History

At the 1994 Native Plant Conference in Cullowhee, NC, Jim Harrington and Jackie Fitts discussed the possibility of a native plant society in Georgia.  Jackie already had a list of interested Master Gardeners.  Jim posted an “if interested” notice on the bulletin board and thus began the effort to establish the Georgia Native Plant Society, the purpose of which was to advocate the use and preservation of Georgia’s native plants.  Barbara Allen helped with the planning.  Jackie called each person on the lists and spoke on the radio with Kathy Henderson and Walter Reeves.  The first meeting was held September 14, 1994, at the North Fulton Government Annex with forty people in attendance.
 
The first officers were:
  • President: Jim Harrington
  • Vice President: Jackie Fitts
  • Publicity: Marilyn Porter
  • Corresponding Secretary: Stan Fulghum
  • Recording Secretary: Brenda Odom
  • Treasurer: Barbara Allen
  • Georgia Botanical Society Liason: Vivian Emerson
  • Programs: Susan Giles Cruz and Stan Fulghum
  • Newsletter Editor: Harriet Walls
  • Publisher: Bobbie Boschan
By the December board meeting, the membership had grown to 250 members.  The original membership cost was $15.00/year.
 
Generous gifts from an anonymous native plant enthusiast and from Southern Living magazine enabled GNPS to begin publishing the newsletter, Nativescape, and to present the First Annual Native Plant Symposium.  Sally and Andy Wasowski, authors of Gardening with Native Plants of the South, waived their normal speaker’s fee, as did Kathy Henderson and George Sanko, in order to promote the first symposium.  George obtained an auditorium at DeKalb College and the symposium was held April 10, 1995.
 
By October 1995, with the help of Jeane Reeves, plant rescues had grown in attendance.  Jim Harrington compiled a Plant Rescue Facilitator program and conducted a workshop.  The plants rescued, with permission from the developer, could be distributed to schools, libraries, and native gardens.
 
By the end of the first year, the growth of the Society was reflected in the expanded board. The new board in December 6, 1995 was composed of:
  • President: Jackie Fitts
  • Vice President (programs): Marilyn Porter
  • Treasurer: Germaine Baxter
  • Corresponding Secretary: Laurie Elder
  • Recording Secretary: Ken Hunt
  • Membership: Shirley Kennedy
  • Public Relations: Bobbie Boschan
  • Newsletter Editor: Harriet Walls
  • Hospitality: Linda Fraser
  • Georgia Botanical Society Liason: Paula Refi
  • Plant Rescue Coordinator: Jeane Reeves
  • Symposium: Sue Latham
  • Past President: Jim Harrington
Meetings had been held the second Wednesday of  the month at The Atlanta Botanical Garden.  But in 1996 they were changed to the second Tuesday of the month and held at the Northwest Unitarian Congregational Church.  Bobbie Boschan established an advertising section in the newsletter.  Jim Whitehurst tackled the I.R.S. to obtain Non-profit status for the fledgling club.  The logo, a drawing of Hydrangea quercifolia, was designed by an artist of native plants, Linda Fraser.  T-shirts and raffle tickets for plants were sold at meetings. We were off and running!

 

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Origins
At the 1994 Native Plant Conference in Cullowhee, North Carolina, Jim Harrington and Jackie Fitts discussed the possibility of a native plant society in Georgia. Jackie already had a list of interested Master Gardeners. Jim posted an “if interested” notice on the bulletin board and thus began the effort to establish the Georgia Native Plant Society, the purpose of which was to advocate the use and preservation of Georgia’s native plants. Barbara Allen helped with the planning. Jackie called each person on the lists and spoke on the radio with Kathy Henderson and Walter Reeves. The first meeting was held September 14, 1994, at the North Fulton Government Annex with forty people in attendance. The first officers were:

  • President: Jim Harrington
  • Vice President: Jackie Fitts
  • Publicity: Marilyn Porter
  • Corresponding Secretary: Stan Fulghum
  • Recording Secretary: Brenda Odom
  • Treasurer: Barbara Allen
  • Georgia Botanical Society Liason: Vivian Emerson
  • Programs: Susan Giles Cruz and Stan Fulghum
  • Newsletter Editor: Harriet Walls
  • Publisher: Bobbie Boschan

By the December board meeting, the membership had grown to 250 members. The original membership cost was $15.00/year. Generous gifts from an anonymous native plant enthusiast and from Southern Living magazine enabled GNPS to begin publishing the newsletter, Nativescape, and to present the First Annual Native Plant Symposium. Sally and Andy Wasowski, authors of Gardening with Native Plants of the South, waived their normal speaker’s fee, as did Kathy Henderson and George Sanko, in order to promote the first symposium. George obtained an auditorium at DeKalb College and the symposium was held April 10, 1995.

