Landscape Committee News

March Greetings!

This year EVERY Mews Court will be treated for weed control.  In the past we have been told by Environmental Enhancements (EE) that the treatment they use is “organic”.  Not comprehending what the treatment was, several courts did not get treated last year because of resident concerns.  This year we understand more about this treatment: it is corn gluten meal – a by-product of the manufacture of corn syrup.  The product will not affect bugs, pets, or humans, but only pre-emergent weeds, that is weeds that have not started to grow.  The problem is that our weeds are likely to start growing at any minute!  There are even some daffodils in bloom!

Here is additional information about the organic fertilizer/weed control that is used.

  • It is more expensive than chemical fertilizer as the protein content (yes, the same kind of protein we eat in a bowl of cornflakes) has to be at least 60% in order to be able to put down an effective coating of four pounds per 1000 square feet.
  • The product acts as both a fertilizer and a weed control. The Landscape Committee sat down and talked to David Arze of Environmental Enhancements about this. “The product used today helps to build the soil profile so that you have healthier turf with longer roots.  Healthier grass means fewer weeds.”  The entire process takes about three years, but the investment is worth it.
  • The first application for pre-emerging weed is applied the third week of March.   The next application in April handles post emerging weeds, especially the broad leaf ones. A third application during the summer helps to contain crabgrass.

In other news, new trees and plants are coming to Courts Two and Three along the King Street side of the fence.  This is part of the King Street rejuvenation project.  Sweetbay Magnolia, American Holly, Juniperus Virginiana, Southern Bayberry, and Southern Magnolia have been chosen.  We need volunteers to water.  If you would like to help or have any questions, please contact Suzanne Davis at shoeboxsue@gmail.com.  

Your Landscape Committee,

Fern Birtwistle, Sue Davis, Penny Glass, and Jamie Boone

Landscape Committee News

Rejuvenation Pruning Begins Next Week

This week Environmental Enhancements (EE) will begin rejuvenation pruning on Courts 9 through 15.  I know some of you view this as the triennial hacking of the plants.  Rejuvenation pruning is just as the name implies, a way to maintain shrub health.  Removing a shrubs inner branches allow light into the plant that will help stimulate plant growth.  This is essential as plants mature.  In some cases, plants will be cut back to six to twelve inches.  They will survive and be healthier in the long run.  The Landscape Committee has advised EE NOT to trim azaleas or forsythia.  If you have specific concerns or would like to opt out of pruning, please let the Landscape Committee know ASAP.

You would think that winter would be a quiet month for the Landscape Committee.  Not this year.  Instead we are moving forward with the King Street rejuvenation.  We are focusing on the empty areas behind Courts 2 and 3 and are looking for volunteers to water.  If you are in either of those courts, find a water buddy and let us know.  

The plants being discussed for this area are all evergreens, including short and broadleaf, and a combination of native and non-native varieties.  Adrian Higgins had an interesting article regarding the use of native species that was very thoughtful.

Erosion is another problem the Landscape Committee has been trying to tackle. One example is an area around the single tennis court near the pool. This area has already had expensive drainage work.  We are planting a lower cost conservation garden here that we hope will mitigate the issue.

https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/water/rainscapes/about.html#conservationlandscape

Here’s hoping for some snow.  

Sue Davis, Landscape Committee Co-Chair

Fern Birtwistle Co-Chair, Penny Glass, and Jamie Boone

Landscape Committee News

December was actually a busy month for landscaping with two actions taking place.  The first was the tree tagging project.  All of the trees in the Mews (with the exception of a few) are all tagged coming to a total of 422.  Our contractor created a spreadsheet showing all of our trees by court, common name, and scientific name.  He also made suggestions for trees we can add as older trees decline.  All are Native trees that would increase the diversity of our holdings.  A PDF of this list can be found here and in the Landscape section of this website.

The Landscape Committee also went forward with the rejuvenation along the King Street fence.  A new holly tree, mountain laurels, and sweetspire were added behind Court 4.  Our decision to start small was wise. Some of the Fios lines run along the interior of King Street fence line.  Before planting, Miss Utility revealed, that in some instances, as little as six feet separate the underground lines and the fence.  This is not the case along the entire fence, but it will be a determining factor in moving forward.  In the meantime, the Landscape Committee encourages residents to see the additions behind Court 4.

Super Scaper Penny Glass managed to score ten free trees from the Arbor Day Foundation.  We are offering five trees to Mews residents who would like one in the common area around their property.  The resident is responsible for watering the tree. Trees are available on a first come basis with one tree per resident.  All trees will mature to 20 to 30 feet.  Those remaining will be incorporated into the landscape. 

  • 2 Flowering Crabapples
  • 3 American Redbuds
  • 2 Washington Hawthorns
  • 3 White Flowering Dogwoods

Happy New Year,

Fern Birtwistle, Jamie Boone, Suzanne Davis, and Penny Glass

Landscape Committee News

In early November, Fern Birtwistle and Suzanne Davis attended a symposium about the use of Native plants in HOA’s and Condo Associations landscapes.  The lectures proved informative and will shape plans as we move forward.

Climate change is certainly an element that has a negative impact on the Mews landscape, however, the use of non-native plants is also a negative factor.  In the past, trees and shrubs have been planted based on whether they grow fast, aren’t messy, or demonstrate the latest in greenhouse innovation.  As a result, plants often fail to thrive.  Worse yet, it adds to the problems of decreased bird and insect activity, a true sign of an unhealthy environment.  So, yes, it is possible to have a landscape that is lovely, but also completely sterile and void of insects and birds.  

Many of the shrubs that fail in the Mews are ones that are not native.  Swapping out failed non-Native plants for native species is one way to create positive change.   Native plants are adapted to this environment, and are better suited to hot, dry summers.  They have longer roots that help prevent run-off and erosion.  They don’t require fertilizer therefore cutting landscaping costs.  Plus, they attract insects and birds that help to create a healthy environment.

Did you know that native oak trees attract butterflies?  Arlington County does.  It has been at the forefront of this “back to Natives” movement by offering free native tree species to residents, HOA’s, and condo associations such as the Mews.  A swamp oak was recently planted in Court 6.  The Landscape committee plans to take advantage of this program on a larger scale in the future.

I admit that the large expanses of grass was one of the elements that attracted me to the Mews.  The reality is that grass has shallow roots and is expensive to maintain.  Erosion and standing water are two of the outcomes.  Converting some side areas – such as those near King Street and others – to small meadow areas using native plants is one way to remedy this situation. 

The bottom line is that by using more native plants we increase diversity on several levels, lower landscaping costs, and create a sustainable environment. Sounds like a win/win to me.

Landscape Committee:

Fern Birtwistle, Jamie Boone, Suzanne Davis, and Penny Glass

Learn more about bird and insect population declines and NOVA natives at the links below.

Bird population decline

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/home/bird-populations-have-crashed-heres-what-you-can-do-to-help/2019/10/15/f6e33262-e6d2-11e9-a6e8-8759c5c7f608_story.html

Short video about bird population decline

https://www.washingtonpost.com/video/national/health-science/north-american-bird-population-dropped-by-nearly-30-percent-in-last-50-years/2019/09/19/3e439a57-3071-4934-aac2-a3ed1912ac36_video.html

Insect population decline

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/home/learning-to-live-with–even-enjoy–insects-in-the-garden/2019/08/06/ec6d7760-b3cf-11e9-8f6c-7828e68cb15f_story.html

Plant NOVA Natives

https://www.plantnovanatives.org