ARMN Member Joanne Hutton Receives Bill Thomas Outstanding Park Service Volunteer Award

(Based on article in Arlington County’s Environment webpage.) Photos courtesy of Bill Browning.

 On April 24, 2018, ARMN member, Joanne Hutton, was honored with a Bill Thomas Outstanding Park Service Volunteer Award for her volunteer work in Arlington last year. This award was established to pay tribute to lifelong parks volunteer Bill Thomas and to honor and encourage residents with passionate dedication and support for the county’s dynamic programs, natural resources, and public open spaces.

Joanne Hutton is one of ARMN’s super stars, and Arlington County has recognized her value to the natural world with this very special annual award. Joanne is also a member of the Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia and became an ARMN member upon retiring from Arlington County’s Parks Division, where for five years she, trained VCE Master Gardeners and oversaw the county’s Community Garden program.

Phot of ARMN member Joanne Hutton holding the 2017 Bill THomas Award

Joanne with her 2017 Bill Thomas Award.

Among her ARMN projects, Joanne worked with the Audubon Society of Northern Virginia to establish a native plant demonstration garden at Potomac Overlook Regional Park, and she continues to lead the ongoing maintenance of that garden. She helped form the Audubon at Home (AAH) Ambassadors program for Arlington and Alexandria. AAH volunteers visit individual homeowners to offer guidance on best environmental management practices and increased use of native plants to improve habitat in their yards. Joanne has also worked on the Steering Committee for the Plant NOVA Natives Campaign, helping edit its published guide, Native Plants for Northern Virginia, encouraging property owners to buy and plant locally native plants.

She trained in Arlington’s first Tree Steward class and in 2010, assisted in surveying trees on Arlington’s 256-acre Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall to help better manage its tree population. She also has been a community gardener at Arlington’s Barton Park Community Gardens since 1999, and served as Chief Gardener for three years, continuing on its steering committee. Her focus as a Master Gardener remains public and continuing education.

Joanne actively participates in citizen science projects, including Christmas bird counts, monitoring bluebird nest boxes at Fort C. F. Smith Park, and assisting the Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas to determine distribution and status of breeding bird populations. She participated in Arlington’s first BioBlitz in 2017, a 24-hour citizen science inventory of plants and wildlife.

Photo of ARMN Member Joanne Hutton with all the 2017 Bill Thomas award winners

All 2017 Bill Thomas Award winners with the Arlington County Board.

In her time with ARMN, she has brainstormed ways to attract new members and make them feel welcome, served as a mentor to new members, and created an overall sense of inclusion within the group. As Joanne’s neighbor and fellow ARMN member Bill Browning puts it, “Joanne is a literal force of nature by her knowledge of the natural world, her willingness to share this knowledge, and her desire to make members in the Arlington Regional Master Naturalists feel welcome and have a sense of camaraderie.”

Joanne serves a multigenerational cohort to ensure that Arlington residents have the skills and information they need to be good stewards to the environment. Her service has inspired and encouraged others to join the local community of active volunteers. The natural world in Arlington has a true ally in Joanne; the benefits of her volunteer work can be seen throughout the County.

Spring Wonders in Potomac Overlook Regional Park

ARMN volunteer and Master Gardener Joanne Hutton reports on spring’s largesse in the native plant garden at Potomac Overlook Regional Park (with photos by the author unless otherwise indicated).

by Joanne Hutton

Spring rains yielded floral abundance this year, and the unfolding of spring at Potomac Overlook Regional Park’s Shady Native Plant Demo Garden was glorious—if you got there in between the showers. This is a space that ARMN maintains for public enjoyment and edification.

The PORP garden was the brainchild of, among others, Long Branch Nature Center naturalist Cliff Fairweather, and has enjoyed support and donations from the Audubon Society of Northern Virginia, Virginia Native Plant Society, Earth Sangha, Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia, and the Arlington Regional Master Naturalists. It is coming into its own in its fifth year, even as it is a work in progress. We’ve learned a lot about what the deer like to eat in a setting to which they were already habituated, especially geraniums, goldenrods, viburnums, ninebark, and some asters.

We have watched the lovely Woodland Stonecrop (Sedum ternatum) establish under a dogwood and twine with the Partridge Berry (Mitchella repens). The latter is a very quiet little groundcover, and I’ve discovered that, while it’s happier with the drainage a small slope offers, this year it bloomed happily the first week of June, despite the rainy conditions.

The Sweet Wake Robin (Trillium erectum var. vaseyi), also called the Stinking Benjamin, was also in bloom, although I confess I didn’t inhale it deeply. This plant is hardly “erectum,” which is why it’s treated as a separate species in some references, and is likely more common farther south. It has various medicinal (and also toxic) properties, and the freshly unfolding spring bracts are edible. To my mind they are too beautiful to consider harvesting.

