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For official club information and news go to the website and Facebook page.

This blogspot is maintained for the the historic record from 2010 to 2014.

Who We Are

The Capitol Hill Garden Club brings together Washington area people interested in gardening, landscaping and the environment. Members enjoy lectures, demonstrations, workshops and tours.

We are a 501(c)(3) District of Columbia non-profit corporation. We undertake community projects and contribute to garden and beautification projects in our neighborhood. In past years the club donated thousands of spring flowering bulbs to groups and individuals for planting in public areas on Capitol Hill. Our income comes from membership dues and donations.

We are a member of National Garden Clubs, Inc., National Capital Area Garden Clubs, Inc. and its District I, and the Central Atlantic Region of State Garden Clubs, Inc.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Greens Workshop 2012

December 5, 2012:  About 50 members enjoyed the annual Deck the Halls workshop.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Flowers On Leaves

 Sandra Flowers presented a program entitled "The Leaf Alone" to the regular monthly meeting of the Capitol Hill Garden Club.
Pot with calathea
She explained in her introduction:  “This presentation is about making plant choices based on the contribution of texture, color, size or shape of the plant’s leaf alone.  If the plant has a lovely flower also, that is just icing on the cake!

“All plant leaves have a job to do – making carbohydrate for the use of the plant to grow and thrive. Within that very utilitarian job description, nature has given us an amazing variety of leaves that often rival the beauty of their flowers and since the leaves last longer than the flowers, they have an important impact on garden structure and interest.

“It is all too easy to become enamored of the beauty of flowers and neglect to think that flowers are usually at their peak for 1-3 weeks.  What does that plant contribute to the garden for the rest of the
Hakonechloa with Frances William hosta.
year?  A case in point is a rose, which has lovely flowers and even lovely foliage if you live in England or New England or the Pacific Northwest…which we don’t.  We live in hot, humid Washington DC – which results in Black Spot fungus, eventual defoliation and bare stems for much of the summer.”

Gold Heart Dicentra spectabilis
This was her list of "Some foliage that warrants inclusion in our DC gardens and garden pots":

Gold Heart Dicentra spectabilis
Begonia grandis
Hakonechloa grass
Carex ‘Evergold’
Autumn fern (dryopteris erythrosora)
Japanese Holly Fern (cyrtomium falcatum)
Japanese Painted fern (athyrium niponicum)
Caladiums - White Christmas & Fannie Munson
Arisaema ringens- Cobra lily
Soloman’s Seal (polygonatum multiflorum)
Helleborus orientalis (Lenten Rose)
Helleborus niger( Christmas rose)
Hostas - Sieboldiana elegans, Lemon lime, Frances Williams (& many others)
Rohdea japonica – Japanese Sacred lily
Ligularia dentata ‘Desdemona’
Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’
Asarum splendens -Japanese ginger
Saxifraga stolonifera  Strawberry begonia
Schizophrama hydrangeoides ‘Moonlight’
Caryopteris divaricata ‘Snow Fairy’
Heuchera ‘Silver Scrolls’
Heuchera ‘Caramel’ 
Alternanthera dentata - ‘Brazilian Red Hot’ & ‘Party time’
Coleus - Saturn
Angel Wing Begonias
Fuschia gartenmeister
Calathea lancifolia

Saturday, November 10, 2012

November 2012 Hill Garden News

CHGC November Newsletter 2012

Friday, October 5, 2012

October 2012 Hill Garden News

CHGC October 2012 Newsletter

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Club Participates in Barracks Row Festival

Bill and David potting daffodils.
September 22, 2013:  A number of Club members were right in the heart of this year’s Barracks Row Festival, helping attendees to pot bulbs at the CSX Booth.   This community festival on 8th Street SE had something for everyone, including the DC State Fair. 
Sonia giving bulb planting instructions
 Families, singles, couples and lots of children were drawn to the booth where they potted a tulip or daffodil for planting later in the community and one for themselves to plant at home.  For many festival participants it was their first exposure to bulbs and gardening; for others it renewed desires to garden.   
Mary brings David up to date.
Sporting their Garden Club aprons and armed with Club literature and brochures our volunteers won lots of smiles as they assisted and answered questions about bulbs.  Many thanks to Club members Sonia Conly, Mary Weirich, David Healy, Bill Dean, Faith Brightbill, Mary Ann Sroufe, Sandra Bruce, Gene Smith, and Sharon Calkins-Hubley for lending their expertise and rolling out the welcome mat for those interested in learning more about our Club.     
--Ida May Mantel

