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 2015 Gardening
Tom's Garden 2015
Tom's 2015 Garden
Click Here for JULY Color

(Posted July 7, 2015)
Click Here for JUNE Color

(Posted June 15, 2015)
Click Here for SPRING Color

(Posted April 20, 2015)
Click Here for 2014 SUMMER Color

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

(Posted October 1, 2014)
Tom's Garden 2014

Gardening In Weather Extremes
Not to Worry - Plan!!!

I'm not sure that "spring" is the correct label for this time of year! A few weeks ago, for example, some of the area had frost and freeze warnings posted!

2015 Tulips - Tom's Garden - Photo by Ron Patterson

And for the last several days we've been lathering on the sun screen and thinking of the beach - summer in early May? Makes one wonder what kind of extremes this summer - from June 21 onward - will bring and how the plants will cope and survive. I suspect that unless you have a very heat and drought tolerant garden, there will be lots of watering.

At any rate, the weather did cooperate when the spring bulbs were in flower, and the cool temperatures added to their longevity. Unfortunately my azaleas bloomed during this past week's summer temps resulting in a quick fade. Not having room for the "transitional" flowers that take the garden from spring to summer - roses, iris, peonies, for example - means that the garden may be a little sparse for a few weeks. Yes, it's time to put in the summer bloomers!


Since the tulips and azaleas are recent memories, here are a few tips on tulips and azaleas! I am asked over and over what to do with tulips after they flower. My answer - pull them up and discard them! Last fall I did plant a few of the "species" tulips, and I have left them to see whether or not they will come back in full strength and flower, but the other tulip bulbs are removed.

The so-called "little tulips" or "species tulips" are supposed to be more reliable in returning year after year. I treat most tulips as annuals and replant in the late fall usually trying to find some bargains by buying larger quantities.

Last fall I planted Merrifield Garden Center's (so-called) special tulip bulbs, and they were glorious - blooming with very large blossoms, but some of the smaller flowering tulips - 'Queen of Night' (an almost black variety) were just as attractive and long lived. I also like the old fashioned "Rembrandt" flowering tulips with their variegated and irregular coloring.

Supposedly planting the bulbs deeper makes them more perennial, but since they like to be dry during the summer, it's hard to test this theory when those of us with small spaces need every inch!

2015 Tulips - Tom's Garden - Photo by Ron Patterson

Another question I get is "Do squirrels get your bulbs". Actually we have squirrels around but they don't seem to bother the tulip bulbs. I suspect that what happens is that many people forget to replant tulip bulbs each fall, and the old ones simple divide, become sparse with a few leaves and produce no flowers. Squirrels may not be the culprit.

Note: Don't discard your daffodil bulbs since they are reliable and will re-flower and grow larger clumps year after year. Just remember, don't remove the foliage until it begins to wilt and yellow. Also don't "braid" it. Just live with it and try to hide it under the other developing plant foliage.

In my community, the contracted grounds crew sheared and rounded many azaleas last fall. Then as if to add insult to injury, they came back in late winter and "rejuvenated" them with severe pruning. The result - fewer blooms this spring and unnaturally shaped shrubs. Azaleas should be pruned immediately after blooming to open up the shrub (allowing light and air flow into the plant) and to remove some older canes to promote new growth. The plant may also be reduced in height, but remember to keep the shrub's natural shape. Fertilize after flowering to encourage new growth and the promotion of buds. Remember, azaleas set buds for next spring this summer. Pruning later will remove next season's blooms.

Floral Photos On this Page by Tom Corbin and Ron Patterson
(Taken April and May, 2015 AND 2014)

Advice on Pruning Hydrangeas from Horticulture Magazine


Like azaleas, the older variety hydrangeas bloom on "old" wood; that is, wood produced last season. It appears that hydrangeas did not take as big a hit this past winter as in the previous one, and the shrub should be showing small buds now.

The newer 'endless summer' varieties bloom on wood produced this season, so winter doesn't really affect them.

The real old fashioned variety 'Annabelle' (large white blooms fading to green) can be cut completely down to the soil and it will come back and bloom beautifully; unfortunately it is probably too large for our Fairlington spaces.

