Green Spring Gardens Gate Plant Shop is Open

Enjoy their simple, phone-in/curbside pick-up shopping experience to sate that pent-up demand for Green Spring’s outstanding seasonal selections of perennials, woodies and annuals.

1.Download this week’s plant list/order form to make your selections. (New plant lists published each Thursday so check back for new offerings.)

2.Phone in your order at 703.642.5173. Please have your completed order form, credit card and email address handy when you call. (Monday-Saturday 10am-4pm; Sunday noon-4pm.)

3.FROGS members receive a 10% discount on plant purchases–be sure to mention your membership. Or join FROGS today!

4.Curbside pick-up is available Wednesdays and Fridays, 10:30am-12:30pm or 2:00-3:30pm. We’ll confirm your order and pick-up time by email.

5.At your designated pick-up time, drive up to the Horticulture Center building and remain in your car. Plant Shop staff will load plants into your car for you. Please note: It is helpful if you have space prepared for loading before you arrive.

Please note the Green Spring Horticulture Center and Historic House and their restrooms remain closed until further notice.

Gardening Opportunities in Fairfax County Parks

Both Hidden Oaks Nature Center and Riverbend Park seek volunteers to “adopt a spot” or “adopt a native plant” gardens in the parks. These independent, outdoor service projects offer plenty of safe physical distancing. Additional gardens will be available later in the summer. See descriptions below for details and contact.

Hidden Oaks Nature Center projects

Riverbend Park projects

Lawn Care for Earth Renewal

Article by Plant NOVA Natives staff

Let’s say you want to have a nice lawn, but you also want to be a good steward of the environment. Can you do both?

It turns out the answer is “yes.” Healthy yard practices can mitigate many of the problems caused by lawns. Because turf grasses are nonnative, lawns are ecologically useless and best minimized, but they have many uses such as human and pet playing surfaces and pathways for walking, and from an aesthetic perspective they make a nice contrast next to more complex plantings. It is possible to make small lawns neutral rather than actively harmful to the ecosystem.

The first thing to know is that turf grasses are native to Europe, which means they are poorly adapted to our local conditions. The conventional but destructive way to compensate for that is to add a lot of chemical inputs. The healthier alternative is to take a step back and realize that turf grass is a plant like any other, doing best when given good growing conditions. So we can start out by using turf grass only in areas where we can arrange those conditions without too much trouble and without harming the other beings that share our yards. Grass needs plenty of sunshine. To achieve good coverage in moderate shade requires reseeding it every year or two. You may be better off allowing shady areas to gradually reforest or creating a garden with shade tolerant native plants. Good coverage is more than just an aesthetic issue, since bare soil will erode and send sediment down to harm our waterways.

In sunnier areas, low-input lawn practices can yield excellent results, if not as regimented as a golf green. Here are the key steps to take.

  • Test the soil, if your lawn or landscape is underperforming or if it has been three years since your most recent soil test. An inexpensive soil test will let you know the pH and any macro or micronutrient deficiencies that need correcting. Libraries and Master Gardeners booths have soil testing kits which you can submit to the Virginia Cooperative Extension, or you can use a private company.
  • If the soil test indicates a deficiency, add organic matter. Like all plants, the roots of turf grass depend on the soil, including the fungal filaments that transport nutrients. The topsoil in many of our yards was stripped away during the construction process, leaving only the compacted clay subsoil. Adding compost (usually done in the spring, but any time is fine) restores the loose soil structure, nutrients and soil microbes that grass needs. A healthy soil (proper pH, nutrition, moisture and air levels, etc.) maintains a healthy and desirable microbial population. By contrast, adding chemical fertilizer kills the soil microbes and depletes the soil of its nutrients.
  • Adjust the pH, if needed. If the pH is less than 6 or 7, nutrients will be less available to the cool season turf grasses. If the soil test results indicate a low or high pH, adjust as recommended.
  • Maintain the height at 3.0 – 4.5 inches. Over 3.5 inches will look a little shaggier than we have come to expect but can help the plants thrive in challenging conditions and shade out undesirable weeds.
  • Do core aeration once or twice a year to provide essential oxygen to the root zone.
  • Overseed, if needed, after aerating in the fall. Shadier areas can be seeded spring and fall to maintain thicker turf cover.
  • Water new seedlings regularly. If you can’t keep them watered, they may die.
  • Avoid watering at other times. Overwatering makes the grass grow the juicy roots that grubs prefer.
  • Leave the clippings on the ground to provide organic material.
  • Leave the leaves when possible. A thin layer won’t hurt the grass, as some types of leaves will break down quickly and disappear over the winter. Thicker layers up to a point can be mulched and left in place to feed the soil. Try not to chop them up right away, though: give the butterfly pupa a chance to make their way to the ground. Wherever possible, leave the fallen leaves whole and in place to shelter the critters over the winter.

