top of page

January 2024 Update

Enjoy (and protect) the winter woods.  Please see the short article at the bottom of this page and share it as widely as possible.


Outreach of the month: Spanish-speaking landscape professionals

Can you help spread the word? Our second annual native plant conference held entirely in Spanish for landscape professionals will take place on March 8 at the Fairfax County Government Center. Click here to find a flier to print as well as details and registration.


Hiring help for your landscape

Do you need professional help with maintenance, gardening, design, invasive plant control, or installation of native gardens or meadows? Companies that have self-identified as having competence in those areas are listed on the Plant NOVA Natives website. Spring is their busy season, so now is the best time to contact them.


Do you like flowers? Volunteer in a garden center to label the native plants

We always have a big need for volunteers to spend some time once or twice a month putting red stickers and hang tags on the native plants. We need more help everywhere – having more than two volunteers per site is best -  and particularly need more people at these garden centers.

·         Loudoun: Abernethy & Spencer and Blue Mount Nursery

·         Fairfax: Garden Gate (southern Alexandria), Silverbrook (Lorton), DePaul’s Urban Farm (Vienna), Meadows Farms (Herndon)

·         Prince William: Southern States (Manassas) and Merrifield (Gainesville)


Community association newsThe newly formed Fairfax Invasive Removal Alliance is a collaboration between HOAs, condo associations, and civic associations to ask elected officials to take action on the invasive plant problem that is threatening property values and costing communities so much time and money. Click here to learn more and to contact the organizers to indicate your interest.


Volunteer needed in Fairfax to coordinate event volunteers

Could you devote some screen time to organizing our tabling volunteers, posting Fairfax County events on SignUp Genius as they come in and connecting the event hosts to the volunteers? We get around 20 invitations a year, mostly for spring and fall events. Email


Upcoming events

·         February 8, 7 pm   Botanical Art, Illustration and Journaling with Lara Call Gastinger (via Zoom)

·         February 10, 9:45-4:00 - 6th Annual Prince Wiliam Native Plant Symposium (In person and Virtual)

·         February 10, 9:30 – noon  Rain Garden Workshop for Homeowners (in person, Arlington)

·         March 3, 3 pm.  Native plants of Northern Virginia’s freshwater tidal marshes (In person at Huntley Meadows Visitor Center, 3701 Lockheed Boulevard, Alexandria). Registration not required.


Partner of the Month – Master Gardeners

Master Gardener chapters were founding members of the Plant NOVA Natives collaboration. Organized by the Virginia Cooperative Extension, volunteers learn evidence-based gardening practices then teach them to the public at farmers markets, libraries, demonstration gardens, and elsewhere. Their websites have invaluable information about native plants and natural landscaping.

·         Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia (Arlington/Alexandria)


Report your native tree and shrub plantings

Please help Northern Virginia meet its tree-planting obligations by reporting your tree and shrub plantings here. So far 14,362 have been reported!


Report your tree rescues

Millions of trees are at risk from invasive non-native vines. You can help save them on your own land or by volunteering on public land. So far, 12,107 tree rescues have been reported in Northern Virginia. Please add your report here


Next Steering Committee meeting – via videoconferencing – All are welcome. Thursday, February 29, 10:00am-noon. Check our Event Calendar for future meetings.


This month’s newsletter articles to share. Please use this link.


The Magic of Winter Trees:  Making a Deeper Connection


Winter is a lovely time to get to know your trees better. Many folks spend some of the colder days of January and February planning their spring gardens, winter sowing, or putting in nursery orders for spring delivery of native plants. Dreams of warmer days are lovely, but if you have trees in your yard or a nearby park, winter might also be the time to learn how to appreciate and protect their incredible beauty.


When our trees are bare of leaves, you can visualize more clearly their beautiful shapes, identify some species characteristics and assess their health status. There are several local organizations that provide winter educational hikes or webinars to examine and learn about our forests, including Nature Forward, Virginia Native Plant Society – Potowmack Chapter, Capital Nature, Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy, Audubon Society of Northern Virginia, Prince William Conservation Alliance, and others.


If you haven’t taken a long walk or hike in the winter before, it’s time to bundle up and head out on the trail. Even if you aren’t an experienced birder, it’s often easier at this time of year to observe hawks, owls, or other raptors at work. Smaller birds can be spotted searching tree bark or leaf litter for insects and berries, and mammals often make a long-distance appearance as they look for food. Native evergreens or the lovely marcescent (persistent) leaves on oaks and beeches provide beautiful color among the gray tree trunks. While you may not want to linger for contemplation, if you walk gently, there is a type of forest bathing you can experience surrounded by the still, silent trees in the chilly air. One of the loveliest things you can see in a winter forest is found by looking up to the sky:  it is in this season that you can see how the tree canopy develops—trees grow side-by-side leaving a path around each canopy’s branches so that sunlight may reach down to the forest floor. This is called canopy shyness. While more common in rain forests, these fascinating patterns of sky and crown branching can sometimes be seen in groupings of the same tree species, and are spectacular to observe.


For those that love to undertake vigorous outdoor work in the winter, now is the time to protect our trees by starting to pull, dig, or hack and squirt the invasives in your yard or to volunteer for similar ongoing activities in your community. With the exception of a few native evergreens, almost all the large swaths of green you see in your neighborhood and along the roads are invasive, non-native plants—from Wintergreen to Vinca, to English Ivy, from Privet to non-native Holly species, to Bamboo. You can find organizations with volunteer opportunities on the Plant NOVA Trees website. Invasive plants displace the tree seedlings that are essential for our future forests, and some of them directly kill the larger trees.


So, if you want to learn about trees, to more closely observe nature, to find quiet time for spiritual reflection, or to vigorously get rid of tree enemies, winter is a magical time to spend outside in the stillness and beauty of the forest.


Cindy Speas

Fairfax County Tree Commission

bottom of page