Tag Archives: #gbFling2017

Merrifield Garden Center—2017 Garden Bloggers Fling

Merrifield Garden Center- Gainesville, Virginia

Who does not enjoy exploring a new garden center? On Sunday morning, the final day of the Capital Region Garden Bloggers Fling, my group’s first stop was Merrifield Garden Center in Gainesville, Virginia (though my photos are all geotagged as nearby Manassas).

The site was expansive. The indoor area was filled with an eclectic collection of decorative garden items, tools and equipment.

Merrifield Garden Center- Gainesville, Virginia

Merrifield Garden Center- Gainesville, Virginia

Merrifield Garden Center- Gainesville, Virginia

Merrifield Garden Center- Gainesville, Virginia

Even the folksiest displays were genuine and bright.

Merrifield Garden Center- Gainesville, Virginia

A first in my garden center experience, there also was a wine section. The selection included many local Virgina wines.

Merrifield Garden Center- Gainesville, Virginia

Merrifield’s friendly staff welcomed our group with a tempting array of fruits and baked goods.

A Warm Southern Welcome

Eventually I found the extensive selection of plants.

Merrifield Garden Center- Gainesville, Virginia

For the first time during the Fling I began to wish I had driven from North Carolina to D.C. As it was, I knew packing would be a challenge for the flight home so when I came across some Chuck Hayes gardenias, I could be tempted only for so long before coming back to reality.

I had planted a hedge of these at the back of my western border when we first moved into our current house in 2001. They thrived for a decade before several years of severe drought finally caught up with them. Garden centers around me no longer carry them, nor even seem familiar with them.

A helpful staff member offered to ship some to Chapel Hill, something I have not ruled out.

Gardenia ‘Chuck Hayes’

There were quite a few Crape Myrtles, including some with dark foliage.

Crape Myrtle Lineup at Merrifield’s

The flowers on this one were more purple than the photograph suggests. It is named Black Diamond ‘Purely Purple.’

Black Diamond ‘Purely Purple’ Crape Myrtle at Merrifield’s Garden Center

Colorful hybrid coneflowers have not performed well in my garden, but I would be willing to give this one a try.


Merrifield’s does a nice job of grouping plants for display, but what caught my eye here is the ‘Kent’s Beauty’ oregano in the huge container at top right.

‘Kent’s Beauty’ Oregano

The sign explains ‘Kent’s Beauty’ Oregano is an “ornamental oregano featuring beautiful hop-like, blush-pink bracts. Demands well-drained, sandy soil in full to part sun. For those of us who don’t have that sandy soil, a pot is the answer.  This one has done well for years in this pot.  Display potted 2014.  Sorry, not-for-sale.”

‘Kent’s Beauty’ Oregano

Another grouping that was attractive includes toward the back one of my favorites, Aconitum napellus (Monkshood). Although my former next-door neighbor grew it for years, unfortunately I have had no luck growing monkshood. This display also featured several beautiful hollyhocks, Alcea rosea ‘Peaches ‘n Dreams.’  The middle yellow layer is coreopsis with an interesting story.

Attractive Display -Merrifield Garden Center

A hybrid first introduced as Coreopsis verticillata ‘Electric Avenue’ PP24688, this plant is now designated as Mayo Clinic Flower of Hope™. The Mayo Clinic website states Mayo Clinic Flower of Hope™ is an “honorific” title; they do not receive revenue from sales.

To recognize the Mayo Clinic Sesquicentennial in 2014, we looked for a flower that would grow at each Mayo site – Minnesota, Arizona and Florida, as well as the Mayo Clinic Health System campuses in Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin. Result: the Mayo Clinic Flower of Hope™.

The flower is used in landscaping at all Mayo Clinic locations.

Mayo Clinic Flower of Hope™ Coreopsis, Aconitum napellus (Monkshood), Alcea rosea ‘Peaches ‘n Dreams’ (Hollyhock)

Patterns and color in this collection of Elephant Ears caught my attention as I was returning inside to reconnect with other Flingers and taste one of those quinoa mini-muffins. Delicious.  Someone took several group shots of us in front of that food table, but I have not seen the photographs  yet. It will be fun if they show up.

Elephant Ear (Colocasia)

Elephant Ear (Colocasia)

Franciscan Monastery—2017 Garden Bloggers Fling

The Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in Washington, DC was an interesting destination on this year’s Garden Bloggers Fling.

Franciscan Monastery-Washington, DC

The Neo-Byzantine style church was built between 1898-1899.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre

At right of the church sits the Rosary Portico.

Franciscan Monastery-Washington, DC

Franciscan Monastery-Washington, DC

Our group arrived just after lunch. I had  been curious to see this site, described as an oasis of peace, with over 1000 roses, and enhanced by many perennials and annuals.

On this hot summer day the strongest color came from annuals such as begonias and lantana. 

Begonias and Lantana

As in many gardens on this year’s Fling, daylilies played an important role as well.  I enjoyed the way the coloring in this grouping reflected the exterior of the Rosary Portico, echoing the terra-cotta roof tiles.

Exterior – Rosary Portico

I quickly wound my way out of the sun, passing along the Rosary Portico. Pausing to explore the architecture of the columns, I felt the temperatures moderate under the vaulted ceiling.

Interior – Rosary Portico

Interior – Rosary Portico with varying styled columns

Eventually an open gate revealed an expansive panorama. Steep stairs led to gardens below.

