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Planting an Allergy-Free Garden

May 5, 2015 Columns, Virginia Gardening Comments Off on Planting an Allergy-Free Garden

By Donna Williamson

Tom Ogren has a long-time interest in allergy-inducing plants. He has written several books on the topic and in February released his latest The Allergy Fighting Garden.

He explains why plants can stir up allergies and has included information about 3,000 different species that we plant in our landscapes and grow in seasonal gardens. His ranking system relates to the level, size, stickiness, and potency of pollen produced. … Continue Reading

April Is The Time To Plant – Don’t Forget Hardscapes

April 1, 2015 Columns, Virginia Gardening Comments Off on April Is The Time To Plant – Don’t Forget Hardscapes

– By Donna Williamson

April is a perfect time to plant permanent fruit-bearing plants at your home. The soil has good moisture and we can get the plants established before it gets too hot and dry.
You might be interested in the excellent book The Holistic Orchard by Michael Phillips. He has valuable information on growing all kinds of trees and berry fruits.

Blueberries love our climate but hate hot and dry conditions. Areas with sun, good moisture, and good drainage are premium spots for your blueberry bushes. Blueberries bloom on old or last year’s woody growth so early pruning would be counter-productive for your pie-maker.

Blackberries are delicious, love our summer heat/humidity, and are easy to grow. Like raspberries, they grow well in northern Virginia. You will enjoy them more with a little containment system that makes picking the berries easier. Google ‘berry trellis’ to view various design and building options.

Gooseberries and currants are shrubby. These old-time fruits are delicious in pancakes and jams. There are several varieties you can grow easily. Tuck them into a shrub border. Little hands can pick them easily. Don’t plant near white pines.

Rhubarb is another permanent fruit for your home landscape. Each year, it will emerge in spring to treat you with great pink stalks ready to be stewed with a bit of sugar and served by itself or with strawberries.

Figs require space and some winter protection but are well worth it. The leaves can be large and tropical looking and the fruit is the flower. Delicious and succulent fruit ripens in late summer.

Grapes can be wonderful – I’ve had good luck with the Concord grape. It tastes exactly like childhood memories of grape jam. There are seeds though. Grapes grow on a woody vine that can be trained over a fence, arch, pergola, or trellis, providing a leafy canopy in summer. Annual pruning keeps it from getting out of bounds.

Now On To Hardscapes

“Hardscapes” is a term used by landscape folks about the stuff that is not plants. Walkways, patios, fountains, pergolas, stairs, pool decks, fences, and stonewalls are all examples of hardscaping.

If you are planning to have some hardscaping done, you will want that finished before you add the plants. Plants are easily beaten up in the midst of stone, stone dust, gravel, forms, concrete and big construction boots.

My best advice to you is when you have any steps are installed, be sure the riser (the up piece) is no more than 4-5 inches high and the tread (the part you step on) is at least 16-18+ inches wide. It will give you a nice, comfortable step or stair. Steps should be solid and flat – no tipping and evenly spaced for good, safe, long-time usefulness.

Walkways are most accommodating when they are 4-5 feet wide, so two people can walk side-by-side, and are uniformly flat.

Stonewalls are lovely. A short stonewall, as part of a patio, can be useful as extra seating when entertaining. Short walls can also create terracing when there is a change in grade.
Donna Williamson is a garden designer and coach. She has taught classes at the State Arboretum of Virginia, Oatlands and Shenandoah University. She has two e-books on Amazon – one is an updated version of her Virginia gardening book and her new perennials book. She can be reached at donnawilliamson2002@earthlink.net or 540 877-2002.

Nine Ideas As You Prepare Your Garden for Spring

March 4, 2015 Columns, Virginia Gardening Comments Off on Nine Ideas As You Prepare Your Garden for Spring
spring garden butterfly

By Donna Williamson

As winter winds down, we are so eager to get out and start cleaning-up and getting the growing season going. Many folks start pruning; remember that annual/regular pruning is not required or necessary. Spring flowering plants, like forsythia, can be pruned after flowering. Summer bloomers, like lavender, can be pruned earlier in spring as they flower on new growth. (For more info see pruning lists at www.dwfinegardening.com) … Continue Reading

Enjoying the Harvest of Your Summer Garden – Now

February 3, 2015 Columns, Virginia Gardening Comments Off on Enjoying the Harvest of Your Summer Garden – Now

By Donna Williamson

Bitter, windy, nasty weather has given me an opportunity to look at some of the books I’ve collected recently and think about plants I want to try this summer season.

