Get Wild, Go Native!

A radical shift is taking place in the American landscape.  For decades foreign plants that were thought to be superior to our own native species have primarily been used.  Looking back, not only do we see that they are not superior, but we are also witnessing the devastating effects that many of these plants have had on our ecosystem.  Common invasive plants such as burning bush, russian olive, forsythia, and bradford pears crowd out our native species and spread rapidly by seed.  The problem with this infestation is plants that are depended upon by all facets of our ecosystem are disappearing as the dominant non natives take over.

As we begin to understand the intricate role native plants play in our ecosystem we realize how important they really are.  They provide food and shelter to countless wildlife that will go extinct without them.  They also help to clean our water and air as well as increase our soil fertility and prevent erosion.Native & Sustainable Landscaping Richmond, VA  One of the best parts about using native plants in a landscape setting is that they are very low maintenance once established.  They do not need fertilization and rarely need watering.  Also, if the correct plant is chosen for a particular spot it will need next to no pruning.  Plus, native plants are beautiful!  They have incredible seasonal interest and make stepping out into your yard a new experience every day.

With spring right around the corner we encourage everyone to join the gardening revolution and give native plants a chance.  We will help out by showcasing one native perennial a month to help our readers know which trees, perennials, and shrubs are perfect for their gardens.  And as always, feel free to contact us with any questions!

Get Wild, Go Native!

Plant by Design


Forget Forsythia

forsythia03Forsythia blooms are one of the first signs that spring has arrived.  Often blooming in late winter to early spring, it lets us know that cold snowy days are behind us.  The flowers emerge before the leaves creating a stunning display of bright yellow against an often still stark backdrop of the last breaths of winter.  Oh yes, it’s easy to see why Forsythia has become a staple plant in Virginia.  But you know what?  Forget Forsythia!

While the blooms are fantastic they only last for 1 to 2 weeks.  What you are left with is an unruly looking shrub, often mistaken for a weed, that requires hard pruning in most landscape applications.  It’s not known for fall color and has zero winter interest.  Forsythia is not native and does very little for the local wildlife.  Take honey bees for example.  Their tongues are just a little too short to take full advantage of the nectar produced by the flowers.  While not considered “invasive”, Forsythia does spread over time and can be a pain to remove after years of growth.

What you end up with is 14 days of this:
Forsythia Spring

And 351 days of this:

Forsythia in the winterforsythia summer

While working at plant nurseries I remember in early spring countless customers coming in to ask for “that yellow blooming plant” they saw flowering all over the place.  Most didn’t understand that because of its size and growth rate forsythia is really only affective as a backdrop or maybe as a hedge if frequent pruning is something you actually enjoy.  *Keep in mind though that Forsythia blooms on old wood so pruning in summer or fall to maintain a uniform shape will greatly reduce the amount of blooms it produces the following spring.*
The bottom line is, it’s just not that great of a plant!

I understand Forsythia’s appeal (for 2 weeks out of the year) but I would like to make some alternative suggestions for late winter/early spring bloomers that can have just as big of an impact while providing more seasonal interest and benefits for our ecosystem. 

So forget Forsythia and try something new this spring:


Bluestar (Amsonia hubrictii)
Woodland Phlox (Phlox divaricata)
Creeping Phlox (Phlox subulata)
Bulbs such as Crocus, Daffodils, and Iris
Bleeding Heart (Dicentra spectabilis)
Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica)


Witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) – late winter to early spring bloomer
Witch alder (Fothergilla) – early spring bloomer
PJM Rhododendron – early spring bloomer
Spice Bush – (Lindera benzoin) – late winter to early spring bloomer


Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis)
Star Magonolia (Magnolia stellata) – one of the earliest spring blooming trees
Serviceberry (Amelanchier grandiflora)
Dogwood (Cornus florida)
Crabapple (Malus) – varieties range from early to late spring bloomers

Quick Note of Caution:

Keep in mind that all the plants listed here have a wide range of needs and growth habits.  Never hesitate to ask your local nursery expert which of these plants would work best for your particular application.  We’re always happy to answer questions as well. 

Thanks for reading!

– Megan & Brian


Plant of the Week – Viburnum nudum ‘Winterthur’

Why are viburnums so underused in landscapes?  That’s a great question!  They are one of the largest and most diverse groups of shrubs yet rarely find themselves in the average homeowners yard.  Now I do admit that the sheer variety of viburnums can be a bit overwhelming.  There is literally a viburnum for every application; it’s simply a matter of sorting through them to find one that meets your needs. This week we are showcasing the Winterthur Viburnum (Viburnum nudum).  It is also commonly called “Possumhaw” Viburnum.  We love it because it’s native, has a wide variety of uses, and benefits a host of pollinators and other wildlife with its abundance of flowers and berries.

Winterthur Viburnum

The Winterthur viburnum has more of a natural look and will get about 6 feet tall and wide.  It is extremely versatile with the locations it can be planted.  While it prefers a good amount of sun it’s also one of the best viburnums for shady areas.  It also tolerates wet feet so if you have an annoying area in your yard that’s sun deficient and tends to stay wet this could be a good option to try out.

It produces an abundance of flowers from April to May and is a favorite of butterflies.  However, one of the best reasons to plant this variety is the incredible show it puts on in late Fall.  The blue berries against a backdrop of leaves that showcase multiple shades of reds and purples is truly breathtaking.

Wintherthur Viburnum Fall Color

Now despite its seasonal interest this is not the best plant to use for foundation planting unless it’s used as an accent and has plenty of room to grow without blocking windows.  (Remember, the right plant + the right location = little to no maintenance.)  This one works best as a backdrop or around the perimeter of your yard.  It’s also best planted in groups so that you can receive the most from its incredible fall show (groups of 3’s planted about 4 feet apart works great).  It will lose all its leaves in winter but its unique bark provides interest nonetheless.

If your looking for more height use Viburnum prunifolium (Blackhaw) instead.  It has all the same great characteristics as the Winterthur but can reach heights of 12 to 15′.

The Winterthur Viburnum should be obtainable at most credible nurseries.  If you are in the Richmond, VA area we recommend Glen Allen Nursery for all your plant needs.  They carry a wide variety of viburnums and are happy to answer any questions you might have.  Check them out at:

If you have any questions for us simply leave a comment and we will be glad to reply.  Thanks for reading!

– Megan & Brian logo

Bee-cause They’re Necessary

Nobody wants to get stung by a bee;  so it’s no surprise that many people shy away from planting flowering shrubs and perennials in fear that they will be attacked by a horde of bees on the way to their car each morning.  This is understandable (even though most bees are not aggressive), but the fact is we NEED flowering shrubs and perennials, particularly natives, to maintain a healthy ecosystem.


  This doesn’t mean you have to plant Rudbeckia right at your front stoop or Echinacea next to your favorite lounge chair on your back patio.  If bees are an issue for you, particularly if you are allergic, consider planting a large amount of bee loving flowers around the outskirts of your property or in a sunny area you rarely traverse.  Even just a few extra flowers in each yard can make a huge difference.

Here are a few bee loving perennials we use often:

  • Asclepias (butterfly weed)
  • Echinacea (coneflower)
  • Monarda (bee balm)
  • Rudbeckia (blackeyed susan)
  • Aster

So why are bees so necessary?  Check out this video and find out!

-Megan & Brian