Gardening in Northern Virginia is easy once you let the soil dictate what you plant! There is a reason why they're called native plants and those plants let you know very quickly that this is where they belong.
Sheryl London said it best - "Gardening is a kind of self-prescribed preventative medicine, good for all ills".Remarkable Trees of Virginia
Virginia's own Thomas Jefferson left us with a great "garden book" and numerous wonderful quotes on the subject.
Among many favorites is a quote from a letter addressed to James Madison in late October of 1785.
It affirms that "...as few as possible shall be without a little portion of land.
The small landholders are the most precious part of a state."
Born and raised in a very small town, deep in the country, albeit it not in this country, the lessons of tending to a garden were relayed at a very early age.
We had a full-blown vegetable subsistence garden, along with fruit trees and shrubs, all adorned by the most beautiful flowers.
The nearby pastures, wheat fields and forested land along the Maginot Line were my playground.
Snack time and desserts included apples, pears, enormous raspberries and strawberries and tart currants and gooseberries freshly picked that very day.
&We may not all have the space for a variety of fruit trees in our suburban back yards but we do have remarkable trees and orchards a plenty!
And...all we have to in NOVA is drive to a nearby orchard, where we can "pick our own" fruit right off the trees.
On a smaller scale, what could be more fun than gardening in Northern Virginia?
When I was growing up, dinner was a breeze with freshly picked veggies and herbs - carrots, beets, potatoes, asparagus, onions, shallots, garlic, lettuce, parsley, chives and much more. It was a full fledged vegetable garden - a "potager" - surrounded by fruit trees and shrubs.
The only items left to purchase were meat, bread, and dairy products.
Over the years, working in the garden was enjoyable in a variety of climates and on several continents. In the process, I also learned more about plants in general.
While some locations were ideal for flower gardening, others were not so friendly. Africa for one - a greenhouse atmosphere ideal for the growth of certain plants but not designed to spend much time outdoors in the middle of the day.
Even the garden critters belonged in a very different category and made it difficult to enjoy a favorite hobby. Large iguanas that demanded respect replaced the average annoying squirrels. The itsy bitsy spider was saucer sized and glared back at you. Frogs were poisonous and the oversized ants were definitely out to bite.
It is a relief to know that today, one of the most de-stressing things to do is gardening.
Home is in Prince William County and my favorite jasmine, bougainvillea and other subtropical and tropical flora do not tolerate our cold winter temperatures. The morale of that story is that if you are interested in gardening in Northern Virginia, learn to grow native plants.
Tending to this little corner of NOVA is a rewarding hobby but the trick to making it enjoyable and rewarding is to grow native plants - no matter how much I'd like that jasmine to climb up the trellis to the second floor window or pick lemons off the lemon tree!
I can vouch for the fact that a half hour of power gardening on a sunny day with its stretching, bending, lifting not only qualifies as excellent workout but it can literally jump start my entire day.
Bottom line? It is a way of showing that you "believe in tomorrow".
And in my case, that belief is often fleeting as the white tailed deer roaming through the garden may have entirely different ideas in store for me. I often want to toss the garden gloves and replace all the plants with garden art and a metal praying mantis or two. My own version of a gardening in northern virginia wonderland.
This year, I watched my day lilies survive a damaging hail storm only to be eaten by hungry deer.
After years of living in Northern Virginia, I still fall prey to the "oh that would look beautiful in the garden" syndrome.
Must focus, must focus - gardening in Northern Virginia is all about Northern Virginia native plants!
The first step is to get acquainted with the Virginia Native Plant Society. Guess what? They too are struggling to protect native plants from the deer.
When I moved here more than 35 years ago, I was beyond pleased to find huge patches of trillium in the woods. They're gone now.
I have the occasional odd looking plant that grows in all the wrong places but is absolutely stunning. It obviously belongs there!
The best garden plants for Virginia! That's the secret to my success.
Prepare the soil correctly, then stick to Northern Virginia native plants or plants which thrive in our climate and establish themselves quickly. Like the dandelions!
As much as we wanted to grow our favorite flowers, scrubs and greenery, in order to garden in Northern Virginia, we systematically had to replace them due to soil conditions, weather, and pests.
In fact, we have to do a considerable amount of yearly deer proofing in order to maintain basic landscaping.
Some plants such as hosta, which thrive in our woodlands, are simply irresistible to the deer population. Yet, there are years when they totally ignore our collection of shade loving foliage. During other years, the same plants vanish overnight.
We have also learned - the hard way - that when a plant is labeled deer-proof, it is not necessarily so. Pyracantha, which grows well in our Woodbridge, Virginia area, is prized for its ability to be a thorny, care free specimen.
Contrary to popular belief, Pyracantha is not deer-proof.
Neither is the Manhattan Euonymus. After two serious trims courtesy of the neighborhood deer, they look extraordinary this year.
However, their primary function remains that of breakfast bar. Their intended purpose was as a "property line" natural hedge.
Now... if we could find a way to convince the majority of the Virginia white tail deer found in our woods to mow the lawn on a weekly basis, we might forgive them their flower bed trespasses!
Still interested in gardening in Northern Virginia?
I'll share what other plants do well in my garden:
Did I mention rhododendrons?
Nandina, an evergreen shrub provides year around interest with large clusters of white blossoms in the Spring, berries in the winter and leaves of different colors - from pink to glossy green - depending on their age.
When I am lucky, I get to see blossoms on my massive day lilly plantings and black eyed susans.
Oh! I do have a lemon tree. It's not a native but definitely a throwback to another place and time when I could walk outside and pick oranges and lemons. It gets special attention.
It's time to get back in the garden after what can best be described as a strange winter.
Mark your calendars for the Saturday In The Garden 2016 classes. Pick your choice in a series of classes from the Teaching Garden at St. Benedict Monastary.
Click HERE for additional information about gardening in Northern Virginia with emphasis on Prince William County.
Hardware and home improvement retailers such as Home Depot, Lowe's and Ace Hardware all have extensive garden centers with a great selection of annuals and perennials.
Don't forget the garden shops at WalMart.
Check out the video below! It's the Merrifield Garden Center in Fair Oaks. I've bought quite a few landscaping plants there from their massive selection. If you are looking for a unique plant specimen, I highly recommend them.
I for one am happy to hear that deer to not like spirea. I have both the lime green and the other variety in the garden. It might be the only plant they have never nibbled on.
Visit the local plant nurseries. You might just find a plant that becomes the perfect addition to your established flowerbeds. Let's search out those native plants - it's all about gardening in Northern Virginia!