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Plants Are Not Optional

On Tuesday, September 16, at 7:30pm, Jennifer Ceska, Conservation Coordinator at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia (UGA) will present a lecture titled “Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance: Postcards from the Field” in McElreath Hall at the Atlanta History Center.  This lecture is part of the Georgia Perennial Plant Association series and is free and open to the public.

Recently I spoke with Jennifer by telephone about her upcoming lecture.  After a few days of phone tag, she explained that while spring may be busy for gardeners, fall is busy too.  In her role as the Conservation Coordinator for the State Botanical Garden in Athens, she is busy collecting seed and doing a myriad tasks.  I asked her how she came to have this job and she said that as a graduate student at UGA in 1994 she began investigating how Botanic gardens could establish plant conservation programs.  She studied existing programs at a wide range of gardens including the Arnold Arboretum, Missouri Botanical Garden, North Carolina Botanical Garden, Bok Tower Gardens and Fairchild Tropical Gardens.

In 1995 the Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance, a network of of professionals from museums, universities, agencies, and land-holding companies was formed.  Jennifer had created a dream  job and all her graduate research made her ideal the ideal candidate.

I asked her  about home gardeners and how they can help with plant conservation.  And while endangered species may not be the first thing you think of when you work in your own garden, Jennifer reminds us  “that plants are not optional.”

She stresses that by incorporating even just a few native plants into our gardens (urban, suburban, etc) this will help Georgia wildlife, providing habitats and attracting pollinators.

Rhus copallina, flameleaf or shining sumac

With fall just around the corner, I can think of  wonderful natives to consider including in your garden like the Mountain mints, Pycnanthemum, asters, Joe-pye weed, sumacs, goldenrod and native grasses.  Just make sure to select the right plants for the right place, in terms of light, water and soil requirements.  Do a little research before you plant.

Pycnanthemum in September

The GPCA focuses  on large conservation projects to restore and protect Georgia’s most critically endangered plant species and communities. The GPCA has been coordinated by the State Botanical Garden since 1995 with the goal of preventing local extinctions in Georgia, and with real successes:

To date there are 36 active organizations, 80 endangered species in active recovery, 31 species in safeguarding in wild protected sites,  as well as 10 students who have gone on to careers in conservation, and  five other states using the GPCA model for their conservation networks.

The Inspired Gardener-a symposium and silent auction

On Saturday, February 22, the Atlanta Botanical Garden, in cooperation with the Georgia Perennial Plant Association, presents a day-long symposium with a great lineup of speakers.  Opening the program is landscape architect and plant lover Dottie Myers, who will talk about selecting trees for your garden, designing with existing trees and how to deal with the loss of a tree.  Dottie’s passion is sure to inspire you!

Prunus mume in my garden, January, 2014

Flo Chaffin, owner of Specialty Ornamentals, which specializes in woody plants with an emphasis on those that are hard to find or unusual, will highlight conifers of all sizes, shapes and colors for a variety of garden situations.  The one thing they all have in common is that they do well in Georgia.

When it comes to inspiring plant combinations, David Culp draws on his years of experience with his amazing garden, known as Brandywine Cottage, in Downingtown, PA.  During his lecture he will talk about layering plants, also the title of his book “The Layered Garden” which he wrote with Adam Levine.  He will also highlight his signature plants for every season.

Combination in David Culp's garden, June 2013

Tim Martin, familiar to many as the current President of the Georgia Perennial Plant Association, is passionate about plants but often finds after maintaining large estate gardens all day that his own garden is like a “stepchild.”  He will talk about what is unique about gardening in the South, addressing the quality of the light, how to choose the best plants for your garden, dealing with rock solid Georgia clay and, offer tips for developing your own personal gardening calendar to help you manage your own garden.

Associate Professor and Extension Plant Pathologist, Dr. Jean Williams-Woodward will help you learn to identify and prevent plant diseases that affect garden perennials.

This symposium offers the perfect way to get inspired and prepare for Spring in our Georgia gardens.  As a bonus the silent auction features unusual plants and gifts.

For more information on the cost or to register online visit or to register by voicemail call 404-876-5859-extension 2558 – Space is limited so register early.

Gold in Your Garden Symposium

September 12, 2013 | 8:30 AM - 3 PM

Callaway Building Auditorium

2450 S. Milledge Ave. Athens, GA 30605

Cost: $60 Early Registration, $70 Day of

Amsonia hubrichtii

Amsonia hubrichtii in fall

It’s time for the biennial Gold in Your Garden symposium, teaching us how to design with and grow Georgia Gold Medal Plants, a palette of beautiful, reliable, easy-to-grow plants for Georgia gardens.

Our Keynote speaker this year is the Perennial Plant Association Garden Media Award winner Erica Glasener. Erica will also be signing books.

