Woodland Cottage’s Gardens on Tour

Looking through the woodland on a Summer's day

Looking through the woodland on a Summer’s day

I had the pleasure of opening my garden a couple of weeks ago to the Garden Bloggers Fling, which meets annually in cities around the country. We had an international group visit the garden. It was great fun. I’d like to share with you a marvelous article by Pam Penick, who has the blog Digging. I think she captured the garden here at Woodland Cottage very succinctly. Thanks, Pam, for a nice remembrance of your visit here! We love to welcome visitors! Here’s the link:







Posted under Blogs, Garden Tours, Garden Travel, Gardeners, Media, Southern Gardens, The Summer Garden, Water in the Garden

This post was written by Jeff Minnich on July 9, 2017

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Please Be Sure to Water!


Yosemite National Park

I think all of us here in the Magical Mid-Atlantic were hoping for some good, soaking rains from Tropical Storm Hermine this past week; alas, it is drier than ever.  We must be very diligent about watering (soaking) our gardens as we prepare our plants to go dormant before they head into winter. I am beginning to see plants drying out in some of the gardens I am visiting. Please, please—WATER!!!

Lantana, Balboa Park, San Diego

Lantana, Balboa Park, San Diego

Watering. After a very hot July and August, early September promises more heat and drought,  and it will likely remain this way until late September or early October, unless we have a hurricane (let’s hope not—at least not the windy component!).

If you have new shrubs and trees that were installed within the last year or two, and you have a sprinkler system, don’t depend on the sprinkler system to do a proper job of watering your newer plants. Irrigation systems are great for established gardens, lawns, and shallow-rooted plants, but you’ve got to deep-soak your new plants, especially when temperatures are above 90F and we haven’t had rain for awhile. Here are some further notes:

When trees are rooted and growing leaves, they are taking up water from the ground. It’s like suction (and much like our sweating):  the leaves “sweat”, and in the process, pull the water from the ground with the roots, up through the plant, and out through the leaves. This is called transpiration. The hotter, drier, and sunnier the weather, the faster the transpiration, thus the increased water need. It’s like a continuous loop of water drawn in and sweated out. When the days shorten in the fall, plants anticipate the coming cold weather, drop their leaves, and go dormant. Evergreens just go dormant, of course, without dropping all their leaves…most plants in our region just stop from the ground up. The roots will continue to grow until the ground gets below 40 degrees. This is all very simplistic, of course…so much more is going on, but you get the drift.

My grandson, Julian, at the San Diego Waterfront Park

My grandson, Julian, at the San Diego Waterfront Park

Things are different when a plant is first planted. That’s because they take time to root…in other words, the little feeder roots that take up the water have not yet come from the rootball of the transplanted plant and established themselves into the surrounding soil. Therefore, we must baby them for a few weeks until this happens. Too little water, and they drop their leaves as a defense mechanism because they are trying to conserve water in the stems so that when water is again available, they have the strength saved up to leaf out again. Conversely, when too much water is around the roots and the rootball cannot get any oxygen (because this is important, too), the plant’s leaves often turn a soaked-looking dark brown, and either hang onto the plant or drop, because the plant doesn’t need any water and the systems shut down. Both of these things are really easy to do after plants are just put in…there is a fine balance. Believe it or not, more plants die of overwatering than under watering. Isn’t that crazy? But it’s true.

As the days shorten, and the sun becomes less intense as we move towards fall, your plants will require less and less water…you can probably cut the frequency a bit. Likewise, plants dry out more quickly when the humidity is low; less quickly when the humidity is high. Monitor carefully so you don’t over- or under-water.  Just remember to soak deeply when you do water.

Get to know your garden and its “hot spots”—places that dry more quickly than others. This is true even if you have an irrigation system. Put your fingers under the mulch, into the soil, and check for moisture.  Don’t depend on a quick thunderstorm to water for you (much of the heavy rain will run off and not soak into the ground)…deep soak your garden as needed. Let the lawn go dormant or provide once inch of water per week to keep it green. If hand–watering your plants, take the nozzle off the hose, and aim that nice, steady stream of water directly at the center of the plant where it meets the soil. Let the water soak in deeply. When using sprinklers, rain gauges are a big help…or (better) check the soil with your fingers. And remember:  like winter-damaged plants, those left unwatered are not guaranteed…another incentive to get out the hose!

