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Take advantage of native plant sale season!

Are you looking for plants that will beautify your yard while requiring a minimum of maintenance? The plants that evolved here are the ones for you! The more local the origin of a plant, the more likely it is to be adapted to our particular soils and climate. There could be a big difference between an Eastern Red Columbine that evolved in Virginia and one that evolved in Saskatchewan, even if they do look alike!

We are fortunate in Northern Virginia to have many sources of native plants. In addition to the native-only nurseries – some of which propagate plants themselves from local seed sources – there are numerous vendors who set up shop at special plant sales in the spring and fall.  Find a list  on the Plant NOVA Natives website. The homepage of the site has the free, downloadable Guide to Native Plants of Northern Virginia.   If you are looking for particular plants, you can contact vendors in advance and ask them to bring them for you. Traditional commercial nurseries are selling more and more native plants as well (but don’t expect to find natives at big box stores).

In addition, the Virginia Native Plant Society sells plants from its propagation beds at Green Spring Gardens, 4603 Green Spring Rd., Alexandria VA the first Wednesday of the month from 10.00 am to 12.00 pm from April to October.  The Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy is also having its sale on May 19th.

Our local wildlife agree that native plants are the best. In fact, the ecosystem is entirely dependent on the plants that evolved with our bees, butterflies, birds, etc. Why not give them a home on your property?

Become part of the Habitat Network

Cornell Ornithology Lab and The Nature Conservancy have joined together to create Habitat Network, the first citizen science social network. Habitat Network is a citizen science project designed to cultivate a richer understanding of wildlife habitat, for  professional scientists and people concerned with their local environments.

The Network collects data by asking individuals across the country to, literally, draw maps of their backyards, parks, farms, favorite birding locations, schools, and gardens. They connect you with your landscape details and provide tools for you to make better decisions about how to manage landscapes sustainably.

The kinds of questions they are seeking to answer with your help:

  • What practices improve the wildlife value of residential landscapes?
  • Which of these practices have the greatest impact?
  • Over how large an area do we have to implement these practices to really make a difference?
  • What impact do urban and suburban wildlife corridors and stopover habitats have on birds?
  • Which measures (bird counts? nesting success?) show the greatest impacts of our practices?

Service Project C253-Habitat Yard Mapping is approved for credit for FMN graduates. You can map your own yard, a local park, or other public or private property for which you have access permission. 

Learn more

Volunteer with the Virginia Native Plant Society Potowmack Chapter at Green Spring Gardens

Join the VNPS Propagation Crew on Wednesday mornings to learn how to divide, pot and grow from seed a wide variety of native forbs. 

The native plant beds are a demonstration garden and source of plants for our spring and fall plant sales. VNPS gathers every Wednesday morning from April through October to maintain the beds and pot plants for these sales. The beds are located at Green Spring Gardens behind the Horticulture Center.

You’ll enjoy light physical exertion, and have lots of fun getting your hands dirty and your spirit full. Tools and gloves provided.

Learn more

Help tend healing gardens at Crisis Care Center in Annandale, 14 April

The Crisis Care Center in Annandale is looking for volunteers to tend to its healing gardens (right next to the parking lot at Fairfax Hospital). You may remove debris (fallen branches, trash, leaves) and invasive plants, place mulch, add plant, harvest produce from a vegetable garden, and water. The Center will provide lunch.

No prior experience is necessary. Bring a hat, work gloves, sunscreen, bug spray, and water. Organizers suggest that you wear pants, long sleeved shirt, and sturdy shoes. Bring garden clippers and a digger if you have them. Since the CCC is a community treatment facility, volunteers will need to complete required paperwork when they arrive on-site. This will include an application gathering some basic information, criminal/cps history disclosure form (self report), role description, and confidentiality statement, as well as handouts to read. Volunteers can register on site when they arrive

Crisis Care Center

3300 Woodburn Rd

Annandale, VA, 22003

Saturday 14 April 2018

9 am-1 pm

For Fairfax Master Naturalists, this work counts toward Service Project S257

The healing gardens are a joint venture between Green Springs Gardens Master Gardeners and the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board. The gardens serve the residents of the CCC as a place to practice mindfulness and to find peace. Learn more

