Monthly Archives: November 2017

Green Spring Master Gardener Program Celebrates 15 Years

IMG_4034Teenage years are a time of energy, excitement and new experiences, years of change that contribute to forming a sense of identity and purpose. The Green Spring Master Gardener (GSMG) program is 15 in 2017, and in its teen years it continues to have an enthusiasm of purpose.

The seed for the program was planted in 2002, and its identity was shaped by a partnership with the Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE). The VCE is a link between land grant universities and community residents. Before the Civil War, very few college curriculums addressed the problems of citizens who made their livelihood from agriculture. In 1862, Congress passed the Morrill Act which provided for a university in every state that would educate citizens in agricultural and mechanical fields. Today, these colleges are known as land grant universities. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) and Virginia State University are Virginia’s land grant schools.

VCE created the Master Gardener (MG) program to meet increasing requests from dscf6551-e1511978680564.jpghomeowners for research-based horticultural information. MG volunteers are trained by experts in their respective fields to provide consumers with up-to-date, reliable knowledge so residents can enjoy the natural resources around their homes. Master Gardeners keep up with the latest in horticultural research and trends by putting in eight hours of training each year in order to remain certified. Green Spring boasts about 150 active Master Gardeners and 30 trainees. They contributed over 9,700 service hours in 2016. Their activities included a Speaker’s Bureau that addressed 171 attendees at six Fairfax County libraries as well as members of the National Capital Area Gardening Study School, the Azalea Society of America and various gardening clubs and groups in Fairfax County.

In collaboration with Fairfax County Master Gardeners, GSMGs brought a basic botany class to 72 fourth-grade classrooms in 21 Fairfax County public schools, homeschool groups and Girl Scout troops, teaching a total of 1,743 students. Other children’s programs include Learn, Explore and Play, an interpretive team for the Master Gardener Demonstration Gardens and Ready, Set, Grow for fourth graders.

DSCF6700The GSMGs man the Green Spring Gardens help desk every Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and the VCE office in Fairfax. They display educational material and answer questions at Fairfax County Farmers Markets and local green fairs, give tours of Green Spring Gardens, hold a yearly EcoSavvy Symposium, and erect instructive horticulture displays in Fairfax County libraries. The GSMGs also have developed partnerships with local organizations. Master Gardeners work with Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, organizing volunteers to work in the native plant gardens and lead tours and educational programming. The latest endeavor is a partnership with the Woodburn Crisis Care Center to improve and enhance a healing garden space and provide education.

The 15-year-old program is committed to providing gardening advice and educational programming for the community. Many of the MGs are professionals either retired or working as teachers, nurses, doctors, university professors and IT specialists. They freely offer their expertise, time and passion to the Green Spring Master Gardener Program because they believe in its value to affect the citizens of Fairfax County and the environment. Educator Lucy Wheelock always said, “The one thing that makes life worth living is to serve a cause.” The GSMGs do just that.

Author Pam Smith is the Community Horticulture Supervisor at Green Spring Gardens.

How to Live Like a Fairfax in Fairfax County

Lahey_121615_0537Lahey Lost Valley

You may have visited historic homes in Fairfax County, perhaps to see the view over Hybla Valley from the porch at Historic Huntley or to learn how to churn butter and crank ice cream at Sully Historic Site. Fairfax County is rich with history and historic places to visit when we break from our hectic schedules.

What if you could visit one of these sites every day? Would you like to wake each morning at Lahey Lost Valley and be surrounded by 22 acres of serenity in the heart of Vienna? To settle in for a family movie night under 140-year-old beams supporting your living room ceiling at Clark/Enyedi House? No longer do you have to daydream what it would be like to follow in Thomas Fairfax’s footsteps, ascending Ash Grove’s three-floor, wrap-around staircase to retire for the evening. All this could be yours thanks to the Resident Curator Program of Fairfax County.

Ash groveThe Resident Curator Program is an opportunity for people – no Fairfax DNA required – to live in a county historic property. You could live rent free in a historic home under a long-term lease with the county if you’ll help protect county history by rehabilitating the property over several years. There are preservation professionals on the county’s staff who will provide support and advice during the process. At the end of the long-term lease, you will have made a significant difference in preserving Fairfax County’s history.

The Resident Curator Program preserves historic buildings in the county. Its goal is to rehabilitate and maintain underutilized historic properties and provide periodic public access to them so that residents can appreciate the historical significance of the properties. The program preserves select historic properties by offering long-term leases to qualified tenants who agree to rehabilitate and maintain the buildings and their landscapes in accordance with established preservation standards. A curator can be a private citizen, a non-profit, or a for-profit organization. Rehabilitation must meet the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation, and the curator must provide reasonable public access to the property. In return, curators pay no rent while they continue to fulfill their contractual obligations.

