MARCH 2017 VOL. 12 NO. 1
WASHINGTON WAS W WASHINGTO ASHINGTO
the magazine for gardening enthusiasts in the Mid-Atlantic region
How Dahlias Provide Garden Diversity Your Garden Tasks To-do List
Our 4 Favorite Asian Vegetables to Grow Local Gardening Events Calendar Ready, Set, Seed! Reviewing the Best Propagation Equipment Join the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge
Predatory Mites to the Rescue!
James Madisonâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Montpelier:
A History in Trees
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Need a Garden Club Speaker?
Washington Gardener Magazine’s staff and writers are available to speak to groups and garden clubs in the greater DC region. Call 301.588.6894 or email KathyJentz@gmail.com for available dates, rates, and topics.
RARE AND EXCEPTIONAL PLANTS FOR THE DISCRIMINATING GARDENER AND COLLECTOR
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Barry Glick Sunshine Farm and Gardens 696 Glicks Road Renick, WV 24966, USA Email: email@example.com
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Green Spring Gardens
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Are you trying to reach thousands of gardeners in the greater DC region/Mid-Atlantic area? Washington Gardener Magazine goes out on the 15th of every month. Contact KathyJentz@gmail.com or call 301.588-6894 for ad rates (starting from $200). The ad deadline is the 10th of each month. Please submit your ad directly to: KathyJentz@gmail.com.
WASHINGTON GARDENER MARCH 2017
A “must visit” for everyone in the metropolitan Washington, DC, area. It’s a year-round gold mine of information and inspiration for the home gardener. It’s an outdoor classroom for children and their families to learn about plants and wildlife. It’s also a museum, a national historic site that offers glimpses into a long, rich history with colonial origins. Located at 4603 Green Spring Rd., Alexandria, VA. Information: 703-642-5173.
FEATURES and COLUMNS The dahlia has its origins in Mexico. Francisco Hernandez was a Mexican who was a great fan of dahlias and started to write about them in 1615. This publicity ensured that dahlias were brought from Mexico to Spain. From there, it was not until 200 years later, in 1804, that a botanist by the name of Andreas Dahl introduced dahlias to the rest of Europe.
Win a signed copy of Big Dreams, Small Garden. The contest entry deadline is 5pm on March 31. See contest details on page 5. A Gold Medal Plant winner, the Clematis viticella Group blooms for a prolonged period from late June to September, producing a large quantity of 3-inch blooms in two different flower shapes. These vines bloom on new growth, so they do well with a hard pruning in late winter to early spring.
Three black Walnut trees from President James Madison’s era stand near Montpelier’s garden gate and wall, which is of more recent vintage.
BOOKreviews 12-13 Japanese Garden Design; Miniature Moss Gardens; The Chinese Kitchen Garden DAYtrip 14-16 James Madison’s Montpelier EDIBLEharvest 18-19 Asian Vegetables HORThappenings 17 Green Matters; Rooting DC; USBG; MG Spring Conference INSECTindex 22 Predatory Mites NEWPLANTspotlight 11 Tulip ‘Philly Belle’ NEIGHBORnetwork 20-21 Wendy Kiang-Spray PRODUCTreview 6-7 Seed-starting Equipment TIPStricks 10 Dahlia Types; Million Pollinator Challenge; Gold Medal Plants
ADVERTISINGindex BLOGlinks EDITORletter GARDENcontest LOCALevents MONTHLYtasklist NEXTissue READERreactions RESOURCESsources
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ON THE COVER
James Madison’s Montpelier in Orange, VA. Photo courtesy of Montpelier.org.
In our April 2017 issue:
New Tomato Introductions Visiting Sherwood Gardens and much more...
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Does Anybody Read Anymore? Having just gotten back last night from a trip up to the Philadelphia Flower Show, I have to ask, “What happened to reading?” I was amazed at the number of people who just wandered around the show floor in ignorance, not bothering to read the short description on each garden display’s signage that explained the designer’s vision and intent. I started to feel pity for them, because they missed experiencing the many concepts and fresh ideas in these wonderful creations. I know, dear readers, that I am preaching to the choir here. If you are perusing this column, you clearly are in the minority and likely have made similar observations of your own in the past few years. Reading for sheer pleasure is one thing, but when did basic reading comprehension take such a dive? Take a volunteer shift staffing an information booth at any garden festival or volunteer at the welcome desk at any of our local public gardens. Prepare to be floored. Enough with the negative. Let’s talk about solutions! First, join or start a book club. Ask your friends and colleagues to attend with you. A few years ago, I started the Washington Gardener Magazine’s Garden Book Club. We read and discuss only garden-related books—mostly nonfiction. It is free and open to all. We meet quarterly on a weekday evening near a Metro-accessible location in the DC area. We will announce the details of each upcoming meeting about two months in advance here in this magazine, on our blog, Yahoo group, and at our Facebook page. Next, share your books. Books don’t get read when they are stored in boxes or on shelves. Lend books out to anyone you know who might be interested in them. Build and stock a Little Free Library in front of your house. (See the April 2016 issue of Washington Gardener Magazine for more about them.) Give gardening books away to your nearest public garden. Many of them have horticultural libraries in their visitor’s centers. We donate almost all those books you see reviewed monthly in Washington Gardener to Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, MD. Earlier this month, we dropped off a variety of gardening books on topics including bonsai gardening, pollinator plants, native gardens, and houseplants—along with garden books for children. Last year, our tax-deductible book donation total came to $683.01. The biggest yearly Washington Gardener donation yet was in 2013, with $3,070.94 in books. You can model reading by sharing your reading lists on social media and discussing book recommendations with others. Leaving a positive review on a book’s Amazon page is also a great gift to the struggling authors out there, who treasure these word-of-mouth testimonials for marketing their creations. Finally, read to others. Whether they are preschoolers, illiterate, or simply have sight issues, thousands of people in our area could use a reading buddy. Look for someone in your own community who could use reading assistance and share the love of books and magazines. Happy gardening (and reading)!
Kathy Jentz, Editor/Publisher, Washington Gardener, KathyJentz@gmail.com
WASHINGTON GARDENER MARCH 2017
Credits Kathy Jentz Editor/Publisher & Advertising Sales Washington Gardener 826 Philadelphia Ave. Silver Spring, MD 20910 Phone: 301-588-6894 firstname.lastname@example.org www.washingtongardener.com Call today to place your ad with us! Ruth E. Thaler-Carter Proofreader India Hamilton Intern Cover price: $4.99 Back issues: $6.00 Subscription: $20.00 Address corrections should be sent to the address above. • Washington Gardener Blog: www.washingtongardener.blogspot.com • Washington Gardener Archives: http://issuu.com/washingtongardener • Washington Gardener Discussion Group: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ WashingtonGardener/ • Washington Gardener Twitter Feed: www.twitter.com/WDCGardener • Washington Gardener is a womanowned business. We are proud to be members of: · Garden Writers Association · Think Local First DC · DC Web Women · Green America Magazine Leaders Network · Green America Business Network To order reprints, contact Wright’s Reprints at 877.652.5295, ext. 138. Volume 12, Number 1 ISSN 1555-8959 © 2017 Washington Gardener All rights reserved. Published quarterly. No material may be reproduced without prior written permission. This magazine is purchased by the buyer with the understanding that the information presented is from various sources from which there can be no warranty or responsibility by the publisher as to legality, completeness, or technical accuracy. All uncredited photos in this issue are © Kathy Jentz.
Visit DCGardens.com for: Photos of 16 Major Public Gardens shown in each month of the year and Where to Buy Plants Where to Connect Local Garden Media Where to Volunteer Youth Gardens
Where to Find Designers
Tours and Events
Where to Learn to Garden
Y ou Can Make a Difference. . . by
Sharing Your Harvest
Plant an extra row in your garden and deliver the harvest to a local food bank or shelter. The need is great! With your help, PAR can continue to make a difference for America’s most vulnerable. Call our toll-free number (877.GWAA.PAR) or visit our website at www.gardenwriters.org/par for more information.