The Gold Medal Plant Program promotes the use of superior ornamental plants in Georgia. It represents the combined effort of the State Botanical Garden of Georgia; the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension; University faculty members; and nurserymen, flower growers, garden retailers and landscape professionals across the state. Winners are chosen from five categories: Natives, Annuals, Perennials, Trees, Shrubs and Vines and Groundcovers.

Dottie Myers

9 AM

Favorite Gold Medal Plants and Thier Best Use

Matt Whiddon

9:45 AM

Color in the Garden

Plant Sale

10:30 AM - 3 PM

Open to Public and Symposium Attendees

Mike Sikes

11 AM

New Cultivars of Past Winners


12 PM

in Visitor Center

Erica Glasener

1:15 PM

Designing with Gold: Creating a Garden for Year-Round Interest

Garden Events for September – October

Rare and Unusual Tree and Plant Auction- 2nd Annual for Trees Atlanta

September 28, 2013- 6:00 pm

Trees Atlanta Kendeda Center

225 Chester Avenue, Atlanta GA  30316

Join me!

This event features approximately 50 rare and unusual plants and trees- items you will not find at any plant or garden store around our city.  The auction also features non-plant items as well.  This year’s theme is “Getting Active Outdoors” so we are gathering items such as bikes, kayaks, outdoor adventure trips, gear, outdoor-themed books or experiences etc.  The funds raised through the event will directly support our tree planting programs as well as our youth and adult education programs.  The audience is plant/tree enthusiasts, Trees Atlanta volunteers and donors and people interested in the environment.  The ticket price, which includes dinner and drinks, is $75.

Trees Atlanta is a nationally recognized citizens group dedicated to protecting and improving Atlanta’s urban environment by planting, conserving and educating.  Since our beginnings in 1985, we have planted more than 96,000 trees across the City of Atlanta.  We educate an average of 3,000 children and adults annually about the importance of the urban forest.  We also engage thousands of volunteers each year (more than 13,500 volunteer hours served in 2012!) to help us plant and maintain Atlanta’s trees.

Here is the link to purchase tickets

Goodness Grows Nursery to host “The Legends of Ogelthorpe”

October 26 and 27, 2013, 9-5pm, 332 Elberton Rd, Lexington, GA 30648

A rare opportunity to participate in a living history weekend with “in character” actors bringing to life individuals who have been a part of Oglethorpe County’s rich history.

“The nursery will be closed to the general public giving attendees exclusive shopping privileges.” Take a horse drawn carriage ride, enjoy a self-guided walking tour of historic Lexington and purchase plants to take home. A great time for gardening in the South and a great source for perennials. For more information and tickets visit

Designing Gardens in Alaska and the Far North

Earlier this week I was delighted to open a package from Brenda Adams, her new book titled There’s a Moose in My Garden, 2013 University of Alaska Press, Fairbanks, AK. Hot off the press, this book will delight both Alaskan and Northern gardeners with its information and superb photos. I first met Brenda in 2010 when I was invited to speak in Homer, Alaska and was fortunate to be her guest. Her garden and the gardens she designs are full of interesting plant combinations and her book offers detailed practical advice on garden design. During my stay in Alaska, I encountered a moose in a parking lot but Brenda has to contend with these creatures visiting her garden, especially in winter. And while I will probably never be able to grow Lady’s Mantle, Alchemilla mollis, here in Georgia, I can admire it growing in cooler climes like Alaska. What follows are a few photos of Brenda’s garden that I took in 2010, highlighting some of the plant combinations that captivated me. I look forward to my next visit. For more information about her book contact Brenda at

View of Kachemak Bay from Brenda's garden, Homer, Alaska

Daylilies and Mertensia paniculata, late July, Homer, Alaska

Primula, hardy geraniums, petunias

Meconopsis in late July

Iris sibirica 'Silver Edge' and Euphorbia 'Fire Glow'

April Flowers

Spring got off to a cold, slow start( but so far no late frosts) this year.  One of the advantages is that blooms have lasted a long time.  In my part of the world, Magnolia x soulangeana and flowering cherries have been spectacular.  Although I don’t grow either of these plants in my own garden, I have enjoyed them in my neighborhood and surrounding community.

Viburnum macrocephalum

Viburnum macrocephalum, Chinese snowball viburnum

Today,  April 14, everything seems to be coming into flower at once.  Here are a few of the beauties in my own garden blooming now.   Lots of green and white, two great colors for gardens.

Smoke tree and Japanese maple

smoke tree and Japanese maple

Clematis on Hydrangea

Clematis 'Ramona' on Hydrangea paniculata 'Tardiva'

Baptisia 'Carolina Moonlight'

Baptisia 'Carolina Moonlight'

Heuchera 'Citronelle'

Heuchera 'Citronelle' or 'Pistache'


Green and Gold

Variegated Solomon's Seal

Variegated Solomon's Seal just beginning to emerge

Plant Sales – April and May

From native to exotic this is the season for some great plant sales, here are a few in the Atlanta area during April.

