Favorite Fall Natives

Fall doesn't have to mean drab and dreary plants! WSA's Outreach Coordinator Tara Mairs recommends the following native plants for excellent fall color:


This amazing canopy nut tree has a large oval shape, growing 60-100’ high and 35-50’ wide.  Fall color ranges from yellow to orange, depending on the species, making it a standout in any forest garden.


This large fruit-bearing shrub can grow up to 15’ tall and as wide if allowed to sucker to form a hedge.  Fall color ranges from red to burgundy, creating a beautiful background screening thicket.   


This perennial is often planted for its white spring flowers, but consider it as an added bonus to any fall color ensemble.  This plant grows to about 3’ tall, and has an impact in small groups as well as mass plantings


A Pain in the Drain!

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Please remove the leaves from hard surfaces around your yard this fall.  It really does make a difference!

Top 10 Reasons to Manage Your Leaves this Fall!

10. It’s good exercise

9.  Spend quality time with your kids outside

8. Become a leader in your neighborhood: your neighbors will follow your lead

7. Each year, tons of leaves from our communities contribute to dead zones in our waterways

6. Leaves cleared from the streets prevent injury and accidents

5. Saves space in landfills

4. Your azaleas, camellias, and rhododendrons thrive with shredded organic leaf humus

3. Enhances clay or sandy soil and introduces beneficial microorganisms to the soil

2. Protects shrubs and perennials from extreme temperature changes

1. Because it’s easy, ecological and the right thing to do


Leaf Removal Tips

Use the right tools! Like cooking, when you use the correct tools, it makes the job easier, faster, and more enjoyable.  Your leaf litter will quickly become humus or leaf mold, a rich organic soil amendment, if it’s chopped into smaller pieces. To do this, rake your leaves onto a 10’x12’ tarp, drag and unload to a flat open area to “mower mulch”.  Organize collecting areas around the mowing areas and have at least two mulching areas to minimize dragging tarps.  Set the mower to the highest position & dump leaves onto the flat surface.  One person rakes the leaves to contain them for the second person while they chop the leaves into smaller pieces.  Spread a 3-4 inch layer on top of your shrub beds (leaves will compact over time) or save for future uses in a wire bin where it will continue to decompose. Add a nitrogen source (grass clippings next spring) to produce an excellent organic fertilizer or soil amendment.

Improve turf quality and save $$. Based on research, mowing leaves into the lawn as leaves fall has been proven to improve the conditions of grass. The decomposed leaves will release nitrogen and phosphorus into the soil, the same nutrients in fertilizer typically applied in the fall. Set your mower to a 4” height and mow weekly.  Leaves shred more efficiently with residual light morning dew. Visually inspect in the spring, and you will notice a pleasant difference.

Protect the trees. Compacted soil, scarred tree trunks & damaged surface roots, OH MY!  Soil is compacted around tree roots from lawn mowers, thus reducing necessary oxygen for healthy growth.  Guard new and mature trees from viscous string trimmers and damaging turf equipment by creating mulched beds around the trees using your shredded leaves. After a few rainstorms, the leaves will flatten and become a dark bronze colored mulch that inhibits weed growth but allows perennials to emerge in the spring.

Need a door hanger or a magnet reminding community members to rake and bag their leaves? Download customizable tools here! Contact the WSA office for hard copies.

Additional behavior change resources can be found here.

Article originally written by Missy Jones in October 2013. Adapted for the WSA blog by Katie Foster.

About Missy Jones Missy Jones is the owner of Architectural Gardens, a landscape design/build and garden maintenance company that specializes in custom residential landscapes.  Missy enrolled in WSA Class 5 to become certified as a Master Watershed Steward in Anne Arundel County. Since growing up on the Severn River watershed, her passion is to help save the bay and educate homeowners about conservation landscaping, thus reducing the negative impact of storm water runoff. Landscaping is in her blood: Missy’s father owned a landscaping company in the Annapolis area and she’s been in the garden ever since she learned to walk.

With the Power of Collaboration, BIG Things Happen


After spending years developing the St. Luke's Restoration of Nature project, Master Watershed Steward Betsy Love is no stranger to writing grants, knocking on the door of the permitting office and educating her neighbors about stormwater runoff. 

Master Watershed Steward Molly LaChapelle and her neighbors are also pursuing a large stream restoration project on Cattail Creek and were looking for help.

Together with Steward Daniel Walton and Claudia Donegan of MDDNR, Betsy gave Molly and her neighbors Bob, Karen and Elizabeth a tour of the St. Luke's Restoration project in Eastport.

While maneuvering around step pools and trampling over invasives, Betsy shared her successes and opportunities. She stressed the importance of patience and the significance of asking questions.

Throughout the last three years, Betsy continued to inquire about aspects of the project from design to construction. When others ask questions, she finds the answer. "Don't be afraid to bring in others to address concerns," she told the Berrywood residents. 

As the Berrywood community moves forward with their project, they have Betsy’s support and guidance. Walking through the project, Betsy pointed out fish in one of the step pools. "How did they get in there?" one of the Berrywood residents asked. "I'm not sure," said Betsy. "They jumped over some hurdles, but somehow they found their way."