Monday, May 14, 2012

 Bayscape Blog

May 10, 2012

Magnificent Migration

by Judy DeFiglio

I vowed all week to tackle the chore of weeding the garden.  I knew I needed to get those weeds early instead of letting them take over the garden like last year, but I kept putting it off (have I mentioned how much I hate weeding!).  Finally, out of excuses and seduced by the beautiful spring day, I headed outside. 

My dread soon turned to delight as hundreds of butterflies swooped in and descended on my garden.  What a fantastic experience.  The Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) was migrating north and decided to stop by my native plant garden for some afternoon refreshment.  While I do design my gardens to attract butterflies and have many of them visiting throughout the season, I have never seen so many butterflies at one time.  It was truly amazing.

Too soon, by the next day, a large portion of the butterflies continued on their journey though many stayed for several more days.  Hopefully, some have decided to make their home here.

One reason so many lingered was that my native plant garden put out a big “welcome mat” for them with lots of early blooming natives for them to choose from.   While the redbud (Cercis canadensis), bottlebrush bush (Fothergilla gardenii), dogwood (cornus florida),  bleeding hearts (dicentra eximia) and mountain pinks (phlox subulata)  were just about done flowering, they still had some blooms remaining.  The mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia), chokeberry (aronia arbutifolia), and arrowwood (viburnum dentatum) had just started to bloom.  The butterflies adoringly swarmed the flowers of the columbine (Aquilegia canadensis), blue star (Amsonia tabernaemontana), and false indigo (baptisia australis). 

Spring can be a difficult time to garden.  There is such a wide variety of temperature and weather and it varies from year to year. As much as I love my garden, I don’t want to be out there on a cold, damp day in March trying to coax some temperamental plant to bloom or worrying that the flower on some exotic will be killed by a sudden frost.  That’s one of the great things about gardening with native plants, rain or shine, cold and/or hot, these great plants just keep on going producing reliable blooms without any fussing. 

As for the weeds, I did get some done (is weeding ever done?) and playing with the butterflies in my garden made it much more fun.

A springtime of color, a banquet for butterflies and an easy care garden to enjoy.  Not one drop of fertilizer or pesticide applied. Good news for Barnegat Bay and the environment.  What’s not to love about growing natives?  Include some of these great spring blooming natives in your garden.  I promise you will not be disappointed.

The Littoral Society has revamped its website. Check it out for more information on native plants and Bayscaping for Barnegat Bay at

If you are in need of native plants you’ll be happy to know that Hammett’s Garden Center on Rt. 9 in Forked River NJ is having a sale on native plants with 10% off the purchase of all native plants during the month of May.  Mention that you read about it at the Littoral Society blog site.  Hammett’s was the first retail nursery to commit to providing a specific area dedicated to native plants for the Littoral Society’s Bayscape for Barnegat Bay program.

There are several other opportunities to get native plants:

FREE Native Plant and Seed Swap
SUNDAY, MAY 20, 2012
10:00 am to 1:00 pm

For information call Jakes Branch County Park 732-281-2750 or visit their website The event is sponsored by Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders and the Ocean County Department of Parks and Recreation.

There will also be a native plant sale at The 15th Annual Barnegat Bay Festival on Sunday June 3, 2012 in Island Heights, NJ beginning at10 am. Sponsored by the Barnegat Bay Partnership there will be over 100 exhibitors and vendors.  Rain or shine come out and support this wonderful event.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Here is some great news for native plant lovers:

FREE Native Plant and Seed Swap
SUNDAY, MAY 20, 2012
10:00 am to 1:00 pm

This sounds like a super event.  Local organizations will be on hand with displays, literature and resources on the benefits of native plants and "green" gardening.  There will be nature walks, free seeds and seedlings, and you can even make your own seedling pots!
Also, you are encouraged to bring your own native plants or seeds to swap.  Please label each item with the common and scientific names, collections date and location.

For more information call Jakes Branch County Park 732-281-2750 or visit their website   The event is sponsered by Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders and the Ocean County Department of Parks and Recreation.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Importance of Native Plants
by  Judy DeFiglio

Garden like your life depends on it- it does.  That’s my message today after hearing a riveting lecture by Douglas Tallamy, author of Bringing Nature Home- How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants and chair of the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware.  I highly recommend that everyone read this fascinating book. It gives such insight into the crucial role of native plants in our environment. There are lots of beautiful pictures as well.
“Plants are not optional on this planet.” Says Tallamy, “With few exceptions, neither we, nor anything else, can live without them.”  He continues to explain that because food for all animals (man included) starts with plants, the plants that we grow in our gardens have a critical role. Unfortunately, when a home is built, the native vegetation is totally cleared, and replaced with a large lawn and a few ornamental plants of alien origin.  Often we don’t even know what is growing in our garden because a landscaper just planted some pretty, popular plants from who knows where.  We have 40 million acres of lawn in the US. Only 5% of the land in the US is undisturbed habitat.

