Connect to Protect

What is Connect to Protect?

Connect to Protect is a program that provides for beautiful public displays of native plants with educational materials to foster an understanding of the role that native plants play in maintaining biodiversity in urban and suburban landscapes of Georgia.

Healthy ecosystems depend on native plants. The animal food web all starts with the smallest among us: insects. In turn, most plants depend on insects for pollination. Reptiles, amphibians, birds, fish and mammals all require insects in their diet to survive and reproduce. For humans, insects play a crucial role in food production, pollinating two-thirds of the world’s crops.

Insects require native plants to eat and native plants need insect pollinators. So without native plants woven in urban and suburban landscapes, biodiversity declines at all levels from bees to birds to butterflies and lizards. The good news is that studies have shown that adding regionally appropriate native plants to urban and suburban neighborhoods significantly supports insect, bird and other biodiversity.

Through the Connect to Protect program, we facilitate creating formal displays of locally appropriate plants to supply insects with a source of food. The goal of this collaborative project is to provide the public information, plant materials and educational tools for teaching the significance of incorporating native plants on large and small scales alike! Connect to Protect gardens range in size from potted gardens to full sized gardens.

Environmental educators from the State Botanical Garden are available to provide various grade-level educational programs built around the Connect to Protect philosophy. By doing this, SBG, through Connect to Protect, ensures that the next generation will not only understand the importance of native plants for biodiversity and pollinators, but will also will harbor an appreciation for the connections between plants, animals and people.

ObjectivesNative bees need native plants.

HELP POLLINATORS THRIVE!

Support pollinators by providing forage and nesting sites with native plants.

Encourage local businesses, schools and homeowners to include native plants in their gardens

Provide teaching materials to schools to teach about the types and importance of pollinators and their interactions with plants.

Click to download a guide to pollinators in your yard »


Why are Natives Important ?

Habitat Fragmentation

Habitat fragmentation has reduced suitable habitat and food supply. Paved roads, housing developments and city expansion have intersected and divided much of our natural areas. This habitat loss and declining functional ecosystems is the greatest threat to biodiversity.

Creating small native gardens in urban areas can create habitat connectivity in formerly unhospitable areas for pollinators.

See Connect to Protect in action: Our Macon Garden »

Exotic Plants

Exotic plants, which are ubiquitous in our landscapes, often do not contribute ecologically to surrounding organisms. Many insects are specialists and require specific native plants to feed or reproduce. Long term evolutionary relationships between plants and insects develop over long periods of time to form these essential associations.

Native plants support a multitude of native pollinators while providing gorgeous variety to the landscape.

Loss of Diversity

Loss of diversity threatens the health of our natural communities. Rich and complex ecosystems have organisms with overlapping functionalities. As species are lost, so is the stability and efficiency of the system.

Using a variety of native plants creates a more complex landscape capable of supporting various beneficial insects, which subsequently leads to higher trophic levels in plants, animals and humans.


Getting Involved

Garden installation

We provide schools, businesses and homeowners with packages of gorgeous native plants ready for installation in raised beds or pots. Seasonally available grasses and wildflowers are grown at the State Botanical Garden and will feed native pollinators while beautifying your garden. These plants require full sun and well-drained soil to thrive. Plan for your garden to be situated in a sunny location. Send us photos of your established garden for us to include in our interactive Connect to Protect Garden map!

Price ranges: Plugs $1.10 each; plants $5-7

Learn more about our plants »

On-site education

Our team of environmental educators will come to your school within 15 miles of Athens to help you and your students install a Connect to Protect planting of your choice and lead related hands-on activities. Programs cost $4/student. Plants and signs are free of cost while supplies last!