Cherry Blossom Peak Prediction Update


Posted by justtracy | Posted in Horticulture Event | Posted on 19-03-2013

Well, Mother Nature just loves to have the upper hand. Hope you didn’t already book your travel plans.

Today the National Park Service announced they have changed the peak prediction spread for max bloom time. It is now April 3-6.

What’s a Cherry Blossom Festival to do?

The good news is that blooms usually last about 14 days. And they don’t all open at once.  So if you made plans based on the first prediction of March 26-30, you should still get a good show.

When I posted the first prediction, I almost made my own prediction that they were wrong by being at least a week too early.  But who am I to doubt their examination of the actually buds?  But I did know, being an avid weather observer, that we have been below average every month for temps since December.  And still this week with the first full day of Spring on Thursday, we are predicted to take a dip down to 41 for the daytime high.  Yes, high.

I am going to D.C. this weekend to a native plant sale at the US Arboretum.  I will make my own Cherry Blossom observations then.



Pepper Plants are looking good!


Posted by justtracy | Posted in Gardening, Peppers, Seed | Posted on 19-03-2013

The pepper seeds I started back in February have been potted up and are looking good.  Want to see?  A picture is worth a thousand words.  But it will make you hungry.

See my new Pinterest board: 2013 Peppers from Seed

I have two trays of pansies to plant as soon as the weather permits. Working on that Pinterest board too.

Just started some tomato plants and trying something called Wonderberry.


Snow: to remove or not to remove?


Posted by justtracy | Posted in Gardening, Trees, Weather | Posted on 06-03-2013

Snowy MapleThe mid-atlantic has experienced heavy wet snow today followed by increasing wind. This can equal a lot of damage to trees and shrubs.  There is always the debate about wether you should or shouldn’t go out and knock the snow off your highly prized woody ornamentals and trees.  I prefer to wait and see what Mother Nature can do before I intercede.

Earlier this morning the branches of my maple were dropping heavy. The winds gradually started to increase and the snow began to shake loose off the branches. I look at it now and it is totally free of snow. Same with my evergreens and little shrubs.

Snow removal is a touchy subject. If the wait and see approach doesn’t work and it is painful to watch your tree branches bent over, then most sources recommend using a broom to gently (keyword), brush with an upward stroke, the branches of your trees and shrubs. I don’t recommend going out in fowl weather, risking your own life and limb to do this.  And use caution for own safety.

The best thing that you can do to prevent a lot of winter damage, is to keep your trees an shrubs pruned properly.  It is also advised to not encourage new growth in the fall buy fertilizing or pruning.  Below are some additional resources on minimizing winter damage to your trees and shrubs. And if you do need damage control, always use a an ISA Certified Tree Care Service or Arborist.

VCE Managing Winter Injury to Trees and Shrubs

NCSU Trees: Damage



AAS Complete List of 2013 Winners


Posted by justtracy | Posted in Gardening | Posted on 05-03-2013


Look for these  AAS Winner varieties this year at your favorite retailer or they may also be available as seeds from your favorite source.

From  AAS (All-American Selections): Complete list of 2013 Flower and Vegetable AAS winners

About AAS:  “All-America Selections is a plant trialing organization using independent judges in over 60 locations across North America. Only the highest scoring new varieites are declared winners and given the “AAS Winner” designation.”

Tomato ‘Jasper’ looks good to me.


D.C. Cherry Blossom Peak Bloom Dates Announced


Posted by justtracy | Posted in General Interest | Posted on 04-03-2013

“the Festival, National Park Service, Embassy of Japan, and DC leadership gathered to announce plans for the 2013 National Cherry Blossom Festival, held March 20 – April 14.

The National Park Service announced that the peak bloom (defined as when 70% of the blossoms are open), will be March 26 – March 30.”

Peak Bloom Dates and Festival Information Announced | National Cherry Blossom Festival.

For a history of the festival see:

History of the Cherry Blossom Trees
and Festival

Favorite 2013 NGB New Varieties


Posted by justtracy | Posted in Gardening | Posted on 03-03-2013

Favorite 2013 NGB New Varieties

March is for Maple Syrup


Posted by justtracy | Posted in General Interest | Posted on 28-02-2013

March: The first signs of Spring and Maple Syrup Season!

Why is March the month for Maple Syrup?  It is the magic of longer warmer days and nights below freezing.  The maple trees start to surge to life and the sap starts to flow.

  • From the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers Association: Spring’s warmer temperatures coax sugar maple trees to turn stored starch back into sugar. Sap is made as the tree mixes ground water with the sugar. The sap is mostly crystal clear water with about 2% sugar. It takes 40 gallons of sap to make each gallon of maple syrup which has a sugar content of 66.9%. A typical sugaring season lasts 4 to 6 weeks. A pattern of freezing and thawing temperatures (below freezing at night and 40-45 degrees during the day) will build up pressure within the trees causing the sap to flow from the tapholes.