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Cleaning Up the Arboretum’s Glenn Dale Azalea Site

September 20, 2013:  U.S. National Arboretum research horticulturist Scott Aker, walked a group of around 20 volunteers and potential volunteers (two from Capitol Hill Garden Club) through the Glenn Dale Hillside Renewal Project site to show the condition of the area and the work to be undertaken in the hillside renewal. The work focuses on the removal of invasive plants such as English ivy and porcelain berry and sapling trees, the trimming of limbs and branches from remaining trees to provide more light, and pruning dead or leggy branches that struggled to find light from the azaleas. Aker said, “The azaleas will benefit greatly from reduced competition for light, nutrients and water.” 

The collection is the result of B.Y. Morrison’s extraordinary hybridizing, work, which culminated in hybrids with larger flower size, wider range of flower color and bloom time, and hardiness in the Washington, DC, area. Morrison was USDA plant breeder and first director of the National Arboretum.

Arboretum Director Colien Hefferan addressed the group at the end of the tour.
 The renewal work will be done mostly by a contractor under the supervision of Arboretum staff, the Arboretum staff, and--azalea collection volunteers. That’s where garden club members come in.  The curator of the Arboretum Azalea and Rhododendron Collections, Barbara Bullock, has invited garden club members to join other volunteers on azalea clean up days.  The upcoming work day is scheduled from 10 am to 2-3 pm, December 1.  If you have an interest in participating send an email to and details of the clean up will be forwarded to you. 
-- by Doris Celarier (photos by David Healy)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

More Small Trees for Capitol Hill Homes

Kevin Conrad, the curator of woody plants at the U.S. National Arboretum, returned for a second year with more suggestions for small trees and shrubs.  Between our video projector and his laptop, Conrad was forced to talk us through his presentation without the accompanying video, which is now reproduced below.
Trees for an Urban Garden (2)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

2012-2013 Program List

SEPTEMBER 11, 2012,
Returning by popular demand, Horticulturist Kevin Conrad, eloquent species developer at the U.S. National Arboretum, will focus on smaller trees that suit small urban gardens.

3-5 PM, 638 A Street NE
We hope non-members will join us to learn more about our club. Members are invited to bring neighbors and friends to this, our annual fall mixer, presented by the Board of Directors of the Capitol Hill Garden Club.

OCTOBER 9, 2012
Sam Droege, USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, will present his research on native bees. We will learn the plant-pollinator relationship from the bee's point of view, and consequences of our planting choices.

NOVEMBER 13, 2012
Horticulturist Sandra Flowers will show plants with distinctive leaves. Sometimes the leaf is more beautiful than the flower, and gardens can be built entirely around the varied foliage.

Join us in making wreaths, swags and table arrangements.

JANUARY 8, 2013
Three club members will each describe notable features of their gardens,and their experiences as gardeners - good and bad.  Q and A.

FEBRUARY 12, 2013
Karen Rexrode, horticulturist and artist, will discuss new digital techniques for photographing the plant world. The basics, with some new tips.

MARCH 12, 2013
Tom Mirenda, orchid specialist for. the Smithsonian Institution, will discuss the amazing array of new orchids we can expect to see in U.S. markets. Growing Tips too .

APRIL 9, 2013
John Sonnier, Head Gardener at the British Embassy in Washington, will offer a case study on integrating sustainable, eco-friendly practices into this modern English garden.

MAY 14, 2013
On this Annual Walking Tour of our own neighborhood, members share the beauty of local gardens in springtime.

