April Native Plant of the Month: Georgia Trillium

Georgia Trillium

Trillium georgianum

The species formerly known as Trillium pusillum was renamed in 2017 to Trillium georgianum. It was recognized for being genetically and physically unique from other similar dwarf trillium and it only occurs in one place in the wild, Georgia’s Whitfield County.

Georgia Trillium is an endangered perennial herb with erect stems and 3 petaled white flowers with wavy edges and it blooms in the spring. It thrives in seasonally wet swamps with calcium-rich, clay soils and takes 5 – 7 years to produce the first flowering stalk. Once mature, it can be very long- lived, perhaps living hundreds of years, since the rhizome continues to lengthen and produce shoots on one end, while the other end decays. But it’s habitat is being destroyed by logging and clearing in floodplain forests. It is also in competition from exotic pest plants for habitat space.



The State Botanical Garden of Georgia Mimsie Lanier Center for Native Plant Studies is working with this plant and has reintroduced it into new Georgia sites to preserve and grow the population. Find out more about what is happening at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia to Preserve Georgia’s Imperiled Native Species and how you can help.


March Native Plant of the Month: Georgia Rockcress

Native plant of the month: GEORGIA ROCKCRESS

Arabis georgiana

The Georgia Rockcress is a threatened perennial found in very few locations along rocky slopes in Georgia’s Chattahoochee, Clay, Floyd, Gordon, Harris and Muscogee counties.  Its delicate, erect stems hold flowers with four white petals. The Georgia Rockcress is unique because it grows in thin, rocky soils that discourage many other native plants, but it is not a strong competitor. Aggressive exotic plants, such as Japanese Honeysuckle and Chinese Privet, are invading the habitat and competing for sun and nutrients. The plant is also suffering because clearing and quarrying of rocky bluffs, hardwood slopes, and riverbanks destroys its habitat.



The State Botanical Garden of Georgia Mimsie Lanier Center for Native Plant Studies is working with this plant and has reintroduced it into new Georgia sites to preserve and grow the population. Find out more about what is happening at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia to Preserve Georgia’s Imperiled Native Species and how you can help.

An interdisciplinary collaboration at UGA’s State Botanical Garden highlights local music

Music and nature are two things known to soothe the soul.

It’s only natural the two have come together for Pickin’ at the Garden, an interactive workshop and concert series produced by the UGA Hugh Hodgson School of Music, the Terry College of Business and the State Botanical Garden of Georgia.

The next workshop and concert is Thursday, Feb. 22, in the Day Chapel at the garden.

Assisted by students in the Music Business Program at the Terry College, with local musicians selected through the Athens Music Project at the School of Music, the event brings people into the garden who might not have been there before, says William Tonks, director of facilities and services at the State Botanical Garden.

It is “exposing the community to music and exposing them to this resource,” Tonks said. “It’s the beginning of a relationship with the garden.”

The first Pickin’ at the Garden took place on Jan. 25 and featured banjo player Art Rosenbaum, and Tommy Jordan, who plays guitar, banjo and mandolin. Both Rosenbaum and Jordan are regulars in Athens.

The event begins with a workshop that includes demonstrations of the instruments and provides an opportunity for the audience to ask questions of the artists. The musicians then play an acoustic concert.

“The goal is to make people aware of the kind of music around Athens,” said Susan Thomas, professor of music and women’s studies at UGA, and co-director of the Athens Music Project (AMP). “It’s a great way for the university to recognize Athens, its current music scene and not just its history.”

Supported by the UGA Willson Center for Humanities and Arts, AMP is a research, outreach and teaching initiative. Thomas believes Pickin’ at the Garden raises awareness of music diversity in Athens among not only students, but the Athens-Clarke County community at large. One of AMP’s goals is to incorporate the rich Athens music scene into the classroom.

Thomas and David Barbe, director of the Music Business Program, have both incorporated Pickin’ at the Garden into their curriculum.

Kate Anderson, a junior studying finance and music business, volunteered to help plan Pickin’ at the Garden when Barbe mentioned it in class. She assisted with the January event, advertising it through social media and helping set up the Day Chapel for the workshop and performance.

“It gave me a real world, behind-the-scenes look at what goes into getting people together around music,” said Anderson, who hopes to become a business manager for bands and song writers after graduating from UGA.

The workshop on Feb. 22 will begin at 4 p.m., with a performance at 7 p.m. featuring Atlanta-based artist Tomi Martin. Martin is a rhythm and blues guitarist who has recorded music with Outkast, Mick Jagger, Madonna and others. Workshop participants are encouraged to bring instruments.

“It’s interesting, well-played music in an interesting place,” Tonks said. “Gives your brain a reboot.”

