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Bluebells at the Bend Festival, April 11th–CANCELED!

Riverbend Park
8700 Potomac Hills St., Great Falls VA
Saturday, 11 April 2020
10am – 3pm

Celebrate the Virginia Bluebells that carpet the early spring forest at Riverbend Park!

Pre-sale tickets are $7 online until April 10th, regular tickets are $9 at the gate.

Enjoy
• Wildflower Walks
• Live Music
• Face Painting
• Live Animals
• Moon bounce
• Obstacle Course
• Wagon Rides
• Puppet Show
• Eagle Scope
• Crafts, games, and more!

Bonus: Friends of Riverbend Park will be selling bluebells from a native plant nursery. Pots will be $10/plant. Proceeds benefit FORB and help us assist Riverbend Park.

Event is rain or shine. For questions call 703-759-9018.

Gardening for Earth Renewal

Article by Plant NOVA Natives staff

How does your garden renew the earth? Vegetable gardens, flower gardens, conventional landscaping and even container gardens can all contribute to a connected landscape that supports our local birds and butterflies. By restoring native plants and avoiding chemicals, together we can heal the damaged landscape we have created with our buildings, sterile lawn, and green-but ecologically-useless plants from other continents.

The wildlife of the East Coast evolved in concert with the complex mixture of trees and understory plants that covered most of the land in the past, plus smaller areas of meadows and wetlands. Turtles, birds, frogs and fireflies all suffer when those hundreds of species of plants are replaced by a monoculture of lawn and a few specimen shrubs. And biodiversity all but disappears when those few plants consist of species that were introduced from elsewhere, as is the case with turf grass (which is from Europe), Japanese Barberry, English Ivy, and many other commonly sold plants, some of which have become invasive and taken over our remaining natural areas.

The antidote is clear: plant more plants, and make sure they are native species! The first step is to look at any nearby natural area and figure out how your property might expand its habitat value and reduce the fragmentation that interferes with the movement of animals. Are you near woods? How about adding more trees and shade-loving shrubs and ground cover? After all, they say that shade gardens are the gardens of the future, because it will be too hot to want to spend much time in the sun! Or perhaps your yard receives your neighbor’s runoff which can be turned into an asset by deep-rooted plants that soak up the excess water and recreate a butterfly-filled meadow. Or perhaps you are lucky enough to have a lawn in full sun that could be used for a raised vegetable bed. Those vegetables are unlikely to be native plants, but the bed will absorb runoff much better than lawn, and you can improve your crop yields by adding a nearby sunny flower garden that draws in the pollinators.

It doesn’t matter whether you want to change or to keep the general appearance of your property – if you prefer, you can achieve the same general look by simply substituting native plants for introduced ones. What we should change is our understanding of how our land functions. You need not settle for a yard that is an empty hole in the map that excludes its natural residents. Rather, your home can become part of what Doug Tallamy, in his newly-released Nature’s Best Hope, is calling our future “Homegrown National Park.” If enough of us make some relatively easy changes to our yard practices, we can knit together our properties into a thriving environment where people and nature live in harmony. Now, in this time of trouble, we can renew the Earth. Find out how at www.plantnovanatives.org/gardening-for-earth-renewal.

Huntley Meadows: Preserving Native Plants, program April 9th–CANCELED!

Photo: Barbara J. Saffir (c)

Green Spring Gardens
4603 Green Spring Road, Alexandria
Thursday, 9 April 2020
7:30 – 9pm

David Lawlor will discuss the recent Natural Resource Management activities at Huntley Meadows Park including the newly revised Natural Resource Management Plan based on Natural Vegetation Communities found in the park. He will review the quality and types of Huntley Meadows Park Natural Vegetation Communities, as well as the monitoring and protection efforts for the rare plant communities and rare plants found in the park. David will also speak about the surveys and research being conducted at HMP to enhance the understanding of the ecosystems being protected.

David Lawlor is a native of Fairfax County growing up in Annandale, VA. He graduated with a B.S. in Biology from George Mason University. David has over 20 years of experience in the field of Natural Resource Management planning and implementation. David worked as the Fairfax County Assistant Wildlife Biologist for six years and has been the Natural Resource Manager at Huntley Meadows for over 15 years.

Presented by Virginia Native Plant Society, Potowmack Chapter.
Lecture is free and open to the public.

Piecing Together Nature’s Puzzle with Alonso Abugattas, March 12th–CANCELLED!

Green Spring Gardens
4603 Green Spring Road, Alexandria VA
Thursday, 12 March 2020
7:30 – 9 pm

Nature is intricately interconnected. While we certainly don’t know how all the pieces fit, we can have some informative fun trying to put them together. Virginia Native Plant Society, Potowmack Chapter presents an interesting look at how pieces of the “nature puzzle” fit together, focusing on our native flora and wildlife of course. Get a peek at just how interdependent are plants, fungi, insects, wildlife, and even humans can be and try to piece together some parts of our local nature puzzle. Take a look at host plants, oligolectic bees, ethnobotany, and other wildlife interactions. You may not look at our natural world the same way again. 

