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."

Early Summer Gardening:
After a Hard Winter
(Updated October 2, 2014)

Photo of Zinnias - Tom's Garden 2014
Tom's 2014 Garden
Click Here for SPRING Color

(Posted June 10, 2014)
Click Here for LATE SUMMER Color

(Posted August 11, 2014)
Click Here for EARLY FALL Color

(Posted October 1, 2014)
Photo of Coleus - Tom's Garden 2014

White Oak Defoliation Alarms Local Landowners
Nearby Counties Impacted
Click Here for Details

A Long, Dreary, and COLD Winter

Having survived a long, dreary, and COLD winter, most gardeners have rejoiced in the "more normal" spring weather and the gradual beginnings of summer.

2014 Hydrangea - Tom's Garden - Photo by Ron Patterson

Lasting for several weeks, spring bloomed in profusion and unlike most years, daffodils and tulips did not "melt" because the April temperatures zoomed to ninety degrees overnight! Perhaps we appreciated the bountiful effect of so many trees, shrubs, and plants blooming at the same time this year because we had endured what many called a "real" old fashioned winter.


But spring was not without its losses. There was much winter kill. Three plants which seem to have been the hardest hit were hydrangeas, rosemary, and figs. There are many varieties of hydrangea, but basically this shrub can be divided into two camps: those that bloom on "old" wood and those that bloom on "new" wood. Old wood bloomers set their buds the previous fall; thus this winter's cold killed the flower as well as leaf buds. But don't despair because these shrubs will revive from their roots which did not freeze. By now you probably have ten to twelve inches of new growth.

If you have not already done so, cut back all the dead, top stems. Don't expect blooms this summer, but you should have a good crop of blooms next year unless we have another polar vortex!

Reinventing the Winter-Weary Hydrangea - Read this Washington Post Article

Much More on Hydrangea Varieties and Care - From Johnson's Florist

Hydrangeas that bloom on new wood, that is, growth produced this season, should bloom as normal albeit a little later than usual. The newer variety and the one being pushed by nurseries as more winter hardy is the "Endless Summer" variety. Its advantage is that it blooms on growth produced this season. Supposedly if you dead head (e.g. remove the spent blooms) this variety, it will continue to set new buds and bloom continuously.


Most rosemary plants died as a result of the cold including those in more protected locations. I lost 3 old specimens, one of which had reach shrub size. I was told by a horticulturalist at Ginko Gardens in Washington, DC that the only variety that survived was "Arp", so if you're replacing your rosemary look for this one.

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

And all over the area, we see the dead branches of fig bushes. If your plant has not sprouted by this time, it's not going to, but it is putting up shoots from its roots which now have to be trained into a new plant. I suspect it will be a season or two before there is a big fig harvest.

Photos On this Page by Tom Corbin and Ron Patterson
(Taken June and July, 2013 and 2014)

       Advice on Coleus from
Horticulture Magazine

Cutting back coleus will actually produce more of it, making the plant take on a bushier shape quite quickly.

Coleus - Tom's Garden

The flowers are often pinched from coleus plants so the leaves arenít downplayed, but doing so also makes this tender perennial (often grown as a summer annual in cold climates) fuller by keeping the height under control and creating the opportunity for more leaves to grow.

To pinch back your coleus, simply cut or pinch off any stem at a point where two stems or two leaves are growing from it. Two new branches will begin to grow from where those other stems or leaves meet the main stem that you pinched.

You can also pinch just under the coleusís flower buds if you donít want the plantís energy to be spent on producing flowers and seeds. (When this happens, the leaves lose beauty and vigor.) Around midsummer, coleus should be pruned regardless of whether it will be allowed to flower. If itís not maintained, it could overgrow and branches can snap from their weight.

Growing Shrubs in Pots
July 30, 2014 | By Meghan Shinn
(From Horticulture Magazine)

Annuals are usually the go-to plants for container gardening, but in truth any type of plant can be grown in a pot with just a little extra thought and care.

Check out this article in the summer issue of our free online magazine, Great Gardens, for the ins and outs of growing shrubs in pots, including why and how.

Ways to Attract and Feed More Hummingbirds
July 23, 2014 | By Kelsea Daulton
(From Horticulture Magazine)
Hummingbird in Flight

Hummingbird feeders can be effective attractants, but they require maintenance to keep them safe for the birds.

Sugar water should be changed every three to five days, and more frequently during summer. This prevents the growth of mold. Clean the feeders at least once a week with hot water and a bottlebrush, but leave the soap detergent under the sink because it may leave harmful residue. If you donít think hot water is sufficient, use a solution of diluted bleach. Itís imperative to rinse thoroughly and let the feeders completely air dry before refilling them.

If black mold is detected in the sugar water, discard the water immediately and soak the feeder in a mild vinegar solution for one hour. This should be done about once a month anyway. After the hour is up, scrub the feeder with a clean bottlebrush and rinse well before refilling it.

Attract hummingbirds to your garden with these flowers and vines: Canna, Bee Balms, Four Oí Clocks, Foxglove, Firespike, Impatiens, Jewelweed, Petunias, Coral Honeysuckle, Morning Glories, Cypress Vine and Trumpet Creeper.

Birds hardly have a sense of smell, so itís more about the vibrant colors than fragrance. A tubular flower shape is also preferred. If you can, go for wild strains rather than cultivated strains as these usually produce more nectar.