By: Leah Moss

Decorative steel arch will be a focal point of
the Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden

Atlanta artist Andrew Crawford is creating the steel archway that will welcome visitors to a new outdoor educational site for children at the UGA State Botanical Garden of Georgia.

Crawford, who owns Andrew T. Crawford Ironworks in Atlanta, has been a member of the State Botanical Garden Board of Advisors since 2011 and has helped with fundraising for the children’s garden as well as other projects. He created a forged-steel sign for the Mimsie Lanier Center for Native Plant Studies, which was completed in early 2016.

“It’s going to be a significant piece,” Crawford said. “It’s going to outlive a lot of people and influence a lot of children. I think a lot of people will have memories of it.”

The archway is being funded with a $225,000 gift from Atlanta residents Adrian and John Robinson, in honor of their mothers, who were early members of the garden’s advisory board.

Crawford has had a close relationship with the State Botanical Garden since it hosted an exhibition of his work in 2011. Three of the garden gates he designed and built are still on display there. He has shown pieces at the Georgia Museum of Art at UGA, at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, at Purdue University, and at other sites across the southeast.

State Botanical Garden Director Jenny Cruse-Sanders said she was amazed by Crawford’s creativity when she attended his exhibition in Athens six years ago. Crawford’s archway will set the children’s garden in Athens apart from other successful gardens in cities like Cleveland and Atlanta, she said.

“It’s not like anything I’ve seen before,” Cruse-Sanders said. “It adds a unique piece of art that makes it special. It sets up a signature, iconic image.”

Crawford is building the sculpture in sections at his Atlanta workshop and will put it together at the State Botanical Garden.

Construction began on the two-and-a-half acre, handicap accessible children’s garden in November. The garden is expected to be completed in early 2019.

By Christopher James

February Native plant of the month: Smooth Coneflower

The Smooth Coneflower, Echinacea laevigata, is an endangered plant now only found in two counties in Georgia (Stephens and Habersham) and in scattered locations in South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia. It is a prairie plant and has a smooth stem and drooping pink petals. This plant had much of its habitat destroyed when areas were converted to pine plantations. The young plants, which need a sunny habitat to thrive, are not strong competitors and are easily overwhelmed by aggressive plants.


The State Botanical Garden of Georgia Mimsie Lanier Center for Native Plant Studies is working with this plant and has reintroduced it into new Georgia sites to preserve and grow the population. Find out more about what is happening at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia to Preserve Georgia’s Imperiled Native Species and how you can help.

Oconee Middle School courtyard gets new life through partnership with UGA

Instead of pencils and paper, the tools Shari Travers’ seventh-grade students used on a recent fall morning were shovels and rakes.

The courtyard outside her classroom window already had been cleared, some invasive plants removed, and space made for a garden. The students, whose curriculum this year includes pollinators, are mixing compost into the soil and will dig holes to accommodate plants like wild blue indigo, New England aster and spotted horsemint, all plants that are native to Georgia and will attract native pollinators.

Melissa Ray, a UGA graduate student, encourages the students to use all the compost in the small planting bed.

“You want to incorporate it into the soil that’s already there,” Ray said. “This is the most important part of any garden.”

Ray and Heather Alley, a UGA conservation horticulturist, are helping develop the school garden as part of Connect to Protect, a program at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia designed to promote the benefits of native plants, native pollinators and their role in protecting our food supply.

It also allows the students to put into practice what they are learning in the classroom, Travers said.

“They feel ownership,” she said.

So far, 16 Connect to Protect gardens have been planted at schools in Clarke, Oconee, Jackson and Gwinnett county schools, on the UGA main campus, at Athens City Hall, at various businesses and nonprofits, and in public areas of Macon.

“Working for the State Botanical Garden, we have an opportunity to not just implement these practices ourselves, but teach the community about it, so there can be a strong ripple effect,” said Alley, who raises the plants used in Connect to Protect projects at the Mimsie Lanier Center for Native Plant Species at the State Botanical Garden.

The idea for Connect to Protect in Georgia began with Jennifer Ceska, the botanical garden’s conservation coordinator, who had heard of a similar program in Florida. Alley takes care to use plants in Connect to Protect gardens that fit in with the location, such as smaller plants for a small bed, like the one at Oconee County Middle School. She also tries to pick plants that will bloom at different times of year to keep the butterflies, bees and other pollinators nearby.

Keep Athens-Clarke County Beautiful works with the botanical garden to install Connect to Protect plant beds at Clarke County elementary schools.

“We have similar missions of community beautification,” said Stacy Smith, program assistant at Keep Athens-Clarke County Beautiful. “The elementary schools are a perfect fit for the mission of Connect to Protect. They have a built-in audience of learners that will benefit from installing and learning about native plants.”

