Giving in Action Highlights
After School Program
An integral part of the Garden’s educational programs to underserved children, the After School Program welcomes excited third, fourth, and fifth graders every year from seven Title I schools to attend four days a week for four weeks.
Rooted in the Common Core and Georgia Performance Standards, the program activates classroom learning through hands-on activities and engaging experiences. Topics include the life cycle of plants, biomes and their characteristics, plant and animal adaptations, animal classification and the habitats of Georgia.
Melissa Carlberg, teacher, explains "the After School Program mission is to provide students, who would not normally have the chance, the opportunity to deepen their knowledge through real-world experiences, while empowering them to take responsibility and risks in their learning.” Students achieve this by developing writing, reading, speaking, critical thinking, problem solving, and scientific inquiry skills. To cultivate ownership in their learning, students explore, experiment, and collaborate with each other.
In 2012 and 2013, students showed on average a 9% improvement on post evaluation scores. Currently, approximately140 students are reached annually. Tracy McClendon, the Garden’s Vice President of Programs, hopes to expand the program through the additional support of donors.
Conifer Garden Renovation
Designated as an American Conifer Society Reference Garden, the Conifer Garden has undergone a transformation over the last two years. The horticulture team has removed overgrown, crowded, and undesirable specimens replanting the opened spaces with dwarf varieties of conifer and ground covers.
Showcasing dwarf and rare conifers, the Conifer Garden is designed to “educate the public about growing conifers, familiarize gardeners with new varieties of conifers, and demonstrate conifer use in the home landscape,” explains Senior Horticulturalist Kathryn Moomaw. New specimens include: six juniper, chamaecyparis, cryptomeria, and thuja cultivars, wild collected Podocarpus forrestii, Juniperus recurva, Cryptomeria japonica, and Platycladys orientalis. Some plantings came as far away as Quarry Hill Botanical Garden in California and Cedar Lodge Nursery in New Zealand.
Creating visual interest, ground covers were also integrated to demonstrate the wide variety of unusual ones available to homeowners. In 2013, thirteen different plant families were planted with some being evaluated to determine how well they grow in the Southeast. For instance, Gesneriads (traditionally considered tropical or indoor plants) are being evaluated for their cold hardiness.
Hardy Succulents Garden
The Hardy Succulents Garden is enhanced with new plantings and integrated with new specimens.
Alongside the Fuqua Conservatory where the Agave americana bloomed, it has been replanted with cacti and succulents. Displaying red berries in late fall and winter, Opuntia leptocaulis (Desert Christmas Cactus) has been relocated to this area, as well as the cacti Opuntia tunicata var. rosea and Opuntia rufida (Blind Prickly Pear) so that they may reach their full potential. Species not previously represented, such as Echinocactus texensis and Mammillaria elongatea, have also been planted.
The Hardy Succulents Garden features hardy plantings native primarily to the southwestern United States, northern Mexico, Africa and South America.
A popular wedding location, the Trustees Garden has been given a more contemporary aesthetic with new plantings.
To reflect the distinct architecture of the space, landscape designer Tres Fromme redesigned the perennial beds flanking the fountain to have a strong shape and clean pattern. Cone-shaped, 5’ tall, boxwood topiaries now anchor the two beds. Choosing a neutral color pallet, pink and white hydrangeas, along with white hibiscus, create a soft background for summer weddings and intimate gatherings.
Tucked behind the Fuqua Conservatory in the Conservation Garden, visitors can view a stream that represents a calcareous spring run, a habitat characterized by high mineral content from a source of flowing groundwater. The stream is constructed to highlight the fragile ecosystems of native wetlands and the Garden’s critical conservation work on these habitats.
Threatened by development, agriculture, silviculture, and invasive species, calcareous spring runs and fens are some of the rarest and most endangered of Georgia’s habitats, with plant species found nowhere else in the world. As part of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation 5 Star Restoration Grant program, the conservation team works with partners to restore wetlands in Northwest Georgia through invasive species removal and land management. Thousands of rare plants have been propagated, such as Georgia Alder, Virginia Spiraea, and Tennessee Yellow-Eyed grass, for recovery and outplanting to restored habitats.
Look for these endangered plants along the stream and in the Conservation Garden, along with a variety of native orchid species including: Spiranthes vernalis, S. lacera v. gracilis, S. odorata, S. cernua, Platanthera clavellata, Platanthera integrilabia, Calopogon tuberosus, Pogonia ophioglossoides, and Habenaria repens.