African Tulip Tree, Balboa Park, San Diego

African Tulip Tree, Balboa Park, San Diego

Weeds.  Ugh.  I know, I know…it’s too hot, too dry, there are too many…etc. etc.  Really, though, you must get to them before they go to seed or you are really going to have your work cut out for you.  At the very least, go out and cut off those seedheads before they ripen and fall!

I find that the best time to pull weeds is after a good rain or just after I’ve watered.  The weeds slip right out of the ground, for the most part, except for a few stubborn ones; then, I have to get out the pointed trowel (a wonderful tool) or a dandelion weeder.

After you weed, you can put down some mulch to cover the bare ground, if you’d like…it helps to control weeds and helps keep the soil from drying out so quickly.

Sunset, Big Sur, CA

Sunset, Big Sur, CA

Vacation time. We were fortunate to travel to California again this summer. More about our trip in the Fall Newsletter. What have you all been up to this summer? I look forward to seeing many of you this fall and hearing all about your adventures. Please let me know if you’ll need my help this fall—I have been booking for fall all summer!




Posted under Garden maintenance, Garden Travel, Southern Gardens, The Fall Garden, The Summer Garden, Water in the Garden, Weather vagaries

High Summer

Daylily 'Africa' at Woodland Cottage

Daylily ‘Africa’ at Woodland Cottage

Here’s a link to my ‘High Summer’ newsletter.

We are beginning to turn the corner into Autumn. Can you feel it?

Enjoy the remainder of your Summer!

Posted under Garden maintenance, Newletters, Random garden thoughts, Southern Gardens, The Summer Garden, Tree work, Water in the Garden, Weather vagaries

This post was written by Jeff Minnich on August 15, 2014

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The Winter That [Seems Like It] Will Never End…

…but we know it will, of course–eventually.

From this (Bluffton, SC, February 2014)...

From this (Bluffton, SC, February 2014)…

...to this (Arlington,  VA, March 6, 2014)

…to this (Arlington, VA, March 6, 2014)

It’s good to be back home in Arlington, though not to this cold and snow! Except for the ice storm that occurred when I first arrived in North Carolina last month, the Winter weather down South this year was gorgeous.

Winter Damage

The lowest temperature got to 5F in my garden this Winter. Plus, there were several stretches of below-freezing temperatures for several days at a time (including this past week).

Almost all broadleaf evergreens have, at least, some leaf burn on them, as we head into late Winter and early Spring. Some have severe burn. Some leaf burn is very obvious; some not so obvious, yet.

In my travels this Winter, I have seen damage as far south as South Georgia. It has been a cold Winter in the eastern part of the U.S.

Winter damage, Bonaventure Cemetary, Savannah, GA, February, 2014

Winter damage, Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah, GA, February, 2014

Ice storm, Wilmington, NC, early February, 2014

Ice storm, Wilmington, NC, early February, 2014

In my own garden, I grow some things that I would not plant in clients’ gardens (before years of testing in local conditions) because their true hardiness in the metro D.C. area is still uncertain. Believe it or not, I welcome a Winter like this one–at least in terms of testing the limits of hardiness for some of the plants in my garden.

The usual suspects have moderate to severe leaf burn: nandinas, loquats, cast iron plants, windmill palms, chindo viburnums, ligustrum, Carolina jessamine, fatsias, loropetalums, camellias, gardenias, mondo grass, liriope, etc.–even aucubas. With the exception of loquat (which is a hardiness zone 8 plant), all are listed in hardiness zone 7 (the predominant hardiness zone in the D.C. area, which covers average lowest temperatures 0F-10F), or lower/able to  take even colder temperatures. I’m even expecting some bud loss on my beloved camellias which, since I’ve had my garden here at Woodland Cottage, have always put on a spectacular late Winter/early Spring show.

Crapemyrtles can be adversely affective by severe cold, too, though we’ll have to wait until they leaf out (often not until May) before we know if they were damaged or not.