Of course, just because you can create a relatively harmless lawn, doesn’t mean a yard filled with lawn will support life. To give our birds, butterflies and bees the best chance of surviving, we will need to make native plants the default choice. But a judicious amount of lawn can be included in a strategy for creating habitats that are welcoming to all of us Earthlings. The Plant NOVA Natives website has details on how to manage lawn for a healthy ecosystem.

Nature in a Time of Crisis: A Conversation with Melanie Choukas-Bradley

Jun 12, 2020, 1:00 PM

Join Capital Nature and Park Rx America for a timely discussion with naturalist and author Melanie Choukas-Bradley. Inspired by her new book: Resilience: Connecting with Nature in a Time of Crisis, the program will explore how a relationship with nature can nurture and support our wellbeing during COVID-19 and other crisis times.

Melanie will share highlights from her interviews with aspiring and seasoned naturalists across the country. She will offer practical advice for: “how to establish a wild home; how to develop nature connection as a mindfulness practice such as integrating meditation, yoga and tai chi; how to become a backyard naturalist and weave nature appreciation and study into your home schooling and how to develop new ways of seeing and being in the world.” We will also hear from DC-area residents who have found new ways to engage with nature for their own wellbeing and the wellbeing of their families.

This event is co-hosted with Park Rx America. We invite you to listen in and join us for the conversation!

Register here

Become a Virginia Master Gardener, Fall 2020!

Green Spring Gardens Master Gardeners Unit is seeking applicants for their upcoming Fall 2020 training session. Due to COVID restrictions, they’ve developed a training program that is COVID compliant and meets the Virginia Cooperative Extension Master Gardener basic training for Master Gardener certification criteria. If you like gardening (you don’t have to be expert at it), if you like volunteering outdoors and/or providing outreach and education to promote eco-savvy sustainable horticultural practices, and you want to join a great group with a purpose, become a Green Spring Master Gardener! They have a wide range of projects for all abilities and interests across the county.

Green Spring Gardens, a Fairfax County Park which focuses on demonstration gardens, sponsors an Extension Master Gardener (EMG) program in cooperation with Virginia Cooperative Extension. Go online to: and learn what EMGs do.

They are planning for a blended Master Gardener training program this fall with Covid-19 safety protocols in mind. Online modules will be part of the program so a computer or tablet with good internet service are required tools for the success of the program. They will also have weekly get-togethers via Zoom platform with speakers, labs and Q & A sessions. If they meet for hands-on labs, it will be with social distancing in mind for the safety of all participants. If you are interested in joining the Green Spring Master Gardener Training Program, please contact Pamela Smith, EMG Coordinator at for an application and further information. Classes begin September 17.

Mathematical Patterns in Nature: Online Talk

Thursday, Jun 11, 2020, 7:00pm – 8:00pm

Recorded webinar here

This program is co-hosted by the Fauquier County Public Library

Mathematics gives us a powerful tool for looking at and studying nature. Math can help us understand why plants and animals build their structures in certain ways and why some numbers and shapes are more common in nature than others. The Clifton Institute’s Managing Director, Eleanor Harris, Ph.D., will talk about some of the mathematical patterns that can be found in the forests and fields of northern Virginia and about how you too can look at nature mathematically. She will also present a fun craft that you can do with kids to get them thinking about math in nature. No specialized mathematical knowledge will be required to enjoy the talk.

Please use the button below to register by noon on the day of the talk. We will send you a link to join the Zoom meeting via email at that time, so please make sure your email address is correct when you register. The talk is recorded for those who registered late or missed the live presentation.


If you are an FMN member, this presentation is on the Continuing Education calendar for credit.