If you need to prune your non-endless summer variety hydrangea, do so after flowering to allow it to produce buds for next summer. You can shape it and even take down some of the older canes to the ground to encourage new growth.

Hydrangea - Tom's Garden


This link from Horticulture Magazine discusses watering in the summer months that can be time-consuming and expensive. They have a few tips to help you manage this crucial garden chore. See more at link below:

Tom and Ron's Patio - Ideas for Yours!!!
Patio Plantings/Hangings - Photo by Ron Patterson
Patio Plantings/Hangings - Photo by Ron Patterson

Birds Visiting Tom's Garden/Patio - Spring 2015

Blue Jay

Mocking Bird

Cardinal (F and M)


House Sparrow One

House Finch




Mourning Dove

Downy Woodpecker

Redbellied Woodpecker

American Goldfinch


House Sparrow Two

Some Helpful Links

I have been saving some links to great gardening sources and plants worth considering, so what follows is a brief description of each link's content and the link itself. Hopefully you will find some of these useful.

Native Plants of Northern Virginia
Native Plants of Northern Virginia

Native Plants for Northern Virginia is the official guide of Plant NoVA Natives. It will help you choose plants for your landscape that are naturally beautiful, enhancing your property and requiring less special care while benefiting birds, butterflies and pollinators.

Guide Summary
Published in March 2015, this 48-page guide lists plants native to Northern Virginia (residents of the greater Washington DC area can benefit from this guide). The guide was not meant to be comprehensive but rather a showcase of natives that are attractive, easy for home gardeners to acquire and grow, and beneficial to wildlife and the environment.

The guide is organized by the type of plant: perennials (forbs); grasses, sedges, and rushes; ferns; vines; shrubs; and trees. For each plant there is a photo, cultural requirements, size and shape, and the insects, birds, or wildlife that benefit from the plant. The guide also lists native plants that would do well in particular situations such as wet or dry places, additional resources on native plants, native demonstration gardens, and invasive plants.

This link from Horticulture Magazine describes 'Bounce' impatiens which is recommended for the shady garden. A few seasons ago, impatiens were unavailable because of a disease which caused sudden die off. It appears that it has now been eradicated.

Here is a link to a new gardening blog I recently discovered - Pegplant! Her content is vegetables and other edibles, but since many gardeners with small spaces are growing herbs and salad greens in pots and window boxes, many will find the tips useful. The author provides a wonderful list of Metro area sources and events - check it out on the archives menu on the right side of the page.

Most gardeners are thrilled to discover that their gardens are a source of food for hummingbirds. These exotic creatures, immortalized in Emily Dickenson's poem ("XV. The Humming - Bird"), bring delight and awe! P. Allen Smith - you may have seen his TV show on PBS or his plants at the nursery - has written a good article on attracting hummingbirds by providing plants that they love. In addition to his easy to read content, he has added some amazing photographs. Enjoy!

And thanks to P. Allen Smith for this wonderful look at some new plants for this season. Scrolling through the list will make you wish you had forty acres rather than that 15 X 20 foot patio in the back!

Plant catalogues and nursery web sites are a constant source of education and inspiration - and dreams! Using these sources is sort of like buying books - we browse the aisles at Barnes and Noble and then go home and order them from Amazon! So we study the plant catalogue and then go to our favorite nursery to find the plant because it is quicker and the plant is going to be larger than the one from mail order.

Here is a link to Wayside Gardens in South Carolina that gives a look at some new plants for this season. Putting in a new plant or a new variety makes gardening interesting.

And finally, here is a link to a blog produced by Tony Avent of Plants Delights Nursery in North Carolina. I usually don't mail order plants, but I have ordered from this company and have been pleased with their plants. They have one of the best catalogues around and some of the most interesting plants that you will want to plant in your garden. (Their catalogues' covers are always a satirical delight.) One of the great things about this blog is that Tony photographs the blooming plants in their gardens as they come into flower. This link which features an unusual, bright red form of 'flycatcher' (so named because its sticky leaves attracts insects) is a good example of his content. It's easy to subscribe to his blog.

Hopefully you will find something inspirational or educational in these links. HAPPY GARDENING! (And let's hope that the weather settles down and becomes more seasonal!)

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 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.

Fairlington Historic District

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