Once upon a time, I had a green thumb. My houseplants were healthy and numerous. I grew vegetables and plums in my back yard. My lawn was lush and green. I practiced organic gardening and never had trouble with pests or diseases. Then I moved to Virginia.

In Arlington, there is North Ohio Street, where every spring celebrates the calendar's defeat of February. From April through June on N. Ohio Street, a spectacular display of rhododendron and dogwoods bedecks shady hillsides, where birds sing and flit and neighbors stroll and smile.

Just outside Washington, DC in Prince George's County, Maryland, there is the National Arboretum, whose azaleas number in the thousands and promise the infinite possibilities of beauty.

These were my inspirations and the source of my aspirations for our three acres in Virginia's Northern Neck--a mere 100 or so miles southeast of Ohio Street and the National Arboretum. My results were not so awe-inspiring.

Maybe I'll have better luck with the volcanic soils in New Mexico.