Tag Archives: Merrifield Garden Center

An Entertaining Lecture on Herbs at Merrifield Garden Center

Yesterday I attended Merrifield Garden Center’s free lecture on herbs and was pleasantly surprised by the great speaker and the event itself: part entertainment and part educational. Merrifield is known for its free seminars in the spring, which I have promoted on my website for years. The herb lecture was at the Fair Oaks location, which has a spacious room on the second level of the garden center. I arrived early and was surprised to find pastries, brownies, fruit, cheese, crackers, and coffee! Sarah, a Merrifield employee, created this lovely feast and topped it off with an eye-catching display of herbs. Apparently she is known for making such creative displays and generous offerings of refreshments. Sarah was a hoot!  She talked to everyone and encouraged people to submit their drawing on time!

I discovered that at each seat there was a handout on herbs, a 15% discount coupon to use that day or the following day, and a form to complete for the drawing. I did not know there would be a coupon and a drawing but I could tell there were plenty of “regulars” who knew the drill. They seemed to know each other and had been there many times. The mood was so friendly and jolly I almost thought they were part of a gardening club. Filling up on pastries, we completed our forms and dropped them in a large glass container.

At 10:00 am, right before the lecture, Peg Bier, also a long time Merrifield employee, drew slips of paper several times. I did not keep count but was surprised that there were several drawings, not just one. Winners could have their choice of circus tickets or a Merrifield gift card. I did not win but I did use my coupon to buy something after the event.

Peg then introduced our speaker, Nicole Schermerhorn, co-owner of A Thyme to Plant at Lavender Fields Herb Farm (wearing dark brown in the photo). A Thyme to Plant is a wholesale operation near Richmond, growing and selling USDA-certified herbs and vegetables. Her nephew manages Lavender Fields Herb Farm, the retail garden center that focuses on herb classes and demonstrations. Nicole was very entertaining and down to earth – I could have listened to her for more than an hour. She sprinkled her slide presentation with funny learning experiences and witty conversations with her husband. Nicole provided a lot of detail on cultural requirements, including growing herbs in raised beds, while her handout had information on specific herbs. She was very nice about answering everyone’s questions and offered to stay afterward. A few of the interesting tips I learned were: there are 200 varieties of rosemary but only a few are hardy in Virginia (Arp, Salem, and Hill Hardy); Vietnamese coriander is a heat-loving substitute for the cool-loving cilantro; and parsley is the most nutrient-packed herb one can grow (does not matter if curly or flat leaf). I liked the fact that there was a handout to take home about specific herbs and recommended varieties plus cultural requirements on the backside. If you are new to gardening or new to Virginia, I recommend attending Merrifield Garden Center’s free seminars, especially Nicole’s talk on herbs.

Peg’s Picks March Gardening Events for the Washington DC Metro Area

You know spring is around the corner when there are so many gardening events, lectures, and shows in March that I can list only a sample below. Check out the organization’s web site for more and don’t forget the Philadelphia Flower Show from February 28 to March 8, see previous article posted on January 24 (http://www.pegplant.com/2015/01/24/philadelphia-flower-show-in-five-weeks/

Saturday, February 28 to Sunday, March 1 and Friday, March 6 to Sunday, March 8. Maryland Home and Garden Show, Maryland State Fairground, Timonium, MD. Admission fee http://www.mdhomeandgarden.com

Saturday, March 7, 1:00 to 2:00 pm, Worm composting, Greenstreet Gardens, 1721 West Braddock Road, Alexandria, VA 22302 (703) 998-3030. Free http://www.greenstreetgardens.com

Saturday, March 7, 10:00 to 5:00 pm Arlington Home Show and Garden Expo, Thomas Jefferson Community Center, 3501 2nd Street, South, Arlington, VA 22204; free http://www.columbia-pike.org/ArlHomeShow

Monday evening, March 9 through April 13, (except March 23), 6:30 to 8:00 pm. Local gardening talk series of five classes on Capitol Hill by Kathy Jentz, owner of Washington Gardener magazine. Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital, 921 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE Washington DC 20003; (202) 549-4172; Fee and must register, http://www.hillcenterdc.org

Sundays, Harry Allen Winter Lecture Series at Green Spring Gardens,1:30 to 2:30. After lecture, meet presenter and enjoy refreshments. Can register for individual topics or for all; fee. http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/greenspring

  • 3/1: Teaming with Nutrients, Jeff Lowenfels
  • 3/8: Hellstrip Gardening, Evelyn Hadden
  • 3/15: Plants I Haven’t Killed (Yet).. and Potential Victims, Sandy McDougle

Saturdays Sessions at Merrifield Garden Center, free lectures at 10:00 am in three locations. http://www.merrifieldgardencenter.com.