There are over 4 million miles of road in the US.  Then add in all the parking lots, driveways and other paved surfaces and you see why we have a rapidly growing problem.  An example of this impact according to Tallamy is that between 1990 and 2000 the Delaware Bay Watershed saw a 40% increase in impervious cover.  By 2002 41% of all native plant species in Delaware are threatened and 41% of their bird species that depended on forest cover are rare or absent.  Our own Barnegat Bay watershed could be facing similar problems.

Why is it so important to grow and/or preserve native plants? The food web depends on it. Many of our native insects will only feed on specific native plants. They cannot eat the alien species. In addition, many of our alien ornamentals were specifically bred to be insect resistant so they do not support insect life.  Add to this, that many birds need specific native insects to survive and so forth up the food chain.  While most people are correct when they think birds eat seeds and berries, actually 96% of our terrestrial birds eat insects in the spring and need them to feed their young. Other mammals also eat insects.
Too often gardeners are taught that insects are bad.  They grab the pesticide as soon as they see a bug.  If we eliminate every insect in our garden, we also eliminate the birds, the frogs, the hummingbirds and the butterflies.  Studies have shown that planting native plants and encouraging biodiversity in our gardens will keep the insects in check without having to resort to insecticides. Insects may nibble on the plants but birds & toads will come to eat the insects.  Yes, caterpillars will eat some of your leaves, but, you need caterpillars to have butterflies!

I hope you will go outside today and evaluate your landscape.  See where you can make some simple changes.  If you have a plant that needs replacing choose a native.  If you are adding to your garden explore the wide variety of native plants available instead of choosing alien species. Reduce the size of your lawn and replant the area with natives.  Each of us can make a difference in the environment by just making these simple choices.

As mentioned in my previous blog, the native plant trail and demonstration gardens at Jakes Branch County Park are progressing. Most of the native plants for the trail have been planted and the demonstration gardens are scheduled to be planted in the late spring. What great news for all of us who are interested in using native plants, bayscaping and helping to protect Barnegat Bay.  Workshops on native plants and protecting Barnegat Bay will held this summer and I’ll post that information as soon as it is announced.  
 Enjoy this great spring weather and the beautiful Eastern Redbud Cercis Canadensis blooming right now.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Eastern Redbud    Cercis canadensis

Spring Check List

By Judy DeFiglio

All I can say is WOW what a winter this has
been. It’s hard to believe that last
year we spent the entire winter buried under a foot of snow and this year we
never had more than a dusting. No, I
will not get into my thoughts on global warming, but March has just arrived and
I already have flowers blooming. The
weatherman is predicting a high of 67 today and when I finish this blog you can
bet I am heading out to the garden. I
will take a walk around and make a list of chores that need to be done.

Garden cleanup is a must ASAP. My perennials are emerging way ahead of
schedule and due to a back injury I never finished my fall cleanup, so removing
the old stems and raking the beds is a critical task. One word of caution, even
if it’s a beautiful day stay out of the garden if the soil is wet or you will
compact the soil and damage your garden.

Next on the list, I take all the leaves I
raked up, and head to the compost pile. I’ll add some of the leaves to the pile and
save the rest to add throughout the season. This will keep my compost balanced when I start adding the grass
clippings once mowing starts. While I am
at the compost pile I’ll fill my wheelbarrow with some of the rich, finished compost
that has been cooking all winter. I will
top dress my garden beds with the compost. Compost is the #1 thing you can do
for your garden. It enriches the soil,
it enhances the plants so no fertilizer is needed, it’s safe for the
environment, it’s organic, it takes tons of material that would otherwise be
added to our landfills and creates
“black gold” for your garden, it reduces pests and diseases on your plants and
it’s FREE!

If you don’t have a compost pile or bin,
make starting one the next project on your to do list. Even the smallest property has the room. You can even make compost in a garbage can.
Done correctly, there is no smell and little work, and did I mention it’s FREE!

