Integrated Pest Management

Integrated Pest Management (also known as IPM) is just a fancy way of saying: Use all the pest control tools available to you. It takes a step-ladder approach, beginning with the cheapest and least toxic, and ending with a crop-spraying ‘plane flying over!

The Virginia Cooperative Extension gets us started. To solve pest problems:

  • identify the pest or pests and determine whether control is warranted for each
  • determine pest control goals
  • know what control tactics are available
  • evaluate the benefits and risks of each tactic or combination of tactics
  • choose the most effective strategy that causes the least harm to people and the environment
  • use each tactic in the strategy correctly
  • observe local, state, and Federal regulations that apply to the situation

The best strategy for each situation depends on the pest and the control needed.

In other words, we don’t have to pick one way of dealing with pests, we can use as many as we need! Over the next few weeks, I plan to show you how this works, using mosquitoes as an example.


Church of the Holy Comforter Welcomes You

Have you recently stopped to notice the garden under our Welcome sign? No? Well, then, let’s take a look.

For a long time the garden has contained lavender plants. The flowers are harvested, and then incorporated into the Welcome packets that are given to newcomers.

Last year, the plants needed to be replaced, and you can see the new lavender plants flowering in the middle of the garden bed. Here is a close-up picture of one them:


Since the new plants are so much smaller than the old ones, that left a lot of space available for more flowers. Our gardeners chose plants that are native to Northern Virginia. The Golden Groundsel has finished flowering. This is what would have looked like:

Golden Groundsel

Watch out for it next year!

Flowering right now is Threadleaf coreopsis. It looks like this:

Threadleaf Coreopsis

You will see that this cultivar is called ‘Moonbeam.’ That means it has been bred for certain characteristics. All of the ‘Moonbeam’ plants look exactly the same, no matter where they are purchased. That means if you want more plants in a particular place, you don’t have to remember where you bought the first lot, and hope they still have some! The plants form seeds, but these are developed so that they cannot germinate. This means several things: you can’t save the seeds and propagate more plants from them next year; and the plants can’t pop up where you didn’t mean them to be. They also can’t easily spread to fill a space. The plants do grow bigger, though – so they do fill out that way. And if you dig up the plants every few years and thin them you can get new plants that way. But you wouldn’t be allowed to sell those seedlings.

There are other plants in the garden. Tell us in the Comments section what you can find.

Anise hyssop

Agastache foeniculum Anise hyssop

If you’re looking for flowers in the Meditation Garden right now, you’ll find Anise hyssop. Here is a picture, so you can greet the plant by name.

And here is some information, from the Xerces Society’s website:

“Giant Blue Hyssop

Agastache foeniculum

“Members of the mint family tend to be highly attractive to bees, and giant hyssop is no exception – in fact, it happens to be one of the most attractive plants for bees and supports a diversity of pollinators. Historically, mass plantings of giant blue hyssop were established in parts of the Midwest and Canada specifically as a “honey plant” to support apiaries. While bees probe the deep tubular flowers for nectar, skippers, fritillaries, and the occasional hummingbird may also visit the plant.

“Though it is in the mint family, it does not spread aggressively like culinary mint, though it may be prone to re-seeding throughout the garden. As it’s generally ignored by rabbits and deer, it may be used as a barrier to keep them away from more sensitive plants.”

So, it has a long bloom time, and deer don’t like it. Great!

If you see any pollinators around the plants, let us know in the comments section.

What’s changing in the Meditation Garden?

Now that we are starting to use the front of the church more, it seems that this is good time to notice what is growing in the meditation garden.

We have missed a few flowers:

Golden Grounsel

These plants were flowering on April 25.

And before that there were Virginia Bluebells:

Virginia Bluebells

The flowers we are going to see next are called whorled coreopsis or threadleaf coreopsis.

Here is what Plant NoVa Natives has to say about them:

Coreopsis verticillata

Category: Perennial

Height: 1 to 3 feet

Season: Late spring

Soil: Loam

Deer : Usually resistant to deer browse

Wildlife : Bees. Adult butterflies or moths.

Moisture: Dry

Sun Needs: Full or Part Sun

Design Function: Border. Containers.

Gardening Tips: .5-3.5 feet. Moonbeam cultivar is sterile (will not self seed) and is very long-blooming. Nice mounded shape when mature. Spreads slowly by rhizomes. Spreads sideways. Tolerates drought. Blooms all summer, yellow flowers. Downy mildew. Shear in August to promote rebloom in September (not necessary for first year plants which will bloom all season.)

