You have to Connect to Protect!

The buzz surrounding our declining pollinators keeps getting louder and louder. The recently developed UGA Public Service and Outreach program, Connect to Protect, joins the Greater Atlanta Pollinator Partnership (GAPP) in spreading the word about the loss of our native insect diversity and providing ways to get involved. Like GAPP, Connect to Protect focuses on the opportunity that our urban areas provide for constructing pollinator habitats. The idea is to create a connected network of beautifully designed and ecologically minded landscapes within our communities. Using native plants in our landscapes acknowledges the coevolutionary relationships that have developed among plants and their insect partners over thousands of years. As a result of these partnerships, many insects have high specificity to breed or feed only on particular native plant species or families. Increasing the diversity within our landscapes can create dramatic expressions of color and texture while providing resources for wildlife. The hope is to create corridors of native plant gardens through our urban environments.

Education is the other crucial piece of the pollinator conservation puzzle. What better way to ensure a future for our ecologically crucial insects than to teach children about the fantastic world of pollination biology? Connect to Protect organizes hands-on educational programs for elementary-aged children to learn in an informal environment while getting their hands dirty. Planting pollinator gardens at schools creates accountability with garden maintenance while providing an introduction into the various career paths that biological science offers. Installation of native gardens, coupled with education programs ensures that our communities are aware of the plight of pollinators and have ways to get involved that are both fun and ecologically beneficial.

This is a call to arms! Getting involved in conservation does not require a degree in biology, nor does it require large tracts of land. We can no longer rely solely on our dwindling wildlands to support insect and plant diversity. Small pockets of native plants have the power to transform our neighborhoods into ecological havens and change the way people think about our landscapes. By focusing on the inextricable relationship between plants and pollinators, the Connect to Protect program advocates for increasing both plant and insect diversity in our expanding urban areas.

Visit the State Botanical Garden in Athens, Georgia for the Connect to Protect Native Plant Sale. A variety of native wildflowers, grasses, and forbs will be for sale on October 6th, 7th, and 8th and October 13th, 14th, 15th.

Get involved, plant a garden, and spread the word!

Guest Blog written by: Lauren Muller, UGA College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences. M.S. Candidate, Horticulture


Pollination with a purpose. Lindsay Street Park

Lindsay Street Park has had quite a transformation. This is the first park in English Avenue, a historic Atlanta neighborhood which is currently undergoing a large number of innovative community projects to revitalize the area. The renovation of the park was led by the Conservation Fund, with help from partners Trees Atlanta, Park Pride,  Atlanta Botanical Gardens, members of the English Avenue Community, and many other organizations and volunteers.

However this park is so much more than a pollinator garden, it’s a park with a purpose. Lindsay Street Park functions as an important place for the local community to gather and appreciate nature, in a neighborhood that is devoid of friendly green space. The park also serves to combat storm water runoff, and mitigate water pollution, issues that have been prevalent in the aging neighborhood.

Community members and project collaborators have been quick to comment on the importance of the Lindsay Street Park restoration, and the clear benefits it provides  to the English Avenue neighborhood. Greening Youth Foundation’s Whitney Jaye remarks that “we need green space and community input , to improve mental, physical and emotional health”.  Tony Torrence founder and CEO of the Atlanta Community Improvement Association  has also commented on the history of the neighborhood, the importance of the parks restoration, and its link to the local peoples culture and identity. Torrence remarks, “People used to be baptized in this creek, and now it is polluted”.

The park  aims to mitigate the amount of storm water runoff that reaches the Proctor Creek Watershed through rain garden plantings, implementation of a bioswale, and decreasing the amount of impervious surfaces present in the community.

The Lindsay Street Park success story hinges on the commitment of dedicated partners, and participation by the local community members, to build a truly exceptional green space that will benefit both pollinators and humans!



Photo L: Tony Torrence displaying a piece of history; a brick found on site made at the Chattahoochee Brick Company which often used forced convict labour to produce over 200,000 bricks a day. Images courtesy of Whitney Flanagan, Dr. Jennifer Cruse Sanders

Photo R: Dr. Jennifer Cruse Sanders from the Atlanta Botanical Garden and Greening Youth Foundation interns and employees Whitney Jaye, Alagia Felix, Micheal Hendrix, Cristha  Edwards, Idalis Boyd, and Jataysia Daniels plant milkweed in Lindsay Street Park’s pollinator garden. Images courtesy of Whitney Flanagan, Dr. Jennifer Cruse Sanders


Co-blogged by GAPP + Jataysia Daniels, Greening Youth Foundation & Atlanta Botanical Garden Conservation Intern!




The Greening Youth Foundation takes action in Atlanta’s parks and green spaces

Did you know the city of Atlanta owns 350 parks and green spaces? All of these areas play a pivotal role in linking green space across metro Atlanta for pollinators. The upkeep of these areas is a mammoth task, and today GAPP is highlighting a conservation group who  maintain some of Atlanta’s most underutilized urban parks and green spaces.

The Greening Youth Foundation (GYF) is an Atlanta based organization whose mission is to nurture environmental stewardship among diverse youth and young adults, and expose them to conservation careers. Through programs such as the Atlanta Youth Corps (AYC) , The Greening Youth Foundation is able to support community based projects in local Atlanta parks, green spaces, and farms.

