2018: August Bloom Report
Within the Heritage Garden, cotton is blooming. At this time of year, it’s green leaves and stems and flowers somewhat resemble tropical hibiscus…because they are plant cousins. After pollination, the flower head will become a seed pod filled with fluffy fibers. The fibers are separated from the pod and seeds and twisted into threads and woven into cloth.
2018 July: Bloom Report
Be on the lookout for foraging flying flowers…it’s butterfly season! Butterflies are cold blooded so are rarely out and about til temperatures are consistently above 60 degrees. Since many of the flowers they sample for nectar are blooming now, you may see tiger swallowtails, named for their yellow and black markings. A visit to the butterfly bush by the Green Church might allow you to see a few tinier and less showy species. It’s important to remember that adult butterflies all drink nectar from their straw-like mouths, but their young are very choosy about food sources. Building a butterfly buffet means providing foods for caterpillars too. Tiger swallowtail caterpillars enjoy dill, fennel and parsley. Feel free to pick up a brochure about butterflies at our Visitor Center.
2018 June: Bloom Report
In honor of Pollinator Week, which begins on June 18th, we draw your attention to an underappreciated wonder-plant: the elder. Standing between 6 and 8 feet tall, this plant is a large shrub (or a small tree?) with white lacy umbrella-like flowers. The flowers are a nectar source for pollinators, but in some countries people too! Flowers are boiled with sugar into a syrup and mixed with water to be made into a soft drink or cordial.
Later in the summer, purple berries will form. These are food for birds…and people too, when cooked. The juice was made into jellies and wine by early Americans. Native Americans used it as a cold medicine. You can still find elderberry extract in health food stores. At Autrey Mill, you can find elders by the restroom, program barn door and visitor center.
2018 March: Bloom Report
March has surely come in like a lion, roaring winds scattering a blizzard of white pear petals all over Autrey Mill’s lawn and buildings. Under this dusting, the late-blooming daffodils are sharing the stage with early iris, the first azaleas and a naked little tree wearing only purple flowers: the redbud. The Eastern Redbud is a native tree, part of the family of plants that includes peas. The flowers are edible and quite tasty raw. The pods were cooked and eaten by Native Americans. Leaves shaped like an upside-down heart appear as March exits, hopefully, more like a lamb.
2018 February: Bloom Report
Signs of early spring are all around the Mill! Look for blooming hellebores behind the visitor center, and the large Japonica camellia near the star pond. Within the woods, the tiny green tips of Lady Slipper orchids have emerged from the soil, although they remain tucked in under their cover of fallen leaves. Green daffodil sprouts have also emerged from their winter slumber. Within the month, some will have already opened, their golden trumpets heralding the unofficial arrival of the blooming seasons ahead.
2018 January: Bloom Report
What’s blooming now? In a word: little. But the absence of flowers in winter is part of the economics of nature’s Master Plan. Flowers exist to attract pollinators, help the plant species to reproduce and survive. During winter’s cold, few insects and migratory birds are around to pollinate, and there is less radiant energy from the sun. There would be little “payback” for the energy used to produce a flower that goes unpollinated. Soon enough, longer days and warmer soil temperatures will cue the emergence of green shoots and early bloomers like daffodils. Without the cold, dark, and quiet of winter, the rebirth of spring wouldn’t seem as sweet.
2017 December: Bloom Report
With thanks to Pike’s Holcomb Bridge for a fabulous deal, and Lexus Nexus for fabulous volunteers, numerous Chapel Hill perennial lantanas have been planted at Autrey Mill. These summer bloomers die back to the ground in winter freezes, but re-emerge in late spring. The yellow blossoms are a favorite of bees and butterflies, but not of deer and rabbits.
2017 November: “Plant Invaders at Autrey Mill!”
We interrupt our regularly scheduled Bloom Report for this important message:
It begins innocently enough…. Someone plants an heirloom that reminds them of a home far away. A stowaway is carried in soil from another area. A plant is deliberately introduced because it looks pretty or grows quickly. No matter how or why it arrives, if a non-native plant has the potential to disrupt an environment, it can be considered an invasive species. In a healthy ecosystem, plants and other living populations are kept in balance. If an introduced plant is not eaten by local animals, grows more quickly, brings disease, or out-reproduces the native plants, it can “take over.” One example is kudzu, an Asian native introduced for railroad embankment erosion control.
Native species that overwhelm an ecosystem are intrusive but not invasive. Poison ivy, for example, is native and provides berries to hungry birds. English ivy, often found in Southern woods, is NOT native and is an invasive in our area.
At Autrey Mill, we try to preserve our native woods. This includes an ongoing battle with invasive species such as Asian honeysuckle and wisteria. Join us in taking up arms and give voice to our native plants, “We will not go quietly into the night! We will not vanish without a fight! We’re going to live on, we’re going to survive.” While this important task is not as exciting as the Battle for Earth in “Independence Day,” we are deeply thankful for individuals and groups who volunteer. To join the ranks, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Butterfly Garden was begun In the summer of 2014
Autrey Mill received a grant of $600 from a citizen who wanted to honor a family member who had passed away unexpectedly. She loved butterflies and her family wanted to create a butterfly garden in her honor. We selected an area next to the small gazebo that overlooks the Fulton County Water Treatment reservoir and cleared vines and undergrowth from the area. Nectar plants and host plants were planted and a stone path created.
The Butterfly Garden has been Expanded in 2016
We have been expanding the garden’s area through the hard work of volunteers. In addition, our neighbor Autrey Mill Middle School’s Eco-Tech Club and 7th grade science students would like to design and adopt a portion of the garden. To facilitate the expanded garden, we sought funding from Monarchs Across Georgia to purchase mulch, additional host plants – specifically milk weed, additional nectar plants and hardscapes to improve the garden. The garden was fenced to keep plants safe from deer and rabbits.
The Butterfly Garden is Now Certified
The additional resources installed in 2016 qualified Autrey Mill as a Certified Pollinator Habitat with Monarchs Across Georgia. You can also find us now listed on the Rosalynn Carter Butterfly Trail.
The garden is still being developed and the new plants need time to grow, but when at Autrey Mill, take time to walk the path across the road from the Visitor Center to see the garden. Learn more about butterflies and tips for starting your own butterfly garden.