At the bottom of this page, please see the short article on dragonflies, and share it as widely as possible.
Ask the Experts We continue our series of interactive videoconferences in which you can ask landscape designers for advice on improving your native plantings. Submit your questions and photos ahead of time if you can. Register on our website.
o Monday, January 18, 10 am – 11 am (MLK Day): Melissa Gildea, Lotus Design and Consulting
o Topic: Shade Gardens and Gardening among Tree Roots
o Monday, February 1, 10:30-11:30 am: Jim McGlone, Virginia Department of Forestry
o Topic: Choosing and planting native trees
Recordings of previous “Ask the Expert” events can be viewed on this YouTube playlist.
Training for Audubon at Home Ambassadors in Fairfax. People who have a reasonable working knowledge of common native and invasive plants in our home landscapes are invited to attend a training on December 6, 2:00 – 3:30 pm.
· Free trees: EcoAction Arlington's Tree Canopy Fund is now accepting applications from owners of private property, including single-family homes, townhomes, condos, and places of worship, to have a native tree planted on their property. The program offers a variety of native canopy tree species, which will be planted by a professional landscaper. The deadline for applications is January 9. Grants are also available for maintenance of champion trees.
· Take a survey about your vision for Arlington’s Forestry and Natural Resources Plan.
Have you planted any trees or shrubs since October 1? Please report them here. The Virginia Department of Forestry needs your help as they work to meet a goal of 28,500 new plantings before September 30, 2021. This is part of Virginia’s work to satisfy an EPA requirement to reduce run-off into the Chesapeake Bay. (The app specifies trees, but they actually want to know about shrubs as well.)
Become a Master Naturalist. It’s very fun! Applications to join the spring training class in Fairfax are due December 23. Applications are being accepted for the fall 2021 classes in Loudoun. Watch the websites for application windows for Prince William and Arlington.
Next Steering Committee meeting – via videoconferencing – All are welcome. January 5, 10:30am-12:30pm. Details on our Event Calendar.
This month’s newsletter article to share – Please distribute as widely as possible. Use this link for social media.
Bringing Dragonflies to Your Yard
For anyone who enjoys watching birds at a feeder, there is another pastime available that is just as entertaining but less well known: watching the dragonflies and damselflies patrolling your yard. There are over eighty species in Northern Virginia, a few of which are happy to frequent our gardens if we offer the right conditions. Some are hefty and like to land on walkways, making them hard to miss. Others including most damselflies are so wispy as to escape our notice if we aren’t paying attention.
Most dragonflies lay their eggs in fresh water ponds and streams, where they hatch and live as little aquatic predators for years before emerging as adults. We can provide a breeding area in our yards by installing a pond, which need not be large and can be a do-it-yourself project. Frogs and salamanders will make it their home as well, and the sound and sight of moving water transforms any garden into a place to sit and watch the whole carnival.
All these pond inhabitants require more than just water. Dead leaves and algae are the basis for a pond’s ecosystem, as the tiny organisms that use them for shelter and food are themselves eaten by larger ones. It is therefore important to treat a pond not as a chlorinated fountain but as a living thing, avoiding excess cleaning and protecting it from insecticides or other chemicals.
Once dragonflies become adults, they spend their time catching large numbers of mosquitoes and other insects and looking for opportunities to mate. The males will find a perch near the water and guard against rivals, waiting for a female to approach. If you are lucky, you may see a female ovipositing, bouncing up and down as she dips the tip of her abdomen into the water to lay her eggs.
Even without a pond, your yard is likely to be visited by dragonflies if it is providing other natural habitat, because that is where there will be a balance of prey and predatory insects. Besides avoiding chemicals, the key to building that kind of habitat is to plant a lot of native species, because most plant-eating insects can only eat the plants with which they evolved. There are hundreds of species of garden-worthy native plants available, including a couple dozen species of native pond plants.
Here is a three minute video about the ups and downs of owning a fancy ornamental pond. The gardener who made that video has since learned that disruptions to the pond critters can be minimized by only cleaning the pond once a year in mid winter, and by leaving most of the algae and leaves in place. Information about native pond plants and how to care for a pond as habitat can be found on the pond page of the Plant NOVA Natives website.