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Ask the Experts – Pruning Native Shrubs and Trees, May 5th

Wednesday, May 5, 2021
6:30 – 8 pm
Register here.
Expert: Maraea Harris

Pruning shrubs and small trees can be confounding for homeowners but it doesn’t have to be. Maraea will talk about identifying trees and shrubs in your landscape and how best to prune them for health and aesthetics. The techniques she discusses will be applicable throughout your landscape but will focus on native shrubs and trees that are commonly grown in our area. Maraea will give a short presentation then open it up to your questions for the bulk of the hour

Submit your questions on the registration page, and please send photos of the area in question to plantnovanatives@gmail.com.

This videoconference will be recorded and posted to YouTube.

Maraea Harris is the owner of Metro GardenWorks, whose services include gardening, pruning, tree assessment and identification, and invasive plant management.

The Secret Life and Folklore of Winter Trees, January 21st

Thursday, January 21, 2021
12-1pm
Please register for the free event here. It will be recorded.

Join Capital Nature and well-known local naturalist Alonso Abugattas, the Capital Naturalist, for a fascinating talk on trees during the winter months. Evergreens like American Hollies and the Eastern Cedar provide life-sustaining food and shelter for birds and other wildlife, and reward us with sightings of refreshing green and red in the winter environment. Deciduous trees reveal stunning winter forms while they gather strength for spring blooms.

With a keen eye you can recognize amazing oaks, beech trees, and sycamores by their distinctive bark, nuts, and fruits. Alonso will draw on his abundant knowledge of the natural world, and on the legends of indigenous peoples to reveal the amazing living world of trees in winter.

Find out more about Capital Naturalist at http://capitalnaturalist.blogspot.com

Spruce Up your Foundation Plantings

Photo and article by Plant NOVA Natives

When developers build a neighborhood, they almost always add some shrubs against the foundations of the houses to soften the lines of the buildings. Just as they paint all the interior walls white, they use just a few conventional plant species for a uniform look until all the houses are sold.  The new owners get used to the look and never bother to change it. But the foundation planting area offers a big opportunity to beautify the landscaping, eliminate the need for pruning and help support our local birds and butterflies at the same time.
 
Native shrubs constitute an essential middle layer of the ecosystem, providing food and shelter for songbirds. Providing this layer in our yards is even more important in areas where the deer have eradicated native shrubs in the woods. Unfortunately, at the time when most of our houses were built, the importance of using native plants was not known to the builders, and so most of the commonly used plants are species that were introduced from other continents. Not only do they not provide food for wildlife, many of them have escaped into nearby natural areas, where they proceed to destroy the ecosystem there. Examples of that include Nandina (also problematic because its red berries are poisonous to Cedar Waxwings), Japanese Barberry (also problematic because it harbors ticks), Privet, Burning Bush, Leatherleaf Mahonia, Double-file and Linden Viburnum, and several species of Bush Honeysuckle.
 
Luckily, there are many non-invasive alternatives. Best of all, many of these are native plants and therefore support the birds and butterflies with which they evolved. These plants have become increasingly available at our local garden centers. For the area under a window, it makes sense to choose one whose ultimate height when full grown will not block the view, thus making pruning unnecessary and allowing the plant to assume its own graceful shape. Many have beautiful spring flowers; others have striking red berries that provide interest well into winter.
 
Of course, most people don’t know the names of the shrubs in their yards. This can be figured out by using a plant ID app such as Seek or iNaturalist. Residents can also get a free visit from an Audubon-at-Home volunteer to help identify invasive plants and strategize about alternatives.
 
Shrubs are not the only plants that are suitable for foundations. Small trees where there is room, native ornamental grasses in the sun and native ferns in the shade are all natural choices. For those who like the conventional look that came with the house, there are plenty of native shrubs that can achieve the same aesthetic. Other people might want to add character to their yard by choosing something a little different.  And rather than planting annuals every spring, why not plant a few native perennials just once to get that pop of color year after year? For more details, see the shrubs page and the foundation planting page on the Plant NOVA Natives website.
 

VDOF Seeks Acorns/Nuts from Virginia Landowners, deadline October 16th

Photo by Dcrjsr – Own work, CC BY 3.0

The Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) is again seeking 12 species of acorns and nuts that can be planted at its Augusta Forestry Center [Crimora, Virginia] to grow into tree seedlings that will become the forests of tomorrow.

Each year, VDOF asks the public from across the state to collect and donate nuts of select species to be planted at the state nursery. These seeds will produce next year’s hardwood seedling crop, which will be sold to Virginia’s forestland owners. Seedlings grown from Virginia-grown seed generally produces trees that will best thrive in our state’s climates.

In 2019, Virginians did a tremendous job collecting acorns for the nursery. “The public supplied us with tons of acorns and walnuts last year. I am always amazed at the output by Virginians every year,” says Assistant Forestry Center Manager Josh McLaughlin.

