Unity’s January 2023 Newsletter

Happy New Year to all! It’s a quiet time of year in the garden for most of us. A liminal space that we linger in while the light slowly returns. Deciduous trees are almost all bare now, making it ideal for both hunters and winter bird watchers. The only deciduous trees that still hold their dead, crispy leaves at this time of year are beech trees, select oak trees, and hornbeams. Deciduous trees that retain their leaves in the winter are sometimes known as “everciduous” and are exhibiting marcescence. The basic definition of marcescence is the retention of plant organs that are normally shed. For example, withered leaves on deciduous trees. Some of the leaves will blow off in winter storms and any that remain in early spring will fall then and provide early nutrients to the tree as they break down beneath it. Marcescent trees catch the winter light in a special way amongst trees that are completely bare. Once you start noticing them it’s hard not to see them!

Marcescence is one of the things that you can consider when you plan your winter gardens and landscapes. Other things are the unique exfoliating bark of a River Birch tree. The bursting color of red twig dogwoods! These topics will be discussed in greater detail during our upcoming workshop “The Winter Garden” on January 21st. If you’re interested, follow this link for more information and to sign up.

Another part of Winter Gardening is dealing with the weather extremes. Above ground plants benefit from additional insulation during extreme temperatures like those we experienced over Christmas. You can give this to them by placing hay bales around them, grouping them close together, placing them near your house so it can shelter them from wind or wrapping them in some type of fabric such as burlap. This week we are experiencing unseasonable warms, luckily this is accompanied by rain. If warm temperatures break the cold at other times in the season, it’s a good idea to check up on all your new plantings and above ground plants to see if they are in need of a drink.

Martha O'Neill, Retail Nursery Manager

Container trees mulched with straw for the winter.

Nursery Production

2023 will be our fourth year of growing native plants, and while we’ve learned a lot over the past three years, we are excited to keep learning, developing our growing methods and expanding our offerings.

This past year, I’ve been taking an online course to learn more about healthy soils, how to assess the health of soils, and how to make good, biologically active compost, teas, and extracts. My goal for 2023 is to begin implementing these practices here at Unity to grow healthier plants. We’ve also been learning more about nutrient management of nursery-grown plants, propagation by rooting cuttings, new native plant species and cultivars, and visiting other gardens or nurseries for inspiration.

For 2023, we plan to expand our native perennial and grass selection, both those we are start from seed but also those we grow by bringing in plugs of native selections or cultivars that we’ll pot up and grow out. These are often patented varieties that only certified nurseries are allowed to propagate.

For all of our plant material, we plan to grow the tried and true, but we are always on the lookout for unique varieties that might fill a specific niche. For example, we heard of a dwarf Sweetbay Magnolia called ‘Sweet Thing’ and after some internet searching, found a source for rooted cuttings. They arrived in the mail just before Christmas and we potted them up into quarts. We are keeping them in our greenhouse to give them a better chance of making it through the winter.

And, even though we are not planning to offer produce in 2023, we do still plan to grow herb and vegetable plants and plugs for you to grow produce in your own home gardens. Along with annual and perennial herb plants, we’ll have a selection of vegetable plants from March until September of spring cool-season crops, summer vegetables, and fall crops. I’m currently taking inventory of seeds on hand and will place orders soon for any new seeds we need for this coming year. If you have any special requests, please send them my way!

Theresa Mycek, Production Manager

Unity Landscape Design and Build

Unity Landscape’s construction team recently completed a project at the Greensboro Volunteer Fire Department in Caroline County where we removed over 7,000 square feet of asphalt, renovated a bank replacing invasives with native plants, and installed an intricate drainage and permeable paver system designed to handle all the stormwater on site.

The project began with the cleanup and removal of a large area of invasive species and the demolition and removal of an existing failed stormwater drainage system. Once the removals were complete, the team started at the base of the slope where it meets the Choptank River and installed the outlet protection, new drainage box, and a step pool system. A step pool system is designed to slow, capture, and infiltrate the runoff from a site. In this case, the drainage and paver system outlet to the step pool practice we installed. The bank where the invasives were removed was re-vegetated with a variety of native shrubs, perennials and grasses grown by Unity Church Hill Nursery.

Once the first phase was completed, we installed a 15-inch underground drain around the perimeter of the firehouse to which all but one of the downspouts on the firehouse were connected. This large drain line containing runoff from the building outlets directly to the first catch basin at the top of the step pool system.

The next phase of the project was the installation of an industrial permeable paver system. The crew first removed asphalt from the perimeter of the existing parking lot and then worked strategically with Reliable Concrete Services for construction of a new 6-inch curb and later, a large concrete slab. After the curb cured, the existing internal portion of asphalt was removed and the base excavated before installing a new sub-base to contain stormwater and prepare for the new industrial Power Block paver system. This system was chosen because the pavers are 4.5 inches thick and designed to handle the industrial loads of the fire department’s vehicles and equipment.

The last phase included first the removal of the existing asphalt and 18 inches of existing subsoil and then installation of a new concrete slab in front of the firehouse doors. This reduced the incline and improved access to the garage bays where the fire trucks are stored.

Lucas Lees CBLP, ASBPA, Coastal and Environmental Design

Sandy Appel, Chief Operations Officer

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