Posts filed under ‘Horticulture’
When people visit our gardens on the National Mall from all over the country and the world, we hope they find see or learn something new to bring back to their own garden, whether it’s a community garden plot or a backyard or a few pots sitting on a windowsill. When you visit we hope some plant or technique or idea piques your interest and catches your eye. It could be an eco-friendly way to ward off pests, a novel method for trellising, or a unique flower or tree. We love to share the gardens at the Smithsonian Institution with you and hope they inspire you to get outside and get growing!
But did you know your gardens inspire us? Through the Community of Gardens project, we find ourselves inspired every day by the stories of gardens being created all across the United States. Anyone can add a story, image, video, or audio clip about a garden or gardener to our digital archive. Some of the most inspiring stories are of teens gardening in their own schools and communities. Every summer high school students apply to work at the Common Good City Farm in Washington, D.C and help run the community garden. Teens at White Station High School in Memphis, Tennessee banded together to create a student-led garden from the ground up. Classes at Paul International High School in D.C. tackled renovation projects in their existing school garden.
Stories like these inspired us to design the Smithsonian Gardens Green Ambassador Challenge. Teens and teachers, if you have ever wanted to bring gardening to your school, but didn’t know where to start, this challenge is for you! We give you the tools to green your school, step-by-step. Learn skills such as design thinking, budgeting, building, project management, and gardening along the way. Rooted in project-based learning, the Green Ambassador Challenge empowers young people to make a real difference in their community. The possibilities are endless, from a few raised beds outside of your building to an outdoor classroom space to a butterfly or wildlife garden.
Teachers can download a packet with all lessons and detailed information on national standards challenge goals, and essential questions. Students can follow along here as they move through the process.
So we ask you: How will you inspire us next? What kind of garden can your school community grow? And by growing a garden could you inspire the next generation of landscape architects, horticulturists, park planners, and arborists?
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details if you would like to get involved!
-Kate Fox, Smithsonian Gardens educator
Good gardeners aren’t born – they’re cultivated! Next week our horticulture staff kicks off a series of free lunchtime talks and demonstrations on gardening basics designed to help turn your thumb green. Join us Thursdays this summer from 12:15 to 12:45 p.m. on the East Walk of the Enid A. Haupt Garden to explore home gardening topics, ask questions, and grow your gardening skills.
May 12, 2016 – Spring and Summer Tree Care Tips
Keeping a tree looking great in bud, blossom, and leaf can be a challenge. Join us for tips on how to care for your trees during the spring and summer seasons.
May 19, 2016 – Starting Veggies, Herbs and Flowers from Seed
Growing gardens from seeds increases variety choices and helps your budget. We’ll show you how to start plants from seed, save money, and still have a bountiful, beautiful garden.
May 26, 2016 – Tools of the Trade
Spring is here! You’re ready to garden, but are your tools? Join us to learn about the must-have tools for every gardener and how to care for them.
June 2, 2016 – Growing, Drying and Freezing Herbs
Herbs, spices, and everything nice! We’ll delve into how to grow and keep a few favorite culinary herbs. Leave inspired to create an herb garden in your yard or windowsill.
June 9, 2016 – Small Space Food Gardens
If you’re eager to add some flavor to your meals but short on space we’re here to help. We’ll share strategies for creating a productive food garden even when space is at a premium.
June 16, 2016 – Pollinator Gardens
One in three bites of food you eat depends on pollinators. From butterflies and bees to flies and beetles there are many different types. Discover the unique relationship between pollinators and flowers and learn tips on creating beautiful pollinator-friendly gardens.
June 23, 2016 – Let’s Talk Hops
Hop into home brewing with our horticulturists. We’ll cover how to grow hops at home and take them from bud to beer in this introductory session.
June 30, 2016 – Top Native Plants for the Home Landscape
Nothing beats a native! Discover 15 native plants perfect for home landscapes. From perennials to shrubs and trees, native plants are a great way to beautify a garden and support healthy ecosystems at the same time.
July 7, 2016 – Getting Your Orchid to Re-Bloom
If you love orchids but have trouble getting them to bloom again, make room in your schedule for this session. We’ll share the secrets to mastering the art of beautiful blooms year after year.
July 14, 2016 – Home Irrigation
A home irrigation system can help save water and money while keeping your plants and grass looking great. Our irrigation specialist shares different approaches to planning, installing, maintaining and troubleshooting a system suited for your needs.