Winter damage on Sago Palm, Savannah, GA, February, 2014

Winter damage on Sago Palm, Savannah, GA, February, 2014

The difference this year, I think, is a combination of very cold temperatures and long stretches of below-freezing temperatures. Plants’ leaves dried out and burned because they could not get water into their systems to help prevent the dessication.

I’m expecting most, if not all, of these plants to drop/lose all their burned leaves before putting out new growth when the weather is, finally, reliably warm. They may have some stem/branch loss, as well, from the tips back.

Frozen pond/waterfall, Woodland Cottage, Winter 2014

Frozen pond/waterfall, Woodland Cottage, Winter 2014

The best thing to do–as I say every year–is nothing, now–WAIT. It would be a shame to cut back or remove a plant when it appears dead when, actually, its wood is still very much alive. Even if part of the top of the plant is lost, the roots may still be alive and strong, able to push out lush, new growth when the weather warms.

The other reason to wait, from a cost perspective, is that loss from Winter damage is not covered under the plant guarantee.

Spring can be fickle after a very cold Winter (and Easter is not until April 20th this year), so we may have to wait awhile until the weather settles down and balmy weather returns.

Please wait, and please try to be patient. Allow Mother Nature to work her magic. In most cases, it will be well worth the wait.

Here’s hoping for real Spring–soon!!

Camellia japonica, Savannah, GA, February, 2014

Camellia japonica, Savannah, GA, February, 2014




Posted under Southern Gardens, The Winter Garden, Water in the Garden

Imagining Spring

Now that we’re about at the halfway point of Winter, I start to imagine Springtime.  The days are just starting to lengthen, and the sun is just beginning to feel a bit stronger.  By Valentine’s Day, the sun begins to heat up the car again.

I’ve been AWOL for awhile, so may I wish you a Happy New Year, belatedly.  My desktop computer is on its last leg (a new laptop has been ordered); my camera bit the dust (I got a new one); and we’re working on a new website and blog design.  Those will debut this Spring.   So I’ve been busy with the help of my trusty computer guy, Jason; my brilliant web/blog designer, Peter; and my smart partner, Steve, who chose my new camera for me (it’s the bomb!).  We’ve got to update this blog–the spam is absolutely awful, frustrating and a pain in the you-know-what.

I’ve been on lots of fun trips this Winter already:  the Chihuly exhibit in Richmond, VA, as well as a visit to the holiday-lit Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden; and yesterday, a trip over to a bald cypress swamp in Southern Maryland.  I love swamps.  I guess it’s that liminal space between land and water, and I love the mysterious blur between the two.

Last week, we got down to a low of about 15F, the lowest so far this Winter.  We had a couple of light snow events, and an icy morning yesterday, followed by the Spring-like weather today.  A couple more days of this nice weather and then it’s back to cold, as I’d expect this time of year.

I let the water run over the waterfall until just a trickle was flowing, then I turned it off so the pump wouldn’t burn up.  Here’s what it looked like, frozen.  It’s thawed out amazingly today.  [you can enlarge the photos by double-clicking on them, I think.]

Frozen waterfall at Woodland Cottage

Frozen waterfall at Woodland Cottage

And a few palms in the snow…these are Windmill Palms (Trachycarpus fortunei) and yes, they are hardy–down to about OF, or the bottom of zone 7A.  I have some Needle Palms, too–they’ll survive even lower temps–down to about -5F or -10F, or zone 6a/b.

I walked around the yard today and, so far, it seems like most everything has escaped Winter damage.

Last week, just before the snow, I had two young red foxes bound into the back yard, a male and female.  Happily, I was able to grab the camera and get a few shots.  They hung around much of the day.  They are beautiful and healthy.

Just before the freeze, I went out in the yard and picked the few Camellias still in bloom.  I’m glad I picked them because I’ve been enjoying them inside for over a week.  They help me imagine Spring!  I float them in shallow saucers and bowls–“Camellia bowls”.  Many of the bowls are very old and were made for just this purpose.

I’m leaving in a few days for my annual time in Wilmington, NC, and I’m really looking forward to spending time with Steve.  We’ll be touring lots of gardens in the Lowcountry this year, so I’ll have lots to share with you.

