PERENNIAL: Mertensia virginica (Virginia Bluebell, Virginia Cowslip )

Tried and True Native Plant Selections for the Mid-Atlantic

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Spring has finally sprung when the pink buds of Mertensia virginica show themselves in late winter and early spring, evolving from being coiled up like a scorpion’s tail to opening to deep pink or blue nodding flowers in drifts of woodland carpets. The Virginia Native Plant Society named Virginia Bluebell as Wildflower of the Year in 1989. Learn more . . .

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Small Space Gardening for Pollinators

By Elaine Mills, Certified Master Gardener
Tallamy, Douglas W., 2007, Bringing Nature Home, Timber Press
 Many books, magazine articles, and news stories these days remind us of the significance of pollinators in our lives. Not only do they pollinate the flowers of our agricultural crops, such as pumpkins, berries, apples, cotton, and flax, allowing them to produce seeds or fruit, they also support other wildlife. The fruits they help produce can be a large part of the diet of mammals and birds, and numerous animals in the food web consume the insects themselves. For example, 90% of birds rely on the caterpillars of butterflies and moths to feed their young.

We also hear from wildlife ecologists like Dr. Doug Tallamy, author of Bringing Nature Home, about the importance of providing habitat for these insects in our own yards as natural fields, wetlands, and forest areas have been greatly reduced. Homeowners with small yards or apartment dwellers with balconies may wonder what role they can play in supporting pollinators. The good news is that by selecting smaller sizes of woody plants and making creative use of containers, gardeners with limited space can enjoy appealing landscapes that attract a wide variety of these creatures. Continue reading

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Spring Herb Supplement

A Guide to Growing and Using Herbs

Welcome HERB gardeners!

It’s time to check out the Spring Herb Supplement to the monthly post, Between the Rows – A Guide to Vegetable Gardening for vegetable and herb gardening!

Here you will find additional information on growing and using garden herbs. VCE supports local gardeners with a host of resources, including free classes, plant clinics and this newsletter. Want to know more? Subscribe here to receive future editions.

All the Herb Supplements are available at VCE Garden Guide under Resources on the MGNV site.

Spring_herb_supplement

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FERN: Adiantum pedatum (Northern Maidenhair Fern)

Tried and True Native Plant Selections for the Mid-Atlantic

Northern Maidenhair Fern is an elegant ornamental plant with striking
black stalks that will not go unnoticed in a shaded border or garden. This
native of moist woods in much of the eastern half of North America has a
singular growth habit with its fronds held horizontally in the shape of a fan.  Learn more . . .

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Healthy Bark, Healthy Tree Part 2: Mechanical and Weather Damage

Part 2: Mechanical and Weather Damage

By Mary Free, Certified Extension Master Gardener

Red oak group damaged by microburst on August 5, 2010. © 2019 Mary Free

Red oak  species damaged by microburst on August 5, 2010.
© 2019 Mary Free

Mechanical damage is the most preventable of bark injuries because it is often due to impatience, inattention, or ignorance. While pruning is essential to maintain a robust tree or shrub, improper pruning can be detrimental to a plant’s health. While Americans devote considerable time cultivating their lawns, careless maintenance practices can damage trees that take decades, not weeks, to grow. While we cannot control the weather, which can cause irreparable bark injury, we can control what plants we purchase and where we choose to locate them—the right plant in the right place increases its chances of surviving weather extremes. Continue reading

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Healthy Bark, Healthy Tree Part 1: Wildlife Damage

Part 1: Wildlife Damage

Robinia pseudoacacia tree in October. Photo © 2019 Mary Free

Robinia pseudoacacia (black locust) tree in October.
Photo © 2019 Mary Free

By Mary Free, Certified Extension Master Gardener

Winter and early spring are good times to look at your trees and shrubs with a critical eye to assess their health. The density of the canopy and the appearance of the leaves should be evaluated during the growing seasons to detect signs of disease, and during hot and dry periods for signs of heat stress or dehydration. Surface roots and soil drainage can be checked in any season. However, winter allows an unobstructed view of a deciduous tree trunk, which is central to tree health.

Trees have numerous ways to protect themselves. They can emit chemicals that repel invaders or attract predators to the invaders. Birch trees use the compound betulin, which gives the tree its white color, to reflect sun rays and reduce winter sunscald as well as to ward off invaders. If trees are wounded, they can try to compartmentalize the disease, by isolating or “walling off” the infected area and halting the spread of the infection. But it is bark that provides the first line of protection for a tree. Continue reading

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