Canada produces more than 80 percent of the world’s maple syrup. In the United States, the largest producing states in order are Vermont, New York and Maine.

Pure maple syrup has many health benefits and contains as many as 54 antioxidants. For more info on the nutritional value of maple syrup, see the Pure Canadian Maple Syrup website.

And for some funs ways to enjoy maple syrup, see Top 10 Ways to eat maple Syrup from Maple Syrup World.

Did you know that many popular brands of “maple flavored” syrups are NOT real maple syrup. Look for labels that say “PURE Maple Syrup” and always check the ingredients.  Nothing tastes as good as the real thing.

Horticulture as Therapy


Posted by justtracy | Posted in Horticultural Therapy | Posted on 26-02-2013

I discovered this really interesting organization and website rom the American Horticulture Therapy Association.  Lots of great information and events.

In 2013, National Horticultural Therapy Week will be celebrated the week of March 17th. 

“Spring officially begins with the vernal equinox, which occurs on March 20, 2013, at 7:02 A.M. EDT in the Northern Hemisphere. This is an ideal time to focus our collective energies on elevating recognition of our individual and professional accomplishments as horticultural therapists. Each year, AHTA coordinates the efforts of regional networking groups, affiliated HT programs, and AHTA members to collaborate in celebrating the profession on a national and local level.”


2013 is Year of the…Snake


Posted by justtracy | Posted in Wildlife | Posted on 23-02-2013

If you are a Chinese Horoscope fan, you already know that we are now in the Year of the Snake: a year of progress and attention to detail.

If you are a gardener, you have probably encountered a few more snakes than the average person. Especially the Garter Snake (sometime mistakenly called the Garder or Gardener Snake), one of the most common snakes in the eastern U.S.  Most people have a fear or at least disdain for these legless lizards.  While I don’t enjoy encounters with any of them, I do know that they provide some benefits to the gardener, like controlling rodents such as chipmunks and squirrels and insects like grasshoppers. And some snakes even prey on other poisonous snakes.

For detailed information on managing snakes in your yard, see Managing Wildlife Damage: Snakes from the Virginia Cooperative Extension.  Or search your local state extension website for information on Snakes in your area.  The title above bothers me a bit as snakes actually do no harm to a garden other than frightening the unsuspecting gardener from time to time.  This publication also points out that of the 30 species in Virginia, only 3 are poisonous.  I also learned it is illegal to kill any snake in the state unless you are in imminent danger.  This publication also has good tips on ways to control and remove snakes from you yard as well.

For more information on why snakes can be good for the garden, see Snakes: Good for the Garden.

I will still always keep my distance of any snake and recommend everyone do the same. Stay calm and remember most snakes want to avoid you as much as you want to avoid them. And any snake that feels threatened will bite, which can be a painful experience.  Most snake bites occur because people get simply to close (about 6 feet) trying to get a closer look or pick up a snake.  Best advice: don’t handle snakes!  Back away slowly and remember they can strike a distance at least half their length. And know what attracts them to your yard in the first place and make changes to your environment to discourage them (dense ground covers, tall grasses, wood piles, rocks, water, birdseed on the ground that attracts rodents, etc.).  And snakes have predators too…enter our friend the Hawk.



Go Orchid Exploring


Posted by justtracy | Posted in Orchids | Posted on 23-02-2013

I strongly encourage you to go Orchid exploring…locally!  Two great events in the Richmond (VA) area.

Today I enjoyed a Hawaiian Paradise….just what I needed on a cold, dreary winter day in Virginia.  I went to The Virginia Orchid Society 2013 Orchid Show: Hawaiian Paradise (February 22-24) at Strange’s Garden Center.   There were over 600 orchids on display. Admission is Free and open to the public. And you can vote for your favorite artfully designed exhibit. There were vendors offering orchid plants and supplies, jewelry, and art.  See below for info on the lecture schedule for Sunday.

I tphotoold myself I was only going to look and not buy.  But somehow I did come home with a new orchid from Orchid Enterprise inc.  My latest edition is a Paphiopedilums Maudiae ‘Napa Valley’ (lady slipper family).  Most Orchids are actually not hard to grow and the vendors usually will give you lots of tips to keep your Orchid happy and blooming. And there are price ranges for just about all levels of collectors.

Sunday, February 24th 10am – 5pm
Lecture schedule  (*Lecture times & topics subject to change)
11:30am – Choosing the Right Orchid to Grow in Your Home
12:30pm – General Care for Your Slipper Orchids
1:30pm – Popular Orchids and Growing Them at Home
2:30pm – Oddball Orchids You Can Grow at Home
3:30pm – General Orchid Care

If you can’t make the Orchid Society Show this weekend (or can’t get enough Orchids), visit the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden for  Orchids Galore! : A Love of Living Color exhibit; Feb. 14 – March 31 from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily.

If a bit of Tropical experience in February, go visit the Orchid Society Show or Orchids Galore at Ginter and take in the beauty and fragrance of more than 600 flowers in bloom.