Healthy Culinary Delights
Showcasing the farm-to-table concept of cultivating and consuming fresh, local and sustainably grown food, programs held in the Edible Garden Outdoor Kitchen have become a huge success. In 2012, over 10,000 visitors attended Garden Chef cooking demonstrations, where they discovered healthy and delicious seasonal recipes.
“Our talented Garden Chefs are charged with presenting visitors new ways of incorporating fresh, seasonal veggies and fruits into our diets in order to help us live healthier lifestyles”, says Tracy McClendon, Vice President of Programs at the Garden. Each weekend from May - October, Garden Chefs create mouthwatering recipes, including ingredients harvested from the Edible Garden such as figs, tomatoes, kale, okra, blackberries, zucchini, and sweet potatoes. Extending the boundaries of the Outdoor Kitchen, visitors have access to Garden Chef Recipes and the Plant to Plate blog.
The Fuqua Conservatory’s Desert House has a new display of plant specimens endemic (native) to Socotra. Sanskrit for “island of bliss,” Socotra is an archipelago off of the Horn of Africa, belonging to the Republic of Yemen. Designated a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site, a third of Socotra’s unique flora is found nowhere else on earth. Some remarkable examples of Socotra flora successfully propagated by the Garden for display include: Dendrosicyos socotrana, Euphorbia arbuscula, Euphorbia abdelkuri, Cissus subaphylla, and Hibiscus scottii.
Endangered and extremely rare in cultivation, Dendrosicyos socotrana is a member of the cucumber family and one of the tallest trees on Socotra. The Garden’s specimen has a way to grow before it reaches an approx. 6 meters in height! Unlike its relative Cissus sicyoides, with roots hanging from the rafters of the tropical rotunda, the Cissus subaphylla is a low growing, shrub-like plant in the grape family. Euphorbia arbuscula and Euphorbia abdelkuri lack leaves and flowers and are known for their highly toxic, latex sap.
Native to Madagascar and southern Africa, larger specimens of Pachypodiums and Adeniums are also on display. Intimidating with tall, upright spiny trunks ranging from dark gray to silver, Pachypodiums exhibit alluring flowers in late winter and early spring. Often called “desert roses,” Adeniums have pink flowers, a brilliant contrast against the desert’s backdrop of thorns and spines.
Tropical Crop Garden
The Fuqua Conservatory has a new Tropical Crop Garden. Discover a model garden showcasing a wide range of tropical fruits, root crops, spices and medicinal plants. Paul Blackmore, Manager of the Garden Conservatory, explains its purpose is to "give visitors a sense of what constitutes a mixed garden farm found in villages throughout Africa and Southeast Asia."
A common form of agriculture in tropical countries, a mixed garden is planted around a house or in small plots around a village. Farmers plant crops designed to provide food, medicine and other products year-round for their families and to sell at village markets.
The Tropical Crop Garden includes the root vegetables cocyam and cassava (the leaves are used to make African stew); the spices vanilla, cardamom, ginger and grains of paradise (a seed imparting a peppery flavor to foods); cocoa; kaffir lime; and citrus medica, or citron (often candied and historically used for medicinal purposes).
Children in the Garden
Annual Fund gifts allow the Garden to offer events and classes for children that range from outdoor garden adventures to cooking lessons in the Edible Garden.
With the Garden as their classroom, excited kindergartners are introduced to ways in which plants and animals differ during Kinder in the Garden. In partnership with the City of Atlanta's Cultural Experience Project, more than 3,000 kindergartners from Atlanta Public Schools are welcomed to the Garden. During their visit, children explore diverse living collections, observe giant leaves in the Tropical Rotunda and small leaves in the Desert House, smell fragrant orchids and view colorful Poison Dart Frogs. The Garden lessons meet Georgia Performance Standards.
In addition, more than 800 students from Title 1 schools receive complimentary Garden admission. During their field trip, students engage with the wonders of nature and learn life science concepts by exploring the diversity of plants and habitats around the Garden.
For little ones, the Butterfly Maze in the Children's Garden has been recently updated with new plantings, such as Loropetalim 'Ever Red', a gorgeous cultivar with brilliant red blooms. In the Gnome Garden, various shade loving plants peak children's curiosity and imagination.
