Capitol Hill Garden Club In Washington, D.C., Since 1952

Recent Happenings

Take a look at some of the things our Club has done, they are all listed here. We hope you enjoyed them.  If you are not a member, then take a look at what you are missing and consider clicking Join Now!

  • June 09, 2016 10:35 AM | Anonymous member

    June Garden Party

    CHGC members celebrated the end of yet another great year for our Club at the always beautiful U. S. National Arboretum in Washington, D. C.

    Ed Peterman, CHGC VP introduced long-time member Gail Giuffrida as our new Club President, saying she was happy to take the post and looked forward to working with the executive committee and with all of our members to keep the club fun and exciting for the coming year. 

    Donna Brauth, our outgoing Treasurer, was thanked for the incredible job she has done managing our finances, and was presented with a gift certificate for her efforts and dedication.  Board members and Committee Chairs were also recognized.

    The Club also recognized members Jim and Sandy Shelar who are moving to Maryland.  Having been very active members, including a stint as President for Jim, we’ll miss having them in our neighborhood, but they plan to remain members, so we’ll look forward to seeing them at some of our meetings and events.

    Leanna Fenske organized a rather fun ‘White Elephant Exchange’ with a surprising array of gardening-related items for our members to share and enjoy.

    As Joyce Jones pointed out it “takes a village” to have a great garden club party like this, and our terrific party would not have been possible without the famous “Party People”  who set up the party: Joyce Jones, Lorraine Fishback, Sharon Ferguson, Leanna Fenske, Sandra Bruce and Sonia Conly.  She also offered thanks to Dan Bailes, Jim Fishback, Floyd Brown and Nick Brandes.  

    But special thanks go to Donna Brandes who organized the party again this year, saying that these events "kind of remind me of Thanksgiving – all that work and preparation and all gone in a flash, but that flash from 5:30 to 8:30 was ever so much fun."

  • May 20, 2016 9:00 AM | Anonymous member

    High Glen Gardens Visit

    Peter Couchman, Executive Director at High Glen Gardens, led a group of garden club members on a tour of this beautiful private property near Frederick at the base of the Catoctin mountain on May 20. 

    The 64 acre parcel was purchased by the owners initially for development into a residential and commercial property, but a fateful picnic on the grounds one afternoon their plans and they decided to build a home there. In 2005 the home, inspired by their European travels, was completed. Four acres of formal gardens, designed by McHale Landscape Design of Annapolis, were installed in 2008. Then, in 2013, the owners hired Rodney Anderson Summers, Inc. Landscape Architects, a Delaware firm that had worked on Longwood, the Nemours Mansion and Hillwood, to create a master plan for eventual conversion into a public garden. 

    We toured the early planting of 5 acres around the house and pool and saw the division of the property into garden rooms with the clever pruning of trees – European birch and American Hornbeam -- by pleaching to encourage them to grow into hedges. 

    Around the back of the home is a beautiful perennial boarder inspired by Hampton Court in England and an Ellipse Garden, inspired by Dumbarton Oaks. One of the most unusual features is a bocce ball court with a raked Japanese stone garden. We all loved the Summer House, which is the “nerve center” for entertaining at High Glen Garden. The structure is made from recycled materials from two demolished barns in Frederick County, and is designed to look like an old Italian villa. The surrounding gardens are Mediterranean in feel, but also include materials from the American southwest and scented plants – thyme lavender, and agastache. The color scheme is silver and white that “pop” in early summer evenings. 

    Approximately 25 acres of new gardens are under development (a Grand Allee entrance, a Woodland, and an Earth Sculpture), and about 30 acres of fields are awaiting future garden development. Because the property had been a dairy farm, lots of work is required. Peter told us about the poor condition of the soil and their use of cover crops to add needed nitrogen. Trees are being planted at a rapid rate and other outdoor structures are in the process of construction to provide architectural interest. Still to come is a belvedere. Currently, tours are limited to garden clubs and other kindred spirits. But, eventually, High Glen Garden will be open to the public and will give us a local rival to Chanticleer. 

