Jessica’s Garden: Wishing for Warmer Weather

I just couldn’t take it anymore. Every time I blink, it feels like another blanket of snow has shrouded the layers of already fallen snow and ice. I needed to feel like Spring was in sight; after all, the first day of Spring is only days away. So I warmed up the car, bundled Grayson up in his cold weather gear and we headed to Behnkes’s to start planning our Summer garden.

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Grayson picking seeds at Behnkes

I have a self-control problem when it comes to purchasing seeds. I have to remind myself of the space already cultivated and the work required to break more ground. I also have to remind myself of the several fruit seeds I saved from last season. And then just as quickly I justify why I need more. I am particularly fond of the seed company Botanical Interests. I have had great success with germination and harvest from all of their fruits and veggies that I have tried; which I cannot say I’ve experienced with all seed companies. And the seed packets are so beautiful. I have aspirations of framing and adorning a future potting shed with the leftover packets.

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My Botanical Interests seed haul

Grayson and I carefully picked out lots of tried and true to us varieties but are also going to try a few new plants this season. I have learned that I am hopeless at growing broccoli. While I’d like to give it another whirl, I will wait until the fall when the weather is better for Brassica vegetables. So we substituted out some crops with less success for new experiences. We are going to try an heirloom rainbow corn, kale and radishes- all new to our family.

I think I’ve met my match at seed selecting. You’ve never seen a three year old’s hands move so quickly as one that is hastily sorting through colorful packets. He was certainly making me proud over his enthusiasm for our garden. Every year he shows more and more interest in how my garden works and it makes my heart flutter. He chose a pack of marigold seeds just for him.

He also very persuasively and a bit relentlessly convinced me of his great need for a pink piggy watering can. For the better part of fifteen minutes he explained how this pink piggy was going to be worth every penny in his devotion to watering our ‘matoes’ (tomatoes). So piggy in his hand and about a million seeds in mine, we were ready to get some seedlings going indoors in short order.

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Mini Greenhouses for Countertop Greens

We also selected some seeds meant for growing on the counter year round. I have been going through fresh garden goody withdrawal and thought a few indoor micro-greens might satisfy the gardening itch a bit. I save bakery trays and their clear lids for such projects. I have tried cress before on the counter with decent luck but decided to go for some baby red winter kale and sunflower micro greens. Both are packed with lots of vitamins and nutrients.

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After Grayson planted sunflowers

I poked a few holes in the bottom of the trays for drainage and Grayson filled them with organic potting mix. I made the mistake of letting him hold the opened seed packet; we will have an over abundance of sunflower micro greens. But we both learned a valuable lesson. I learned he’s still three and he learned how to effectively plant hundreds of seeds in about 2 seconds flat. I showed him how to cover the seeds with soil and lightly water. The clear lids act as a mini- greenhouse. Once the seedlings are sprouted, we will crack the lids for airflow.

I feel very fortunate that Grayson is showing an interest in many of the things that bring me joy in my life. I know that with a greater understanding of seeds and our garden, he will have a greater appreciation for his food and being adventurous with experiencing new foods throughout his life.

Posted By: Jessica J. Crawford Behnkes Garden Blogger

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Posted by Susan Harris
Remember me, the former Behnkes blogger? Well, I’ve retired but I’m back to announce an exciting project and ask for your support.

What is the grassroots media campaign DC Gardens.com?

  • Images of 12 destination gardens in the DC area BY MONTH to entice us to go.
  • Calendar of major garden-related events in our area for 2015.
  • Monthly Updates to subscribe to.
  • Lots of helpful info and links: where to volunteer, find plants, find a garden club or native plant society, learn in person or online, etc.
  • And if you’d like to see the National Arboretum’s public hours restored to normal, we would, too.  The situation there is mentioned in our 1-minute Indiegogo video.

But we need money! On Indiegogo (similar to Kickstarter) we’re trying to raise $25,000 to fund the campaign for all of 2015, during which time we’ll seek long-term funding or grants.

