Gift to UGA will boost prairie project at State Botanical Garden


Native prairie restorations will continue to transform a utility right-of-way at the State Botanical Garden, with support from Georgia Power.

The $50,000 gift from Georgia Power will go toward the garden’s prairie project, which is creating about 10 acres of native Georgia grasslands and pitcher plant bogs along the stretch of right-of-way that cuts through the garden.

The native prairies and plant bogs have been identified as high priority by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and will provide climate-adaptive habitat for ground-nesting birds, small mammals and reptiles.

“We are extremely grateful for the generous gift from Georgia Power Foundation, and we believe this is a great opportunity for us to transform underutilized areas of the garden into natural Georgia habitats. Most importantly, we intend to educate people on the important role rights-of-way can play in rare species and habitat conservation,” said Jennifer Cruse-Sanders, director of the State Botanical Garden, a UGA Public Service and Outreach unit. “We hope to use this project as a model for cost-effectively creating and managing diverse and functioning habitats in rights-of-way across the Southeast.”

The project is in three phases, with the initial phase restoring the northern two-thirds of the right-of-way into Piedmont grasslands.

Later, the garden will develop Coastal Plain pitcher plant bogs in the remaining right-of-way that lies in the floodplain of the Middle Oconee River. Native plant displays and a pedestrian loop highlighting the prairie habitats will be added.

As part of the project, the garden staff will prepare a series of workshops on prairie restoration for Georgia Power, other utility companies and the public. The Wildlife Conservation Society also contributed to the project, which is estimated to cost about $141,000.

Writer: Aaron Cox,, 706-542-3631

Contact: Jenny Cruse-Sanders,, 706-542-6131

Art students design immersive and interactive exhibit for the Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden


The seasonal gardens in the Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden will feature sunflowers, zucchini and other eye-catching plants. But look closer to learn more.

Below the garden beds is an underground cavern filled with colorful, interactive panels created in partnership with students from the Lamar Dodd School of Art.

The interchangeable, see-through panels introduce visitors to Georgia’s agricultural industry, soil science, the nitrogen cycle and composting. Through windows, the root systems of the plants above are visible.

“This just makes the future more realistic by getting to see what it’s like working with a client,” said Brandon Dudley, a fourth-year undergraduate studying graphic design in the School of Art. “Seeing things in the actual site makes everything more tangible.”

The students are part of an environmental graphic design course taught by Cameron Berglund, a landscape designer at Koons Environmental Design Inc., the design firm currently developing the children’s garden. The team at Koons is responsible for making the children’s garden a whimsical journey through misting mushrooms, ancient fossils, water features and a towering treehouse.

“The State Botanical Garden of Georgia is one of my favorite places,” said Berglund, who as part of the design team, help to develop many of the initial concepts for the children’s garden. “In creating the concepts, we really wanted to make this a statewide experience and tell people all the stories we could about Georgia, from the granite in Elbert County, to chestnut trees that have been lost from our forests, to the fossils of creatures that roamed prehistoric Georgia eons ago.”

The UGA students’ designs include interactive elements, fun illustrations and colorful palettes. Visitors can seek and find different stages of plant life and discover which composting materials make cartoon worms happy or mad.

“Our series of panels were on growing and processing peanuts, so we had to learn a lot about them, then we put that information in a kid-friendly format,” said Tyler Duhon, a senior graphic design student. “Having an outside view helped us learn more, too.”

Students presented interpretive signage on peanut butter production.

Meg Pruitt, a junior graphic design major, said being a part of the process makes her excited about visiting the completed garden.

“I feel more invested in the project,” Pruitt said.

Getting people excited to learn is the goal.


“The Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden is a great place to play, but also a place to learn and come back to again and again,” said Jenny Cruse-Sanders, director of the State Botanical Garden. “Specifically, these panels will be incorporated into interpretive signage and used to help future visitors, field trips and summer camps realize the importance of healthy soil.”


Writer: Leah Moss,, 706-583-0964

Contact: Jenny Cruse-Sanders,, 706-542-6131

Photographer: Shannah Montgomery

December & New Year Holiday Hours

The State Botanical Garden of Georgia will operate a limited schedule over the December and New Year holidays.

Gift Shop:

Closed – December 24, 2018 – January 1, 2019


Closed – December 21, 2018 – January 1, 2019


Closed – December 24, 2018 – January 1, 2019

Garden Grounds:

Closed – December 24 – December 28, 2018

Open – December 29 – 31, 2018

Closed – January 1, 2019

December Native Plant of the Month: Sandhill rosemary

Sandhill rosemary

Ceratiola ericoides

Sandhill rosemary, Ceratiola ericoides, is a threatened aromatic perennial evergreen-shrub that grows throughout the southeast in open patches of bare sand.  Having no botanical relation to culinary rosemary, Sandhill rosemary gets its name for having a similar smell to rosemary. During warmer weather its smell changes to that of honey, however this plant is never edible to humans.


