Thoughts About Native Planting

native planting newspaper

Where does H&G’s enthusiasm for native plants come from?  One source is our landscape architect Phillip Merritt, who trained at the University of Virginia, learning the approach of great designers such as Frederick Law Olmsted. Olmsted is best known for his beautiful natural plantings in Central Park and parks throughout the country. Designs like these had a strong influence on Phillip and he began to appreciate the value of native planting, both for historical and environmental reasons.

Not only does the beauty of native plants define the character of a particular area, but they’re also practical. Over the ages, native plants have adapted to the conditions of our local climate and are able to withstand our hot summers and occasional dry spells without the extra water, fertilizers, and pesticides that imported plants often need.

Native plants also have beneficial effects on wildlife, providing food and habitat. “Think about all the songbirds in your yard,” Phillip says. “What do they eat?” In spring, songbirds rely on insects to feed their young, as berries and seeds aren’t available yet.  “Those insects feed on the leaves of native trees and shrubs,” he says. Typically, native insects aren’t able to digest imported ornamental species such as camelias and boxwood. So, if you want songbirds, it’s important to provide a source of plant matter that insects can thrive on.

Relax. You don’t have to be an environmental purist to use natives. “Have fun with your yard! You can certainly mix your favorite plants with native plants and still have a great effect on your local environment.” Just keep in mind that the more native plants you use, the more benefit they’ll provide. Among some of Philip’s favorite native plants are Little Henry sweetspire, winterberry, and sweetbay magnolia.

If there is a problem with native plants, it might be finding them. Many plants like clethra, sweetspire, or native trees are easily available at local nurseries. But native perennials aren’t as common commercially and may be a little harder to locate. “We often use sources in Richmond for native perennials. But if you want to start out with just a few plants, try the plant sales at the Virginia Living Museum or the Virginia Native Plant Society,” says Phillip. And don’t overlook online resources. “I’ve gotten lots of plants from obscure on-line nurseries and been very happy with them.” Two such vendors are Heronswood and Plant Delights.

Do you have a question about how to select native plants or how to determine what’s native to your landscape? Write to us below or at Or keep an eye out for one of Phillip’s native plant walks offered through the Virginia Native Plant Society.

To read more about native plants and green landscaping, try these links:

  • (Native plants nurseries in our area)


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Brian came out last week to try to assess a problem we are having in our yard.  He arrived on time, was extremely courteous and took a considerable amount of time analyzing our situation.  While he was unable to reach a solution, he did take the time to research and recommend another business that might be able to help us.  That kind of customer service will make us more likely to call on Hertzler & George if other issues arise.  Thanks, Brian!


Five Stars All Around

We hired H&G to help us re-do our landscaping after a different local landscaping company did a sub par job with plant selections and installations. That company also was very hard to deal with. H&G stepped right up with Jennifer creating a new planting scheme comprising of native plants with some we had never seen before and which we love! She is extremely knowledgeable and pleasant to work with – a true landscaping charm! Jon did the installations and also did a fantastic job. He was very meticulous on planting and finishing the job neatly with mulch. Unlike that other company’s installer, Jon left us extremely happy with the job done. Customer service on the phone – pleasant, patient and helpful. The only, and ever so minor aspect of their work, is they don’t offer a guarantee on the plants or install. I suppose that’s becoming industry standard. However, now looking over all the plantings with a bit of time passing, I am confident that there won’t need to be any replacements. Watering is of course the key element. Thank you H&G, the country cottage landscaping we’ve wanted is now ours – FIVE STARS!

Chris Dombrowski
Ford's Colony | Homeowner

True professionals

Had these guys build a surface-grade patio in May 2023. They looked at the project, sent me a proposed scope of work and contract via email, took a deposit of 1/2 the total via bank transfer. They set a date weeks later to start the job. They showed up on time, worked professionally and cleaned up at the end of the day. Whole job took 3 days, and they even replaced all the patio furniture on the last day. The final product was precisely what I asked for, done in a high-quality, workmanlike way.

H&G are not the cheapest guys out there, but for the extra money you get a professional product, professionally executed, on time, on budget. Honestly: I don’t think it gets any better than that.


Ken Blakely

Beyond Satisfied

We had an ugly uneven weedy patio and a driveway that needed reshaping and gravel. The transformation is stunning. Your representative Brian was patient and helpful in designing repairs to our satisfaction and your work crew was exceptional. Edwardo the work site foreman was extremely knowledgeable and professional and created a beautiful patio. His crew was superior.

Tim & Cynthia Porter

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Hertzler and George were contracted to perform some landscaping for a seller of mine to get the home ready to show. They had just finished an extensive re-landscaping of the next door neighbors entire yard. I was very impressed by their attention to detail and their desire to satisfy their client. Joe Hertzler goes the extra mile to achieve complete client satisfaction. They provide a complete mix of landscaping design services and maintenance of existing landscaping

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Liz Moore Real Estate