6:00 P.M.
The year's finale is an elegant dinner. Members come in party finery to enjoy 'dinner together in a garden setting.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

2012 Bulb Giveaway Application

CHGC 2012 Bulb Application
To download this fillable form, please click on the downward arrow immediately to the right of  the word Scribd (above left). If you click the word Scribd, you will need a Scribd account or Facebook account to read the document at the Scribd site.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

60th Anniversary Celebrated at U.S. National Arboretum

June 2, 2012: Capitol Hill Garden Club celebrated its 60th anniversary at the annual June Garden Party held for the first time on the patio of the headquarters building at the United States National Arboretum.  Violent thunderstorms Friday evening left us with a beautiful Saturday evening to enjoy potluck hors d'oeuvres, dinner and dessert.
The buffet begins.

Jim, Lorraine and Joyce hover near the desserts.

Outgoing president Vira Sisolak (left) introduced two 50-year members:  Marie Hertzberg (center) and Edee Hogan (right).

Former presidents were introduced and each reminisced about the club.  From left, Jennie Wren, Lem Hooper, David Healy, Pat Taylor, Tony Pontorno, Jim Shelar and Sisolak.

Dr. Colien Hefferan, director of the arboretum (left center), welcomed the club to the arboretum.  She discussed the work of the National Bonsai Foundation, the Friends of the National Arboretum and National Capital Area Garden Clubs, Inc. in supporting the arboretum.

 Sisolak passed the gavel to incoming president Carol Edwards.
On behalf of the club, Edwards presented Sisolak with the Cadillac of wheelbarrows for a job well done.

"Mr. Vira Sisolak" a/k/a Bill (standing to the left below) expressed joy at "getting my life back."



Tuesday, May 8, 2012

2012 May Garden Walk

May 8, 2012:  Rain threatened, but the 2012 May Garden Walk remained dry as we migrated from the Sherwood Recreation Center via St. James Church to the Verizon Switching Station on 7th Street NE:

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

April 10, 2012:   James Gagliardi, who is in charge of the butterfly garden and the new bird garden at the National Museum of Natural History, presented a program on incorporating edible plants into landscape gardens.

Azalea Clean Up at National Arboretum

April 7, 2012:   Member Bob Fuller participated in the annual azalea clean up at the U.S. National Arboretum.  Though threatened with "deaccessation," the azaleas during their bloom attract more visitors to the National Arboretum than any other event.
--photos from Bob Fuller

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Garden Pests

March 13, 2012: Fairfax County Extention Agent Adria Bordas gave a lively presentation on Diseases in the Garden.

Adria Bordas on Diseases in the Garden

Club Receives Edith Bittinger Environmental Improvement Award

Fairfax City, VA, March 29, 2012: National Capital Area Garden Clubs, Inc., bestowed the Edith Environmental Improvemental Award upon Capitol Hill Garden Club for the transformation of the streetscape in the 100th block of 7th Street NE, which was Elvira Sisolak's president's project. The award came with a check for $100.00.

Capitol Hill Garden Club also received a Citation for Outstanding Garden Club Achievement for a club with more than 60 members.
National Capital Area held its annual awards meeting at the Fairfax City Regional Library because its usual meeting space is still under renovation at the U.S. National Arboretum.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Few of Carol's Favorite Roses

These are a Few of My Favorite . . . Roses

by Carol Edwards

Capitol Hill is a wonderful place to grow roses. Our small, street facing gardens provide the perfect frame for these elegant show-offs. Planted by the sidewalk, neighbors can stop to savor their perfume. We even have few Japanese beetles compared to our suburban friends. Our greatest challenges are time and, possibly, the quest for perfection. But for those brave souls willing to take the plunge, growing roses is very rewarding.

There are so many roses, how do you choose? In this article I will share some of my personal favorites.

When deciding which roses to try, do your homework. Look through catalogs. Go to garden centers in May, when most of the roses are stocked. Browse the web. Ask your neighbors. Attend rose exhibitions in our area.

To discover which roses do well in the mid-Atlantic, check out rose displays in public gardens several times over the growing season. We are fortunate to have three rose gardens almost within spitting distance, the Smithsonian rose display near the Arts and Industry Building, the U.S. Botanic National Garden, and the U.S. National Arboretum. There are also several more in and around Washington.

Of course all the usual steps for selecting the “right plant for the right place” apply. Know how much sunlight you receive at the planting site. (Roses like to sunbathe.) Improve your soil. Improve it again. (Roses are heavy feeders.) Make sure that water is accessible. Drip irrigation is helpful. (Roses are heavy drinkers.) Acquire good pruners, a wide-brimmed sun hat, and stout gloves.

