October 2017 Classes

Sign-ups have begun for a morning class held at Watermark Woods Native Plants in Hamilton in October. To register, scroll down for the form.

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For more information, see What is Landscape for Life? on this website, or email me at landscapeforlifeclass@gmail.com.

After registering, you will receive an email requesting payment of $60 by check.



Bees, Bugs and Blooms–research from PennState


One of the things covered in this past week’s class was how to bring more pollinator-friendly plants into your garden. A few years back Penn State did a pollinator trial on which wildlflowers were most visited by pollinators and by insects in general. Here’s the link to Bees, Bugs, and Blooms where you can look at tables and figures.

Towards the top of most of their lists are the mountain mints (Pycnanthemum), goldenrods (Solidago), Joe Pye weeds (Eutrochium), and milkweeds (Asclepias). Above you see mountain mint, which as anyone who has planted it knows, literally buzzes with activity this time of year. Also above there’s Joe Pye weed and one of the perennial sunflowers, and a milkweed peeking out here and there. My goldenrods are not blooming yet, so not in the photo. I have a big yard which I allow to grow on the wilder side; you can also have a neater & tidier pollinator garden if you prefer.

I’ve put just the genus name above (in italics); you can look further at the lists to find out which ones performed best. If you’re just starting out with planting for pollinators, any natives in these genera (plural for genus) listed above is probably good.

Figure 1 shows phenology, or the time of year the plants bloom and are therefore useful to their pollinator visitors. It’s important to start to think about planting wildflowers that will bloom throughout the season, from April through October, or even longer, so that pollinators have food throughout the season.

Watermark Woods has most of these plants available, and is usually open Wednesday through Saturday mornings (check the link to be sure). Loudoun Wildlife’s Fall Native Plant Sale, where Watermark Woods and two other reputable vendors will have plants to sell, is coming up Sept. 9 and is held at Morven Park in Leesburg.  Staff and volunteers can help you pick out plants that suit your needs.

Another good resource for planting for pollinators: Using Native Plants To Attract Butterflies, Moths, Bees, and other Pollinators in the Washington, D.C. Area

Check back soon for more posts and links on topics we covered recently in class.

Fun with Soil

Jennifer sent these cool photos of her “jar test” of soil on her property:

Image-1        Image

She found that the one on the left came out as loam, and the  Untitled
one on the right as sandy loam on the soil texture triangle.
However, she was less sure of the one on the right as it was harder to read.

Soil Quiz and Updates

Take this 10 question quiz before the second class:
Soil Health Quiz

Also: One of the biggest issues that homeowners are dealing with is compaction.
This is one of the things you are looking for as you observe your yard for your site assessment this week.
If you are unfamiliar with the topic of compaction, look under Soils in the banner above and select “Compaction.”
Your student manual also explains compaction starting on page 26. You’ll learn more about compaction and other soil issues when Alex Darr speaks on Thursday.

Alex is also a good resource for answering questions you may have about your site assessment.

For directions on using the Loudoun County mapping site and some other mapping sites, go to Mapping resources.  Note that there are also directions for finding aerial photos of your area like the ones Gem showed in class. If you have trouble, email me.




If you missed the class on Tuesday March 28, or just want to review material, Celia has generously shared her presentation with us:

Understanding and Creating Wildlife Habitat
Celia Vuocolo, Piedmont Environmental Council

Also, she found this information on Wisteria frutescens, the native wisteria, at the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center site, one of the best places to find information about natives (you can select your state and choose characteristics of the plants you’re looking for).  You can also ask questions at the page Ask Mr. Smarty Plants (really helpful!)

Celia also sent along Which bird seeds are best? from the National Wildlife Foundation, in response to a question about that. Black oil sunflower, white proso millet, nyjer (thistle) seed and sunflower chips seem to be the best bet.

AND  Loudoun Wildlife’s Native Plant Sale is this Saturday, April 1, at Morven Park. Go to the link for the address and more info.

March 14 Class Cancelled


DSC00177Class is cancelled for March 14.

Schedule going forward:
March 21:  Field trip to Watermark Woods in Hamilton  (directions)
March 28: Celia Vuocolo, Habitat in the Sustainable Landscape
April 4:  Susan Abraham, Designing the Sustainable Landscape (students will have a chance to sign up for a time slot to have Susan look at their landscape plan)

Continue working on your landscape plans.
Please consult the guidelines at the end of each unit in your student manual for the elements you should be putting into your site assessments:

Base Map & Soil Assessment:  pp. 27-30
Water Assessment:  pp. 54-55
Plants Assessment:  pp. 77-78
Energy Efficiency:  pp. 93-94 and also see How much sun does your garden have?

Email me if you have questions.

DSC00206 DSC00184

Overwintering native grasses provide seeds for birds. Beneficial insects often spend their larval stage inside stems of plants.