  • 3/7: Merrifield, Making a big impact in a small space; Fair Oaks, Grass roots initiative; Gainesville, Repotting your bonsai workshops
  • 3/14: M, Bulbs corms, and tubers; FO, Gardening for year round interest; G, Seed starting
  • 3/21: M, Spring cleaning in the garden; FO, Perennials in every garden; G, And now for something different
  • 3/28: M, Spring color with trees and shrubs; FO, Growing herbs; G, Growing herbs 2:00 (same speaker and content as the 10:00 am session at FO)

Vegetable Gardening Series, three-part series (first part already occurred in February), hosted by the VCE Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia, at Fairlington Community Center, 3308 South Stafford Street, Arlington, VA. Free but must register, (703) 228-6414; e-mail: mgarlalex@gmail.com. Register at http://www.mgnv.org

  • Session 2: Preparing the Vegetable Garden, Saturday, March 14, 9:30 to 11:00 am; or Tuesday, March 17, 7:00 to 8:30 pm
  • Session 3: Managing the Vegetable Garden, Saturday April 11, 9:30 to 11:00 am; or Tuesday, April 21, 7:00 to 8:30 pm.

Also by VCE Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia: Monday, March 16, 7:00-8:30 pm, Introduction to Sustainable Gardening at Fairlington Community Center, 3308 S. Stafford Street, Arlington; and Monday, March 23, Herb Gardening, 7:00-8:30 pm, Burke Branch Library, 4701 Seminary Road, Alexandria, free but must register at http://www.mgnv.org (see above).

Wednesdays in the Garden, led by Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) volunteers and VCE Master Gardeners, these gardening sessions are Wednesday evening from 7:00 to 8:00 or 9:00 pm, from mid-March through mid-October, at the Arlington Central Library, 1015 N. Quincy Street, Arlington VA; (703) 228-5990, free. In addition, Saturday, March 21, is the AFAC Spring Garden Kickoff. http://www.library.arlingtonva.us/events/garden-talks

  • 3/4: Seed starting & portable sunshine (starting seed under lights)
  • 3/11: Principles of garden layout, design, and orientation
  • 3/18: Soil building and testing
  • 3/25: From the grocery store to the garden to the kitchen

Saturday, March 21, Annual Gardening Symposium, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, Loudoun County Master Gardeners, Ida Lee Recreation Center, 60 Ida Lee Drive, Leesburg, VA 20176; fee and must register. http://www.loudouncountymastergardeners.org/events/annual-symposium

Garden Talks at Behnkes Nursery, free, also, Saturday, March 21 is Behnke’s Spring Open House, 11300 Baltimore Avenue, Beltsville, MD; (301) 937-1100; http://www.behnkes.com

  • Sunday, March 1, Garden Talk: Fruit Trees and Berry Bushes: Planting, Pruning and Preparing for Spring, with Bill Mann
  • Saturday, March 7, 11:00 am and Sunday March 8, 1:00 pm Garden Talk: Your Edible Garden, Starting from Seed and Planting Spring Vegetables, with Carol Allen

Tuesday, March 24, 6:00 to 7:30 pm, Introduction to Organic Food Gardening, Brookside Gardens, 1800 Glenallen Avenue, Wheaton, MD 20902; (301) 962-1400; fee and must register. http://www.montgomeryparks.org/brookside

Saturday, March 28, the 29th Annual Lahr Symposium, 8:30 am to 3:30 pm. “Native Plants: Making Connections.” U.S. National Arboretum, 3501 New York Avenue, NE, Washington DC 20002; (202) 245-4521. Fee and must register (native plants will be for sale and entrance to the plant sale is free; one can buy plants even though one is not registered for the symposium). http://www.usna.usda.gov