    Progress on the garden and pictures can be found at 

    After eating our picnic lunches in the barn, we stopped by Surreybrooke Gardens and Nursery. This property was also a dairy farm. The owners still live there and farm part of it, but the main feature is a nursery which started as an herb farm in the 1970s. Now, a pavilion, which can be rented for weddings and other events, and a much larger garden center greet visitors. A number of demonstration garden showcase plants that are offered for sale. Of course we took advantage of the wide variety of plants, unique pottery and garden ornaments for sale. 

    What a joy to have had the opportunity to visit these gardens on a sunny day during a week of almost constant rain.

    Submitted By:  Lorraine Fishback

    Peter Couchman, Executive Director at High Glen Gardens, led a group of garden club members on a tour of this beautiful private property near Frederick at the base of the Catoctin mountain on May 20. 

    The 64 acre parcel was purchased by the owners initially for development into a residential and commercial property, but a fateful picnic on the grounds one afternoon their plans and they decided to build a home there. In 2005 the home, inspired by their European travels, was completed. Four acres of formal gardens, designed by McHale Landscape Design of Annapolis, were installed in 2008. Then, in 2013, the owners hired Rodney Anderson Summers, Inc. Landscape Architects, a Delaware firm that had worked on Longwood, the Nemours Mansion and Hillwood, to create a master plan for eventual conversion into a public garden. 

    We toured the early planting of 5 acres around the house and pool and saw the division of the property into garden rooms with the clever pruning of trees – European birch and American Hornbeam -- by pleaching to encourage them to grow into hedges. 

  • May 10, 2016 6:30 PM | Anonymous member

    May Walk @ Congressional Cemetery

    The sun peaked through a week-long cloudy city just in time for the Capitol Hill Garden Club to take a tour of Congressional Cemetery, one of our neighborhood’s most interesting attractions.

    Since the founding of our city in 1790, Congressional Cemetery has been a final resting place for Washingtonians. Now a National Historic Landmark, the cemetery is flourishing with brick pathways, slate walks, trees, blooming gardens and of course, buried Washingtonians. It was the perfect spot for our May Garden Walk, where we were guided through the cemetery by cemetery board member and docent, Sharon Bosworth.

    There are 17 different tours that can be taken at Congressional, each focusing on different aspects of the cemetery. From politicians to Native Americans to past mayors of Washington, each tour can be adapted for the people visiting.  Our tour focused on trees, plants and flowers, but with a bit of history added in.

    Noteworthy about the trees is that the original stewards of Congressional chose varieties that would not be considered suitable for a cemetery today, e.g. magnolias, which are large and beautify and messy.  They will live out their natural lives, but will not be replaced.  Instead, future trees will include native varieties that will be allowed to produce a canopy over the graves.

    Gardening enthusiasts were pleased to learn that graves can be adopte

    d and landscaped by individuals and groups. So as you walk the cemetery, you occasionally notice a grave or group of graves that is just loaded with plants, flowers, and a plaque acknowledging the name of the person or persons responsible for establishing and maintaining

    the space.The Talbert grave, see photo here, is particularly lovely and is manage by Club member Lynn Church.  Another fine example is the area around the Arsenal Monument which is managed by Joyce Palmer.

    Other stops along the way included the graves of Elbridge Gerry (of gerrymander fame), J. Edgar Hoover (whose grave is planted and decorated by the FBI), Joseph Gales (former publisher and DC mayor), John Philip Sousa (the ‘March King’), and the Arsenal Monument (memorializing 21 Irish immigrant women killed in an 1864 dynamite explosion).

    The Public Vaults were created as a temporary resting place for people whose families needed more time to plan their final arrangements.  Remember, there were no funeral homes or refrigerators back then, and so over 6,000 families paid a $5 fee to use the vault.  Members of Congress stayed there for free. Guests included John Quincey Adams, William Henry Harrison and Zachary Taylor.  Dolly Madison’s family got the most value for their $5, with a 5 year stay while her son worked his way through a family bankruptcy.

    A reception was hosted after the tour by Joseph Purdy and Anthony Pontorno in the party room and courtyard at Jenkins Row condominium.

    To find out more about Congressional Cemetery, go to their website where you can plan a short visit, make a donation, order an engraved brick with your name on it, or buy a plot for an longer stay.

