Return of the Native Garden

Atlanta Native Plant Project at Hurt Park

During the late 18th century, the Atlanta Piedmont area was covered in rich forests, populated with species of plants and animals that no one from continental Europe or the British Isles had ever seen.  The scientific curiosity on the other side of the Atlantic was enormous.  Naturalists shot, skinned, picked, dried, drew and cataloged an amazing variety of plant and animal specimens, sending them to both Europe and England.

In the early 19th century, extensive cotton monoculture leveled the forests and obliterated the local plant communities.  Without plants, the ecosystems of the Atlanta Piedmont were decimated.  In the late 20th century, development compounded the loss of habitat and watershed for all native plants and animals in the Atlanta Metro area.  It is now early in the 21st Century.  The Atlanta Beltline has spurred enormous greenspace initiatives around the Atlanta Metro area.  These initiatives have created hundreds of acres of new restoration possibilities along streams, in newly protected woodlands, and beside trails.

The Hurt Park Native Garden project will allow us to test the hypothesis that drought tolerant native plants create hardy, beautiful landscapes that also carry the benefits of supporting a partial return of the original ecosystem.

The site for the Hurt Park Native Plant garden provides an ideal model for returning the native forbes, or plant species, to the Atlanta area.  The selected area is sloped and has been difficult to maintain with common, non-native plants and grasses, but provides an ideal site for a woodland border plant community.  Although the plants need an initial watering in period, once these plants are established they will be drought tolerant, and need very little care.

We cannot reconstruct the entire ecosystem that once existed in the Atlanta Metro area.   However, with research and perseverance we can restore part of Atlanta’s environmental heritage.

Hurt Park Native Garden Project Team:

Pandra Williams, EcoAddendum

Michael Williams, EcoAddendum

Kathryn Gable, Native Plant Botanical Garden at Perimeter College

Dr. George Sanko, Native Plant Botanical Garden at Perimeter College

Sloane Robinson

Jessica Marshall

Native Sedges provided by and sponsored by Baker Environmental Nursery, Inc.

About the author Pandra Williams


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