Native Landscapes & Garden Center Covid-19 Response

Native Landscapes & Garden Center: Covid-19 Response

In the interest of minimizing human-to-human contact during the Coronavirus pandemic, Native Landscapes’ Garden Center will be open on an appointment-only basis until further notice. Customers may call or e-mail to inquire about plant availability and pay for orders over the phone via credit/debit card. After payment is received, the plants will be gathered for pick-up or delivery. Appalachian Trail hiker packages will not be accepted at this time, we ask that hikers intending to use us as a Mail Drop location send their packages to the Pawling Post Office at 10 Broad Street, Pawling, N.Y. 12564.

Landscaping & maintenance services will continue as usual and our employees will be practicing CDC-recommended approaches to avoid infection.

We wish all of our customers and neighbors a healthy, productive spring and look forward to seeing you all in person once we return to regular Garden Center hours!

Our Contact Info:

Address: 991 Route 22, Pawling, N.Y. 12564

Phone: 8458557050

Fax: 8458557016

E-mail: –or- emma@nativelandscaping.netMertensiavirginica

Spring Cultural Practices

As winter rolls into spring getting out into the yard to begin our spring chores is always something gardeners look forward to doing.  Surveying the landscape to check for and remove broken limbs and branches, as well as pruning where necessary, will shape our plants to desired design forms. It is not necessary or beneficial to the environment to be super clean when maintaining our landscape. Leaving our landscape more natural looking rather than tightly manicured is beneficial to us, the wildlife residing in our yards, and is a lot less work.

Getting down on my hands and knees and inspecting the soil is something I always do this time of year. Mole and vole tunnels just below the soil surface can dry out plant roots in our established landscapes.  It is important to compress these tunnels as soon as the soil thaws.

In the fall, I mulched all my beds with leaf mulch because beneficial insects live in the leaf litter. As leaf mulch breaks down it acts as a natural fertilizer and adds additional soil microbes.

Once the frost is out of the ground in mid to late March, would be the best time to transplant trees, shrubs and perennials. With plenty of moisture in the ground, plants should not go into shock when moved before bud-break.  Most shrubs and perennials can be split up now and moved into other desired areas of the landscape.

Spring is the best time of year to plant new trees, shrubs and perennials in our area. The healthiest and best looking plants are on display and ready to purchase at our local garden center in April and May.  The new plants set in the landscape this spring have this year’s growing season to acclimate to their new environment. Make sure the soil is not super saturated when planting and transplanting this spring season. Microscopic air pockets, that are not present in saturated soil, are very important for healthy plant growth. Soil compaction, due to wet soils, can kill a plant if the plant is not adapted to these particular conditions. Let the soil dry out a bit before working and cultivating this spring.

When planting a new tree, shrub or perennial in our yard make sure the plant is adapted to the new site. For example, Rhododendron or ferns would prefer a shady, more protected growing site free from standing water. Planting a shrub in an area that does not mimic where it grows naturally can stress the plant and make it unattractive as it declines.

Consider planting native plants in the landscape that have adapted to our particular soils and environment. Established indigenous plants require less, if any, fertilizer, water or pesticides. Native landscapes sustain local ecosystems and feed beneficial insects and birds that find our yard home.

Let’s get outside and enjoy some of this warm, healthy sunshine this spring.


Pete and the natives

Natural History

Early European explorers, some of the first white men to land on the shores of eastern North America back in the 1400s, told documented stories of a pristine wilderness like no other in the Northern Hemisphere. Back then the “New World” was wild and beautiful.

Manahatta is what the Native Americans call Manhattan. Manhattan Island, five hundred years ago, had over fifty-five different ecosystems. It was a wilderness that contained diversified landscapes featuring everything from tidal pools along the Hudson River to ancient upland hardwood forests.

Brooklyn, a Dutch word meaning marshland, was a maze of waterways and early trappers tell stories of trapping beaver the size of small bear. Long Island is where the last glacier terminated. The north shore of the island is a rocky coast line similar to what can be found on the adjacent Connecticut shore. The south shore of Long Island and the adjacent Barrier Islands, is an outwash plain with a unique pine barren ecosystem only found on Long Island, Cape Cod and southern New Jersey.  The New Jersey meadowlands are one of the largest wetlands on the east coast. It is a resting and feeding area for water fowl during their spring and fall migration.

