Winterberry Farm Primitives

This blog is now devoted to gardening with native plants with a focus on those species native to the east coast of the United States. With an MS in Agricultural Science from the University of Delaware and my love of native plants, I hope to help folks see the beauty and necessity of using native plants in your garden instead of exotic plants. Did you know that our native song birds and native insects are disappearing as our local environments continue to change?
For those who come to this page to see my 'Winterberry Farm Primitives' blog can now be found at where I will post new additions to my online antiques shop at and discuss various subjects about primitive antiques.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Charming Chionanthus!

Oh boy, is my face red!!! Lots of crazy things going on here at Winterberry Farms and I just got lost in the craziness! BUT! I'm back and will be trying to post more often! One of the crazy things that is happening is the Philadelphia Flower Show and our preparations for it! We are down to about 4 weeks until set up and (as always at this point) I am worried that we won't be finished in time to take up the display on February 26th!

Craziness aside, I came upon an interesting article this morning and can't wait for the actual paper to come out so I can download it. This is from and here it is:

Lush green lawns may not be as good for the environment as you might think.
A new study suggests that, in certain parts of the country, total emissions would actually be lower if there weren't any lawns.
Previous studies have demonstrated that lawns comprised of turfgrass can potentially function as carbon sinks since they help remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. But the maintenance of lawns - fertilizer production, mowing, leaf blowing and other lawn management practices - may generate greenhouse gas emissions that ultimately exceed four times the carbon they end up storing, according to the study.
"Lawns look great - they're nice and green and healthy, and they're photosynthesizing a lot of organic carbon," said researcher Amy Townsend-Small,who co-authored the study. "But the carbon-storing benefits of lawns are counteracted by fuel consumption."
To reach their conclusion, the researchers sampled grass from four parks around Irvine, Calif. that contained either ornamental lawn turf or athletic field turf, which tended to be more trampled and required replanting and frequent aeration. Samples were taken from the soil and air above the turf, and analyzed to measure carbon sequestration and nitrous oxide emissions. The investigators then compared that data to the amount of carbon dioxide emissions that resulted from maintaining the turf, which included fuel consumption, irrigation and fertilizer production.
The results, detailed in the forthcoming issue of the journal Geophysical Research Letters, showed that nitrous oxide emissions from lawns were comparable to those found in agricultural farms, which are considered among the largest emitters of nitrous oxide globally. In ornamental lawns, nitrous oxide emissions from fertilization offset just 10 percent to 30 percent of the carbon that was sequestered. But day-to-day management required fossil fuel consumption that released about four times more carbon dioxide than the plots could take up.
Athletic fields fared even worse. They didn't trap nearly as much carbon as ornamental grass but required just as much emission-generating care.
"It's impossible for these lawns to be net greenhouse gas sinks because too much fuel is used to maintain them," Townsend-Small said.

I cannot stress enough the problems of the suburban lawn and what it does to our environment. Everyone is talking about 'going green' yet a lot of us still mow our lawns at least once a week and fertilize and spray pesticides..... I am not advocating getting rid of all of your lawn - the kids still need a place to play and roll I used to do on my grandfather's farm 'back in the day'... Running through the woods, finding insects and other 'scary things' under rocks... watching the birds and bunnies and.... wait a minute! We did that in the woods at my grandfather's farm! So, what is wrong with 'woods' in your yard and garden? The picture to the left is of my front yard in early summer and there is no grass to be seen! It is a great place for the kids to play in and last fall, a neighbor's child had to do a science project where they had to collect leaves from at least 10 different trees and shrubs. Guess what! They knocked on my front door and asked permission for their little one to gather leaves from my trees and of course I said YES! They had great fun helping him collect leaves and I helped by giving them the names of the trees. He got an A on the project and was then able to watch these trees change through the seasons just by gong outside. What a wonderful thing nature is and how much have we missed with our green, green lawns and not much else? What a way to help the planet and yourself at the same time?? Here is a picture of the path to my back yard, no grass here!

Also, Trillium recurvatum nodding in the spring sun last year in my back yard. How glorious!

I love it!!!! Another reason to get rid of all that lawn and plant some natives!!! Now for some 'sound effects': TAH DAH!!!

The Charming Chionanthus!

Chionanthus virginicus (kye-oh-NANTH-us ver-JIN-ih-kuss), also known as the white fringe tree, is one of the most beautiful small flowering trees that you will find anywhere.
It is a member of the Oleaceae family - the same family as Oleander and is glorious when in flower. It loves a partial shade area under other trees where it will spread its branches and flower for you each spring. I have one in my front yard and she flowers each spring just as the dogwood flowers begin to fall. I did say 'she' as the white fringe tree is dioecious in that there are male and female plants just like the holly tree. She will at times produce fruit, a gorgeous blue berry, but it is sterile because I don't have a male tree. It is not easy to determine the sex of the tree as you must look to the flowers and determine if there are pistils or stamens in the center of the flowers; so I wouldn't even try to check the 'gender' yourself. If you are lucky, your nurseryman may know, so just ask when you purchase one.
Chionanthus virginicus is hardy from zones 3 to 9 in the United States and can either be a small tree or (as I prefer) a multi-stem tree that will develop twisted trucks in a great gray color. The leaves are a wonderful light waxen green and very shiny; but she, or he, will be in their greatest glory when they flower. I wait each spring for these beautiful flowers to appear and when they do, the fragrance is amazing! I wish I could add smell to these posts because if you could smell the wonderful scent of a Chionanthus virginicus in flower - you would rush out and buy as many as your garden can hold! It prefers a moist soil but can handle most garden soils and again, please do not place any additives in the hole when you plant this beautiful tree. It is native to the east coast of the US and does not need any additional help to get it started. Just water well for the first few years and then leave it alone! I can't say enough about this GORGEOUS tree except make room in your garden for one. You will not regret it! If I had to pick just one tree for you to buy and add to your garden, it would have to be the White Fringe Tree. It is spectacular in spring with the wonderful flowers, summer with its glossy green leaves and in the fall with its wonderful bright yellow color; even in winter the tangled trunks make a great statement.
So, make an effort this year to really 'go green' and cut back some of that lawn!
Until next time and the Outrageous Oxydendrum arboreum (Sourwood)!

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