Community entranceway landscaping

The Audubon-at-Home program in partnership with Plant NOVA Natives obtained a grant from Dominion Energy to award seven matching mini-grants to community associations for converting their entranceway landscaping to all Virginia native plants. The mini-grants stipulated that the landscaping be designed so that the community's standard landscape company could maintain it. The projects were installed in the fall of 2021. The "after" photos are from Spring 2022. We asked the organizers to share thoughts about their experience that might help other communities.

Note: Any community or individual in Northern Virginia who wish to use their property for wildlife sanctuary is encouraged to invite an Audubon-at-Home volunteer to walk their property with them and strategize.

Auburn Village Condominium

Auburn Village Condominiums in Alexandria is located on 16 acres of beautiful old trees with a verdant courtyard as the centerpiece. Our green space is a precious amenity and increasingly rare as the Route 1 corridor continues to build up in concrete and steel.  Despite financial challenges, Auburn Village continues to invest in our green space. Our volunteer Landscape Committee includes a member of the local Tree Stewards, a student in the Master Gardener program, and our committee chair is a horticulturist with a Master of Science degree in Biochemistry and is Director of Operations at the local Greenstreet garden center. Our community is fortunate to have a property manager who shares our vision and generously supports our work.

The Auburn Village Board of Directors has annually provided modest funds that the Landscape Committee amplified through our own labor and smart choices. The first round of new trees in many years was planted in December of 2019 and again in 2020. We selected 58 compatible native species in consultation with the local Tree Stewards and the Alexandria City Naturalist. The trees were tagged to identify the species to create interest in our residents. In 2020, we installed a pollinator garden created out of resident donations and the Landscape Committee labor. Our pollinator garden received an official designation as a National Wildlife Federation’s Garden for Wildlife™.

The community is enjoying the garden very much and the garden is doing it’s job of helping to manage storm water run off. We are thankful for the grant to help us with this beautiful space. Communities should not be afraid to have native gardens. They can be designed in a way to look like conventional gardens and at the same time be beneficial to critters. We wanted our space to show the community that beautiful spaces can be created with native plants. 

Plant list

 

Itea ‘Henry Garnet’

Allegheny Serviceberry

Clethra ‘Ruby Spice’

Little Bluestem ‘Standing Ovation’

Foxglove Beardtongue’

Creek Sedge

Obedient plant

Threadleaf Mountain Mint

Packera

Swamp Milkweed

Hibiscus ‘Luna Pink’

Soft Rush

Orange Coneflower

Spike Gayflower

Hairy Mountain Mint

Cascades Community Association

We have received positive feedback from residents. We took out bradford pears and Japanese barberry that were there previously/ Our biggest challenge was working with our landscaping contractor to make sure they did not use their ‘standard’ planting methods which include chemical fertilizers and dyed mulch. Also, we did use rudbeckia, but are concerned about deer browse - will be trying an organic repellant, but may need to switch those out with coreopsis and/or blue mistflower which we have found to be deer resistant. Notice we placed the sign next to the crosswalk signal to maximize visibility when people and the students from the high school across the street walk by! 

Also fyi, we requested and our HOA board passed a resolution that all landscaping bed plant materials must be at least 50%  Northen Virginia native plants. Also, we have a pilot area for organic turf maintenance and are looking to expand that next year.

The other effort we just did is we had a raffle in April for people to have their invasive Bradford pear trees removed.  People sent in photos of the bradford pear tree in their yard and on Arbor Day we picked 3 winners. They will have their BP trees removed and a native planted in its place -- very successful, we had a lot of entries and people really liked it!  Here's a link to our newsletter article.

Plant list

 

Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)

Hydrangea 'Annabelle'  (Hydrangea arborescens)

Yucca 'Color Guard' (Yucca filamentosa)

Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) 

Dominion Valley Owner's Association

DVOA paid our contracted landscape service company to complete the invasive plant removal, soil preparation, plants, plant installation, and watering (until established).  Because Dominion Valley has a maintenance contract with this company, any plants that are purchased and installed are covered under warranty.  As Dominion Valley is a large neighborhood, all of our common areas, including the Small Grant entrance, are maintained by the contracted landscape services company.

Lessons learned:

Deer/rabbits eat deer/rabbit resistant plants.  Better to cover small perennial ground covers until they are established and able to withstand munching and recover with established roots.

 

Reviewing the project with the landscape service management doesn’t mean that the design will be installed per plan.  Need to be informed of date and time of installation to make sure someone from GC is onsite for project to be installed correctly.

