.oatlands.org

Tudor Place Historic House and Garden

The mansion is decorated for Christmas and there are many activities in December (fee). The Holidays Through History Open House is on Saturday, December 6; includes Dumbarton House, Anderson House, Woodrow Wilson House, and Tudor Place. These homes are decorated for Christmas; walk among the homes or ride a shuttle bus, free with ticket. Must register in advance, fee; 1644 31st Street, Washington, DC 20007; (202) 965-0400; http://www.tudorplace.orgNovember2014 076

U.S. Botanic Garden

Season’s Greetings Exhibit: garden railway model trains, seasonal plant displays, replicas of the capital’s landmark buildings, and one of the largest indoor decorated trees in the area. Free; 245 First Street SW, Washington DC 20024; (202) 225-8333; http://www.usbg.gov


(December is also the time for craft fairs. These photos are from the Vienna Art and Craft show sponsored by the Northern Virginia Handcrafters Guild, this Thanksgiving weekend. These orchids and the basket of fruit are clay, about two inches tall and handmade by Wanpen Yongvanichjit, Nid’s Crafts, http://nidscrafts.blogspot.com. When I was young and lived in Thailand, my mother used to buy orchids in similar crates and hang them outside on the rubber tree.)



Peg’s Picks November Gardening Events Washington DC Area

As the gardening season ends, look to botanical or public gardens for classes and workshops. These organizations have other events as well; I just picked a few “edibles.”

Saturday, November 1, 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm, Inviting Native Pollinators, Green Spring Gardens, 4603 Green Spring Road, Alexandria, VA; (703) 642-5173; Fee required; must register; http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/greenspring

Saturday, November 8, 1:00 – 4:00 pm, Homeowner Rain Garden Workshop, Green Spring Gardens; Fee required; must register; http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/greenspring

Saturday, November 8, 1:30 – 2:30 pm, Fun with Winter Containers, Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, 9750 Meadowlark Gardens Court, Vienna, VA 22182; (703) 255-3631, Free with paid admission to garden, http://www.nvrpa.org/park/meadowlark_botanical_gardens

Saturday, November 8, 10:30 to noon, Putting the Garden to Bed for Winter, Fairlington Community Center and Park, 3308 South Stafford Street, Arlington, VA; (703) 228-6414; presented by Northern Virginia Master Gardeners, Free but must register, http://www.mgnv.org

Wednesday, November 12, noon to 1:30, Cooking demonstration: Winter Greens (Brookside has a series of cooking demonstrations; I thought this would be helpful because gardeners often don’t know what to do with their winter greens once they have grown them), Brookside Gardens, 1800 Glenallan Avenue, Wheaton, MD 20902; (301) 962-1400; Fee required and must register, http://www.montgomeryparks.org/brookside

persimmon tree in neighbor's yard  Virginia

persimmon tree in neighbor’s yard


Peg’s Picks for July Events

FRONTmdfarmtourfinal2014July is the time to visit the public gardens, many of which have tours. Because there are too many to list here, see the tab or page above entitled “Public Gardens” and call to find out if a garden near you has guided tours and/or events. July is also National Park and Recreation month, sometimes local parks have demonstration gardens, classes, and tours. Below are just a few edible gardening related events this month.

Brookside Gardens, 1800 Glenallan Avenue, Wheaton, MD, has a catalog of classes for the season and the July edible related ones are below. Great place to take kids too. Must register, fee involved; (301) 962-1451.
July 10, 10:00 am to 11:30 am, Dealing with deer
July 16, noon to 1:30 pm cooking class, truly tomatoes
July 19, 9:00 to 10:30 am, Low Tunnel construction Demonstration

University of Maryland Extension’s “Grow it Eat It” has a free summer open house on Saturday, July 26, 8:30 to 1:00 pm at the Agriculture History Farm Park, 18410 Muncaster Road, Derwood, MD.

The Montgomery County Farm Tour and Harvest Sale will take place on Saturday and Sunday July 26 & 27. Most farms will be open 10:00 am to 4:00 pm both days. A map and brochure are on the website.