For our March 2017 Washington Gardener Reader Contest, Washington Gardener is giving away a signed copy of Big Dreams, Small Garden: A Guide to Creating Something Extraordinary in Your Ordinary Space (prize value: $17.99). How do passionate gardeners struggling with limited resources manage to put aside feelings of inadequacy and envy, and begin to create an oasis in the midst of numerous obstacles? In her debut book, columnist and blogger Marianne Willburn presents a comprehensive step-by-step plan for creating an ideal garden in lessthan-ideal circumstances—encouraging the discouraged to pick up their trowels and get on with it. With humor and irreverence, she painlessly guides readers to make a deeper connection with the places they call home, letting go of limiting emotions, and embracing a new perspective, and in doing so, makes a case for one of the longest relationships in human history—that of our relationship with the soil. To enter to win a signed copy of the book, send an email to WashingtonGardener@rcn.com by 5:00pm on March 31 with “Big Dreams, Small Garden” in the subject line and in the body of the email. Tell us what your favorite article was in this issue and why. Include your full name and mailing address. The winner will be announced on April 1. MARCH 2017
Ready, Set, Seed! by Louise Clarke
If you attended the recent Washington Gardener Seed Exchanges, you have seeds waiting to be awakened. Perhaps you’ve pored over the plethora of seed catalogs that have landed in your mailbox since Thanksgiving and ordered some new varieties. Or maybe you’re an heirloom seed saver, helping keep genetic diversity alive. (Thank you!) Whatever your seed obsession, how do you awaken those potential plants? Are you a successful seed propagator? I was going to start by gushing about the UK-made APS (accelerated propagation system) seed-starting kits, but they’ve been discontinued. Those selfwatering mini-greenhouses were the perfect germinators. I’d used mine for years. Fret not; there is a replacement product that is even better—the GrowEase Seed starting kit. Available from Gardener’s Supply Company in Burlington, VT (http://www.gardeners.com), 6
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GrowEase kits are self-watering units made of heavy-duty recycled plastics. The bottom tray acts as a water reservoir, and the included polypropylene capillary mat acts as a wick, delivering water as needed. These kits help keep plastics out of landfills and have the added bonus that the reservoir, platform, and planting tray can be sterilized in the dishwasher. Scrupulous sanitation is paramount to successful seed growing. Being able to use a dishwasher for disinfection seems preferable to dealing with 10% bleach solutions. If you’ve ever had healthy-looking seedlings suddenly collapse at the soil level, you’ve no doubt encountered a damping-off pathogen, such as Pythium. Cool, moist conditions encourage Pythium and other baddies, but the GrowEase germination dome helps by warming the air and preventing spores from floating in. The GrowEase kits come in 12- or
24-cell units, with each cell being 2" square. That means you can start vegetable plants like tomatoes or peppers and their roots will have plenty of space for robust development. Hardened-off plants can go directly from their cells into the garden when the soil has warmed. You could plant multiple seeds in each cell, but that would require separating seedlings and potting on before garden planting. Maybe you have tiny seeds, ones that don’t lend themselves to planting in 2" cells. Broadcast seeding is usually the best option, meaning that seeds are sown across the surface of a shallow pan or tray, lightly covered with soil, then watered in. Domed minigreenhouses, similar to the GrowEase are available for this purpose. For the thrifty, self-sealing plastic bags and shallow plastic trays provide the same ideal germination conditions for less. Visit your local garden center for seed-
PRODUCTreview sowing flats, or search the Internet for suppliers. You can recycle any number of food containers, from aluminum pie plates to take-out plastic clamshell containers, like those used at salad bars. I have a supply of black plastic seedstarting containers just like those used for commercial growing. You can find these at garden centers or online. I round the sharp corners of these thin, single-use containers before sealing them in zipper sandwich bags. Rounded corners slide in more easily and won’t puncture the plastic. Even though these are designed to be disposable, I can get several uses out of them, making my investment stretch further. By writing the seed name on the plastic bag, its easy to tell what’s up. Otherwise, put a plastic label inside each seed tray. You may read on seed packets that bottom heat speeds germination. Peppers, eggplants, and tomato seeds love the sauna treatment. Waterproof heating mats are designed to deliver gentle heat to seed pans set atop them. The better mats come with a thermostat so you can monitor and adjust the temperature. Those without start at modest prices, around $20, and go up depending on size and features. They take up very little space and can be rolled up for storage. Remember, once those warmed seedlings emerge, it’s best to move them to
cooler climes, or they tend to get leggy. For the thrifty germinator, an Internet source turned up a creative reuse for incandescent mini Christmas lights. The light set was placed in a shallow pan, plugged in, and covered with a larger waterproof pan, and the seed flats were set on top. How much heat they’d generate would depend on the number of lights, how closely they’d be spaced, and the distance the seed pans would rest above the lights. Could be a fun experiment and a way to recycle those old light sets you’ve replaced with LEDs. Speaking of LEDs, they are being used more frequently by commercial growers. They deliver the optimal light wavelengths that plants need, generate virtually no heat, and save electricity. Smaller LED units are available for hobby growers. Although they are not as sophisticated (or expensive) as commercial LEDs, I’ve been using 45-watt glow panels for several years to raise my seedlings. Multiple panels can be ganged together and placed on a timer to automate lighting. Seedlings under LEDs don’t stretch for the sun like they typically do on a windowsill. Did you know that if your house has energy-efficient windows, reflective glass coatings block light that plants crave? Switching to LEDs will require some experimentation until you find the optimal distance to place them
above your seedlings. I’ve found 1–2 feet works for my plants. Your neighbors may wonder at the fuchsia-purple light emanating from your windows at night, but your seedlings will love it! LED prices have dropped drastically since I first started using them. I highly recommend LEDs based on my seed-starting successes. No matter your budget, seed-starting aids range from practically free to those requiring a moderate investment. By providing seeds with optimal growing conditions, you’ll get garden plants off to a healthy head start. Varieties you’ll never see at the big box store or garden center can easily be yours. Besides rearing plants at a fraction of the cost of those purchased, you’ll end up with extra plants to share with gardening friends. Those shared seeds will grow, flower, and set, coming full circle. o Louise Clarke is a degreed horticulturist employed by the Morris Arboretum in Philadelphia, PA, where she tends more than 1,200 woody plants and two green roofs, as well as leading workshops, writing, and lecturing on horticultural topics. As a zonedenial gardener, she tends Halcyon, her lush home garden—a mixture of tender tropicals, bulbs, perennials, unusual annuals, and vines. She rarely has time to admire the garden while seated in her tiki hut, made from repurposed materials.
TOP AREA GARDENING EVENTS DC-Area Gardening Calendar ~ Upcoming Events ~ March 16–April 15, 2017 • Saturday, March 18, 1–3pm Digging into Spring Symposium The Northern Virginia chapter of the Azalea Society of America (ASA) is spearheading what it hopes will become an annual event inspiring new interest in gardening, especially in younger folks—a free two-hour mini gardening symposium at Kirkwood Presbyterian Church in West Springfield, VA. The ASA is working in collaboration with members of the American Rhododendron Society, Green Springs Master Gardeners, American Hemerocallis Society, American Hosta Society, and Meadowlark Gardens. There will be 10 adult presentations and a children’s program. You are encouraged to bring children/grandchildren to this event. Snacks will be available. Registration is at http://signup.com/go/m7BTv7. • Saturday & Sunday, March 18–19 Friends of Brookside Gardens’ Orchid Show and Sale Sale of orchids and related merchandise by top area growers. Repotting service for a nominal fee. Talks and advice from experts. Raffle of orchid plants. Proceeds benefit Brookside Gardens. It is co-sponsored by the Rock Creek Orchid Club. Held at the Brookside Gardens, Wheaton, MD. • Monday, March 20, 8:00pm Spring Ephemerals Talk The Silver Spring Garden Club invites you to a free talk on spring ephemerals. These early bloomers are the first to welcome the spring, then they conveniently die down to allow summer blooming plants center stage. How do you manage a disappearing element in your perennial border and woodland shade beds? Carol Allen will talk about her tricks and techniques in dealing with these special plants. Held at the Brookside Gardens, Wheaton, MD. • Wednesday, March 22, 7:30pm “Nutrients Aren’t Plant Food” Talk Scott Aker, Ph.D. will discuss how healthy plants require many of the elements found on the periodic chart to grow and develop properly. Amounts are important, and plants may even 8
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be particular about the form in which the nutrients are delivered and when. The public is welcome and admission is free. You are encouraged to bring something to exchange: a plant, cutting, or garden tool. Refreshments will be served after the meeting. To learn more about the Beltsville Garden Club, visit www.beltsvillegardenclub.org. • Thursday, March 23, 2:00pm Getting Your Garden Ready for Spring Taught by Kathy Jentz, Editor/Publisher, Washington Gardener Magazine. Beginner to intermediate gardeners are often overwhelmed by the long spring to-do lists of garden tasks. This class will cover which chores are essential and which ones can you safely skip. Topics include cost-saving tips and tricks; the best plants for our region; how to give them a successful start on life, and soil preparation and testing. Fee: $22. This event will be held at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, MD. Register at http:// www.montgomeryparks.org. • March 24–26 Victorian Society in America & Maymont Co-host Spring Study Tour and Symposium in Richmond, VA The symposium is themed “Aesthetic Revolutions & Victorian Taste” and includes speakers Richard Guy Wilson, Charles Brownell, Nenette Marie Arroyo, and Elyse D. G. Justice. Details at www. maymont.org. • Friday, March 24, 1–3pm Hands-on Workshop: To Repot or Not? This hands-on workshop will teach you how to care for and trim your plant’s leaves and root system and identify the proper potting medias and techniques. Fee: $30, $25 Hillwood member. Hillwood, 4155 Linnean Avenue, NW, Washington, DC. Register at www.HillwoodMuseum.org. • Saturday, March 25, 10:30–11:30am Garden Program: Can’t Fail Containers Washington Gardener Editor/Publisher Kathy Jentz shares tips on how you can grow beautiful garden containers. Learn what types of soil to use, pros and cons of different containers, and
which plants perform well in our region. Kathy shows you the basics and goes into details of growing ornamental and edible containers while showing you styles and fashions in container gardening. $15/person. Register online at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/parktakes using code 2902892901 or call 703642-5173. Green Spring Gardens, 4603 Green Spring Road, Alexandria, VA 22312 (www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/ greenspring). • Saturday, March 25, 2–4pm Celebration of Spring Craft and Walk Celebrate the beginning of spring on this trail walk. Guides will identify interesting plants and birds. At the end of the walk, you’ll make and take home a bird’s nest from materials observed on the trail. Children must be accompanied by an adult. Free, with a suggested donation of $5. Families welcome: Ages 4+. Held at the Cylburn Arboretum, 4915 Greenspring Avenue, Baltimore, MD. Register at cylburn.org. • Saturday, March 25, 9am–4pm Lahr Native Plant Symposium and Native Plant Sale Designing innovative landscapes, protecting habitat, and understanding social and environmental connections are essential to building strong communities. Learn from leading ecologists, landscape designers, and plant and wildlife experts, as they show how their work helps create more-sustainable neighborhoods. Held at USNA Visitor Center Auditorium. http://www.usna. usda.gov/Education/events.html. • Sunday, March 26, 2–3:30pm Planting Your First Vegetable Garden Planting your own garden can be a healthy, sustainable, and fun learning experience. And if things work out, the all-you-can-eat veggie buffet is included at no extra charge. In this class, you’ll learn how to make your first gardening effort successful and stress-free. Topics include the types of edible plants that grow best in the Mid-Atlantic region; best practices for timing, crop succession, starting from seed or seedling; and much more. Veteran gardeners are
TOP AREA GARDENING EVENTS DC-Area Gardening Calendar ~ Upcoming Events ~ March 16–April 15, 2017 also welcome to attend, and we hope you’ll leave with both renewed enthusiasm and great new tips and techniques to enhance your garden. Held at Shepherd Park Library, 7420 Georgia Ave. NW. WDC. Free. Register at http:// knowledgecommonsdc.org. • Sunday, March 26, 1:30–2:30pm Lecture: The Buzz About Bees Approximately 30% of the roughly 450 species of bees native to the Mid- Atlantic and Northeastern United States are pollen specialists that have evolved certain associations with flowering host plants. Join Sam Droege, U.S. Geological Survey Native Bee Inventory and Monitoring Program, as he discusses potential, plight, and pairings between native plants and their pollinators, focusing on native bees and flowers in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern United States. Please note: This lecture is being offered in conjunction with the Botanical Arts Society of the National Capital Region. Limited seating available. Held at the U.S. Botanic Garden’s Conservatory Classroom Free: Pre-registration required at www.usbg.gov. • Saturday & Sunday, April 1–2 8th Annual Garden Party & Sale at Community Forklift A fun-filled event with a ton of landscaping and garden supplies; gardening demonstrations, experts, and vendors; activities for kids; live bands; and local food. Proceeds support our work to create green jobs, reduce waste, educate the public about reuse, and provide free supplies to nonprofits and neighbors in need. See details at http://communityforklift.org/news-events/8th-annual-garden-party-and-spring-sale/. • Friday, April 7, 12:30–2:30pm Art in the Garden Beginning and advanced artists alike will find inspiration in the historic gardens of the Tudor Place estate in the heart of Georgetown. Join Director of Buildings, Gardens, and Grounds Kellie Cox, an award-winning botanical artist, to explore a variety of subjects, media, and locations in the historic garden. Students will learn tips and techniques
for working in pencil and pastels or penand-ink, creating their own unique art piece during each class. No art experience required. Fee: $50 per lesson. Register at tudorplace.org.
