Watermark Woods: Growing Native

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Posted by @critterologist on
Discover THE native plant destination for mid-Atlantic gardeners.

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Watermark Woods is a native plant nursery near the small town of Leesburg, VA. My friend David (Greenthumb99) works there, helping with propagation and sales. I've been meaning to go "sometime" and finally realized I needed an actual plan, or another year would pass without my stopping by. A post in the Mid-Atlantic Gardening forum brought 6 of us together for brunch in Leesburg, followed by a nursery tour with David.

At the end of the parking lot, we were greeted by David and Julie as well as by the hum of pollinators (at a glance I counted 5 species) working a big patch of Mountain Mint. David has been praising this plant for years, but a single plant brought to a swap sure doesn't look like much. Now I get it!

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Watermark Woods got its start when owners Julie and Chris Borneman realized how difficult it was to find native plants at area nurseries. Working with the Loudon County Wildlife Conservancy convinced them of the importance of making natives more readily available. When they decided to start a business that would make a difference in their community, they knew what they wanted to do. Nine years later, it's the largest nursery of its kind for hundreds of miles around!

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Why the name? In Julie's words, "A watermark is a faint impression on paper, which is how we hope our footprint appears on this earth. Don't leave a mark; leave a watermark."

They are just starting to get into trees and shrubs, but they have an extensive collection of perennials for both sun and shade. Need something for dry shade? A tough groundcover for a hot sunny spot? They have a plant for you. Ask questions! And go with friends, because they will ask questions you didn't think of.

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Part of the appeal of natives is their toughness. They've bred themselves to be adapted to your area. Of course, it's still important to know your landscape in order to find the best-suited plants. At five star nurseries like Watermark Woods, the signage by the plants has extra information on growing conditions, and the staff can also offer expert advice. Some natives are widely adapted, while others are picky, wanting rich woodland soil or needing both plenty of water and excellent drainage.

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We spotted a few plants not quite native to Maryland, but pretty much all their stock is at least native to somewhere in the mid-Altantic states. That's a big help when selecting plants. Other nurseries in the area have "Native!!" on their signs, but that might mean native to the Colorado Rockies or to central Texas, which doesn't exactly mean it will flourish in my yard.

Native phlox species fill a variety of garden needs, from shade (Woodland Phlox, Phlox divericata) to sunny groundcover for dry areas (Moss Phlox, P. subulata).Watermark Woods has a wonderful selection of Phlox, both "straight" species and named cultivars. Creeping Phlox (P. stolonifera) needs more moisture but will grow in sun or shade. I found two I'd never seen for sale before, Spotted Phlox (P. maculata ) and Downy Phlox ( P. pilosa).Garden Phlox, Phlox paniculata [, is a showy, widely adapted native in the Eastern US. The delicate flowers of 'Jeane' (below) have a "wildflower" look.

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Butterflies literally flock to the nursery grounds. There's extra milkweed planted around for the Monarchs. From gorgeous Swallowtails to little Skippers, every plant in bloom seems to have its own butterfly fan club. If you weren't totally sold on adding native plants to your landscape, the butterflies alone here could convert you.

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Interested in natives but not sure how to incorporate them into your landscape? Would your group like to learn about native plants? Watermark Woods offers presentations and classes on topics from "Gardening for Wildlife" to a propagation lab. Their outreach and education efforts include special pricing on pollinator garden "kits" for schools and scout troops. They are committed to being much more than a retailer.

As we checked out, we noticed a well-curated set of books for sale as well as some lovely pottery made by Julie and other fun gift items. I'll be looking around my garden to see where I can add more plants that do double-duty in my garden, for me and for wildlife. I'll definitely be back.

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Going? See https://www.watermarkwoods.com...

Too far away? Talk to your favorite local nurseries about including more native plants in their selections. Check out these NGA forums for more ideas: https://garden.org/forums/view..., https://garden.org/forums/view..., https://garden.org/forums/view..., https://garden.org/forums/view....

Clethra 'Hummingbird'
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Comments and Discussion
Thread Title Last Reply Replies
American Beautyberry by tjackintrstarnet Sep 12, 2021 1:27 PM 1
I went! by Bschmuck Sep 8, 2021 1:44 PM 3
Monarch Butterflys by JanWiltz Aug 29, 2021 5:04 PM 1

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