Certain nuts can be difficult to find regionally, and availability can change year to year. At times, one species of tree in a region may produce minimal acorns, while others are abundant with “acorns hanging like bunches of grapes,” says McLaughlin. This is why VDOF puts out a call-to-action for landowners across the state. The more trees that can be identified for collection, the more nuts can be potentially planted in the nursery.

Protocols and guidelines for acorn collection remain mostly the same as last year, with some minor adjustments to the collection deadline and species list. Virginia landowners interested in sharing their acorns or nuts are asked to follow these guidelines.

During September and early October, it is easy to pick up nuts in many yards and parking lots. Try to avoid trees in more heavily forested areas because there may be different species of trees nearby, making it difficult to sort the nuts by species for proper planting.

The species the tree nursery needs this year are: black oak, black walnut, Chinese chestnut, chestnut oak, live oak, northern red oak, pin oak, southern red oak, swamp chestnut oak, swamp white oak, white oak and willow oak.

Place the nuts in a breathable sack or bag (no plastic, please). Minimize debris in the bag (e.g. leaves, sticks, gravel). On the bag, please label the species and date of collection.

Once the nuts are collected, place in a cool area (like a fridge or basement) until you are ready to drop them off at a VDOF office. In Fairfax County, bring the acorns to the bins on the first floor of the parking garage behind the Virginia Department of Forestry office at 12055 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax, VA. Nuts must be delivered by October 16, 2020.

Collectors can find more detailed information about collection procedures, nut identification and frequently asked questions on VDOF’s website: https://dof.virginia.gov/tree/acorn-collect.htm

If you have questions, or if there is a tree that needs to be identified before you collect the nuts, please call the Augusta Forestry Center: 540-363-7000.

Master naturalists receive service hour credit for collecting, packaging, and travel to deliver the acorns at code S035.

Fairfax County Calling for Friends of Trees Nominations

Individuals or organizations may be nominated for various tree related projects or programs. The individuals or organizations must have demonstrated outstanding conservation-based actions in preserving, protecting or planting trees. The following types of projects or programs may be nominated:

  • Preservation: projects or programs for land or easement donations, or appropriate tree care
  • Education: projects or programs that create publications, interpretive trail development, tree marking with identification tags, or presentations to the public about preservation, protection or tree planting
  • Planting: projects or programs that conduct seedling plantings, riparian restoration plantings or heritage species plantings
  • Maintenance: innovative tree care projects or programs without traditional funding sources

Click here to access a nomination form. Awards are presented in the fall. Nominations are due by July 31, 2020.

Trees for your loved ones?

Looking for the perfect gift for someone who does not want “things”? Try the gift of trees! With each gift you purchase through the Reforest Fairfax tree gifting program (www.reforestfairfax.com), five (5) native seedlings planted in Fairfax County will be dedicated in honor of your recipient. Your recipient will receive a certificate informing them of the gift, which comes with a unique certificate number that can be used to identify where the trees were planted using our online Tree Map. The trees are planted by Fairfax ReLeaf (www.fairfaxreleaf.org) and proceeds go directly to support education, outreach, and promotional efforts for native plant restoration through the Plant NOVA Natives campaign (www.plantnovanatives.org).

Virginia Trees for Clean Water – Grant Applications Open for 2020 Plantings, due Jan. 8th

Through funds from the USFS Chesapeake Watershed Forestry Program and Virginia Water Quality Improvement Funds, Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) has developed the Virginia Trees for Clean Water program. The program is designed to improve water quality across the Commonwealth through on-the-ground efforts to plant woody trees and shrubs where they are needed most.

Grants are awarded through this program to encourage local government and citizen involvement in creating and supporting long-term and sustained canopy cover.

Proposal Category examples (not limited to):
• Riparian tree planting
• Community tree planting
• Street Tree planting
• Neighborhood or NeighborWoods Tree plantings
• Turf to Trees projects
(see proposal document for more details)

Who is Eligible?
Grants may be awarded to local units of government, approved non-profit organizations, community civic organizations, educational institutions and private citizens.

When?
Application Package will be due on Wednesday, January 8th 2020 for applicants hoping to receive funding for spring and fall 2020 plantings. All applicants will be notified of grant status by February 1st 2020.

For more detailed information, download the here Virginia Trees for Clean Water – Request for Proposal document.

Also go to http://www.dof.virginia.gov/business/index.htm#VTCWGrant (scroll down to Request for Proposals – Trees for Clean Water)

Virginia Association of Forest Health Professionals, Jan 27-28

Each year VAFHP holds a conference for professionals and others interested in learning more about forest health and ecology of the Mid-Atlantic. The 2020 Conference will be held in Glen Allen, VA, just west of Richmond, on January 27-28, 2020.

Attendees include local, state and federal officials, independent contractors, consultants, horticulture and forest industry representatives and students. We encourage anyone interested in the ecology of the Mid-Atlantic to participate. VAFHP is committed to developing and providing education and training for natural resource professionals.