The Hudson and Harlem Valley regions were a mountain wilderness that featured wild bear, wolf, eastern cougar, moose, passenger pigeon, heath hen, rattlesnake, tree frogs and bog turtles to name a few. There were also eastern buffalo in the Mohawk Valley of upstate New York.

A feature of this region was “The Great American Eastern Forest,” an endless forest that greeted the first European explorers. This ancient forest stretched from Maine to Florida and as far west as the Great Plains. These woods contained some of the largest stands of trees in the world. These old growth forests had individual trees and some groves with specimens up to twelve foot in diameter and over two-hundred feet tall.  Noteworthy white pine groves could be found in eastern Maine, together with hemlock gorges in the Hudson Highlands, chestnut trees in the Berkshires and oak as far south as Georgia.

These trees along with native understory shrubs, perennials, vines and ground covers were the most bio-diverse, temperate region of the planet. Early settlers wrote of the wooded landscape smelling alive, fresh and clean when it was being explored by early Europeans.

Fast forward five-hundred years later, all but one percent of the Great American Eastern Old Growth Forests remains. A majority of these living specimens can be found today in isolated, hard-to-get-to areas of The Adirondacks, where poor access saved these trees from the ax.

From an early age, I was taught the important symbiotic relationship that exists between native plants, insects and birds. I learned how they depend on one another to survive in the natural world, and how their relationship can teach us to design and build a living landscape around our home and in our gardens.

The native landscapes we create on our land, can be the building blocks of local ecosystem regeneration to help create a healthier outdoor environment for us and the local wildlife. It starts by getting familiar with our localized natural history.

What’s growing in your yard these days?

Pete and the Natives





For many of us, it’s hard to imagine what it was like outside at night before the introduction of artificial lights. Have you ever walked through the woods or in a meadow at night dependent solely on star and moonlight? It can be a challenge until your eyes adjust. The darkness is full of mystery and tends to amplify sound; the unknown can play tricks on us. On cloudy nights, the clouds provide insulation that makes noises seem closer than they are. Natural darkness can also instill a sense of peace and wonder. What is really out there?

Recently, the mid-December full moon was bright on the freshly fallen snow and I took some wonderful late night walks with moonlight as my only light source. The walks were brisk and invigorating. Each time I went out, I became less fearful of the night and more conscious of the health benefits: breathing that cold, clean air, getting my legs in shape for ski season, better sleep.

Celestial bodies and meteor showers are much easier to identify once your eyes have adjusted to the night sky. If you’re lucky enough to live in an area where light pollution is at a minimum, it opens up a whole new sky and landscape to explore. Sadly, a large majority of the U.S. population has already lost the ability to see the Milky Way with the naked eye due to light pollution, which is brightest on the east coast. When viewed from space, it looks like a fairly thick line of light along the coast and slightly inland from Florida to southern Maine.

Light pollution, which affects the circadian rhythm in humans, also impacts the sleep-wake cycle in nocturnal animals including bats, owls, foxes, and flying squirrels. Breeding cycles, foraging behaviors, and migratory routes of wildlife including insects, turtles, birds, fish, and reptiles have been similarly affected. Almost two thirds of migratory birds travel during the night, using moon and starlight to navigate. Light pollution interferes with their ability to stay on course and many never make it to their winter nesting grounds.

Plants are also affected by artificial light. Plants take cues from the amount of light and darkness they are exposed to each day, so prolonged exposure to light pollution prevents many shrubs and trees from adjusting to seasonal change at the right time, disrupting their flowering and fruiting cycles.

If we can live with less night light, the entire natural world (including humans) will benefit from a return to darkness after the sun goes down.


Pete Muroski

Evergreening up the Landscape

The Living Landscape Journal November  2014

Evergreening up the Landscape

The rains began to fall in early October and in a month’s time the water levels were up to almost normal.  We got a bit of a scare in late October when the forecast was hinting at another Halloween snow storm. That would have been the third Halloween snow storm in five years. Let’s be thankful that did not happen again.

This is the time of year when everyone starts to ask about what type of Winter we should be preparing for. Many Meteorologists across the area stick their neck out with this year’s long range winter forecast. I’ve heard everything from the worst Winter in 500 years to an average Winter with more precipitation than normal, so I went to the local expert. I asked local Meteorologist,  Mike Shustak what his long range forecast was for this winter. He looked at me as if he was rattling through long range weather maps in his head and asked me if I had a quarter in my pocket. I handed him the quarter and he flipped it in the air and said heads a bad winter, tails a mild winter. It came down “tails” so according to Mikes scientific analysis, we are in for a milder than normal Winter.  By the way, I saved the quarter.