July 21, 2016 – Composting Basics
Curious about how you can turn garbage into gardens? From food waste and lawn clippings to worm work and soil amendments, we’ll get down and dirty with composting basics.
July 28, 2016 – All Things Lavender
The scent of lavender has been cherished for centuries. Come learn all about the Mediterranean plant that inspired a namesake color and leave with your own lavender sachet.
August 4, 2016 – Orchid Repotting
To repot or not? Learn what potting materials and techniques you can use to ensure your orchids have a comfortable home so they’ll reward you with beautiful blooms.
August 11, 2016 – House Plants 101
We’re bringing it back to basics with this session for hopeful house plant gardeners. Take away tips on watering, light, soil, and container selection that will help get you get growing indoors.
August 18, 2016 – Floral Design: Building a Winning Arrangement
Prepare to wow your friends with your next floral arraignment. Our speakers will highlight the elements of a winning display. This session will meet on the East Walk of the Enid A. Haupt Garden and then walk over to the nearby Sackler Gallery to see a breathtaking example.
August 25, 2016 – Rose Care
Join us for tips on rose care appropriate for budding and seasoned rose enthusiasts alike. Our rose expert will also talk about how to choose companion plantings for your rose garden.
September 1, 2016 – Turf Renovation
The grass doesn’t always have to look greener on the other side of the fence. Join us to learn what you can do this fall to get your lawn into shape.
September 8, 2016 – Beneficial Insects in the Garden
Beneficial insects can help support garden health in many ways. Curious to know who you should host in your garden and how they can help? Join us for bug basics.
September 15, 2016 – Fall Soil Preparation for a Fertile Spring
Does your soil need a boost? Fall and winter are the perfect time to promote fertile soil. Learn about the importance of soil testing and strategies for creating healthier garden soil organically.
September 22, 2016 – Rain Gardens
Beautiful landscapes can be good at fighting pollution and solving drainage issues too! Find out how installing an attractive rain garden can help absorb over 10 times more stormwater than the average lawn and filter pollutants at the same time.
September 29, 2016 – Fall Tree Care Tips
Trees need TLC too! Learn how to prepare your trees for the coming winter months. We’ll cover pruning, mulching, watering, and more.
The Kathrine Dulin Folger Rose Garden has been a treasured component of the Smithsonian landscape since 1998. For nearly two decades it has served as a place to enjoy beauty, learn about modern roses and showcase gardening. This year, the garden will undergo an expansion and renovation to continue that legacy. This exciting project is made possible through a generous grant from the Lee and Juliet Folger Fund.
In addition to physically increasing the garden’s footprint by developing existing turf areas in front of the Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building, the renovation will include the installation of interpretive signage highlighting information about roses as well as the important roles that beneficial insects and companion plants play in the garden. The signage will encourage visitors to more fully appreciate the garden’s four-season design and understand the advantage of variety and balance in nature and in garden design. Smithsonian Gardens will also install a custom-designed garden feature that complements the garden’s Victorian cast iron fountain and urns and ties in with the beautiful architecture of the historic A & I Building.
Many people envision a rose garden as a formal, symmetrical design consisting solely of roses surrounded by tightly-clipped boxwood edges — a near monoculture. While this type of design can be beautiful, it can also lead to an imbalance in the garden. Smithsonian Gardens wanted to design a rose garden that reflects balance as found in nature complete with structural complexity and plant diversity which allows for both pest and pest predator (a.k.a. beneficial insect) populations. By taking this approach we hope to cultivate a healthier garden with a lesser reliance on pesticides.
The redesigned Folger Rose Garden will embody the best practices in modern rose care and culture. When planning for this project, Smithsonian Gardens staff spent months carefully selecting rose varieties that are fragrant, disease resistant, and–whenever possible–“own-root roses” meaning they are grown from cuttings rather than grafted onto another rootstalk. Good selection is critical to maintaining a beautiful and scented garden without constant disease pressure and pesticide application.
When the Kathrine Dulin Folger Rose Garden was originally designed and installed in 1997-1998, the vision was to create a four-season garden with year-round interest. That vision guides this redesign as well. Roses will bloom in the spring, summer, and fall. A few specimen conifers and evergreens will punctuate and anchor the garden during the winter months but also supply some of the desired structural complexity. A variety of groundcovers and other perennials will add to the display and ensure plant diversity. These companion plants have been chosen specifically for their ability to attract a variety of beneficial insects into the garden, thus aiding in a natural balance and rose protection.
