September 5, 2011

Good-bye to Garden Variety

Susan Reimer's Garden/Photo credit: Susan Reimer


It has been three gardening seasons, 1,733 blog posts and one trip to a convention of garden bloggers just like me. Now it is time for Garden Variety to throw in the trowel, as it were.

This is the last post for Garden Variety. The Baltimore Sun has asked me do to other things. I am sad to see this venture end. It has been a pleasure for me to write about my garden -- and yours -- and to post all the beautiful pictures captured for me by The Baltimore Sun's photo staff.

I did my best to give you some advice and some fresh ideas for your garden -- even if it was only to point you toward someone who knows more than I.

Now that I am leaving the garden blogging scene, let me tell you who they are. Who knows, you might need them next spring.

Continue reading "Good-bye to Garden Variety" »

Posted by Susan Reimer at 5:44 PM | | Comments (9)

August 31, 2011

University of Maryland Extension: Garden Q&A

Q: My day lilies look so ratty this time of year!  Can I cut them down and be done with them?

A: Around mid-August you can try “dead-leafing,” which entails wrapping your hands around clumps of dead leaves and yanking them out.  Or, you can simply cut them down to a few inches from the ground with shears.  They’ll put our some new growth which won’t get as tall as the early season leaves, but should look good and stay green until frost. 

Continue reading "University of Maryland Extension: Garden Q&A" »

Posted by Susan Reimer at 1:33 PM | | Comments (0)

University of Maryland Extension: Plant of the Week


Japanese Anemone


Anemone hupehensis var. japonica

Text and photo by Virginia Williams

With broad petals so different from the typical fall mum, Japanese anemone really stands out it a fall garden.

From August through September, few plants grow more reliably and bloom in the shade better than Japanese anemone. This perennial produces clusters of white or pink flowers up to three inches in diameter.

Leaves are large, deeply lobed, and somewhat like maple leaves.  Growing two to five feet tall, Japanese anemon prefer rich moist soil with good drainage and shade but will grow in the sun.

They can be slow to establish, but given the right location they will slowly spread to a nice thick planting and even require cutting back.  Deer tend not to eat it.


Posted by Susan Reimer at 1:16 PM | | Comments (0)

What's blooming at Baltimore's Rawlings Conservatory?

Photo credit Michael Lemmon

Stapelia Hirsuta

Stapelias are succulents that are mostly native to Southern Africa. These stars of the desert are notable for large, unusual flowers that are star-like in shape and can grow up to 16 inches wide.

Unlike other plants that lure pollinators with bright colors or sweet nectar, these “carrion” flowers give off an unpleasant smell to attract flies and bees. It’s best to keep them outdoors when in bloom.

This species, the Stapelia Hirsuta has reddish brown blooms covered with fine purple hairs and reaches a magnificent 10 inches in diameter.
Since they grow naturally in the desert, stapelias require bright light, warm temperatures and a very well-drained type of soil. Most species do best in a climate that doesn’t fall below 60 degrees F.

Continue reading "What's blooming at Baltimore's Rawlings Conservatory?" »

Posted by Susan Reimer at 1:03 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Baltimore's Rawlings Conservatory

August 25, 2011

Weekend garden events

Homestead GardensHomestead Gardens 3rd Annual Annapolis Tomato Festival

Saturday August 27th, 12 pm to 6 pm Davidsonville location

Tickets: Individuals $10. Family of 4 is $25 (children under 10  free)
Homestead Gardens is hosting its Third Annual Annapolis Tomato Festival  This family-friendly event will feature three different contests: the Chesapeake Chili Cook-off, the Salsa Competition and the Ledo Fastest Pizza Eating Contest. Registration for all contests is open to the public; restaurants and individuals are welcome to enter the cooking contests. 
There also will be samplings of a wide variety of tomatoes as well as different tomato-based foods. There will have live music and cooking demonstrations throughout the day. 
A portion of the profits from the Tomato Festival and Chili Cook-off will go to support Save the Coconuts, an Annapolis-based nonprofit organization dedicated to raising funds to fight breast cancer and make life easier for those living with the disease.
Schedule of events (subject to change):

12 noon: Doors open to the Third Annual Tomato Festival.

Tomato Sampling: Try them all!

Preserving the Harvest: Tomato Cooking Demonstration with Homestead's own Food Blogger, Rita Calvert

12:30pm-2:30 pm: 2nd Annual Chesapeake Chili Cook-off: Cast your vote for the best chili in the People’s Choice category.

1-3 pm: Live music: The Andy Poxon Band. 

2 pm-4 pm: Salsa Competition Begins: Share your spicy love for this all-time favorite tomato-based concoction.

