Delicious to See and Eat

The Culinary Herbs Garden is a garden that doesn’t scream “look at me” with big, beautiful flowers but if you look closely, you will find plants in bloom.  Herbs have been used for thousands of years for seasoning, medicine, fragrance, and sorcery.  Most herbs can be grown successfully with minimum of effort.  Many culinary herbs are native to the Mediterranean region so they prefer full sun, good air circulation and a well-drained soil.  Many are drought-tolerant but will need watering during dry periods.  The best time to harvest your herbs is in the morning, just after the dew has dried, but before the sun gets hot. The concentration of essential oils is highest at this point.  Bon appétit!

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Above: Chives, Sage, and among rocks Winter Savory Satureia Montana.   Below: White flowers of Cilantro/Coriander, ‘Golden Delicious’ Golden Leaved Pineapple Sage, and behind the sign, Horseradish.  Horseradish bloomed with a white flower for the first time since it had been planted in the garden.

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The Master Gardener volunteer “fairy” in the Fairy Garden, left this new decorative ornament that catches your eye – a red toy truck.  It has been put to work, holding what looks like a succulent plant in its truck bed.


Amye, Master Gardener volunteer from the Cooks Garden, reports that the strawberries are at their peak, full of juice guaranteed to run down your arms as you eat them.  Since the harvest time is short, they invite you to sample strawberries when Master Gardeners are there – Tuesday mornings, Thursday evenings and Saturday mornings.  Lettuces of all varieties are also at peak and are being harvested.  Cabbages, radishes, peas, and broccoli were also picked.  Replanted due to low germination were buckwheat seeds and slender wax beans.  It is getting crowded at The Bad Bug Swimming Pool with squash bugs, three-lined potato bugs, and asparagus beetles and eggs taking their final dip – good thing they don’t know how to swim!

Monarchs in the Garden

What a delightful sight to see two Monarchs flying in the Teaching Garden.  They must have been in nectar heaven with all the flowers in bloom.  It was hard to get a photo of them as they were constantly in flight.
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The Native Plants bed has common milkweed growing and Jannell, one of the Master Gardener volunteers  in charge of that garden, showed the underleaf of a milkweed with the small white eggs that the Monarchs had laid just that morning.

A visually beautiful plant is the Native Honeysuckle.  It is coral in color.  The pollinators are attracted to it even though it doesn’t have the strong scent we usually associate with honeysuckles.  The Japanese version is the fragrant type but the insects prefer the native plants.

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In the Native Plants bed, pink Silene spp. is in bloom.  The native plant produces a red flower so this is a cultivar.  Beside it were Pussytoes going to seed and the Yellow Violets have seed pods that are quite attractive.

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Mock Orange plant was glorious to look at and has no thorns.  It is found in the Drought Tolerant bed.

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The Peonies are in bloom.  A treat for the eyes and nose.

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In the Cooks’ Garden, eggs of the asparagus beetles as well as the beetles were removed from the asparagus plants and ended up in the Bad Bug Swimming Pool.  Two Amy’s Apricots (sweet, apricot- colored cherry Heirloom tomatoes), two Cherokee Purples (deep purple to “black” heirloom tomatoes),  one yellow cucumber plant, one Boston Pickler (a cucumber), six Black Beauty eggplants, Virginia peanuts, and lettuce as fillers were planted.  Freaky Tom pumpkin transplant given by a Master Gardener volunteer was planted.  Garbanzos of six varieties were planted and the good news are all rows have germinated.  Bad news is the second round of corn seeds have not germinated so the Master Gardeners will consider some alternatives.  Slender Wax beans and buckwheat also had a low germination so another round of seeds went in.  Two tomatillo plants were planted.  If you grow this plant, you’ll need more than one plant so cross-pollination can occur.  Jean, Master Gardener volunteer, said they planted these tomato plants three years ago and fell in love with them.  If you are unfamiliar with them, they are a cousin to the tomato and have a papery husk surrounding the fruit which will have a sweet flavor.  When it is bright green, it is ripe.  It’s main use is to make tasty green salsa.