Photos by the blogger; if you copy, please link back.  Thanks.

Posted under Animals in the Garden, Flowers in the House, Garden Travel, Random garden thoughts, Southern Gardens, The Winter Garden, Water in the Garden

Arlington Magazine Features the Garden at Woodland Cottage

The waterfall at Woodland Cottage

The waterfall at Woodland Cottage

Here’s the link to the article about my garden in Arlington Magazine‘s July/August issue.


Posted under Media, Southern Gardens, Water in the Garden

This post was written by Jeff Minnich on July 25, 2012

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Rain Days–Some Garden Potpourri

Everything is washed clean from the rains.

Everything is washed clean from the rains.

Lover of sunshine that I am, it sure was nice to get a couple of true rain days.  My little world here at Woodland Cottage is washed fresh and clean.  It’s sparkling in the intermittent sunshine this morning after heavy rain overnight.  This is rain day #2.  I’m getting lots accomplished.  I realized yesterday that it was the first rain day we’ve had this long Spring that simply didn’t allow us to work outside.  We’ve sloshed through all the showery others.

We’re now in that “in-between” time here in the magical Mid-Atlantic–between the flowers of full Spring and the first flowers of early Summer.  It is almost Hydrangea Time.

'Nikko Blue' Hydrangea budding up

'Nikko Blue' Hydrangea budding up

'Annabelle' Hydrangea in a pot.  They make great container plants.

'Annabelle' Hydrangea in a pot. They make great container plants.

Rain days allow me to:  Write my Spring newsletter (I’m tardy by two months :/–and yes, I did get it written and to my talented friend, Peter, who does the layout ).  Vacuum the floor.  Write a blog post.  Catch up on billing and paperwork.  Get started on some magazine articles (the deadlines loom).  Delete the junk from my e-mail inbox.  Clean off my desk.

It's clean!  I can even see my favorite picture of Steve!

It's clean! I can even see my favorite picture of Steve!

Sunday, I spent a day in my own garden.  I got most of the pots and the windowboxes planted (and fertilized), all the rest of the houseplants outside and organized, and some planting and transplanting accomplished–just before the rain.  In my brain, I feel like I’m so late this year because the gardens are so advanced compared to the usual mid-May.  The reality is I’m finishing some things earlier–I usually don’t get around to the pots and annuals until after Memorial Day.  Some things will wait until after Memorial Day–I want to pick up a few favorites in Wilmington that weekend–but it feels good to be this much ahead.

I have some new additions this year in my front yard:  giant, white Alliums (flowering onions).  The variety is ‘White Giant’.  I love them.  I’m astounded, also, that they all stood up to the heavy rains last night.  That surprises me.

Look closely, and you'll see the Allium 'White Giant'.

Look closely, and you'll see the Allium 'White Giant'.

One of my clients was cleaning out their pond earlier this Spring and had a huge crop of tadpoles.  I brought home a couple dozen and put them in the lower pond.  I’ve been so busy, I haven’t had time to check and see how they’re doing.  Sunday, I took a look and saw a few–they seem fatter and happy.  Then during a water break in the kitchen, I looked out the window and saw this guy/gal sunning him/herself on a mossy rock by the upper pond. Because my friend Mike Ferrara and I are working our way through the ‘Lord of the Rings’ series on Sunday nights (and because I name just about everything), I’ve decided to call him/her Frodo.

"Frodo" the Frog

"Frodo" the Frog

My friend Ronn Payne gave me some gourd birdhouses this Spring.  I’d admired them at his mother’s place in the Virginia countryside, where he grows the gourds.  He surprised me with three.  I hung them immediately: one in a Live Oak out front (I can see it from the dining room); one in a Crapemyrtle on the side (I can see it from where I’m typing right now); and one in a Darlington Oak in the back (which I can see from my downstairs desk and bedroom).  Very quickly, a tiny little bird with the most wonderful song (very garbled, happy and sing-songy) moved in, the same kind of bird in all three.  They are very energetic, and so fun to watch and listen to.  You cannot imagine the joy I get from “my” birds, all types.

It's blurry, but here's one of the gourd birdhouses.

It's blurry, but here's one of the gourd birdhouses.