3 pm: Second Annual Ledo’s Fastest Pizza Eating Contest: Can you eat a large pizza all by yourself? Think you can you eat it faster than everyone else?  If so, prove it!

3:30 pm-6 pm: Live Music The Sly 45 Trio

Posted by Susan Reimer at 8:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Garden events

August 23, 2011

University of Maryland Extension: Plant of the Week




Liriope muscari and Liriope spicata

Text and photo by Virginia Williams

Tough and adaptable, liriope is a stellar groundcover.

Liriope muscari, as shown in the photo, is a clumping form that stays in a clump and does not spread aggressively.  Clumps continue to expand, but no runners are formed.  It can grow in sun or shade or on the steepest slope.

Once established, it is drought tolerant.  Its ribbon-like foliage can get as long as 18 inches and sports purple or white flowers in the summer.  This clumping form is popular as edging.

Liriope spicata, on the other hand, is a spreading form that sends out runners.  It is especially useful to control erosion, but should not be planted where it can get out of control.

Deer may nibble on it during the winter (saving you the trouble of cutting off old foliage), but liriope is not a big deer favorite.

Posted by Susan Reimer at 8:00 AM | | Comments (1)

August 20, 2011

Tool Time: Top five time-saving tools for the garden

Stand-up weeder photo courtesy of Yard Butler

Five Tools That Will Save You Time in the Garden
A guest post by Lou Manfredini, Ace Hardware’s Home Expert

While a garden is often considered a labor of love, who wants to spend hours doing what could be accomplished in minutes? These days there are so many gardening tool options that can allow you to save time on everyday gardening tasks such as weeding and pruning. Here are my five top tool recommendations:

#1) Yard Butler Stand-Up Weeder. This tool allows you to stay standing while you pull weeds from your lawn or garden – it puts much less stress on your body and the task gets done faster.

#2) Fiskars Ergonomic Pruning Shears. Made by the folks that produce the famous orange-handled scissors, these shears are just as comfortable in your hand. They make quick work of pruning small branches on bushes, roses and ornamental flowers.

#3) Toro Electronic Cordless Mower. This lawn mower requires no gas and runs for up to 45 minutes on each electric charge. It’s good for the environment and saves you time since you won’t have to run out to the gas station every time you need to mow.

#4) Collapsible Vinyl Garden Bags. These bags help speed up the process of keeping your yard free of debris and clutter. They spring open and hold themselves up for easy loading and dumping; when you are done, just collapse and store. They’ll also save money by eliminating the need to buy plastic or paper lawn bags.

#5) A Quality Wheelbarrow. This is an investment that will last for generations. In fact, mine belonged to my wife’s great uncle and must be 80 years old. Whether you need to mix concrete, haul dirt around your yard, or give your kids a ride, a wheelbarrow can do it all!

For more product tips and advice to help you turn your garden to-do list into a to-done list, head to your local Ace Hardware store or visit

Posted by Susan Reimer at 4:07 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Garden tools

A willow tunnel for Baltimore


Three months ago, the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore and Downtown Baltimore Family Alliance began construction of Pierce’s Park, a sustainable space located in the city.


This week, volunteers and Willow Artist Bonnie Gale will build Baltimore’s first living willow tunnels, providing a unique feature and play space at the park.

Gale will guide the construction of the living willow tunnels with the help of volunteers from Constellation Energy and the Boy Scouts.

Willow rods will be planted in certain patterns and the branches will be woven together at the top to form a ridge line and, ultimately, a tunnel that will continue to grow.

The work begins Tuesday and will be completed on Friday.

Located on a one-acre parcel of land on Pier 5 between  Columbus Center and Eastern Avenue, Pierce’s Park is dedicated to the memory of Baltimore contractor and business owner Pierce J. Flanigan III.


Posted by Susan Reimer at 8:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Garden news

August 18, 2011

University of Maryland Extension: Garden Q&A

Q: What chemical can I use to get rid of the broadleaf weeds in my lawn?  I want to do this before I overseed my lawn this fall. These hot summers are killing my grass.

A: Don’t apply herbicides when the air temperature is above 85 degrees.  Your grass can be damaged.  Also at high temperatures some herbicides will volatilize, wasting the product and, even worse, the herbicide vapors can be absorbed by non-target plants where serious herbicide injury can occur.

Read the herbicide label very carefully, so you don’t accidentally damage turf or other plants.  In droughts, most weeds slow or stop growing anyway, so you may as well wait a couple of weeks for better, cooler weather.