    Special thanks for this event go to Lynn Maloy, Program Director, Congressional Cemetery for helping us organize this tour;  Daniel Holcombe, Grounds Conservation Manager, Congressional Cemetery, who provided Sonia Conly, E. J, Truax and Sharon Bosworth with information on the challenges of managing trees in an historic cemetery; Sharon Bosworth, Board of Directors of the Association for the Preservation of the Historic Congressional Cemetery;  Sonia Conly for organizing this event;  Joseph Purdy and Anthony Pontorno for hosting the reception.

  • April 12, 2016 7:30 PM | Anonymous member

    That Camera In Your Pocket

    Featuring: Patty Hankins

    How to Take Great Garden Pics with Your Smart Phone

    Patty Hankins our guest speaker presented us with some great tips to get the best out of our smart phone garden photos. While some of her tips are specific to the smart phone most apply to photography in general. First, think what caught your eye? Focus on capturing the eye catching subject. Some eye catching subjects are repeating colors and features such as shapes and lines. Compose the photo using some basic rules: the rule of three puts the center of interest at point that is roughly at 1/3 of horizontal and vertical distance from the edge; leading the eye for example using a path or a curved branch to the subject and using negative space to bring the eye to the subject are examples.

    Early morning and evening are the best times to take photos to avoid glare and washed out colors. Keep the camera steady using a tripod such as a gorillapod for smart phone or a holder designed for your phone.. Bill Sisolak demonstrated his shoulder holster. In addition to stabilizing your photos the holster is a secure carrying case for your phone. Using the volume control to “click the shutter” is another tool to reduce camera shake. Review the picture, checking all four corners. Delete the failures. Editing is important Ms. Hankins prefers Lightroom as a more user friendly tool.

    This writer suggests visiting Ms. Hankins website for some excellent examples of the points Ms. Hankins made in our program.

  • April 09, 2016 9:00 AM | Anonymous member

    Turtle Park Clean Up

    CSX Corporation has awarded a $2,000 grant to the garden club for our work in Turtle Park, the city park just north of Eastern Market. The company has established a grant program that will provide alleviation to residents directly affected by their Virginia Avenue Tunnel project and for beautification projects in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. The CHGC is very grateful for this grant, as it will enable us to bring the Turtle Park back to its role as a showplace of Capitol Hill.

    Longtime garden club member, Muriel Martin-Wein cared for the park for many years. She collected money from neighbors, convinced the city to do work in the park, arranged to have broken turtles replaced, coordinated work days, and hung many birdhouses. As her health began to restrict her activities, Muriel was less able to do these things, but her spirit remains strong and she retained her interest in the park.

    Last winter, the Community Projects Committee of the club decided to sponsor a work day at the park to begin the renovation. The effort began with the application to CSX for grant monies to be used for materials and plants. The work at Turtle Park began on April 9, with a large turnout of CHGC members and nearby residents. This stalwart group pulled weeds and invasive bushes, planted rosemary, Hellebores, and liriope, and laid 75 bags of mulch on the park through rain and snow. (See story below.) The following day, a small group of members came to continue the work. Muriel was present on both days to help direct the work in the garden beds. Since then, she has recruited volunteers to help her complete the renovation work. She plans to continue this work in an effort to control the weeds and provide water to plants that need it. The Community Projects Committee will plan another major work day in the fall to lay mulch and plant spring-blooming bulbs, additional perennials, and perhaps a small tree or two. Because all the work will be done by volunteers, the funds from CSX will go far.

    Thus far, the garden club project to renovate the park has been a great success. But we all know that weeds are persistent. If any club member or community resident would like to help Muriel over the rest of the spring and through the summer, please call her at 202-546-8977. And, she is still collecting birdhouses and donations to purchase them. Muriel also has several birdhouses that had hung in the park but need repair. If anyone knows of a person who could do the simple woodwork to repair these birdhouses, please let Muriel know. With CSX funds, the club will pay for materials. Muriel would like to hang a large number of birdhouses in the park so our neighborhood children can search for them, as did generations past when 75 birdhouses hung in the park.

    Additional photos from this event may be found on our Facebook page.

