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Get ready, get set… Plant!


Within the last week or so, spring has pushed forth; new shoots of daylilies, onions, dandelions and iris poking out from the leaves. Daffodils, crocus and forsythia, following. Now is the time to pull back the leaves on the ground, which have lain there since last fall. The soil underneath has been covered with a new layer of compost. As the leaves and debris is collected into the compost pile, seed heads, twigs and mosses are scattered by the wind, where they can renew the woodland floor with fresh seedlings. It’s best to rake leaves now into the compost pile, before the spring plants are fully emerged from the soil.

Now is also, the time to observe the “bones” of your garden. Where will the sun be obscured by shade during the summer? Where will future understory trees and shrubs benefit from morning, or late afternoon sun? Are there invasive species such as English ivy, vinca, pachysandra, euonymus, Bradford pear or Norway maples on your property? These species overrun native plants, which deprives local birds, native bees and other insects of the foods which they eat in order to survive. You may want to consider replacing these plants with species better suited to the north shore of Long Island.

Last month, I attended a seminar presented by the Xerces Society in Brooklyn, NY, on how to help support invertebrate pollinators. Topics included an in-depth examination of specific, solitary native bees, such as the mason bee, which have demonstrated to be more effective plant pollinators than European honeybees. It was evident from their presentation that our current landscape industry of “blow, collect, and haul away” leaves is a really bad idea, environmentally speaking. Some pollinators can spend a great deal of their life cycles in leaf litter, so collecting leaves and bagging them effectively kills pollinator larvae, preventing them from reproducing. These pollinators need our support, not removal. Read more about bumblebee conservation here:

Bumble Bee Conservation

As homeowners, it is time to change our habits in order to enrich our local environments with native plants while protecting pollinator habitat. Replace lawns, especially in areas where they perform poorly (dry shade), and plant other ground covers and perennials which will prove to be far more attractive, and beneficial to invertebrates. Mother Oak’s Garden creates lovely garden designs utilizing native plants for your property. Please sign up to receive our email at:

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Why is it so important to eliminate invasive plant species from your yard?


Ah, those pesky seedlings, and vines and… “Invasives” are plants that have had an advantage in the environment due to plentiful resources, or a lack of competition from other species. Many manage to germinate from seed easily, primarily with the help of birds and other wildlife; and can take over large swaths of the landscape, leaving the ground underneath barren of native species. Those maple samaras provide little in the way of food for our birds.

Norway Maple seedling, germinated from last year’s flurry of samaras.

So which trees, shrubs and vines are such enemies of the North Shore woodland landscape?

  • Japanese Maple – Acer palmatum
  • Norway Maple – Acer platanoides
  • Sycamore Maple – Acer pseudoplatanus
  • Bradford Pear – Pyrus calleryana
  • Burning Bush – Euonymus alatus
  • Barberry – Berberis thunbergii
  • Multiflora Rose – Rosa multiflora
  • Oriental Bittersweet – Celastrus orbiculatus
  • Japanese Wisteria – Wisteria sinensis
  • English Ivy – Hedera helix
  • Vinca or “myrtle” – Vinca minor
  • Butterfly Bush – Buddleia davidii

Other perennials and grasses include:

  • Japanese Knotweed – Fallopia japonica aka Polygonum cuspidatum
  • Bamboo – Phyllostachys nigra
  • Lesser Celandine – Ficaria verna
  • Garlic Mustard –  Alliaria petiolata

How many of you are surprised by some of the plants on this list? Many of our traditional garden favorites are here – flowering pear trees, Japanese maples, burning bush, barberry! However, they re-produce readily, displacing native plant species (which provide food and habitat for native animals). Some of these plants are now restricted for sale, or are on the NYDEC Invasive Species List.

Red Japanese Maple with Burning Bush. Native Florida dogwood with white bracts, is in the background. Vinca and English Ivy cover the ground.

Seedlings, such as tiny Japanese and Norway maples, are easy to pull. However, established stands of weed trees, shrubs and vines may require the skill and safety equipment of a professional landscape contractor for removal. Additionally, it is important to consider that when removing invasive plants such as garlic mustard, to not let them go to seed! Putting it on the compost will just spread it to your compost. Bag it and put any unwanted seeds or diseased plant waste in the garbage.

Other plants such as Japanese knotweed, must be pulled by the roots, relentlessly! Add this to your garden workout routine! Just be sure to align your body properly when pulling weeds so you don’t throw your back out.

Lesser celandine is far more difficult to eradicate, as it develops seeds in its axils which fly everywhere when the plant is disturbed. Smothering may be your best bet. Right now, I have a standoff between it, and English ivy on a slope. Nobody is going anywhere to fast, though.

Hemlock surrounded by lesser celandine and English Ivy.

The Long Island Invasive Species Management Area (LIISMA) is a local organization committed to battle the problems presented by the influx of invasive plant species. They are seeking volunteers to aid with invasive plant eradication. You may also report invasive insects or plants found in your Long Island garden to: NYiMapinvasives

Detail of lesser celandine corm.