Foundation Shrubs that Feed Nature, not Fight it

Say No to Nandina: Choose NATIVE

If your exotic evergreens are “ever-brown” from the recent freeze, now is an ideal time to upgrade to natives.


It doesn’t make sense to simply plant more of the same: the same non-native foundation shrubs that are anything but foundational to our ecosystem. Schip laurel, boxwood, nandina, Chinese holly, euonymus, false cypress, red-tips, cryptomeria, and so forth: all are plants that evolved with creatures and conditions on different continents.

[Mockingbird on Black Chokeberry, Photo by Richard Hitt]

What we need in Tennessee are more shrubs that evolved nearby.
Native shrubs can be more likely to survive extreme weather, year-round. And most importantly, natives are the only sustainable choice: they contribute to local foodwebs in countless, critical ways that non-native plants cannot. 

But, which native shrubs give us the color, texture, and size we want, while giving birds, bees, and butterflies what they need?

Continue reading “Foundation Shrubs that Feed Nature, not Fight it”

Free the Trees

“But it’s pretty!” is how some gardeners defend the English ivy and Wintercreeper climbing (and killing) trees.
“Pretty” = evergreen, even in winter.

But it’s not pretty THIS winter, thanks to the deep freeze that browned even these invasive vines. 

So, now is the perfect time to kill these killers.

As a friend noticed last month, the vines “already look like sh*t,” so people “have nothing to lose by cutting the stems.” 

Cutting the stems can save our trees,
and save our neighborhoods from millions of new invasive seeds each year.

Cutting is fast, easy, and cheap.

Why cut? and How to cut?

Let Margie Hunter tell you, step by step.
Margie is on the board of the Tennessee Invasive Plant Council, is the author of Gardening with the Native Plants of Tennessee, is a founder of the Tennessee Naturalist Program (where she creates curriculum and teaches), and is a Conservation Communicator of the Year. And, she’s a neighbor!

(For a printable PDF version of Margie’s article, scroll to the end.)


Now is the Time to Free the Trees!  

by Margie Hunter, for the HWEN newsletter

Hillsboro-West End Neighborhood received a wonderful holiday gift in December — frigid temperatures killed the foliage of the English Ivy and Wintercreeper vines climbing our trees — presenting a unique opportunity to cast off their arboreal tyranny without suffering the sad sight of slowly wilting leaves. 

Why should we remove these vines from our trees? 

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The Sycamore Squeeze

To squeeze a Sycamore ball is a seasonal pleasure, and the season is now.
Now is when last year’s clusters of Sycamore seeds start to fall and to fall apart.
For the next few weeks, they’ll disintegrate into drifting piles of loose, fluffy achenes: Sycamore “snow.”

To squeeze a Sycamore seed-ball is oddly satisfying.
Call it a Contemplative Practice.
Call it fun or sick or weird, but try it.

The Sycamore Squeeze is one way to get to know Where—and When—you are.

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Winter Tree I.D. by Fruit

Here’s one way to I.D. a tree in winter.
Let’s call it “Ye shall know them by their fruits.”1

I made this dry-erase Key to help a couple of friends in the neighborhood who want to learn nearby trees.

It won’t work for all trees, but it’s decent for local, deciduous street trees that still have fruit on branches or on the sidewalk. 

Continue reading “Winter Tree I.D. by Fruit”

Yard Nature: Free Chives

[Bagel from Bruegger’s, china from Spode, “wild chives” from the Mayflower]

I grew up eating what Mom called wild onion. It showed up in the yard as free food. The long, hollow leaves were good to chew, as were the bulbs, but those were too intense to eat raw unless cheese and crackers were involved.

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How Your Tree Helps Wildlife in Winter

Sugar Maple leaves with pupa; Persimmon; Oak leaf with gall; Red oak acorns

“Wondering how trees help birds and wildlife survive a Nashville winter?”

That’s the first sentence in my short piece at The Nashville Tree Conservation Corps, called “How Your Tree Helps Wildlife in Winter.” My goal was to highlight “essential services” that only native trees can give to our birds, butterflies, and other animal neighbors.

Even if you already know the answers, take a look? Are there other stories I should have included in the allotted word count? We all want readers to fall in love with what native trees can do.

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Robins for Thanksgiving

The Robin ‘Hood show is starting. Nashville ‘hoods keep robins all year, but we get an influx of winter robins, too, and right now all the robins are appearing in a hackberry near you.

November is the month I love hackberries all the more. 
And, it’s the month hackberry haters hate them all the more. 
The same reason explains both: ROBINS.

The Sidewalk Nature pic below is another Robin “hood:” the hood of a car. Surely the driver must was from out of town, because locals know better than to park under a hackberry full of robins.

Continue reading “Robins for Thanksgiving”