Tag Archives: U.S. National Arboretum

New Herban Lifestyles Series of Classes at U.S. National Arboretum

Interested in learning more about herbs? Check out the new Herban Lifestyles series of presentations at the U.S. National Arboretum. This series of presentations is designed to help you learn new ways to incorporate herbs into your everyday life. You can register for all the events or just select particular events. Some are free, some require a fee. Some are in the National Herb Garden while others are in the Visitor Center Classroom at the Arboretum. Below is the list for this year.

Herbal Bitters: Sweeter than You Think!
August 4, 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm
National Herb Garden

Discover the benefits that bitter herbs offer, from jazzing up your favorite cocktail to aiding digestion after a heavy meal. A variety of hand-crafted bitters will be available for tasting. This program is part of the Under the Arbor series and is free. No registration required.

Herbal Salves: They’re the Balm!
August 11, 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
Visitor Center classroom

Learn how to make herb infused oils for use in soothing salves. The healing properties of various oils and herbs will be covered, and participants will get to take home a jar of salve made in class. Fee: $35 ($28 Friends of the National Arboretum (FONA) members). Registration required.

Hot, Hot, Hot! The Secrets of Herbal Aphrodisiacs
August 18, 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
Visitor Center classroom

Herbalist Joan Greeley, owner of Plant Wisdom Within, will instruct participants in the creation of mojo-enhancing herbal concoctions. The weather isn’t the only thing hot this summer! Due to the mature nature of this program, registrants must be at least 18 years old. Fee: $35 ($28 FONA members). Registration required.

Cold Comfort: Herbs to Aid Immunity during Cold and Flu Season
October 20, 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
Visitor Center classroom

Join herbalist Whitney Palacios as she teaches participants how to make syrups, teas, and other herbal preparations that fortify and nourish the immune system during the winter months. Fee: $35 ($28 FONA members). Registration required.

Herbs – They Make Scents!
October 27, 10:00 am – 12:00 pm
Visitor Center classroom

Learn how to harvest and prepare herbs to create fragrant herbal incense cones and powders. Participants will create their own blend to take home. Please bring a small container to safely transport your freshly made incense. Fee: $35 ($28 FONA members). Registration required.

Additional herb presentations by Herb Society of America units:

Under the Arbor: Lemon Herbs
September 8, 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm
National Herb Garden

A refreshing drink on an early autumn day. Tasty citrus cookies after a light lunch. What could be better? Discover how the South Jersey Unit of the Herb Society of America creatively incorporates lemon-flavored herbs into every day culinary fare. Free, drop-in, no registration required.

Under the Arbor: Chile Pepper Celebration
October 6, 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm
National Herb Garden

The weather may be cooling down, but the National Herb Garden will turn up the heat during its annual Chile Pepper Celebration. Join Herb Society of America members and National Herb Garden staff as they present chile peppers at their finest. Experience the fire with colorful varieties that don’t hold back! Free, drop-in, no registration required.

Under the Arbor at the National Herb Garden, U.S. National Arboretum

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.

Gingerbread

Gingerbread

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.

Amethyst

Amethyst

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

Hiltingbury

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

Easiest Edibles: Herbs

variegated sage

variegated sage

Herbs are the easiest edible plants to grow. Many are well suited for containers while others thrive as perennial plants in the garden bed. I find that I have no problems with animals and insects, probably because of the pungent oils in the leaves. Most of my herbs are for cooking and teas, but I also buy plants that I read about so often I just have to see what they are like (rue, for example). In order to remember what I have (or to inspire me to use them in meals), I keep a list on the inside of a kitchen cabinet. The photo is last year’s list; it is a computer file that I still have to update for this year. The notches are the plants that were large enough for me to take cuttings in April this year to bring to my garden club at the office. I was showing my colleagues the variety of perennial herbs that they could grow in the garden but this list also illustrates how early in the season you can harvest most perennial herbs.

lemon balm

lemon balm

On this particular list, the chives (put in eggs and butter), fennel (add to fish), hyssop (admire), lavender (cut flowers), lemon balm (put in fruit salad or make tea), oregano (pasta sauce), rosemary (potatoes, biscuits, chicken), rue (admire from a far), sage (biscuits and tea), salad burnet (green salad), winter savory (great winter interest plant), sweet marjoram (pasta sauce), and thyme (biscuits, chicken) are perennials. The basil (pasta, tomatoes and French bread), borage (beautiful blue flowers), cilantro (fried rice), dill (egg salad), lemon basil (fish), lemon verbena (tea), mints (tea and fruit salad), parsley (potatoes ), pineapple sage (tea and fruit salad), and Thai basil (fish) are treated as annuals in Virginia. The fennel and tarragon are coming back this year but were too small to cut in April. I think the neighborhood cats stole the catmint; I can’t find it. But no loss, it only opens up space to add my new Korean mint (because I read about it), tansy (to repel pests), and zinger hibiscus (also because I read about it but I think I will use for tea). I may still buy artemisia as it is the herb of the year and I hear that savory is the herb of the year for 2015 so I definitely will have to add summer savory to the list.

oregano

oregano

If you are interested in herbs make sure you visit the National Herb Garden at the U.S. National Arboretum or join the Potomac Unit of the Herb Society of America. Although you can easily buy herb plants and seeds at the major nurseries in this area (see tab above), two that specialize in herbs are DeBaggio’s Herb Farm & Nursery in Chantilly, VA; and Willow Oak Flower and Herb Farm in Severn, MD. The Herb Society of America also is a great resource and our public library systems have more than enough herb books for you to enjoy.

herbs in 2013 garden

herbs in 2013 garden