Master gardeners stand around cart and clap

Virginia Beach seed library cart enters fourth season

By Debi Edwards, Virginia Beach Master Gardener

The Virginia Beach Seed Library was created as a joint project of the Meyera E Obendorf (MEO) Central  Library and Virginia Beach Master Gardeners (VBMG) to entice the general public to start planting home gardens.  Since the grand opening in 2018, we have distributed 23,287 seed packets (over 232,000 seeds!) to 719 participants.

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house in colonial williamsburg with trees

Colonial Williamsburg Arboretum Educational Tree Project

Colonial Williamsburg (CW) has within its boundaries a unique collection of trees and woody plants.  The majority of them are native to the Mid-Atlantic region, and those that are not, were introduced into the Virginia Colony prior to 1800.  Although these plants were familiar to Virginia colonists, many of today’s visitors do not recognize them because they are not readily available in commercial nurseries. 

In 2018, six James City County/Williamsburg Master Gardener Tree Steward volunteers recognized the importance of this collection of trees and woody shrubs. After conversations with the CW Landscape Management Team and certified arborist, they proposed establishment of an arboretum in Colonial Williamsburg. Their work was instrumental in developing a plan in consultation with the arborist to apply for national arboretum status with the ArbNet Arboretum Accreditation Program ( maintained by the Morton Arboretum Registry.

Their work began by assembling historic records of the landscape plants by Arthur A. Shurcliff. Mr Shurcliff was the first Landscape Architect employed by John F. Rockefeller, Jr. in the 1930’s to oversee the planning layout of gardens and plantings during restoration. His plans and plats, and those developed by his successors, were obtained from the CW archives and reviewed by our teams. Next came the lengthy process of locating and inventorying the thousands of  trees and woody shrubs in the 300+ acre Historic Area of the Colonial Capitol. The Tree Stewards were divided into two-person teams and the Historic Area was divided into sections to be visited and inventoried. These inventories were recorded on spreadsheets with identifying information to form the base for later inclusion in an international Botanical Gardens Conservational Information [BGCI] plant search database. Then selections from each species were made and specimens were tagged with metal signs with QR codes that linked to an accessible data base containing information about that plant that is available to the public using a code reader on their smart phones and tablets.

On September 28, 2018, their application for Level I Status (25 trees and/or woody shrubs tagged) was approved as a fully accredited national arboretum. Work was completed on July 22, 2019 that elevated the arboretum to Level II status (100 trees and/or woody shrubs tagged). CW is now the only Level II arboretum in the Commonwealth. The eventual, long-term goal is for the arboretum to become a fully accredited Level III (500 trees and/or woody shrubs tagged) national arboretum and work is on-going to achieve that goal. Currently the only Level III arboretum in the Commonwealth is Arlington National Cemetery. Colonial Williamsburg has created a webpage for the public to learn about the Arboretum with informational links and an interactive map of the Arboretum with links to the Virginia Tech dendrology website can be found at:

screen shot of arboretum map showing colonial Williamsburg satellite view with arrows for trees
Interactive online arboretum map

As a natural educational component of that project, the James City County/Williamsburg Tree Steward Volunteers took advantage of the educational possibilities that logically flow from the creation of the CW Arboretum. JCC/W Master Gardeners have long enjoyed a working relationship with Colonial Williamsburg. Over 20 years ago the unit developed the Learning Garden Project, that maintains two  demonstration gardens growing period flowers and vegetables in the Historic area. Master Gardener volunteers conduct weekly public tours through the gardens explaining sustainable gardening techniques and practices. Because of the success of that project, the Tree Stewards developed another joint project with CW that uses the Arboretum as a resource to educate the public on the value of trees and woody shrubs in our ecosystem. Trained volunteer Tree Stewards provide guided tours of the Arboretum on a regularly-scheduled, weekly basis under the guidance of the CW Landscape Management Team. Prior to Covid restrictions, the public, CW visitors, school groups, youth organizations and nature-based interest groups took advantage of this project. These tours involve plant identification and ​​cultural requirements, responsible landscape management, and natural resource conservation, ecological and/or environmental concerns, and the challenges involved in maintaining an urban forest.

This program provides a high level of visibility and exposure for the JCC/W Master Gardener unit, the Peninsula Tree Stewards and the Virginia Cooperative Extension educational programs and supports the overall mission of Virginia Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners: “to better utilize our resources, we form collaborations with hundreds of public and private partners and volunteers, who help us reach larger and more diverse audiences and also leverage the impact of our work …to serve communities throughout the Commonwealth… by providing communities with locally identified programs, including answers to individual questions via …educational programs to meet targeted needs; education for the preservation of historic landscapes; urban tree planting programs; and guidance in making the natural environment accessible to all residents regardless of disabilities, incomes, or where they live.”

Resources for the avid tree-hugger

This project has continued for the past 2 years and is on-going. Obviously, there is a great deal of detail and work that has been expended that cannot be explained in sufficient detail for this short summary. However, our Tree Stewards would be glad to share their experience and resources with anyone who  contemplates undertaking a similar project or any portion of it.

boxes of produce sit on a stone path with yellow flowers in a garden behind them

Fred Heutte Demonstration Garden COVID Response

By: Paul Ziegler, Norfolk Extension Master Gardener

For over 10 years, Norfolk Master Gardeners have operated a Demonstration Garden at the Fred Heutte Center in Norfolk’s Ghent neighborhood. The garden, consisting of 40 4ft X 4ft raised beds, utilizes Square Foot Gardening techniques to demonstrate how to maximize food growing potential in an urban environment.  The entire garden is maintained by a cadre of extremely dedicated Norfolk Master Gardeners and a few neighborhood volunteers. All produce is donated to the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia.  It has served as a hands-on educational opportunity for not only our Interns, but for our “seasoned perennials” as well.  It has been a central focal point to helpgroups and individuals interested in growing their own produce.

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close up branches affected by boxwood blight show leaf yellowing

In Chesterfield, plant disease diagnosis goes virtual amid coronavirus

By: John McBride

In Chesterfield, plant disease diagnosis goes virtual amid coronavirus

Last summer, a local first-time vegetable gardener called the Chesterfield County Master Gardener Help Desk with a big problem: all his tomato plants seemed to be dying. Peg Tipple, Chesterfield County Master Gardener volunteer, jumped into action. After dissecting plant samples brought to the lab, she identified the problem. The gardener had planted his tomatoes in containers that were too small.

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obelisk in corhaven graveyard

NSV Master Gardeners Work to Restore Corhaven Graveyard

By: Gabrielle Sanderson

Sarah Kohrs, a Northern Shenandoah Extension Master Gardener, attended a workshop for the Corhaven Slave Cemetery called “Honoring the Forgotten” and immediately jumped on the opportunity to apply for the Corhaven Graveyard to become a project through the  Extension Northern Shenandoah Valley Master Gardeners. The mission of the Extension Master Gardener Program is to share knowledge and empower communities, and through the Corhaven Graveyard project, Northern Shenandoah Master Gardeners illustrate the power of this mission.

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strasburg community garden

Strasburg Community Garden

By Gabrielle Sanderson

Do you know what a food desert is?  A food desert is an urban area where is it difficult to buy affordable, or good-quality fresh food.  You may be shocked to know that there are many of these, right here in Virginia! The town of Strasburg has a food desert that encompasses 90% of its community. Continue reading