Take note of your preferences. What colors do you like? How important is fragrance to you? Do you want lots of blooms? Do you want roses primarily for cut flowers? Do you like the flower forms of old garden roses? How ruthless are you willing to be? (With the amount of deadheading, pruning, and plant removal required, rose cultivation is not for the faint of heart!)

Although I may not always choose the perfect roses for our climate, I try to make selections that will do well on Capitol Hill without heroic effort. I use organic fertilizer and practice integrated pest management, which means I tolerate some black spot and partially munched foliage. I must sometimes cut off buds or young blooms that are malformed by rose pests. All of that goes with the territory. (If you demand exhibition quality roses, you will need to use toxic chemicals.) I like fragrance, although I am willing to choose beauty over fragrance on occasion. My taste in form is eclectic. I adore the high-centered, ovoid buds of some hybrid teas and grandifloras, but I also love the cupped, quartered, and expanded forms of old garden rose blooms. I like both single and double flowers.

When it comes to color, I favor pale shades—light pink, mauve, and pale yellow. I also like strong colors—copper, red/yellow, and dark purple. I prefer dark green, glossy foliage with red-tipped new growth but, truthfully, if the flowers are spectacular and the foliage is ugly, I’ll still take the plant. Although I fancy recurrent (repeat blooming) roses, I find myself charmed by several old garden roses that bloom only once a year. I do not like miniature or mini-flora roses, although they are appropriate for row houses and patio gardens. Space limitations have guided me away from climbers and ramblers, and, indeed, vigorous growers in general. (Again, do your homework, before you purchase.)

As I name my favorites, I will include a bit of a primer on how roses are classified. To prevent boring you, I will only include enough information to help my rose selections make sense. If you want further background, information abounds on the Internet and in print.

There are three major categories of roses: species, modern, and old garden roses. My roses fall in the latter two categories.

Old garden roses are those that were know to gardeners prior to 1867. Among the old garden roses I grow are Bourbons, and Gallicas, but there are an additional thirteen major classes. Most old garden roses only bloom once a year and many are vigorous growers. Old garden roses are among the most fragrant. Many are pest resistant. Their blooms have more variety in shape but are generally smaller than modern roses. Their color palette tends to vary from white to many shades of pink.

The modern roses in my garden, four of the eight major classes, include hybrid teas, grandifloras, floribundas, and shrubs. My shrub roses are a hybrid musk and several English roses, often called David Austin™ roses for their primary breeder. The latter are repeat bloomers that mimic the old garden roses in form, fragrance, and disease resistance—some, more successfully than others in my experience.

Hybrid teas are distinguished by large flowers that grow individually on long stems. Grandifloras have a similar growth habit, but their blooms may be smaller and tend more toward sprays. Floribunda roses often have smaller flowers and stems than hybrid teas and their flowers grow in clusters. In general, floribunda roses will flower more prolifically season long than hybrid tea roses, but hybrid tea blooms will be more spectacular—closer to roses we find in florist shops as cut flowers. In rose competitions, a hybrid tea bloom is almost always selected as queen of the show, the highest honor. Breeding may have altered modern roses’ growth habits, but it has also increased susceptibility to pests and diseases and, in many instances, diminished fragrance.

With that background, I’ll cut to the chase. If I had to select my absolute favorite rose, well, I just couldn’t. I could probably pick my favorite five. One would be Granada (hybrid tea). This neon pink and orange bi-color is beautiful, fragrant, and very showy. Another favorite hybrid tea is Brandy, a fragrant, cognac-colored rose. Sheer Bliss (light pink), Moonstone™ (white with pale pink picotee), and Elina® (pale yellow) are more hybrid teas I grow fondly. Dainty Bess (hybrid tea) is a beautiful pale pink single rose with dark pink and yellow stamens. I find its flowers fragile—one good rain or stiff breeze can denude it of petals, but it’s so endearing that I overlook its ephemeral nature.


If you are looking for a red rose, try Legends™ (hybrid tea), or the classic Olympiad (hybrid tea). Of course, Mister Lincoln’s (hybrid tea) large fragrant crimson flowers are hard to beat. My only red is Veterans’ Honor®, a hybrid tea that begins as a true red and matures to a dark fuchsia.