It is our hope that when the Kathrine Dulin Folger Rose Garden reopens in the summer of 2016 it will give visitors the opportunity both to surround themselves with beauty and better understand roses as a part of a larger ecosystem.
-Shelley Gaskins, Horticulturist, Smithsonian Gardens
When I was awarded a Smithsonian Gardens travel grant I knew that I wanted to make the most of it by going to Orlando, Florida to visit the “holy grail” of centrally-controlled irrigation systems like the one here at the Smithsonian. So, in late September I spent time in the Orlando area visiting Walt Disney World, John Deere Green Tech, an area of Orlando named Lake Nona, Universal Orlando, and a green industry trade show called “The Landscape Show.”
The “holy grail” that I referred to is the Maxicom irrigation system at Walt Disney World. It is the largest system of its type here in the United States and also the oldest. Many of the features of this system came about because of requirements that Disney had over the years. It was quite interesting to see Disney from behind the scenes and to get access to the inner workings of their massive system. I was surprised to discover that the Smithsonian’s irrigation system is actually a bit more modern than theirs and that we are really state-of-the-art when it comes to how our system communicates. I found it very reassuring that the last two and a half years of hard work (plus another two and a half years by my predecessors) has done wonders to rehabilitate our aging system.
On this trip I was able to see irrigation systems that are just like ours as well as systems that are quite different. I often tell people that irrigation is like a big erector set. You just need to know what pieces to put in what order. The big difference between our system and most others is that ours is a centrally controlled “smart” system. Without using too many long and boring irrigation terms, that basically means that our irrigation system tells itself when and how long to run by using data from an on-site weather station and pre-programmed schedules. Click here for more on how the Smithsonian Gardens’ irrigation system and weather station work.
For me this trip was truly valuable in many ways. I was able to gauge the state of the Smithsonian’s irrigation system, see some of its competitors in action, and–most importantly–meet my counterparts in the Orlando area as well as a few of the real innovators who developed and implemented the irrigation system that we use here at the Smithsonian. I’m looking forward to keeping in touch with the folks that I met to keep our system moving in the right direction.
-Mike Guetig, Irrigation Specialist, Smithsonian Gardens
Last year I tried out a new thing in the Mary Livingston Ripley Garden – growing a green wall! Like all things the first attempt is often a learning experience. Happily, last year’s wall turned out well enough that I decided to repeat it again this year.
I’ve received many questions from garden visitors regarding the construction of the wall so I thought I would share how it was built. This is by no means the only way to grow a green wall, just my own experience with the project.
I started by selecting frames specially designed to hang vertically. The individual cells or containers of these frames slant downward to minimize soil loss. Last year I planted the cells with things like Creeping Thymes and Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’ which root in wherever they touch the soil making them perfect in this situation.
Since I can’t do the same thing two years in a row, this year decided to try succulents. I ordered an assortment of succulent plugs (small rooted cuttings) and selected a variety of plants we were already growing at the Smithsonian Gardens’ greenhouses to augment the purchased plants.
To begin, I filled all of the containers with a well-draining potting mix and laid them out flat on a table to plant. I really was looking for dramatic color and texture in this year’s wall so I tried to “paint” with the plants by creating patterns through my placement choices. After I finished planting, I marked each tray with a label so I would know the proper layout when the containers were transported down to the Ripley Garden.
The frames were planted in early March and allowed to grow flat on tables at our greenhouse until the roots were fairly established and the plants had grown enough to start holding in the soil. This took about four months due to my plant selection and the fact that I started with small plugs.
Hanging the containers was fairly simple. Each tray came with a metal cleat to attach to the hanging surface, in this case the Ripley Garden fence. My co-worker and mechanical mastermind, Rick, helped me run two-by-fours along the fence and then attach the cleats. Since I decided to do three rows of the frames, we spaced things accordingly.
Next came the fun part – installing the trays! The back side of each container had an indentation which allowed us to hang the containers directly on the cleats. We could have stopped there, but we wanted to be sure the containers would not fall off so Rick ran a screw through the side of each tray. We started adding the trays from the bottom and continued to fill each level, adding a screw to each tray. It took less than 30 minutes to install the trays once the cleats were in place. To hide the hanging hardware, we reused some bits of twig screen we had left over from last year’s garden holiday decorations.
Now that the wall is up, watering is a bit of a challenge. It is possible to purchase little water boxes that sit on top of instillation and allow water to slowly trickle down through the wall. I found last year, however, that watering this way did not provide enough moisture to the lowest row of trays. This year I’m watering by lightly misting the wall with a fine spray of water and taking care not to disturb the soil and cause it to fall out of the containers.
I’ve found growing a green wall a fun experiment, but one that does require more skill and attention than growing things horizontally. But hey, why not try something different!
I really like the way it turned out and hope it lasts through the season. Since I used non-hardy succulents, the wall will be taken down in the late fall and returned to our greenhouse where it may undergo a new transformation for next year!
-Janet Draper, Mary Livingston Ripley Garden Horticulturist
We’re bringing our month of wedding-themed #ThrowbackThursdays to a close with tips for caring for roses at home from Smithsonian Gardens horticulturist Shelley Gaskins. Shelley manages the Kathrine Dulin Folger Rose Garden next to the Smithsonian Castle.
June is one of the most popular months for weddings, and it’s also National Rose Month! Roses are a traditional and elegant flower choice for wedding bouquets and decorations. Did you know that Tricia Nixon was married in the White House Rose Garden in June of 1971? The White House Historical Association has a new exhibit exploring the Rose Garden during the Kennedy administration opening on July 16th. “The Kennedy Rose Garden: Traditionally American” features a few photographs and letters from the Archives of American Gardens. Did you choose roses for your wedding? Share your story in the comments!
Rose Tip #1: Do your research! Roses are rated on several characteristics. Choosing roses that are rated as resistant to fungal diseases such as black spot and powdery mildew should top your list.
Rose Tip #2: Roses require at least 6 hours of full sun (preferably in the morning), a well-drained and nutrient-rich soil, and moderate amounts of water. Water should only be applied directly to the root zone, not to the leaf surface. Adequate sunlight and water will help decrease the spread and incidence of fungal diseases.
Rose Tip #3: When pruning roses in early spring, prune with the understanding that opening up the center of the plant allows for light penetration and air circulation. Allowing light and air into the center of the plant will create an environment that is less favorable to fungal diseases. Be sure to clean the edge of your pruners with alcohol to avoid spreading viruses.
Rose Tip #4: Eliminating dead, dying and diseased plants and plant parts from your garden will help to keep your garden healthy. This includes cleaning up potentially diseased rose leaves that have fallen from the plant. Fungal spores can overwinter and return to the plant from the fallen leaves.
Rose Tip #5: Not all bugs are bad! get to know the insects that visit your garden. Find out which insects truly pose a threat to the health of your plants (pests). Find out if the pest has any natural predators (beneficial insects). A healthy garden should have both. If necessary, you can introduce mail-order beneficial insects into your garden.
Rose Tip #6: Beneficial insects are often beneficial only at certain stages in their life cycle. For example, the syrphid fly only feeds on prey while they’re in their larval stage. Adult syrphids don’t eat other insects, they eat nectar and pollen. You should plant flowers that provide a variety of nectar and pollen sources throughout the growing season.
Rose Tip #7: Last one! Plant families that will help attract beneficial insects to your rose garden, including:
- Apiaceae (or Umbelliferae) -Carrot Family- attracts lady bugs, parasitic wasps, and predatory flies.
- Lamiaceae or Labiatae -Mint family
- Asteraceae -Daisy Family- attracts hoverflies, lacewing, lady bug beetles, minute pirate bugs, and spiders.
The poppy became an international symbol of remembrance of World War I through the efforts of an American professor from Georgia, Moina Michael. While working at the 25th Conference of the Overseas YMCA War Secretaries in New York City Michael heard a reading of the poem “In Flanders Fields” by Lt. Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918) of the Canadian Expeditionary Force.
Michael was so moved by the poem that she resolved to wear a poppy in remembrance of the war and bought them for attendees of the conference on November 9, 1918. Two days later, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, Germany signed an armistice agreement with the Allies thus ending the war. Michael carried on work to make the poppy a symbol for honoring the war dead as well as a way to raise funds for veterans, a symbol that endures today.
To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the World War I, Smithsonian Gardens planted corn poppies (Papaver rhoeas) outside the National Museum of American History. The seeds sown were, in part, collected from the Flanders Fields of Belgium.
To learn more about WWI, visit The Price of Freedom exhibition on the 2nd floor, East Wing of the National Museum of American History.
In Flanders Fields
by John McCrae, 1872 – 1918
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place, and in the sky,
The larks, still bravely singing, fly,
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the dead; short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe!
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high!
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.