Make room for a little forest

May 08, 2010|By CELESTE MAIORANA and SANDY SCOTT/ Special to The Herald-Mail
  • Fothergilla, seen here in spring bloom, is a three-season shrub, with blazing fall color.
By Sandy Scott,

Once upon a time, not very long ago, most of the land in our area was forest.

Today, less than 40 percent of land is forested. Much of the non-forested acreage is used for agriculture. However, our farmland has been giving way steadily to residential and other development.

Our understanding of our natural world tends to lag behind our transformation of it. Now we know that forests are essential to clean water and air and diverse, healthy animal and plant communities.

Because our population demands significant acreage to sustain our lives, it is important that we find ways to retain the forests we have, plant forest buffers along our streams, rivers and lakes and return as many acres to forest as we possibly can.

Every lawn can spare some room for perennial plantings other than grass. By planting a significant percentage of your lawn with trees and shrubs, you improve its ability to absorb water runoff as well as prevent excess nutrients and pollutants from reaching our waterways.


If you have limited space, you may hesitate to plant trees. However, there are many small trees and shrubs that have good form, varied spring, summer and fall colors, and attractive flowers and fruits.

Because they need little space, you can plant a varied selection without overwhelming your or your neighbor's house and other plantings.

Plant your trees and shrubs in a group, add a rock or two, an attractive log, some herbaceous perennials, and lightly mulch the whole area. It will need some watering and weeding at first. But if you allow the fallen leaves to remain, in time, your planting will become a little forest and mostly maintain itself. The type of herbaceous perennials that will grow will change as the area becomes shadier.

When you replace some of your lawn with forest gardens, the time you save in maintenance can be spent relaxing and in contemplation and appreciation of nature's variety and beauty.

Celeste Maiorana and Sandy Scott are members of the Washington County Forest Conservancy District Board, which promotes forest conservation in Washington County. Please visit online at

Shrubs and trees suggestions

Below are suggested small trees and shrubs that are well suited to our area. There is not always a clear distinction between small trees and shrubs.

Small trees

Paperbark maple, tatarian maple, American smoke tree, pawpaw, American hazelnut, Hophornbeam, all dogwoods, redbud, persimmon, sourwood, winter hazel, star magnolia, white fringe tree, Japanese lilac, serviceberry, silverbell, American snowball, hoptree.


Fothergilla, sweet shrub, abelia, beautybush, all viburnums, summer sweet, Clethra, fragrant winter hazel, witch hazel, spicebush, crape myrtle, northern bayberry, lilac, American beautyberry.

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