“We want them to be involved in helping to beautify their community and taking care of the environment.”

A Connect to Protect garden was the perfect way to spruce up a visible area at Cleveland Road School.

First grade teacher Kadi Tate-Epps and her student worked alongside volunteers to get the plants in place.

“Students and teachers can (use) the space for teaching and learning,” said Epps, whose school is applying for grants to get classroom furniture for their garden. “Ideas continue to bloom so who knows what all lies in the future.”


Writer: Kelly Simmons

The State Botanical Garden Fall Festival to include Heritage Garden activities

Making soap and paper, dying with indigo and a lesson in seed-saving highlight the Heritage Days Fall Festival at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia.

The fifth annual event, previously called the Fall Festival, has been expanded to include a focus on the Heritage Garden. The event will take place on Nov. 11, 2017 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

“The Heritage Garden is rich in stories that need to be told,” said Gareth Crosby, Heritage Garden curator. “It is history that cannot be forgotten.”

The Heritage Garden traces the development of Georgia agriculture from the colonial ere to the 20th century. A part of the Heritage Garden, called the Trustees’ Terrace, reflects the spirit of James Oglethorpe’s Trustees Garden of Savannah in 1733, considered the first experiment station for agriculture in colonial America. Crops there have included corn, cotton, peanuts, tobacco, collards and onions.

To embrace the theme of the festival, the State Botanical Garden education department will offer attendees the opportunity to use an apple cider press to taste different apple varieties, to make seed balls, to learn how plants at the garden can be used in everyday life and to do a fall-related craft.

Paula Runyon, a PSO graduate assistant at the State Botanical Garden, will teach the paper-making class.

“My research tries to impress upon people how intimately our lives are entwined with and dependent upon nature,” said Runyon. “We will learn how to make paper from cotton, historically one of Georgia’s most influential agricultural resources.”

A Seed Saving for the Backyard Gardener Workshop, led by Northeast Georgia Cooperative Extension Agent Amanda Tedrow, includes an educational presentation and a hands-on demonstration of the reasons to save seeds, and how to do it.

“Seed saving has been used to preserve open pollinated varieties over the generations,” Tedrow said. Open pollinated plants are varieties that will breed true to type, as long as both parent plants are of the same variety.

Tropical Indigo (Indigofera suffruticosa) grown in the Heritage Garden over the summer has been processed into indigo dye and will be used for the dyeing activity.

Other workshops are more centered around the Fall season and will provide an opportunity for participants to make holiday gifts.

More information on the Heritage Days Fall Festival Activities

By Naomi Thomas

Atlanta couple’s gift to State Botanical Garden a tribute to their mothers

Adrian and John Robinson met when they were children. Their mothers, both among the first members of the State Botanical Garden Board of Advisors, were friends and  both children attended Athens Academy.

When Adrian was in second grade, her mother remarried and the family moved to Augusta. Adrian wouldn’t see John again until many years later after college, when they both attended an annual Gardens of the World Ball.

A relationship blossomed and they married a few years later.

Now Adrian, John and their children Will and Rice, are honoring their mothers for their years of service to the garden’s advisory board. A $225,000 gift will pay for the stainless steel with polished glass arbor entrance to the Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden, which will be under construction beginning this fall.

“Each time a child, children or a family walks through the beautiful arbor entrance to the children’s garden, they will hopefully feel as excited and curious to explore and learn about all the amazing plants and flowers as our mothers always felt,” Adrian Robinson said.

Adrian (second from right) and John (far right) Robinson at the 2015 Gardens of the World Ball with Adrian’s mother and stepfather.

John’s mother, Margaret Mobley Robinson, who now lives in Sea Island, was a charter member of the State Botanical Garden advisory board when it formed in 1985. Adrian’s mother, Charlotte Carter Merry, who lives in Highlands, N.C., joined the board in 1988. Adrian Robinson joined the board in 2016.

“It’s all about our mothers,” Adrian Robinson said. “They loved this botanical garden and worked so hard. They truly put their heart and soul into it. ”

Garden Director Jenny Cruse-Sanders praised Margaret Robinson and Charlotte Merry for their long-term commitment to the board of advisors, and Adrian and John Robinson for the special tribute to their mothers.

“Generations of children will visit to play and learn about nature because board members like Margaret and Charlotte loved the botanical garden and wanted to share it with even the youngest visitors,” Cruse-Sanders said. “We are so grateful to John and Adrian for choosing the children’s garden as a way to honor their mothers.”

The arbor will be built by Andrew Crawford, an Atlanta sculptor who also sits on the garden’s board of advisors. He exhibited his collection of garden gates at the State Botanical Garden in 2011.