Sandhill rosemary seed only germinates after the parent plant, which releases a chemical into the soil to prevent seed germination, dies. These badland shrubs are responsible for feeding bears, harvester ants, mice, and even the federally threatened Florida scrub-jay. The Sandhills are also home to Georgia’s state reptile, the gopher tortoise Gopherus polyphemus.


Many Sandhill rosemary habitats off coastal plain rivers are threatened as the land is turned into pine plantations and pastures. It is found scarcely in 11 counties in Georgia and throughout the southeast.

Of the 20 populations across Bryan, Candler, Charlton, Emanuel, Glynn, Richmond, Tattnall, Toombs, Wayne and Wheeler county of Sandhill rosemary, most are located on private land and have no legal protection. You can help with the conservation efforts of the State Botanical Garden of Georgia by supporting our imperiled native plant initiatives to help increase numbers and chance of survival of these important plants.

Callaway gift will help make the State Botanical Garden more accessible

A $1 million gift from the Callaway Foundation will help fund a new visitor entrance to the State Botanical Garden of Georgia at the University of Georgia, enhancing access to the galleries, classrooms, collections and displays.

The new entrance will be an official gateway to the garden from the parking lots to the Alice Hand Callaway Visitor Center and Conservatory and will include an elevator, which will greatly improve access for people in wheelchairs, pushing strollers or who just have difficulty maneuvering stairs. Alice Hand Callaway was the wife of Fuller E. Callaway Jr., who started the foundation in 1943.

The Callaway Foundation is pleased to be a part of this effort to improve the experience for visitors to the garden,” said Speer Burdette, president of the Callaway Foundation, Inc. “Mrs. Callaway loved flowers and plants, and especially the State Botanical Garden of Georgia. Her wish would be that every Georgian could experience the beauty of the garden and discover the many ways it benefits the state, through education and conservation.

“The Callaway Foundation is pleased to be a part of this effort to improve the experience for visitors to the garden,” said Speer Burdette, president of the Callaway Foundation, Inc.

The Callaway Foundation Inc., based in LaGrange, Georgia, is a private foundation that supports the charitable, religious and educational efforts of nonprofit organizations.

This will truly be a game changer for many visitors to the garden, who often come with young children and grandparents,” said Jennifer Cruse-Sanders, director of the State Botanical Garden of Georgia. “We are so grateful to the Callaway Foundation for its longtime support and for continuing to help us make the garden a destination for visitors from across the state.

About 230,000 people visit the State Botanical Garden each year and Cruse-Sanders believes that number will increase by about 50,000 once the Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden is completed later this year. From the new entrance visitors would be able to see the children’s garden as they wait for the elevator.


If you are interested in contributing to this project, please contact Cherie Duggan by email at or by phone at 706-542-6654



Click images to enlarge artist renderings


UGA grows education across the southeast with new Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden

Celebrate the breathtaking world of nature with a journey into dark caves brimming with dinosaur fossils, climb through a larger-than-life overturned chestnut tree, and soar above the tree canopy in a magical treehouse in the woods.

The Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden, set to open in early 2019 at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia at UGA, will be a groundbreaking destination for children to learn more about the wonders of Georgia’s natural resources while planting, climbing, crawling and skipping through a two-and-a-half-acre accessible environment.

“The children’s garden is an exploration, a journey, not something you just walk through,” said Jenny Cruse-Sanders, director of the State Botanical Garden. “Everything is designed with attention to detail and an educational component.”

Director Jennifer Cruse-Sanders talks about the fossils in the new children’s garden.

Named for Alice H. Richards, a charter member of the State Botanical Garden’s Board of Advisors, the children’s garden will officially open on March 23, 2019. The new attraction is expected to draw more than 50,000 visitors a year.

The garden is an interactive outdoor classroom for hands-on education. Unlike any other in the southeast, it is an experience crafted in layers, for children to explore under, around and through.

Teams of designers, local artists, environmental construction firms, and even the Nassal Company—a theme park construction firm responsible for Universal Studios’ Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and the Georgia Aquarium, among others—have ensured that every stone, leaf and flower is placed with intention. From climbing walls, to the fossils of a mastodon—the ancient ancestor of the mammoth—to musical instruments resembling mushrooms and a tree house in the canopy, the children’s garden teleports children into a whimsical world where nature inspires and delights.