newly built Art Deco-style home to a topfloor, sunlit apartment. Advance tickets are available for purchase: http:// tinyurl.com/fchgt2017 for $30/ticket or 4/$100.
• Saturday, April 15, 10am–2pm Stewards of Future Harvests: Community Seed Swap and Gardening Expo There will be activities for youth and adults, a seed swap, free gardening information, giveaways, door prizes, as well as container and vertical gardening demonstrations. Held at Watkins Nature Center, Watkins Regional Park, 301 Watkins Park Drive, Upper Marlboro, MD. Free. Register on Eventbrite.com.
• Sunday, May 7, 4–5pm Labyrinth Journeys Join filmmaker Cintia Cabib for a screening and discussion of her new documentary, “Labyrinth Journeys.” The film presents the stories of adults, teenagers, and children who use seven Washington, DC, area labyrinths as tools for healing, meditation, rehabilitation, and playful exploration. Walk the labyrinth at Brookside Gardens after a Q & A with Ms. Cabib. Free. Registration required at www.activemontgomery.org: Course #30487; Brookside Gardens Visitors Center Auditorium, 1800 Glenallan Ave., Wheaton, MD; (301) 9621400; www.brooksidegardens.org.
Save These Future Dates • Friday, April 21 & Saturday, April 22 Spring Garden Market at River Farm Celebrate Earth Day with the American Horticultural Society at River Farm in Alexandria, VA. Vendors from across the Mid-Atlantic region will offer a large selection of plants such as vegetable seedlings, natives, unusual trees, and pollinator favorites. Garden art, tools, and other accessories also will be available. Master Gardeners will be on hand to answer questions. For details, visit www.ahsgardening.org. • Saturday, April 29, 10am–2pm Family Day: From a Moment to Infinity Visitors of all ages are invited to explore the world of orchids up close and hands-on at the free family day in the Hirshhorn museum lobby. The Hirshhorn and Smithsonian Gardens will team up for a day of family-friendly activities inspired by “orchids: A MOMENT” and the Hirshhorn exhibition “Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors.” Visit the Smithsonian Gardens website, www. si.edu, for a complete list of programs. • Sunday, April 30, 1–5pm Falls Church Home and Garden Tour After a five-year hiatus, the tour is back. Participants will have the opportunity to take a tour of eight unique homes and gardens in the beautiful and diverse city of Falls Church, with houses ranging from a restored historic farmhouse to a
• Saturday, May 20, 9am–3pm Spring Garden Day at Green Spring THE BIG PLANT SALE More than 40 local garden vendors descend on Green Spring Gardens with beautiful and unusual plants to fill your spring gardening needs. Growers and Master Gardeners are on hand to help with plant selections and advice. FROGS members receive 10% off plants in the Garden Gate Plant Shop. Free admission. For more information, call Green Spring Gardens at 703-6425173. Green Spring Gardens, 4603 Green Spring Road, Alexandria, VA 22312 (www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/ greenspring).
Still More Event Listings
See even more event listings on the Washington Gardener Yahoo discussion list. Join the list at http://groups.yahoo. com/group/WashingtonGardener/.
How to Submit Local Garden Events
To submit an event for this listing, please contact: email@example.com — put “Event” in the subject line. Our next deadline is April 10 for the April 2017 issue, for events taking place from April 16–May 15. o MARCH 2017
Dahlias Provide Diversity
Dahlias have become real favorites as summer-flowering bulbs in recent years. Once hampered by a rather stuffy image, this association has disappeared and they are now more popular than ever. One reason for this high regard is the diversity in heights that dahlias provide: They are available in very short varieties as well as very tall ones. This makes them suitable for any spot in the garden and absolutely adored by anyone who loves flowers. • Short Dahlias The short dahlia varieties are the ones that grow no taller than 20 inches. Being this short, they are often referred to as “dwarf dahlias” or “short border dahlias.” These short dahlias are perfect for any sunny location in the garden where they will grow, remain compact, and produce many flower stems. Since they never flop over and bloom tirelessly until the first frost, they are perfect for framing borders and paths. They also offer a wide range of flower shapes. The most popular short dahlias come from three groups: Mignon, Melody, and Gallery dahlias. Short dahlias are fantastic for a small garden. After all, they don’t take up very much space. These smaller dahlia varieties are also just right for planting in pots, tubs, and containers to add color to an entrance, balcony or patio. Once dahlias start to bloom, there’s 10
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no holding them back. You’ll soon be enjoying dozens of flowers on each dahlia plant. Remove faded flowers—this will encourage the plants to continue flowering and go right on until the first frost. • Tall Dahlias Tall dahlias grow to heights of 4 feet or more. Did you know that some can reach heights of more than 6 feet? Due to their height, their colorful flowers can appear in unexpected places in the garden to give it a flush of color and lush appearance. Dahlias are simply must-haves for a cutting garden. Their stems are long and strong enough to be used as cut flowers. The more flowers you pick, the longer the dahlias will keep on blooming. What could be better? Tall dahlias do need some extra support, however, since the weight of their flowers makes them top-heavy. Under conditions of wind and rain, their tall stems can break. Tall dahlias also need a lot of water, since their many leaves will transpire heavily during hot days. Without enough water, dahlias will grow slowly, produce few flowers, and display yellowing leaves. Tall dahlias have to be planted farther apart than short dahlias. This has to be done because tall dahlias become not only tall but also wide. A planting distance of 32 inches might seem excessive, but it’s actually perfect. More information on bulb growing and care can be found at www.bulb.com. o
Join the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge The Million Pollinator Garden Challenge is an initiative of the National Pollinator Garden Network, a collaboration of stakeholders from the garden, pollinator, and conservation communities working together to support the health of pollinating animals. The objective of the challenge is to increase nectar- and pollen-providing landscapes of every size to address one of the significant threats to pollinator health: the scarcity and degradation of forage. The goal is to promote and count 1 million pollinator forage locations across North America. To join the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge, simply go to the website
(http://millionpollinatorgardens.org) and complete the following steps: 1. Register your garden as pollinator habitat. 2. Upload a photo of your garden and fill in the necessary information. 3. Select “The Association for Garden Communicators” from the “Your Organization/Partnership Affiliation” dropdown menu. This will enable garden publications to track how many pollinator gardens are registered as a direct result of the efforts. o
PHS Announces 2017 Gold Medal Plant Winners
The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) has selected the 2017 winners of the PHS Gold Medal Plant awards, recognizing exceptional plants for the home gardener and professional landscaper. PHS and its Gold Medal committee also chose hardy favorites in the perennial category. “The Gold Medal Plant program recognizes exceptional trees, shrubs, vines, and perennials for the home gardener. These plants are selected for their beauty, reliability, and ease of care. Their performance and hardiness in the Mid-Atlantic growing region, from New York to Washington, DC, has been proven,” said Matt Rader, PHS president. This year’s winners are: • Crapemyrtle ‘Natchez’ (Lagerstroemia) • Holly Tea Olive ‘Gulftide’ (Osmanthus heterophyllus) • Viticella Clematis group (Clematis viticella) • Giant Hyssop ‘Blue Fortune’ (Agastache x) • Ornamental Onion ‘Summer Beauty’ (Allium x) • Hybrid Sage ‘Caradonna’ (Salvia nemorosa) • Stonecrop ‘Angelina’ (Sedum rupestre) A gardener who acquires a plant designated a Gold Medal winner can be assured the plant will exhibit standards of excellence for pest and disease resistance, as well as ease of growing when planted and maintained appropriately. Gold Medal Plants are also chosen for their beauty through many seasons, whether it be foliage, flower, form, or bark. A full list of all Gold Medal winners can be found at: http://phsonline.org/learning/goldmedal-plants. o
Quick Links to Recent Washington Gardener Blog Posts • Garden Book Donations • Primrose: You Can Grow That! • Seed Exchange 2017 Video • Rooting DC 2017 Wrap-Up • 17 Stunning DC Garden Photos See more Washington Gardener blog posts at: WashingtonGardener.blogspot.com o
March-April Garden To-Do List
New Plant Spotlight Tulip ‘Philly Belle’
The tulip is a result of a 19-year breeding process by Remarkable Tulips, a breeding company in Lisse, a small town just southwest of Amsterdam, Holland. Its pedals are brick-red and have fringed edges that capture sunlight. The tulip’s name was selected in an online vote held by the Royal Netherlands Embassy. “It’s fitting people chose ‘Philly Belle’ because it embodies both the tulip and the City of Philadelphia,” said Consul General Dolph Hogewoning of the Netherlands’ Consulate General in New York. “One cannot think of Philadelphia without also thinking of the Liberty Bell, and this new variety of tulip is beautiful.” The tulip is the Netherlands’ way of thanking the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society for choosing “Holland: Flowering the World” as the theme of this year’s Philadelphia Flower Show. The show explores the innovation that has defined the Netherlands’ approach of using its unique landscape, from windmills—one of the earliest uses of natural energy—to the modern Ecodome, which showcases the beauty of the Dutch landscape and the innovative achievements of the Dutch designers in the field of sustainability. o
