Clara B. Plein Memorial Garden

Inspired by the backyard of Clara B. Plein, a beloved gardener, this landscape showcases Northern Virginia’s native plants in a traditional setting.


Gardening with Native Plants

Native species are those that occur naturally in a particular region, without having been introduced by humans. Northern Virginia’s native plants have evolved over millennia to thrive under local conditions and alongside local wildlife. By contrast, non-native plants are adapted to conditions in other parts of the world. They often require more maintenance than native plants, and do not typically support the food and habitat needs of our native wildlife.

This garden is composed of 68% native plants and 32% native cultivars. A native cultivar is a plant species native to our local area that has been selected or bred by humans to enhance desirable characteristics, like bloom size or foliage color. Plants were selected for this garden based on how well they support River Farm’s natural ecosystem services, including providing:

• Habitat for pollinators, including food for butterflies and caterpillars

• Food and habitat for wildlife

• Plants that are edible

• Waterwise plantings

• Year-round interest through flowers, leaf color, and bark texture

Beyond providing for local ecosystem services, this garden was created to provide educational opportunities to River Farm’s visitors. The landscape clearly demonstrates how native plants can be used in a home garden, featuring plant varieties that are low maintenance and have reduced water needs.

Garden Design

This landscape was planned to ensure that existing large trees on the site would be preserved as part of the final garden design.

Large trees provide essential habitat for wildlife, including insects, birds, and mammals. They also perform essential ecosystem services by sequestering carbon and stabilizing soil. Some of the large native trees that anchor this garden include a 29” American sycamore, a triple-stemmed American holly, and multiple black tupelo, eastern redcedar, and magnolia trees.

Large trees often have a proportionally large influence on microclimates in a landscape. Unique sun, shade, soil moisture, and drainage regimes around the trees lent themselves to different types of plantings. Planting areas in this garden are accessible via mulch pathways.

They include:

  • Woodland deciduous azalea and viburnum plantings
  • Woods’-edge plants
  • Native meadow
  • Native shrubs and edible garden
  • Native shade garden


Donors and Sponsors

This tremendous garden was made possible through the generous contributions of time, expertise, and resources of landscaping and nursery companies from across the region. Learn more about our generous donors.

Ruppert Landscaping • KT Enterprises • South Riding Nurseries • Jordan Honeyman Landscape Architecture
Babikow Nursery • David’s Nursery • Hanover Farms Nursery • Ingleside Nurseries • Kurt Bluemel Nursery
Riverbend Nursery • Sandy’s Plants • Saunders Brothers Nursery • The Perennial Farm • White House Farm Foundation • Willoway Nurseries


Plant List

This is the full list of plants which were installed in the Clara B. Plein Memorial Garden in 2023. Visit trusted plant resource banks, such as the Digital Atlas of Virginia FloraUnited States Department of Agriculture, Missouri Botanical Garden Plantfinder, and Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center to learn more about each plant’s characteristics, growing requirements, and identification details. 


Amalanchier grandiflora ‘Autumn Brilliance’ – Apple Serviceberry (cultivar)

Asimina triloba – Common Pawpaw

Cercis canadensis – Eastern Redbud

Cornus alternifolia – Pagoda dogwood

Ilex opaca – American Holly

Magnolia grandiflora “Little Gem” – Little Gem Magnolia (cultivar)

Quercus alba – White Oak

Quercus muehlenbergii – Chinquapin Oak


A tall tree in the Clara B. Plein Memorial Garden


Aesculus parviflora – Bottlebrush buckeye

Aronia melanocarpa – Black chokeberry

Aronia melanocarpa ‘UCONNAM165’ Low Scape Mound – Dwarf Black Chokeberry (cultivar)

Cephalanthus occidentalis – Buttonbush

Clethra alnifolia ‘Hummingbird’ – Sweet pepperbush (cultivar)

Hydrangea arborescens “Annabelle” – Annabelle hydrangea (cultivar)

Hydrangea paniculata “Little Lime” – Little Lime Hydrangea (cultivar)

Hydrangea quercifolia “Pee Wee” – ‘Pee Wee’ Oakleaf hydrangea (cultivar)

Hydrangea quercifolia “Ruby Slippers” – ‘ Ruby Slippers’ Oakleaf hydrangea (cultivar)

Hydrangea quercifolia – Oakleaf hydrangea

Ilex glabra “Shamrock” – Inkberry holly (cultivar)

Ilex verticillata ‘Nana’ Red Sprite/“Jim Dandy” – Dwarf Winterberry (cultivar)

Lindera benzoin – Spice bush

Rhododendron calendulaceum – Flame Azalea

Rhododendron catawbiense – Catawba rhododendron

Rhododendron periclymenoides – Pinxter Azalea

Vaccinium corymbosum ‘Climax’ – Highbush blueberry (cultivar)

Viburnum acerifolium – Mapleleaf Viburnum

Viburnum trilobum – American cranberry bush viburnum

Viburnum dentatum – Arrowwood viburnum

Perennials, Ground Covers, and Grasses

Amsonia tabernaemontana – Blue star

Asclepias tuberosa – Butterfly weed

Aster nova belgii – New England Aster

Athyrium filix-femima – Lady fern

Baptisia australis – False Indigo

Coreopsis verticillata ‘Zagreb’ – Tickseed (cultivar)

Dryopteris marginalis – Marginal Wood Fern

Echinacea purpurea – Purple coneflower

Echinacea purpurea ‘White Swan’ – White coneflower (cultivar)

Eragrostis spectabilis – Purple lovegrass

Eupatorium dubium “Little Joe” – Joe Pye Weed (cultivar)

Fragaria virginiana – Wild strawberry

Helianthus angustifolius – Narrow leaved sunflower

Heuchera villosa ‘Autumn Bride’ – Hairy Alum Root (cultivar)

Liatris spicata – Blazing star

Nepeta ‘Walkers Low’ – catmint (cultivar)

Packera aurea – Golden ragwort

Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah’ – Switch grass (cultivar)

Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ – Beardtongue (cultivar)

Phlox divaricata – Wood phlox

Phlox paniculata “Blue Paradise” – Garden Phlox – Blue Paradise (cultivar)

Phlox paniculata “David” – Garden Phlox – David (cultivar)

Pycnanthemum muticum – Blunt mountainmint

Schizachyrium scoparium – Little Blue Stem

Solidago rugosa ‘Fireworks’ – Rough goldenrod (cultivar)

Tiarella cordifolia – Foam Flower

Vernonia novaboracensis – Ironweed