Virginia Landmarks
December 2, 1998
Fairlington Historic District
Gardening by the Yard
National Register
March 29, 1999
Photo of Tom Corbin, Gardener
Photo by Ron Patterson
Gardening by the Yard
By Tom Corbin
A Fairlington Gardener
Questions and comments can be directed to - please reference:
"Gardening By the Yard Column."

Late Summer Gardening:
Some Random Thoughts
(Posted August 19, 2013)

Photo of a Hydrangea - Tom's Garden 2011
Tom's 2013 Gardens
Click Here for SUMMER Color

(Posted August 19, 2013)
Click Here for SPRING Color
(Posted April 20, 2013)
Photo of Lily - Tom's Garden 2011

Hikers Tour Tom's Garden
Click Here for Photo Gallery
(Posted August 15, 2013)
Tom's Garden Featured By Johnson's Florists
Click Here for Article    -    Click Here for Newsletter Introduction
(Posted July 11, 2013)
How is your late summer garden doing?
Hearty Hibiscus - Tom's Garden - Photo by Ron Patterson
Like Rosemary and Thyme - Not the British Detective Show!!!

I just finished reading the latest post from the garden blog "The Outlaw Garden" which relates the "mess" of a late summer vegetable garden. Other gardeners who posted comments lamented the disease-prone nature of this year's vegetable garden and its current "messy" state.

There is nothing wrong with a little naturalism in some parts of the flowering border, but keeping it tidy makes it attractive as we approach fall. Unlike my vegetable gardening friends, my flower borders are still enjoying the summer!

I don't have the sun to grow vegetables and only have a few herbs interspersed among the annuals and perennials. Rosemary thrives for me. I have a large, almost shrub size, plant near the lamp post planted with some dwarf nandinas and a butterfly bush.

Last year I started another one in the west border and it, too, is thriving - in spite of the fact that it probably gets too much water, but the drainage is good in that spot.

Late last fall I found two hanging containers of a lateral growing rosemary which survived the winter in their pots on my patio! Last spring I planted them out, not really taking time to consider what location would be best for them. So one went in an almost full sun area and the other in a semi-shade area. Both, I'm happy to report, are doing well!

Unlike rosemary, my thyme thrived until mid-summer, then died. I like to plant it at the edge of the border where the lighter colored leaves make an effective edging. No so this summer. I think it had too much water.

Rosemary Plant - Tom's Garden - Photo by Ron Patterson
Rosemary Plant - Tom's Garden

Because the spring was cooler, wet, and long-lived, some of the annuals did not take off until the weather turned hot in July! My coleus, usually a mainstay for color in the border, just sat; however, they are now hitting their stride and providing nice color. Unfortunately they are at the stage where a hard storm will damage them because the stems have become woody and will break easily. I am still pinching out the tops and eliminating the blooms to keep them as attractive as possible for as long as I can.

Coleus Doing Well - Zinnias, Not so Much

Varieties of Coleus Plants - Tom's Garden - Photo by Ron Patterson
Varieties of Coleus Plants - Tom's Garden

I keep some coleus and begonias in large pots which I "hide" in the foliage of other plants so that they provide color areas where the perennials have bloomed. For the most part the pots are hidden by ferns and Astilbe and Hosta foliage. I also did this with some potted zinnias and put the pots in the cat mint foliage. I found some nice sized pots of sedum at Home Depot and have just left them in the pot and placed the container in the border until I can find a suitable place for their permanent home.

My zinnias, except for the dwarf variety, have contracted mildew. I have pulled up some and others, still with some spectacular blooms, I have left in place and periodically pull off the diseased leaves. I really should pull them out and replace them! The dwarf yellow zinnias are full of buds and blossoms, even those near the taller variety infected with mildew - they seem to be mildew resistant. I must remember this for next summer.

My hostas seemed to bloom early this year, and some bloomed down in the leaves rather than flowering above them. The foliage has been lovely; however, the blooms were less than spectacular. Two overgrown clumps of an "ancient" variety which shouldn't bloom at all because they desperately need dividing, bloomed heavily in early June. I don't know the name of the variety - it has a variegated leaf (mid-size) and blooms profusely with lavender flowers. I guess some plants thrive on neglect.

The cool, wet spring caused heavy growth on hydrangeas. Some of my lace capped ones grew as high as the patio fence. Needless to say, I have done a major pruning on them to reduce them so they don't swamp everything around them! They are filling in nicely.

I have had the most spectacular begonias this year! I'm sorry I don't know the variety but they are not the smaller, common bedding variety and are not the "angel wing" variety. With a bronzy red foliage and large pendant red or pink blossoms, they show no sign of letting up! I do regularly "dead head" the blossoms and they just keep coming back with more and larger blooms!

Mulching, Deadheading & Fertilizing - Take the Time, Please

For some reason, my perennial begonia did not come back as strongly this year. I suspect over mulching as the culprit. Usually it provides a major display of pink at this time of the gardening year, but I only have a few plants to punctuate the shady area.