• Avoid walking on and compacting wet soil in the garden. • Prune grapevines. • Put up trellises and teepees for peas, climbing beans, etc. • Plant peas, potatoes, beets, turnips, radishes, cabbage, mustard greens, onion sets, carrots, and kale. • Set out traps for mice, moles, and voles. • Get a soil test. • Do soil preparation—add lime, compost, etc., as needed. • Mulch beds with a light hand. • Start or update your garden journals. • Clean out any old debris from last season from your growing beds. • Turn your compost pile. • Repot root-bound houseplants and start fertilizing them. • Clean leaves and debris from your water garden. • Do not be alarmed if your pond turns green from algae bloom—this is natural until your water plants fill the surface area. Add a barley ball to combat it for now. • Cut back ornamental grasses. • Water during dry spells. • Cut your Daffodils for indoor bouquets, but do not combine daffs with other flowers in one vase. They give off a toxic substance that may kill off your other blooms prematurely. • Weed by hand to avoid disturbing newly forming roots. • Walk your garden—look for early signs of fungal disease. • Divide perennials and herbs. • Fertilize new growth. • Plant and prune roses. • Transplant small trees and shrubs. • Buy or check on your stored summer bulbs (such as dahlias and caladiums). Pot them and start to water if you want to give them an early start on the season. • If you started seeds last month, thin them and start the hardening-off process. • Start some more seeds—try flowering annuals like impatiens and petunias. • Prune fruit trees as their buds are swelling. Check for dead and diseased wood to prune out. Cut a few branches for indoor forcing, if desired. • Build a raised bed for vegetables. Add lots of manure and compost. • Buy an indoor plant to liven up your office space. Try an orchid or African violet. • Cut back and clear out the last of your perennial beds. • Feed birds and provide nesting materials (try dryer lint), as well as houses for the start of their family season. • Plant a tree for Arbor Day. Arbor Day falls on different dates in different states. In our area, it is the first Wednesday in April for Maryland. Virginia has it on the second Friday in April, and DC has it on the last Friday in April. In addition, many local groups and towns have their own celebrations. • Read a good gardening book or magazine. • Cut some branches (Forsythia, Quince, Bittersweet, Redbud, etc.) for forcing into bloom and enjoying indoors. o MARCH 2017
Japanese Garden Design By Marc Peter Keane Publisher: Tuttle Publishing List Price: $19.95 Reviewer: Jamie Moore The mission of Tuttle Publishing is to educate the English-speaking world about Asian culture. Marc Peter Keane’s book Japanese Garden Design successfully fulfills this mission. Keane provides an overview of the history of Japan from prehistoric to modern times and explores how cultural developments influenced garden design in Japan. The author begins by explaining how the constrictive physical landscape of Japan (steep mountains surrounded by sea) was a major force in the shaping of both Japanese society and gardens. He then explores the influence of the animistic Shintō religion, Confucian thought, geomancy, and Buddhism on garden development. I found it interesting that poetry was such a strong influence during the Heian aristocracy that popular poetic images were used to imbue gardens with meaning (e.g. pines to suggest waiting or yearning). The late medieval period saw the decline of the aristocracy and the rise of the subdued, naturalistic tea gardens. Also, with the increasing importance of the merchant class, came the development of Tsubo gardens—small gardens enclosed in town houses—that exemplified the idea of “the cosmos contained in a grain of sand.” Throughout history, the balance of complementary but opposing forces (Yin and Yang) has been a guiding principle of Japanese gardens. This is exemplified through the balance of natural wildness with man-made control. Also, elements are reduced to their most simplified forms (planes and vol12
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umes), striking a balance between twodimensional, flat surfaces (water, sand, and gravel), and three-dimensional, sculptural features (rocks and clipped plants). According to Keane, asymmetry is the primary design difference between East and West. Japanese gardens avoid a single, dominant focal point, which is considered “undynamic and overbearing.” Instead, they create visual stability through use of triads (groups of rocks) or triangular shapes (pine trees pruned into pyramidal form). Other differences are the bold use of blank space and of natural materials in refined ways. Before reading this book, I knew very little about Japanese history and culture. While I found Japanese gardens visually pleasing, I had not even scratched the surface of their meaning. Now, I will be able to more fully experience these magical places. Japanese gardens are steeped in symbolism and allegory, and are meant to be quietly contemplated. This wonderfully written and illustrated book provides the background knowledge of Japanese history and culture necessary to moreconsciously understand and appreciate these gardens. Jamie Moore has been gardening in Frederick County, MD, for the past four years (before that, she gardened in southern Louisiana for nine years, where she completed the Master Gardener program). Her main gardening interests are edible gardening on a suburban plot; growing old-garden roses, English roses, and heirloom flowers; composting; sustainable practices; and companion gardening. In addition to gardening, she loves to read; cook with local and seasonal produce; hike; and spend time with her husband, three children, and two cats.
Miniature Moss Gardens By Megumi Oshima and Hideshi Kimura Publisher: Tuttle Publishing List Price: $19.95 Reviewer: India Hamilton Miniature Moss Gardens by Megumi Oshima and Hideshi Kimura’s is a gardening book originally published in Japanese in 2012. Due to its popularity, it was translated and published in English this year. Oshima and Kimura
are both Tokyo natives and offer great perspectives on this gardening style, which started in Japan. Oshima hosts workshops on kokedama and bonsai moss plants from her garden store, while Kimura teaches classes on moss tray landscapes at the MinamiSunamachi Culture Center in Tokyo. Their book features photos on every page and is organized perfectly for beginner gardeners, with pop quizzes, small “Quick Tip” boxes, moss illustrations and labels, question-and-answer sections, and step-by-step planting guides. In the back of the book, there is also a short encyclopedia that details the types of moss used most often in gardening, providing those new to moss gardening with a place to start. Sprinkled throughout Miniature Moss Gardens is information on finding moss where you live, choosing the right soils, how to maintain moss in certain conditions, and how to make your garden visually appealing. My favorite section of the book was on Kokedama: moss balls typically used in interior decor as small elements to catch the eye. The instructions and pictures make it seem fairly easy to create and I look forward to doing so soon. I’d highly recommend this book for gardeners or nongardeners looking to green up their homes, office spaces, or small gardens. India Hamilton is a junior multi-platform journalism major and black women’s studies minor at the University of Maryland. This
BOOKreviews right through, because it holds together so well as an integrated story of family, garden, and food.
winter/spring, she is an editorial intern at Washington Gardener Magazine.
The Chinese Kitchen Garden By Wendy Kiang-Spray Publisher: Timber Press List Price: $19.95 Reviewer: Erica H. Smith The Chinese Kitchen Garden is several books in one, as its subtitle “Growing techniques and family recipes from a classic cuisine” implies. It is a gardening book, because it explains how to grow a number of edible plants from Chinese cuisine. It’s a cookbook, because each plant description is supplemented by a recipe, along with general information about harvesting or buying the vegetable and how it is prepared. And it’s also a memoir of several generations of one Chinese-American family, full of snippets of personal and cultural history. It is also, as it happens, a particularly attractive volume, with photographs by Sarah Culver and by the author illustrating all the aspects of the above, from growing crops in the garden, to dishes in preparation and finished form, to family portraits. The layout makes the book easy to read and use, with clear chapter headings, colorcoding for recipes and sidebars, and a tidy appearance throughout. The book begins with stories: KiangSpray’s touching description of her parents’ difficult lives in China, and of her own upbringing and “garden story” in the United States. Family tales are interspersed through the book, and make what might otherwise be simply a good instructional manual into something much more special and unique. But the gardening advice is useful and begins early in the seasonally organized book. The chapter “Spring” describes improving soil, building raised beds, making compost, and other topics, and each subsequent chapter covers relevant subjects for that season. A novice gardener might want some supplemental detail, but could glean enough from this book to get started on growing. Each section describes the crops most appropriate to that season. Each entry includes common name, scientific name, and names in Mandarin and
Erica H. Smith is a Montgomery County Master Gardener, runs the Grow It Eat It blog for the University of Maryland Extension, and grows vegetables in her own community garden plot and in the MG Demonstration Garden in Derwood, MD. She is the author of several novels; visit her web site at ericahsmith.wordpress.com.
