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.
Itea ‘Henry Garnet’
Clethra ‘Ruby Spice’
Little Bluestem ‘Standing Ovation’
Threadleaf Mountain Mint
Hibiscus ‘Luna Pink’
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.