Checking the list we move to digging and
dividing the perennials. Some I will
divide because they grew too large last year, others because I want more of a
particular plant. Some perennials I will
move to a new spot because I think they will look better. All of these projects are easy to do. Just
dig around the perimeter of the plant, digging deep enough to get the roots.
Lift the plant out of the hole and slice it into sections being careful not to
cut off the roots, then replant one section in the hole and plant the other
divisions where desired or give them away to a fellow gardener. That’s one of
the great things about natives, they are such great plants that you can dig
them, move them, and share them with others with very little effort.

If adding a new garden bed to your
landscape is on your list, now is a great time to do it. Decide the location, turn the soil, and don’t
forget to add the compost to get your garden off to a great start. Did I mention it’s FREE? You can then plant
seeds, use some of the plants you divided and/or purchase some new ones. This would be a great opportunity to add a
native plant garden or just incorporate some new natives in an existing
bed. For lots of information and ideas
read the older posts on this blog and check out the Littoral Society’s website for native plant bayscaping designs.

Now the part of the list I admit I
dread. Pull those weeds. A few small weeds ignored now will be a yard
full of large, monster weeds by summer. It’s easy to pull weeds by hand when they are just emerging in spring.
No herbicide needed. Besides it’s great

Last on my list for now is mulch. A nice 3 inch layer of organic mulch will
prevent those weeds I just mentioned and also conserve moisture so you won’t
have to spend more time and money watering.

If you have made the move to gardening
with native plants your spring garden chores are now done. If you still have that high maintenance
garden full of exotics continue on for an endless list of fertilizing, applying
pesticides, watering, pampering, sweating, and spending lots of money.

on Jakes Branch Demonstration Project

Great news
for native plant fans: You’ll soon be able to see all your favorite natives up
close and personal at Ocean County’s Jakes Branch County Park. Started last year, several environmental
organizations are combining their effort and plans are in the works to create a
multifaceted demonstration site that will promote “Barnegat Bay Friendly”
landscaping practices. Under the auspices of the Barnegat Bay Partnership the
participant are the Ocean County Soil Conservation, Rutgers University, Ocean
Parks and the Jakes Branch Staff, The Littoral Society, Rutgers Cooperative
Extension and Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve. There will be a native plant trail so you can
observe natives in their natural state and also a native plant demonstration
garden so you can learn how you can use native plants in your own garden. Included
in the project will be demonstration sites showing alternatives to lawns, and the
latest stormwater management. Workshops
and activities will provide a wide variety of information on ways to improve the
health of the Barnegat Bay ecosystem. Stay tuned for more updates.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Bayscape Blog 11/2/11
Native Plant List

What a great turnout today for our Littoral Society presentation on Bayscaping for Barnegat Bay that was held at Crestwood Village. As promised, here is the list of Native Plants that were recommended. Check out the previous blogs for additional information on these great plants and more.

Native Trees & Shrubs
Amelanchier canadensis- serviceberry
Aronia arbutifolia- chokeberry
Cercis Canadensis- redbud
Clethra alnifolia- sweet pepperbush
Fothergilla gardenii- bottlebrush bush
Hydrangea quercifolia- oakleaf hydrangea
Ilex glabra- inkberry holly
Itea virginica- Virgina sweetspire
Kalmia latifolia- mountain laurel
Magnolia virginiana- sweetbay magnolia
Myrica pensylvanica- northern bayberry
Prunus maritima- beach plum
Viburnum dentatum- arrowood

Native Perennials
Amsonia tabernaemontana- blue star
Aquilegia canadensis- columbine
Aruncus diocicus- goats beard
Asclepia incarnata- swamp milkweed
Asclepias tuberosa- butterfly weed
Aster novae-angliae- New England Aster
Baptisia australis- false indigo
Coreopsis lanceolata- lance leaf tickseed
Clematis virginiana- sweet autumn clematis
Echinacea purpurea- purple coneflower
Eupatorium coelestinum- hardy ageratum
Eupatorium perfoliatum- boneset
Gaillardia- blanket flower
Helenium autumnale- sneezeweed
Heliopsis helianthoides- false sunflower
Hibiscus moschuetos- hardy hibiscus
Liatris spicata- gayfeather
Lobelia cardinalis- cardinal flower
Monarda didyma- bee balm
Oenothera fruiticosa- sundrops
Penstamon digitalis- foxglove beard tongue
Rudbeckia hirta- black-eyed Susan
Rudbeckia triloba- brown-eyed Susan
Solidago sempervirens -seaside goldenrod

