Gardeners tuning into landscaping with Virginia Natives Webinar Series

Published Sunday, August 29, 2021 7:03 am

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Virginia Native PlantGardeners in Virginia are increasingly hearing that using native plants in their gardens will help improve the environment – especially the habitat for declining pollinator and bird populations – but many aren’t sure where to start.

The Plant Virginia Natives Initiative is running a series of landscaping webinars with Virginia Natives this year that has reached over 3,000 residents across the state.

Over 2,800 home gardeners took part in the first 6 webinars last spring. Hundreds more have checked out the footage, which is now available on PlantVirginiaNatives.org.

Six more webinars are planned for this fall, open to 2,000 additional attendees. The webinars start on September 1st and run every two weeks through November 9th with topics related to the beauty of native landscapes all year round.

Sign up for the series today through PlantVirginiaNatives.org or lewisginter.org. Not only is the $ 10 registration fee for all webinars a great value, but it will also help Plant Virginia Natives with their plans to offer more programs and resources.

The webinar series began with a presentation by entomologist, researcher and author Dr. Doug Tallamy. A core concept of Tallamy’s most recent book, Nature’s Best Hope, is an idea he calls Homegrown National Park, which we create as individuals – in our own gardens.

“The message of the 12-part series is that any reduced lawn home landscape planted with locals makes a big difference and that the cumulative efforts of home gardeners across the state are helping create habitat corridors,” said Virginia Witmer, coordinator of the series featuring the Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program, a network of state agencies and coastal communities that administers Virginia’s coastal protection laws and is directed by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

Dr. Tallamy conducted a study that directly links bird breeding success to homeowners’ landscape choices. Tallamy’s research focused on the Carolina Chickadee, a species that needs insects to reproduce and survive, including thousands of caterpillars to raise their young. Courtyards that are dominated by non-native plants have fewer herbivorous caterpillars.

Research found that if yards in the tits’ nesting and feeding area contain more than 70 percent of the native plant biomass, tits have a chance of maintaining their local population. As soon as the domestic biomass drops below 70 percent, this probability quickly drops to zero. These tit observations are loud conservation alarms for other birds such as warblers, vireos and thrushes.

Tallamy says native oaks are the most important tree in 84 percent of counties in the United States, followed by native cherries and native willow. If you mine these, you change the ecosystem of this area.

Although many organizations were involved in planning the webinar series, Witmer said special thanks go to the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden for playing a key role in the series, handling registration and hosting. Blue Ridge PRISM, an invasive species management organization, hosted the Tallamy presentation.

You and the following organizations answered hundreds of questions from gardeners online this spring: Virginia Native Plant Society, Maymont Foundation, VDOT Pollinator Habitat Program, Virginia Master Naturalists, Virginia Master Gardeners, New River Valley Regional Commission, and the James River Chapter of the Virginia Garden Club.

The benefits of working together are a proven strategy modeled by Plant Virginia Natives. “The webinar series is an example of how our many partners work together to help us reach every corner of the state with our shared message about the many benefits of Virginia’s native plants,” says Witmer.

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