Spring Digging, 2020; pt 2

Our main spring digging window is now closed (although we have a few plants still available–check our inventory–but here are some more digging photos from earlier the month!  Photos taken 3 Mar 2020.

Featured Native: Virginia Pine (Pinus virginiana)

Pinus virginiana, 8 ft, at the nursery.

February’s Featured Native is Pinus virginiana.  Commonly called Virginia or scrub pine (or Jersey pine in a certain state to our northeast), Pinus virginiana has been a long-ignored native evergreen that has in recent years become more prominent in the naturalized landscape.   With a native range spanning the East Coast from Long Island to the Chesapeake, then southwestward through the Blue Ridge and Great Smokies to the Cumberland Plateau, it is an adaptable and fast-growing species.   Along with P. rigida, the pitch pine, it is a primary species of the well-known Pine Barrens ecological area of southern New Jersey.

In its native range, P. virginiana tends to grow in almost pure stands, usually maturing at 30-60 ft in height.   In the landscape under more ideal conditions, it can grow taller; up to 75 ft.   The largest recorded specimen topped out at 105 ft.  Broadly pyramidal in youth, it tends to grow more contorted with age, developing a broad, flat-topped, irregular, and ragged crown that serves as an interesting focal point in the landscape.   The orange, brown and cinnamon-colored bark and short, sharp, paired needles often lead to confusion with Pinus sylvestris (Scots pine), a poorly-adapted species which was extensively used in the landscape in the first half of the 20th century.   It can be distinguished by its yellow-green, twisted needles and 2½” ovoid cones, compared to the flat, blue-green needles and short, squat cones of P. sylvestris.  Unlike most pines, the cones of Virginia pine develop over two seasons.  The female flowers emerge in the spring and are fertilized by the bright yellow pollen-bearing strobili the following spring, then mature in the autumn.  Cones are produced every year, with some individuals bearing a heavier crop every third year; they can persist on the tree for up to fifteen years.  In good growing situations, the tree can grow to 18 ft in its first ten years and bear cones at five years of age.  Virginia pine is

Pinus virginiana, male flower detail.

especially useful in the landscape due to its tolerance for a variety of soil conditions; while it prefers a well-drained sandy or loamy soil, it can also thrive in drier, rockier soils, albeit with a slower growth rate and is relatively drought-tolerant compared to most evergreens.

Virtually all parts of the tree were used by native Cherokee peoples; tonics from the needles and bark for ailments such as bowel problems, fevers, and tuberculosis, tea from needles steeped in apple juice as a tonic, root tonic as a stimulant, pine tar as a waterproofing agent, and branches in burial rituals.  European settlers found the wood useful for poles and ship masts as unlike most pine, the wood becomes harder and stiffer as it dries due to crystallization of the high pitch content.  Today, P. virginiana is often grown as a Christmas tree and is an important and renewable source of wood pulp for paper-making.

Mature Pinus virginiana in the wild.

In the landscape, Virginia pine is useful as a backdrop to a shrub border, as a provider of high, light shade for annuals and perennials easily scorched by direct sunlight or as a picturesque specimen.  It can be affected by the fungal pathogens Porodaedalea pini and Fusarium moniliforme and insects such as pine beetles and sawflies.   All of these are relatively uncommon in the landscape and can be mitigated by good cultural practices.

White House Natives supplies Pinus virginiana in sizes from 5 ft to 8 ft.  It is a unique and interesting native that deserves a spot in the larger garden.



In the Field, Summer Liner Tours 2019, pt 5 (and final)

Ending the year with a final group of photos from our summer 2019 tours of our liner vendors.   Merry Christmas and Happy New year to everyone.. See you in 2020!

Featured Native: Common Winterberry (Ilex verticillata)

Ilex verticillata; 3 ft

For December, we’re featuring one of our finest native species for winter interest—the common winterberry (Ilex verticillata).  Native to most of the northeastern third of the United States; from Wisconsin to Maine and south to the Carolinas, Kentucky, and Tennessee, Ilex verticillata is a suckering large multi-stemmed shrub or small tree that finds a happy home in wet areas or in the shrub border.  It typically grows 6 to 15 ft tall in its native environment with a spread equal to its height.  In the wild, it is typically found in stream bottoms and in wetlands, but tolerates drier conditions in the garden with supplemental watering during long dry spells.

Ilex verticillata; 5 ft

Ilex verticillata has small dark-green elliptical leaves, typically 2-3” long.  These leaves usually turn bright golden-yellow in autumn.  Inconspicuous yellow-green flowers appear in late spring.  Properly pollinated, these flowers give rise to numerous ¼” berry-like fruits that closely hug the stems through the winter.  Like most hollies, Ilex verticillata plants are of separate sexes, so a nearby male plant is necessary for fruit set on the female.  But unlike typical hollies, winterberry is deciduous, which only helps to further enhance the display of bright red fruits after leaf fall.  These fruits are a favorite of native songbirds.  The smooth, grey bark provides a nice backdrop to the fruit display.  Tea from the colorful fruits was used as a fever remedy by Native Americans, but can cause nausea and low blood pressure if consumed raw.

Ilex verticillata; fruit detail

In the landscape, winterberry is ideal for swales and drainage areas and works well in the shrub border where it serves as an ideal background to colorful annuals and perennials before coming into its own glory in autumn and early winter.  It prefers full sun or very light shade at the edge of a woodland.   It is virtually pest-free aside from occasional leafspot or leaf mildew during prolonged rainy spells.  Like most water-loving plants, it prefers a neutral to acidic soil.  It is relatively slow-growing and requires only occasional pruning in late winter to maintain shape.

White House Natives supplies Ilex verticillata in a range of sizes including 4 ft, 5 ft, 6 ft, and 7 ft.  If you’re looking for a standout showy shrub for the winter garden, you can do no better!


WHN in the Landscape; 9 Dec 2019


These spring-dug WHN Betula nigra (river birch) and Liquidambar styraciflua (sweetgum) found their way onto a job in September. Their viability and exceptional aesthetics several months after being dug this past spring and then stored above ground is a testament to their durability due to the quality of our digging process with the right size root ball..