Time to Reflect

There is a section in the Teaching Garden nestled in the corner that is the Memorial Garden.  This is where you can sit, see the garden laid out before you and be thankful for all the Volunteer Master Gardeners, past and present, who have made the garden so spectacular.

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Names of deceased Master Gardeners are remembered by having their names imprinted onto bricks. Names on the memorial bricks are: Kurt Steinke, Samnae Steinke (their names are also on the lattice archway), Mary Hayes, John Wentz, Donna Dickenson, Marilyn Spencer and Cathy Barosky. Louise Black will be honored in 2016.

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Ed Rishell, our expert on composting who passed away last year, is remembered by a wind chime.  Mary Hayes is remembered with a picnic table on the grounds and Marilyn Spencer has a stone marker in the herb bed, which she designed.

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Flowers in this garden are a pink clematis growing on the lattice archway called ‘Betty Corning.’  You can sit on the bench and be surrounded by poppies, carnations, coneflowers, and zinnias and look out onto the peace and beauty of the garden created by so many volunteers.  Thank you all.

Harvesting Crops and Working Among the Insects.

The Volunteer Master Gardeners working in the Cooks’ Garden were busy.  Heat and humidity didn’t stop them or all of the insects that were buzzing around.  wpid-wp-1434467220675.jpg  Jean found this one, a Twice-Stabbed Stink Bug.

wpid-wp-1434468362941.jpg  Squash bug was caught laying eggs and was rewarded with a swim in the Bad Bug Swimming Pool along with her newly laid eggs.

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Cabbage ready to be picked.  Yellow squash is going to be very prolific!  Garlic to be dried.

wpid-wp-1434468076907.jpg  French Breakfast radishes. Gisela said they are mild & delicious.

wpid-wp-1434467593165.jpg  Amye said they have stopped watering the peas and garlic. They will let what is left go to seed and they will reuse the seeds next year.  Pictured are Sugar Snap Peas which grew over 8 feet tall!

As you can see, you can successfully grow herbs in a pot!
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wpid-wp-1434468325386.jpg  Everyone is excited about the pumpkins beginning to grow!

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Two dragonflies: a Common Whitetail (juvenile male) and a Widow Skimmer.

And a lovely display of white lilies in the garden.  Very nice and refreshing!
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Saturday in the Garden – June 13, 2015

The two talks given at “Saturday in the Garden” on Native Plants and Drought Tolerant Plants were most informative.  The speakers who are Volunteer Master Gardeners were very knowledgeable and their enthusiasm evident despite the muggy, warm morning.

At the sign-in desk everyone was given the 48-page color guide, produced March 2015 “Native  Plants for Northern Virginia” by Plant NoVA Natives.  The beautiful, informative guide was worth the trip alone.  If you were unable to attend the talks, you’re in luck because you can download this guide at their website.  This is specific for our area of Northern Virginia.  Many of the morning’s talks about the plants in the gardens are featured in this guide and the Latin name of plants listed below were found in this booklet.  Another freebie was the fold-out about “Sweet Pepperbush” Clethra alnifolia the 2015 Virginia Wildflower of the Year published by Virginia Native Plant Society.  Brochure about Sweet Pepperbush is available at their website.

Volunteer Master Gardener, Karen, spoke first on the importance of creating an environment for the insects and critters to meet their needs for food, shelter and reproduction.  We need to plant native plants because our insects evolved with natives.  It wasn’t until the first Europeans arrived that their environment changed as we introduced foreign or invasive plants.  Insects can’t recognize an alien plant as a food source so they don’t know to use it thus they are not able to thrive.  When we plant invasive or alien plants, they may be pretty to us but they are taking up space where natives should be.  Natives take less maintenance, less water and less pesticides to grow and who wouldn’t want to do less in their gardens and enjoy them more?  It was suggested to use the Latin name of a plant if you’re shopping around so you’re assured of getting a true native plant.  In the Native Bed, no commercial fertilizer is used.  Their secret is once a year to put compost down with a layer of mulch to control weeds.  The best mulch is leaves.  Just run your lawnmower over the leaves in your yard and put the chopped leaves around your plants.  Best of all – the mulch is free and no hauling it from the store.  Most natives can get along just fine with natural rain and can tolerate dry spells.  They like our clay soil.  You must remember that planting a native is great but keep in mind “Right Plant, Right Place” if you want them to do well.  By having a native garden, you are creating a by-way for birds to migrate through. They can stop off for food and shelter before continuing on their way.  Encourage your local nursery to carry native plants. Jannell, Volunteer Master Gardener, walked us through the Native Bed and showed us (just to name a few):