Upcoming Webinar: Social Marketing as a Behavior-Centered Design Tool

On June 10, Dulce Espelosin, Senior Trainer at Rare’s Center for Behavior and the Environment, will lead two webinars hosted by the International Social Marketing Association. Tune in as she shares the unique opportunities and challenges of supporting community-led, behavior change campaigns.

Working in remote places presents many challenges when it comes to nature conservation, beginning with communicating with its inhabitants. The most effective tool has been behavior change design embedded within a social marketing strategy. In this webinar, Ms. Espelosin will share the strategies she used with a community in Mozambique to make a sustainable change.

Fairfax County hosts a diverse community of people who will respond differently to the messages they hear. Tune in to discover how you might change your approach and increase the likelihood that you will succeed.

Webinar 1: 12:00pm-1:00pm Register

Webinar 2: 8:00pm-9:00pm Register

For FMN members: This learning opportunity is on the CE calendar.

Road Salt Trivia from the Virginia DEQ

A December 2019 survey found that around half of the population in Northern Virginia is allowed to telework during a winter storm. Of that population that can telework, only 20% always or mostly take advantage of that opportunity during a winter storm. Similarly, only 23% of people always avoid or postpone non-work activities during a winter storm. However, it is promising to note that 87% of respondents are willing to consider reducing or eliminating their travels if salt use had to be reduced. Although the impacts from salts were not well known by the respondents (on average less than 40% knew), most respondents (86%) are willing to consider supporting reductions in salt use if they knew of the impacts to drinking water and the environment. Click here to see the full summary that was presented at the last Education & Outreach workgroup meeting in February, 2020.

Learn more about the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality’s Salt Management Strategy Development.

Nature in Isolation: Fairfax Master Naturalists find things to do during the pandemic, Part II

Sit Spot example

Claudia Thompson-Deahl recommends signing up to start a Sit Spot routine. A Sit Spot is a place on the land that you go to every day or several times a week. It is your special spot that is kind of like an anchor where you get to watch all that is going on in nature over the course of the year. You might sit on a rock, lean against a tree, up on a hill, etc. It is a place where you sit quietly, observe, interact and get to know the land on a deeper level. Subscribing provides daily emails for 14 days. Read the email, then go to your Sit Spot and do the daily nature activity. Claudia observes, “It’s been a really great way to start each day and these posts are a great inspiration.”

Mike Walker: Being confined to my home and having to cancel all time consuming outside volunteer activities, coincided with this long, cool spring and has evolved into a wonderful opportunity to examine closely my quarter acre corner of the universe, just like Thoreau did at Walden Pond. I have lived in my home for over 30 years but having much more time (and newly cleaned windows) has shown me many signs of nature that I had never seen before. By keeping the bird feeder filled into late May, I have been rewarded with visits from many bird species right outside my dining window. Just today a Rose Breasted Grosbeak, tufted titmouse and Black-capped nuthatch had breakfast with me. Maybe they were always around, but more time at the window means more interesting sightings.

Photo by Mike Walker

Two fox families are also in the neighborhood, one a block away with six hungry kits. Mother or dad pass through several times a day, I know of at least 5 squirrels that won’t try to rob my bird feeder anymore.

As I patrol my shrub and flower beds with more time on my hands, I am more aware of individual plant phenology, particularly given the cool spring and chilly nights. Watching the rapid spring growth of cool tolerant shrubs like the hollies and winterberry is amazing. I am in Year 8 of a battle to eradicate the six types of bamboo I cultivated (yes, willingly) for my koi pond. I lost the battle to “control” it and resolved to remove the bamboo before it and my wife and neighbors removed me. I am “down” to about 500 pencil-thin shoots that I trim back daily, finding the occasional 3 foot renegade hidden within a shrub when on bamboo patrol. My goal is to deprive the roots of any chlorophyll. I cautiously hope I am winning!

Photo by Mike Walker

Using instructions from Google, I have made multiple Mason Bee Houses (try it – help our native bees) and my compost bin door is left open so the wrens and chickadees can harvest the many insects for their nestlings. I am hopeful that the many bags of leaves from my yards and my neighbors that cover the perimeter of my property will reap a huge harvest of Fireflies in June.

