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.
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
Short video about bird population decline
Insect population decline
Plant NOVA Natives