Cantonese in both Chinese characters and Pinyin transliterations, with pronunciations. A description of the plant is followed by growing and preparation advice, and then a recipe. The recipes are authentically Chinese, and some require ingredients that may only be available in international markets, as well as complicated techniques—though some are also quite simple. Plants vary from the easy-to-grow such as snow peas, bunching onions, and various beans, cucurbits, greens, and other familiar types of garden plants, to those that may be more challenging or problematic, such as bamboo, watercress, lotus root, and taro. But these vegetables could instead be purchased for recipes, and the descriptions assist in making good choices at the store. Thirty-eight vegetables are profiled in full, with sidebars covering others briefly. This book is ideal for gardeners from beginners to experienced who want to grow plants from this cultural tradition, and for cooks who want to integrate these vegetables into their dishes. I will offer this disclaimer: Wendy is a friend who asked me to read this book in a draft form and offer suggestions, and I was thrilled to do so. But I am honest when I say it came out beautifully (despite any help I may have given!). Garden books and cookbooks are usually meant for dipping into as information is required; this is a book you may want to sit down and read
These books were reviewed by volunteer members of the Washington Gardener Reader Panel. We are looking for a few additional volunteers who live in the greater Washington, DC, region to serve on our Reader Panel. This will consist of about two email exchanges per month. Reader Panelists may also be asked to review new gardening books and test out new garden plants, tools, and seeds. To join the Washington Gardener Volunteer Reader Panel, please send an email with your name and address to: KathyJentz@gmail. com. We look forward to having you be a vital part of our local publication and its gardening mission. o
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James Madison’s Montpelier:
A History in Trees
by Cheval Force Opp Miles of gently rolling land stretched before me at James Madison’s Montpelier entry gate. The undulating, grassy terrain graced by scattered green copses offered a serene view for miles, bounded only by the smoky azure Blue Ridge Mountains. The whitepillared Madison home at the hill’s crest behind me presented a stately, windowed front. The clear air smelled sweet, and bird sounds chimed in the tall trees. It was easy to imagine James and Dolley Madison peering out the upstairs window, wondering who loitered to enjoy their view.
Montpelier is the lifelong home of James Madison, father of the Constitution, architect of the Bill of Rights, and fourth president of the United States. Long before he retired to this Orange County property, colonial surveyors were keen to identify land with mature Hickory Trees known to thrive in well-drained, deep bottomland. Today the 2,650-acre plantation lies within a swath of Davidson soil, known 14
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to be the richest in the Piedmont. Just as in Colonial times, this mineral-rich loam supports three of the four native Virginia Hickories: Mockernut (Carya tomentosa), Pignut Hickory (Carya glabra), and Bitternut Hickory (Carya cordiformis). The Montpelier estate was settled in 1732 by President James Madison’s grandfather, Ambrose Madison. Originally named Mount Pleasant, James Madison inherited the estate after his father’s death in 1801. The plantation grew tobacco and wheat for cash crops and corn for people and livestock. Other plantings included clover and timothy (cover crops), rye, alfalfa, flax, and hemp. When the Montpelier estate passed out of the Madison family, it was sold to a succession of owners and finally purchased in 1901 by William duPont. Daughter Marion duPont Scott inherited use of the property in 1928 and lived there for 82 years. At her death, the estate was bequeathed to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. A $25 million res-
toration project by NTHP was launched in October 2003 and completed on Constitution Day, 2008. The Madison home now consists of the 22 rooms used by the president from his retirement in 1815 until his death in 1836. A house tour provides an entertaining monolog about Dolley and James Madison and the estate. Coupled with the impressive ongoing restoration of the interior decorations and furnishings, visitors are treated to a fascinating glimpse of history.
Landscape Stewards Madison and duPont
The Montpelier garden, a short walk behind the mansion, is enclosed with a brick wall built by duPont. The garden’s shape and structure reflect contributions from generations of both Malisons and duPonts. Research confirms that the duPont brick wall lies on the same boundary as Madison’s four-acre garden, probably replacing a wooden “paling” fence. Entry to the garden is through a duPont wrought-iron gate displaying fanciful gold-leaf gilded
DAYtrip honey locust pods. A long, straight, tile-edged center path splits the terraced garden as in Madison’s time. The brick wall encloses two acres, but the Madison garden—the source of copious fruit and vegetables—was four acres presumed to stretch out the back of the plot. Montpelier research associate Hilarie M. Hicks provided the following note from Dolley Madison’s niece Mary Cutts: “The choicest fruits, especially pears, were raised in abundance, figs bore their two crops every summer, which Mr. Madison liked to gather himself, arbors of grapes, over which he exercised the same authority. It was a paradise of roses and other flowers, to say nothing of the strawberries, and vegetables.” Vegetables grown at Montpelier included artichokes, asparagus, beans, beets, cabbages, cauliflower, carrots, celery, corn, cucumbers, herbs, lettuce, onions, peas, radishes, squash, tomatoes, and turnips. Fruits included apples, cherries, figs, mulberries, peaches, pears, plums, gooseberries, raspberries, strawberries, watermelons, and grapes. A most bountiful garden! DuPont’s additions to the garden hardscaping are iron handrails and cement steps bridging the decline between two terraces and numerous Italian marble statuary and architectural pieces from duPont travels. Most of the garden’s 12 signature trees such as traditional Southern Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) and the more exotic Cedar of Lebanon (Cedrus libani) were planted in duPont’s time. Crescent-shaped flower beds created by the duPonts are now planted with herbs and seasonal flowers. As in the rest of the Montpelier landscape, trees steal the show. Walking under their shade around the garden perimeter they display tall contrasting forms in a kaleidoscope of verdant hues.
Protecting James Madison’s Black Walnut
Heritage trees are among the most valuable icons on the plantation. The Significant Trees map available at the visitor center identifies 39 varieties of the more than 100 trees scattered
throughout the grounds. The list facilitates identification of trees from the Madison era and the specimen trees planted during Marion duPont’s residence. Horticulture Supervisor Sandy Mudrinich joined me for a stroll past several of these majestic trees, many over 100 years old. She pointed out how wisely they were positioned and planted to give each tree the room needed to grow to its regal size and shape. I particularly enjoyed seeing a Chinese Chestnut (Castanea mollissima), with its prickly fruit scattered on the ground. Recent archeological investigations revealed new information about African-American life at the plantation. In response, Montpelier, in collaboration with descendants of the slave community, is restoring the slave quarters in the South Yard for a groundbreaking exhibition on slavery.
The proposed construction borders one of three 200 plus-year-old Black Walnut (Juglans nigra L) trees planted during James Madison residence. To protect the roots of this witness tree during the discovery excavation, Senior Research Archeologist Terry Brock and Horticulturist Allyson Whalley collaborated on an innovative solution. The agreed-upon goal “to protect the roots” was a horticultural imperative, but the dirt around the roots had to be examined for artifacts and building sites. In January of 2016, wooden boards were inserted along the area closest to the tree with grooves cut to fit around the roots. The tree was pruned, and the area opposite the construction fenced to prevent any walking by visitors, staff, or equipment, thus protecting the undisturbed roots. From April through December, archeologists carefully removed dirt, revealing a cluster of bricks identifying the
chimney base and a line of large bricks marking the western side of an 18x22 foot slave dwelling. During this time, the roots were mulched, watered, and protected from the sun and the wind. Any root removal was a joint decision by the horticulturist and the archeology staff. The project was funded by a generous, $10 million leadership gift from philanthropist, David M. Rubenstein. The new exhibition, “The Mere Distinction of Colour,” underpins Montpelier’s bold and transformative initiative: to tell an honest and unabridged American story that relates to the wide-ranging social and cultural issues we face today. As a lover of trees, I am gratified that this ancient Black Walnut has been cared for in a way to allow it to witness history yet to be lived.
Rare, Old Growth Piedmont Forest
The estate contains a 200-acre forest known as the James Madison Landmark Forest, which is recognized as a premier example of a mature Piedmont forest. This relatively undisturbed forest contains several trees that are more than 300 years old. Ideal growing conditions at the site, including the fertile Davidson soil, allow the trees to attain great size. Here, visitors can peer skyward at 150-foot Tulip trees rising from trunks five feet in diameter. In 1987, this forest was designated as a National Natural Landmark by the National Park Service. Every plant species in this forest has been documented in a list available upon request. An adjacent one-mile Demonstration Forest trail is an interpretive trail with signage discussing modern forestry management. Formal walks discuss sustainable forestry and its use for recreation and wildlife—benefits visitors can realize in their home and community. Mudrinich leads the quarterly walk in the Montpelier Forest. She joined Montpelier in 1985, before the site could allow visitors. I asked about her perspective on the changes funding has made to the landscape. She said, “I’m very excited to be here during the dynamic and positive changes at MARCH 2017
DAYtrip Montpelier. Not only has the foundation been laid to present Montpelier as a leading historical site, but now efforts are being made to widen our visitors’ experience and to give them a morecomplete and fuller appreciation of this irreplaceable landscape. “We are adding to the eight miles of hiking trails to include additional acres with a wider variety of plant communities. One trail connects Montpelier to an adjacent trail system on neighboring property, enabling hikers to enjoy outstanding views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. More than 10 acres of wild meadows are being planted.” “Tours introduce visitors to a forest where not only President Madison walked but all the people who lived and worked on this fertile estate. It is a terrain no one can experience anywhere else on Earth. Here is a forest that contributed to the livelihood of over ten generations of people of many races. We hope it enhances our visitors’ emotional experience and deepens their appreciation of the property. “Experiencing the environment helps visitors discover how our changing environment is affecting our natural resources and how we can better manage not only our forests but our meadows and waterways. It is a gift that visitors can take home with them for a better appreciation of their own landscapes. “Our natural resources are the link that ties the past, present, and future together. And what better place to experience all of this than at Montpelier!” James Madison’s Montpelier is a special day trip that is not to be missed. In 1781, Edmund Pendleton, a friend of the Madison’s, wrote about the “Salubrious Air… not to be exceeded by any Montpelier in the Universe.” A visit today is still a balm for the senses and the soul.
