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February 2021 — Volume XXVII, Number 2 — Published by the Georgia Native Plant Society


Join us for our First Virtual Symposium

Our GNPS 2021 Symposium event will be virtual! To make the event more manageable, it will be spread across two days in two-hour programs each day, and each session will be recorded for future playback. GNPS is partnering with Georgia Audubon to present this program. The cost for GNPS and Georgia Audubon members is $5 per day ($10 total across the two days); the cost for non-members is $10 per day. You can register here, but note that registration is being handled by Georgia Audubon. When you get to the registration site, dismiss the pop-up asking you to log in in, unless you are a Georgia Audubon member.

The focus this year of the GNPS 2021 Symposium is understanding the critical relationships that Georgia native plants and habitat have with Georgia’s native wildlife. From woodlands, to wetlands, to grasslands … Georgia’s insects, birds, and critters of all types depend on their relationships with native plants and places. These relationships include the food that wildlife eat (pollen, nectar, foliage, fruits), the ecosystems that native plants create, and the habitat that they foster. While non-native plants may contribute in part, the regionally appropriate native plants contribute far more in the space that they reside, allowing us to give back to Georgia wildlife substantially in our landscapes.

Saturday, February 27:

  • 10:00 a.m. EST: Patrick McMillan, Creating a Garden for Life: Embracing the Intersections of Life in Your Landscape
  • 11:00 a.m. EST: Jim Ozier, Wildlife Habitat Values of Georgia’s Native Woodland Plants

Sunday, February 28:

  • 1:00 p.m. EST: Malcolm Hodges, The Importance of Native Grasslands to Georgia’s Biodiversity
  • 2:00 p.m. EST: Giff Beaton, Wetlands: Hydric Powerhouses

Patrick McMillan is the host of the TV show Expeditions with Patrick McMillan and formerly the Director of the South Carolina Botanical Garden. A naturalist with extensive experience in the Southeast, he is now Director of the Heronswood Garden in Kingston WA, a unique horticultural facility owned by the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe and Foundation.

Jim Ozier is an Environmental Specialist who has been instrumental in the plant conservation programs of the Georgia Power Company.

Malcolm Hodges is a Conservation Biologist retired from The Nature Conservancy and a noted speaker on unique plant communities and the critters that thrive there.

Giff Beaton is a naturalist and author of three significant books on birds in Georgia as well as the authoritative field guide Dragonflies and Damselflies of Georgia and the Southeast.

My Wildflower Meadow

A Personal Pinterest Fail? (Part 1 of 2)

When we moved into our house almost three years ago, we were expecting smooth sailing for the construction. However, like most projects, everything did not go according to plan. One of the “not quite according to plan” issues was the septic system. While most septic leech fields are somewhat near to the house ours is not; due to soil issues, it is about 100 yards away from the house. So, this left us with about one-fifth of an acre where we have to be careful and not disturb the leech field. We cannot use it for parking or till it with the tractor, so the idea was to develop a wildflower prairie or meadow. Then began the research on just how to do this. There is a plethora of information out there; the State Botanical Gardens provided some useful links that helped get the ball rolling. Although I did not have a defined process to follow, looking back, there are a few milestones that emerged: Pinterest Fail, principles, preparation, plant selection, planting, patience, and permanence. Stay tuned to the next NativeSCAPE for the second half.

First is the Pinterest Fail: easy to follow directions are used to create a lovely project that goes awry and the outcome looks nothing like the beautiful picture in the directions. A couple of months after planting the seed, I was expecting wonderful new growth of the seeds carefully sown in January 2020. During a visit in April, 2020, Karan Rawlins visited the site to offer some suggestions and maybe snag some native plants to add to her inventory. While I was lamenting about my Pinterest Fail, Karan offered some useful advice based on her years of experience with native plants (and also invasives): “Don’t even look at this meadow the first year. You need to give it time to develop.” There is wisdom in that, which is corroborated by the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension, “you will most likely be disappointed in how your meadow area looks the first season after planting. Patience is the key this year. You should see wildflower seedlings germinate and emerge as the soil warms up in the spring, but it’s hard to tell the wildflowers from the weeds at this point. Some wildflowers won’t even germinate for 2-3 years following planting, and most grow low to the ground the first season” (https://extension.unh.edu/resource/planting-pollinators-establishing-wildflower-meadow-seed-fact-sheet). Patience is one of the keys.


Before the work began, June 2018.