Several properties will be available in the coming months. See them and get more information about the program online at

To follow the restoration progress of our first curated property, please visit the Stempson House’s curator blog at

Author Margaret Puglisi is a Heritage Resource Technician for the Fairfax County Park Authority.

The Impact One Day of Volunteering Can Have

Mt. Eagle Park signA park in Fairfax County’s Huntington neighborhood recently got some TLC from a new neighbor.

More than 70 employees of Washington Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) turned out on November 3, 2017, to clean Mount Eagle Park, a little green oasis behind a townhouse development next to the Huntington Metro station. Washington REIT acquired an apartment complex about a mile away last year and chose to clean up the park for its annual corporate Day of Service.

Mount Eagle Park features a playground, a “beach” volleyball court, DSCN0944 Mt. Eagle Pka shelter with picnic tables and plenty of open space surrounded by trees.

The Fairfax County Park Authority’s (FCPA) Area 3 Maintenance Crew and staff from the agency’s Invasive Management Area Program (IMA) developed a list of projects they thought could be accomplished in a single session, and everyone went to work on a beautiful fall day. Washington REIT and FCPA provided the labor. Tree plantingMuch of the materials and supplies were donated, including 25 trees.

Area 3 Maintenance Director Phil Hager and Cathy Ledec, the Mount Eagle Park IMA Site Leader, tallied results that included:

  • More than 3,000 square feet of invasive plants removed
  • 70 bags of invasive plant material removed
  • 600 feet of railing painted
  • 10 tons of stone dust spread on 360 feet of trail
  • A volleyball court edged
  • 40 tons of sand added to volleyball court
  • 18 yards of fiber added to the playground
  • Playground equipment scrubbed
  • 25 native trees planted
  • One sign installed
  • Four signs painted
  • Several signs straightened
  • Exposed wood on the park pavilion treated with water sealant
  • The pavilion floor power washed
  • One bench dug out and relocated
  • Trash picked up and removed.Mt. Eagle Cleanup

Ledec said the largest item retrieved was a vacuum cleaner.

“A good and safe time was had by all,’’ Hager said.

“I was humbled by the energized, enthusiastic and dedicated volunteer team who completed a long list of trail and park maintenance projects,’’ said Ledec, noting that it all was accomplished in six hours.

Ledec said many neighbors taking walks that day and others in the neighborhood stopped to express their gratitude. It was, she said, “All-in-all a very successful day of community service.”

Author Lori K. Weinraub is a professional journalist and a volunteer writer for the Fairfax County Park Authority.

Look for the Little Free Library at Green Spring Gardens

Lending Library 2It’s little, it’s free, and it’s good for you. It’s a national movement that Green Spring Gardens has joined.

Little Free Libraries started in 2009 when Todd Bol of Wisconsin built a model of a one-room school house as a tribute to his mother, who was a teacher with a love of reading. He put the house in his front yard, filled it with books, and neighbors borrowed them as they wished. It was a huge success, the news media spread the word, and Bol was soon making and giving away houses.

Rick Brooks of the University of Wisconsin learned of the houses and, inspired by a program called, “take a book, leave a book,” teamed with Bol to place houses in public spaces such as coffee shops. Most were funded by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. By the end of 2013, Brooks and Bol had established 2,508 Little Free Libraries.

Fast forward four years. I overhead Master Gardener and Friends of Green Spring (FROGS) board member Tatiana Lisle talking about a little library for the Children’s Garden at Green Spring. Community Horticulture Supervisor Pam Smith was considering placing one near the Children’s or Wildlife Gardens. By chance, there was a Little Free Library close to my home that was modeled after nearby townhouses, complete with spindles, shutters and wood siding. That led me to its builder, Glen Crumley. The retired Navy pilot and grandfather of five offered to build a house for Green Spring for just the cost of supplies. Green Spring is working with FROGS to keep it stocked with children’s books on gardening, vegetables, worms, butterflies, and other appropriate topics.

Keep an eye out for it on your future visits to Green Spring Gardens, and borrow one of the books. You may find this little, free gesture will bring something nice to your life.

Information about the Little Free Library at Green Spring Gardens is available at the park. Author Gioia Caiola Forman is a Master Gardener and a Friend of Green Spring board member.