A Deep Dive into Invasive Plants


As the owner of Holmes Fine Gardens, I spend a lot of time driving through the neighborhoods of Newtown and its surrounding towns. And since this region is void of skyscrapers or big cities (ok, we have none!), the world around me is clearly in view at all times. I observe lakes, forests, sterile road intersections, underpasses, cul-de-sacs, suburban roads, and property after property with their green spaces in between, filling the voids. 

Unfortunately, that void often equates to invasive plants or the competitive plant thugs easily seen from the roadside as I cruise by in my truck. These may include creeping tendrils of bittersweet collapsing and strangling everything in its path, a sea of Purple loosestrife filling entire fields to the brim, walls of Barberry foliage, Autumn olive, or Burning bush, just to name a few of the culprits common to our area.

At certain times of the year, these plants have their day in the sun and are quite pleasing to the eye. From Burning bush ablaze with fiery foliage in the fall to Autumn olives’ sweetly fragrant, shimmering gray-green leaves that entice the senses. These plants are often looked upon with sympathy and saved from the secateurs or herbicide. The mindset being – if nature didn’t want them to thrive, they wouldn’t be here in the first place.   

Many of these plants were introduced by either the US Highway Department to help with slope stabilization or wayward travelers returning with cuttings or seeds of ornamental and medicinal plants. Not all non-native plants are as opportunistic – some lure our songbirds and insects with berries and seeds, becoming their dispersal service that has originated from a newly tilled area or spot of barren earth.

Why do we need to worry about these plants? The USDA Forest Service estimates that 42% of our native plants are taken over by invasive species. They outcompete our native flora, and like it or not, many are here to stay. However, giving in to these aggressive plants is not an option. What can we do? We need to pick our battles and fight back in areas that make the biggest impact. 

The characteristics of these plants stand out, making them easily identifiable: They are the first plants to leaf out in the spring, they topple native trees and shrubs, they create a line-of-sight driving hazard on tight corners, and they suppress the desirable plants that create the biodiversity that our birds and insects rely on to thrive. Further, they are just an eyesore. In many communities similar to ours, numerous organizations work together to manage these unwelcome pests by replanting with vegetation beneficial to our native fauna.

Invasive plants can also become a public health risk. This may occur between Japanese barberry, ticks, the local mouse population, and Lyme disease. Due to its gnarly, thorny nature, barberry can quickly take hold. Add in its high seed count combined with the plant’s natural ability to alter the pH of the native soil, and you have an invasive plant that can thwart its competitors. The result? The white-footed mouse can now live free and easy because its living quarters are impenetrable, allowing both the mouse and tick population to thrive.

Clearly, I’m not a fan. In areas with a high density of Japanese barberry, there is an increase in tick populations (and mice), which increases the potential for Lyme and other-tick borne illnesses.  

For now – because of the need to focus on one concern at this time (bad plants) and the need for brevity to hold your undivided attention – let’s just agree that ticks are a public health concern causing all manners of physical pain and sometimes lasting health concerns.

These unsightly and overgrown areas represent an imbalance that we have all grown so accustomed to seeing, we can hardly imagine what a drive in the country would look like without these plants blocking our view. 

At Holmes Fine Gardens, we are passionate about improving the aesthetic and functional landscape that we all participate in, whether observed through the windshield of our car as we drive by or in our backyard. Although this may sound like an enormous task, each of us should be dedicated to helping restore each plot of land we are invited to work on, large or small.

Please call us with questions at 203-270-3331. We are more than happy to survey your land or help develop strategies to manage all aspects of your property.


Welcome Fall & the Wonders of Water Features

Welcome to the Fall Edition of our Quarterly Newsletter! 

The Pumpkin Spice Everything season has arrived, and that means a busy time in the garden on all fronts. Fall is a great time to get to work on the usual end of season checklist but it’s also a time to move forward with your wishlist… from planning out a fresh garden design… to planting that cool specimen tree you’ve been dreaming of… to creating that new perennial bed with the plants you scored at that great end of season sale. On our end, we’ll be doing a bit of all of this right alongside you.