Principles and a few design criteria. I started with the principles of Flat Creek Natives such as using organic growing methods (herbicide free) and “recycle, reuse, and repurpose” (which makes for some interesting structures surrounding the meadow). Just like with our house, low maintenance features figure into the planning.  Since the meadow is co-located with a native plant nursery, it is a no brainer to use native plants. Along the same vein, since we are in the Coastal Plain, using plants native to this area is also in the plan. Since we are over the septic leech field it is important to not use woody plants that would encroach on the workings of the septic system. The area is in full sun, with mostly heavy clay--not very permeable soil so when it rains, there is quite a bit of standing water. These design criteria provide a framework for establishing the wildflower meadow.

Preparation. All the articles and interviews stressed the importance of killing the grass and weeds before beginning. Since tilling will only bring up additional weed seed, that was dismissed. Adhering to company policies of avoiding herbicides and “recycle, reuse, and repurpose,” using glyphosates was out of the question. We considered purchasing large pieces of plastic sheeting to cover the area, but first wanted to try another way to smother the grass and weeds. Corrugated cardboard was the selected solution. But where do you get enough cardboard to cover one-fifth of an acre? After several attempts at different retail outlets, we found the local furniture store had more than we needed and was glad for us to come get it. Whew, that is done.

Cardboard preparation

Cardboard all over.

The site was already cleared of woody plants, the maintenance crew (my wife) kept the meadow mowed regularly. By early 2019, the decision was made to put in a wildflower meadow and the implementation began in earnest with the procurement of cardboard. It was not done quickly, but a pickup load at a time—and we got to be friendly with the loading dock staff at the furniture store. One problem was wind picking up the cardboard and blowing it around the property, hence the logs and pallets. Once the area was covered, it was left to smother the grass until Jan 2020. The cardboard was laid out over the course of a couple months, then sat dormant for many months killing off most of the weeds and grass. It took a couple days to pile up the cardboard into two piles and burn it. Then we spent the better part of a week cleaning and raking to prepare for the planting phase. The preparation phase was the longest in duration, but so necessary before we can get to the fun part--planting!


Site burn.

One of the features that developed for the meadow is a walking path which divides the area into three parts. The rationale or planting strategy was to have one meadow area diverse with the beauty of these wildflowers. The second area was to have a mass of individual flowers to ease the seed collection. The third area was mostly left alone--a control environment so to speak. Back to the walking path--this was not planned when the project started, but after the burn, there were quite a few large logs remaining, so the lazy bone part of me kicked in and we made a path using those logs so we did not have to move them very far. But as it turns out, the path is a great feature.

This concludes the process through site preparation, but peeking under the tent for the next article, I consider it neither a Pinterest Fail nor a tourist attraction, but it is solidly on its way to providing beauty, habitat, and plenty of food for the local pollinators. Keep your ear to the ground for the next installment. Any questions or comments? Give a shout to flatcreeknatives@gmail.com and we will be happy to dialogue about the progress to date. Your ideas would be greatly appreciated.

Plant Spotlight: Carolina jessamine

Wax myrtle (Morella cerifera)

I love going to South Georgia in the early months of the year to see things that bloom ahead of where I live in the Piedmont. One such plant is the evergreen vine called Carolina jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens) and February would the time to look for it blooming in South Georgia.

This rambunctious vine has small glossy leaves arranged in opposite pairs and grows to 20 feet. Small, 1.5-inch, lightly fragrant, yellow flowers appear singly and in clusters throughout early spring to early summer, depending on location, with occasional reblooming. It is native throughout the state. I see it used a lot on highway projects where it is grown to scramble over sound walls, anchoring itself in the cracks it can find. Several years ago I found a magnificent planting of it in a park in Marietta where it had been grown to cover a long fence. The growth on the fence had become a dense tangle where birds found suitable nesting areas.

This vine blooms best in full sun (6 hours or more) but will grow and bloom in part sun. As you would for any vine, site it carefully to allow for growth. This is a twining vine so it will not attach to walls; it needs something like a fence, shrub or small tree to twine around.

Note: This plant is rated as poisonous when consumed (not by touch) so be careful when growing near curious kids and critters. The fruit is a dry capsule, not fleshy. Extracts are also sold for medicinal use.

Wax myrtle (Morella cerifera)


Georgia Native Plant Society
PO Box 422085
Atlanta, GA 30342
(770) 343-6000

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