Warm weather brings blooms

A walk around the Teaching Garden shows irises in their glorious color.

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The peach iris is called Champagne Elegance, sometimes just reading the name is a treat!


The bees were enjoying Rosa rugosa “Rugosa Rose,” an approximately six-feet tall bush covered with blossoms.  There are thorns but it smells great as all the pollinators will attest.  Enjoying the flowers was the largest bumblebee I’ve ever seen!

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A standout plant with its brilliant red color is Paeonia Peony.  wpid-wp-1431444634178.jpg


In the Red/White and Blue garden is the White Fringe Tree Chionanthus virginicus  wpid-wp-1431444896164.jpg


The Cooks’ Garden is growing by leaps and bounds!  Most of the seeds have germinated – pumpkin seeds, patty pan squash, slender wax and provider beans.  The Master Gardener volunteers are having a hard time getting the corn seeds to germinate but they’re not giving up.  The potato plants (except the last two rows) have been given their final hilling and straw has been added.  The peas have blossoms.  wpid-wp-1431446420147.jpg

The bugs, both good and bad, are starting to take up residence and the bad bug swimming pools are ready for them!

Sometimes we have to help Mother Nature out and water our plants – – a reminder that it is best to water close to the ground and not wet the leaves that can invite disease.  A helpful tool is an extension wand to your hose.


Plant Sale was a Success!


Many people showed up for the Plant Sale at the Teaching Garden last Saturday, May 9.  Not only were there many great plants to choose from but they were also giving away milkweed seeds, the sole host plant for Monarch caterpillars and small Basil plants that had been started in paper cups.  Who doesn’t love freebies?!!!

Leslie, the Master Gardener volunteer, in charge of the Teaching Garden said the plant sale brought in nearly $2,000.  A big thank you to everyone who came out.  We’re sure you will enjoy your new plants for years to come and thank you for supporting the Teaching Garden.

Good bugs, Bad bugs


“Saturday in the Garden” was all about bugs – the good, bad and ugly.  Everyone should know what bugs look like at all stages of their lives.  On page 23 of this website  shows what a lady bug or lady beetle looks like as a nymph – it is so different from the cute, rounded adult we are familiar with.  Amye, a Master Gardener volunteer, said we had to be detectives in the garden analyzing the crime scene.  We have to look for 1) chewed leaves, 2) discolored leaves, 3) distortion, 4) die back and 5) frass or “insect poop”.  Know thy enemy – this site with photos is helpful.  We always want to use the least toxic method available to get rid of bad bugs.  If you use a chemical treatment on your plants, it can’t discriminate between good bugs and bad and kills both.  Recommended was the book “Attracting beneficial bugs to your garden : a natural approach to pest control” or look for help on the internet being sure you find knowledgeable sites that end in .edu or .gov.   An eight-page listing of plants that will attract beneficial insects to your landscape was given to all attendees.  It listed what plants will attract the beneficial bugs: lady beetles (ladybugs), parasitic mini-wasps, tachinid flies, & hoverfliers;  and the predators: minute pirate bugs,  damsel bugs and big eyed bugs.   Remember to have the right plant in the right place.  If plants are not planted correctly, they suffer and that is an invitation for bad bugs.  You want to intermix flowers that bloom all throughout the season so bugs are continually attracted.  Also you need to clean up debris around your plants which can be breeding ground for pests.  Amye said that it is okay that you don’t get all the bad bugs, pluck off as many as you can (eggs, larvae & adults) and drop them in the Bad Bug Jar ( jar of water with dish soap.)  The ones you leave behind or miss will be eaten by the good guys.  Realize that bugs will nibble your plants but the fruit/veggie will still be edible and will be better tasting than what you will get in the grocery store.  As someone in the group said “it’s better than eating chemicals.”  Another smart move is plant rotation. When you rotate the plants, it throws the bad bugs off and it will take them a while to find the new location.  Let some plants go to seed; their  flowers will attract pollinators.  Amye’s suggestion was to take things in stride, there will be damage but learn from it.  Share your findings with neighbors and co-workers so you are less uncomfortable about BUGS.

