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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Bed Transformation!

Once again I am very pleased with the excellent work H&G did on my property.  They turned a section of my ugly front yard with invasive Bermuda grass into a beautiful and simple flower bed with mulch and many small bushes.  This striking transformation adds greatly to the house’s curb appeal.  I look forward to them coming back out this fall and replacing the rest of the front yard with sod and removing all the undesirable Bermuda grass.  Brian was easy and pleasant to work and plan with.  He always responded to my questions immediately.  Jon and his crew were likewise very nice, efficient, and perfectionists in planting my new yard.  Many thanks and accolades to H&G once again!

Sandy Hall

So thankful to be a customer!

when i returned to williamsburg in 2022, it was a real challenge to find a company willing to take on “yet one more customer” – i was ignored and turned down by others… but hertzler and george came to my rescue and i could not be happier – wonderful staff, professional and so friendly, i completely trust them to service my yard!  merry christmas and happy new year to everyone and H&G!


Drainage Help

I would like to let you know how happy we are with the service we received recently.
We had a drainage issue in our yard and did some research, learned your company was highly recommended and decided to see what your company could do.
From the first contact, we had a great experience as the lady that answered the phone was very nice. She put us in contact with Brian Kemp who we also liked from the start, and we made an appt for him to come and take a look. He was right on time, very thorough, and just a very nice fella who we both liked right away and had confidence in. We really liked how he gave us options and listened to what we wanted. We scheduled the work, it was done right on time, and it looks great! Brian was even nice enough to do a video walk through for us afterwards as we weren’t in town. Just great service from start to finish! Thank you Brian

We will definitely be back with more projects in the future.

T.M. - Ford's Colony

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Just a short note to thank you for all the help you gave us with our garden this year. Jonathon again did a wonderful job doing the bed detailing this summer, as did the mulching crew in the spring. I don’t know the name of the woman who supervised the mulching crew, but I want to let you know how professional she was. In fact, the entire crew was pleasant to work with, especially to experience the care that they took with their work.

Thanks also for being so flexible with the changes we requested for our mowing schedule.

E.L. - Ford's Colony