Fall is the best time to plant grass seed.  By planting in early fall, you insure your grass has three seasons to establish good roots before another killer summer hits. See one of our many publications on growing turf: “Broadleaf Weed Control in Established Lawns”

Continue reading "University of Maryland Extension: Garden Q&A" »

Posted by Susan Reimer at 11:31 AM | | Comments (0)

August 16, 2011

University of Maryland Extension: Plant of the Week


Mustard Greens


Brassica juncea

Text by Bob Orazi

Photo by Cornell University

Have any space left in your garden?  Mustard greens are quick to mature, easy to grow, and nutritional in your diet.

Mustards are in the Brassicae family of plants, which includes collards, kale, turnips, and pac choi. They come in many forms and colors averaging 45 to 65 days to maturity.  You can use mustard greens to spice up a salad or cook them with other greens.

Continue reading "University of Maryland Extension: Plant of the Week" »

Posted by Susan Reimer at 3:26 PM | | Comments (0)

August 15, 2011

What's blooming at the Baltimore's Rawlings Conservatory?

Photo credit: Michael Lemmon



Sansevieria is a group of succulents that are primarily found in Africa. Commonly known as the Snake Plant, their hardiness and virtual indestructability make them a favorite among home gardeners. The long, upright leaves of green or yellow grow to over 3 feet tall, adding dramatic flair to any setting.

Sansevieria contains many different species, including the familiar Mother in-law’s Tongue or Sansevieria trifasciata. The pictured variety known as Sansevieria cylindrica has bluish green foliage, cylinder shaped, that fan out to very sharp tips. In the summer it blooms with small white flowers that produce a sweet fragrance. The orange berry-like fruit adds a striking element to its already unique display.

Continue reading "What's blooming at the Baltimore's Rawlings Conservatory?" »

Posted by Susan Reimer at 8:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Baltimore's Rawlings Conservatory

August 13, 2011

August garden chores


Anybody else out there tired of gardening yet?


This is the time of year -- before fall makes its entrance -- when it is hard to get up the energy to go out into the garden.

It is hot and dry and there is so much to do. And so many mosquitoes.

If I want to feel guilty about all the I am NOT doing in the garden, I can always count on my friends and fellow bloggers Susan Harris and Margaret Roach, who religiously post their monthly list of garden chores.

Susan, who blogs for Behnke's in Beltsville and Homestead Gardens in Davidsonville, is invaluable to the Maryland gardener because she gardens more or less in our micro-climate.

Margaret's list is always thorough, but she gardens in upstate New York.

In any case, these are some of the things I haven't gotten done this month. My thanks to Susan and Margaret.


Continue reading "August garden chores" »

Posted by Susan Reimer at 9:00 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Weekend Chores

Tool Time: Giving tools a second life


When it Comes to Tools, Sometimes It Is What It Isn’t

A guest post from Lou Manfredini, Ace Hardware’s Home Expert

The old adage says that when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. However, you don’t always have to fit the need to the tool – With a little creativity, you can fit the tool to the need. Consider these safe, alternative uses for two common household tools.

Garden Hose

When your old garden hose starts leaking, you don’t have to throw it out. This is the perfect time to give it a new purpose in life.

One of the best uses for an old hose is to add protection to a sapling’s new tree trunk. First, use three wooden stakes and position them around the sapling’s roots in soil that has not been dug into. Next, measure the distance between the stake and tree trunk, then cut three pieces of hose that are twice as long. Feed rope through the center of each piece of hose, leaving a few extra inches of rope at each end. Wrap the hose around the tree trunk in a U-shape formation and tie both ends of the rope to the stake. Repeat this step with the two remaining stakes.

The rubber hose around the trunk will prevent the rope from digging into the tree trunk as it grows. Once the tree grows strong enough, typically after six to eight months, you can remove the rope and stakes and your tree will stand tall.

Continue reading "Tool Time: Giving tools a second life" »

Posted by Susan Reimer at 8:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Garden tools

August 12, 2011

Weekend Garden Events: You can can, too.

Behnke'sBehnke's Nursery

Saturday, 10 a.m. in Beltsville

Canning and Preserving Your Garden’s Bounty, with host Sissy McKenzie: Extend your gardens goodness into the winte. Behnke's Sissy McKenzie explains how to can and preserve your fruits and vegetables to enjoy at a later date. Be prepared to take notes.  Call (301) 937-1100 to reserve your seat. Admission is free.

Posted by Susan Reimer at 12:32 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Garden events

August 11, 2011

Calling all chili and salsa cooks!

Photo credit: Tribune

Homestead Gardens in Davidsonville is hosting its 3rd annual Tomato Festival Aug. 27 and, as part of the festivities, there will be a chili cook-off and a salsa-making contest (the dip, not the dance.)