Susan, Master Gardener volunteer, told us about attracting insects.  We learned what butterflies need and they are attracted to bright red and purple.  Moths come out later in the day and like the color white.  Flowers should have a lip or landing pad so insects can get to the nectar easier.  She recommended “Mexican Hat,” the flower  looks like a sombrero and are great for native bees.  Paige, a Cooperative Extension agent, showed us a Eastern Tent Caterpillar nest in the Patio Peach ornamental tree.  She said to break up the tent with a rake, stick, etc. and let the birds take care of the catepillars.  Do this when the tent is small.  The defoliation the caterpillars create will stress the tree but should not kill it.  So much good information was given, it is impossible to write about it all.  Do come out listen and learn for yourselves.  Thanks to all MG volunteers for their excellent presentations.

Plants looking for a good home & “Saturday in the Garden”

On Saturday, May 9, at the Teaching Garden in Bristow, Va., the Prince William Master Gardener Volunteers will be holding their biannual plant sale.  The prices are set low because they want the plants to go to good homes.  The monies will be used to maintain and enhance the Teaching Garden.  It is a win-win situation for all!  Master Gardeners will be on hand to give advice on the plants and let you know the best plants to plant in sun or shade.  Plant sale will run from 9 a.m. until noon.  Bring cash. Early birds get the best choices!    Come out and see the great selection and support the garden.  Below are photos of some of the plants waiting for a lucky buyer.

wpid-wp-1430840440230.jpg   wpid-wp-1430840407627.jpg           While you’re at the plant sale you can also attend “Saturday in the Garden” which runs at the same time as the plant sale.  This month’s program will be about bugs – Good Guys and Bad Guys.  Learn about the many insects that help us in the garden.  Also there will be a talk about the Tips and Tricks used by the Cooks’ Garden MG volunteers on growing organic vegetables.  They are happy to share their success stories.  Please contact the Help Desk to register for the program so they will have enough handouts for everyone.  Call 703-792-7747 or email     See you in the garden!

Tomatoes have been planted!

Volunteers were hard at work weeding and thinning out the flower beds.  Here’s a picture of  some at rest on the swing overlooking the garden and in the shade.


Left to Right on swing – Lynne, Master Gardener Intern; Bev, Master Gardener, Vickie, Master Gardener Intern and standing behind them, Maria, a visitor.  Maria says she enjoys coming to the garden and helping out.

The most exciting news are about the tomato plants – five tomato plants were planted!   The soil is finally warm enough but it still means we have to be concerned if we happen to have cool evenings and protect them if need be.  Basil seeds and Nasturtium seeds were planted among the tomatoes because they are ideal companion plants.


The Master Gardener volunteers at the Cooks’ Garden were busy.  Patty pan squash seeds were inter-planted among rape seed, six varieties of Garbanzos were planted.  Artichoke plant did not make it so Peppers and Eggplant will be planted instead.  Swiss Chard seeds were planted along with Buckwheat, White Proso Millet and Bachelor Buttons; Slender Wax and Provider Beans were also planted.

Water buckets were buried among the squash plants.  The buckets have holes so the water will be dispersed to the plants.  Once the vines start growing you don’t want to water leaves and not the roots.  You bury the buckets with 1 to 2 feet of compost under the bucket.  The compost will hold moisture and the roots will go to the compost getting the benefits of nutrients and water.  Cucumbers, Zucchini, Squash, Spaghetti Squash and Butternut Squash seeds planted with Nasturtium seeds inter-planted among them.  A lean-to for Butternut Squash was installed and the cucumber plants have a trellis to grow on.

Some flowers in bloom:

wpid-wp-1430840541921.jpgLungwort   wpid-wp-1430840990383.jpg   Anemone Sylvesteris “White Anemone”

wpid-wp-1430840480122.jpg   Arkansas Blue Star “Amsonia Blue”
wpid-wp-1430839210744.jpgSolomon’s Seal (which will be sold in the plant sale on Saturday)