Currently, along with park maintenance AYC crews are helping to build and maintain pollinator habitat!  Partnering with the Atlanta Botanical Gardens the Greening Youth Foundation’s Atlanta Youth Corps members are learning about milkweed and other native pollinator plants, and participating in pollinator garden out-planting at local parks.

Whitney C. Jaye, a GYF team member, describes the foundations commitment to pollinator conservation here, and also talks about plans for a native GA milkweed production nursery at the foundations Conservation Learning Institute. Help GAPP spread the word about the Greening Youth Foundation, an important youth driven organization who emphasize urban habitat restoration, conservation and community service.



Dr. Jennifer Cruse Sanders, of the Atlanta Botanical Garden, teams up with  Greening Youth Foundation’s Urban Youth Corps during a pollinator garden out planting in Vine City, Atlanta.






What to do in Winter

As the days get colder, you may be looking out the window at your garden, and wondering what can be done to a pollinator garden in winter?

Well, this time of year provides an excellent opportunity to think about how your garden provides for those pollinator species who need a place to overwinter.  Bees and some species of butterflies that do not migrate, need areas in which they can spend the cold months, waiting for the warm days of spring to arrive. Understanding the different needs of these two important pollinators is the first step in providing a garden that allows for these species to stay and overwinter.

For bees, the good news is, if you are already providing nesting structures to accommodate pupation, you are already providing areas for overwintering as well, as most species do not require different habitats. For example, an adult carpenter bee returns to its larval tunnels and the end of spring, and stays through winter. In contrast female bumblebees will not hibernate in their original cells, instead the queen buries herself beneath leaf litter or debris.

For your garden it is then encouraged to allow for small areas to house leaf litter piles, thatch piles or grass clippings. Remember, the best and most usable pollinator gardens are those that resemble wild, natural habitats, so don’t be too neat! Also, if you haven’t already, start implementing some ideas for providing shelter and nesting sites, they can double as overwintering sites for most species, like the carpenter bee.

Unlike bees, most butterflies have different habitat requirements in summer and winter. Species that pupate during winter do so in cocoons, underground, or in a hard chrysalis.  For your pollinated garden to support butterflies during the colder months, the physical structure of the environment is far more important than the  actual plant species available.   Tall grasses, bushes, trees, old fence posts, and piles of leaves and sticks will provide good overwintering sites for butterflies.

Again, small amounts of general garden debris may not be desirable for a heavily manicured formal garden, but is just perfect for a pollinator garden! A good rule of thumb is if you know that some of the species that you spot in spring may also overwinter in specific areas of your garden, keep these areas undisturbed throughout the winter.

There are several more detailed ideas presented here about cultivating nesting and overwintering sites for native bee and butterfly species through the use of natural garden elements and artificial structures .

If you are encouraged to start implementing some new ideas this winter, at the end of the coming spring, you will have some pretty happy tenants who may just want to extend their lease….. long term.



New rain garden App now available!

Did you know your pollinator garden can be a rain garden as well? Rain gardens help to decrease the amount of urban runoff, by capturing, slowing, and filtering the free flowing water that occurs after a heavy rainfall.

The University of Georgia EcoScapes Sustainable Land Use Program has collaborated with the University of Connecticut and a team representing 13 states, to develop a free app to help homeowners, landscapers and contractors design, install and maintain rain gardens.


Rain gardens are designed with native, water loving plants in mind, and with a particular focus on plants that can handle high levels of nitrogen and phosphorous that may leach into the soil from the runoff.

So why do we need rain gardens in Atlanta?  Because  metropolitan urban areas have a large number of impervious surfaces such as driveways, and roads which lead to an increase in runoff. This runoff can cause erosion, flooding and pollution, particularly in areas of the city with low topography or inadequate drainage systems in place.

How do we solve these issues? The answer to solving storm water runoff is to provide large enough natural green space areas, which will tolerate water absorption without erosion or flooding….. a rain garden! And it’s not too different from a pollinator garden!

Make you garden do double duty, and increase your effect on urban sustainability, by adding elements that will help manage runoff.

Check out the new App here and find out about soil types, drainage in your area, and appropriate plants to add to your garden.

Calling all Gardeners! Tomorrow at your State Park

Tomorrow on Saturday, September 25th all across Georgia, State Parks are celebrating  “Your State Parks Day” by planting pollinator gardens!

We can’t think of a better way to spend a fall day, so grab your shovel and work gloves and help the Friends of Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites plant over 40 pollinator gardens across the state!

Check here to see what pollinator activities are happening at your local State Park tomorrow, and join in on fun events such as lectures, hands-on garden building, and rim trail clean ups. You may even pick up some new tips for your pollinator garden.

Lend a hand and save a pollinator!

Why pollinator gardens are vital to urban landscapes.

Watch Sarah Bergmann creator of Pollinator Pathways, talk about designing “biodiversity back in” by creating linked pollinator habitats that form urban green space corridors.

Beginning with a single pollinator pathway project in Seattle, Bergmann has taken the model and created a visionary plan to involve strengthening and reconnecting fragmented green spaces in urban landscapes across the nation.

You can learn more about the original pollinator habitat project in Seattle, and also about her plans to adapt this model in other urban areas across the globe in the Ted Talk below.

Wanna hear more about this? Visit her website here: