Replanting in Reston, VA: Design Challenge

Photo © Jen R

Design Challenge takes photos of tricky spots in people’s yards and puts them out there for advice from the professionals at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and from our broad audience of participants, some of whom have some serious wildlife gardening credentials (just check out our Featured Sites for proof).

The Details

Location: Reston, VA
Eco-Region:Southeastern Mixed Forest Province
Planting Zone: 7a
Learn more about this place by reading it’s Local Resources Page.


Photo ©

This small space is bounded by the house to the east and a garage to the south. The sun shines briefly on part of the space during the late morning over the garage and again late in the day from the west, filtered through the trees. It can be very dry when it doesn’t rain for a few days.

The owners have removed the weeds and tree saplings and want to replant for a space that is useful to bugs and birds but at the same time looks attractive and taken care of. Without much time for gardening, something low-maintenance would be ideal. Due to the mosquitoes, the owners do not necessarily want to spend time in this space, they just want to make it a better habitat for wildlife. However, they do not want to attract deer and would prefer to discourage them from coming near the neighbor’s important collection of day lily varieties.

IMG_3490 (2)

Photo ©

I am not a gardener by training, but I do live in a community that cares about nature and wildlife and I want to do my part to support the local flora and fauna.


These property owners also understand that just any kind of landscaping does not necessarily benefit the bugs and birds – in fact, they know that the wrong plants can be a trap for wildlife! Help them know which plants will make their wildlife the happiest.

Cornell Says:

It is not uncommon to have too much shade in a Northeastern garden. Fortunately, there are many native plant species that are well-adapted to the shady conditions they have evolved in. Native shrubs are low maintenance vegetation ideal for pollinators and wildlife, and are fairly deer resistant. For shady areas, New Jersey tea’s (Ceanothus americanus) white blossoms will brighten things up and some coralberry (Symphoricarpos orbiculatus) will provide color and winter berries for winter foraging. Surround the shrubs with some deer resistant wildflowers like black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta), and eastern red columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) for pollinator habitat and summer color.
Shade tolerant wildflower species generally grow in dark, moist areas like forest interiors. Simulate this environment by providing water to the shady site. With a rain barrel installed, step one is done! Use the reserved rain in dry seasons, through a slow soaker hose, to increase soil moisture and increase the diversity of species, like Lobelia and phlox varieties that can be included in this garden.

To our readers:
What native shrubs would you fill this space with? Any ideas for reducing the mosquito population and making this space more welcoming to visitors?

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