What’s Blooming Now?

2019: April Bloom Report

If Mother Nature laughs in blossoms, she is rolling on the floor holding her sides up at The Mill.  Currently in bloom to the left of the drive to the Visitor Center and in the Butterfly Garden are irises and azaleas.  Within the woods, along the stream, our native azaleas are blooming, and the first of the orchids are fully opened.  (Many more will open over the next month.)  White flowering dogwoods dot the woods edge.  The “banana shrubs” along the path to the chapel and the wisteria are perfuming the area around the Green Store.  The loblolly pines are also in bloom.  Although the flowers aren’t showy, they are responsible for the yellow pollen layer on your car.  Over the next month, look for snowball viburnums next to the Summerour House.

2019:January Bloom Report

At Autrey Mill and around our area, tiny green leaves of daffodils and hyacinth are beginning to emerge from the ground. These immature leaves represent the growth phase of plants that have developed a way to survive periods when conditions are not favorable.
Most plants have periods of active growth when weather is warm, moist and sunny. In tropical areas where temperatures remain warm all year long, growth periods occur based on moisture. Some plants spend their “off-season” by going underground – literally. Above-ground leaves die off while the plant waits for better times.
While growing, plants convert the suns energy into starch and sugars. Bulbs are thickened underground leaves that warehouse the starches and sugars the plants will use to emerge again and eventually flower. Usually bulbs have a papery skin. Onions, hyacinth and daffodils are examples of plants that make bulbs.
Some plants, like canna lilies, grow thick storage stems called “rhizomes” Rhizomes grow horizontally along the surface of the soil. Fat storage stems that grow below the surface are called “tubers”. A potato is a tuber. New plant shoots can grow from each of the eyes.
Most plants that produce bulbs and rhizomes are perennial in their natural climate…but many common landscape plants did not originate in North America. Bulbs and rhizomes for spring flowering are usually sold and planted in the fall during their rest time. Plants that will happily divide and create more plants will usually be labelled, “naturalizing.”
When you think about it, aren’t the ways in which Nature ensures survival amazing?
2018: November Bloom Report
Fall is the beginning of camellia season. These evergreen shrubs are often regarded as a southern garden classic, but they actually originally came from Asia. They are well suited to the southern climate, and are planted as some of the most romantic gardens of the South Carolina Ashley River plantations. At the end of the 19th century and into the early 20th century, many varieties were bred for their flower shapes and colors. At Autrey Mill, the area between the Green Store and the Chapel is home to several plants. Within the Butterfly Garden, there are both ornamental camellias and tea camellias (Camellia sinensis). Tea camellias have a simple white flower, but are grown mainly for the leaves which can be harvested, dried and served as a tasty drink.

2018: October Bloom Report

This month, expect to see monarch butterflies as they pass through Georgia on their annual migration to Mexico. Some of the blooming plants at Autrey Mill that help fuel their journey are goldenrod, golden-asters wing-stems and native sunflowers. Look for them along the entrance road and wildflower trail.
For more information about the annual monarch migration, see JOURNEYNORTH.ORG

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 info@autreymill.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.