Sweet Wake Robin (Trillium erectum var. vaseyi)

Sweet Wake Robin (Trillium erectum var. vaseyi)

(Trillium erectum)

Sweet Wake Robin, a.k.a. Stinking Benjamin

Deer do NOT browse on the Golden Ragwort (Packera aurea) that has spread to several beds and throws a golden haze over them in March and April. Similarly, deer avoid the native Wild Ginger (Asarum canadense) that’s created a rich green border under the Carolina Allspice (Calycanthus floridus). Another delightful groundcover, Green and Gold (Chrysogonum virginianum), has eluded predation. Like the Partridge Berry, it prefers decent drainage, especially during winter months. It’s a merry little plant that bloomed this year for nearly two months and is still going strong. Try it in your garden, if you haven’t already. Better yet, come to a work party (look for upcoming events on the ARMN Volunteer page) and we’ll dig you a piece!

Green and Gold (Chrysogonum  virginianum)

Green and Gold (Chrysogonum virginianum)

Ferns are only occasionally sampled by deer, and you can see at least eight different species in the demo garden. Some are delicate and others like the Cinnamon Fern (Osmundastrum cinnamomeum) are statuesque.

Photo 4 Cinnamon fern fertile spikes (Joanne Hutton)

Cinnamon Fern (Osmundastrum cinnamomeum) spikes

There are always things to see in the park. Some of them require a careful eye—to discover a recently emerged toad, uncover a baby box turtle not two inches long while weeding, or spot the source of warbler songs in the high canopy above.

American Toad (Anaxyrus americanus)

American Toad (Anaxyrus americanus)

Photo 6 Baby box turtle (Elizabeth Gearin)

Baby Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina) (photo courtesy of Elizabeth Gearin)

We are grateful for the support of the new park manager, Doranne Pittz. If you come to visit PORP, please introduce yourself to Doranne, who is new to Arlington. She has promised to install a sign to explain the garden’s purpose. And we are working on garden markers to highlight the valuable species that flourish in the shade and offer something for everyone—even the White-tailed Deer.

Potomac Overlook Park Native Shade Garden’s Second Spring

By Sue Dingwell

The Potomac Overlook Park Native Shade Garden is growing up! ARMN members have been carefully tending this little niche, encouraging the natives, discouraging the weeds, and doing battle royale with the deer. This is the garden’s second spring. Volunteers were greeted on Tuesday, April 23 with colorful blooms and  vigorous green shoots as preparations continue for the Open House at PORP on May 11.

It has been fun to watch the progress and evolution of this space, which was created to  provide education for homeowners by showcasing native plants that thrive in the shade. Joanne Hutton, who is one of the the garden’s moms, says that the Packera aurea, commonly known as Golden ragwort, has done a marvelous job of filling in, making a dense patch that keeps out weeds. In fact, ARMN volunteers had to remove some of it from the pathways and surrounds of other desirable groundcovers!

If you visit the site this week, you will be welcomed into the garden with sunny ragwort blossoms gracing the entrance.

Golden ragwort & tools.

Golden ragwort & tools.

Ragwort buds

Ragwort buds

Ragwort rhizome

Ragwort rhizome

Continue reading

Woodfrogs at Potomac Overlook Regional Park

By Joanne Hutton

If you had been out volunteering with Meet Me on a Sunday on this glorious afternoon, you too might have enjoyed the chorus of woodfrogs spawning at the pond and in vernal pools.

MMOS

Thanks to Sherry McDonald for the great shot and for throwing herself into the Master Naturalist enterprise with whole heart!

Meet Me on a Sunday (MMOAS): Instituted summer of 2012, volunteers help set up and staff information or interest-area tables in Potomac Overlook Regional Park on Sunday afternoons for two hours, from 1:30 – 3:30, just outside the Nature Center. Volunteers work alongside Nature Center staff, and you are welcomed to set up your own display on a topic of your interest, or to use a range of interpretive materials already there. Most park visitors are families with young children. The Native Plant Garden is a new addition to the park, and ARMN has created a box of information and display materials on invasive and native plants to help with that.

Willing to talk with the public about most any subject of interest to you?
Want to help develop children’s activities to supplement our box?
Want to lead short nature hikes for mixed audiences – e.g. to see wood frogs in action?

If so, this activity could be for you!

ARMN Invasive Plant Species Education Volunteer Opportunities Intersect at PORP

By John Bernard

Several endeavors by Arlington Regional Master Naturalist (ARMN) on education of invasive plant species and alternatives converge at Potomac Overlook Regional Park (PORP). One is the ARMN Audubon at Home (AAH) focus summer project which had its kick off meeting on June 24 at ARMN’s native plant garden after “Meet Me On A Sunday” at PORP. The program included AAH ambassadors and potential future ambassadors with a schedule of site visits to ARMN member yards.

ARMN members gathered to hear from Joanne Hutton (ARMN, MGNV),
Kathy Landis (ARMN, Landscape Designer), Alan Ford (President, Potomac
Chapter of the Virginia Native Plant Society, Terry Liercke (Audubon Society of
Northern Virginia), and Cliff Fairweather (Long Branch Nature Center) about
ways to create habitat-friendly yards using native plants.

Garden creators Joanne Hutton and Kathy Landis gave an overview of the AAH focus project and a tour of the shade garden to show ways to enhance habitat.

Good table top display and training references for the program.

Continue reading

A Walk in the Woods; Separate or A Part?

