Landscape Committee News – April 2021

Shade Gardens

Unfortunately, not everyone in the Mews has sunlight on their patios and this can be a dilemma, especially if you enjoy gardening.  There are plenty of shade tolerant annuals at the local garden center, but another good alternative is a native plant.  Many native plants are perennials returning year after year, require little watering except in drought, and best of all, look great.

Years ago, native plants were harder to find so I used Monticello’s Center for Historic Plants as a source for older, less used varieties.  Today there are numerous options for obtaining Native and other historic plants. Below are just a few that are good for shady areas.

Maple Leaf Viburnum (Viburum acerifolium) is a native, shade, loving shrub:

Obedient plants (Physostegia virginianum) bloom later in mid-September at a time when the garden looks like it’s done for the season (see right):

Finally, Short-Toothed Mountain Mint (Pycnanthenum muticum) is another selection.  The information page at Monticello says that this prefers sun to shade, but it has grown well for me in shaded areas.

For other Native plant suggestions for sun and shade, visit the All Fairlington Bulletin “For the Love of Nature” column for April.

Keep up with the latest Fairlington Gardening news here


You can’t always get what you want.

The Landscape Committee has received several complaints about the weeds this spring.  Several years ago, Mews residents were upset about the use of chemical weed and feeds being used on the lawn.  With chemical products, residents were asked to stay off the grass for several days after application.  Our demographic now includes more families with small children and pets.   The Landscape Committee was asked if we could change to an organic product instead.  That said, organic products work differently and there are more weeds.  Fern Birtwistle wrote a great article about the product we are currently using last March.  You can find it here:

The bottom line is that we can’t have it both ways. 


An Invitation to Volunteer was sent to Mews residents at the end of March.  We received  several responses.  So here’s a GREEN THUMBS UP to Nancy Sween (Ct 1), Jackie Livingston (Ct 5), Elta Wilson (Ct 12), and Janice Peters (Ct 13).  We still need volunteers for the other courts.  Often the job is relatively easy, such as filling a tree bag with water twice a week, or just keeping an eye on plants in your neighborhood.  We hope that all of you will consider helping.  


Golden Ragwort – a spring bloomer that does well in sunny or shaded areas.

Landscape Committee News – March 2021

Spring Equinox happens on March 20th this year.  Hands that have been biding time all winter are ready to dig in the dirt.  Dirty and broken fingernails, scratches and bruises, are all part of a gardener’s wardrobe and are worn with pride. 

This March also marks an active campaign by the Landscape Committee to recruit volunteers to assist us in each court.  The truth of the matter is that the committee is aging.  Among the three active members, we had four major surgeries last year.  With that said, we still managed to complete the King Street Rejuvenation Project, plant small butterfly gardens throughout the Mews, and apply for and receive three free trees from EcoArlington.

In the near future, all of the Mews will receive an email regarding volunteering.  The goal is to have (a) representatives from each court.  These residents along with others within the court will organize to water new trees, weed, and most importantly, serve as a liaison between the courts and the committee.  Communication is essential, and admittedly, we have not always been as good about that as we should.

So keep watching, an email will be coming to you soon.

Kudos and a Green Thumbs Up

One of the residents in Court 10 discovered that plants surrounding the ‘big green box’ behind her house had become so overgrown she could no longer get out her rear patio door.  Thanks to Judith Guerny and Sharon Webster, this is no longer the case.  These two super heroes filled three bags with debris.  Thank you, thank you. 


Hurray!  Fairlington Mews was awarded three new trees.  Two of these will go in Court 1.  Kudos to all of you who answered the emails regarding tree choice and placement.  The remaining tree will go to Court 6.  These will arrive in late Spring.

Compacted Soil Issues

Compacted soil is threatening the two large Willow oaks in court 4.  This situation is occurring throughout Fairlington and was the topic of ‘For the Love of Nature’ department in this month’s All Fairlington Bulletin.

This issue was discussed at the February Board meeting and we are waiting for contractor proposals prior to deciding the best way forward.  

Happy Spring from the Landscape Committee!

Fern Birtwistle, Sue Davis, Penny Glass, Judith Guerny (emeritus), and Sharon Webster

Want to keep up with Fairlington Gardening?  Visit their Facebook page

Landscape Committee News – February 2021

The container in the picture above is an Acoma seed jar where corn seeds are stored after harvest.  Like the Zuni, the Acoma are desert farmers.  Only the best seeds are saved in the container for planting, while the rest are used for grinding or eating.  There they stay dry and unharmed until ready to plant.  The seeds can only be removed by breaking the jar.  So what is more valuable to the Acoma, the jar or the seeds?

This month the newsletter takes a look at patio landscaping that involves growing food.  Having such a small space shouldn’t stand in your way of food production.  It isn’t too early to start, in fact, the earlier the better.  Just remember that food crops need to be within the confines of the patio.

My goal has always been to have some food growing all the time in my patio garden.  This winter I have managed to keep winter lettuces growing under a garden cloth and painting canvas.  The canvas was added just recently when the temperature dipped into the 20s.

As a rule of thumb, other cold weather crops can be planted as early as March 15.  In recent years, I have started planting in the middle of February if the weather warms.  These crops include snow peas, radishes, carrots, and even some more lettuce or spinach.  Don’t worry if it suddenly gets colder or snows, those plants will do just fine.

While you are waiting to harvest, start some more plants inside.  Seed starting kits are readily available at garden centers this time of year.  You can find seeds there as well.  Look for seeds suited for smaller spaces.  Tomatoes and peppers are easy to start indoors, or out if it is warm, as well as basil and other herbs. 

Court 4

In a recent walk around, the Landscape Committee noticed that the lawn in the front area of Court 4 has been completely worn away and the soil has become compacted from over-use. We have been informed by experts that this degree of soil compaction significantly threatens the health of the courtyard’s two large Willow Oaks. Thus the lawn, and the area surrounding the oaks will require professional remediation in an attempt to save these much-enjoyed trees. Such necessary effort is expensive and the overall results of loosening the soil are not immediately apparent. In an effort to loosen the soil to the extent necessary for the health of the trees, it has been proposed to plant native grasses and shade tolerant plants. Every owner owns a portion of our common areas, and it is the obligation of every owner (and their renters) not to destroy or damage the common vegetation by overuse or abuse.

And we do thank you for ALL you do and how much we appreciate your involvement!

Happy Valentine’s Day from the Landscape Committee – Fern Birtwistle, Sue Davis, Penny Glass, and Judith Guerny (emeritus).

Want to keep up with Fairlington Gardening?  Visit their Facebook page:

The corn seen above include Broom corn, Hopi Blue, Iroquois Black, Tennessee Red Cob, and Tuscarora White.