Rhododendron canescens

native azalea

April 16-18, 2013- 19th Annual Spring Plant Sale, Gwinnett Technical College, (Greenhouse)  9am-4pm,   5150 Sugarloaf Parkway, Lawrenceville, GA 30043

Best selection the first day, best deals at the end of the second day.

Mertensia virginica

Virginia bluebells in April

Petunias, Calibrachoa, lantana, zinnia, geraniums, begonias, double pink Morning Glory, perennials,  ornamental grasses, hydrangeas, Magnolia stellata ‘Pink Stardust,’ Osmanthus, native azaleas, viburnums, fig trees, loquat trees, strawberries, mints, thyme, basil, hot peppers and more!

April 20, 2013, Saturday, Annual Spring Plant Sale,  10am-2pm, Georgia Native Plant Society, McFarlane Nature Park, 280 Farm Road, SE, Marietta, GA 3006, -perennials, shrubs, trees, ferns and over 600 native azaleas, cash and check only.

Neviusa alabamensis blooming in April

Neviusa alabamensis blooming in April

April and May, 2013, Wednesdays and Saturdays- Native Plant Botanical Garden, ( check for specific dates,) Georgia Perimeter College,

3251 Panthersville Road Decatur, GA Phone: 678-891-2668 Hours: 10:00am – 2:00pm

Native Perennial Wildflower and Vine Plant Sale

Trees Atlanta , Saturday, April 6, 2013

8am-1pm, Trees Atlanta

Kendeda Center in Reynoldstown, 225 Chester Ave., Atlanta, GA 30316

cinnamon fern and aster

Cinnamon fern

mayapple, iris and Japanese maple

mayapple, iris and Japanese maple

Spring is here, it’s time to get out and garden. On Saturday, take the opportunity to support the Trees Atlanta youth education programs and add some select native plants (as well as pollinator friendly types)  to your garden.  Featured perennials include varieties that are also planted along the Eastside Trail of the Atlanta Belt Line.

Wisteria frutescens 'Amethyst Falls'

Wisteria frutescens 'Amethyst Falls'

Butterfly weed, Asclepias tuberosa, climbing aster, Aster carolinianus, and Indian pinks, Spigelia marilandica, these are a few of my favorite natives.   Incorporate natives into your garden.   For a full list of what will be offered visit .

Spigelia marilandica with ferns

Spigelia marilandica with ferns

Garden Design Workshop at Callaway Gardens and winter blooms

Join me on Thursday, March 21 for a tour of two private gardens  and a design workshop

Garden Gate

On the tour, you’ll enjoy seeing the woodland garden of noted horticulturist Fred Galle in Pine Mountain, GA  which abounds in wildflowers at this time of year. The current owner has updated the design with meandering paths along a hillside and old mill race. We’ll also visit a cottage garden surrounding a turn-of-the-century farmhouse. Designed by an award-winning landscape architect, this garden not only reflects the owner’s plant palette but also the authenticity of the era. After the tour, you can shop to your heart’s content at the Plant Sale with me as your personal shopper.  The day ends with a Wine and Cheese Get-together.

On Friday, I’ll teach a garden design workshop, illustrating with examples from gardens across the US and England.  Last May I led a garden tour to England and I’ll share some of my favorite gardens and plant combinations  with you.  Bring your design and plant questions and take away ideas to apply to your own landscape.  For more information or to register call Callaway Gardens at

800-225-5292 option 5, option 2

Here’s what’s blooming in my own garden today, February 22, 2013

Euphorbia wulfenii

Helleborus foetidus

Helleborus seedlings


Veronica 'Georiga Blue'

The last days of November-favorite foliage and flowers


I don’t want to get too philosophical but I feel fortunate to be a gardener.  I admit it would be great to live in the mountains and study native plants every day but I live in the city, albeit on a dead end street in a neighborhood with lots of trees.  Yet, on any given day, I can walk outside and find some combination– plants, foliage, flowers, twigs or blooms that brings a smile to my face.  Today, I realized that despite cool temperatures some of my plants in containers were looking in desperate need of water.  As I walked around to the side of the house to turn on the hose  I noticed a clump of Arum italicum ‘Pictum’ that I don’t remember seeing a few days ago.  A friend of mine claims it’s a pest in his garden but I only have a few well behaved patches that appear every year beginning in late November.  Fortunately it pops up between clumps of Carex ‘Evergold,’ a combination that I didn’t plan but one I will repeat.   

Arum italicum 'Pictum' and Carex 'Evergold'

In the front of my house, Fatsia japonica puts on a show with its curious November flowers.  There’s not much else in bloom right now ( a few violas and pansies I planted in October) but I appreciate all the shades of green in my dry woodland including Christmas ferns, Asarums  and Helleborus ‘Ivory Prince.’ 

Fatsia japonica flowers in late November

Helleborus 'Ivory Prince' foliage

In a few days it will be December and I look forward to the plants that will put on another type of show, be it colorful bark, dark green foliage or sparse fragrant flowers.