Like Thoreau or Aldo Leopold, taking the gift of time to watch, be be aware, to listen, puts me closer to the natural world that exits right outside my kitchen door. I am making the most of this gift of time.

Cape May Warbler from

Janet Quinn: I saw my first warbler! After watching Bill Young’s Audubon Society of Northern Virginia’s two webinars on Spring Warbler Plumage and Behavior, and viewing his webpage, I traveled to Monticello Park in Alexandria with binoculars and mask. Although I had to ask my fellow birders what I was seeing, I will always remember the brightly yellow-hued Cape May in the honeysuckle bush along the stream. On a second trip, an American Redstart sang cheerfully on a branch right above my head. Although there were many flits and shadows in the bushes and trees I could not identify, I am grateful for the opportunity to be able to learn about and experience these tiny natural wonders.

Beverly Rivera: I am using this ‘calmer’ time to improve other aspects of my life. For years, I have complained that my household throws away too much food, but now with more leisure time, and with my family captive to meal-planning meetings, we are using up everything, spending a lot less on food, and throwing away (or composting) far less. I also repurposed pieces of fabric and sewed napkins and cleaning cloths so that we have cut back on the use of paper towels to almost zero (and the timing couldn’t have been better).

I’ve also come to notice that you can still tell that someone’s smiling even though they’re wearing a mask. Everyone is going through a lot at the moment and a friendly ‘Good Morning’, a smile and a wave can go a long way to making someone’s daily routine more enjoyable.

Made a Difference to That One

By Beverley Rivera

When the gyms closed because of Coronavirus, I started pacing around my local trail instead. The trail angered me because of the prevalence of invasive plants. There are acres of lesser celandine, which were all in glorious bloom at the time, groves of Chinese wisteria, areas where all you can see is English ivy and bamboo, and impenetrable thickets of multiflora rose. But what really bothered me as I stomped around the trail yanking out armfuls of garlic mustard, was the number of tiny shrubs and trees that were completely overrun with honeysuckle and oriental bittersweet; our fledgling future forest was being girdled, smothered and out-competed by invasive plants.

Sapling in a strangle hold

At that time, very few of the tiny trees actually had leaves; but the bittersweet and honeysuckle start early, snaking to the top of the plants and then branching into an anchor before spreading and flourishing. What appeared to be a healthy leafy plant was actually a tiny stick of a seedling smothered with invasive vines.

Like most Master Naturalists, I suddenly had time on my hands due to the cancellation of many volunteer opportunities, so along my walks I started untangling the tiny plants and cutting back the vines. I knew it was a temporary measure, the invasives would be back, but my rationale was to give the seedlings a season to grow unencumbered and when invasive workdays resume, try to get back to do a more thorough job.

Making a Difference: I was reminded of that old story where someone walks along a beach and discovers thousands of starfish have been washed up and are dying. The person starts picking them up and tossing them back into the ocean. A passer-by comments that there are so many that it was impossible to make a difference; to which the starfish tosser replies, ‘Made a difference to that one’.

Sapling freed from entanglement

Walking the trail now, I am amazed by what a difference one person can make, I see healthy young trees and shrubs leafing out and it inspires me for what can be achieved when it is safe to resume our regular invasive management workdays again.

Planning Ahead: Careful planning is something that doesn’t always happen during the chaos of my everyday life. But instead of just jumping in and trying to get things done, I now have the time to plan: ‘How could I turn this into a learning experience for a school group?’ ‘When is a good time of year for inexperienced volunteers to be removing certain plants?’ ‘How could this seemingly impossible situation be made to work?’

Cultivating Patience: Last year I was involved in setting up an invasive management program at Lake Accotink Park and we were just at the point of getting a steady group of volunteers and making significant progress, when the Fairfax County Park Authority asked us to halt all activities until it is safe to have large gatherings again. Like other Master Naturalists, this also meant that many of my other events were cancelled. So, I have had to develop a patient attitude; things will get done, just not right at the moment. It was a major adjustment, but my frenetic exercise program has turned into enjoyable strolls where I notice things that I never noticed previously, a hillside covered with may apples, bluebirds, a fern I’ve never seen before. It’s allowed me to step back and enjoy the things that make us Master Naturalists in the first place.