Everything is sparkling and happy from this morning's rains.

Everything is sparkling and happy from this morning's rains.

What a Spring.


Posted under Animals in the Garden, Container Gardens, Random garden thoughts, Spring Flowers, The Spring Garden, The Summer Garden, Water in the Garden

Ice on the Pond

Here in the Mid-Atlantic, it’s been a mild Winter.  Before I left for the New Year in Wilmington, I turned off my waterfall here at Woodland Cottage since I heard a freeze was on the way.  When I got home yesterday, there was a thin coating of ice on the pond–first of the season.

What a difference a year (or two) makes!  Here’s the pond and waterfall after the just-before-Christmas snow of 2009:

And here’s how the waterfall looks, normally, in January:

Today, it’s warming up again, so I’ll probably turn the waterfall back on.  The night temperatures over the next few days are supposed to be just below freezing, if that.  I like to keep the water moving, if at all possible…keeps it from getting stagnant and stinky.  It was warm enough late last Fall that I could give the pond a good cleaning.  Some years, like the last two, it gets cold suddenly, and the fallen leaves and brush get frozen before I can get them out of the water.  Makes for a very unpleasant clean-up when I return North in March!!

Elsewhere in my garden, the usually late-Winter bloomers are showing up much earlier this year (maybe the earliest I’ve ever seen them appear, in my garden).  One of my favorite shrubs, Mahonia bealei, the Leatherleaf Mahonia, is showing its lemon-yellow buds.  The bumblebees love these…I hope the flowers hang in suspended animation until late Winter, when the bumblebees are active again and can enjoy the flowers.  To me, this is just another example of how climate change has things out-of-whack in the natural world.  Gardeners know how interconnected it all is, and if you know your own piece of land, you notice details like this.

Mahonia bealei

Mahonia bealei

Late last Winter, while in Wilmington, NC, where I spend a good part of my Winter with my partner, we were driving home from visiting friends in Carolina Beach and spotted loads of tropical plants for sale at a small nursery.  Turns out they had been used as props for filming a movie–not sure which one.  (Did you know Wilmington has the largest film studio East of Los Angeles?)  We stopped and I picked up a Bird of Paradise and a few other items.  I planted the Bird of Paradise in a large pot in front of my house here in Arlington.  It got so big (and was so inexpensive) that I decided not to bring it into the utility room for the Winter, like I do with so many of the smaller tropicals I use in pots in the Summer.  Believe it or not, it looked great until we had our first hard freeze this weekend.  Leaving it out to see how long it would last has been an interesting experiment.  Here it is today:

Notice the Sprengeri Asparagus Ferns?  They’ve withstood the freeze so far.  Here are some more of them today in windowboxes on the front of my house:

Hellebores are starting up:

Helleborus foetidus, the Stinking Hellebore

Helleborus foetidus, the Stinking Hellebore

Helleborus argustifolius, the Corsican Hellebore

Helleborus argustifolius, the Corsican Hellebore

The Lenten Roses, Helleborus x orientalis, haven’t really started to push their buds yet, but I do see some activity when I look at their crowns.

Snapdragons have become good Winter annuals in the South in the last several years, as Pansies have been for years.  I have some pretty red ones in pots by my front door.  They are looking good right now, if a little wilted–from the cold or lack of water?  Not sure, so I gave them a drink this morning.

And, of course, Snowdrops, and yes, these are blooming earlier than normal, too.  My neighbor, Mr. Jimmy, has them blooming in a sunny spot in his front yard.

Thank goodness the Winter Daphne has not yet burst into bloom.  It would be a major bummer if I lost that glorious harbinger of Spring–absolutely the most heady, powerful scent in my garden.  I’ve got lots of fragrant flowers, yet this one tops them all here, in my opinion.

What’s blooming in your garden this early January of 2012?

Wishing you and yours a joyful, healthy, creative, and prosperous 2012.  I’m optimistic (like most gardeners–it runs in our DNA).  Are you?

Photos by the author.  If you copy, please link back.

Posted under Climate Change, The Winter Garden, Tropical Plants, Water in the Garden

This post was written by Jeff Minnich on January 5, 2012

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