Water Features – A Multi-Sensory Experience  
water feature in landscape
Heron admiring the view

Soul soothing and beneficial to local wildlife, a water feature, be it a pond, stream, or waterfall, provides instant relaxation and peace to your property. We regularly collaborate with Cooper Ponds – Danbury, CT on the design, installation, and drainage requirements for custom water features in our area. Not only does a water feature add value to your home, it significantly cools the temperature of your outdoor space creating an environment you can enjoy on a hot summer day.

natural stream
Recreation of a natural woodland stream
It’s time to plant bulbs & spruce up those outdoor containers! 

If you’re in need of bulb planting or adding a custom fall container or two… just reach out.
We are here to help!

bulb and container garden

Photo Contest

Icelandic Container Garden
Icelandic Container Garden


Keep Those Photos Coming!

Submit your garden or plant-inspired photos by November 1st to be entered to win one of our exciting prizes!

The Details

We are looking for shots that capture the beauty, color, creativity and candidness captured in your own garden setting. Photos that bring your garden to life!

Enter your best shots in our 2021 Photo Contest and you could win…

1st place – one 10-foot flowering tree installed by Holmes Fine Gardens

2nd place – a 1-year membership to New York Botanical Gardens ($90 value + 2 complimentary Member passes)

3rd place – a $50 Gift Certificate to Shakespeare’s Gardens

  • Email no more than 3 of your best photos to –[email protected]
  • All entries must be sent in by November 1st
  • Prizes will be awarded on December 1, 2021
***Should you NOT want your submitted photos used in our future marketing material including print and internet please note this in your return email. Should we use one of your photos we will, of course, give you a photo credit!


Sweetness Every Season
Sweet Bay Magnolia
Sweet Bay Magnolia
















Magnolia virginiana – Sweet Bay Magnolia  

Sweetbay magnolia is a small, gracefully shaped tree that has a lot to offer throughout all four seasons. This native ornamental bears attractive, lemon-scented flowers in spring and sporadically through the summer. Glossy green foliage persists on the tree nearly all year long. Showy red cone-like fruit provides color, interest, and food for wildlife in fall, and smooth gray bark adds beautiful color and contrast in winter.


Welcome to Sweet Dirt! In this section of our newsletter, you’ll find links to local activities to seek out, books to read, movies to watch, and other tidbits – all with a nod towards the horticultural world we love.
The Perfect Season to Take a Hike!
Holcombe Hill Nature Reserve
Holcombe Hill Nature Reserve

Reconnect with nature during this colorful time of year by exploring one of Newtown’s many parcels of protected lands – forest bathing at its best! Over the years, the Newtown Forest Association has done a tremendous job protecting more than 1,100 acres of open space, forest, farmland, wildlife, nature preserves, and watersheds throughout Newtown with the goal of sustaining these beautiful spaces for future generations.

Some of our favorite protected lands worth exploring include:

Holcombe Hill Wildlife Preserve:
This 86-acre parcel of land boasts an elevation of 830 ft above sea level, one of the highest points in Newtown, and offers spectacular views of three counties from its 30 acres. The preserve is the perfect place for dog walking on freshly mowed/maintained pathways, a photoshoot from the highest point, or a woodland exploration along its edges. Be sure to take note of the everchanging native plants that truly bring beauty to every season.

Nettleton Preserve:
Offering the most spectacular view in Newtown, Nettleton Preserve is the start of a five-mile hike that terminates 5 miles north on a horizon of rolling hills. This Preserve offers the opportunity for a short meander through the immediate fields and is also a popular spot to sit with a cup of coffee and admire the view from one of the highest points in town. Holmes Fine Gardens contributed to this outdoor space by planting a variety of disease-resistant crabapple trees at the start of this bucolic trail. Varieties include: Prairie Fire, Floribuyda, Adams & Donald Wyman.

Brunot Preserve – Meadows:
The magic of the meadows awaits as you stroll through the woods and over gently rolling hills on this 3.1 mile loop. The west side of the property will take you in and out of Bethel. Fun Fact: James Brunot is known for having produced the board game Scrabble and manufactured the wooden pieces locally.

Hattertown Pond Preserve:
This 28-acre property is chock-full of a little bit of everything including two streams, wetlands, ponds and vernal pools, beautiful rolling woodlands, unique stone walls, and evidence of historical agricultural activities. What more could you ask for in a hike?

White native aster
White native aster