Plan Your Visit
There’s a lot to do at Montpelier, so schedule at least two hours for your visit. Start the journey by reading about Montpelier’s history online and doublechecking your directions. Pre-book a tour and arrive with extra time to take advantage of the trails and the awardwinning food at the Exchange Café. I was treated to a bar-b-q sandwich and 16
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Trees pictured, starting from the left, are an Oriental Spruce (Picea orientalis), a multitrunked Deodara Cedar (Cedrus deodara), then a couple of Black Walnut (Juglans nigra) specimens (before leafing out in the spring), followed by another Picea orientalis.
can recommend it as excellent! The gift store sparkles with trinkets, books, and home products. Open from 9am to 5pm, the modern David M. Rubenstein Visitor Center’s has a welcoming staff. Do not miss a wing in the visitors’ center dedicated to the duPont family. It includes a restored art deco Red Room from the Marion duPont Scott era, moved from the mansion and permanently installed here. The Montpelier Trails are free; leashed dogs allowed; open to the public seven days a week during business hours, and may be accessed from the trailhead kiosk just below the Visitor Center parking lot. A wealth of information is available at https://www.montpelier.org/visit. The address is 11350 Constitution Highway Montpelier Station, VA 22957. NOTE: James Madison’s Montpelier is not located in Montpelier, VA, which is a town located on Route 33, outside Richmond. James Madison’s Montpelier is located in Orange County, just north of Charlottesville and east of Culpeper. Do not take Chicken Mountain Road.
• Signature Tour: Monday-Sunday, 10am–3pm, every half hour. It lasts one hour and includes a tour of the mansion. Fee: Adults $20, Kids $7. The classic, keystone experience of Montpelier touches on a little bit of
everything: “Madison the man,” “The Constitution & Bill of Rights,” “Slavery, Madison’s worst regret,” and “Dolley Madison, America’s first First Lady.” • Homeschooling Day on April 3, 9am–5pm. Enjoy a day at Montpelier designed especially for homeschooling families, or any family seeking a fun day out. Fee: Adults $10, Kids $5. • The Montpelier Wine Festival, May 6–7, 11am–6pm. A premier spring event and a family-friendly event that features Virginia wineries, arts-andcrafts and food vendors, live music, children’s entertainment, and more. Advance sale tickets: $20. o Special thanks to the staff at James Madison’s Montpelier: Tourism Marketing Manager Christy Moriarty for her kind attention to the logistics of my visit; Senior Research Archaeologist Terry Brock for our discussion of the Black Walnut protection efforts; Horticulture Supervisor Sandy Mudrinich for walking the grounds, answering questions, and directing me to other resources; Horticulturist Allyson Whalley for her winter garden photo; Research Associate Hilarie M. Hicks for information about the Madison Garden and Collections; Manager Lauren Kraut Squier for information about the duPont Garden. Cheval Force Opp lives in Dunn Loring, VA, with her husband Dana and corgi Marzipan. Visiting gardens all over the world is her favorite activity. Her own gardens are in constant change to meet the challenges of too many deer and not enough time.
Rooting DC 2017
Rooting DC, hosted at the Woodrow Wilson High School on February 18th, celebrated 10 years of uniting local gardeners and nonprofit organizations in the greater DC-MD-VA area to brainstorm ideas for developing a healthier food system. Gardeners, businesses, and food vendors set up tables in the high school atrium with information for beginner gardeners about what grows best locally and ways for more-experienced gardeners to be a part of giving back to the community. In addition to walking the tables, attendees could also sit in on a variety of presentations and talks. I attended the Soilful City presentation hosted by Xavier Brown, founder and executive director of this urban gardening collective. At Soilful City, there is a great emphasis on reconnecting the body, mind, and spirit to the earth when gardening. During his talk, Brown discussed the popular term agroecology and how he has come to develop the term afroecology to include not only the physical aspects of gardening, but also a culture of knowledge-keeping that comes when information about how to farm is passed down through generations. Brown and Soilful City works with local schools and shelters to reach individuals impacted when food accessibility is affected by gender, housing, and race.
Home Gardening Exhibit at U.S. Botanic Garden
The U.S. Botanic Garden opened a new exhibit titled “You Can Grow It!” on February 18 that will be open until October 15. The exhibit offers answers to questions gardeners of all expertise levels have about the best plants to
grow in certain locations. Each section of the exhibit focuses on different topics, including succulent plants, seasonal plants, growing from seed, hydroponics indoors, and growing herbs and other plants in containers in outdoors sections. In addition to the Conservatory gallery, workshops, tours, and lectures will be given throughout the run of the exhibit, featuring cooking lessons and training for gardening at home. Anyone interested also may explore the U.S. Botanic Garden, which is free of the charge for the public and open every day of the year from 10am to 5pm.
Master Gardeners Welcome Spring
In conjunction with the University of Maryland, Montgomery County Master Gardeners hosted its 17th annual Master Gardener Spring Conference on February 25 at the Agricultural History Farm Park. Under the theme “Successful Design with Nature in Mind,” the conference highlighted ways for gardeners to coexist better with the world around them. Attendees were able to network, receive advice from professionals, and engage in presentations on pollinators, shade gardening, landscape design, beekeeping, vegetable gardening, and appealing to wildlife.
Brookside Gardens hosted the annual Green Matters Symposium on February 24th at the Silver Spring Civic Center. The event, usually held at Brookside Gardens, was moved to the civic center to accommodate a large increase in ticket sales. The event was a sell-out. This year’s theme was “Plant Solutions in the Age of Climate Change” and guest speakers discussed causes and solutions to environmental chal-
lenges the planet faces in the wake of droughts, melting ice caps, and other extreme weather conditions. With a hint of humor, keynote speaker Dan Hinkley discussed major environmental issues facing the planet and how gardeners could do even more to make differences. Hinkley emphasized not wanting to guilt-trip anyone but would rather express what he’s learned in his life that’s led him to be more cognizant. Human beings in general believe they are entitled to an exhaustive list of things, said Hinkley. He explained his understanding from personal experience that it’s hard to admit that everything you’ve done up until a certain point is wrong, but that there’s so much more to do. His four main pieces of advice to the audience were to “attend to your world, ask yourself difficult questions, modify your approaches, and instill in children and young people an awe for the planet.” The closing speaker, author Ken Druse, tackled the challenges of shade gardening. The low-stress environment of shade (cooler temperatures, fewer water demands, carbon sequestration) is extremely beneficial for our plants, our planet, and us, he said. Using his own New Jersey garden as a prime example, Ken detailed new ways of looking at all aspects of the gardening process—all within the challenges of a changing climate, shrinking resources, and new weather patterns. o Compiled by India Hamilton, an editorial intern at Washington Gardener Magazine. MARCH 2017
by Kate Jerome
Eggplants have been grown in China and India since the fifth century. In the 12th century, the Arabs introduced them into Spain, where they became popular as an aphrodisiac. They moved into England and Italy in the 16th century as ornamental plants only, since they were thought to cause madness if consumed. Their popularity in all areas of the world today is evident by the hundreds of cultivars available. Asian eggplants have smaller fruits on smaller plants than traditional Italian and American types. The glossy black, white, lavender, pink, purple, or green fruits are long and slender, usually about 2 inches in diameter and up to 9 inches long. Asian eggplants (Solanum melongena var. esculentum) belong to the nightshade family, Solanaceae, along with peppers, tomatoes, and potatoes. They are called nasu in Japan. Choose a site in full sun. Eggplants will thrive as long as the soil is well-drained. This is so important that in heavy soil, they should be grown in raised beds. Eggplants also need rich soil, especially in potassium. The addition of copious amounts of organic matter will make the soil rich and moisture-retentive. Eggplants must have warm soil to grow well, and they take a long time to reach maturity. The best method in northern climates is to grow from seed indoors or purchase bedding plants and plant them outdoors when the soil is thoroughly warm. Start seeds indoors 10–12 18
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weeks before the last frost. Plant them outdoors after hardening them off and after all danger of frost is past. Transplant eggplants 18–24 inches apart in rows 30 to 36 inches apart . For intensive or raised bed gardens, allow 24 inches in all directions. Eggplants grow best in hot weather. Eggplants are heavy feeders, so in addition to providing rich soil initially, feed them with composted manure or a balanced fertilizer when the plants are half-grown and again after harvesting the first fruits. Mulch the plants lightly after the soil is warm. Eggplants are tolerant of dry conditions, but produce much better if well-watered during dry spells. As the plants begin to bloom, pick off the first few flowers to force the plant to put energy into more fruit. Some gardeners stake and prune Asian eggplants like tomatoes to keep the fruits straight and long. Keep an eye out for signs of flea beetle damage or yellowing bottom leaves, which may indicate verticillium wilt. The easiest way to control flea beetles is to grow the plants under row covers until they begin to bloom. If you suspect verticillium wilt, remove the entire plant and destroy it to prevent the disease from transferring to other plants. Always rotate crops and don’t grow eggplants where you’ve grown any other nightshade plant for three years. Harvest usually begins in mid to late summer, about 70–90 days after sowing the seeds. Harvest when the fruits
Pak Choi Bopak F1 2015 AAS Winner. Photo courtesy of National Garden Bureau.