By October 1995, with the help of Jeane Reeves, plant rescues had grown in attendance. Jim Harrington compiled a Plant Rescue Facilitator program and conducted a workshop. The plants rescued, with permission from the developer, could be distributed to schools, libraries, and native gardens. By the end of the first year, the growth of the Society was reflected in the expanded board. The new board in December 6, 1995 was composed of:

  • President: Jackie Fitts
  • Vice President (programs): Marilyn Porter
  • Treasurer: Germaine Baxter
  • Corresponding Secretary: Laurie Elder
  • Recording Secretary: Ken Hunt
  • Membership: Shirley Kennedy
  • Public Relations: Bobbie Boschan
  • Newsletter Editor: Harriet Walls
  • Hospitality: Linda Fraser
  • Georgia Botanical Society Liason: Paula Refi
  • Plant Rescue Coordinator: Jeane Reeves
  • Symposium: Sue Latham
  • Past President: Jim Harrington

Meetings had been held the second Wednesday of the month at The Atlanta Botanical Garden. But in 1996 they were changed to the second Tuesday of the month and held at the Northwest Unitarian Congregational Church. Bobbie Boschan established an advertising section in the newsletter. Jim Whitehurst tackled the I.R.S. to obtain non-profit status for the fledgling club. The logo, a drawing of Hydrangea quercifolia, was designed by an artist of native plants, Linda Fraser. T-shirts and raffle tickets for plants were sold at meetings. We were off and running!

Legacy Chapters
To better serve members throughout the state, three chapters were started by industrious members in their regions.

  • The West Georgia Chapter was founded in September 2008 to serve the western counties of the North Georgia Piedmont.They have been holding meetings mostly at the Carrolton Ag Center.
  • The Coastal Plain Chapter chapter followed in 2012 and has for many years covered the largest area of any chapter, serving most members south of the fall line. While activities are centered in Tifton, a large contingent of members are located closer to the coast.
  • The Redbud Project: Model for Hall County Conservation had been originally founded in 2010 as “a private citizens’ movement committed to promoting public awareness of Hall County’s extraordinary ecosystem of native plants and their economic value as a natural resource.” In 2014, they became affiliated as a chapter of GNPS.
Statewide Reorganization

Since the early years, most members of GNPS were in the Atlanta Metro area, and many GNPS activities were held there, including annual meetings and educational presentations at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. Since that time, their initiative and message around the importance of native plants to our lives has spread across Georgia and, in fact, across the world. By 2019, GNPS members were served in other locations across the state where local groups were providing educational information, restoration opportunities and opportunities to learn more.

In order to better serve statewide membership, GNPS began a reorganization in 2019 with the intent of

  • enabling the State Board of Directors to focus on strategic planning, development, and operation of statewide efforts,
  • creating specific chapters in Atlanta, offloading the effort of supporting activities there to dedicated members, and
  • fostering new chapters in other regions throughout the state.

In November 2019, GNPS adopted new bylaws, which implemented a statewide governing board to set organizational policy, define its strategic vision, and directly support chapter activities. This new organizational structure paved the way for more chapters to form throughout Georgia.

Chapter Expansion

By 2021, the statewide reorganization had resulted in six forming chapters, several of which had reached provisional status by year’s end, with all formation activities completed aside from IRS recognition as Section 501 c(3) non-profit entities:

  • Athens – East Piedmont
  • Augusta’s River Region
  • Fringed Campion
  • Intown Atlanta
  • North Georgia Mountains
  • North Metro Atlanta

At approximately the same time (in October 2021), the Redbud Project Chapter dissolved as the parent organization returned to its specific focus on a greenspace in Hall County. Members retained their GNPS membership and began aligning with the most convenient chapter, mostly with North Georgia Mountains, North Metro Atlanta, or Athens – East Piedmont.

 

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