The Virginia Association of Forest Health Professionals (VAFHP) invites you to apply for their 2020 Conference Scholarship.

This scholarship provides you with a front row seat to pertinent Virginia forest health topics and a chance to network with professionals in forestry related fields.  You will also learn about conference logistics and provide support to the VAFHP Steering Committee throughout the conference.

This opportunity is available for first-time conference attendees and will fully cover registration costs (hotel accommodations and travel costs must be covered by scholarship recipients). Two scholarships will be available; one for recent college graduates and one for professionals or citizen scientists without dedicated travel funds. The deadline to apply is December 6, 2019, recipients will be notified by December 16, 2019.

Please visit https://www.vafhp.org/conference for conference details and registration.

Botany and Bloom Workshop Series, Apr. 27 and Jul. 27 and Nov. 23, 2019

27 April and 27 July 2019

10:00 am – 02:00 pm

Location: Sky Meadows State Park, Edmonds Lane 11012, Delaplane, Virginia

Explore the rich natural diversity of Sky Meadows State Park with this three-part series. Each workshop includes a lecture in the Carriage Barn, followed by a 3-mile field hike for hands-on application. Receive a colored print-out of the lecture. Each workshop is $15/adult, $5/child (12 and under), payable the day of the workshop. Workshop fee includes parking. Bring water and lunch to eat along the trail, dress in layers, and wear sturdy shoes.

Spring Ephemerals – Saturday, April 27, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Summer Blooms – Saturday, July 27, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Winter Tree Identification – Saturday, November 23, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

For complete workshop descriptions, and to sign up for the series, go to: www.dcr.virginia.gov/state-parks/sky-meadows

A Simple Tree

Photo (c) by Barbara J. Saffir

Essay by Barbara J. Saffir

My life is about to change soon.  Not in a big way.  No cancer, divorce, or job loss.  (I count my blessings!) But it will still change in a meaningful way.  My apartment manager is going to cut down the cherry tree in front of my home.  No big deal?  That’s bad news for the cheery, cherry-red cardinals who perch there when they feed their fluffy-feathered babies.  It’s a big loss for the happy hummingbirds who hunker down there in a storm.  It’s where our Olympic gymnasts of birds — white-breasted nuthatches — perform head-first acrobatics racing down the tree trunk.  That’s where red-bellied, hairy, and downy woodpeckers hold their “coffee klatches.”  Where teensy, tufted titmouses with fawn-like eyes seemingly pose by the tree’s sweet-smelling white flowers each spring.  Where eastern gray squirrels stretch out in the 90-degree days of July and huddle together during February’s frigid days.  And each fall, its sunshine yellow leaves linger briefly, reminding me that all good (and bad) things eventually end.

If this were only one lone tree, then it would mainly affect me. It’s part of my daily life. I delight in watching and photographing the critters’ antics in the tree from the picture window in my home office.  But at least 50 species of birds and other cute creatures’ lives partially depend on it.

It’s not the only tree to bite the dust recently.  Miles upon miles of trees are now being annihilated for the I-66 toll-lane widening.  “In the last two decades, over thirty-five percent of Northern Virginia’s urban forest has been bulldozed and chainsawed,” says the nonprofit Fairfax ReLeaf.

Why do we even need trees?  “Without them, life on earth would be very different,” says the Virginia Department of Forestry. Most importantly we need their oxygen. Trees clean the air.  They provide temperature-lowering shade. They provide privacy. We thrive on the beauty of the wildly diverse types and sizes and shapes and colors of trees in all four seasons.  They increase the value of human houses and they provide safe homes to cute creatures like northern flickers with crayon-yellow feathers, rusty-colored screech owls, and pint-sized flying squirrels, who nest and rest in their trunks and on their branches.  Their flowers help provide pollen to Virginia’s and Maryland’s 400 species of native bees.  Trees help cut flooding and clean our drinking water.

But trees are not a focus of my large apartment complex. As a long-term renter, I twice appealed to the corporate office and even offered to donate native plants to replace the mid-sized tree with no luck. I’ll admit that the tree needs replacement but the questionable pruning methods over the years probably hastened its unhealthy state. If it were on my own property, I might cut it down halfway to leave it for woodpeckers and nuthatches to live in and snack on the ants and other life-sustaining bugs that dwell in its innards. But alas, life is very short and one has to pick one’s battles.

I will miss “my” cherry tree.  But I won’t hold a funeral.  I’ll try not to grieve too long. But it would sure make me and the critters feel better if someone would replace it with a new native tree!
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Readers, are you also grieving for a favorite dead tree or plants at your apartment, in your neighborhood, or at a public park? Please feel free to share this little story to help educate your friends and neighbors about the crucial need for trees. Please also share your frustrations and successes in the comments section below along with your ideas for how to keep this from happening elsewhere.