Four Favorite Asian Vegetables
are about 6 inches long and the skin is glossy and firm. If it begins to lose its gloss, the fruit is past its prime and may become bitter. Discard fruits that turn brown or feel spongy instead of firm. Harvest eggplants with pruning shears or a knife to avoid tearing the plant. Eggplants do not store well, so eat them as soon as possible after picking; they can be refrigerated for a few days. The easiest way to store an abundant crop is to cook them into a favorite dish and freeze the dish. They don’t freeze well by themselves. Asian eggplants are milder and more delicate in flavor than American and Italian types, although many people feel they have more “eggplant” flavor. They have very tender skin, so there is no need to peel them. They are flavorful grilled, fried, roasted, pickled, or stirfried.
The asparagus or yardlong bean originated in southern Asia and is now grown extensively in Asia, Europe, and most recently, the United States. These unique beans grow on twining, delicate stems with a tenacious root system. The plants bloom in mid-summer with a pair of large white or purple flowers. Once pollinated, the flowers are followed by tiny dark-green beans that reach a foot long in only a few days. The beans can grow up to 3 feet long, ripening to pale green and inflating as the red or black seeds ripen. Although they resemble pole snap beans (Phaseolus vulgaris), asparagus beans are more closely related to southern cowpeas (Vigna unguiculata). Asparagus bean (Vigna unguiculata subsp. sesquipedalis), is called dow gauk in China, sasage in Japan, and Chinese long bean or yardlong bean in Europe and the United States. Asparagus beans thrive in average garden soil that is loose and friable. Rich garden soil heavy in nitrogen causes abundant leaf growth and few beans. True legumes, they enrich their soil by trapping atmospheric nitrogen in nodules on their roots. With the help of nitrogen-fixing bacteria, the plant makes its own food. Choose a site in full sun and loosen the soil to a depth of 8–10 inches in preparation for sowing. Mix in compost
EDIBLEharvt or composted manure in spring to boost soil fertility slightly. These climbing beans must be grown on a trellising system. Bamboo tripods or row trellising with poles and string are effective. Whichever method you use, make it at least 7 feet high for these vines. Asparagus beans thrive in heat and wither in cold, so sow after all danger of frost has passed and the soil has warmed. Usual timing is to sow them about two weeks after sowing green beans. To move the schedule ahead, you can put down a black plastic mulch to warm soil earlier. If using a tripod system, plant three or four seeds to each pole. If using a row trellis, plant the seeds 3 to 4 inches apart in rows 8 inches apart. Plant the seeds 2 inches deep in good soil or an inch deep in heavy soil. If you have a very long growing season, make two more successive sowings, at two-week intervals. In northern climates, a single sowing in late spring will often produce until frost. Asparagus beans germinate in about a week and will begin producing abundantly once the weather heats up. They easily tolerate hot weather and even some drought. However, to keep the beans producing, water in dry spells. It is unnecessary to fertilize asparagus beans unless you have nutrient-poor soil. You should have harvestable beans about two months after sowing, continuing throughout summer and into the fall. Harvest when the beans are about half the diameter of a pencil, before the seeds have filled out inside and when they still snap when bent. You may need to harvest daily since continuous picking keeps the plants producing. The plants will stop producing if beans are left to ripen. Although the beans will keep several days in the refrigerator, they are best eaten soon after harvesting. They can also be blanched and frozen for winter storage. Asparagus beans get their common name from a taste similar to asparagus. They have a more dense texture than snap beans and more intense “bean” flavor. Their texture and flavor hold up well when stir-fried or steamed. If the beans are left to mature somewhat, they can be shelled and cooked as other southern “peas”
Snow peas originated in the Mediterranean, and were grown widely in England and Europe in the 19th century. They were called English sugar peas or mangetout in France. The Chinese adopted these peas into their own cuisine from the English, and they have been known as Chinese snow peas ever since. Snow peas have light-green pods that follow purple or white, sweetly scented flowers. Some varieties climb with twining tendrils to 4 or 5 feet, and other varieties are dwarf types, only growing to 2 or 3 feet. Snow peas are true legumes, classified as Pisum sativum var. macrocarpon. Snow peas need soil that is rich in phosphorus and potassium. If your soil is somewhat acidic, add wood ashes or ground limestone. Otherwise, add a fertilizer high in phosphate and potash. There is no need for extra nitrogen since the plants fix atmospheric nitrogen. Snow peas perform best in soil with plenty of organic matter, which makes the soil moisture-retentive. Select a site in full sun and rotate peas annually to avoid blights and root rot. All snow peas need some sort of trellising, even the dwarf varieties. They have fairly weak root systems and untrellised peas don’t produce as well as those on a sturdy trellis. A lightweight trellis of netting or string is sufficient as long as it is securely anchored. Some gardeners use shrubby branches to make a natural trellis. Snow peas should be grown as an early spring or fall crop in areas with hot summers. In areas with mild winters, they are usually grown as a winter and early spring crop. Make successive sowings every 10 days from March through May for harvest through early July. Some gardeners soak pea seeds for 24 hours or sprout them before planting to give them a head start in the cold ground. It is wise to dust the seeds with a bacterial inoculant to help boost their nitrogen-fixing capacity. Plant when the soil temperature reaches 45 degrees and the soil is dry enough to till. Plant the seeds 1 to 2 inches deep in prepared soil, 2 to 3 inches apart in rows 18–24 inches apart. Be sure to put your trellising system in place when you sow the seeds to avoid disturbing the tender
roots later. Keep snow peas well-watered during dry spells and cultivate lightly between the rows to remove weeds. Don’t cultivate too near the peas, however, because their roots are extremely vulnerable. Apply mulch as the soil warms to keep it cool. As soon as the peas have finished bearing, turn them under rather than pulling them. This provides nitrogen to other crops. Watch for fusarium and root-rot diseases. Fusarium wilt, a vascular disease, can usually be avoided by rotating your crops. Avoid root rot by not planting your peas too early. Snow peas are ready to harvest 50– 60 days from sowing. Pick them when tiny peas are just beginning to swell inside their pods, usually five to seven days after flowering. Harvest as long as the actual peas are very small, daily to keep plants producing. If not picked regularly, snow pea plants will stop producing. They also stop producing as soon as the weather gets hot. When you see production begin to slow, be ready to pull the plants or dig them under. Try to eat or blanch and freeze your snow peas as quickly as possible after picking. Although they can be kept in the refrigerator up to two weeks, they tend to lose their intense sweetness. The sweet, crisp, tender pods are eaten whole, either raw or lightly steamed or sautéed. The pods lack the papery inner membrane of regular peas, which is why they are so tender. The tender shoots (called Dow miu) and leaf buds are considered a delicacy in China.
Pak choi (pak-choy or Bok Choi) is native to eastern Asia, where it has been grown for thousands of years. The Celts brought the vegetable to the British Isles, and it became popular in Europe until the late 1800s and then in the United States since 1900. The plant is grown for its thick, white, tender stalks that are the petioles and main veins of the leaves. The leaves are dark, glossy green with white veins. There is also a miniature green variety with green tender stems. Brassica rapa (Chinensis group), called celery cabbage, Chinese celery EdibleHarvest continued on page 21 MARCH 2017
Meet Wendy Kiang-Spray By India Hamilton
of information broken down about gardening, so it’s a good general gardening book. Although I would call it a 50% garden book and 50% food book, people also refer to The Chinese Kitchen Garden as a cookbook, and people who like experimenting with recipes or reading about food stories have also been really interested. On the food side, another group that has been interested is the group that has always liked to explore different cultures. At my talks, there are always people who tell me that they love to go to Asian supermarkets and want to buy the interesting vegetables they see but have no idea how to use them. This is a group that is using The Chinese Kitchen Garden as a supermarket handbook of sorts. What is the research and writing process like for writing about gardening? The research and writing process for The Chinese Kitchen Garden was great. For me, it was a really nice balance between general growing information and the personal, cultural, and family stories that are infused throughout the book. While the topic might be bitter melon, there will be equal parts fact, reveries from my childhood, stories about how my father ate bitter melon in rural China, and how it might be prepared in a fine restaurant in Hong Kong.
Wendy Kiang-Spray is a gardener, speaker, writer, high school counselor, and volunteer with DC Master Gardeners. She also has her own blog, Greenish Thumb. Kiang-Spray grew up watching her parents traditionally grow and prepare many of her family’s vegetables, sparking her interest in gardening. Washington Gardener caught up with her at this year’s Rooting DC to get her latest thoughts. For our review of her first book, The Chinese Kitchen Garden, see page 13 of this issue. Tell us a little about your background and your interests in horticulture. I am just a home cook and backyard gardener, but to say “just a” is an understatement, as anyone who loves food and cooking knows the rich and satisfying life of a home cook. Similarly, 20
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anyone who gardens knows how quickly the hobby can become an all-consuming passion. While my own garden wasn’t established until I was in my late twenties, gardening and food have always been in my blood. I come from a family of foodies and the garden (flower and vegetable) has always been at the center of my life. In my book, I explain how coming to learn about vegetables became the vehicle for me to learn about relatives I love but never got to know, as well as how my ancestors lived. What audience do you think you’re best reaching with your book? The Chinese Kitchen Garden appeals to a wide audience! Gardeners who are looking for new vegetables to grow have been interested in it. There is also a lot
What advice would you give to beginner/amateur gardeners in the greater Washington, DC, region?