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Another Successful "Bayscape for Barnegat Bay"

Native Plant Demonstration GardenProgram reduces water use, fertilizers, pesticides and creates natural habitats Supports Governor Christie's Goal for Public Education

Toms River, Ocean County: On Monday, October 31st, the American Littoral Society announced the completion of another "Bayscape for Barnegat Bay" native plant garden project.The Laurel Commons Condominium Association, located off Old Freehold Road in the Long Swamp Creek subwatershed of the Toms River and Barnegat Bay, unveiled 3 native plant demonstration gardens that will serve as natural landscape alternatives that can be replicated throughout their 22-acre, 220 unit community and also be used as models for other communities to follow suit.

The gardens were designed by the Society's native plant consultant and horticulturist, Judy DeFiglio of Garden Guidance. The installation and hardscaping were provided by Down to Earth Landscaping.

Helen Henderson, Policy Advocate said Laurel Commons is a leader in community stewardship for protecting and restoring Barnegat Bay. "From the Society's perspective, it is especially important for homeowners in the highly developed areas of the Barnegat Bay watershed like Toms River to see examples of good stewardship like this," she stated. "We are fortunate that the association's board wanted to be proactive in doing their part to protect and restore the Bay through their personal landscape choices".

On October 22nd at the Society's 50th Annual Meeting in Cape May, Laurel Commons Condominium Association was conferred the organization's Citizen Advocate Award.The condo association's Vice-President Paul Krauss contacted the Society 2 years ago amidst growing concerns he had about the declining health of the Bay."I was greatly disturbed by what I saw happening. Stinging sea nettles and algae blooms were causing my grandchildren to stop participating in 'Grandpa's Camp' which for years consisted of boating, water skiing and swimming in the Bay" stated Krauss. "My grandchildren simply didn't want to come in contact with the polluted water anymore so I was forced to sell my boat".

Mr. Krauss, currently Vice-President of the community's board, contacted the Society and took the lead in convincing his homeowner's association to take actions on their property to help restore Barnegat Bay. To that end, the community will be reducing their lawn areas by 20%; replacing ornamental gardens onsite with native plant gardens; and participating in stormwater basin studies and retrofits to reduce nutrient pollution in stormwater runoff (nitrogen and phosphorus) that are harming the Bay.

The gardens at Laurel Commons are the latest in the series of "Bayscape" gardens being installed throughout the watershed as part of the Society's Shore Stewards program. The program, aimed at reducing the need for fertilizers and pesticides; conserving water; and creating improved habitats for species such as birds, bees and butterflies supports the Public Education Action Item #8 of Governor Christie's Barnegat Bay Plan.

The condo association committed $10,000 of their own money to the "Bayscape" project, with help from matching funds the Society received from the Trust for Public Land's Barnegat Bay Environmental Grant Fund. The project will be identified with signage on the property.

Additional "Bayscape for Barnegat Bay" gardens have been completed in the Bay's watershed, including: numerous private homeowner residences; the Maris Stella Retreat and Conference Center in Harvey Cedars, LBI; the Morning Star Presbyterian Church, Bayville; and plans are currently underway for a garden at Jake's Branch County Park, Berkeley.

This year, the Society also enlisted its first official "Bayscape" retail nursery supplier at Hammett's Garden Center in Forked River.

For those interested in learning more about "Bayscaping", the Society will hold a workshop this Wednesday, November 2nd at the Hilltop Clubhouse, Crestwood Village 5, 325 School House Road, Whiting, NJ 08759 at 1:30 p.m. For more information, contact Helen Henderson at 732.575.5701

About the American Littoral Society: The American Littoral Society is a membership-based, coastal conservation non-profit organization headquartered on Sandy Hook in Highlands New Jersey. For more than 50 years, it has empowered people to care for the coast through advocacy, conservation, and education. To learn more, visit www.littoralsociety.orghttp://www.littoralsociety.orghttp//

About the Trust for Public Land: The Trust for Public Land conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and other natural places, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. TPL has protected more than 24,000 acres in New Jersey, including over 11,000 acres in the Barnegat Bay watershed. To learn more, visit

About the Laurel Commons Condominium Association: The Laurel Commons Condominium Association represents the residents of Laurel Commons, a 22-acre community of 230 condominium units on Carnation Circle in Toms River, NJ that has been serving the community for over 20 years.