The Mimsie Lanier Center for Native Plant Studies is the Garden's headquarters for native plant restoration, conservation, education, production and safeguarding. The Mimsie Lanier Center is undergoing upgrades to greenhouses and the Headhouse, but the workshop-style teaching space is available to UGA courses and plant professionals for holding horticulture, restoration and seed biology classes. Future additions to the Mimsie Lanier Center will include an indoor teaching classroom with a full seed lab and an open-air classroom for restoration workshops and environmental education programs. The natural areas offer a chance to teach and demonstrate land management and restoration techniques. The planting spaces and native plant collections can be used to teach many scientific disciplines including botany, pollination ecology, environmental design and horticulture.
Within the Mimsie Lanier Center's 2.5 fenced-in acres, graduate students, interns, volunteers, and one full-time staff member propagates Georgia native plants for habitat restoration, endangered species recovery and the introduction of plants into the gardening community. We promote the incorporation of Georgia natives into garden displays and right-of-way restoration projects in order to better reset the land for diversity and share great plants.
Mimsie Lanier, for whom the Center is named, is an active board member who has worked alongside the Plant Conservation Program since 1995. She promotes the Conservation efforts of the Garden by raising funds for projects and sharing her vision for plant conservation and native plant programs in Georgia. She is Conservation's mentor, friend and matriarch, so it is only fitting that her name be placed on the Center for Native Plant Studies.
We are restoring three large plant communities in the Garden's natural areas: the Piedmont Floodplain and Bottomlands along the Ocmulgee River, the Piedmont Prarie and the Oak-Hickory Forest. Our restoration involves longterm research and daily management activities. Changes in the plant and animal species are logged, and the techniques are used to teach UGA students and land management professionals are documented as well. Thanks to our monitoring procedures, we have documented the changes in diversity that occur when invasive species are removed to make room for native diversity. Garden staff, students, interns and volunteers hand-cut invasive plants, mow, burn and thin where necessary to manage our plant communities. Talk a walk on our trails and mowed paths to learn more about our restoration projects.
Several populations of imperiled plants are held at the Garden. Their provenance, or origins, are carefully tracked so that they can be returned to wild sites as part of the Garden's conservation effort. These plants are not intended to remain in our collections for generations, rather our goal is to place them in safeguarding sites on protected land. Growing plants in our collections does have the benefit of helping us learn more about these plants. If a plant thrives under our care, we can apply what we've learned to help the plant thrive in the wild. Additionally, propagating the plants in our collections can help us increase the plant population, allow us to help the population navigate potential genetic bottlenecks and learn a plant's space and soil needs. If a plant seems “weedy” in the collection, we know it needs a particular growing range in the original environment. We can learn the required soil fungal associations, special soil chemistry and appropriate soil compaction and saturation for plants that are tricky to grow, saving us the hassle of learning the hard way later. Safeguarding collections are only a temporary solution for preserving plants that can be easily lost if a plant's habitat or community is altered.
We have native plants for sale! We sell plants daily in the Garden Shop in the Visitor Center & Conservatory. We also sell plants at the Garden's Plantapalooza in the spring and our annual plant sale party Bluestems & Bluejeans in the fall. Because we are a non-profit, all of our plant sale money goes back to supporting conservation at the Garden.
Our Native Plants program focuses on the Georgia Piedmont, but we do grow natives from the Coastal Plain and the North Georgia mountains. All of our plants are originally sourced from Georgia native plant populations. We carefully and ethically collect seeds from wild populations, trying to ensure the capture of as much genetic diversity as possible. The identity of each and every species is confirmed by our Conservation Botanist. Our plants are raised with hearty soil mixes that ensure good roots. Our plants are not forced to grow faster or bloom out of season through aggressive hormone or fertilizer regimes. We are keen to share our seeds with growers, serving as a point source for seeds that have been collected ethically from the wild. We share our propagation techniques with Georgia gardeners and green industry professionals in order to further the cause of getting more Georgia natives into Georgia gardens and landscapes.