Open to the public, the Takoma Horticultural Club will have a speaker at their meeting on Wednesday July 16, 7:30 to 9:00 pm, Historic Takoma Building, 7328 Carroll Avenue, Takoma Park, MD. The speaker is Mike McConkey, who will talk about growing and propagating fruit trees. Mike owns Edible Landscaping, a nursery in Afton, VA, that specializes in edible fruit trees/shrubs for the Mid-Atlantic area, see http://ediblelandscaping.com).

The Virginia Cooperative Extension in Prince William County has “Saturdays in the Garden.” Every month from April through October the master gardeners will host an event from 9:00 am to noon at the teaching garden at St. Benedict Monastery, 9535 Linton Hall Road, Bristow, VA. Free but must register in advance, (703) 792-7747. On July 12, there is a lecture on simple ways to use water wisely in your landscape plus a talk on the fall vegetable garden, tips for planting the fall vegetable garden and extending the season.

The Arlington Central Library hosts the “Garden Talks” series of free, one-hour presentations every Wednesday evening from 7:00 pm to 8:00 pm starting in mid-March through the end of October. The web site lists the topics and also serves as a resource for gardening in the area.
1015 N. Quincy Street, Arlington, VA; (703) 228-5990.

July 2: no events
July 9: Gardening with and for kids
July 16: Foraging the wild edibles
July 23: (indoors) How vegetables are used around the world
July 30: Therapeutic gardening

Showing off Benefits of Gardening at Health Fair

This past Wednesday, we had a health fair at work where local, health related organizations came for the day to drum up business and distribute information to staff. Like an open house, staff came down to the conference rooms and visited the vendors at their tables anytime between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. As facilitator of our office Garden Club, I was asked if we wanted to participate for the first time. Our Garden Club meets every other week during lunch and in the past we have hosted speakers and “field trips” to colleagues’ gardens.healthfairgreenspringsjurydutyJune2014 071

We had a lot of fun; about 200 staff attended including the people from the 32 outside vendors. My colleagues and I had prepared in advance by planting seeds and starting cuttings. We distributed about 80 seedlings of tomatoes, zinnias, and basil plus about 30 cuttings of spider plants, Christmas cactus, and a lady of the night epiphyllum. I had gone through my seed packets and divided them into smaller bags so we had about 50 bags of seeds with copies of the seed packages stapled to the bags. PlantersPlace sent me a box of 30 trial packages of Osmocote fertilizer which everyone loved. I received brochures of the Behnke Nurseries’ Garden Club and special coupons for staff to use at their stores (thank you, Stephanie). The University of Maryland extension specialist sent me business cards with the Grow It Eat It & the Home and Garden Information Center (HGCI) contact information and Master Gardeners brochures (thank you, Jon). I downloaded information from the HGCI site, including the latest HGIC newsletter. I also had a copy of the Washington Gardener and a copy of the Brookside Gardens Xperience catalog of spring and summer classes. Because most of the employees live in Montgomery County, I focused on very local resources but I did create a handout on nurseries and one on public gardens in the Washington DC metropolitan area, which I also posted here on my blog (see tabs).healthfairgreenspringsjurydutyJune2014 072

Because this was a health fair, I wanted to communicate the mental and physical benefits of gardening. I copied the American Horticultural Therapy Association’s bibliography on benefits of gardening and I created a read-only copy of The Benefits of Gardening and Food Growing for Health and Wellbeing. This 45-page booklet was just published in April by Sustain, a London-based alliance of national public interest organizations that among other things advocates food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals. The findings are applicable to this country and would be a great resource for anyone trying to demonstrate the importance of gardening in a social setting, like a school or community.healthfairgreenspringsjurydutyJune2014 075

At our table, we had a sign-up sheet so staff could add their names to my Garden Club e-mail distribution list (about 17 staff signed the sheet). Afterwards, my friends told me our table was the most popular but then who wouldn’t want free tomatoes? Other vendors were giving away pens, candy, and granola bars. I did observe that for the most part, there was a fundamental interest in gardening or having plants across the ages. People my age and older (presumably with houses) wanted the tomatoes and basil. Younger folks who did not have the land still wanted to have a spider plant for their desks. It was just a matter of matching up the plant to the person’s stage in life. Next year, we will offer a wider variety of plants such as houseplants and herbs and I may even reach out to more local resources to encourage gardening for all ages.