Azaleas - Did Well this Year

Azalea Plants - Tom's Garden - Photo by Ron Patterson
Azaleas - Tom's Garden

Like spring bulbs, azaleas put on a wonderful show this year reaching their peak just before Mother's Day. Azaleas are a basic in the suburban foundation planting scheme and in the wooded gardens of our area.

Since azaleas set their buds for next season in the summer, they should be pruned right after the blooms die. This assures new growth and plentiful blooms next spring. Some inexperienced gardeners make the mistake of pruning their azaleas in the fall and then wonder the following spring why there were no blooms.

Simple, you cut off the flower buds in the fall! Prune and shape now or wait until after azaleas bloom NEXT spring.

One of the most common diseases affecting azaleas is the Lace Bug. Lace Bugs attack a broad range of evergreen and deciduous trees and shrubs, and often go undetected until the infested plants show severe damage.

One of the most frequently affected shrubs is the azalea. Azaleas planted in the sun seem to be more likely to be attacked by lace bugs than those planted in the shade, although both are affected.

Lace bugs as adults and nymphs remove sap as they feed from the underside of the leaf. The damage detracts from the plant's beauty, reduces the plant's ability to produce food, decreases plant vigor, and causes the plant to be more susceptible to damage by other insects, diseases or unfavorable weather conditions.

Plants affected do not die from these infestations and will revive the next season. They just look "nasty" during an infestation! Make sure you keep affected plants well watered to increase their vigor until the treatment kicks in. Try not to wet the leaves of azaleas as this, too, is problematic in causing diseases.

Although lace bugs feed on the underside of leaves, their damage is most apparent on the upper leaf surface. Look for yellow stippling of new growth. Positive identification of lace bug damage can be confirmed by the presence of black or brown droplets of excrement and old "skins" of the nymphs on the underside of damaged leaves.

Spray the underside of the foliage with a horticultural oil spray such as Bonide All Season's Horticultural Spray Oil to reduce populations.

Lace Bug Leaf Infestation

Great Video from P. Allen Smith - "Five Plants that Beat the Heat"
(Click Here)

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


Why are we talking tulips in June? Yes, I know they're not in bloom now and it's not time to plant them, but I was asked so many questions this spring about my tulips that I thought I would throw out some information while their blooms were still in our recent memory!

The most frequent question, other than where do you buy your bulbs, is do you leave your tulip bulbs in or remove them each year. Most tulips stage their best performance the first spring after having been planted the previous fall. Usually tulips are not true perennials, that is, returning year after year like daffodils which multiply each year.

Tulips tend to "fade away" and diminish after the first year because the bulb "splits" producing greatly reduced flowers (if any) and mostly leaves the following spring. Most gardeners remove and discard the bulbs after blooming and plant new bulbs in the fall.

Since tulips can be planted rather late in the season - into December if the ground isn't frozen - you can find end of season tulip sales among the Christmas items! (Note: tulips root faster - from the flat end of the bulb - than daffodils; therefore, daffodils should be planted in early fall to give them time to root sufficiently.

Now there are some tulip species which do "perennialize" and return to flower year after year. These are the smaller tulips including the Species Tulips, Kaufmanniana Hybrid Tulips, Greigii Tulips, and supposedly the Giant Darwin Hybrid tulips. Unfortunately most of us do not have space to devote to these and must be satisfied with replanting each year.

Again, why talk about tulips in the summer? Well, most gardeners are receiving fall bulb catalogues which offer substantial discounts if bulbs are ordered by a specific date. Two recently arrived catalogues are John Scheepers Beauty from Bulbs ( and Van Engelen, Inc. (, There are just so many colors and varieties of tulips, but, alas, for most of us too little space for them!

I have included here (SEE LINK AT THE TOP OF THIS PAGE) some pictures of my garden from this spring to help remember the beauty that followed this past winter and to tempt you to begin thinking about next spring's garden. Gardening is certainly not a static process, is it?

Tulips in Tom's 2014 Spring Garden
CLUE - He Planted over 250 Bulbs!!!
Click Here for the Tulips Galore Slide Show

Summer Gardening!

I'm sure most gardeners are engaged in the transition of spring to summer and are putting in summer material now that the soil has warmed up, and the night temperatures have stabilized and are staying well above 50 degrees.

Remember to feed, water, and mulch those new plants to keep them growing. Also remember to try something new this year - something you haven't tried before that will thrive in your growing conditions.

Match the plant's needs with your growing conditions - shade lovers need shade and sun lovers need sun! Plant naturally as they grow in nature (redundant, I know) - you don't see plants growing in straight lines, do you? No, of course not. Then don't plant your specimens all in a row; mix them up, clump them! Also plant in odd numbers - 3, 5, 7, 9 of a variety. This way they make a better show!

Think of making a flower border as somewhat like painting. You need a mass of color here; some shading there; and a little texture there! Voila! You have a masterpiece with the earth as your canvas.

Tulips - Toms Garden

Conversations with Neighbors
OR - Do You Speak to Neighbors You Pass when Walking?
From the Outlaw Garden Web Site

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)
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)

Turn your backyard into a haven for wildlife
Photo by Catherine-Miller - Courtesy Wildlife Federation

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 youíll 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.

Fairlington Historic District

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