From the book, The Resilient Gardener, I read about parching corn. With certain species of corn, you can drop a few kernels in a dry cast iron pan and cook them to deliciousness. The author also parches kernels in a custard cup in the microwave. The toasted kernels enlarge, split, and get soft and sweet. It doesn’t work with all kinds of corn; after doing extensive research it seems the red/purple varieties are the tastiest. Seeds of Change carries “Red Supai” (seedsofchange.com) while Seed Dreams (SeedDreams.blogspot.com) offers “Parching Lavender Mandan”. Siskiyou Seeds (siskiyouseeds.com) has “Magenta Parching Corn”. The author, Carol Deppe breakfasts on a cup of tea and a handful of parched corn. … Continue Reading

Preparing Your Garden for Spring

January 6, 2015 Columns, Virginia Gardening Comments Off on Preparing Your Garden for Spring

By Donna Williamson

My winter sowing experiments of the last two winters have been entertaining and successful. One of the amazing things is that growing woody plants from seed is remarkably easy. Hydrangeas, abelias, and roses have germinated and grown quickly.

The tiny rose hips from my native pasture rose (Rosa carolina) opened to reveal shiny brown seeds that grew into foot tall plants this past summer. This rose actually likes sunny, dry hillsides and can thrive here on the mountain, forming dense thickets that birds, butterflies, and bees enjoy.

The practice of setting seeds and a little clean potting soil out in plastic containers to have rain, snow, and frigid temperatures as well as sun work on them is a great way to increase the perennials in your garden inexpensively. Whether you buy seeds or collect them from existing plants, annuals and perennials grow very well using this process. … Continue Reading

December A Time To Look Back – A Time To Plan

December 10, 2014 Virginia Gardening Comments Off on December A Time To Look Back – A Time To Plan

By Donna Williamson

December is a great time to look back on the gardening year and remember what went well or failed miserably.

Last winter’s winter-sowing of seeds went very well in spite of the polar vortex and I was able to test the seed of a couple of woody plants including the Carolina rose, all of which germinated well. Though winter is not my best season, being able to start seeds of perennials and shrubs outside with hopes for the spring makes it much more tolerable.

After reading an article about delaying a second planting of tomatoes this spring, I held back some of my little ones in containers and planted them in the ground a month after my first tomato planting. Since I grow many heirloom tomatoes, diseases always hit them in late summer and they start to dwindle. The later planted tomatoes were robust and productive until killed by the frosty temperatures in November. So that is a tip to pass along – make two plantings of tomatoes a month apart and see for yourself. … Continue Reading

Achieving a Natural Balance in the Garden


By Donna Williamson

This spring I noticed that my Magnolia sieboldii was looking wonky. This is usually a spectacular magnolia with downward facing blooms and red stamens in the center of the flower.

I thought maybe the terrible winter had damaged it. The leaves had come out but the closer I looked, I saw that it had sooty mold. It’s called sooty mold because it looks like soot staining the bark or the leaves. It is a fungus that grows on the sugary poo of tiny leaf-sucking critters, often aphids or whiteflies. And, in my experience, sooty mold is a harmless symptom of insect activity. It doesn’t really hurt the tree. … Continue Reading

Time To Plant Bulbs

October 7, 2014 Columns, Virginia Gardening Comments Off on Time To Plant Bulbs

By Donna Williamson

It’s time to plant bulbs again – seems like this year flew by.

It’s easy to fall in love with bulbs. They are not costly, they bring joy in the spring, and many of them will build colonies over time.

Even the woodland tulip will come back for you. It’s a charming short yellow tulip that seems to like our climate. Most big tulips are good for one year and then they are not able to cure in our hot spring weather, preferring the cool, moist landscape of Holland or Seattle. It’s called Tulipa sylvestris.