Region: Piedmont

Soil pH: <6.8


Ilex verticillata

Have you noticed the lovely red berries on some new shrubs next to the upper parking lot? The plant is called Winterberry, and here is some information about it:

  • Blooms: April – May
  • Berries: September – November (Red berry on female plant only)
  • Height: 3 – 10 feet, globular
  • Light: Full sun to full shade (That’s a pretty versatile plant!)
  • Soil / Habitat: Swamps, bogs; occasionally in moderate upland forests: tolerates poor drainage
  • Leaves are not shaped with sharp teeth like other hollies and are not evergreen
  • Need male and female plants to produce fruit. (We have both – you can easily identify the females – they have the berries.)
  • The berries are quite showy and will persist throughout the winter and often into early spring, providing considerable impact and interest to the winter landscape.
  • Special value to honeybees
  • Attracts butterflies and birds (food, cover and nesting)
  • Larval host to Henry’s Elfin butterfly, which looks like this:

Let us know in the comments when you have seen the winterberry plants.

Creation Care: Loving Liberating, Life-giving relationships with God’s Creation

An Episcopal Vision for Creation Care

The Jesus Movement is the ongoing community of people whose lives are centered on Jesus of Nazareth. We follow him into loving, liberating, life-giving relationship with God, with each other and with Creation.

As a whole church, we have promised to place the care of God’s Creation at the heart of our common life. Together, we have taken up church-wide action in order to safeguard the integrity of Creation and to sustain and renew the life of the Earth.

Below are goals and a vision for Care of Creation, developed by the Presiding Bishop’s Office and leaders of the Advisory Council on Stewardship of Creation and in alignment with actions by the 79th General Convention. Search for the resolutions at

Loving – Goal #1

Create and sustain a network of Episcopalians dedicated to the care and protection of the whole Creation, especially by providing grants and cultivation circles for Story Sharing among practitioners in local and regional ministries

  • Introduce new staff position with special attention to Care of Creation

  • Continue Care of Creation Grants program

  • Facilitate development of networks of practitioners, by state and / or affinity

  • Link with StorySharing work like Beloved Community StorySharing Project, Called to Transformation, and Climate Reality to share stories of our love for God and Creation

Liberating – Goal #2

Stand in solidarity with the most vulnerable victims of the impact of climage change – particularly women, poor people, and people of color – as part of seeking the liberation and flourishing of all God’s people.

  • Develop 2 – 3 eco-justice sites where the church invests significant energy and resources

  • Oppose environmental racism, sexism, classism

  • Support advocacy and governmental engagement via the Office of Governmental Relations, the Episcopal Public Policy Network, and participation in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, Conference of Parties

  • Advocate to protect vulnerable people / lands/ species, especially in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge

  • Inhibit exploitative extraction practices

Life-Giving – Goal #3

Set climate mitigation benchmarks as individuals and as a church, in order to live more simply, humbly, and gently on the Earth.

  • Develop, curate and distribute formation resources to support Episcopalians who wish to commit to simple, humble, gentle living on the Earth

  • Support use of the carbon tracker

  • Promote conscious food decisions and local, sustainable agriculture

  • Support use of the carbon tax and carbon offsets

  • Ask diocesan officials to track energy use as part of the parochial report, and promote energy and water efficiency across the church

  • Adopt the Paris Accord at state, regional and local levels

  • Work toward regenerative agriculture, biodiversity conservation, and habitat restoration

  • Help communities to transition to clean energy economies and encourage stewardship of creation with church owned lands

  • Promote ocean health and phase out use of bottled water in church-related facilities

  • Incentivize renewable energy and track fossil fuel divestment / reinvestment

Contact: The Rev. Melanie Mullen Director, Reconciliation, Justice and Creation Care

Rebecca Blachly Director of Government Relations, Episcopal Public Policy Network,  Environmental Concerns


Solitary Bees

Mason Bees in their cocoons

I learned relatively recently that there are about 4000 species of bees that are native to North America, and honey bees are not one of them!

Most of our bees are solitary, meaning that each bee is responsible for laying her own eggs, and tending her own nest. That means that there is no queen to defend, and therefore no incentive to sting.

Solitary bees don’t make honey, but they are particularly good at pollination. So there’s that trade-off.

Mason bees hatch in the spring. They feed on the nectar of the blossoms that are flowering then, for example the redbud trees that are found here in Virginia. And, incidentally they are pollinating as they go – giving us tree fruits, like cherries and apples.

They lay their eggs, future females first, then males, in the hollow tubes formed by the dried stems of last years plants. The bee lays an egg, places a nutritious pollen loaf next to it, and the seals it up with mud. Building with mud gives them the name “mason” bees. Then she lays another egg, includes some pollen, and seals it in, continuing along the length of the tube.

Fueled by the warmth of summer, the eggs hatch, the larvae eat the picnic their mother left for them, and when they are big enough, they make their cocoons, right there inside the tube.

Then, when the weather gets cooler – they hibernate for the winter. Warm spring weather tells them it is time to hatch. Males emerge first, so they’re ready to greet the females as they appear.

And then off they go to begin feeding and pollinating.

For more information about these fascinating creatures, visit the Crown Bees website.

And if you think this is just the coolest thing ever, then let us know in the comments section.