November is preparing for a long Winter’s nap as the Bear, Bat, Woodchuck, Skunk, Raccoon and Chipmunk prepare to go into a semi – hibernation state called “Torpor”. The animals activity slows way down where rest and inactivity becomes the normal.

The landscape in November looks unkempt as leaves, sticks and stems are blown around in the consistent November breeze. Evergreens become the focal point in the landscape this time of year. Fall is the season to add a full bodied Native White Spruce to that perimeter hedge row hole that needs to be filled. White Spruce is one of the more delicate looking, short needled Spruce and  the tree cones at a young age. White Spruce is deer resistant and makes a great Christmas Tree.  I recommend planting a grove of them for privacy in a sun filled location.

Native Mountain Laurel, Rhododendron, and Andromeda are the perfect broad leaf evergreen shrubs to accent just about any foundation, hedgerow or raised bed planting. Mountain Laurel features my favorite broadleaf evergreen  star shaped flower in red, pink or white. If not planted in the proper soil and exposure, Laurel can be a tough plant to establish. Native Rhododendron comes in all shapes and sizes. The larger Rosebay or Maximum Rhododendron can reach 20′ tall. The “Maxi” flowers in early summer, and it’s not unusual to see this pink to white flower in full bloom early in July. Catawbiense Rhododendron flower much earlier in the season and has a full hydrangea looking flower in many different colors. In a naturalized bed the white, light lavender and dark purple flower work well together. Andromeda flowers in very early Spring and has a fragrant white bloom that has a similar bell shape look and color as the native Blueberry flower.

Most years, our garden soil freezes by mid December so we have a good  6 + weeks to add some handsome evergreens to our landscape this Fall.  “Last one to the garden center is a turkey.”

Pete and the Natives 

A Dry Goblin


The summer of 2014 is a season I will not soon forget. It started cool and moist and

remained that way most of the Summer and there were only a handful of days above 90

degrees. This cool, damp Summer weather created some fungus problems with Black

Spot, Powdery Mildew and Apple Cedar Rust wide spread. I did take notice in a grove

of Maples that the invasive Norway Maple was much more fungus ridden than the

native Sugar Maple planted nearby. Go Natives!


August and September switched rolls this year. August turned out to be a cool, damp

month and September was warm during the day and cool at night. September was dry

with very little rain. Appalachian Trail hikers have been complaining about dried up

streams and a lack of drinking water for the last month. Hiller Brook, the stream just

south of the Garden Center that flows off North Quaker Hill into the Great Swamp, has

completely dried up. I’ve observed this brook drying up in late July and August but never

this late into September. The Blue Heron are having a “field day” plucking out the

trapped fish in the dry brook puddles.


These dry warm days and cool nights have kicked off some of the most brilliant fall color

in years. The Maple swamps have turned florescent red and orange and the Fall foliage

is now working its way up the ridges. WARNING! Please be careful with open fires and

discarding cigarette butts until we get significant rain. The woods are tinder dry and the

forest floor is filling up with dry leaves so the fire danger is running high.

How I enjoy this month’s bountiful harvest. October is the first biting cold front that

requires a heavier jacket. October is apple cider, pumpkin seeds, hickory nuts, and a

hearty late evening meal after a long day of yard work. The first cold October night

starts the first fire of the season with a book and marshmellowy hot chocolate and

before too long I am out for the night.


October is quietly hiking, listening and observing in some of the most beautiful woods in

the world. Our pace changes in October with shorter days. Our list of chores is much less than it

was a month ago. A time to reflect on what worked and what didn’t in this year’s garden.


October is scaring the socks off the first visitor on All Hollows’ Eve. Make friends with all

the ghosts and goblins in your neighborhood. This friendship will help on mischief night.

Native Insects at the Garden Center

While working at Native Landscapes Garden Center every day, you tend to notice some interesting insects where their host species are native plants. A few that I always look for are the Tulip Tree Silk Moth, the Spicebush Caterpillar, and the Great Spangled Fritillary.

The caterpillar in the above picture is the Tulip Tree Silk Moth. I first discovered this caterpillar a few weeks ago. It has grown from a small caterpillar barely able to fill up the leaf, to a mature giant, taking over the leaf with its long body from eating Black Cherry leaves. On the same plant, sleeps another Tulip Tree Caterpillar morphing into its moth form. Prunus serotina or Black Cherry is a host to many native species of insects and also provides food for birds and wildlife. It can grow to be 50 to 80 feet tall and produces showy white fragrant flowers from April to May. Black Cherries prefer full sun but can tolerate part shade and average to medium well drained soils.

