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Virginia CZM Program: 2010 Coastal Grant Project Description and Final Summary

Project Task:



Northern Neck Planning District Commission 

Project Title:

Plant NNK (Northern Neck) Natives Campaign 

Project Description as Proposed:

The goal of the Plant NNK (Northern Neck) Natives campaign is to increase use of native plants on private property on the Northern Neck, and help protect existing native vegetation in the landscape.  The demographics, economic base and natural characteristics of the Eastern Shore and the Northern Neck are very similar, so the Plant NNK Natives campaign will be an expansion of the Plant ES Natives campaign, initiated and being coordinated and funded by the Virginia CZM Program (Plant ES Natives campaign budget showing details on NOAA grant support available on the Native Plants issue page).  The primary message of the Plant NNK Natives campaign will mirror that of the Plant ES Natives campaign - NN native plants are beautiful.  The Plant NNK Natives campaign logo will be an adaptation of the Plant ES Natives campaign logo – certain elements of the logo will be common so that the connection between the campaigns is established and clear in the eyes of the public.  Elements of the multi-media strategy developed for the Plant ES Natives campaign, will be replicated for the Plant NNK Natives campaign (and costs were estimated on production of ES campaign materials).  The Northern Neck Chapter of the Virginia Native Plant Society (VNPS-NN) is taking the lead on coordination of the campaign and has established a partnership with key environmental organizations as well as businesses to implement the campaign.  The Northern Neck Planning District Commission (NNPDC) is a campaign partner and will coordinate with the VNPS-NN to generate and submit grant progress and final reports.  The NNPDC has offered the NNPDC office complex as a future demonstration garden site, and NNPDC staff will act as a liaison with local and state government staff on possible sites for future demonstration gardens.

This campaign is focused on increasing the use of native plants given their numerous benefits.  By reducing the need for irrigation over the long term, native vegetation will provide water quality and quantity benefits of critical importance to maintaining a potable water supply on the Neck.  Using native plants to retain runoff and absorb nutrients will protect water quality and provide wildlife habitat.  Native plants provide important food sources year round for the resident bird population.  Moreover, native understory plants provide the greatest diversity and volume of fall fruits that are critical to songbirds during fall migration. Research by the Center of Conservation Biology at William and Mary has shown that a 50% increase in the density of understory vegetation results in a 50% increase in the number of migrants supported.  Additionally, native plants provide important energy sources for adult butterflies and host plants for their larvae.  In fact, monarch butterflies are solely dependent on milkweed as a host plant.  According to Monarch Watch, a consortium of researchers and educators, “Development (subdivisions, factories, shopping centers, etc.) in the U.S. is consuming habitats for monarchs and other wildlife at a rate of 6,000 acres per day - that's 2.2 million acres each year.”   

As is true in the more rural nature of the Eastern Shore, long-standing residents and newcomers alike on the Northern Neck value the diverse flora and fauna of the their coastal region, and are concerned that new development will adversely affect birds, beneficial insects, water quality and quantity, shoreline stability and prime agricultural land.  Protection of natural resources is a high priority because the local economy is dependent on agriculture, seafood industries and tourism.  Privately-owned tracts of forest and field habitats along the Chesapeake Bay and its many tributaries are being converted into second or retirement homes and new businesses supporting the residential growth are converting upland habitat.  Although there are pockets of valuable habitats protected as natural area, and strides have been made to acquire key habitats, the majority of the peninsula is in private ownership.  Therefore, encouraging landowners to increase and maintain native vegetation for its ecological and economic benefits is essential to protect the ecological integrity of the Northern Neck.  Efforts by local land conservation partners to protect existing native vegetation coupled with the Plant Northern Neck Natives campaign’s efforts to increase the use of native plants will be a new concerted effort to conserve water quality and remediate wildlife habitat losses.

Barriers to the use of native plants on the Northern Neck are similar to those identified through the Plant ES Natives campaign, based on qualitative evidence provided by partners in the Plant NNK Natives campaign.  Primary barriers include:

§  a lack of availability of native plants in the marketplace.

§  a lack of information on which plants are native to the Northern Neck and their optimal growing conditions.