Just CLICK HERE to see our short video, our “story,” how the money will be used, and the many positive “impacts” that DC Gardens will have if it succeeds.

Notice at the bottom of that link that Behnkes’ VP Stephanie Fleming is one of our team members for the campaign?  We thank her and everyone at Behnkes! Behnkes is also promoting DC Gardens through signage in the store and by handing out flyers. This is yet another example of Behnkes’ commitment to the gardening community of the DC area.

Check it out and please donate.  Donations of even $1 add to what we hope will show public support for a service like this. If you donate $25 or more your name will be forever listed on our website as an early supporter, with a link of your choice and your location, if you’d like.

And please spread the word!

Worm Moon

As I write this post I’m well aware that you might be reading it on a beautiful, late winter/early spring day with melting snow, hints of spring bulbs emerging and noticeably later sunsets. Maybe the clocks have sprung forward and you’ve enjoyed a few rare, treasured pops of spring color.

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On the other hand, it could be snowing. Our late February snow provided some beautiful scenes, slight disruptions and a not too subtle reminder that it is still winter. We might not be suffering from the record breaking snowfall others are experiencing across the country, but the most recent measurable snow did show us a lovely side of winter.

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As difficult as it is to get aboard natures swinging pendulum, it’s not difficult to be affected. For many of us, the unpredictability is difficult – when I see the fuzzy buds on a magnolia tree my mind easily wanders to the vision of saucer magnolias only months away. It’s hard to know whether to keep all the wool clothing at hand or break out the lighter weight gear. Maybe the best approach is to just assume you won’t know from one day to the next much less from morning to evening.

Within days after February’s snowfall as the sun started to melt the snow in earnest, I noticed, and heard, the distinct sound of Robins gathering in the yard. They looked like they were dancing on the few remaining patches of crusty snow beneath my Juniper tree, home to many nests. Later, as I got ready for bed, I noticed a bright light through the small, high window in our bathroom and thought a light was left on by mistake.

Annoyed, I got out of the warm bed to turn off the light and noticed the source of the bluish tinged illumination wasn’t from a light – it was a beautiful, brilliant crescent moon hanging low in the sky and accompanied by two planets.

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The sight reminded me of a few treasured books we read to the twins when they were young. Many of our favorites (in addition to Goodnight Moon) had something to do with the moon: Eric Carle’s Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me and Thirteen Moons on Turtle’s Back by Joseph Brucha. It’s not difficult to understand why so many of us are enchanted with the sight, and emotions, of a beautiful moon.

The last Full Moon (in February) was, appropriately, referred to as the Snow Moon. We didn’t need the Farmer’s Almanac to guide us on that one. Whether the moon’s origins reside in folklore (Wolf Moon), seasons (Harvest Moon) and/or any other numerous origins, a full moon can be inspirational and insightful.

The next Full Moon, on March 5th, is known as the Worm Moon. Not exactly romantic or poetic but quite apt because it reflects exactly what we are experiencing in nature.

No matter what the weather is as you read this, the ground is beginning to warm and as a result, the earthworms begin to make an appearance. Their heads and castings come close to the earth’s service – the birds know it and that’s why we’re seeing Robins, among others, gathering and pecking at the earth.

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Although some of us might be tempted to call this month unpredictable and want to insert “Pot Hole” for “Worm” Moon, if you do see the full Moon in the coming week, try to read what is written in the sky. Warming temperatures named this Full Moon but if you’re not satisfied, maybe you’ll enjoy next month’s Pink Moon (think creeping phlox) and when all else fails? The Full Moon in May is known as The Flower Moon.

Posted By: Emily Stashower Behnkes Guest Blogger

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April Blush Camellia

Familiar to many experienced gardeners and southern-state denizens, Camellias are a wonderful addition to our “off-season” gardens here in the mid-Atlantic. Not many shrubs would dare to bloom in the shortening days of November or the cold, bleary days of February. Over the past several decades, multiple new varieties and hybrids have been tested and introduced for better cold-hardiness.