I love gardening in the DMV area. There is a huge network of support in this area, from the annual free urban gardening symposium Rooting DC, to Washington Gardener Magazine, to a plethora of community gardens and the classes and workshops that come with them. Josh Singer, from the Department of Parks and Recreation, has an Urban Garden Program, organizes resources such as a tool share program, and puts together an incredible newsletter. It is stunning how large the DC gardening community is and what information and help is available. What’s the best piece of gardening advice you’ve ever received? It was not said to me, but I read, early
NEIGHBORnwork on, that “There’s always next year.” I really subscribe to this because for every success I have, I usually suffer an equal number of failures. This quote speaks to the resilience of gardeners. Whether we fail by our own hands, Brood-X cicadas, or droughts, we learn, try to figure out how to make next season better, and know we have another chance. What are your favorite plant-purchasing options? People always ask me about seed sources. Many are listed in my book but can also be easily located on the Internet. Seed swaps such as the Annual Washington Gardener Seed Exchange are good ways to get seeds. Most of our international supermarkets also sell them. Personally, my favorite company is Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. They have an enormous variety of openpollinated, non-GMO seeds, including just about every Asian vegetable I’ve ever searched for. EdibleHarvest continued from page 19
and Chinese mustard cabbage are more closely related to mustard than cabbage. The Cantonese name is bok choy or pak choi and the Mandarin name is pe-tsai or pei tsai. The name means white vegetable in Chinese. Pak choi is a member of the mustard family, Brassicaceae, to which cabbage, mustard, broccoli, and turnips belong. Pak choi performs best in full sun in a somewhat cool spot. Provide rich, loose soil that is very well-drained to prevent crown rot. Incorporate plenty of well-rotted manure or other organic matter into the planting bed to help retain moisture. If the bed is low enough to be poorly drained, raise it, but not more than 6 inches, to prevent the soil from becoming too warm. Plant pak choi in very early spring and again in mid to late summer for the fall garden. In cool climates, sow seeds ½-inch deep directly in the garden after the danger of frost has passed. Sow the seeds 3 to 4 inches apart and then thin to 8–12 inches apart. In climates with hot summers, start the plants indoors six to eight weeks before the last frost. Start them in individual pots to avoid damaging
What’s your favorite thing to watch as it grows? Oh, there are a lot of interesting things to observe in the garden as they grow. I like watching super-fast-growing vegetables such as long beans and luffa gourds. Luffa gourds actually turn into scrubby bath sponges as they mature, and that is amazing to see. I also love to watch tendrils from climbing vines such as the bottle gourd vine, wrap around a structure and pull up. Also, tatsoi, a plant that grows in a rosette with leaves that look similar to the leaves of bok choy, holds up well to frost. I like how the plant grows upright, but when there is a cold snap, will flatten and hover close to the soil. When it warms again, up it goes. To whom do you owe your interests in gardening/ horticulture? My father for setting the example in my life. My daughter, who, as a child, one day randomly asked if we could have a the roots in transplanting. Transplant outdoors two to three weeks before the frost-free date. Plant in rows 2 to 2½ feet apart or space them a foot apart in raised beds or intensive gardens. For fall planting, sow the seeds directly about 3–4 inches apart and thin to 8–12 inches once the seedlings are up. The plants can be grown in a cold frame to extend the season. Pak choi is a heavy feeder, so fertilize with composted manure or a balanced fertilizer four weeks after setting out transplants. Take precautions against cabbage worms, cabbage root maggots, and flea beetles. The plants can be grown under row covers to keep the pests out. Pak choi greens can be used as early as 30 days after sowing; it takes about 50–60 days to have harvestable heads. Harvest the outer leaves while they are tender, early in season. As the weather heats up, harvest the tender inner leaves. You can also cut the whole head, which will weigh 3–4 pounds. Pak choi is a short-season vegetable so it tends to bolt quickly. Breeders are developing types that take much longer to bolt, but pak choi is a cool-season vegetable, so it sends up a flowering
garden. It all started that day! Looking back, what has been your most rewarding gardening experience? Every moment in the garden is rewarding. Rewarding to the body, mind, and certainly soul. I would honestly say though, that writing this book, and then being able to share it with the world, is the single most rewarding experience. Through this book, I was able to tap into all my loves: working in the garden, eating and talking about food, recording my mom’s recipes, telling about my family history, and sharing interesting cultural stories with people of other cultural backgrounds. And while we’re not big picture-takers, having such beautiful family photos that came out of the work we did for the book has been such a nice record of this time. o India Hamilton is a junior multi-platform journalism major at the University of Maryland. This winter/spring, she is an editorial intern at Washington Gardener Magazine.
stalk as soon as the weather gets warm. A flower stalk usually indicates that the stalks and leaves are getting tough. Pak choi keeps several weeks in the refrigerator or for a week or so in a cool cellar. If you have a cold frame, dig the plants with the roots on, place them in the frame, and cover them with straw and dirt. They will keep several months. The stalks of pak choi are not fibrous even though the plant is sometimes called celery cabbage. They are tender, and particularly good when cooked lightly in a stir-fry. Pak choi is a stock ingredient in many Chinese recipes. While tender, the stalks can be shredded and added to cole slaw with other types of cabbage. The leaves are good when prepared like other greens, and the thinned seedlings are superb when lightly sautéed. Pak choi can be blanched and frozen to add to soups and stews. o The National Garden Bureau recognizes the experts who reviewed this text and offered their advice growing these crops. They are Yukie Benech of American Takii, and Joe Kojima of Sakata Seed America. This fact sheet is provided as an educational service of the National Garden Bureau. MARCH 2017
Predatory Mites to the Rescue! by Carol Allen
This time of the year, the gardener is on an emotional roller coaster. The moth orchids are in full bloom (thrill), the cherry blossoms are swelling or blooming (thrill), periodic freezes render magnolia blossoms into brown rags (bummer), and the spider mites are taking over the house plants (big bummer). With the garden starting to demand our attention, house plants sometimes take a back seat. The days are getting longer, so both house plants and their pests are growing! It is not warm enough to take them outside for their summer vacation (which would knock back that spider mite population). What’s a busy gardener to do? Managing spider mites is neither difficult, nor toxic, but it does take time, planning, and persistence. Throughout the winter, give your more-moveable plants a thorough shower at watering time. Take your plants to the kitchen sink or shower stall and give them a gentle “power wash” by playing a moderate spray over all surfaces of the leaves and stems. It is the force of the water that disrupts the mites, so misting will not do the job. When the plants are dry, spray with either horticultural oil or neem oil making sure to cover all surfaces.* However, my secret weapon is to apply predatory mites to battle the spider mites. Sounds creepy, doesn’t it? But look at the advantages: 1) The “good” mites eat only their target species, nothing else. 2) They seek out spider mites, unlike sprays which “might” hit the mites or might not! 3) They stay put on the plant and have 22
WASHINGTON GARDENER MARCH 2017
no interest in your living spaces. 4) They die when they run out of spider mites to eat and when they die, they are so small, they don’t stink! You might be concerned about recognizing the “good guys” from the “bad guys.” Predatory mites are active. Unless they are in the act of feeding, they are on the move looking for a pest to eat and they move fast. Spider mites have no need to move fast. In general, they are about the size of this comma, but their bodies are more pear-shaped. Their color varies depending on which pest they are eating. Predatory mite application is best used with a larger collection of plants such as in a conservatory, small greenhouse, light cart, or on a window sill. They are often shipped mixed in bran and are applied by sprinkling them over moistened foliage. They also come in little paper sachets that are hung in the affected plants. When they arrive, you will have adult mites, ready to chow down on your pests. What pests you are “entertaining” determines the best predatory mite or mite blend. Among all of the different predatory mite species, four are commonly used in greenhouse or indoor spaces for spider mite control: Phytosieulus persimilis, Mesoseiulus longipes, Neoseiulus californicus, and Galendromus occidentalis. N. fallacis is a mite that can be used in outdoor applications and Neoseiulus cucumeris is used to control thrips. They each have preferred temperature and humidity ranges so are often applied in blends of more than one type. They also have different feeding strategies. Specialist predatory mites (Type I), like P. persimilis, feed only on twospotted spider mites. They aggregate or cluster where their food source is established and do not have alternative foods. P. persimilis aggressively consumes spider mites, but when the mites have been reduced in numbers, the P. persimilis will die out. However, specialist predatory mites tend to have higher reproductive rates and better searching abilities, and reduce prey populations faster. Selective predatory mites (Type II) have a broad host range and some will feed on broad mites, western flower
thrips, and pollen when their preferred spider mites are scarce. Type II mites include Neoseiulus californicus, N. fallacis, Galendromus occidentalis, and N. cucumeris. The ability to exist on an alternative food source means that they will stay, reproduce, and be ready for the next surge of spider mites. Generalist predatory mites (Type III) will feed on eriophyid, broad, and cyclamen mites as well as pollen, honeydew, and other plant exudates. They tend to disperse better than Type I and II, so may be more effective on pest populations that are more spread out. Amblyseius swirskii is a Type III predatory mite that feeds on thrips, whitefly, and spider mites. As with most biological controls, application in the early stages of the pest cycle is the most effective. Generally, spider mite outbreaks will occur during the “dry” times of the year—January and July/August. The humidity can be the lowest during those months. I keep notes on my calendars from year to year of when I see high numbers of these pests and watch for a pattern emerging. I start actively looking for early signs of mites, doing beat tests or close examination of leaves with a 10x loop before my recorded outbreaks. I keep notes on which plants seem more prone to spider mite or other pest problems. For example, that hibiscus or angle’s trumpet you are keeping over winter is good spider mite breeding ground. Outside in the garden, boxwood or roses next to a driveway or patio (hot, dry microclimate) will also be prone to mite outbreaks. Apply predatory mites early on and you may be able to delay or eliminate spraying a pesticide.* Consider buying from an experienced producer who can tailor the blend of predatory mite species to suit the needs and conditions and maximize your success. o Carol Allen describes herself as a committable plant-a-holic. She has more than 25 years experience in the horticulture industry, with a special interest in plant pests and diseases; is a Licensed Pesticide Applicator in the state of Maryland; and is an ISAcertified arborist. She can be contacted at email@example.com. *Please use pesticides safely! Read and heed all label directions! Photo Credit: Predator mite attacking a red mite. CSIRO [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.
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