Monday Aug. 22 is the deadlines for entries, so if you think your chili is cool or that your salsa is hot, register for the competition.


Posted by Susan Reimer at 3:11 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Garden events

University of Maryland Extension: Garden Q&A

Q: My tomatoes look perfect on the outside but, when I go to eat them, they have white hard areas just under the skin and even inside along the “chamber walls” down to the core. It’s not the hard white spots that stink bugs make. So what’s going on?

A: White “corky” tissue in the outer wall of the tomato is caused by high temperatures during the ripening period.  Some varieties are more prone to this heat-triggered corkiness than others.

Try to maintain even moisture to keep your tomato plants’ roots cool. Mulch can aid in this.  Give them a cooling shower on a blazing hot day.

Tomatoes in containers or raised beds are hotter than in-ground plants. If possible, move pots so the plants get some shade in the hottest part of the day.

 Don’t over-prune your tomato so that leaves aren’t cooling the plant. Do a soil test to be sure nutrient levels are adequate.

Continue reading "University of Maryland Extension: Garden Q&A" »

Posted by Susan Reimer at 8:00 AM | | Comments (0)

August 9, 2011

Environmental news

My colleagues at The Baltimore Sun have a couple of stories in Tuesday's editions of interest to us gardeners.

First, customs inspectors at the Port of Baltimore have found evidence of the dreaded Khapra beetle in sacks of rice coming from Pakistan -- enough evidence to send the rice right back.

The beetle damages grain stores and those who consume contaminated food can get digestive problems.

And a suit by Baltimore city residents over the removal of trees to make way for the Labor Day weekend grand prix auto race downtown was thrown out.

The good news is, race organizers said they would be planting replacement trees -- plus many more -- after the race concludes.

Posted by Susan Reimer at 2:53 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Garden news

University of Maryland Extension: Plant of the Week

Achillea millefolium


Yarrow ‘Oertel’s Rose’

Achillea millefolium ‘Oertel’s Rose’

‘Oertel’s Rose’

Text and photo by Virginia Williams

An easy but tough perennial with ferny, soft textured aromatic foliage, Achillea millefolium is long-lived and long-blooming—up to twelve weeks—providing color and interest from summer to early fall.

“Oertel's rose” is one of the shorter varieties, maturing at about two feet, whereas other yarrows can grow to three feet.  Two- to 3-inch wide flower clusters in pink to red are a major selling point.

Continue reading "University of Maryland Extension: Plant of the Week" »

Posted by Susan Reimer at 10:21 AM | | Comments (0)

August 8, 2011

Disappearing vegetables


Photo credit: Baltimore Sun/Kim Hairston
The New York Times is writing about disappearing vegetables -- nothing magical here. More like larceny.


Those who tend urban gardens in New York City are reporting that their fruits and vegetables are disappearing -- from a single cucumber nurtured for weeks to a tree stripped of all of its figs.

You can blame the poor economy, of course. Or you can blame the breakdown in social conventions. Or you can conclude that people are too lazy to grow their own.

When the City of Baltimore converted all its flower beds to vegetable gardens to feed the poor, filfering was one concern. The gardens keepers concluded that if the garden was indeed for the hungry, it shouldn't matter at what point in the process they eat from it.

But the same is not true for city gardeners, who often wait a season or more to claim a patch of dirty in an empty lot in which to grow a few vegetables for themselves and their families. Stealing from those gardens is akin to reaching in a kitchen window.


Posted by Susan Reimer at 3:14 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Garden news

University of Maryland Extension: Garden Q&A

Q: I’ve killed only a few under-sized stink bugs on my plants.  Are these ones that survived over the winter (in my house)?  Have we dodged the bullet this year?

A: Take a good look at those small stink bugs before you dispatch them.  There are many stink bug species. Yours may be spined soldier bugs, a small brown-gray predator stink bug that eats pest insects.  Its “shoulders” come to a point as sharp as a needle and even feel like a needle when touched.

Let those good guys live to do pest control for you. On the other hand, the new Asian brown marmorated stink bug that caused so much damage last summer and then spent the winter in our houses in hordes is, indeed, in the landscape now. They have mated and will lay eggs all summer which, in turn, hatch and go through five nymph stages before reaching adulthood.

As the nymphs enlarge and reach adulthood, they cause increasingly more damage with their piercing/sucking mouthparts.  Young nymphs are the most vulnerable to control measures. Become familiar with them by visiting our website at The brown marmorated stink bug is an invasive species in the U.S. and is here to stay, but our controls will improve with research and experience.