The giant treehouse overlooks the woods around the garden.

In addition to introducing children to nature, the children’s garden will be used to enhance and expand upon existing programs, including classes, summer camps, field trips and more.

“The Dig and Grow Gallery will be used for summer camps such as Bee Smart Eat Smart,” says Cora Keber, director of education at the garden. “Kids will get the chance to plant different things, as well as harvest fruits and vegetables that they can cook into healthy foods. It’s all about discovering how what we eat is linked to our health.”

Keber and Cruse-Sanders point out where the water will flow over the granite features.

The Georgia Discovery Plaza showcases the state’s ecology, industries and history. By pressing a button, children can watch water erupt and trickle through a granite map of the state from the piedmont area to the coast. The granite highlights an important habitat and industry in Georgia, and was locally sourced from Elbert County.

Gardens filled with vegetables and sunflowers—the children’s garden signature plant—are atop an underground explorer area. Children can look through windows to study soil science and plant roots. When seasons change, the windows will be replaced with interchangeable panels designed by Lamar Dodd School of Art students.

Sunflowers are the signature plant for the children’s garden.

The journey through the garden takes children through a fallen, giant chestnut tree. Children can run their hands along the bones of the old chestnut tree (the once plentiful, economic-driver that was wiped out by the rapid and devastating chestnut blight infection) before climbing up into a tree house overlooking the State Botanical Garden’s tree canopy.

“Everything is connected. Every feature of the garden intersects and connects, allowing everyone to leave with a unique experience and feeling that much closer to nature,” Cruse-Sanders said.

Colorful flowers by the gazebo, pitcher plants by the Monet Bridge, and a variety of insect sculptures will help educate children to Georgia’s native plants and endangered pollinators.

The family of Alice H. Richards, who died in May 2007, donated the initial $1 million toward the $5 million children’s garden.

“She would be beaming with pride at this,” said Jim Richards, Alice H. Richards’ son. “She would be following the development with tremendous interest.”

Writer: Leah Moss,, 706-583-0962

Contact: Cora Keber,, 706-542-6158

October Native Plant of the Month: Georgia Aster


Symphyotrichum georgianum

Our October native plant, the Georgia aster, Symphyotrichum georgianum, is a threatened perennial that grows in the prairies of the Southeast and on the edges of woodlands where there is enough sun to mimic a prairie environment. Prairies aren’t commonly associated with the Georgia landscape, but they make up an important part of our ecosystems. There are many native species of plants found in prairies, but these habitats have been vastly reduced due to highway construction, herbicides, development and suppression of natural fires.

Up until the 1900s the Georgia aster was found in nearly 40 Georgia counties, but since then its population has dwindled dramatically as its habitat has been reduced.

It is no longer found in Florida. Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina have fewer than 15 populations in each.


The Georgia aster, the signature plant of the Mimsie Lanier Center for Native Plant Studies, is distinguished by its dark purple ray flower surrounding a center disk of small white flowers which turn lavender once pollinated. It grows well in acidic soil that can range from sand to heavy clay and can even compete for resources, unless it loses its necessary sunshine. Georgia aster are pollinated by bees collecting nectar.

Most of the remaining populations are adjacent to roads, railroads, utility rights of way and other openings where land management mimics natural prairies. We are working with property owners to prevent impact to the native plant populations and reintroducing the plant into newly restored prairie lands across the state. Find out what you can do to help the Georgia aster and all of Georgia’s native plants.

State Botanical Garden of Georgia celebrates longtime donors at Giving Tree Tribute

Six longtime supporters of the State Botanical Garden of Georgia were honored recently during the biennial “Giving Tree” celebration that recognizes patrons who have given their time and money to the garden.

“We are fortunate to have a strong group of supporters who are so generous with their time and financial resources,” said Jennifer Cruse-Sanders, director of the State Botanical Garden of Georgia, a unit of UGA Public Service and Outreach. “They recognize the importance of the garden and its contribution to education, conservation and research for the university and across the state.”

James B. Miller Jr., a charter member of the State Botanical Garden board of advisors, was the 2018 Distinguished Honoree, the garden’s highest honor bestowed on donors. Miller, who helped establish the board, has shown generosity to the garden personally and through Fidelity Southern Corporation, where he serves as chairman and CEO. Miller lives in Atlanta.

In addition to supporting the International Garden, Heritage Garden, Flower Garden and Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden and the annual balls, Miller was one of the first to contribute to the accessibility initiative at the garden. He co-chaired the 1989 Gardens of the World Ball with former UGA Vice President for Services S. Eugene Younts, who recently passed away.