Oatlands has had a large colony of this tulip at the back of the mansion for many years. I’ve found them at older properties and include them in newer plantings. … Continue Reading

Goldenrod – A Major Fall Beauty

September 3, 2014 Columns, Virginia Gardening Comments Off on Goldenrod – A Major Fall Beauty

By Donna Williamson

It’s easy to think that goldenrod causes autumn sniffles. It’s a native with species that tolerate all kinds of conditions, from full sun to shade, from moist soils to hot and dry. And it blooms everywhere around the same time that the real culprit – ragweed – is blooming and full of pollen.

Ragweed is a tall, coarse plant with tiny greenish flowers and huge quantities of yellow pollen. It’s a plant so non-descript and inelegant that many have never looked at it carefully. Ragweed just seems to be a green thing in the background of many paths and along the road. (And it’s not that very tall plant with yellow daisy-like flowers that bloom along the road – that’s called frost weed. If you look carefully at the stems you will see wings or thin, papery tissue along the stem. Frost weed got its name for erupting with ice at the base of the plant during the first frosts of the season. Harmless.) … Continue Reading

Tomato Harvest and Other Joys

August 6, 2014 Columns, Virginia Gardening Comments Off on Tomato Harvest and Other Joys

By Donna Williamson

Ah, it’s tomato time. As usual, I planted and grew many heirloom and newer varieties of tomato plants and am loving every minute of the harvest. Those little cherry tomatoes are so delicious and refreshing while working in the garden or roasted with a touch of olive oil for 20 minutes in a hot oven.

And the big, juicy tomatoes ready for a burger or a salad are the best. Warm from the garden and never refrigerated, tomato sliced with fresh basil and mozzarella is a memorable summer dish.

My tomato bounty is ready for processing and canning for winter use. Keeping up with the harvest and processing in small batches works for me. … Continue Reading

Let’s Start Thinking About Planning A Fall Garden

July 3, 2014 Columns, Virginia Gardening Comments Off on Let’s Start Thinking About Planning A Fall Garden

– By Donna Williamson

There is so much information out there about gardening and planting – it makes my head spin. Some good information, some bad information that just gets repeated over and over – so here is some info I hope will help.

You can water your plants in the sun. Thunderstorms do it all the time. Better to have enough water than to wilt and be stressed.

If possible, water in the morning before it gets too hot and stresses the plants.
There are cool season weeds and there are warm season weeds. The cool-loving ones have already bloomed, set seed, and gone dormant while the warm season plants are very strong in July. If you don’t have time to weed them out, at least cut off and throw away the seeds they are producing so you will have fewer weeds next year.
Late July and August is perfect timing to start those fall veggies that like cooler weather. They get a good start in warm soils and then can boldly get through the cold nights of fall and even winter with some protection.

… Continue Reading

June – July Experiment Planting Tomatoes

June 3, 2014 Columns, Virginia Gardening Comments Off on June – July Experiment Planting Tomatoes

By Donna Williamson

It’s possible to be regularly fascinated if gardening is a pastime you love. Just last year I learned about winter-sowing and started growing baptisia, hydrangea, and many native perennials from seed easily and inexpensively.

Last month I read an article about planting tomatoes in succession. It’s good timing to think about that idea. I grow several varieties of heirloom tomatoes because I can/jar them in the late summer for winter use and good tomato taste is important. But the heirlooms have not been “improved” and are often susceptible to diseases as the summer goes on. They also can slow down in production of new tomatoes in late summer. … Continue Reading

Hurry Up – Plant Something

April 30, 2014 Columns, Virginia Gardening Comments Off on Hurry Up – Plant Something

By Donna Williamson

Spring is here and while it’s possible there might be a few more chilly moments, the worst is over. What is more likely is that we will heat up and be in full summer before too long.

In an average year, the rains are plentiful in the spring and seem to disappear around the end of May. So get some planting done soon so the gentle rains can do the watering for you.