Veterans’ Honor

Hybrid teas may command the lion’s share of the attention, but I find that floribundas definitely have their charms. When properly tended, they provide consistent blooming during the height of the summer. My favorite is the lavender Blueberry Hill™. Apricot Nectar (light apricot) is fragrant and attractive. If you are after unusual colors that thrive in the mid-Atlantic, you will find them among the floribundas. Try Hot Cocoa™ (brown), Cinco de Mayo™ (orangey ocher), or Ebb Tide™ (deep royal purple). I do not grow any of the three, but see them happy in public gardens around town.

When last July’s heat and humidity caused my roses to take a vacation, Scarborough Fair®, an English rose, bloomed like a champ. This small bush with its sweet light pink cupped flowers is perfect for row house frontage. Try it on a townhouse patio in a large pot. Dead-heading by occasional sheering is an almost effortless way to keep it blooming all season.

Some of you are familiar with the spectacular show that my Pat Austin™ (copper) puts on every May. Wow! Unfortunately, it is not a prolific bloomer at any other time. Sharifa Asma™® (light pink) is a favorite English rose. If you like dark maroon and need a small bush, check out Munstead Wood. I have never grown it, but could easily be tempted. I do grow Dark Lady (dark fuchsia), which beautifies my vegetable patch admirably while occupying little of its precious real estate. One note of caution—I find that David Austin™ roses grow larger than forecasted, so plan your spacing accordingly.

For me, no garden would be complete without at least one old garden rose. My love of these roses goes back to childhood, and they were the first roses I planted in my own garden. One of my favorite old roses is planted smack in the middle of my perennial bed. Souvenir de la Malmaison, a light pink Bourbon that looks and smells great repeats well. If you prefer a darker pink try another Bourbon, Rose de Rescht. Both of these varieties will grace relatively small spaces. Next to Souvenir de la Malmaison, I grow the hybrid musk rose, Penelope. It has large clusters of small pale pinkish-yellow flowers. I find the two roses lovely in combination.

My Gallica roses bloom only once, but glorify the month of June and, thankfully, tolerate a bit of shade. They include the sublimely fragrant Belle Isis (light pink) and the temperamental Cardinal Richelieu (which I plan to replace with Tuscany Superb, another purple rose). If you want that quintessential old rose fragrance, try the Apothecary’s rose or one of cabbage roses (rosa centifolia).

Belle Isis

For 2012, I’ve ordered two new roses to try. (Alas, one of the ways rose cultivation is for the ruthless, especially in a small garden, is that established loves must be yanked to accommodate new infatuations. Is this what they call progress?) A well established grandiflora, Love (hot pink and white bicolor), is taking a final bow so I can try the recently introduced Sugar Moon (white hybrid tea) and Ketchup and Mustard (red and yellow floribunda).

So there you have it—my favorite roses, at least for now. There are always more roses to discover and new introductions to consider. With a bit of diligence and luck, the reward will be worth the effort.

One final note, local garden centers have a limited variety of roses, particularly of old garden roses. Many of the roses in my garden were ordered through catalogs. Do not be afraid to order bare root roses for fall or early spring planting. I have been quite successful with them.

For more information on roses, contact the Potomac Rose Society, and Arlington Rose Foundation, These organizations offer a wealth of expertise through their meetings, consulting rosarians, field trips, and annual rose exhibitions.

I hope at least a few of you will be inspired to explore the charms of growing roses, beyond the popular Knockout™ cultivars. If so, please share information about your discoveries by posting comments on Happy planting!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Members Show Their Own Gardens

January 10, 2012: President Vira Sisolak (l) welcomed members back from the holidays.

This was the annual meeting when several members discuss their own gardens. Fran Zaniello was enthusiastic about her front garden and back garden at her Capitol Hill townhouse and especially about the crepe myrtle she could not have in Kentucky.

Carol Casperson spoke about her gardening in Anacostia and also showed slides of a visit last summer to Perennial Pleasures Nursery in East Hardwick, Vt.

As a last minute fill in, Wendy Blair discussed her annual one month of gardening at the family summer cottage in Ontario: