I feel like a lot of people spend a good amount of time in the colder months tidying up their gardens. Cleaning up the fall leaves, clipping back all the spent perennials and grasses and then putting down a thick layer of mulch seems to be common practice. Let’s try looking at the garden in a different way this winter!
By cutting down the spent grasses and perennials you really miss out on the winter interest of these plants. The winter unveils another stage in the plants beauty with its dried bronze stalks, seed heads and spent flowers. It’s definitely very different than the way the garden looks during growing season, but this is what is so beautiful about it! Winter is also a really interesting part of the plant cycle. The focus is not on the growth of the foliage or flower, it’s now saving that energy and going into dormancy. The plant will protect its self and wait for springs arrival. While all this is going on, the plant is also playing a crucial role as shelter for many pollinators. Our native solitary bees overwinter in the still standing stalks of perennials. Ground bees like bumblebees rely on leaf litter to protect and warm them throughout the winter as they gather underground. The thick layers of mulch we apply make it very hard for the bees to get underground. Soil with just a cover of leaf litter is what these little guys need. Countless insects rely on this winter landscape in order to make it to spring and once spring hits we need them to pollinate and feed our other wildlife, such as birds. It’s a delicate cycle that is being tampered with, but little changes we make can make a collective and monumental difference!
So this winter, leave your spent plants up! Let the insects make their homes in the stalks. Leave the leaves in the beds or mulch up the leaves in your yard with a mower and apply these as layer of coverage to your garden beds in place of store bought mulch. It looks great and think about the difference you’re making to native pollinators!
Thank you to everyone who came out and visited our booth at this years Earth Day Festival in Manchester. The event was awesome and we appreciate all the hard work that went into making it happen.
Since our primary goal is to educate, we loved the chance to chat with hundreds of people on the importance of using native plants in their residential landscapes. We also sold far more plants than anticipated which is fantastic. The cumulative effect of choosing natives over non-natives can not be understated. Every plant makes a difference! Thanks to everyone for doing their part!
If you missed us this past weekend we will be at Maymont Herbs Galore this coming Saturday the 22nd. Hope to see you there!
Megan & Brian
Plant by Design LLC
Plant by Design Native Nursery
Hello to all our readers. We have some exciting news to share. Plant by Design Native Nursery has officially launched and will begin selling plants in early April. Check out our website to learn more and keep up with our upcoming events!
Thank you to everyone for your continued support and for helping us make this possible.
GET WILD, GO NATIVE!
While driving around this week keep a look out for all the white flowering trees scattered among just about every “natural” and unnatural area in our city. This is a perfect example of the dangers of invasive species and why planting native to our region is so important. The tree I am referring to is the dreaded Bradford Pear (Pyrus calleryana).
At one time the Bradford Pear was widely planted all around the city because of its modest size, adaptability, and early spring blooms. Unfortunately the tree has weak limbs which break during storms, horrible smelling flowers, and is as invasive as can be. They out compete most of our native under story trees such as Redbuds and Dogwoods and provide little if any ecological value. Fortunately, the planting of Bradford Pears greatly decreased once the negative attributes were discovered, however the damage is already done.
Let this example be a catalyst to encourage ourselves and others to recognize the negative impact non native invasive plants have on our environment. With the plethora of native trees, shrubs, and perennials available, finding beneficial alternatives to non-natives is easier than ever.
If you are in the Richmond area and would like to purchase native plants, check out Plant by Design Native Nursery . We are currently offering a selection of perennials native to our region and will be adding shrubs and trees in the near future. Plants will be available for purchase at Siteone (Formerly Glen Allen Nursery) and Elwood Thompson’s this April.
Over the last few years there has been a shift in the understanding of bees and the ones that need protecting. Until recently its been honey bees that get all the attention. Many are quickly realizing the detrimental impact this is having on our environment.
Honey bees are not native nor actually belong here. They also do not provide pollinating services for the majority of the crops we depend on. In the meantime incredibly important species of native bees are becoming extinct. If this trend continues the impact it would have could be catastrophic.
The short documentary below does a wonderful job of displaying the importance we all must begin to place on our native bees. Thanks for taking the time to watch!
Last post we discussed the removal of an invasive non-native known as Euphorbia amygdaloides. We got several requests to name ground covers to stay away from and also native options to use instead.
So here’s a quick list:
DO NOT PLANT: (No matter what your local nursery says!)
- Vinca minor (Perrie winkle)
- Vinca major
- English ivy (Shown in picture above)
- Spicata liriope (Or any liriope for that matter)
- Ajuga (Some varieties tend to be easier to keep in check so we aren’t totally against this one)
- Houttuynia cordata (Chameleon plant) – You will hate yourself forever if you plant this one. It is literally impossible to get rid of. Why would anyone still sell this???
- Clematis terniflora (Sweet Autumn Clematis) – We spent all day today removing this one from a residence on Grace St. It will take several more years to eradicate it.
- Euyonomus fortunei (Winter creeper)
GREAT NATIVE GROUND COVERS: (Let us know if you need help locating any of these)
- Chrysogonum virginianum (Green and Gold…shown above)
- Meehania cordata (Meehans mint… a great substitute for ajuga)
- Pachysandra procumbens (Don’t confuse this with the non-native pachysandra sold at most garden centers)
- Lindernia grandiflora (A great choice for planting between stepping stones)
- Clematis virginiana (Similar to terniflora but native and less aggressive)
- Callirhoe Involucrata (Wine cup)
- Carex pensylvanica (No need to plant liriope when we have this great native)
- Phlox subulata
- Phlox stolonifera
- Phlox divaricata
- Aster divaricatus
To sum things up, we at Plant by Design are not purists. We do believe that planting some non-natives in your landscape is perfectly fine. The issue comes when the non-natives are more aggressive and out compete our local flora. The ground covers we have asked you not to plant are invasive. While walking through the woods its hard not to find Vinca or Ivy choking out our native plants. Do not be afraid to mention this next time you are shopping at your local garden center. We never fault the home owner, we fault the garden centers that should be more responsible with the plants they sell.
Plant by Design LLC
A little over 2 years ago I obtained a sprig of Euphorbia amygdaloides ‘Robbiae’ from a clients house we were doing work at. Despite reading about its invasive tendencies I decided to give it a try due to its incredible beauty as a dense shady groundcover. I told myself, “Surely I can keep it in check by regular maintenance”. Big mistake! Not only did it quickly spread by masses of runners, but after 2 years I started noticing the plant popping up 10 to 15 feet away from the mother plant. This told me that it also spreads readily by seed. This was the turning point for me. I knew if I didn’t eradicate the plant soon it would begin to spread into my nearby woods quickly out competing current native species inhabiting it. I had to say goodbye to my Euphorbia.
The good news is there are plenty of beautiful native ground covers that enjoy similar growing conditions. The plant I chose to replace this invasive nonnative is a sedge known as Carex pensylvanica. At first glance it looks like a type of grass but sedges are in fact their own separate thing. Come next spring the plugs I have installed will begin to fill out to 12″ wide and about 6 to 8″ tall. It’s a great ground cover to intermix with other plants. In the photo shown I have both Aruncus dioicus (Goats beard) and Meehania Cordata (Meehan’s mint) in the same area. I will post photos next year to show its progress.
There are tons of great varieties of native sedge currently in propagation. A few of our favorites are:
– Carex pensylvanica
– Carex woodii
– Carex Texensis (More tolerant of sun)
– Carex Appalachica (Thinner more delicate leaf)
– Carex leavenworthii
All of these Sedges do a great job of creating a shady ground cover that can also be used to substitute traditional non native lawns. The above varieties tend to max out at 6 to 8″ if left unmowed.
Mowing once a year in winter is a good idea to keep them healthy and full. Sedges typically spread by runners rather than seed so planting plugs is the preferred method. If you need help obtaining native sedge for your yard just let us know.
Final thoughts: No matter how beautiful the non-native plant may be, if it’s invasive, it’s not worth it! I will be battling seedlings of the Euphorbia for years to come. Lesson well learned.
Plant by Design LLC