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Mr. Smarty Plants - Memorial garden in Georgia

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Monday - December 08, 2008

From: Valdosta, GA
Region: Southeast
Topic: Wildlife Gardens
Title: Memorial garden in Georgia
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I would like to plant a memorial garden in memory of my mother. She loved butterflies and bulbs blooming. Our backyard is shaded by large oaks and pines. A pool is located to the right, a large firepit is located behind the area and a cleared backyard is in front and to the left of the proposed site. We have very little grass (lots of acorns) due to the oaks. Any ideas of the layout?

ANSWER:

Although you have given us a very good description of your property, it still may be difficult for us to provide you with a layout. What we can do is refer you to some websites with information on butterfly gardening, bulbs, and how to arrange them. First of all, we want to recommend that you incorporate only plants that are native not only to North America but to your area. Particularly for butterfly gardening, it is vital that the butterflies find native plants on which to feed and hatch their young. A recently published book, Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in our Gardens (see Bibliography below) makes the point that there is an unbreakable link between native plant species and native wildlife. Indeed, most native insects cannot, or will not, eat non-native plants. The presence of too many "exotics" in an area can result in a disruption of the entire food chain, and whole ecologies are affected. What better memorial to your mother than a preservation of the species she loved? 

Before we get down to specific plants recommended, we have a couple comments about your property, especially the trees. The amount of shade could be a problem, although we have tried to choose plants that tolerate some shade. Another point you need to think about when you are studying the various possibilities is that, with all those oak leaves and pine needles, your soil is probably fairly acidic. This is fine, there are a number of plants that prefer that and many that will tolerate it, just be careful not to plant something that won't tolerate it. There is also the issue of allelopathy, common to many oak species. Allelopathy is the emission of chemicals by the plant to eliminate competition for space and nutrients. This, added to the fact that most tree roots are in the upper 6 to 12" of soil, and extend far beyond the dripline, is why it is difficult to grow grass or flowering plants too near oak trees. So, when you are studying the layout of your garden in your chosen space, keep that in mind. For some more advice on planning a butterfly garden, see this Garden Helper article Creating a Butterfly Friendly Garden. In particular, notice that butterflies need sun, moisture and no pesticides.

We would like to recommend you read a couple of our How-To Articles: Using Native Plants and Wildlife Gardening for more ideas on how to begin. Other articles in our library are Butterfly Gardening and the Special Collections list of plants attractive to Butterflies and Moths of North America. On this last collection, you can use the NARROW YOUR SEARCH function, and select State-Georgia, Habit-herb (herbaceous or flowering plants), Duration-all durations,  Light Requirement-light shade (2 to 6 hours of sun a day), Soil Moisture-damp. We made some picks from this list, and then repeated it with first shrubs and then trees for Habit. You can do the same thing, changing the light or soil moisture to better fit your situation and make your own selections. We have included a list of our choices below. Follow the plant links to the webpage on each plant for more information and links to other sources, such as Google. Here are the plants we chose to suggest:

HERBS (herbaceous or flowering plants)

Actaea racemosa var. racemosa (black bugbane)

Asclepias incarnata (swamp milkweed)

Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly milkweed)

Eurybia macrophylla (bigleaf aster)

Passiflora lutea (yellow passionflower)

Rudbeckia hirta (blackeyed Susan)

Symphyotrichum novae-angliae (New England aster)

Zizia aurea (golden zizia)

SHRUBS

Amorpha fruticosa (desert false indigo)

Epigaea repens (trailing arbutus)

TREES

Asimina triloba (pawpaw)

Chionanthus virginicus (white fringetree)

Now, on to the bulbs your mother loved. Many of the plants thought of as"bulbs" are not native to North America, including tulips, narcissi, jonquils and paperwhites, all members of the genus Narcissus and tulips, of the genus Tulipa. All of these are natives to Europe, North Africa and Asia and have been extensively hybridized. Luckily, there are a number of beautiful members of the Lilium genus native to Georgia. You can read an in-depth article about care and propagation of lilies from Native Lilies of the Old Field Garden by Philip Fry from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada of the the North American Native Plant Society.  For some help getting started, try this Ohio State University article Growing Hardy Bulbs.

Allium canadense (meadow garlic)

Lilium canadense (Canada lily)

Lilium philadelphicum (wood lily)

Lilium superbum (turk's-cap lily)

Lilium catesbaei (pine lily)

Lilium michauxii (Carolina lily)

For nurseries and seed companies in your area that specialize in native plants, please visit our National Suppliers Directory.


Actaea racemosa var. racemosa

Asclepias incarnata

Asclepias tuberosa

Eurybia macrophylla

Passiflora lutea

Rudbeckia hirta

Symphyotrichum novae-angliae

Amorpha fruticosa

Epigaea repens

Asimina triloba

Chionanthus virginicus

Allium canadense

Lilium canadense

Lilium philadelphicum

Lilium superbum

Lilium catesbaei

Lilium michauxii

 

 

 

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