Continue reading "University of Maryland Extension: Garden Q&A" »

Posted by Susan Reimer at 11:28 AM | | Comments (1)

University of Maryland Extension: Plant of the Week

Garden Variety is back after a week spending time with her grandson, who is in town visiting all his relatives! Even the garden can't beat time with Mikey!

So, we will be doing some catching up here.....




Pisum sativum

Text and photo by Bob Orazi

People think spring and peas go together, but it’s difficult to get peas planted and germinated in the cool, wet soils of a Maryland spring. There’s another option, however.

During the period between mid-July and August, you can plant a successful fall crop of peas. Look for space where your potatoes, lettuce, or cole crops were harvested.

Peas are a legume and produce their own nitrogen but not enough, so incorporate a balanced fertilizer into the planting space.  Moisten the soil before planting, then place the seeds 1 to 1 1/2 inches deep and 1 to 3 inches apart. They will grow 50 to 70 days before harvest.

Harvest the pods every 3-4 days to keep new pods forming. Peas will survive temperatures in the 20’s, so your autumn vegetable can keep you in peas for a long time.

Posted by Susan Reimer at 11:03 AM | | Comments (0)

July 29, 2011

Drought lessons


Watered your garden much lately?


If you are like me, your water bill is going to equal your mortgage payment after this dreadfully hot and dry summer.

The New York Times asked Todd Forrest (what a perfect name!), vice president at the New York Botanical Gardens, for his advice. If you are like me and you have used up all your free visits to the Times on line, you won't be able to just click on a link and see what he said.

So I will paraphrase his advice here.

Continue reading "Drought lessons" »

Posted by Susan Reimer at 8:00 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Garden tips

July 28, 2011

University of Maryland Extension: Garden Q&A

Photo credit: Karen Macon Jackson

Q: I found this 4-inch green caterpillar on my tomato plant.  It had diagonal stripes and a horn at the rear end. It seemed to have eggs like rice on its back.  My tomato plant seems okay though. 

A: Tomato hornworm caterpillars eat tomato leaves, branches, and green fruit. They overwinter in cocoons in the soil, then emerge as moths in late spring-early summer to lay greenish yellow eggs on the undersides of host plants leaves. The larval caterpillars hatch out and feed for about a month before the cycle begins again.  They can decimate a tomato plant but usually just do incidental damage.

The white elliptical rice-like things on the hornworm’s back are cocoons—but not hornworm cocoons. Your hornworm was parasitized by a beneficial insect, either a braconid or trichogramma wasp.  A while agon, these tiny wasps laid eggs on the hornworm, which hatched and entered the hornworm, consuming it from the inside while they grew, just like aliens in a sci-fi movie.

They have now emerged and made their cocoons. They saved your tomato plant! The parasitized tomato hornworm feels sick and cannot cause further damage.  The cocoons contain developing tiny wasps that will emerge and parasitize other hornworms.  So, don’t destroy the hornworm now—it’s a source of more beneficial wasps. 

Continue reading "University of Maryland Extension: Garden Q&A" »

Posted by Susan Reimer at 11:05 AM | | Comments (2)

July 27, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Petals

Wordless Wednesday
Petal power, through the lens of Baltimore Sun photographer Gabe Dinsmoor.
Wordless Wednesday
Wordless Wednesday
Wordless Wednesday 

Continue reading "Wordless Wednesday: Petals" »

Posted by Susan Reimer at 8:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Wordless Wednesday

July 26, 2011

What do you mean by native?

Photo credit: Baltimore Sun/Amy Davis

"What do you mean by native?"

That's as difficult a question to answer as "What do you mean by organic?"

Also, what's the difference between a hybrid and a cultivar?

If you hare having trouble mastering your gardening vocabulary, Joel Lerner offers help.

In an article written for The Washington Post, Lerner, president of Environmental Design in Maryland, takes a shot at defining the most common -- and some of the newest -- mis-used terms in horticulture.

Take a look. There will be a quiz Friday.

Posted by Susan Reimer at 12:15 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Garden facts
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About Susan Reimer
Susan Reimer has spent 16 years writing about raising kids - among other topics - in her column for The Baltimore Sun. And every time son Joseph or daughter Jessie passed another milestone - driver's license, college, wedding or a move to a new military duty station - she has planted another garden. Now she will be writing about those gardens - and yours - here on Garden Variety.

Susan isn't an expert gardener, but she wasn't an expert mother, either. Both - the kids and the gardens - seem to be doing well in spite of her.

She lives in Annapolis with her husband, Gary Mihoces, who loves to cut his grass but has noticed that there seems to be less of it every time the kids pass another milestone.

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