Thursday, December 17, 2009

Last Tuesday a group of folks from the Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance, which is a diverse group of organizations throughout the state that have come together to meet plant conservation goals, met near Toccoa to plant endangered Echinacea laevigata and other native wildflowers in North Georgia. The hard work had been done – clearing some trees on the hillsides to allow the sunlight in for these perennials to thrive and reestablish in North Georgia forests. In our group today were Heather and Jennifer, botanists from The State Botanical Garden of Georgia, A botanist from the DNR Heritage Program, a few US Forest Service biologists, volunteers from the Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance, who donate countless hours to help plant and monitor these populations, and me. I needed this to complete my 16 required hours of volunteer time so I can be in the second graduation class receiving a Certificate in Native Plants from the State Botanical Garden. I also needed this time in the woods and away from my to-do lists. Never mind the temperatures in the 40s and drizzly rain. I agreed with Liese – I’d take that cold, wet day over the heat and insects of July.

The 250+ plants brought with us were grown from seed collected in Georgia and grown at The State Botanical Garden of Georgia - Echinacea laevigata, Hypericum punctatum (St. John’s wort), Symphyotrichum georgianum (Georgia aster – a threatened species in Georgia with purple flowers in fall), and Oligoneuron (white-top solidago, which has clusters of little white flowers that look like asters or daisies, not the solidago that is commonly called goldenrod).

The first site was on a steep slope. We didn’t even need to kneel down to plant the seedlings – just lean forward a little to dig the holes and set in the perennials. Although each site access became easier that morning the weather got wetter and wetter – and colder. By the end we were pretty soaked, but feeling good about what got into the ground and the condition of the plants that were planted there before and are now established. Details were recorded and the sites will be visited to monitor the survival rate. The goal is that these plants not just survive, but reproduce and reestablish colonies throughout this area. In another county in North Georgia, native bog orchids and pitcher plants have started to reproduce on their own, a significant success for the folks of the Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance.

Saving the Smooth Coneflower (Echinacea laevigata) is one of the original priority projects of the Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance. Read Heather Alley’s 2002 account here.

Wet, tired and cold at the end of the excursion – but smiling!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Exercise Classes at the Garden start in early January

I don’t know about you, but it’s still 9 days away from Christmas and I’m feeling sluggish already from not enough exercise and too many holiday treats! I sure don’t want to go through 2010 feeling like this! Luckily, there are 2 very different exercise classes happening at the Garden starting in early January.
One sounds serene, yet energizing – yoga in a chapel during Monday lunch hours. I’ve taken an exercise class there before and it is not like any gym. Imagine the beautiful architecture of the Day Chapel reception room with lots of privacy and lots of windows looking out into the woodland.
Zumba! is quite the opposite, yet just as wonderful. Cora, the instructor, who’s also on the Garden’s Education staff, calls Zumba ‘Latin infused aerobics’. I’ve tried it and it is fun and challenging. These classes will be in the large tropical conservatory on Wednesday evenings, with lively Latin music.
Find out more and sign up at

Monday, December 7, 2009

Keep Your Birds Healthy – Keep Your Birdfeeders Clean

Create a lively scene outside your windows by inviting birds in the garden with bird-attracting plants, birdbaths and bird feeders. Providing food for birds comes with the responsibility to keep the birds healthy. Bird feeders should be cleaned periodically to help prevent the spread of disease. Some sources recommend feeders be cleaned every time they are filled; others suggest cleaning thoroughly at least four times a year.

Never use household cleansers to clean a bird feeder. Solutions made from chlorine bleach or vinegar are safe and effective cleaners. Vinegar is more gentle than chlorine, but both are safe if diluted and rinsed well. Mix a weak chlorine bleach solution (one part chlorine bleach to 10 parts water). Empty the bird feeder; then rinse and immerse it in the bleach solution for a few minutes. Rinse the feeder thoroughly. Allow it to dry before filling it with birdseed. Make sure there are no sharp objects on the feeder that could cut a bird, allowing bacteria and viruses to infect the cut.

Keep seed dry and stored in a secure container to prevent mice and insects from contaminating the birdseed. Never fill a feeder with moldy, sour-smelling or wet seed. Never offer birds moldy bread. If squirrels are a problem, try one of the hot pepper additives that actually add vitamins for the birds.

Mulching the area under the feeder makes it easier to clean and freshen, remove sprouted seeds and view feeders. The lack of plant cover also makes it more difficult for a preying cat to surprise the birds. When purchasing feeders, consider maintenance as well as design. It is important to keep the birds healthy as well as fed.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Lunch at the Gardenside Cafe

Whether you need a break from Holiday errands, a great place to catch up with friends, or a taste of home cooking, come to the Gardenside CafĂ© overlooking the International Garden in The State Botanical Garden of Georgia’s Visitor Center & Conservatory. Sandwiches, salads, desserts and more fill the menu. Or try the delicious made-from-scratch Daily Plate Special – a main dish with sides, bread, dessert and drink for only $8.00.
Daily plate specials through December 23rd:
Tuesday: Beef Lasagna, Chicken Lasagna, Tossed Salad, Whole Kernel Corn, Rolls, Italian Cream Cake.
Wednesday: Ham, Potato Salad, Deviled Eggs, Green Bean Casserole, Roll, Pecan Pie.
Thursday: Turkey and Dressing with Gravy, Sweet Potato Souffle, English Peas, Roll, Red Velvet Cake.
Friday: Meatloaf, Scalloped Potatoes, Pinto Beans, Creamed Corn, Biscuits, Banana Pudding.
Saturday: Baked Chicken Marsala, Wild Rice, Broccoli with Cheese Sauce, Steamed Carrots, Roll,
Strawberry Cake.
Sunday: Roast Beef/ Marinated Chicken, Red Roasted Potatoes, Macaroni & Cheese, Green Beans, Biscuit,
Coconut Cake.