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."

Spring Gardening 2010
(Posted April 5, 2010)

CAUTION - When I wrote this (the week of March 29), spring was definitely well on her way. But within the last few days the temperatures have become more summer-like than spring-like and there is a "rush" of blooms. Be forewarned that the average, latest frost in this area is around April 22. Be careful what you plant - those summer plants will not like the colder temperatures that we are bound to have before May 1!

Photo of Daisies - Tom's Garden 2010
Tom's 2010 Garden
Click Here for Summer Color

(Posted July 5, 2010)
Photo of Day Lily - Tom's Garden 2010

With the green grass, flowering trees, dancing daffodils and happy robins, one can almost begin to forget about 2010's winter storms.

Hopefully the damage was not too great to your landscape. Surprisingly to many gardeners, most plants rebounded readily once the snow melted. Some, however, particularly cedars, conifers, boxwoods, and arbor vitae, were definitely hard hit.

By now you have pruned out the broken and damaged parts of shrubs and cleaned up any remaining perennial tops as a greeting for spring.

Fertilizing, Pruning and Other Tasks

Photo of Tulips

As temperatures rise, begin to remove any protective mulch applied last fall, and gently work the soil around emerging plants. Apply slow release fertilizer to shrubs and perennials.

Feed peonies with a low nitrogen fertilizer when the growth is three to four inches in height. Most spring bulbs - crocus, daffodils, and snow drops - benefit from a boost of bulb fertilizer while in flower.

The fertilizer application won't affect this year's blooms but the plants will store the food in the bulb for next spring's show. Perhaps it's because the winter was so severe that the spring flowers, especially the daffodils, seem particularly radiant. Don't remove the foliage of daffodils if you expect the bulb to bloom again next spring. The general rule of thumb is to leave the foliage for eight weeks so that the bulb can store food and set next year's buds. The foliage of summer perennials - hosta, astilbe, hardy begonia - will help hide daffodil foliage until it can be removed.

Photo of Pruning

If you are lucky enough to have roses, now is the time to prune and fertilize them. Different types of roses - climbers, ramblers, and bush-types - are pruned differently. Consult any good pruning book or on line source for specific pruning instructions for your variety.

The "old wives' tale" is that the time to prune roses is when the forsythia is in bloom.

Photo of Flowering Cherry Tree

Generally remove any deadwood and twiggy growth and reduce the plant to a third of its height. Prune back to an outward facing bud.

Liriope and ornamental grasses are showing new growth. Last year's growth should be sheered back if you did not do it earlier. (Late February or early March are the recommended times for this task.) When cutting back the tops now, be careful not to flatten the tips of new growth.

Photo of Alyssyum

Beginning Plantings

To add some color (before planting summer annuals), cool season annuals such as pansies, snapdragons, violas, and alyssum work well.

If the season does not turn hot too soon, these plants will carry you into late spring when the air and soil temperatures will be high enough to plant summer annuals.

Photo of Pansies

Even though those bright stand bys - petunias, geraniums, and marigolds - look so tempting at the nursery, it is much too early to plant them outside. They may be available, but it's too early in the season to leave them outdoors at night.

Photo of Helleborus

Most perennials bloom only for a 2 to 4 week period. When adding new perennials, select those that have interesting foliage as well as blooms. Most gardeners add some new plant variety each year. Gardening, after all, is a somewhat trial and error exercise! When considering a new plant, check its light needs and size at maturity. This is particularly true if you are considering adding a small tree or any shrub to your Fairlington patio.

Remember that nice "little" plant at the nursery may soon be towering over your fence, your neighbor's fence, and your association's commons area!

If you received or purchased some Easter plants, you can plant them outside after enjoying them inside. Miniature roses will bloom all summer. Primroses die back in the summer heat, but will resprout next fall and bloom in the spring. Remove the spent flowers from forced daffodils, hyacinths, azaleas, and Easter lilies before planting outside. They won't bloom again this season but they will bloom next spring or early summer. It is best simply to discard forced tulips.

Garden Tours

Since Fairlington gardeners have to be satisfied with working in small spaces, spring is always a good time to get out and explore public gardens and also private ones on the many garden tours scheduled in the spring. Two of the most famous tours are the Historic Virginia Home and Garden Tour (April 17 - 25) and the Maryland Home and Garden Pilgrimage (weekends beginning April 25 - May 16). More information is available at and

Photo of Gardening Book

The Georgetown tour (April 24) is also a fun day of gardens, architecture, and interior decoration. (

Some public gardens well worth the trip are Dumbarton Oaks (Georgetown), the Smithsonian Victorian Gardens (behind the old "Castle" building on the Mall, and the outside gardens at the US Botanical Gardens (at the foot of the Capitol Building).

If you like to read about gardening as well as practice it, there is a reprinted version of Vita Sackville - West's In Your Garden (Frances Lincoln LTD, publisher, 2004 edition of the original 1951 edition). This is a delightful and poetic look - month by month - of an English gardener's year.

Practical Web Sites

Gardening Resources Galore - Offers great links on "Residential Gardening", "Indoor Gardening", "Native Plant Gardening", and much more. 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.

Photo of Flowers
Photo of Flowers
Signs of Spring
Tom's Garden - April 2010
Posted April 5, 2010
Photo of Flowers
Photo of Flowers
Photo of Flowers
Photos by Andy Eschen and Larry Fickau
Fairlington Flowers - May 2008
Posted May 28, 2008
Photo of Flowers
Turn your backyard into a haven for wildlife

Fairlington Historic District Links

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