Virginia Landmarks
December 2, 1998
Fairlington Historic District
Gardening By The Yard
National Register
March 29, 1999
Historic Designation Seal Homes in Historic Fairlington background image - American Flag Homes in Historic Fairlington Historic Designation Seal

Photo by Guy L. Adams
Gardening by the Yard
By Tom Corbin
A Fairlington Gardener

Questions and comments can be directed to - please reference:
"Gardening By the Yard Column."

(April - May)

James Russell Lowell in his poem "The Vision of Sir Launfal" writes,

Whether we look, or whether we listen,
We hear life murmur, or see it glisten;
Every clod feels a stir of might…

Isn't this the perfect description of April? I know - I know Lowell was actually speaking in his poem of June…but what's a month or two? April - growth, blossoms, flower markets, home and garden tours, and being outside, we all feel that "stir of might" that is reawakening and gardening. And as Mr. Lowell says, "And whatever of life hath ebbed away comes flooding back…" It's spring.

Tom's Garden - Spring 2006
Click Here for Slide Show
Easy Containers - Colorful Annuals for Sun or Shade
Click Here for Great Ideas

April Gardening “Doings”

Gardening experts warn us to beware of our urges to purchase summer annuals now.  Yes, Home Depot and Lowes and other “bulk” commercial dealers have impatiens, New Guinea impatiens, marigolds, petunias, geraniums and all the other summer annuals, but it is still too risky to plant annuals outside. May 1 is the traditional date for settled weather and the end of the threat of a killing frost.  Nothing is gained by putting warm weather annuals out early.  I must confess I did purchase a beautiful magenta geranium.  Couldn’t resist!

There are “cold hardy” plants that can be safely planted now.  These include pansies (of course), snapdragons, wallflowers, alyssum, calendulas, candytuft, primroses, English daisies, and perennials that will bloom later this month. Pansies have certainly enjoyed the cool weather we have experienced; unfortunately with the advent of "hot" temperatures, pansies tend to bolt and fade in the heat.  Since they do like cooler temps, it is always advisable to plant them in the fall.  By the time pansies have finished, it’s time to replace them with those annuals.

Deadhead (remove spent flowers) to keep the garden clean and blooming.

Even though we have had a few showers, we are still several inches below normal rainfall.  Thorough and deep watering is the key to plant health.


All of us "ohhh" and "ahhh" at the sight of a beautiful blooming clematis – you know that vine with the amazingly colorful and spectacular flowers.

Clematis is not as difficult to grow as one thinks.  Most clematis like full sun, but those with more pastel colors like light shade.  They prefer moist, well drained, slightly acidic soil.  The old plant "myth" was that they liked their "feet" – roots - in the shade and "head" – foliage and blossoms – in the sun. Recent horticulture research shows this not to be true and they can stand full sun.

Like most plants, they also like regular waterings and feedings.  Prune to control growth and shape the plant; be sure you establish whether or not your variety blooms on "new" (current season’s growth) or "old" (last year’s growth) wood.  A healthy plant will recover from even some mistaken prunings!

There is a clematis for bloom in every season – if we only had the space to grow them!

Some Perennial Plants to Consider for Edging Use

Lamb's Ear Elongating Just Before Bloom

For sunny spots consider catmints (nepeta) (Note: this is not catnip!), dwarf fountain grass (pennisetum), Lambs’ ears (stachys lantana), Stokes’ asters, or "snowcap" Shasta daisy (leucanthemum).

In more shady borders, some edging favorites include lungwort (pulmonaria), cranesbill geranium (the perennial geranium), hardy begonia (begonia grandis) – a perennial, heuchera (the old fashion coral bells now available in many leaf colors), dicentra "King of Hearts"  (bleeding hearts sometimes called Dutchman’s breeches), and the dwarf columbines.  (Pictured at the left is a healthy lambs’ ear.)

Help the environment – support earth day, 2006


For More information click on

Earth Day Logo

Saturday, April 29, 2006

9 AM – 12 Noon at Four Mile Run Park

3700 Commonwealth Avenue, Alexandria


The April Garden "Housekeeping" Guide!

  • Fertilize roses in April and continue regular feedings until August.
  • Overgrown boxwoods can be pruned in April.
  • Control carpenter bees by applying insecticidal dust into their holes at night
  • Prune and shape azaleas immediately following flowering.  Also apply a good "azalea/ camellia" fertilizer at this time.
  • Begin moving houseplants outside as the weather allows.  Keep them in the shade so they do not burn in the sun.  Prune and shape to encourage new growth.
  • Pinch out the tips of summer blooming perennials such as phlox and Echinacea to encourage lateral shoots which will mean more flowers.
  • Allow daffodil foliage to "ripen" (turn brown) before removing it.  Do not clip it while green; if you do so, you will not have blooms next year.
  • Discard tulip bulbs after flowering as the bulbs split and produce only leaves next year.  It’s easier to replace them each year to guarantee blossoms.

Garden Tours

Take a “mental health” day and go out to see others’ gardens.  Spring is the active house and garden tour season.  Usually in mid April “The Washington Post” Weekend section runs a complete listing of local tours.

Some tours worth taking include the following:

Georgetown House Tour April 29


Georgetown Garden Tour May 13


“Local” Virginia Garden Week Tours (April 22 – 29)

  • Fauquier-Loudoun: Upperville April 23 & 24
  • Fredericksburg April 25
  • Alexandria April 22
  • Falls ChurchArlington April 25


Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage (April 29 – May 20 weekends)

  • Talbot County April 29
  • St. Mary’s County May 6
  • North Baltimore City May 13


Fairlington Meadows B & G Patio Tour scheduled for July (check their website)


Final Note

If you have had particular success with a favorite plant, consider sharing your experience with others. Send along your garden experiences. Also when your garden is at peak spring or summer bloom, snap a photo and send it to for posting in this column. And questions are always welcomed. 

Late Summer Photos of Tom's Garden
Click Here for Photo Gallery
Posted August 26, 2005

Late Spring Photos of Tom's Garden
34th Street
(New Images & Plant Descriptions
Posted May 23, 2005)

Click Here for Slide Show

(Compare with Three Weeks Ago!!)

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