February 2021 Update

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


2021 Spring and Fall Landscaping with Natives Webinar Series

Sign-up for all 12 webinars for just $10!

Plant NOVA Natives campaign is collaborating with other campaigns across the state to offer a series of 6 webinars this spring and 6 this fall. The presentations will guide you through the why and how to turn your home garden into a beautiful retreat for your family and a native habitat for birds and other wildlife. The series kicks off on Friday, March 5 at 6:30 pm with an engaging presentation by Dr. Douglas Tallamy, renowned author of Nature's Best Hope. Details and registration here.


Help us name our tree planting campaign! We are in the initial phase of planning a region-wide tree planting campaign. Philadelphia has its TreePhilly, New York its Million Trees NYC. Send your suggestions for Northern Virginia to plantnovanatives@gmail.com. Also, for anyone who might like to help coordinate the campaign, we will be needing a boatload of volunteers, so also email if you would like more information.


Virtual presentations and workshops for your community association (Fairfax County)

Schedule a free Watch the Green Grow virtual presentation or workshop this winter or spring. Topics can include green lawn care, removing invasive plants and planting native plants, reducing pesticides, and more. Read the Watch the Green Grow StoryMap for an overview of the recommended green yard care practices. The presentation can be tailored to your group's interests and priorities. Contact tamara.sheiffer@fairfaxcounty.gov to schedule a presentation or workshop.


Mini-grants for community associations

The Audubon at Home Program will be distributing 6 one-to-one matching grants of $2,350 apiece for community associations to re-landscape their entrances using native plants. Applications are due May 31, 2020. Details and the application forms may be found here audubonva.org/neighborhood-entrances-grant.


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. Register on our website.

o Tuesday, March 9, 4pm – 5 pm: Nancy Striniste

o Creating Outdoor Spaces that Connect Children to the Natural World

o Wednesday, May 5, 6:30pm – 8 pm: Maraea Harris

o Pruning Native Shrubs and Trees


Other events:

· Saturday, February 20 9:30-12:30pm. EcoSavvy Symposium: Integrating Storm Water Management in Landscape Design.

· Sunday, February 21 2pm – Talk by Kim Eierman, author of The Pollinator Victory Garden

· Saturday, March 20 9am-3:15pm – Loudoun Master Gardeners: Plant, Grow, Nurture: Gardening in Rhythm with Nature


Next Steering Committee meeting – via videoconferencing – All are welcome. ­­­­­­March 4, 10:30am-12:30pm. 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.


Native grasses for our yards


When we think of grass in our yards, the image that arises is likely to be that of turf grass. But there are many other places for grasses in our landscapes, and many other species available besides the European turf grass that is used for lawn. Grasses that are native to our region not only add beauty and texture in our gardens but also provide multiple environmental benefits.


This class of plants not only refers to true grasses (which tend to be sun-loving) but also to sedges (which are more often shade-loving) and rushes. Their size can range from tiny to gigantic. Clumps of taller grasses provide structural interest as well as motion and sound as the wind rustles through them. Shorter ones work as groundcovers. Some are evergreen, and all provide winter interest and seeds for the birds.


In shady areas with minimal foot traffic, some native grasses can be used as a substitute for conventional lawns, though this would require planting a lot of little plants at 8-10 inch intervals and a good deal of attention during establishment, not just throwing down seed. Deep soil amendment is critical on a typical compacted former lawn area which lacks good nutrition and may have alkaline soil, and it can take a few years for such lawns to get established.


Native grasses play a critical role in the ecosystem, providing

  • Roots that are deeper than European turf grass and which do a better job at erosion control, breaking up hard soil and capturing stormwater

  • Carbon sequestration

  • Dense root structures that create a barrier to the spread of aggressive plants, creating pockets where more delicate plants can live

  • Host plants for numerous species of butterflies, skippers, moths and others

  • Food sources for birds and other wildlife

  • Nesting material and cover.

Most of the plant material in a meadow consists of grasses, with colorful flowers tucked in between.


Several of the native grasses that are used as ornamentals are widely available in conventional nurseries, including the spectacular Pink Muhly Grass (Muhlenbergii capillaris), pictured here. (Be careful where you plant it, though - it needs good drainage!) Others can be purchased at one of the nurseries that specialize in native plants. For details, check out the Plant NOVA Natives website.