Butterflies, toads and lamb?!!!

Insects and critters found in the Teaching Garden this week included a Zebra Swallowtail enjoying marigolds and a toad hiding in the pumpkin patch.  There were gold finches feasting on the seeds from the Echinacea purpurea ‘coneflower’ and a Monarch butterfly – too fast for the camera to capture.

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Paul Gibson and Leslie Paulson, Master Gardener Volunteers, pose with the Garden’s newest addition, a lamb.


Paul has been a Master Gardener since 2006 and in charge of the veggie Cooks’ Garden since 2008.  He donated the lamb concrete statue from his own garden since he will soon be moving out west and leaving us.  We’ll remember him and his wonderful contributions to the Garden when we see the lamb.  Paul, you will be missed!

Despite the hot August days, beautiful flowers are still blooming.

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Canna lily, Mexican petunia, and the Native Honeysuckle which should stay in bloom until October.

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Brilliant purple berries are on Calicarpa dichotoma Beautyberry Early Amethyst, a deciduous shrub, and the H. arborescens Hydrangea Invincibelle Spirit is living up to its name.  Many of the blooms have dried and yet it has rebloomed with its pretty pink flowers.  This plant goes from early summer to frost.  The mopheads first appear as hot pink, then soft pink and turn green before drying out.

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The Teaching Garden Abuzz with Activity

The Teaching Garden was abuzz with little children from Minnieland of Dale City wpid-wp-1439909091563.jpg  as well as Master Gardener Volunteers and insects.

Insects were found on the yellow dahlia flowers pictured in front of celosia.  The wasp on top of flowering mint looks a bit like Mickey Mouse.  This is a scoliid wasp which is generally considered a beneficial insect. They help control green June beetles and other beetle grubs.

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Below is a praying mantis, two skippers resting on leaves and the white flowers of A. Tuberosum garlic chives act like a bee magnet.

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Striking colors in the garden are from Celosia ‘Red Velvet’, the Re-blooming Iris ‘Autumn Bugler’ and Lantana ‘Sunrise rose.’

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No, the Master Gardner Volunteers from the Cooks’ Garden are not camping out in the garden.  Ellen, reported that the fall crop has been planted under the protection of a row cover.


Red cabbage, Brussels sprouts, Chinese cabbage, and kale were planted.  The cover is used to protect the young plants from insects and to extend the growing season.

A sure sign fall is coming –


Thank goodness for trees!

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In these dog-days of summer, the value of trees is most appreciated by giving us shade. Trees give us environmental, economic and cultural benefits that improve our quality of life.  They contribute so much.  They clean our air, moderate our climate, add value to your home, provide food (think nuts), are a wildlife habitat, protect and enhance the soil, tame stormwater runoff, and offer recreational opportunities.  During the winter they can be a wind-break from the cold Northern winds, spring  flowering trees have pretty blossoms, in summer they give us shade and in the fall their leaves make wonderful compost.  The volunteers at the Teaching Garden have taken refuge this summer by resting in their shade.

There are right ways to plant a tree to insure it grows healthy with strong roots.  The Virginia Cooperative Extension has tips in their Tree and Shrub Planting Guidelines.   More trees die from improper care than from insects or diseases. The Virginia Cooperative Extension has 24 Ways to Kill a Tree to help you avoid tree-damaging mistakes.

There are many lovely trees on the Monastery grounds including many mature trees.  The Monastery will be purchasing, with donations, tree markers for all the trees on the property.

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Trees near the Teaching Garden are Ash, Eastern Cottonwood Populus deltoids, Eastern Redcedar Juniperus virginiana, Eastern Hemlock (Hemlock Spruce) Tsuga canadensis and American Basswood commonly called Linden tree. There are books available that will help you identify trees.  One given to novice Master Gardeners is “Tree Finder : A manual for the identification of trees by their leaves” by May Theilgaard Watts is small enough to fit in your pocket.  Another good guide is available from the Virginia Department of Forestry “Common Native Trees of Virginia : Tree Identification Guide” available in book form or online.

Show your appreciation of trees by hugging one today or at least staying under its shade.  Stay cool!

