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April 2021 Update

At the bottom of this page, please see the short article on­­­­­ native container gardeners, and share it as widely as possible.

Time to start planting! Our native plant-only nurseries are opening soon if not already, as are the conventional nurseries where our volunteers put red stickers on the native plants. Information has been slowly trickling in about local native plant sales as well. Find locations on our website under “Get Plants.”

Lots of volunteers needed! Please email if you can help.

1. More people to help put our red Virginia Native stickers on plants at conventional nurseries. A very fun way to learn about plants!

2. For our upcoming five year native tree campaign:

a. One or two website managers to help us create our website for the upcoming tree campaign. The Wix program we use is user friendly.

b. Someone with graphic design experience to help create point of sale materials for the tree campaign.

c. An experienced project manager looking for a worthy cause to devote your time and expertise to. Perhaps you’re recently retired and feel called to serve your community and the environment? Maybe you’re seeking PMP certification and need to gain and document project planning experience? We need your volunteer help to develop campaign charter, define project, and develop an action plan. If interested, please e-mail your contact information to and use “Project Manager” in your subject line. Steve Wright will contact you to discuss.

Use to encourage your neighbors to plant native plants. People are most likely to act when they see friends and neighbors adopting new behaviors. Our volunteers have been posting on monthly in many communities, but now we would like multiple volunteers in each neighborhood to reply to the posts, talking about their own gardens. Email to be matched with other volunteers.

Want to make a nature tour for your neighborhood or park? We can make you a little online map tour. Here is an example. Click here for details.

City Nature Challenge is coming! – Anyone can enjoy uploading photos to iNaturalist, anytime, helping to document life on Earth. From April 30-May 3, the DC area will be participating with around 300 other metropolitan areas worldwide in a friendly competition to see who can observe the most wild species of plants, animals and other life. Last year over 41,000 people participated. Learn more here.

Mini-grants for community associations

There is still time to apply for a matching mini-grant from Audubon at Home Program for community associations to re-landscape their entrances using native plants. Applications are due May 31, 2021. Details and the application forms may be found here.

Ask the Expert -

Wednesday, May 5, 6:30pm – 8 pm: Maraea Harris, Pruning Native Shrubs and Trees

Submit your questions and photos ahead of time. Register on our website.

Can you help us pay for this outreach? Donations greatly appreciated to pay for our website, red sticker and Facebook ads. One way to donate is by giving a Gift of Trees through ReForest Fairfax - just the thing for Arbor Day or Mothers' or Father's Day!

Next Steering Committee meeting – via videoconferencing – All are welcome. Thursday, May 6, 10:00am-12:00pm. Check our Event Calendar for future meetings.

This month’s newsletter article to share – Please distribute as widely as possible. Use this link for social media.

Beat the summer heat with a native plant shade garden

They say shade gardens are the gardens of the future, since it will be too hot to spend much time in the sun. That’s pretty much the case already on most summer days. Although sunny butterfly gardens still provide hours of entertainment, a shady place to relax or play in your yard is a welcome addition. An added bonus is that gardening is a lot easier in the shade, because the weeds grow much more slowly.

There are plenty of native flowers available to provide color in a shade garden. You can see examples of them on the shade garden page of the Plant NOVA Natives website. Many of those species also make excellent ground covers. For example, Woodland Phlox and Golden Ragwort are evergreen and spread to make a mat, with blue and yellow flowers respectively in the spring. April and May are a particularly lively time in the shade, as spring ephemerals such as Virginia Bluebell and Spring Beauty pop up and bloom before the trees and shrubs leaf out, then disappear when the shade gets too heavy. They make perfect companion plants for the ferns and sedges that provide a cooling backdrop all summer long. Contrasting foliage textures create visual interest even without flowers.

Why choose native plants? A plant is native to our environment if it evolved within the local food web and has the intricate relationship with animals and other plants that this implies. Plants such as turf grass and many of the ornamentals that were brought here after the arrival of the Europeans are nearly useless (and sometimes actually harmful) from an ecosystem perspective. Choosing native plants allows us to fit into the ecosystem instead of displacing it.

Most native plants can be planted any time of year that the ground is not frozen or saturated. Spring is of course the most popular time for gardening (though fall is even better.) As consumer interest has grown, conventional garden centers have been providing an ever-increasing variety of native plants. In Northern Virginia, 22 garden centers have red stickers on their native plants, placed there by Plant NOVA Natives volunteers, so all you have to do is walk down the aisles and look for the stickers. In addition, several local garden centers sell only native plants, which gives you the best selection of all.

In some cases, the first step toward creating a shade garden will be to create the shade. A glaring hot lawn is uninviting and can be remedied by simply planting native trees. Since most trees require full sun to grow, an empty lawn is the perfect location for a grove of trees that will beautify your property while reducing air conditioning costs. Underplanting the trees with shrubs will provide homes and food for the birds.


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