The Spicebush Caterpillar pictured to the left with its black “eyes” mimic the look of a tree snake to scare away hungry predators. When this caterpillar chrysalises, it turns into the Spicebush Swallowtail, a beautiful black and blue butterfly. The Spicebush is one of the earliest flowering understory trees in the Northeast forest with yellow flowers sprinkled about the tree before the leaves emerge in spring. When the leaves are crushed it produces a spicy lemon aroma which is its own natural deer repellent. The dried berries from this shrub have been used as a substitute for all-spice.

The Great Fritillary is another native insect that enjoys nectar particularly on Echinacea plants. The Fritillary host plant are young Violet leaves in the spring. They gather nectar from native plants such as Coneflower, Milkweeds, Ironweed, Mountain Laurel and Joe Pye Weed. In late summer and fall the Fritillary lay their brown eggs on violet leaves where they over winter, hatching in the spring.

As always remember to grow native plants in your gardens because it is important to support all our local wildlife . When maintaining your gardens, be careful what chemicals you spray. Only spray when there is an infestation of insects and use environmentally friendly products or sprays you can make in your own kitchen.

~Cassandra Kessman

A Special Event

On October 29th, around noon, it began to snow. By three that afternoon, almost six inches had accumulated and it began to snow harder. It was a heavy, wet snow so limbs began breaking and power lines started to fall. By midnight, the heavy snow was tapering and our area had received fourteen to twenty three inches. It looked like a war zone with trees, branches and electric poles snapped and down everywhere. On Sunday, the clean up began.

What was unusual about this storm was how fast the snow accumulated on the very warm ground. The dense snow fell heavily and contained a very high water content. If this storm had been all rain, we would have received four inches of rain. Most of the damage occurred at lower elevations where the snow was the wettest and the trees still had more leaves. The landscape was massacred in many areas.

I did some research to see what trees were hardest hit. The trees most damaged were deciduous trees that hold on to their leaves later into the fall season. The trees incurring most damage were the Norway maples and Bradford pears. In fact, Dalton Farm in Poughquag lost every one of their Bradford pears in the landscape. My findings were that native species faired better than exotic species. In all fairness, there was also damage to some weak crouched native species. However, for the most part, our natives held up better and non-natives were more heavily damaged.

This storm was reminiscent of the October 4, 1987 storm that dropped about a foot of heavy wet snow. There are some distinct differences between these two storms. The 1987 storm was more localized and occurred earlier in the month. The trees were still in their summer green canopy and the damage was much more severe in our area. The damage from the ’87 storm was primarily confined to the Hudson highlands and the Berkshires. This year’s Halloween storm was more wide spread. A storm we will not soon forget.

As November turns into December, we begin to focus on keeping warm. Out of the hope chest comes the red union suit, wool socks and mittens. Mittens are much warmer than single finger gloves. By keeping our fingers together in one mitt, it helps prevent frost bite when the temperature drops below zero. Keeping our toes warm is just as important as fingers. Stay away from steel toe boots and go with a heavy insulated boot with traction. If your fingers and toes start to burn from cold, keep them moving. Steady blood flow from movement will prevent frost bite.

The landscape is as different now as it was in early October. Plants such as winterberry, partridge berry, running pine, mountain laurel, sycamore and Christmas fern have a uniqueness and stand out in the winter landscape. It’s time to mulch the garden just as the ground freezes with a mix of native composted roots, leaf mold, shredded bark and chips. Begin pruning the landscape now in preparation for future growth and structure. Don’t be too tidy in the garden. We need to leave some seed heads for the hungry critters.

December is the start of winter. As a kid, I remember winter being my favorite season; following animal tracts in the snowy woods, sleigh riding on the backyard hills, all day hockey out on Wolf Lake, and making a few bucks shoveling neighborhood walkways. Winter has become more of a chore these days. I wonder if it’s age or attitude? I’ll give that a bit more thought during the next blizzard.

