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About “Gardening Notes”: The Crestwood Citizens Association is happy to present the first installment of a new seasonal feature from expert gardeners and CCA Green Team co-leads Doug Barker and Danielle Reyes.

FALL 2022

It’s Time for Fall Planting: Looking for another wave of edibles from your backyard? Now is the time to prep for and plant lettuce, spinach, chard, beets, carrots, and anything in the cabbage family including broccoli, cauliflower, kale, collards, kohlrabi, radishes, turnips, mustard, arugula, bok choy, other Asian greens. 

Autumn is also a great time for planting trees and shrubs.  Here’s a wonderful and beautiful shrub to consider adding to your garden.

Winterberries, Ilex verticillata. 

When most people think of holly, they think of a shrub with bright red berries and glossy evergreen foliage. Holly always has glossy evergreen leaves, right?  Well, not always. Ilex verticillata, commonly known as winterberry holly, is a native shrub with great ecological value that that loses its leaves each autumn.  After the leaves have turned a beautiful yellow and dropped, you are left with a breathtaking view of thousands of brightly colored berries clinging to every stem. What a joy to have such color in the middle of winter!  

Though it is most commonly found in moist soils, it can also be grown quite successfully in average garden soils.  This is an easy plant to grow and it has few serious insect or disease problems.  The berries remain on the plant for several weeks to months through winter, as the birds tend not to be interested in them until they have softened considerably.  You will need one male winterberry holly in order to pollinate the female plants that produce the berries.  Groups of 3-5 female plants look great.  One male can pollinate up to five female plants; to ensure abundant fruit set, plant the male within about 50' of the females.  

There are several types of native winterberry cultivars available at garden centers.  Some have extra-large, plentiful fruits which can be either red or gold, depending on which cultivar you choose.  There are both full-sized shrubs that stand 6-8 feet tall at maturity as well as dwarfs that grow up to only 3-4 feet.   

Avoid this Plant - “Tick Plant”, aka, Japanese Barberry.  

The Japanese barberry bush may be pretty to look at, but it’s a nursery for ticks.  Some states including New York and Pennsylvania have already banned barberrys, but unfortunately they’re still available in Maryland nurseries and seen in many Crestwood gardens.  The prickly invasive shrub is very pretty this time of year because it turns red but it harbors black-legged ticks which spread Lyme disease.  Ticks love the high humidity micro-climate under these bushes, and mice which love to nest under the plants provide the blood needed for the baby tick meals.  Adult ticks attach to passing deer. Studies have shown a higher number of Lyme disease-infected ticks in barberry patches. In recent years the incidence of Lyme disease has increased, and it is now a major public health concern. Please do not plant these invasive and thorny “tick plants” and seriously consider removing them from your yard, especially if they’re near a walkway, patio, or children’s play area. 

Save the Vines?!?  

You may be noticing a lot of different vines on your property.  It's important to know that NOT ALL VINES ARE BAD. Native vines can live in harmony with trees and be a source of food for wildlife. Factors to consider when planting or managing vines are native vs. invasive, placement, and maintenance of vines. 

What to Keep:

  • Virginia Creeper is a native vine that can live in harmony with trees.

  • Native grapes

  • Poison Ivy on the ground should be removed, but it can exist in harmony with trees and is a food source for migrating birds. 

What to Remove (or manage aggressively) 

Troublesome native and non-native invasive vines can cause damage to young trees, crowd out native plants, and can damage foundations, retaining walls, and other structures made of concrete, stone, and brick.  If the following invasive and troublesome vines are creeping into your yard, you want to remove them! 

  • English Ivy

  • Porcelain berry

  • Asian wisteria

  • Mile-a-minute (wear gloves!)

  • Trumpet Vine - an aggressive spreading native  

How to Do It  - Different vines require different removal processes so we recommend going online to learn the best technique. For example, after trimming near the base and removing the roots, it's best to let English Ivy die on the tree, you don't want to pull it off and damage tree bark or disturb nesting insects. Other vines like porcelain berry should be bagged and disposed of before they drop their berries. Pro tip: Don't put your vines in compost! ;) Lastly, please don’t cut down vines that you’re not familiar with and certainly never cut down vines in Rock Creek Park unless you are an authorized special permit holder that has gone through the NPS Weed Warrior certification program.  If you need help in identifying vines, email the Green Team.

For More Information on the CCA Green Team and “Gardening Notes,” contact 

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