Rudbeckia species: Brown-eyes and Black-eye Susan, Coneflower – goldfinches and chickadees love their seed.
Lonicera sempervirens  Trumpet or Coral Honeysuckle, native, semi-evergreen, hummingbirds like them.
Cephalanthus occidentalis  Buttonbush: just finished blooming, white or pale-pink flowers resembling pincushions in June-Sept., full sun to part shade.
Monarda didyma  Scarlet Beebalm: likes a moist soil,  bees love
Monarda fistulosa  Wild Bergamont – invites pollinators
Cornus florida  Flowering Dogwood – red berries are great for migratory birds, does like some shade
Pycnanthemum tenuifolium  Narrow-leaf Mountain Mint
Zizia aurea  Golden-Alexanders:  a favorite for the Black Swallowtail butterfly
Polygonatum biflorum  Solomon’s seal: graceful arching stems with bell-like flowers
Rhus aromatica ‘Gro-Low’ Fragrant Sumac: nice low lying plant. Are male and female, females produce berries.  Great fall color with reds & oranges, not poisonous.
Panicum virgatum  Switchgrass: gives you vertical interest, birds like the seed heads
Antennaria plantaginifolia  Plantain-leaved Pusseytoes:  flower looks like the bottom of a cat’s paw,  does well in dry soil and can take hot sun.
Yucca filamentosa  Yucca and Rattle plant.
Chrysogonum virginianum   Green & Gold: as its name states green leaves and gold flowers
Itea virginica  Virginia Sweetspire: great nectar plant, attractive ornamental.
Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’  Eastern redbud: attractive red leaves
Coreopsis verticillata  Coreopsis, yellow flowers May-August, does well in full or part sun
Eutrochium fistulosum  Joe-pye-weed: loves full sun, has pink spray flowers, grows tall
Tradescantia virginiana  Virginia Spiderwort: purple flowers,  like more shade than sun, seeds profusely
Hamamelis virginiana  Witch Hazel shrub: flowers late winter, early spring with yellow flowers.
Symphyotrichum Asters (a genus of about 90 species):  Fall flowers
Solidago  Goldenrod  ‘Firecracker’ – cultivar (this does not cause allergies – that is ragweed)
Asclepias syriaca  Common milkweed: the sole host plant for Monarch butterflies.
Asclepias tuberosa  Butterfly Weed:  is also a milkweed and the insects love its bright orange flowers.
Asclepias incarnata  Swamp milkweed: can tolerate standing water. Has pink flowers in July
wpid-wp-1434203747001.jpg  Karen is standing next to tall Joe-pye-weed, yellow coreopsis and common milkweed.

It was emphasized the importance of having your soil tested.  If the conditions are not right for your plant, it may not do well or die.  Whatever  you plant will be around for a long time, especially trees,  so make sure the soil is right for it and it is the “Right Plant, Right Place” and that you have provided enough space for it.  Spending $10 to have your soil tested is a worthwhile investment.  You should have at least three soil kits: testing where you plant trees, for your lawn and for your garden.  The best group to do this through is Virginia Cooperative Extension where they have kits which you send to Virginia Tech.    The Cooperative Extension will help you interpret your soil test results.

Sally, Volunteer Master Gardener, spoke about the Drought Tolerant bed.  She said it is best to go Native or go Drought Tolerant to save water.  Drought Tolerant is good for rocky clay soil, slopes.  Under a tree has dry soil because trees steal a lot of water.  Amending your soil helps.  Using compost aerates, drains, lightens and brings microorganisms to the soil.  Success in the garden comes from the soil.  Our area is generally considered Zone 7A.  Many plants suffered from the severe winter we had which was more typical of Zone 6 and even Zone 5.  All gardens need maintenance, but a native or drought tolerant garden will need less water.  The best time for planting is Fall not Spring (except for annuals).  Amend the soil in Spring and plant in the Fall.  Group plants with similar needs (water, fertilizer, sun, etc.) for easier maintenance. New plants will need to get established so in the beginning they will need to be watered for several months until they get a good root system.  You can conserve water by watering by hand (which can get old and tiring) or by drip irrigation.  This method weeps water out of a hose below the leaves which lessens the chance for disease and conserves water.

