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June 2020 Update

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

More volunteers needed to help at garden centers

Can you spare a little time every few weeks to help out at participating garden centers, putting red stickers on the Virginia native plants? This is a hugely helpful service and fun to do. Email

Rick Darke coming to Northern Virginia (virtually!)

 “Lessons from the Living Landscape that is Our Home Habitat”

A well-known landscape designer, Rick Darke has published eight books including The Living Landscape: Designing for Beauty and Biodiversity in the Home Garden, which he co-authored with Doug Tallamy.

When: 7:30 pm Monday, August 3 Where: via Zoom Register here: A small fee is being charged to cover costs.

Couch Advocacy 101: How to Be an Environmental Advocate During a Pandemic Thursday, July 9; 7:00 PM – 8:30 PM Learn how to advocate effectively for the environment and to take action on environmental issues while being physically distant from others as we battle this global pandemic. From the Audubon Naturalist Society.

Audubon-at-Home visits are starting again! Invite a volunteer Audubon-at-Home ambassador to walk your property with you and strategize about how to create wildlife habitat and a certified wildlife sanctuary. Eligible properties include residences, places of worship, homeowners associations, businesses, schools, etc.

Worried about pesticides? If you would like to help get the word out (via social media or other communications) about the risks of spraying for mosquitoes and ticks, contact Joan McIntyre to get on a distribution list to send out educational material periodically.

Virginia Conservation Assistance Program (matching grants) taking applications from Fairfax County residents July 20-August 19. Funding is tight, but you could get paid significant money to create conservation landscaping. Applications are accepted from faith communities and community associations year round, but individual property owners must apply during this period.

VNPS-Potowmack plant sales have restarted. Neonic-free native plants are available for purchase Every Wednesday 10 am – 1 pm at Green Spring Gardens behind the visitor center.

Natural Landscaping plan adopted by Fairfax County!

Recent landscaping projects at County facilities have been done with natural landscaping. The process has now been formalized in the Comprehensive Plan by the Board of Supervisors.  The wording is here, and the staff report here.

Faith communities symposium attended by 85

An enthusiastic Zoom crowd attended the June 14 symposium on sustainable landscaping for faith communities. If you missed it, you can see the recording on YouTube.

Next Steering Committee meeting – via videoconferencing – All are welcome. Thursday, July 30, 10:30 am. Details on our Event Calendar.

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

Native plant landscaping: Three factors for success

For anyone who wants to help the birds and butterflies but is not an experienced landscaper, a few design concepts can help make the difference between a random collection of native plants and a beautiful but manageable landscape that supports our local ecosystem. Three major considerations come into play.

The first is the understanding that basic garden design principles apply to any garden, whether using native plants or not. For example, the human eye has trouble with randomness and will rove around seeking meaning and a place to rest. You can control that process by adding repetition, lines and focal points, which can be provided by plants and also by human-made objects such as pots, walkways, or benches. Since most plants only bloom for a short while, for consistent beauty it helps to choose plants with contrasting size, form and foliage and not just interesting flower colors.

The second consideration is maintenance. Some people are allergic to weeding while others find it a relaxing pleasure. Either way, no one has infinite time to put into it. When adding new planting areas, there is a lot to be said for starting small. For maximum ecological benefit for a minimum or work, you could simply add a small grove of native trees, or swap out the non-native shrubs for native ones. Gardening in the shade is always easier than in the sun where plants and weeds grow so much faster.

The third consideration is the needs of the critters you are trying to help. They don’t care how your property looks, but they do have other strong preferences. For example, the more plant diversity, the more biodiversity in general. It is also useful to provide clusters of the same plant species since that will increase the foraging efficiency of the bees. A diversity of plant height is also important - from the canopy trees to the ground - for critters such as birds that nest at different levels. The closer you can come to reproducing the original plant communities, the more your home habitat will contribute to a functioning local ecosystem.

The above examples are just a few of the many helpful tips you can find on the new Plant NOVA Natives web page on garden design. The campaign is also planning a series of quick virtual “workshops” where you can ask your questions of garden designers - sign up for campaign updates to get notifications of the dates. And be sure to sign up for the August 3 talk by Rick Darke, co-author with Doug Tallamy of The Living Landscape: Designing for Beauty and Biodiversity in the Home Garden.


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