    Turtle Park Clean Up

    Members of the Capitol Hill Garden Club, with the help of other neighbors, rallied in the Spring snow on April 9th to do a ‘clean up’ project at Turtle Park near Eastern Market on Capitol Hill.

    Longtime CHGC member Muriel Martin-Wein has cared for this park and encouraged neighbors and garden club members to help her. She can no longer do the gardening work herself, but was present to advise as to the various tasks to be done. About 2 dozen people were there to work!

    Additional photos from this event may be found on our Facebook page.

  • April 09, 2016 8:30 AM | Anonymous member
    Weeding and Mulching At Eastern Market

    Also on April 9th, a group of Club volunteers led by Leanna Fenske, weeded and mulched the tree boxes on the north plaza of Eastern Market and in front of the Natatorium.

    This is becoming an annual event for our Club, doing what we can to keep our neighborhood beautiful.

  • March 08, 2016 5:30 PM | Anonymous member

    Growing Roses In An Urban Garden

    Featuring: Jay Jensen, American Rose Society

    Basics and beyond: In one of our most informative meetings, our speaker introduced us to growing techniques and varieties suitable to our micro-climate, energy levels and environmental concerns.

    His photos were wonderful, and the details in his PowerPoint incredibly valuable to novice and experienced rose gardeners alike. The presentation deck that he used is attached below, and has lots and lots of information, photos, etc.

    Mr. Jensen on several occasions referred to our Past President, Carol Edwards, as a great source for information on Organic Rose gardening.

    Members who are particularly interested in roses will want to visit the website for the American Rose Society, or maybe consider joining. The Society exists to promote the culture and appreciation of the rose, through education and research to members, to local rose societies and their members, and to the public. After you have seen the sampling of photos here, taken from their website, you'll want to click the link below to see all the rest!

    For even more information on growing roses, please visit the Member's Articles page of the Club's website where you'll find articles written by our own member and past president, Carol Edwards.


    The American Rose Society

           Presentation Deck:

    Rose Overview

  • February 08, 2016 5:30 PM | Anonymous member

    Capitol Hill's Alluvial Soil

    Well, if you ever wanted to get all the dirt on soil, I hope you were at this meeting! Maxine Levine, a Soil Scientist from the USDA/NRCS/SSD, brought Capitol Hill's alluvial soil to life, telling us it's history, contents, living creatures, and what amendments it may need for successful gardening.

    It was very informative, with lots of pictures, charts and graphs. Her complete presentation deck is available below where you can view it, download it, and learn from it.  It's a big file, make sure you have a good connection.

    Many thanks to Sandra Bruce for planning and organizing this presentation.

    PDF Alluvial Soil.pdf

  • January 11, 2016 5:30 PM | Anonymous member

    Tell Us About YOUR Garden

    For our January meeting, 3 Club members shared how they planned their garden, what is in it, and a few of their secrets for maintaining and enjoying it. 

    This program is always a favorite with our members, and drew the largest crowd for any meeting this season.

    Many thanks to Evelyn McKay for planning and organizing this evening's presentations.


    Marian Wiseman - House Renovation

    After a major house renovation in 2011, our back garden was decimated. We took the opportunity to create an entirely new garden. 

    Along each side of our lot we built triangular planters that are angled to complement the new deck. Each of the three planters on one side has a bush that stays green throughout the winter: a Pieris japonica and two azaleas. 

    Flowering perennials are the basis of the garden. Something is in bloom all during the growing season, starting with azaleas, Jack Frost, astilbe, heuchera, and iris in April and May, continuing with plants such as peonies, bee balm, phlox, smooth beard tongue, and cone flowers through the summer, and asters in the fall. 

    To break up the large brick wall bordering one side of the garden, we installed a twine trellis system on one end, and we are espaliering a pyrochantha at the other end.



    Joseph Purdy & Anthony Pontorno - Jenkins Row Terrace

    After many years of gardening on Capitol Hill, Joe and Anthony sold their home and moved to a top floor condominium with a 12x18 terrace where they can look down to see Pennsylvania Ave, and across the city to the Capitol dome, the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, and the Arboretum.

