Landscape Committee News – September 2020

Plant Them and They Will Come

Common milkweed is just that, a common ‘weed’ as well as the principal food of Monarch butterflies.  How do you know if it is milkweed?  Gently tear the tip of a leaf and you will see a milky substance, but remember not to touch it, as the sticky substance has toxins that will make you sick.  There are other types of milkweed growing in this area including swamp milkweed and butterfly weed.  The Monarch pictured to the left passed through the Mews this June and stopped to enjoy a milkweed flower.

Monarch butterflies lay eggs under the milkweed leaves.  Nothing more than a tiny white dot, it seems impossible that it can turn into a butterfly.  Once the caterpillars hatch they eat the milkweed leaves.  The poison toxin in the leaves is not a problem for the caterpillars.  As a result, the adult butterflies themselves are toxic. Predators quickly learn to leave the adult Monarchs alone.  Although toxic to vertebrate predators, wasps and ants will prey on the caterpillars, as the toxins do not affect them.Yes, the odds are really stacked against the Monarch.  When the caterpillar reaches maturity, it leaves the milkweed and looks for a place to transform.  After carefully attaching itself to a leaf, branch, or fence with silk, the caterpillar forms the characteristic “J” shape. 

Now the magic starts.  I have tried to watch this process many times, but I always sense the caterpillar knows I’m there.  It can also take a long time.  Slowly the inside of the animal begins to deteriorate and shake.  I notice the changes most in the antenna that simply seem to dissolve.  When you are not watching (because that’s usually what happens), the caterpillar’s ‘skin’ (the external skeleton) peels off and what is left is a green chrysalis.

Why is it this butterfly called the Monarch?  Look closely at the top of the chrysalis.  Do you see the gold dots?  That is the crown.  

Swamp milkweed was planted in the Conservation Garden near the swimming pool this year.  Shortly afterwards a female Monarch laid her eggs.  Within two weeks, there were plenty of caterpillars chewing away at the leaves.  Below there are links to video.

Other Landscape Committee News

The annual tree inspection will take place on September 29.  Several of you have let the Landscape Committee know of problems you’ve seen in your court. Please let us know if there other concerns.

The Landscape Committee: Fern Birtwistle, Jamie Boone, Sue Davis, and Penny Glass

Landscape Committee News – August 2020

New Trees for the Mews!

The Arlington Tree Canopy Fund Fall 2020 has just awarded the Mews Community three trees. These will go in Court 1, 2, and 11, and include a Linden, a Swamp Oak, and Hackberry. The Landscape Committee will be recruiting volunteers to water the new trees when they arrive this fall.

In other news:

Most of the time people forget that there are seven distinct communities in Fairlington.  Each of the villages is different and unique, but we have commonalities as well.  Teresa Cordova from the Commons recently reached out to all the Landscape Committees across Fairlington to share information and best practices. Each community has mutual concerns from dying trees to healthy grass to landscaping companies. The hope is that we can share our problems and expertise to educate the community about what a landscape is. The hot topic today is a return to Native plants.  

So, why Native plants?  Bradford Pear, once everyone’s sweetheart, is on the ‘do not plant’ list.  Day lilies, a garden staple, are getting snubbed.  English Ivy, ground cover to end all ground covers – forget about it.  After years of planting non-natives, it’s clear that native plants are already adapted to this climate making them heat and drought tolerant, they attract insects and birds, and are just as attractive as their non-Native counterparts. For those of you who follow these posts, here is a link from May’s newsletter about planting Natives.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/welcome-bugs-into-your-yard-you-might-just-save-the-world/2020/02/20/62b0a12c-4d18-11ea-b721-9f4cdc90bc1c_story.html

The group has met twice, and there was no lack of conversation.  Whose grass looks the best?  Do organic fertilizers work?  What rules and protocols do residents follow in your neighborhood?  What special projects does everyone have?  How can we share all of this?  Which landscaping company do you use?

