Small Actions with Huge Payoffs
Having lived and worked in Fredericksburg a majority of my life, I have had the privilege of watching this town for decades. In my years working up and down Caroline Street, I have seen it garlanded in a show of pretty-looking yet disgusting Bradford Pear Trees and have watched in delight as they have almost all been removed and replaced with more appropriate and even more beautiful native trees. I have meandered by the lawns and lots, both lush with life and crowded with “weeds”. I have seen the impact one idea can have on our people and our ecosystem. With that in mind, and in honor of Earth Day and Arbor Day happening this month, I am making a call to small action.
As of right now, Fredericksburg still has citizens from a large variety of socio-economic backgrounds. You can find our people dwelling in everything from mansions to efficiency apartments. No matter where each of us fall in that spectrum, I believe there are small actions we can take to support our ecosystem.
One of the conditions of living in the city is that very few of us have large yards, if any yard at all. Those of us who do have yards, no matter the size, can make quite the impact by taking a close look at what we have growing in them. Many popular landscaping plants can actually grow invasively and cause a lot of harm. For example, nandina is a very popular plant in this area despite the fact it does not support our native wildlife and can go so far as to actually poison our feathered friends. English ivy is another plant plastered all over our historic city that has been labeled as being highly invasive and, as you can see on any stroll, will eagerly take over large areas, choking out other plants and eradicating biodiversity. Even our non-invasive yet non-native plants such as the boxwood (yeah, I said it) can take up a lot of space without providing habitat and food for our native wildlife. And while in my perfect world, reading these words would make everyone jump up and immediately eradicate all non-native plants in their yard to be replaced by useful and stunning native plants, I understand that is not feasible. My realistic hope is that those of us privileged to have a yard in this city, familiarize ourselves with what we have growing in our yards and start making plans to slowly replace any invasive species with native plants. Adding even one native plant to your yard is a small thing to do but the ripples started by that small action will radiate out to create large impacts on our wildlife.
But what about those of us without yards? Trust me, I can talk a big talk about what people should do with their outdoor areas but I have rarely ever had one for myself. So, aside from taking a page from my book and verbally dumping plant info on anybody that stands still long enough in my presence, what can we apartment dwellers do? I’m glad I’ve assumed you’ve asked! The most obvious idea is window planters. These tiny little boxes of soil can host amazing amounts of native annuals that will not only brighten your day but also the days of our native pollinators and birds. No good window for a box planter? No problem! For those of you with black thumbs, the keyboard is mightier than the sword! Contact our planning commission asking for invasive and harmful plants to be removed from the landscaping lists. Write our Virginia politicians to show support for the current bills proposing the banning of invasive plants being sold at plant stores and box stores alike. Have a couple of extra hours? Volunteer for local organizations that promote and protect our ecosystem such as Friends of the Rappahannock, Tree Fredericksburg, and Downtown Greens. Brother, can you spare a dime? Go online and make a donation that will support the work others are doing for the cause.
There are hundreds of small actions we, as a community, can take to support the health and beauty of our town and the human and non-human beings within. And much like the plants I won’t shut up about, each small action will grow and continue to support all the levels of our ecosystem.
Janet Douberly is a proud Fredericksburg citizen and currently Media Manager at Downtown Greens.
This article was published in the April 2023 edition of Front Porch Magazine. Use the button below to view full publication.