It’s December, the holiday season. Hooray! A time to give thanks and praise. Tradition is this year’s theme for me and my family. Simple and festive, where less is more. A gift from the heart, not the pocketbook. Where faith and trust in one another will help us through another season. May the festival of peace, hope and understanding be wrapped under your tree this special season. Happy holidays!

| 0

Patience This Spring

April was another below average temperature month and sure enough, we had a snow storm on April 15th. The high for the month was around 70ºF and the low dropped into the mid-teens. Here at the Garden Center, the cold nights had us running for cover on some tender container plants. Annuals and warm blooded vegetables need to wait until the last weekend of May before planted outside in the garden or container.

What I love most about May is it begins looking almost like winter with most trees still waiting to flush out. The month ends at full leaf looking and feeling much like summer.

This year’s theme and focus in the garden is a more edible landscape that will feature replacing landscape trees shrubs and perennials that have weakened or have overgrown their spot with plants such as beech plum, blueberries, amelanchier, elderberry, paw paw, mulberry, cranberry, strawberry, chokeberry, gooseberry, hickory and hawthorne. Also, instead of planting annuals in the garden we should try finding spots instead for carrot, sunflower, lettuce, organic corn, cucumber, grapes, radishes and columbine. Vegetables will grow just as happy in colony plantings instead of planting in straight rows. Colony planting or mass planting looks more natural.

Now is a good time to get our containers ready for spring. Container gardening has a very wide spectrum. Bonsai, specimen planting, fruits, vegetables and vines can all be planted in containers around the property. From shade to sun and everything in between, container gardening can be set up to accommodate all cultural settings. Freeze tolerant containers that will not crack are a must in our area. The most decorative containers are made of wood, concrete and stone. Clay and ceramic containers tend to break apart when the cold and the ice settles in. A light soil mix with sand, some humus, or leaf mold works for plants that need a dryer container soil.

I’m finding the garden soil, in low lying areas, still too wet to work and plant in. Working wet soil disrupts the air holding capacity and compacts the soil and can choke plants to death. The soil should be ready in about a week. Patients in the garden this spring.

Pete and the Natives

Early Spring Jaunts

On the last day of March, we went “out like a lion” with an ice storm. The calendar told us spring began the afternoon of March 20th, but we had to wait until April Fool’s to experience the first day of spring weather. March was much colder than average by almost 6ºF. This winter was one of the top 20 snowiest winters and was consistently cold with no Indian summer. We dropped below 0ºF on numerous occasions in January, February and March. The coldest night bottomed out between 20ºF and 25ºF below zero.

Oil and electric bills were sky high this winter and unfortunately, it may not be over. I smell a spring snow storm. I remember May 9th back in the late 70′s when a foot of snow fell the day after I mowed the lawn. This spring has that type of feel.

Now here is some good news to the bitter cold and snow. Entomologists are telling us these extremely cold temperatures this winter may have knocked back the tick and Hemlock Woolly Adelgid populations. Let’s hope so.

Everything is late this spring. We are well into April and the maple syrup is still running, Snow Drops and Crocus are two weeks late, Pussywillows are just peaking out and there is still a snow pack in the deep woods. Before you know it, we will be up to our eyeballs in spring chores.

We need to wait one more week for the sun to melt the snow and the ground to dry out a bit more so we can work the soil. The heck with waiting, let’s go for a hike. Hiking was tough this winter with the deep snow pack. Snow shoes were a must the last 2 1/2 months. Let’s get some exercise and catch up on our hiking and exploring this early spring. It’s the most interesting time of year to be in the woods, before the deciduous tree canopy flushes out, wildflowers such as Swamp Marigold, Trillium, Columbine, Jack in the Pulpit, Virginia Bluebells, Mountain Pink, Shad, Spice Bush, Native Andromeda, Bleeding Heart, Pussywillow, Trout Lily, Skunk Cabbage, Woodland Phlox, Wild Ginger, White Foam Flower, Crested Iris, Pink Shell Azalea, Blueberry, Cutleaf Toothwort and Anemone are to bloom.

Here in Pawling, we are in a trail lands region for hiking. The Appalachian Trail traverses our region with many different and challenging terrains. The Pawling Nature Reserve, a Nature Conservancy wilderness with its many trails, is a true wilderness region straddling the towns of Dover and Pawling with access off of Quaker Lake Road. A hike up to Cranberry Mountain off Havilland Hollow is a great loop hike for you and your canine friend to enjoy some quality time together. For a quick outing, take a short walk up to the awe inspiring Dover Stone Church and take in the beauty of one of our local treasures.

There are many trails in the Harlem Valley worth exploring and picking a few hikes is the perfect way to get some cardiovascular and leg exercise before we get our nails dirty. Happy mud season!

Pete and the Natives