The Plant NNK Natives campaign will focus on removing these barriers and increasing demand for and subsequently the availability of native plants through the use of social marketing techniques and a multi-media strategy that includes prompts at point of sale, such as tags on native plants; educational materials, such as a guide to plants native to the Northern Neck, plant ID markers in demo gardens and an exhibit at public events; and, mass media communication materials, such as newspaper articles highlighting native plants and a campaign website.  The primary audience for the campaign will be homeowners, however the campaign also has successfully pursued partnerships with garden centers, landscape designers, growers and realtors to increase the availability of and encourage the use of native plants.  After the spring and fall 2013 planting seasons - and the first full phase of the campaign’s implementation supported through this grant – Virginia CZM Program will assist the campaign in evaluating the effectiveness of the campaign strategy in conveying its message to its Northern Neck audience (under FY13, Task 1.03).  The campaign then will adjust the strategy as necessary and appropriate.  

Federal Funding:


Project Contact:

Stuart McKenzie; 804.333.1900 x25; 

Project Status:

4/1/2013 - 9/30/2013; Project Completed 

Final Product Received:

Plant NNK Natives Campaign Final Report (pdf) 

Project Summary Provided by Grantee:

The Plant Northern Neck Natives Campaign increased awareness and the use of native plants as landscaping on residential private property within the four counties of the Northern Neck peninsula. Northern Neck Native Plant Society members had formulated a multi-media approach to educate citizens on the value of native plants in their landscape.

Members of the Northern Neck Native Plant Society (NNNPS) assisted in creating a 48 page full color Native Plants of the Northern Neck guide using the recently published Flora of Virginia book for reference. The Native Plants of the Northern Neck guide was released to the public at the July 6th, 2013 Town of Irvington Farmer's Market, and since that time over 3,600 of the 5,000 guides printed using VACZM grant funds have been distributed to interested citizens. In addition to the guide, members of the Northern Neck Native Plant Society created a garden plans brochure that highlights garden designs of native plants for both shady and sunny locations, as well as created a logo for the Plant NNK Natives Campaign. In addition to the Guide, the logo and the Garden Design Plans, members of the NNNPS created a Native Plant Exhibit, replete with cuttings of native plants to display at 12 public events on the Northern Neck, such as the annual Strawberry Festival in Heathsville, VA  and the Town of Irvington Farmers Market. The NNNPS partnered with a multitude of organizations and agencies in spreading the benefits of planting native plants, including the Northern Neck Audubon Society, the Northern Neck Land Conservancy, Northern Neck Master Gardeners, Northern Neck Soil and Water Conservation District, Northern Neck Planning District Commission as well as several garden clubs,  the Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program and the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. Other outreach activities included contacting nurseries and garden centers of native plants to help brand Northern Neck native plants. Banners were designed and purchased through this grant and placed at 10 local nurseries and garden centers which displayed the Plant NNK Logo and the phrase "Native Plants Sold Here". 

NNNPS members also had previously constructed native plant demonstration gardens throughout the Northern Neck Region, and plant identification stakes were installed in the demonstration gardens that show the Plant NNK Natives logo and tagline, the plant's Latin and common names, a drawing of the plant, and bulleted text describing the plant and its soil, light and other growing requirements. These stakes will allow citizens to visit the gardens, see what native plants look like at various times of the year and help them decide how those plants might fit into their gardens at home.  

In addition to the above outreach efforts, members of the Northern Neck Chapter of the Virginia Native Plant Society created a website ( that shows the Plant NNK Natives logo, has digital copies of the plant guide, the garden plants brochure, the campaign partners, demonstration gardens, the Northern Neck native plant list, as well as events where the exhibits were displayed. In addition, the NNNPS highlighted a native plant of the month, complete with descriptions of the conditions in which the plant thrives and color pictures of the plant. The plant of the month articles were published in the Rappahannock Record, local newspaper and are also highlighted on the website cited above. 

In the future, the NNNPS hopes to install additional demonstration gardens, offer on site plant identification to citizens and with support from VACZM, do a follow up survey on the effectiveness of the Plant NNK Natives campaign. 

Disclaimer: This project summary provides the federal dollars initially awarded to the grantee. Due to underexpenditure or reprogramming of grant funds, this figure may change. For more information on the allocation of coastal grant funds, please contact Laura McKay, Virginia Coastal Program Manager, at 804.698.4323 or email:

A more detailed Scope of Work for this project is available. Please direct your request for a copy to

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Virginia Department of
Environmental Quality
P.O. Box 1105
Richmond, VA 23218
(804) 698-4000

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