 

Inflation caused the cost of plants to increase almost 20%.  Fortunately, members of the GC were able to negotiate the price of plants to better terms.

 

Illness/injury does happen and delegation of duties/help needs to occur sooner rather than later.  

Plant list

 

Inkberry (Ilex glabra)

Fragrant Sumac (Rhus aromatica)

Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum)

Creeping Phlox (Phlox subulata)

Hollin Hills Civic Association

Hollin Hills is a neighborhood of more than 450 homes in Alexandria, Virginia, renowned for its innovative mid-century modern architecture and landscape design. The Parks Committee is a group of about 20 resident volunteers that are charged with the care and maintenance of the neighborhood parks, including the neighborhood entrances. The Parks Committee is dedicated to removing invasive plants and replacing them with Virginia natives on all Civic Association-owned property. The Parks Committee regularly hosts park clean-up events where neighborhood residents volunteer their time to tackle the removal of English Ivy and other invasive species in the seven neighborhood parks.

 

Within the last few years, the Parks Committee helped install a pollinator garden with many native plants on the Hollin Hills community pool property.  Residents enjoy observing local wildlife in the parks and in their own yards and make active choices to include native plants that provide food and shelter for birds and pollinators.

The Parks Committee sees this entrance landscaping project as the catalyst to launch a larger educational campaign on the importance of controlling and removing invasive plants and the benefits of using native plants on both private property and in Civic Association-owned parks.

 

Tips from our volunteer maintenance crew - 

  • Really enjoying the selection of plants and how we have something in bloom every season.  First the serviceberries and phlox, and soon the coneflowers, butterfly weed and so on.  Lots of seasonal interest without having to replant the bed several times a year. 

  • Important to stay on top of the weeding and a good layer of mulch is important.

  • Irrigation so we don't have to worry about watering.

  • Dedicated group of people responsible for maintaining the bed so that the responsibility doesn't fall on just 1 or 2 people.​

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Sycamore Hill Homeowners Association

Sycamore Hill HOA has a lot going on old/new:

First our front native bed which has been around since 2016.  We have experienced a lot of great moments with this bed.  From caterpillars to cocoons to butterflies.  This bed was done with the help of Gem Bingol, Loudoun Wildlife and the owner of Watermark Woods.

Our next area worked on was our front entrance beds by Fort Evans Road:

This new planting area was done to spread the native plants thru the community with the help again of Blake Landscapes.  Patrick Frye supervised this installation.

Also new this year is our wildflower area to be located just past the entrance near Lilac Terrace and Silverbell Terrace in our common area.

Lastly, to educate our owners and the children in the community, Patrick Frye has made a community garden with all natural plantings and will hold a class for the kids soon to educate them on the planting, care and harvesting of all plants/vegetables.

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Water's Edge at Fair Lakes Homeowners Association

It is so exciting to see these plants come back this year! We have several signs that you will notice in the pics. Besides the Native Plants sign, there are some smaller signs as well. The smaller green one requests that the plants not be sprayed. There are also small signs with numbers. The numbers correlate to the educational piece, which is the QR codes in multiple places, which invite people to learn more about the plant that is there. This is something we said we would have by this spring. We are still looking into other educational opportunities for the community and will take any chance to share the work that has been done and the benefits associated with planting natives. Since the entrance is located on a walking path in the area, the QR codes are placed so that anyone walking by has the opportunity to learn more about any of the plants. On our part, having this done and engaging with the work has prompted us to consider only natives in other parts of the neighborhood as trees need to be replaced, beds need to be rebuilt, and our own properties need plantings. The invasives that were in the area, such as the lilies, have been difficult to remove, and they came back in full force this year. Hands Dirty came back to remove more of them, and we will continue to monitor the need for removal. During bouts of hot and/or dry weather, we are watering by hand or hiring the landscaping company to water the plants at the entrance as well as other native plantings we are working to establish.

Plant List

Switchgrass (Panicum virgatam 'Shenandoah'

Southern Wax Myrtle (Morella cerifera)

Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa)

Eastern Bluestar (Amsonia tabernaemontana)

Pennsylvania Sedge) (Carex pensylvanica)

Wood Aster

Woodland Phlox (Phlox diviracata) 'Sherwood Purple'

Native azalea

Meadow Anemone

American Strawberrybush (Euonymyous americanus)

Aromatic Sumac (Rhus aromatica)

Moss Phlox (Phlox subulata) 'Emerald Pink'

Beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis)

Black-eyed Susan 

Culver's Root

False Blue Indigo (Baptisia australis)

Golden Ragwort (Packera aurea)

Mountain Mint

Beebalm

Sundrops