Three board members received the 2018 Southern Magnolia Award, which honors philanthropic contributions of more than $100,000 and continued service to the garden. The 2018 honorees are Martha Brumley Ellis, Brenda Magill and Sissie Morris.

Ellis has been on the garden’s board of advisors for 17 years, supporting the Gardens of the World Ball each of those years in addition to the Flower Garden and children’s garden campaigns. Ellis lives in in Sea Island, Georgia, and Highlands, North Carolina.

Magill has served on the board for 21 years, championing Orchid Madness, the Gardens of the World Balls, the children’s garden campaign, the Heritage Garden campaign as well as the horticulture and conservation funds. She co-chaired the 2011 ball with Betsy Ellison. Magill lives in Athens, Georgia.

Morris has been active on the board for 29 years. Her support includes the International Garden, Heritage Garden, Flower Garden and children’s garden campaigns, as well as the conservation funds and Gardens of the World Balls. Along with Charlotte Merry, Morris co-chaired the 1990 Gardens of the World Ball. Morris lives in Augusta, Georgia.

Kathy and Neely Young received the Garden of Georgia medal, the highest award for service and support. Kathy Young previously served as chair of the board and spearheaded the development committee of the garden’s most recent campaign, the Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden. In addition, Kathy Young co-chaired the 2009 Gardens of the World Ball with Betty Sponcler, celebrating the ball’s 25th anniversary with a book chronicling its history. Kathy Young and her husband Neely Young have also demonstrated support of the garden through the voice of Georgia Trend, a statewide business publication they owned and managed until 2017. The Youngs live in Marietta, Georgia, and Cashiers, North Carolina.

The Giving Tree event recognizes individuals committed to outstanding philanthropic contributions and dedicated service supporting the mission of the State Botanical Garden. This year, the Giving Tree Tribute is part of the yearlong 50th anniversary celebration of the State Botanical Garden. The 50th anniversary celebration also includes a signature plant, the native Southern flame azalea, known for its pleasant fragrance and fiery colors.

Writer: Leah Moss,, 706-612-0063

Photographer: Shannah Montgomery,, 706-542-3638

Contact: Jennifer Cruse-Sanders,, 706-542-6131


The State Botanical Garden of Georgia, a unit of the University of Georgia’s Office of Public Service and Outreach, has served the citizens of Georgia for 50 years. The garden attracts more than 230,000 visitors annually. With walking trails, garden displays and educational initiatives, the State Botanical Garden of Georgia is dedicated to inspiring, educating and conserving.

September Native Plant of the Month: Pondberry

Lindera melissifolia

Pondberry is an endangered shrub found on the coastal plain of Georgia and around the South. Its name comes from the bright red berries that form along the stem and its tendency to form dense thickets around the edges of natural ponds.

One reasons the Pondberry is rare is because it produces female flowers and male flowers on separate plants and colonies of a single gender can be widely separated by many miles, leading to lack of pollination. This challenge in pollination, combined with habitat loss due to ditching and draining of wetlands and destruction by feral hogs, led to its endangered status.


The Pondberry plays a crucial role as the larval host plant for spicebush swallowtail butterfly Papilia troilus, which lays its eggs on the lower surface of the leaves. When the eggs hatch, the caterpillars eat the leaves before forming a cocoon.

Sponsor the Pondberry to help increase numbers and chance of survival. About 20 populations are known, but less than half are protected on conservation land. Most of Georgia’s colonies have only male plants, which means they cannot set fruit or produce seed.

Found in: Baker, Calhoun, Effingham, Emanuel, Jenkins, Miller, Taylor, Wheeler and Worth counties.

August Native Plant of the Month: Dwarf Sumac

Rhus michauxii 


Dwarf Sumac is an endangered shrub with sharply toothed leaves and clusters of tiny, greenish-yellow flowers. It produces tiny dark red fruit in dense clusters which birds sometimes eat. It is found only in two counties in Georgia and in a few populations in North Carolina and Virginia.


Since it was first discovered, half of all known locations have been lost. The habitat of Dwarf Sumac is commonly destroyed for conversion to development and pine plantations, and by clear-cutting and herbicide use. It is pollinated by bees who feed on the flower nectar. But natural pollination is difficult because female and male flowers are on separate plants and plants may be separated at great distances.



You can help by sponsoring the Dwarf Sumac to help increase numbers and chance of survival. It was on brink of extinction in Georgia because the male plants were separated from the females by more than 70 miles. In a coordinated restoration effort several years ago, partners in the Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance managed the habitat and brought together male and female plants on conservation land. The effort is paying off, but the site must be continually monitored and maintained.