Franciscan Monastery-Washington, DC

Graceful magnolias towered over the shady lower gardens.

Lower Gardens – Franciscan Monastery

I read up on this monastery after returning home. Franciscans have been tasked with caring for holy Christian sites for 800 years. Envisioned as a holy land for America, a number of shrines are represented here with accurately-scaled replicas.

Though intended to be welcoming and inclusive to all, the very nature and purpose of this place, the reason for existence is a religious one, and I felt a bit of an interloper into this spiritual setting.

In looking through the photographs I took that day, I have been surprised by my reaction but I want to be honest. In considering the plants and garden design I never sensed a real “Oh, wow!” moment during my visit. Without intending disrespect, I confess, aesthetically, the garden and statuary were simply not to my taste. The tombs were rather eerie and the manmade stone I found particularly off-putting.

Franciscan Monastery-Washington, DC

Lourdes Grotto, Franciscan Monastery-Washington, DC

Franciscan Monastery-Washington, DC

I am glad to have had the chance to explore this place, and am looking forward to seeing what aspects other Fling visitors responded to in this setting.

Normally drawn to quiet, meditative spaces, I had eagerly anticipated seeing the monastery’s contemplative grounds; however, in the end I never felt a strong connection with this garden.

Smithsonian Gardens—2017 Garden Bloggers Fling

On Friday afternoon of the 2017 Garden Bloggers Fling, we descended upon the National Mall in Washington, D.C. to visit the Smithsonian Gardens. The day was hot and sticky, typical weather for this time of year.

The Washington Monument was visible on our left as the bus turned right, dropping us off in front of the Smithsonian Institution Castle.

Washington Monument

With three hours to explore, many of us began by entering the castle and passing through to the back to view the Enid A. Haupt garden. My photos failed to capture the geometry and scale of the garden. The black iron edging seemed to grab all my attention.

Enid A. Haupt Garden

Enid A. Haupt Garden

The Mary Livingston Ripley Garden was oft-mentioned as one to be sure to see. Indeed the lush plantings were a delight.

Rosa moschata ‘Nastarana’ (Persian Musk Rose), Mary Livingston Ripley Garden

On the left below is a Franklin tree, named after Benjamin Franklin. It has not been observed in the wild since early 1800s. It exists today due to propagation of seeds collected between 1773-1776 by William Bartram from the tree’s native location, a mere couple of acres along the Altamaha River valley in Georgia (southeast United States). When in bloom it is said to have white camellia-like flowers.

Franklinia alatamaha (Franklin tree)

These contrasting textures were appealing.

Euphorbia cyparissias ‘Fens Ruby’ (Cypress Spurge)

This planter was sedately sophisticated. In the background yellow echinacea added a lively accent.

Mary Livingston Ripley Garden, National Mall

Mary Livingston Ripley Garden, National Mall

Echinacea was incorporated into many of the Fling gardens. The Ripley’s sunny Echinacea ‘Leilani’ is one I had not seen before.

Echinacea ‘Leilani’ – National Mall

The round edges of the Hirshhorn Museum are visible in the background, reminding me I would have enjoyed spending three days on the Mall revisiting museums. It had been many years since I was last in D.C.

Echinacea ‘Leilani’ – National Mall

As it was I detoured from the gardens to reconnect with some old friends at the National Gallery of Art. For me this was gardening for the soul. Notice how inspired these artists were by garden themes. (Click on an image for a full-view slideshow.)


As I headed back to meet up with the Flingers I passed one of several buildings added to the mall since my previous visit, National Museum of the American Indian. The architecture was so interesting, it would have been great to see inside but time was running short.

National Museum of the American Indian

National Museum of the American Indian

The U.S. Botanic Garden was the final stop before catching the bus back to the hotel. I had time only for a quick peek into the conservatory and a dash through the outer gardens.

U.S. Botanic Garden Conservatory

Pontederia cordata (Pickerel Weed), U.S. Botanic Garden

Echinacea, U.S. Botanic Garden

Daylilies, United States Botanic Garden, Washington, DC

By this time the clouds had burst into a brief shower. The evening brought cooler, drier weather that lasted for the rest of the Fling.

Garden Bloggers Fling 2017


I first heard of Garden Bloggers Fling when it was scheduled for Asheville in 2012. My garden blog, pbmGarden, was a mere one year old.

My little backyard filled with some pass-along plants barely seemed to qualify as a real garden and at the time I, hesitating to refer to myself as gardener, would only tell people I liked to garden.

In awe as I was at the unique gardens I was reading about across the web, amazed at the depth and breadth of knowledge the authors held, I lacked the confidence to step up and call myself a garden blogger.  Because really, what did I know about gardening or blogging? And so, I did not go to that Fling in Asheville.

Actually though gardeners and (garden bloggers) are wonderfully accepting people, helpful and eager to share information and ideas. Looking back at my early posts and seeing how the meditation circle and borders looked that spring of 2012, I feel I should have had more courage.

Still today I hesitate to call myself a gardener. Instead I might mention I like to garden.

But missing the opportunity to attend that fling just a few hours away in my home state is something I have always regretted.

When Washington, DC was chosen for next year’s gathering of garden bloggers I knew I could not pass this one by.  So courage found, I am registered, the hotel and transportation are set and I am looking forward to meeting the people behind some of my favorite blogs and exploring public and private gardens with new friends.

Coming? It would be wonderful to see you there.