Turn Hard Virginia Clay into Healthy Soil

Building Soil Health, DIY Sustainable Yard Series

Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia

Wednesday, 7 March, 7.00-8.30 pm

Bentley Library, 5005 Duke Street, Alexandria VA 22304 OR

Tuesday, 13 March, 7.00-8.30 pm

Westover Branch Library, 1644 N. McKinley Road, Arlington VA 22205

Healthier soil means healthier and happier plants, and in this class you will learn how to create healthy soil, even if you have hard, Virginia clay!  You will learn how to create and use compost, and discuss landscape and planting techniques for preventing erosion and compaction.  Free.  Advance registration requested at mgnv.org.  Questions, telephone 703-228-6414 or email mgarlalex@gmail.com.

Review of The Humane Gardener, by Nancy Lawson

Reviewed by Ann Di Fiore

As a Fairfax Master Naturalist and Audubon at Home Ambassador, I am always on the lookout for books on native plant and wildlife gardening. The Humane Gardener (2017, 224 pp) offers insights on both topics, but what sets Lawson’s book apart from others is her emphasis on creating habitats that nurture all forms of wildlife. Interspersed with chapters on native plantings, creating habitat, and the benefits of decaying plant material are profiles of humane gardeners whose properties range from modest backyards to commercial farms.

Many of the principles Lawson lays out are well known to master naturalists: “Plant for all seasons and sizes” to address “diverse diners”; use “green mulch”—native grasses and groundcovers—rather than bark in between shrubs and trees to improve soil; choose straight species over cultivars; and don’t “love” –overwater and over fertilize—native plants.

Lawson urges us to be attentive to gardening activities that have tragic consequences for wildlife.  In a section entitled “Don’t Mow the Teenagers,”she warns us that mowing, pruning, and raking can cut short the life cycles of ground insects and other animals. Fritillary larvae, for example, crawl onto violet plants in early spring and, as Doug Tallamy puts it, “we murder them with our lawn mowers.”  Baby rabbits in hidden nests and other young animals are vulnerable as well.

When removing invasive plants from our properties, Lawson asks us to “triage” their removal to minimize adverse effects on wildlife that make use of these plants. Early blooming invasives may be the only available nectar sources to bees, fruiting shrubs like Amur honeysuckles may fill a significant part of a bird’s diet.

In The Humane Gardener, Lawson addresses an uncomfortable truth:  the wild creatures most gardeners want to support are songbirds and pollinators. Many other forms of wildlife we consider interlopers—enemies. She enumerates the cruelties inflicted by pest removal services, glue traps, even “humane” deterrents (predator urine, for instance, is captured from caged coyotes and other animals on fur farms). She advocates flexibility and a more generous perspective:  opossums and raccoons eat carrion, ticks, and slugs; rabbits devour dandelions; and moles and chipmunks till the soil, increasing its fertility.

In a world of shrinking natural spaces and biodiversity, Lawson asks us to reconsider our ideas of ownership and make room for all forms of wildlife.  Above all, she asks that we be conscious of the consequences of our routine gardening choices.  She promises that our gardens will be healthier—and more humane—as a result.

Want to review a resource? We’d love to hear from you. Instructions for submission await your click and commitment.

Learning opportunity: Designing green roof habitats in cities

Join the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) and Biophilic DC as they explore emerging design practices and issues related to this new urban habitat. Both organizations will have information on hand to help you get involved. Weds, 7 February 2018 6:30–8:00 PM ASLA Center for Landscape Architecture 636 I Street Northwest Washington, DC 20001 […]

Attend Shenandoah Valley Plant Symposium 2018

Waynesboro Parks and Recreation presents A Gardener’s Palette, a learning opportunity for everyone from garden hobbyist to experienced landscape architect.

Proceeds from the event support our horticulture department’s Bloom Program.

Friday, March 16, 2018 from 8:00 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.

Best Western Inn & Conference Center, Waynesboro, VA

Learn more and register.