Linda, Volunteer Master Gardener showed us the Drought Tolerant Garden (below names a few she showed the group):
Nepeta cataria  Catnip: tall purple spikes, smells wonderful and butterflies & bees love it
Sedum – very drought tolerant, low maintenance, many varieties
Liatris: tall purple spikes, a genus in the Aster family.  Four species are native to No. VA
Salvia microphylla ‘Hot lips’ (sage family): very attractive plant with red flowers
Cockscomb: red flowers will bloom next month
Physocarpus opulifolius  Ninebark shrub: has dark leaves. Value to songbirds, waterfowl, small mammals, and beneficial insects. Special value to native bees and honey bees.
Grasses: cut back in winter
Mock Orange
Succulent Garden was started last year; not much soil is needed and can also be in pots on your patio.
Hen & chicks
Echinacea or Coneflower
Artemisia schmidtiana: Silver Mound: beautiful feel, wack it back when it gets leggy and it will rebloom

To get either a Native or Drought Tolerant Bed you don’t need to rip out your present plantings but transition to these other plants when the time or need arises.  Herbs are dry tolerant as well.

With all these choices, we should be able to have beautiful plants that don’t require much water and will be a treat for our eyes as well as a treat for our native pollinators, birds and critters by attracting them to our gardens.

Upcoming Events

Saturday in the Garden – Saturday, June 13, 9 a.m. – Noon

  • Want to save water and have a garden that survives our dry summers?  Enjoy a walk through the Native Bed with bed leaders, Jannell and Karen as they share their expertise.
  • Join Master Gardener Volunteers, Linda and Sally for tips and tricks used in the Drought Tolerant bed.

All programs are free and run from 9 a.m. – Noon.  Registration is requested so we have enough handouts printed  Please call 703-792-7747 or email master_gardener@pwcgov.org   Taught by VCE – Prince William Master Gardener Volunteers, Teaching Garden at St. Benedict Monastery, 9535 Linton Hall Road, Bristow,  20136.


Volunteer Master Gardeners Get-Together – Tuesday, June 16, 6:30 p.m.

The Garden is ready and waiting for you all to come out and enjoy the beauty, complete with musicians.  No weeding is required.  Bring some finger food to share.  There will be beverages provided or bring your own refreshment.  Please RSVP  at 703-792-7747.

If You Look Hard, You Will See Them

Insects are enjoying the many flowers and their nectar at the Teaching Garden.  Excitement abounds in the garden as two caterpillars were found.

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Jannell, Master Gardener volunteer, from the Native Plants garden proudly shows off the Monarch caterpillar on the common milkweed plant.  The flower on the common milkweed is very pretty & fragrant and attracts many insects.

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Soldier Beetle and Daddy Long Leg Spider on common milkweed leaves.


Black Swallowtail caterpillar found on the dill plant in the Herb Garden.

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Insects were also attracted to Foxtail Lilies, kale that has gone to seed with their yellow flowers and on the common milkweed leaves, the large milkweed bug.  Despite the milkweed bug’s pretty appearance, it is considered a bad bug since it is a seed and sapsucker and harms the host plant for the Monarchs.


Rain Brings More Blooms

After three days of 90 degree weather, the rain brought relief and more blooms in the Teaching Garden.  All the Master Gardener Volunteers enjoyed the respite from the heat and were busy weeding, work made easier with the moist soil.  The plants enjoyed the rain and brought forth beautiful blossoms.  Here are the plants in bloom in the Red, White & Blue Garden:

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Left to right: Lychnis chalcedonica (Maltese Cross) Penstemon Digitalis (Penstemon) and Peony.

There was a surprise buried in the Montank Daisy plant which will bloom in the fall – a bird’s nest with one egg.  We couldn’t determine what bird laid it but we’ll keep a watchful eye for the mother bird.



In the Bee, Butterfly and Hummingbird Garden:

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Larkspur also known as Delphinium are the purple spikes, with yellow Achillea (Yarrow)

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Light pink Campanula punctata (Cherry Bells) &  Lychnis coronaria (Rose Campion)

These white flowers are from plants in the Cooks’ Garden.  Can you recognize what plant they’re from?

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Left: Farmscape mix (used to attract beneficial insects while keeping the soil covered until July/Aug when the fall crop goes in), Middle: flowers from the potato plants, Right: Cilantro/Coriander flowering with Bad Bug Swimming Pool beside it.

Found in the vegetable garden were good bugs green lacewing insect & eggs and a praying mantis.  The Silver Queen corn shows signs of germination!  Lots of strawberries were harvested – a bumper crop!

Peas, lettuce and strawberries from the Cooks’ Garden were brought to a local charity for which they are most grateful not only because they are delicious but because they are organically grown and healthy for them.  Many thanks to the Master Gardener Volunteers,  Jannell, Jeff, Ross, Harriet, Jean and Amye to name a few, who work in the garden so our community can benefit from their labor.