Alonso Abugattas is a well-known local naturalist, environmental educator, and storyteller in the Washington, DC area. He is the Natural Resources Manager for Arlington County Parks, VA and the longtime Co-Chair for the Beltway Chapter of Region 2 of the National Association for Interpretation, the professional association for naturalists, historians, and docents. He was awarded their Regional Outstanding Interpretive Manager Award in 2018 and the national Master Interpretive Manager in 2018. He has been trained as a Master Gardener, was made an honorary Virginia Master Naturalist for his role in starting 2 chapters, and serves as an instructor for both.

Alonso is a co-founder of the Washington Area Butterfly Club and has held several offices (including President) for the Potowmack Chapter of the Virginia Native Plant Society. With numerous mentions and appearances on television, radio, and the press, he invites you to check out his NAI Interpretive Section Thomas Say Media Award winning FaceBook Group “Capital Naturalist”, his Capital Naturalist Blog, @CapNaturalist on Twitter, and the Capital Naturalist YouTube Channel.

“Audubon at Home” program presentation, Mar. 21st

Jammes House
Mason Neck State Park
Saturday, March 21, 2020
2 pm

The Audubon Society of Northern Virginia and Plant Nova Natives will present “Creating a Wildlife Sanctuary on Your Property: The Audubon at Home Program” at 2 PM on March 21. The program will explain the importance of native plants to restoring and maintaining a balanced ecosystem and give guidance on how to do it.

The program is free and is open to everyone. The Friends of Mason Neck State Park, which is hosting the program, will provide light refreshments. Registration for the program will open on February 15. Space will be limited, so be sure to register as soon as you can.

Getting to Know and Love Your Ferns, Feb.13th

A talk by Kit Sheffield

Green Spring Gardens 
4603 Green Spring Road 
Alexandria, VA 22312 
Thursday, February 13, 2020
7:30 – 9:00 pm 

Please join the Potowmack Chapter of the Virginia Native Plant Society for a talk by Kit Sheffield, who will answer the following
questions: What is a fern and what makes it different from other organisms? What is a “fern ally”? How do ferns grow and reproduce? How can you tell ferns apart from each other?

Kit Sheffield is a Virginia Master Naturalist who has led fern-related hikes for the Virginia Native Plant Society, the Audubon Naturalist Society, the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, the Fairfax Chapter of the Virginia Master Naturalists, and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy.

Inside Out Gardens

Article by Plant NOVA Natives

Before we turn our thoughts to spring, let us take this opportunity to plan for next year’s long stretch of cold and gray. Does your landscape give you pleasure in the winter, as you sit inside looking out? Or is it only designed for curb appeal, with the plants crammed up against the foundation so that all you see from your window is the lawn and the street? Or perhaps the shrubs that were installed with the house are now overgrown and blocking your view altogether. A little rearranging can give you both curb appeal and a vibrant vista from your breakfast table or living room.

The first thing to consider is that movement brings a landscape to life. That can be provided by wind bending the grasses but most importantly by birds and other critters that are making use of your yard. A bird feeder can help you obtain that experience, but to actually support the wildlife, you need to provide them with the plants they need for shelter and food for both themselves and their babies. With rare exceptions, baby songbirds cannot eat seeds – they require insects, which themselves require the plants with which they evolved. In other words, to support life, your yard needs native plants.

If you take out any overgrown shrubs and plant new ones fifteen or twenty feet away from the window, from the inside the effect can be as if you added on a room to your house. Native shrubs can be arranged into a living backdrop where birds entertain you as they eat and shelter. Winterberry, Chokeberry and Elderberry are examples of shrubs that provide colorful berries to feed the birds. Multi-stemmed Serviceberries, with their lovely white flowers followed by berries that are also edible to humans, provide a place for birds to sit while they eat the seeds from your feeder. Native Heucheras and evergreen native ferns and sedges can fill the lower levels, which are also the perfect place to include some small shade-loving species that might get lost in a flower garden bed. Partridgeberry, for example, lies flat on the ground and has adorable red berries from November to January. Not as tiny but still quite small, the spring ephemerals start to emerge just when you need relief from winter.

Spring ephemerals are shade plants that emerge and quickly flower in late winter and spring and then fade away once the trees leaf out. If you plant them in the woods, you will be mimicking nature, but you may miss the whole show. How often do you walk in your woods in cold or rainy weather? On the other hand, if you also tuck them under your deciduous shrubs out front where you can spot these treasures from your window or as you walk by on the way to your car, you can enjoy them the same way we appreciate snow drops, crocuses and daffodils as they emerge in succession. One of the earliest harbingers of spring is Round-lobed Hepatica, whose cute three-lobed leaves peek out in March to be followed by pale purple flowers. Another plant with intriguing leaves is Bloodroot, which starts to flower by late March, around the time that the pink and white flowers of Virginia Spring Beauty begin their long bloom period, providing an important source of nectar to bees as they first awaken. The blossoms of Virginia Bluebells may occasionally start to appear that early as well. A whole troop of other ephemerals burst forth in April. You can find details about spring ephemerals and other native plants on the Plant NOVA Natives website, as well as information about where to buy them.