Native Plant Nurseries

Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta)

Before we get to the nurseries, I have just found out about how to get free tree seedlings. Here’s what to do:

 ReLeaf Fall 2019   – Seedlings Available
The plants will be dug up mid-October to November. All requests distributed in the order received. They are all bare root saplings.

  • Arrowwood Viburnum  
  • Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) to replace the invasive buddleia bush 
  • River Birch (Betula nigra) fairly safe from white-tailed deer
  • Black Cherry (Prunus serotina) fairly safe from white-tailed deer
  • Bald Cypress
  • Beech (fagus)
  • Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida) 
  • Gray Dogwood (Cornus racemosa) 
  • Silky Dogwood(Cornus amomum)  
  • Washington Hawthrorn
  • Hazelnut (corylus)
  • Hornbeam
  • Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum) fairly safe from white-tailed deer
  • Oak: (quercus) Black, Chestnut, Northern Red, Pin, Southern Red, White
  • Willow
  • Pawpaw  
  • Persimmon
  • Loblolly Pine
  • American Plum (Prunus americana)
  • Redbud
  • Sycamore
  • Winterberry Holly  

To place an order contact and state the species and quantity requested. You will receive an email when your order is ready. Pick up is at Potomac Vegetable Farms, which is near the intersection of Beaulah Rd and Route 7. Fairfax Re-leaf has a nursery there.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled program: Most nurseries sell plants that are native to northern Virginia as well as those that are not. In our area there are two nurseries that specialize in native plants.

One of these nurseries is called Nature by Design. This is what they say about themselves:

We offer an outstanding range of native trees, shrubs, perennials, and annuals, including many unavailable elsewhere in the Washington area. 
Our innovative approach to landscape design will:

  • Reduce maintenance
  • Protect our precious Chesapeake Bay watershed
  • Replace vanishing wildlife habitat
  • Transform your yard into a sanctuary of breathtaking beauty

Their address is: 300 Calvert Avenue, Alexandria, VA 22301. And here is a link to their website:

The other local nursery is called Watermark Woods. Their address is: 16764 Hamilton Station Rd, Hamilton, VA 20158. Phone 540-441-7443. Here is a link to their website:

If you know of any other nurseries that specialize in native plants, please let us know in the comments.

Where do butterflies go in winter?

Monarch butterflies cover every inch of a tree in Sierra Chincua.

Each different butterfly species has its own strategy for dealing with the cold. Monarchs survive the winter by migrating.

Monarch butterflies spend the winter in Mexico. In the course of a year, including a few generations, monarchs travel between Mexico and Canada and back. (And I thought I had a long commute!) To learn more about this migration, click here

Some butterflies remain in egg form for the duration of winter. For example, the red-banded hairstreaks lay their eggs on fallen oak leaves. That is convenient, because the first food this newly-hatched caterpillar needs, is oak leaves! Here is a picture of an adult:

Red-banded hairstreak

Some species’ eggs have already hatched by the time the weather gets cold. These caterpillars snuggle down under a layer of fallen leaves and wait it out. Here’s a picture of wooly bear caterpillar in its winter coat:

Wooly bear caterpillar ready for winter

If a caterpillar has already formed its cocoon, it can spend the winter in that form. So as to blend right in, some species disguise themselves as dry leaves, like this swallowtail chrysalis.

Swallowtail chrysalis

That is a bit of a risky strategy because it might get gathered up with the rest of the fall leaves and shredded.

Who knew there was so much life in our dead leaves? To protect these beneficial creatures, we might consider clearing some of the leaves on our properties, but not all. For example, turf grass doesn’t support much butterfly life, so clearing our lawns would probably disturb overwintering butterflies the least. Allowing the leaves to remain around those flowering plants that attracted butterflies would probably help the most.

The Meditation Garden starting to be covered by fallen leaves

For more information, follow this link to read about the xerces society “Leave the Leaves” suggestions.

If you see any of these creatures in your yard, let us know in the comments section. And share photos to show what these clever animals were doing.

Adopt a Native Plant

Lyre leaf salvia (Salvia lyratat) ready to go

Preserve Virginia’s Heritage

One of the wonderful things about plants is that they multiply themselves. A few plants together will sometimes grow into a dense mass. When that happens, it is often helpful to thin out the plants, so that each has enough light and space to grow.

What, then, do we do with the plants we don’t need? Why, give them away of course!

People with extra Northern Virginia native plants are planning to bring them to church on Sunday September 29. They will have them on a table outside the main door of the church – right next to the new Meditation Garden. And, if you feel inclined to experiment with a new kind of plant – then take one home, and put it in the ground.

If you have plants to share, then please bring them to church with on that day. However, they do need to be native to Northern Virginia. If you’re not sure then go to Plant NoVa Natives, and check their guide.

It would help if you would let us know in the comments section if you are planning to bring plants. But if you prefer, you can still surprise us!

Bonus: Learn how to Create a Butterfly Garden in Five Easy Steps here