My gardening chores are mostly of the "maintenance" variety - deadheading, weeding (and there have been many, many weeds this year), and watering. I also regularly pinch back over aggressive plants so they don't swamp their neighbors.

Time is also spent cutting back spent perennials. I am also continuing to fertilize my pot plants to keep them going into the fall. It is so sad to see folks who have wilted and yellowed hanging pots - hey, the clue to keeping them going is regular watering and fertilization! The original potting soil has been depleted with summer watering and unless you're putting in some granular fertilizer or a liquid mix, they have no nutrition, hence no color and no blooms.

Begonia - Tom's Garden - Photo by Ron Patterson
Begonia - Tom's Garden

Nurseries are beginning to stock fall asters and mums, and I assume that pansies and "flowering" kale and cabbage are not far behind! I usually wait as long as possible before cleaning up the border and putting in the "winter" plants, but if your summer garden is on its last legs, putting in fall and winter plants can be very dramatic. Just remember it's too early to plant tulips, which benefit from being planted as late as possible - even into late November or early December.

Catalogs and Bulbs - Time to Order, Order, Order

Plant Catalogs

You probably have received some fall catalogues. Last week copies from White Flower Farm, Wayside Gardens, Old Bulbs Gazette, and Plants Delight arrived.

You really can't go wrong with ordering spring flowering bulbs from catalogues. Many offer varieties that are not available locally and some offer "discounts" if purchased by a separate date to be shipped at planting time.

Spring bulbs are almost the fool proof plant. They already have next spring's flower bud inside when you plant them.

Now you may have a problem with squirrels, but if they are properly planted and watered, you are guaranteed flowers for the first spring.

What happens in the ensuing springs may be problematic.

The smaller bulbs - grape hyacinths, crocus, snowdrops, etc. - can go in now. And daffodils take longer to establish roots than tulips, so they, too, can be planted early.

I wait until about mid-October and plant the fall/ winter garden at the same time as I put in the spring flowering bulbs. Most of us are familiar with the old stand by bulbs; we know, for example, grape hyacinth - but take a look in a good bulb catalogue at the many varieties of this bulb.

You will be amazed - there are more than just the usual blue variety. Plant something new this fall and be surprised in the spring!

The garden changes with the seasons, and each season provides its own delights and challenges. Be sure to take time to enjoy and reflect upon the products of your hard labor and keep in mind that the gardening scene is an ever changing one!

Happy Gardening! Tom Corbin 4624 34th St. S., Arlington, VA 22206

Variety of Bulbs

Tom's Garden Featured in
Washington Gardener Magazine

In its July/August 2006 Issue, Washington Gardener Magazine features the garden of Fairlington's own "Gardening Advisor" Tom Corbin. Tom's garden is on 34th Street, facing the street, between Wakefield and 36th.

"Gardening in Fairlington is a rather "public" activity, especially when one's garden is adjacent to a busy street, complete with Metro buses and rush hour traffic, and a busy sidewalk of pedestrians, dog walkers, and strollers!"

Click Here for Article
(July, 2006)

Even though Fairlington gardeners are limited by our spatial constraints, it is always a treat to keep up with gardening trends by exploring noteworthy garden publications. I highly recommend the following:


Practical Web Sites

Gardening Resources - Cornell University Gardening Site - Offers great links on lawn, garden, landscape gardening and much more.

Online resource for gardening enthusiasts - Garden - offers some simple, practical videos on garden maintenance and general gardening advice.

Note to Readers

As some of you probably remember, I used to do this column for the All Fairlington Bulletin as an effort to offer to local gardeners some practical advice based on personal experience. I am always interested in who (if anyone) actually reads or uses this advice and will respond to your questions or comments. Drop me a line at and reference "Web Site Garden Column" in the subject heading.

American Horticultural Society
Web Site
Photo of Gardener

The American Horticultural Society (AHS) is one of the oldest national gardening organizations in the country. Since 1922, we have provided America's gardeners with the highest quality gardening and horticultural education possible.

We accomplish this with the help of an impressive network of experts -- from the members of our Board of Directors, specialized Advisory Committees, National Great American Gardener Award Winners and corporate sponsors.

At AHS you’ll get connected -- to great gardens around the world, gardening education for all levels of skill, sources of information on any garden subject imaginable, a community of gardeners eager to share their experiences, other great gardening events and activities, and much, much more.

"Go Green"

In the interest of protecting our environment, there are many thing the small-time gardener can do to limit our impact on the planet.

Plant native species. The American Horticulture Society (located near Mt. Vernon), Blandy Farm (the VA arboretum near Winchester, VA), Green Springs Farm (located off Little River Turnpike), and local farmers' markets offer native species which will grow in our area.

Use natural products. Limit the use of chemical sprays and fertilizers in the garden.

Consider drought tolerant plants. Once established many plants, including native species, are drought tolerant. Discover them through a little garden research.

Promote Natural Growth Patterns. Encourage the natural growth form of plants and shrubs. Sheared plants are stressed out and use more water than those left to grow in their natural pattern.

Photo of Earthtaken by the crew of Apollo 17 in 1972.

Turn your backyard into a haven for wildlife

Fairlington Historic District

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