For the Mews, it was good to meet with other dedicated individuals who value the importance of Native plants; individuals who are moving Native plant theory into practice.  An example is the shade garden at 2934 Columbus Street in North Fairlington. The group is also planning a new monthly post in the All Fairlington Bulletin featuring articles on turf, shade gardens, and cicadas.  

This Fall the Mews team is working on creating a list of suitable Native plants to use in the Mews.  The hope is to get our landscape to a 50/50 level – half native, half non-Natives. We are already working in that direction.  The King Street Rejuvenation Project and the Conservation Garden near the swimming pool contain only Native plants.  

If you are interested in what we are doing and want to be part of our team, contact Sue Davis at shoeboxsue@gmail.com.  New members are always welcome, no green thumb required.

The Landscape Committee: Fern Birtwistle, Jamie Boone, Sue Davis, and Penny Glass

Landscape Committee News

June/July 2020

Mews – a place of retirement or concealment, especially a place for birds to molt or fatten; to confine.

What a perfect name for a quarantine location.

The Landscape Committee has not met since being mewed.  Confinement has kept us apart, but truth be told, there are few of us, and we are in need of new members. We meet once a month on the Tuesday prior to a board meeting. Members contribute by serving as a liaison between the committee and the Mews community, meeting and working with contractors, researching gardening best practices, writing newsletters, and/or taking relevant workshops or seminars. Best of all you get to meet more of your neighbors. No green thumb required, but an interest and enjoyment of plants and the environment is.   

If you are interested, contact Sue Davis at shoeboxsue@gmail.com

Dead Tree removal

Trees come and go, but the intensive drought last summer certainly took a toll on many of our trees.  Dead trees in Court 11 include a Cherry (Tag #185) and a Japanese Maple (Tag #170).  In Court 12 a Dogwood (Tag #199) is also dead.  These are scheduled for removal on July 28, weather permitting. All trees on Mews common property have been tagged and categorized.  A PDF of this list can be found here and in the Landscape section of this website.

EcoAction Arlington

The Landscape Committee has again applied for free trees, this time three, from Arlington County. A Swamp Oak was planted in Court 6 last year and is thriving.  The Landscape Committee requested trees for Courts 1, 3, and 11 this year.

If you haven’t noticed there are new trees on our property along the King Street fence.  These are part of the King Street rejuvenation project.  All are doing well mainly because we have wonderful volunteers taking care of them.  So please give a Big ‘Green’ Thumbs Up to Carolyn Creevy, Judith Guerny, Garon King, and Janice Peters and her husband.

New plant list

The Landscape Committee is working on a recommended plant list and a list of guidelines for homeowners wanting to plant around their homes.   

Conservation Garden

Progress is being made on the Conservation Garden near the single tennis court by the pool.  The quarantine hobbled initial efforts to start and now the excessive heat is a factor.  The contractor, Nate Erwin has taken time to study the area during some of the harder rain events this spring.  Seeing how and where water puddled helped inform the project direction. 

As designed, the bed- a combination of leaf mulch and sand- holds and retains water, allowing it to seep out slowly to the surrounding trees.  The bed is planted with Virginia natives with long and/or expanding roots that will assist with controlling the water flow.  The hope is that this low cost method will control water issues in that area.

End of the Year

This year has been a busy one for the Landscape Committee.  Our first meeting was last July after Judith Guerny stepped down as Committee Chair.  Fern Birtwistle and Sue Davis assumed Co-Chair positions.  Most of August was spent reviewing previous documents and determining our roles and responsibilities.

Highlights

  • Electronic waiver forms
  • Monthly newsletters 
  • Tree Tagging
  • Reestablished communications with Environmental Enhancements
  • Received free tree from EcoAction Arlington
  • King Street Rejuvenation Project started with December and March plantings.
  • Began Conservation Garden by the single tennis court
  • Creating binders for yearly activities, archival material, and native plant resources.

Ongoing Projects

  • Establishing community work days
  • Establishing a list of native plants for Mews Community
  • Establishing guidelines for Landscape Garden Waivers

Your Landscape Committee, Fern Birtwistle, Jamie Boone, Sue Davis, and Penny Glass