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Native shrubs

    Date Posted: Mon, Jan 09 - 5:37 pm


  • Hello, I am looking for a shrub to plant as a privacy screen. I will be planting along the south fence line of my property; however, the fence line itself is already planted with Chinese privet trees (ugh) that can't be removed, so anything I plant may get some shade from these trees. I'm looking for something 5-6 feet tall that will provide a sight barrier without getting too bushy (I don't want it to intrude too far into my yard). Native and/or pollinator-friendly would be a big plus! Any thoughts?
  • Answer

  • Hello there, too bad about the privet but your planting will help to bring some pollinators and wildlife into your garden. The first shrub that comes to mind is inkberry (Ilex glabra). There are many varieties of this plant out there with different mature heights. So when shopping be very careful to read the tag and ask questions about the ultimate height and width of the plant you are choosing. The plant is evergreen and has small white flowers (not terribly noticeable) in spring that develop into small dark blue to black berries. Other native choices are mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) and evergreen bayberry (Morella caroliniensis). Mountain laurel can grow to 12 feet or more but can also be pruned to control height and create a bushier shrub. It has beautiful blooms in spring and is evergreen. It does like some shade so maybe the privet will help with that. It does not like clay soil. Bayberry is also evergreen and can mature around 7-10 feet. It's not too particular about soils and can take shade. It has small flowers that develop into those waxy gray blue berries most people are familiar with. All these choices are native and will attract pollinators and wildlife. Best of luck with your project!

Native plants

    Date Posted: Thu, Sep 15 - 9:44 pm


  • I have an east-facing front yard in the Museum District and have approximately 12X 6 feet of space to work with. We recently got a retaining wall put in, and so it is a fresh canvas. The space gets full sun at least half the day. I love native plants, and particularly those that would remain evergreen in the winter. Any suggestions?
  • Answer

  • Hello there, so nice to start fresh! I'm glad to hear you are interested in using native plants. I'm assuming the space is 12 feet wide and 6 feet deep. You'll probably want to start by creating some structure with shrubs. For evergreen green shrubs you could use inkberry (ilex glabra). There are many varieties of this plant, some have a loose form whiele others have a tighter globe shape and there are large and smaller sizes as well. So there's an inkberry to fit most spaces and styles. Mountain laurel is also another lovely evergreen plant with beautiful blooms in spring. Dog hobble or more commonly just Leucothoe (axillaris) is another nice evergreen. There is a variegated variety if you want to brighten up a space. You may also want to try evergreen bayberry (morella caroliniensis). In addition to these evergreens, there is virginia sweetspire (itea virginica) which has a nice drape to its shape, panicles of white flowers and beautiful fall color. Another good shrub is pepperbush (clethra alnifolia) with white to pink flowers (depending on variety) which is wonderfully fragrant. There is a smaller-sized variety that would fit in most gardens. Many of the plants in the blueberry family - early lowbush and deerberry (vaccinum pallida+vaccinum stamineum) have gorgeous fall color and colored bare stems in winter. Their spring flowers are delicate and beautiful and their fruits add to their appeal. I know you have a small space but I wanted to give a good number of options so you can pick and choose. Once you have a plan, you can decide what you want to place where. After placing the shrubs, you can then think about adding some lovely native ferns, perennials and/or ground cover, whatever space will allow. Before deciding on plants and placement, you should have a soil test done if you haven't already. You can amend if necessary and as an annual ritual, add compost to nourish you plantings. You can get a soil test kit at your local library when the Master Gardener Help Desk is in operation. Call your local library to find out the day and time. For additional information I suggest checking out this website and using the plant guides for the Capital region and NOVA-- Best of luck with the new garden!

Soil, native plants

    Date Posted: Tue, Sep 13 - 6:36 pm


  • I have got my front yard in great shape! not the back yard :( . It looks like a baseball field with lots of dirt and not much else. My back yard gets filtered sun,, some periods of direct sun in day. I have LOTS of trees. I want to turn my back yard into a natural wooded area with native wildlife. Do you think I need to buy soil or are there lots of native plants that can thrive in clay soil w/out that. Can you think of some native plants that would thrive in that kind of area. Thanks!
  • Answer

  • Hello there, Well, the good news is you have lots of trees! We all should....Since that's the case you must have a lot of fallen leaves come winter. What do you do with those leaves? If you aren't already, I would suggest you start a compost pile or two. Or even simpler, you can just let the leaves remain where they have fallen and accumulate. Over time you'll have your woodland base. If you would rather rake them up and compost them, that's fine too. Then make an annual habit of applying that compost to keep feeding the soil. Having all those trees is a real advantage; you have a lot of raw material with which to work. You want to build a good base that will nourish the insects, plants and animals you want in your back yard. There's a good book on permaculture - Gaia's Garden, that has lots of useful information. You'll be especially interested in chapter 4 -Bringing Soil to Life. So rather than spending a lot of money and energy on purchasing soil and amendments, and if you give the project a little bit of time, you can save that money and use it for plants! There are some plants that are suited to clay but building your soil will bring you greater benefits-again, creating a balanced home for insects, plants and animals. There's a wonderful website you can use for finding out about native plants and the habitats they thrive within. I highly recommend-- It's easy to use and covers a lot of territory. It's always recommended to get your soil tested to see if the soil is lacking in any nutrients. You can have that done through the Chesterfield Master Gardener program. Here's the phone number: (804) 751-4401. You can also visit your local library and speak with a master gardener and pick up a soil testing kit at the same time. Check your local library for the day and time that the master gardener help desks are active. Best of luck with this project, I think you'll have some fun!

Native Plants

    Date Posted: Mon, Apr 25 - 4:23 pm


  • I’m interested in filling a mulched area in my yard in the city with native plants. Do you have any recommendations for layout and where to buy? I was hoping for a rain garden but it’s not enough space. It’s about 10 feet by 3 feet.
  • Answer

  • Hello there! What a timely question. Master Gardeners are exploring this very subject on May 7th at the park at the Main Library between 1-4. There will be a presentation on invasive plants by the JRPS Invasive Plant Task Force followed by Master Gardeners presenting on native plants with plenty of time for questions and answers. Without knowing the orientation, amount of sun, and soil conditions, etc., it's difficult to make a suggestion for your planting. However, I would recommend making as many layers as possible-shade, understory, shrubs, perennials and groundcovers. I know it's not a large area but you would be surprised how many plants can inhabit a space that size. You could omit the shade tree perhaps and plant an understory or two-one at each end of the space. Then infill with a mix of shrubs and perennials and finally underplant with a groundcover or two. This diverse mix will be very attractive to many species of birds, mammals, insects, etc. Please come with your questions and curiosity on May 7th!!