New plants need to be established – lots of plant professionals talk about that. It means that you cannot count on Mother Nature to care for your perennials, shrubs, trees, or even that basil plant until the roots have had time to dig into your soil and drink up ground water. So you need to shepherd your new plants, sometimes for months, to make sure they get enough water. … Continue Reading









2016 Energy Summit – George Washington University


On Friday evening, October 28, George Washington University, Virginia Campus in Ashburn will host the 10th annual Don Sandros Energy Summit in cooperation with local businesses and non-profits. Doors open at 6:00 p.m. for a reception with wine donated by …

Attributing Disaster


“Humans are likely to create a catastrophe, and possibly an associated disaster, that vastly exceeds our own ability to recover from it. In the face of all our efforts, it will persist.” – Richard Guthrie [1] “Here we show that …

Concerned Parent


By Michael Oberschenider Psy.D. Dr. Mike, We recently signed our four-year-old daughter up for gymnastics. It wasn’t cheap, but her friends from the neighborhood do it, and she has been begging us to go. It turned out to be a …

Invisible Illnesses

Lunde new

By Mary Rose Lunde It is general knowledge that when people think about illnesses, they don’t think about illnesses that aren’t physically apparent. Sure, people know about conditions such as multiple sclerosis and other diseases with visible symptoms, but many …

Robinson Park

robinson park

Looking back, now – I’m glad it wasn’t what most people would’ve considered a nice day; I don’t know about you, but I’ve had my share of hot and sunny to last me for at least a generation (especially since …

Are Your Estate and Financial Plans Shock-Proof?


Don’t wait until “what if?” becomes “what is.” Where will you live as you age? Think about your housing options now, so you have choices and won’t have to make a hasty decision should an unexpected health event force you …

In Defense of ‘Adulting’


By Samuel Moore-Sobel Most friends transitioning from college to the workforce long for the days of college, wishing to be back in class and participating in campus life. To be honest, I may be in the minority, but I have …

Student News

Congratulations, Class of 2016

6 Jul 2016


Woodgrove High School’s Class Of 2016 Graduation – By Amanda Clark On June 16, Woodgrove’s Class of 2016 was the 5th graduating class to walk the stage and accept their diploma. The ceremony was filled with anticipation as the chorus, …

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Buckland Earns Degree In Medicine

6 Jul 2016


Molly Buckland, D.O., graduated from the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine with a degree of Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine on May 28. While at WVSOM, Dr. Buckland received the Dr. Roland P. Sharp President’s Award and the James R. …

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Adams Promoted To Lieutenant

6 Jul 2016


Lt. James Adams, from Sterling and a Potomac Falls Halls Graduate, earned the promotion to the rank of Lieutenant. Adams is a Navy Week and Executive Outreach Planner for the Navy Office of Community Outreach in Millington, Tennessee. U.S. Navy …

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October 2016
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
September 26, 2016

Dreams of Trees and Other Living Things

September 27, 2016

Dreams of Trees and Other Living Things

September 28, 2016

Dreams of Trees and Other Living Things

September 29, 2016

Dreams of Trees and Other Living Things

September 30, 2016

Dreams of Trees and Other Living Things

October 1, 2016

Notaviva Vineyards - Bluegrass Jam - FREE event

October 2, 2016
October 3, 2016 October 4, 2016 October 5, 2016 October 6, 2016 October 7, 2016 October 8, 2016

Virginia Outdoors Foundation 50 years of Conservation Celebration

October 9, 2016
October 10, 2016 October 11, 2016 October 12, 2016

Barefoot Puppets: Dreamtime, Tales From Down Under

October 13, 2016 October 14, 2016 October 15, 2016

Loudoun Centre Theatre: The Scamps Of Scapin!

October 16, 2016

Harvest Celebration & Fall Farm Tour


October 17, 2016 October 18, 2016 October 19, 2016 October 20, 2016 October 21, 2016

Anthony Semiao Live at North Gate Vineyard


October 22, 2016 October 23, 2016

Come Paint with us at Breaux Vineyards

October 24, 2016 October 25, 2016 October 26, 2016 October 27, 2016 October 28, 2016

October Fourth Friday

October 29, 2016

2 Pound Sterling Live at North Gate VIneyard

October 30, 2016

Music With A Cause - Music of Colonial America

October 31, 2016 November 1, 2016 November 2, 2016 November 3, 2016 November 4, 2016 November 5, 2016

OysterFest at North Gate Vineyard

Notaviva Vineyards - Bluegrass Jam - FREE event

November 6, 2016
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Veteran’s Day 10k Raises Funds for Veteran Causes

13 Oct 2016


On November 6, the Loudoun County Road Runners Club will again conduct the annual Loudoun 10K Trail Race in order to raise funds for veteran causes. Since it’s origin in 2011, the trail race has generated more than $90,000 with 100 percent of proceeds going directly to veteran’s charities, specifically Boulder Crest Retreat and Pets for Vets.

