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The Garden is Growing

New plants in the Meditation Garden

One of the results of stepping out into the unknown is that we learn things. When we were planning the garden, we determined that the space could be described as: Dry shade. However, as the summer progresses, we have discovered that there is much more sun than we realized.

The plants we have just added are all sun tolerant. Reading from front to back in the picture above, they are: mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum); purple cone flower (Echinacea purpurea); tickseed (Coreopsis verticillata) and great blue lobelia (Lobelia syphilitica).

The flower nearest the back of this picture is a turtlehead (Chelone obliqua). It is not new, but I thought I would mention it, especially since it is starting to flower.

What sun-loving plants do you have in your yard? Tell us about them in the comments.

Native Plants at Green Spring Gardens

Green Spring Garden FCPA

Green Spring Gardens is a great local resource for us. It is situated not far from Vienna, at 4603 Green Spring Rd Alexandria, VA 22312

The Garden Gate Plant Shop specializes in plants that do well in local growing conditions. It offers many plants featured in Green Spring’s demonstration gardens. Shop from April until early fall. The native plants are labeled with a red Northern Virginia Native sticker.

Virginia Native Plant Society (First Wednesday of the month April through October.) Native plants sold in the VNPS propagation beds at Green Spring Gardens Park, behind the horticulture center, 10 am to 1 pm.

Fall Garden Day and Plant Sale (to be held on September 21, 2019 from 9am to 3pm) Fall is a great time to plant, and on Fall Garden Day Green Spring Gardens hosts numerous local plant and garden craft vendors to fulfill your gardening needs. A silent auction, a bake sale, live music, food and a kids’ table add to the festivities. Come enjoy and support one of Virginia’s most innovative public gardens. FREE admission. Sponsored by the Friends of Green Spring.

Vendors include Nature by Design and Watermark Woods, both dedicated to the propagation of native plants.

Native Plants for Butterflies (This class is offered at Green Spring on Saturday September 7 from 10 – 11:30am) Planting a native plant garden is beautiful and beneficial to butterflies. Horticulturalist Brenda Skarphol leads you through a butterfly safari in the gardens and highlights native plants that are terrific for the home garden and benefit butterflies as host plants or nectar sources. Register through Parktakes.

Have you been to Green Spring Gardens? Have you attended a class or purchased plants? Tell us about your experience in the comments section.

Finding Suitable Plants

Red Native Plant Label

When once we had decided which plants we wanted to use, we had to figure out where to go to get them.

The easiest way is to go to our local nurseries. As more people are coming to realize the value of native plants, nurseries are beginning to have these plants identified. Look for the red stickers, pictured above.

And here is a close up:

This picture was taken at de Paul’s nursery in Vienna

Besides de Paul’s Urban Farm there are many other places with these stickers.

  • Betty’s Azalea Ranch
  • Burke Garden and Nursery Center
  • Garden Gate Plant Shop at Greensprings Garden
  • Greenstreet Gardens
  • Meadow Farms Nurseries​​​
  • Merrifield Garden Center
  • Silverbrook Nursery and Landscaping
  • ​Stadler Nurseries

For more information on all these nurseries, visit https://www.plantnovanatives.org/other-sellers

Have you noticed these stickers on any of the nurseries you visit? In the comments section, tell us where you saw them.

From Design to Details

Having a design in place certainly helped. We planned to have tall plants at the back, sun-loving plants in open spaces and so forth. Now we had to decide which out of all the abundance of plant types, we should choose.

We decided that since we live in Northern Virginia, it made sense for us to use plants that grow naturally in Northern Virginia. They should be adapted to the soil and the climate, and should thrive in the growing conditions just here.

We found the booklet pictured above, helpfully called Native Plants for Northern Virginia. How convenient! In it we found descriptions of plants along with the growing conditions that they needed.

That was a step in the right direction, but we still felt overwhelmed. We kept paging through the book until we found a chapter called: The Right Plants in the Right Place.

This was presented under these headings:

  • Landscaping in Small Places
  • Landscaping in Dry Shade
  • Landscaping in Street Side Places
  • Landscaping in Wet Places

We decided that the space we had to work with could be described as Dry Shade. And there we had it: a short list of plants from which to choose.

What challenges in making plant choices have you faced? Tell us about them in the comments.

Designing the Garden

The Blueprint

In early 2019, as winter was coming to an end, and the ivy was being smothered by cardboard and mulch, we started working on the layout of the new garden.

We considered consulting a landscape designer. There are some companies that specialize in the use of native plants. They would have come and made a drawing. They would have recommended which plants to use, and could have arranged to have the whole thing installed for us. For a fee.

We decided to do the work ourselves. We took measurements and drew a plan on graph paper. We found we have a rectangle, with a tree (artistically) slightly off center; and a small open space between the narthex and the chapel wall.

We realized that if were going to be able to access the plants, we would need a path. So we drew one going around the tree.

A landscape class at Merrifield taught us to keep our ideas somewhat vague. They said: draw on your plan such things as “flowering shrub here,” or “low-growing ground over” there. And then decide after that which actual plant to use.

So that’s what we did.

Stewardship of Creation

Meditation Garden Summer 2019

Have you noticed the new Meditation Garden near the front door of the church? It was installed recently, and it looks a little different from the other plantings on our property. We’d like to tell you a little more about it.

First a little background. The SOCC was formed a few years ago to promote sustainable practices at Holy Comforter, and we have been working on clearing invasive plants that are growing along the edge of the parking lot. This work was halted while the Ministry Center was being built, but we managed to find another way to get our hands in the dirt which was to create a native plant garden right by the front of the church!

I think it was the Sunday School who cleared a lot of ivy from the garden next to the front door of the church. They were going to plant flower seeds, but life got in the way, and suddenly there was available land. We cleared the rest of the ivy, covered the ground with flattened cardboard boxes and wood chip mulch, and allowed the area to rest for the winter.

In the spring we were delighted to find that very few ivy sprouts had broken through. So we set about marking out a path with bricks, and putting in some new plants. What we planted and how it is doing is to be the subject of future blog posts. I hope to write about one plant every week or two.

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