Over the course of the year, we bring in two big shipments of Camellias from a specialty grower that include spring-bloomers and fall-bloomers. Our recent arrivals include many varieties in-bud and a few that have already opened a couple of flowers. Shades of pink, reddish-pink and white predominate in the Camellia world, but a few that could pass for red or the palest of yellows are also in the mix; plus, you can try some of the fun multi-toned varieties that have marbling, picotees or stripes of different colors on the same flower.

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Not known as a group for being fragrant, Camellias can surprise you when you walk amongst mature shrubs in full flower; the U.S. National Arboretum has a fine collection of hardy Camellias that, when visited around Thanksgiving, will certainly perfume the woods. (It seems to me that the fall-bloomers have more fragrant members than the spring group.) Brookside Gardens is another good venue to check out varieties and walk the gardens for inspiration.

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April Kiss Camellia

As with many shrubs, caring for Camellias is fairly simple, provided you start off with meeting their basic needs: partial shade (some small-leaved types tolerate sun, but can still be burned and stressed), moist but well-drained soil, and protection from strong winds to minimize leaf burn in harsh winters.

If you have problems with deer, they are not unpalatable, so protection with netting or repellent sprays would be necessary. A standard acid-lover nutrient mix like Holly-tone once or twice a year is sufficient, and they are amenable to occasional pruning to control shape or size.

Nice companion plants for those early-blooming Camellias include Hellebores, Pieris, colorful shrub Dogwoods (red, orange and yellow-twig forms), shade-tolerant conifers for a textural contrast (like dwarf Hemlock, Plum Yew or False Arborvitae) and Witchhazel, Winterhazel, Mahonia and Daphne for more fragrances.

We have mostly spring-blooming varieties in stock now, but have included some fall-bloomers as well (some of which still have some flower buds yet to open!), and they can be planted as soon as your soil thaws.

Posted By: Miri Talabac, Behnkes Woody Plant Buyer/Manager

Choosing Flower Colors

Choosing Flower Colors

You want to have flowers in the house for the weekend. You have a vase that you love and you want the guests to see the flowers when they walk into the living room. You’re up in the air about what color flowers to buy! How will you decide?

I grew up in relatively small west Texas towns. Flowers weren’t really a part of my life then, but noticing colors was (bug colors, car colors, sunsets, mesquite trees, etc.). My mother made my clothes and we shopped for fabrics together (in slightly bigger towns). When we got home, she was always amazed at how well the new fabrics that I chose went with things already in my closet. So was I. “Weren’t we lucky” she said.

About 10 years into my floral career it dawned on me that I have a “color memory”…it wasn’t just luck. Some of us probably have a greater aptitude for distinguishing colors and holding them in our memory. Some can even easily combine colors almost as if they have the color wheel committed to memory. So how will you decide what color flowers to buy for that living room vase?

You don’t have to know that the color wheel is made up of 12 colors called hues to use colors effectively. You don’t even have to know the difference between tints and tones and shades. Most likely you already use your learned color skills on a daily basis….red purse or tan purse…blue shirt with khakis…black or green shutters…get the chair recovered in apricot? You can transfer your successes with these color decisions to the flower category!

So back to the immediate challenge…to buy the right color flowers for the living room vase for this weekend. Start simply if flowers are a new category for you. Borrowing skills from something familiar (remember, red purse or tan purse?) and trying to use them in a new way doesn’t always feel comfortable.

Walk into the living room as your guests will walk in. Look at the empty vase in its setting. Observe the main decorating colors in the room. Buy flowers that are all the same type and all the same color (very in and simpler). Try to get flowers that are as close as possible to the main decorating color or a throw pillow color or even a painting that would really be showcased with flowers in the same color. Drop them in your vase.

I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that your guests really loved the flowers and that you want to know more about tints and tones and shades… and that you have discovered that you too have a “color memory” even though your mother says it’s luck!

Posted By: Evelyn Kinville, Behnke’s Garden Blogger

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