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FBRM Clean-Up Day at Blue Ridge Regional Park

6 Oct 2016


Join Friends of the Blue Ridge Mountains for an Autumn clean-up to remove invasive vegetation from Blue Ridge Regional Park on Saturday, Oct. 15 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Some tools and equipment will be provided, but please bring your clippers, pruning shears, or saws if you can. Directions: From Leesburg, drive west on Route 7 past the turnoff …

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Painted Barrel Auction Saturday, October 8

6 Oct 2016


The Auction for The Painted Barrels around Purcellville will be held on Saturday, October 8 at 7:00 p.m at the Bush Tabernacle – 250 S. Nursery Ave. Purcellville. Thirty-Five local Loudoun County artists were given an oak wine barrel to create a Purcellville / Loudoun theme on it. Each barrel was sponsored by a local business and was displayed throughout …

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Grief and Greed


By Matthew Parse What would drive a single individual to cause so much emotional stress and financial burden on hundreds, if not, thousands of families? What would drive the Town …


Opinion: Terrorism, Debt, and China: Oh My!


– By Nick Reid world can be a very dangerous place sometimes, especially for a nation state such as the United States. Although danger is always present, the number and …

Metro Money Mess Pushing West


– By Delegate Dave LaRock (R-33rd) A local paper recently quoted Loudoun Board Chair Phyllis Randall as saying that in her observation “some of the concerns raised by the people …

Dear Editor

New Proposed Uses for Western Loudoun

Loudoun County Seal Color

If you live in the middle or western part of Loudoun where you enjoy a parcel of open space near your property (which probably was put into an open space …

Bennett Knows How To Make Economy Work for All


In the election for the 10th District House seat, only one candidate has a more than three decades of success growing a local business. As the owner of a successful …

View From the Ridge

Broken Promises, Hidden by a Six-Foot Berm


By Andrea Gaines On August 9, 1825 at the age of 69, French military officer the Marquis de Lafayette was honored in Leesburg by former President James Monroe. The French-born …

Around Virginia

History’s Holy Places: Four Local Sites Worth Exploring This Fall


The Journey through Hallowed Ground is a 180-mile long, 75-mile wide trek from Gettysburg to Monticello, encompassing nine presidential homes and places, 18 national and state parks, and thousands of small and large historical sites. Dozens and dozens of these sites and related museums are short ride from just about …

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Land Trust Receives Large Donation

land trust

On August 22, The Land Trust of Virginia received a $10,000 gift from the Sharon D. Virts Foundation, based in Herndon. The presentation of this grant was part of the Foundation’s official launch event, held at Selma Plantation in Leesburg. Notable speakers included Sharon D. Virts, FCiFederal Founder and Chair, …

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Farmers Urged To Be On The Lookout For Marijuana


Farmers in Southwest Virginia are being urged to check their property for marijuana planted by trespassers. Within the past year, hundreds of marijuana plants have been discovered between rows of hay bales on farms in and around Pulaski County, according to the Claytor Lake Regional Drug Task Force. “Unfortunately this …

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Hunter’s First Professional Race

7 Sep 2016


Drew Hunter and Loudoun Valley classmates at his first professional race, Sir Walter Miler in Raleigh, NC in early August , l to r:  Marcos Pierce, Matt Slook, Drew Hunter, Max McNerney. Hunter finished with a time of 3:57.15. Hunter turned professional and signed with Adidas.

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Let’s Make Some Memories

3 Aug 2016


American Legion Baseball At Fireman’s Field, August 3 – 7 By Andrea Gaines American Legion Baseball is here at Fireman’s Field in a big way, featuring five consecutive blockbuster Mid-Atlantic Tournament games – August 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. Our local Leesburg Post 34 Rangers had some nice wins …

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