Lois M., who describes herself as “a seventy year old gardener who has been enjoying tomatoes, squash, beans and peppers from my garden since early June” directed a string of questions to me recently. “In your calendar, you said to cut off the stalks of hosta before they seed. What happens if they do seed? What can you do with them? How can you make new hosta varieties? Do hosta clubs exchange or sell hostas in suburban Atlanta?”
“Whew!”, I sighed. “I’m no hosta expert. This will take hours to answer!”
Then I realized that Lois had suggested the best solution to her own question: why not direct her to the Georgia Hosta Society and let the REAL experts answer her queries! I receive their quarterly newsletter and am always impressed with the depth and breadth of their knowledge about this fascinating plant. I particularly enjoyed the profile of George Schmid, one of the founders of the local hosta society, in the AJC recently. When I have spoken to the group in the past, I’ve found them friendly, jovial and more than willing to share their enjoyment of gardening with beginners.
As a matter of fact, there are a great many local plant societies that fit my description of the hosta folks. The Georgia Perennial Plant Association meets monthly, usually at the Atlanta History Center. Their raucous plant swaps in the Center parking lot beforehand allow novice and expert alike to learn about new plants and purchase them for a song.
The Georgia Native Plant Society is passionate about protecting native plants and their habitat. My friend Theresa Schrum, one of the Society directors, is rarely home on weekends as she leads plant rescue groups to soon-to-be-bulldozed sites (with permission, of course) to cart away trunkfuls of native plants. If you are ready to be convinced that high-maintenance annuals and non-native plants are too much trouble for you to tend to, their bi-monthly meetings provide a diverse gathering of like-minded folks.
I could go on and on about Atlanta plant groups. There’s the Greater Atlanta Rose Society and their companions in the North Metro and South Metro Rose Societies. Penny McHenry, founder of the American Hydrangea Society, barely draws a private breath between May and July as she tirelessly lectures about the plant she loves. The Chattahoochee Unit of the Herb Society of America guarantees that every meeting will be pleasantly fragrant…… and informative about herbs of all types. Societies that promote the care and culture of iris, daylilies, camellias, orchids and African violets meet regularly in the Atlanta area.
Other groups specialize in public education. Master Gardener associations in every county (404-897-6261) sponsor regular presentations on gardening for area residents. The Garden Club of Georgia has been tireless in its fight against the uglification of highway billboards and in the promotion of wildflower plantings in highway medians. The Atlanta Botanical Garden is supported by a huge group of spirited volunteers who make the Southeastern Flower Show and other special events possible.
If your fervor about a plant is ready to be ignited or if you simply enjoy being around folks who love plants, there is a group in or around Atlanta that would welcome you with open arms.
If you don’t find kindred spirits, walk out your front door and look down your street. My neighbor Wallace N. belongs to a garden group that numbers only two, but he says, “When I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about gardening, my cousin Evelyn down the street is the person I want to talk to. We are joined at the heart in our passion for plants.”