Writer: Kelly Simmons

Contact: Jenny Cruse-Sanders

Photography exhibit at the State Botanical Garden features a unique perspective on wildlife

By Naomi Thomas

A new art exhibit at the at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia lets you get up close and personal with the wildlife living among us.

The exhibit of photographs taken by Chuck Murphy and Jena Johnson is part of a worldwide project involving more than 70 photographers. Called “Meet Your Neighbours,” it is “an international, biodiversity, consciousness, awareness raising project with over 70 photographers worldwide on six continents,” Murphy said.

The photographs in “Meet Your Neighbours” differ from typical nature pictures in that they are shot on location in a field studio against a brilliant white background that removes the environment, leaving only the subject.

The process for getting these photos is a lot more challenging, Murphy said.

It’s “more than clicking a button; you need a little bit of engineering and a little bit of handyman stuff to work out the different setups, and persistence because the first one never works,” he said.

Murphy has been shooting photos for more than 50 years and his interests are birds, bugs and blooms.

Johnson, who met Murphy through the Athens Photography Guild about two years ago, is a research professional at UGA. She became serious about photography in 2009, the year the “Meet Your Neighbours” project began, and has been contributing to it since June 2016, when she and Murphy decided to take on a joint project.

Although the majority of the exhibit follows the “Meet Your Neighbors” guidelines, there are a few exceptions. These include Murphy’s work showing nocturnal animals against black backgrounds and Johnson’s composite of shells of Georgia.

Murphy believes the importance of the project lies in the awareness it creates about the creatures in the Athens area. From there visitors to the exhibit are directed to a website and social media to learn more about the project.

“Are we saving some endangered species?” Murphy said. “Nope, but maybe, just maybe, by showing you this extreme, detailed, isolated, formal portrait view of the creatures in your own backyard, maybe, just maybe, we’re nudging the needle a lit bit on the direction of awareness.”

The exhibit will be up in the State Botanical Garden of Georgia Visitor’s Center through Oct. 8. Admission is free.


For more information on the Meet Your Neighbours Project visit

You may also consider attending the upcoming Isect-ival! on Sept. 23 and the Johnstone Lecture on Backyard Bugs, Sept. 26, to learn more about your outdoor neighbors.

UGA breaks ground on new learning environment for children at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia

With the ceremonial turn of red and black spades, University of Georgia officials and dignitaries officially kicked off construction of the $5 million Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia on Sept. 1.

The 2.5-acre, handicap-accessible educational environment will include a canopy walk in the trees, a treehouse, creature habitats, hands-on garden plots, an underground zone, edible landscapes, and a bog garden and pond. One component, an amphitheater in the woods, was completed in 2015. The garden is expected to be open to visitors by early 2019.

“I want to thank all of the supporters who have donated to make this exciting project possible,” said UGA President Jere W. Morehead. “Their contributions are creating not only a beautiful addition to the botanical garden but also a bridge to new partnerships and collaborations between the botanical garden, the University of Georgia and the Athens community.”

So far UGA, in partnership with the garden’s board of advisors, has raised more than $4.3 million for the $5 million children’s garden, which includes an initial $1 million from the family of Alice H. Richards, for whom the garden is named. Richards, who was from Carrollton, was a charter member of the State Botanical Garden board of advisors and one of the garden’s most devoted and beloved supporters until her death in May 2007.

“She would be beaming with pride at this,” said her son, Jim Richards, who attended the groundbreaking with his son Chase. “She would be following the development of this garden with tremendous interest.”

All 80 members of the State Botanical Garden board of advisors contributed to the children’s garden fund, which is 54 percent of the total amount raised, board Chairman Dr. Geoffrey P. Cole said.

“Alice loved nature, and early on she envisioned a place here at the garden where children could experience the beauty of nature in an area all their own,” said Jenny Cruse-Sanders, director of the garden. “She recognized that the State Botanical Garden of Georgia could play a critical role in ensuring that children understand, appreciate and take care of their natural environment.”

The children’s garden will further the university’s mission as a land-grant and sea-grant institution, providing more educational opportunities for teachers and students across the state, said Laura Meadows, interim vice president for public service and outreach.

“The State Botanical Garden of Georgia plays a critical role in the land-grant mission of the university by fostering appreciation, understanding and stewardship of plants and nature,” Meadows said. “The 313-acre preserve set aside by UGA in 1968 for the study and enjoyment of plants and nature is truly the state’s garden.”

Koons Environmental Design of Athens is leading the plans for the garden, which will be nestled in an area between the Alice Hand Calloway Visitor Center and the administration building. Allstate Construction of Perry will oversee a construction superintendent, based in Athens for the project.

To contribute to the Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden through Georgia Funder, go to