“Saturday in the Garden” talk about Weeds and Fragrant Flowers

As the saying goes, you can only be assured of two things in life – death and taxes but perhaps it would be more correct to say death, taxes and weeds.  Another saying is “One year’s weed – seven years’ seed.”  Weed seeds may remain viable for seven or more years so no wonder they pop up when we cultivate our garden or lawn.  Not all weeds are terrible, some can be beneficial.  You can eat some such as dandelion, purslane, chickweed, mustard and cress to name a few.  These are nutritious plants.  Others are blackberries, Jerusalem artichokes (also called sunchokes) and wild asparagus.  Of course, you need to properly I.D. the plants before you eat them and make sure the soil they are in has not been treated with any chemicals.  Weeds can also lure various insects which can be beneficial to the garden.

Thomas Bolles, Cooperative Extension staff member and Don Pesckha, Master Gardener Volunteer spoke about turf weeds commonly found this time of year (though many are also weed problems in the garden), why some weeds might be worth keeping around, weed tolerances and control options.  They ended their talk with a weed walk.  You’ll want to check out the Cooperative Extension’s “Lawn Care for Prince William County” which has great resources on turf management and their Best Lawns Program.  They handed out “Common Late Summer Turf Weeds” which is an in-house publication so if you’re interested in receiving it, contact the Help Desk (see Links.)
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Fragrant Garden Phlox (Phlox paniculata) and Sweet Pepperbush Clethra

Next Master Gardener Volunteer, Ruth Johnston, spoke about the Fragrance Garden.
1. Scents may run in the family, mint is well known.
2. Fragrance can go deeper than flowers; think stems, leaves, roots.
3. Some plants are easy with their scent, others not so.
4. Some insects have favorites.
5. Tipsy bees with the intoxicating flowers.
Ruth also emphasized Right Plant, Right Place and to check light and moisture needs. You should also plant something for each season.  She recommended spreading an inch of compost around each plant instead of mixing the compost into the soil.  Her expertise should be heeded.  Perennials are dependable but Annuals can fill in empty spots.  Good plants until frost and beyond would be asters, sedums, and mums to name a few.  BEST TIP.  Visit your gardens often to enjoy, but deadheading while out there will keep it tidy and some will rebloom.
Reference books she’s used: Theme Gardens, Barbara Damrosch, The Fragrant Garden, Louise Beeber Wilder, Fragrance  in Bloom, Ann Lovejoy, New York/Mid Atlantic Gardener’s Book of Lists, Bonnie Lee Appleton and Lois Trigg Chaplin and the website theplantlist.org.

Tomorrow’s talk at the Teaching Garden

Saturday in the Garden program August 8, 2015 – 9 a.m. – Noon.

Taught by Virginia Cooperative Extension –
Prince William Master Gardener Volunteers
Teaching Garden at St. Benedict Monastery, 9535 Linton Hall Road, Bristow,  20136. Free but registration is requested so enough handouts are available.
Please call 703-792-7747 or email master_gardener@pwcgov.org
  1. What’s that Weed?  VCE Staff Member Thomas Bolles and Master Gardener Volunteer Don Pesckha will help you identifying those troublesome weeds in your lawn and garden and give great advice.  They will be focusing on turf weeds commonly found this time of year and give advice on control options.  Enjoy a weed walk as they help you identify weeds.
  2. Sniff your way through the Fragrance garden with wise volunteer, Ruth Johnston as she shares wisdom and  experiences with plant selection and care in this beautiful garden bed.

Butterflies feast

These Swallowtails Papilionidae are enjoying the various plants at the Teaching Garden.

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They’ve landed on Buddleia davidii Butterfly Bush  Evil Ways (dark purple spikes), Agastache ‘Black Adder’ Giant Hyssop (light purple spikes), and Calicarpa dichotoma Beauty Berry, Early Amethyst.

Despite the heat, these flowers are holding their own. The Master Gardener Volunteers do not water the flowers unless they look to be in distress.

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Brown-eyed Susans Rudbeckia hirta, zinnias and dianthus, and California poppy.

Found in the Cooks’ Garden is a tomato hornworm.  Because it is a host for the Braconid wasp eggs (a beneficial insect already attached), the volunteers will leave the hornworm alone.  The eggs will hatch and feed off the worm; the worm’s fate is sealed so there is no point of killing or removing it from the tomato plant.

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Butternut squash ripening on the vine and tomatillos ready to pick (they’re great in salsas.)   The large pumpkin (pictured in the July 29 post) was grown hoping to submit it to the Prince William County Fair (running August 14-22) was picked when they realized that it had blemishes and insect damage.  It isn’t good enough for the fair so it was divvied up among the volunteers who will enjoy its fruit.

Taking a peak at the Fairy Garden, this fellow is enjoying his time among the Ageratum houstanianum Floss flowers.  The heat doesn’t bother him.