Rain brings May flowers!

Rain Rain go away, come again another day! I have certainly been singing this in my head these last few days (feels like weeks).

It always seems like the wanting for the rain to pass comes equally to the want for rain… and yes we will get there in the middle of the summer when those rain barrels are less than full and the grass is less green.

Similar to when we are weeding and its 90 degrees outside we wish for a cool breeze and cloud cover.  But if you recall, in the dead of winter when its snowing all we can long for is that bright sun!

How is it that the grass is always greener?

So I have resigned to telling my self that we need it, and to be patient. Easier said than done!

One thing is for sure- this rain is great for the plants that everyone got at the plant sale last week and those beautiful spring flowers will still be out when it stops!

See you at the Garden!

The Beautiful Garden Tour!

Necessity may be the “mother of invention” but “Garden Tour” was certainly the mother of a lot of concentrated “spiffing up” in the Teaching Garden!

The gardens looked wonderful, and surely did the citizens of PWC proud while showing off the dedication of our MG’s.

Speaking of dedication and hard work, how many knew of Sally’s Peterson’s garage factory? Yes, that new fence in the Zen Garden did not grow up from subterranean bamboo. Sally and her crew were sawing bamboo stems (and working on carpal tunnel syndrome), varnishing them and applying tape to the bases (hoping to retard the rot of the soil ends).  They were like busy little squirrels digging in the gravel, pounding in stakes and aligning the bamboo.

Now you might suppose that the calm and peace you feel from the Zen Garden is the result of quiet randomness. But no!- the Zen Garden does have rules and structure! The goal is to produce a miniature, idealized landscape. Rocks represent an island of land in a sea of round pebbles. Vegetation is generally understated, lacking a lot of showy blooms. A bamboo fence delineates the boundaries of this space of calm. Variations of form are desired, but the fence should flow smoothly; nature’s beautiful contrast to the wooden barriers enjoyed by so many of our HOA’s.

Next time…..what’s going on in that shady spot on the periphery?

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Quick reminder to our interns (and experienced gardeners) –if you find noxious stuff in the Teaching Garden, like poison ivy or Garlic Mustard Weed (GMW) don’t be tossing their remains in the compost box. GMW makes hundreds of seeds each season and can be carried and distributed on our clothes, shoes and the fur of animals.  Like the cockroach, world dominion is its mission, leaching toxic phytochemicals into the soil. The toxins make its surrounds comfy for its seedlings, while poisoning fungi and beneficial bacteria in the soil and disrupting other vegetation. Ask an “old pro” if you’re uncertain about what you’re pulling and how to dispose of it. As in -put it in an impermeable container, such as a garbage bag and take it home to your trash. Burning is better, but not very good for the air we breathe and your neighbors won’t much like it.

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The Native Bed

The Teaching Garden has many beds, each unique. The Native Bed is a beautiful display of native plants to Virginia and Northern Virginia, meticulously maintained by Master Gardeners Janell Bryant (right) and Karen O’Leary (left). These ladies work very hard to keep the bed under reasonable control! This year is the 6th year they have been co-leaders. Janell has been a MG for 6 years. She also helps with a community MG project in Woodbridge. Most of her MG volunteer hours are spent at the TG. She believes that native plants are very bit as beautiful as other garden perennials and annuals. In her spare time Janell also enjoys crocheting and reading. Karen also graduated with the MG class of 2010. She and Janell took over the bed as interns. They remember the bed being a “jungle” when they first started, not knowing where to begin. They have slowly removed some plants to open it up, replacing with natives, and learning more about them as they went along. After reading Doug Tallamy’s book, “Bringing Nature Home“, Karen realized the important role that natives  bring in maintaining the ecological role of an area, and planting them is one thing we can all do to help the environment.

Native plants are very important in our landscapes. They tolerate a wide range of conditions and provide food for our birds, bees, butterflies and beneficial insects. Easy to grow when you have “the right plant in the right place”, they are often resistant to drought and other stressful environmental conditions.

This year the Native Bed is undergoing a much needed renovation and throughout the growing season they will be adding new plantings. As the season progresses and more plants flower, the garden comes alive with birds, bees, butterflies and beneficial insects. This week the Pussy toes, yellow and white violets and Golden Alexanders are in bloom. The flowering dogwood is quite beautiful this year, and the Coral Honeysuckle is also in bloom.

Please come by and visit the Janell and  Karen’s Native bed. They would love to show you around!  You can read these signs to figure out what they have growin,g and where.

Great references on native plants and beneficial insects can be found at MGPW.org :

http://mgpw.org/index.php/links