Frogs on Display
The Fuqua Conservatory lobby now houses six amphibian exhibits that continually engage visitors of all ages. The naturalistic displays showcase rare and endangered frogs from Central and South America. Visitors can marvel at frogs such as semi-transparent Glass Frogs, Splendid Leaf Frogs, and Amazonian Fringed Leaf Frogs. The conservation team tends to the rare and endangered amphibians during weekly Frog Freedings.
With more than one-third of the world's amphibian species threatened or endangered, the Garden's Amphibian Conservation team is deeply involved in conservation efforts. For example, Gopher Frog tadpoles are now raised in the Fuqua Orchid Center in an effort to renew their declining population. They are eventually released onto a Nature Conservancy Preserve.
Interpreting the Garden
Committed to engaging visitors with compelling stories about plants and how they impact our lives, the Garden’s education team has recently replaced its interpretive signage with new streamlined content, photos and an elegant color scheme. The Garden also has more ephemeral signs. Termed “ephemeral” since they always change, these interpretive signs look similar to a small chalkboard (often with a hand-drawn illustration) and are designed to highlight a variety of beautiful, interesting or easily overlooked details around the Garden. Rotated regularly throughout the year, a sign by the reflecting pond of the Fuqua Conservatory may encourage visitors to look for the bullfrog tadpoles, while in the Edible Garden it may offer tips for the home gardener. Ephemeral signs may also highlight daylilies along the Great Lawn, the magnificent Tulip Poplar in Storza Woods or a particularly rare orchid blooming in the Fuqua Orchid Center. Unobtrusive but with an element of surprise, ephemeral signage helps to inspire curiosity in visitors while deepening their engagement with the natural world.
Fuqua Conservatory Improvements
Since its structural renovation in 2014, the Fuqua Conservatory has seen significant improvements in the growing conditions of its nationally recognized plant collection. This past year the soil was replaced with a new epiphytic mixture. Free draining and highly aerobic, the specialized planting compost is comprised of tree bark, charcoal and granular expanded clay and peat. New planting beds were also inoculated with an organic soil conditioner to improve overall soil and plant health. With the soil amended, the conservatory team dramatically expanded plant diversity and density by adding thousands of plants with many species new to the Conservatory.
As Conservatory Manager Paul Blackmore explains: "Visitors may now discover species native to the island of New Caledonia, including several highly endangered palms such as Basselinia pancheri, Burretiokentia vieillardii and Chambeyronia macrocarpa. From Madagascar we planted Tahina spectabilis, the most recently discovered palm genera, and also plants of the scientifically interesting Amborella trichopoda, believed to be the original flowering plant (Angiosperm)."
With the help of volunteers, his team also planted a collection of tropical trees such as Elaeocarpus angustifolius, several species of Ficus from New Caledonia, flowering vines from New Guinea and Strongylodon macrobotrys (the Jade Vine) from the Philippines. Ground cover such as ferns, the tree fern Cyathea intermedia and a variety of flowering species (gardenias, begonias and ginger) were also planted. Throughout the Fuqua Conservatory many new “beam boxes” and baskets were installed: half showcase the Old World theme with many species of Melastomes from the Philippines, including the fabulous Medinilla magnifica and species from New Guinea and Africa; the other half feature Melastomes from the New World including Blackea fuchsioides from Panama and numerous blueberry species from South America, such as Cavendishia axillaris.
Horticulture Update: Frog Baby & Storza Woods
Tucked amidst the Perennial Garden is a small pond with its much beloved sculpture Frog Baby by Edith Parsons. In the spring the area encircling Frog Baby was replanted due to an infestation of the invasive plant houttuynia. To remove its entire root system, the horticulture team dug out 24" of soil. After replacing it, the ground was replenished with new plantings reflecting the colors and effervescent feel of the surrounding gardens. Burnet, canna, Stokes’ aster, spineless prickly pear, Mongolian aster and stonecrop are now on stunning display in this charming garden.
As part of the expansion in Storza Woods, a sidewalk system was installed. Due to its construction, the rerouting of a mulch path allowed for the replanting of a new large bed. Located at the end of the Canopy Walk below Sourwood Terrace, the horticulture team added approximately thirty hydrangeas (all cultivars of H. serrata) along with companion plants including, Rohdea japonica, Tricyrtis, Lobelia, Tiarella, and Acorus. In addition, 188 native azaleas were planted for display along the Azalea Walk. “Featuring a color palette progressing from yellow to hot pinks with whites and oranges intermixed, native azaleas include 'Red Inferno', 'Sautee Sunset', 'Darlin's Dream', 'Country Cousin', 'Millenium' and 'Coleen O' to name just a few,” says Amanda Bennett, Manager of Display Gardens.