    Although they would still able to garden, the terrace was a game-changer in that they would now be container gardening in almost full sun.  Their goal was to create a space that would look ‘heavily landscaped’ all year by using an array of evergreen plants and trees, but also be a space that would offer seasonal color via deciduous, flowering plants and trees.  Finally, for summer impact, Anthony chose an assortment of non-traditional planters (plastic containers from the Container Store), to fill in 3 1/2 sides of the terrace with colorful perennials and annuals.  In the end, "I wanted the plants look like they were growing right out of the ground, like the hanging gardens of Babylon” according to Anthony.

    To connect them spiritually with their former house and garden, they incorporated a few plants that they brought with them, as well as 4 statues (the Four Seasons), and most importantly, the very unexpected crystal chandelier that Anthony used to hang from a large oak tree.

    The result is a lush space where they feel that are still in a row house garden, where they can enjoy morning coffee, have afternoon wine and cheese with friends, or sip a late evening martini before retiring.

    Noteworthy plants that Anthony selected include Cherokee Princess Dogwood, Weeping Carolina Cedar, Fox Tail Spruce, Climbing Hydrangea, Japanese Cut Leaf Maple, Varigated Euonymus (Glacier), Boxwoods, Japanese Forest Grass, Japanese Painted Ferns and a very spectacular chocolate drop weeping coleus.

    To alter the effect each year, Anthony chooses his annuals carefully, e.g. one year everything bloomed with white flowers, while last year he chose Black Satin Petunia with chartreuse potato vine as his dominant colors.

    Joe feels that the biggest difference between in-ground and roof top gardening is the enormous quantity of water that the plants need, even in winter.  The biggest surprise was seeing so many mosquitos traveling 5 stories high for a bite to eat.  The most unexpected pleasures are the many small birds attracted to the water feature.

    "In this garden, the only thing I do is take the tags off the new bushes, and water", quipped Joe,  "Anthony does all the rest".



    Joyce Jones and Floyd Brown 

         Artistic Accents in a Lovely Garden

    After many years of fighting mosquitos on our deck, and a very overgrown crabapple tree in our backyard, we decided to take the plunge and create a smaller growing space, water feature and fountain with Koi, and a screened porch from which to view the garden and decorative artifacts. One of my favorite features is a new brick wall constructed using old bricks and a wonderful new medieval style gate leading to the parking area. An American Fringe tree, planted in place of the crabapple is surrounded by a growing boxwood border.

    A curly willow started from little more than twigs is now about 12ft. tall and waiting to be repotted in late winter so that it can continue to add graceful swaying against our stairs and fence.

    This leaves more time to devote to the front garden which continues down to the sidewalk where I have used boxwood and other evergreens for structure and a background for garden artwork, including an iron tree and seated statue that all can enjoy--photo ops with grandchildren on the block are popular!  A very large Harry Lauder Walking Stick oversees summer annuals and winter cabbages. A healthy ligularia plant provides summer, fall, and winter interest. A spring iris border on the other side of the walkway is watched over by a friendly satyr.

    Some years ago, it seemed like a great idea to create a small step and walkway between our garden and that of our neighbor to be used in snowy weather as she leaves early for work--meaning Floyd has only one path to shovel! Providing a helping hand in keeping the next door garden watered and casually maintained has been worthwhile both because we wanted to do it and also because it adds to the appearance of our adjoining gardens. Recently, a new garden club member has taken on the job of redoing our neighboring garden and it looks great!



  • December 02, 2015 4:30 PM | Anonymous member

    Deck The Halls Greens Workshop

    Our Club kicked off the holiday season with another successful Deck The Halls Greens Workshop. Thirty one members participated this year, making an array of holiday wreaths, table arrangements and other holiday decorations.

    Instructions and guidance were provided to those who wanted some help. Ed Peterman demonstrated bow-making. A few members took the greens home, without making anything at the workshop.

    The refreshment table was particularly impressive this year, with an array of foods and beverages bought by our members.

    We had several new members attending this year, we hope they enjoyed the evening!

    Many thanks are sent to the members who worked so hard to make this year's event great, including Sonia Conly, Marissa Zapata, Sandra Bruce, Mary Ann Sroufe, Carol Edwards, Doris Celarier, Ed Peterman, and Donna Brauth.

@ 2016 Capitol Hill Garden Club, Inc.

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