Hyacinths: Easy, Indoor Winter Blooms

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Box of hyacinth bulb/vase, Merrifield Garden Center

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Assortment of single bulbs at Merrifield Garden Center

Forcing hyacinths to bloom indoors is easy. Although hyacinths need a chilling period, keeping them in a paper bag in the fridge for 8 to 10 weeks will achieve this effect.  Make sure you label the bag so your family does not mistake them for onions. When the chilling period is over, put the bulbs in glass forcing vases or wide-mouth jars with pebbles so the roots are in water and the bulbs are not. Place in indirect light. As they grow, give more light, but avoid direct sun. After flowering, plant the bulbs in the garden in late spring/early summer for flowers in the garden next spring.  Hyacinths are deer resistant and will come back in the garden year after year in our area. Compared to other bulbs, hyacinth bulbs are cheap, less than two dollars for high quality, individual bulbs or six or seven dollars for a package of three. Traditionally, hyacinth vases or forcing vases are used to hold the bulbs.  These are pinched vases that allow the bulbs to sit above the water. I have had mine for so many years I don’t know where they came from but you can buy them at large independent garden centers, through online garden supply stores, or sometimes as a boxed combo of bulb and vase. It is not necessary to use these; you can place the bulb on a layer of pebbles or marbles in a wide-mouthed jar, like a jam or Mason jar.

my forcing vases

my forcing vases

Mine will go into the fridge tonight and 10 weeks later, on January 22, (mark it on the calendar) I will take place them in the forcing vases. I look forward to enjoying the beauty and fragrance for weeks, way before my garden hyacinths bloom outside!

Amaryllis: Perfect Holiday Gift and Decor

Growing an amaryllis for holiday blooms is so easy, just plant and water. Unlike the spring blooming bulbs, an amaryllis bulb does not need a chilling period. Once planted, these large bulbs can grow and bloom in 7-10 weeks. The flowers last for a long time and the plant can be coaxed to re bloom again the following year. You can buy amaryllis bulbs now as hostess gifts for Thanksgiving, give the bulbs to friends for Christmas so they can enjoy the blooms during winter, start the bulbs now to give the blooming plants to friends for Christmas, or start the bulbs now to decorate your own home for the holidays.November2014hyacinthamaryllis 123

This past week, I took a quick look at a Virginia independent garden center and the local Home Depot to see what types of amaryllis bulbs and packages they offered. I discovered that amaryllis can be bought as a single, large bulb, for you to pot up; as a gift box of a “pre-planted” bulb (in a plastic container); already planted in a ceramic container as a gift; and as a gift box of a glass container with a bulb and pebbles (without soil). If you buy only the bulb, you can plant it in soil or place it in a glass vase of water with pebbles. If you plant it in soil, make sure the container has drainage holes or put in plastic pots with drainage holes into decorative containers/lined baskets. Pick a pot 2 inches wider than the diameter of the bulb. Use a well drained potting soil, not the soil from your garden. The upper half of the bulb should remain above the soil surface. Water and put in a warm place, around 70 to 75 degrees. When growth appears, place in a sunny window and watch the flower stalks. If they lean, give more light or rotate pot to balance or stake so does not topple over.  Once flower buds appear, move the plant out of direct sun and into a slightly cooler location.

If you want to grow the plant in a vase of water, place about 3-4 inches of pebbles, marbles, or glass rocks in the glass and place the bulb on top so that the top third is exposed. Water enough so the water line is below the base of the bulb. You don’t want the bulb to sit in water but the roots need to be in water. Follow the same directions as above concerning light and temperature.

I have seen only one coamaryllisandsnapdragonOctober2014 002mpany that has capitalized on growing amaryllis in water. Home Depot is selling Bloomaker’s amaryllis in glass jars, complete with pebbles, in a very attractive gift box. If you scan the code on the box, you can see a video of how the plant will grow and bloom in the glass vase. I am already asking Santa for one.

For a variety of color selection, though, buy individual bulbs from the largest independent garden center in your area. I visited Merrifield Garden Center and they have an entire area dedicated to bulbs. You can pick your colors and show them off in pots or in glass vases. If you have time, it pays to look around and stock up on amaryllis for gifts as well as for your own home.November2014hyacinthamaryllis 160