The Japanese maples Acer henryi and Acer triflorum were also planted in the Beechwood Overlook and in the Channel Overlook respectively. Grown at the Gainesville Garden, the two species are small understory trees with exceptional displays of red and orange in the autumn with the Acer triflorum exhibiting an attractive ornamental exfoliating bark.
Middle School Garden Chef
As part of the Garden’s outreach to underserved schoolchildren, the Garden launched the Middle School Summer Cooking Program. In partnership with Atlanta Public Schools, students from Crawford Long and Price Middle School participated in the Global Garden Chefs program. Through recipes inspired by Asian, Mexican, Middle Eastern and Caribbean cuisine, students explored the cultural, social and sensory aspects of food while learning how to prepare healthy meals with ingredients fresh from the Garden.
With each day devoted to a specific culture’s cuisine, students learned about different ingredients and cooking techniques as well as how to plan menus. Reflecting on what food they cooked, its preparation and how it tasted, they documented their daily experiences in a “passport journal”. As part of their hands-on activities, students also learned how to grow produce by harvesting and weeding in the Garden. Kathryn Masuda the Garden’s Youth Programs Manager notes, through their culinary journey students “discovered where their food comes, the factors that affect their food choices and how those choices affect the environment.” For their final project, students cooked and served a three course restaurant-style lunch. At the end, each student took home their passport journal containing delicious, healthy recipes to share with family and friends.
Tis the Season for Camellias
With winter’s arrival, the Camellia Garden provides a welcome burst of color with shades of pink, red and white blooms against dark green leaves. Situated on the gentle hill looping down from the top of the Canopy Walk, the horticulture team has enhanced the Camellia Garden over the last few years with new plantings. Showcasing over 50 unique Camellias, the collection now represents more than a dozen different Camellia species including C. japonica, C. sasanqua and C. sinensis along with some unusual species rarely seen on display, such as the C. grijsii, C. handelii, C. rosiflora and C. yuhsienensis. With patterned bark in vertical stripes of dark to light green, six different types of Snakebark Maples have been planted to provide additional winter interest.
Creating visual interest during the summer, a new perennial layer featuring Epimedium, Astilbe, Hosta, Ferns, Solidago, Tradescantia, Tricyrtis, Heuchera and Phlox to name a few has evolved over the last few years. Plants from 25 different genus have been incorporated for a grand total of over 600 individual plants with Aster ‘Bluebird’ interspersed throughout to form a cohesive visual element. For a layer of spring color, several thousand bulbs were also planted, including various cultivars of Narcissus, Crocus, Scilla, Puschkinia, Chionodoxa and Camassia. As part of their worldwide Daffodil Project, the organization Am Yisrael Chai donated Narcissus bulbs in memory of the children who died during the Holocaust.
Conservation Update: Fringed Leaf Frogs
The Garden’s amphibian conservation team has had an incredible captive breeding success with its Fringed Leaf Frogs (Cruziohyla craspedopus), a rare species with which they have worked since 2007. Unlike most frogs, Fringed Leaf Frogs do not need to come down to the ground to forage or breed, but instead remain high in the Amazonian tree canopy making them a challenge to find. Consequently, the Cruziohyla craspedopus is a difficult species for herpetologists to understand and breed.
However, the Garden’s amphibian specialists were resourceful. As the Garden’s Amphibian Conservation Coordinator Mark Mandica explains, “we created a ‘rain chamber’ from a modified trash can and then left the frogs alone. After a year’s wait, we achieved success with the birth of the Garden’s first Fringed Leaf Froglet!” The froglets have grown and are now “sub adult.” The conservation team has since succeeded in breeding the Fringed Leaf Frog a few more times and currently has twenty new tadpoles. Mandica says there are plans to publish research regarding the captive breeding of Cruziohyla craspedopus (most likely in the journal Herpetological Review) and to also donate one of the young adults to the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago for exhibition. The Garden was the first to ever exhibit this species with two adult Fringed Leaf Frogs on display in the Fuqua Conservatory’s Frogs of the Amazon exhibit.