Fireflies: Hosting Nature’s Light Show into Your Garden, program Feb.3rd

American Legion
400 N. Oak Street, Falls Church VA
Monday, 3 February 2020
7:30 pm
Free

Lightning bugs (aka fireflies) are part of the magic of growing up in the eastern United States, yet most people know very little about them. Nature education specialists Kris and Erik Mollenhauer have studied fireflies, seen “blue ghosts” and “synchronizing fireflies,” and explored some of the dark secrets of the Night Country. This program explores the “fairies of the night” and how we can create habitat in our gardens to keep them flashing for years to come.

BIO: Erik and Kris Mollenhauer are retired educators but committed volunteers. Erik taught high school science for 15 years, then worked as an educational program developer for 24 years. He developed a program with Costa Rica based on songbird migration as well as an international teacher exchange program that led groups to several countries, including Russia, Australia and Japan. For 5 years he helped National Geographic improve geography education in NJ schools; for 30 years, he’s used a portable planetarium to teach the night sky to people of all ages in the US, Canada, Russia and Japan.

Kris was an elementary school teacher for 14 years, then spent 12 years as a Reading Recovery teacher, teaching struggling students how to read. Working with the Monarch Teacher Network, the Mollenhauers have taught monarch butterfly workshops across the US and Canada for the past 20 years and guided groups to the winter monarch colonies in Mexico and California. They’ve also developed many educational projects together, including the East Coast Vulture Festival, the Mad Hatter’s Tree Party, the Gloucester County Bird Quest and, most recently, the Gloucester County Firefly Festival.

Earth Sangha seed cleaning events

Earth Sangha office
5101-I Backlick Road, Annandale VA
Sunday, 15 December and Monday, 16 December 2019, 10 am – 1 pm
Sunday, 5 January and Monday, 6 January 2020, 10 am – 1 pm
Sunday, 12 January and Monday, 13 January 2020 , 10 am – 1 pm
Continuing until all seeds are cleaned

Ever wonder how Earth Sangha grows the plants in its nursery? It all starts with the seeds! Come volunteer and learn how the process works. The size of the office conference room dictates a maximum of 15 people participating at a time. If you want to join these activities, please register by sending an email to Lisa Bright at lbright@earthsangha.org. Regrettably, volunteers may have to be turned away if they show up without communicating to Lisa.

Native plants in public spaces

Article by Plant NOVA Natives

Shopping center parking lots and other public spaces can be tree-lined havens from the summer heat, with beautiful blossoms to induce people to linger. Imagine yourself resting on a shaded bench, listening to the birds as you enjoy watching the people stroll by.  Do the commercial spaces in your town look like this, or do you find yourself hurrying from car to building to get out of the glaring heat? Wouldn’t you prefer to do your shopping at the place with more greenery? 

Commercial establishments across the region are starting to appreciate the return on investment of native plants. There are practical reasons related to the fact that they are adapted to the Virginia climate. Native Virginia plants require less watering (once established) than rows of annuals and only need to be planted once. Native shrubs such as Virginia Sweetspire require no pruning and provide more natural-looking alternatives to conventional landscaping choices that get leggy with continuous trimming. No fertilizers and pesticides are needed, either. Beyond the practicalities, though, companies that choose native plants are signaling to the public that they are good corporate citizens who care about our common home and are working to preserve our heritage. 

In many cases, property managers are taking the simple step of swapping out the non-native in their curbside beds for reliable natives such as Threadleaf Coreopsis, Common Yucca, Black-Eyed Susan and Common Yarrow. Winterberry Holly, with its bright red berries, has become a popular choice to place next to buildings. Some landscapers are installing innovative designs that give the property a whole new look, incorporating a wide variety of shrubs and ornamental trees such as Redbud and great swaths of native grasses such as Switchgrass waving in the breeze. An example of that can be seen at Caboose Commons in Fairfax, where imaginative landscaping adds a new dimension to the dining experience. Still other establishments such as Vienna Vintner have planted extensive pollinator gardens leading up to their entrances, with flowers that bloom in succession and attract butterflies from early spring to late fall. 

You may have noticed sidewalks and parking lots that have sunken islands. Stormwater retention areas, which are mandatory for new development, provide an opportunity for creative landscaping. Water and drought tolerant trees such as Red Maple and Serviceberry can provide shade while their roots absorb the runoff. Native grasses, perennials and shrubs help clean the water while adding color and interest to the design. 

Photos and details about landscaping with native plants in commercial spaces can be found on the Plant NOVA Natives website. The Caboose Commons project is highlighted in the first Plant NOVA Natives video for landscape professionals. Produced by volunteer Joe Bruncsak, owner of Blue Land Media, this series of very short videos will feature projects that exemplify landscape design at its best.