By Kelly Brown

We urban humans are “of nature,” but our cities and suburbs can feel disembodied from the very natural resources we use to create our living spaces.  As a child I watched fields and wetlands bulldozed, replaced by stately homes and treeless sidewalks.  So much greenery vanished as the inevitable roads were added.  I wanted to know the names of the plants that were disappearing.  Wasn’t there club moss and skunk cabbage?  Yet the only distinctions among plants that I was certain of were: grass and weeds, vegetable and garden flower, and those maple trees along Maple Avenue.

Now, as a metro-riding denizen of the city, I am acquainted with my dendritic city counterparts.  The hearty willow oaks, massive stately elms, and ghostly sycamore giants line sidewalks in single-file phalanxes; they reach awkwardly around telephone wires with branches that managed to evade the latest power-company-administered amputations.  But to walk through an unruly stand of trees, I get in my car and drive to the nearest urban park.

As I walk the trail at Potomac Overlook Regional Park, I inevitably recall snippets of what I’ve learned since joining my ARMN class.  This includes a lot of names, definitions and descriptions of local plants and critters, mostly common names, but sometimes I can hang onto a Latin name.

Assigning a name to the redback salamander, for example, seems to help me remember something, like the coppery skunk-stripe down its back from shoulder to tail.  Knowing the name of a “redback” also helps me remember there are other salamanders in Arlington that I aspire to encounter one day, such as the yellow polka-dotted spotted salamander. Continue reading

Demonstration Native Plant Garden for Shady Backyards

By Kathy Landis and Joanne Hutton

On Sunday May 6, 2012, Potomac Overlook Regional Park (PORP) held a dedication ceremony that marked the official opening of the new demonstration native plant garden for shady backyards.

The garden is adjacent to the Master Gardeners’ demonstration vegetable garden, across the driveway from the Native American garden. Next time you are at the park for a hike or to work on a volunteer project, please stop by to visit the garden.

Demonstration garden at Potomac Overlook Regional Park. Golden Ragwort blooming in mid-April.  Photo by K. Landis.

The Garden

The garden space inherited by the design team comprised both native plants such as American holly, dogwoods, spicebush, snowberry and sweetshrub and exotic plants such as thorny pyracantha, heavenly bamboo, boxwood, azaleas, and varieties of weeds. A lot of thought went into which plants to preserve and the decisions help make the point that it is possible to incorporate native plants into all gardens.

Azaleas, for example, were retained because they define the space well and are likely to be found in many of our shady backyards. A few other herbaceous exotics such as hellebores, lungworts, toadlilies also remain in the garden because they seem to be deer resistant and add interest to the design. Continue reading

Native Plants Demonstration Garden Dedication

By Joanne Hutton

Variety of ground covers, ferns at the Demonstration Garden, Potomac Overlook Park.
Photo by K. Landis.

We look forward to seeing as many of you who can come to the dedication of our new demonstration garden showing off native plants suitable for backyards on Sunday, May 6th, at the annual May Day Fair at Potomac Overlook Regional Park.  The dedication will take place tentatively at 2:30 p.m. with Mary Hynes, Chair of the Arlington County Board, in attendance and doing honors.  We hope to have a tree planting as part of the ceremony and celebration of our new ARMN focus project.

To prepare the area for this high-profile event, please come out on Friday morning, May 4th, 9:30 – noon or as long as you can, for a work party and training about the plants we’ve included in the design.  We have invasives to remove, mulching, and raking to do.  When we’re done, I will show off the box of informational materials on invasive and native plants developed for Meet Me on a Sunday, and we’ll talk about how to interpret the garden or host a short tour even if you don’t consider yourself an “expert.”  This will be especially appropriate for any of you folks in training as Audubon at Home Ambassadors. Continue reading

Meet Me On A Sunday At Potomac Overlook Park

By John Bernard

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Arlington Regional Master Naturalists (ARMN) partners with regional parks for great volunteer outreach opportunities.  One such weekly outreach is Meet Me on a Sunday at the Potomac Overlook Park in North Arlington run by the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority.  Among numerous activities on this beautiful Easter Sunday, I joined fellow Master Naturalist Nancy Bagwell at the park from 1:30 – 3:30 to talk to visitors about a couple of subjects dear to our hearts.

First, Nancy shared her knowledge of hawks, owls, and other raptors and birds with guests using some great exhibits.  She generated a lot of interest from park visitors.  Second, not as jazzy, but just as important, I spoke to passing visitors regarding invasive plant species.  Continue reading

Sharing Local Natural History Informally

“Meet Me on a Sunday . . . every Sunday afternoon at Potomac Overlook Regional Park!”

Almost everyone needs more time in the great outdoors – time to take a walk, enjoy each others’ company, or to just sit and do nothing!  So, come make a “natural connection” at Potomac Overlook Regional Park. Every Sunday afternoon, between 1:30 and3:30 p.m., the park provides refreshments, games and hands-on nature exhibits, and a fun place to meet and hang out. You take it from there: come alone or with family or friends; go on a walk; visit the nature center and chat with a Master Naturalist; or, just enjoy the day!   Continue reading