Out and About at the Freedom Park Bird and Butterfly Garden

Carol Vanderschaaf at the Freedom Park Bird and Butterfly Garden.

Freedom Park Bird and Butterfly Garden

In 2005, Carol Vanderschaaf started the Freedom Park Bird and Butterfly Garden with Phil Edwards and the Dekalb Master Gardener Association along with Catherine Kuchar of the Audubon Society.  Together, they planted over 40 different species of native plants and shrubs.

Over the following years, the garden has not only added plants, but also been the site of outdoor environmental classes on pollinator syndromes and environmental stewardship for students at Mary Lin School.

Ilex verticillata, Winterberry, provides excellent forage for songbirds.

This past October (2017), Beech Hollow and Scout Troop 586 scheduled a workday at the

Freedom Park Bird and Butterfly Garden. The Scouts removed invasive plants from the garden, with adult help and supervision.

While we were hard at work, the Georgia aster was in bloom, and the Heart’s a Busting was dangling berries, to entice the birds to stop by and eat.

Cub Scout Troop 586 finishing a hard day’s work at the Freedom Park Bird and Butterfly Garden.

The brilliant scarlet fruits of the Winterberry, Ilex verticillata, made a gorgeous splash of color under the oak trees. For birds, Winterberry and Heart’s a Busting fruits are the plant equivalent of a neon sign that says “Eat at Joe’s.”

Job well done, thank you, scouts!






Freedom Park Bird and Butterfly Garden, a short timeline:


Carol Vanderschaaf started the Freedom Park Bird and Butterfly Garden with Phil Edwards and the Dekalb Master Gardener Association along with Catherine Kuchar of the Audubon Society.  They planted over 40 different species of native plants and shrubs.

2008 through 2012,

EcoAddendum engaged the students at Mary Lin School in both learning to garden, in pollinator syndromes and environmental stewardship.  The students and Carol Vanderschaaf install more plants.

2013 through 2016,

Environmental programming continued with Lauren Sandoval and Trees Atlanta.  Each year volunteers planted new native plants.

2017 and ongoing:

Beech Hollow Farms and the Freedom Park Conservancy along with volunteer groups will continue the maintenance and planting of natives at the Freedom Park Bird and Butterfly Garden.

Here is a partial list of plants that have been planted at the Freedom Park Bird and Butterfly Garden over the past several years:

Native plants for birds and/or butterflies:
Black-eyed Susan, Rudbeckia fulgida or Rudbeckia hirta
Purple Coneflower, Echinacea purpurea
Golden Fleece Goldenrod, Solidago rugosa
Virginia Creeper, Parthenocissus quinquefolia
Cardinal Flower, Lobelia cardinalis
Crossvine, Bignonia capreolata

Native plants for birds:
American Beautyberry, Callicarpa americana
Blueberry, Vaccinium spp
Yellow root, Xanthorhizza simplicissima

Native plants for butterflies:
Butterfly Weed (not Bush),  Asclepias tuberosa
Joe Pye Weed, Eutrochium fistulosum
St. John’s Wort, Hypericum frondosum
Pink Milkweed, Asclepias incarnata
Passionflower, Passiflora incarnata


Out and About at the CRNRA

Working in Public Spaces

For several years Beech Hollow has been working in public spaces around the Atlanta Metro Area helping out with native plant installations.  We thought we would put up a couple of posts about these native plant projects.

Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area (CRNRA):

Island Ford monument sign with deer proof planting.

BHF have been working with the staff at the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area (CRNRA) for the past few years to plant and maintain native Georgia plants in two areas at the Island Ford Visitor’s Center.   The front entrance area has proved to be the toughest to re-vegetate, as the deer have been relentlessly munching plants down to the ground and have even pulled out whole root balls just days after we planted them!

Jeff with a fist full of invasive plants.

Despite the overabundant, graceful pests we have had deer proof successes in a very sunny area that is only irrigated by rainfall.  Plants like Rattlesnake Master (Eryngium yuccafolium), American Aloe (Manfreda virginica), and Splitbeard Bluestem (Andropogon ternarius) are quite happily flowering in the poor, often dry soils of the driveway median.

We will continue working with Park staff and volunteers to reestablish native plant populations along the edges of the entrance and near the historic Hewlett Lodge Visitor Center building in the coming year.  Come out and lend a hand, or just visit to check out our plantings, hike the numerous trails, and see the natural beauty that will make you forget you’re in a large city.


Just in case you are curious, here is the list of approved native plants for the CRNRA:


New Jersey Tea, Ceanothus americanus

Georgia Basil, Clinopodium georgianum

Cedar Glade St Johnswort, Hypericum frondosum

Maple-leaf Viburnum, Viburnum acerifolium


Tall Thimbleweed, Anemone virginiana

Bird’s foot Violet,
Viola pedata

Barren Strawberry, Waldsteinia lobata

Green and Gold, Chrysogonum virginianum

Woodland Phlox, Phlox divaricata

Pussytoes, Antennaria plantaginifolia

Blue-eyed grass,
 Sisyrinchium spp

Eastern beardtongue, Penstemon laevigatus

Hoary skullcap, Scutellaria incana

Butterflyweed, Asclepias tuberosa

Rattlesnake master, Eryngium yuccifolium

Narrow leaved Mountain Mint, Pycnanthemum tennuifolium

Coreopsis, Coreopsis grandiflora

Cornel leaf Aster, Doellingeria infirma

Goldenaster, Chrysopsis mariana

Red disk Sunflower, Helianthus atrorubens

Blue Mistflower, Conoclinium coelestinuum

Georgia aster, Symphyotrichum georgianum

What’s not to love? Beautiful Hawthorns with Bountiful Berries

Crataegus-marshallii-DSC_0209Our native hawthorns are beautiful early bloomers, starting in late March and going through April and May. Hawthorns start blooming very soon after the early trees, when the plums and other fruit trees are putting on their show, providing much needed early bee and butterfly support with their offerings of pollen and nectar.

Dwarf Hawthorn, Crataegus uniflora

Dwarf Hawthorn, Crataegus uniflora

But the pollinator support doesn’t stop there. Hawthorns are among the top larval host plants in Doug Tallamy’s list of “Best Bets: What to Plant” to support butterflies and moths. They are number twelve out of the top twenty woody plants. The link to that list is here.

The height and cover provided by hawthorns for cup-nesting songbirds is pretty much perfect. Many songbirds nest between 5-15 feet off of the ground, and need a shrub that gives them good site with plenty of camouflage. Hawthorns are thorny, so are roses and some apple species. Does that mean you should avoid the Hawthorn in your shrub layer? No! Birds such as the Brown Thrasher will nest in thorny shrubs or greenbriar tangles, here’s a link to nest watch. Thorns would add a layer of protection from some egg and nestling predators.

Mockingbird nest in Parsley Hawthorn, Crataegus marshallii

Mockingbird nest in Parsley Hawthorn, Crataegus marshallii

The haws, or pomes, are also an important addition to your garden to support migratory birds like Cedar Waxwings. But if you’ve ever heard of Haws or Mayhaw jelly, people have been using the fruit of the hawthorn as well, from the cuisine of various Native American tribes through the traditional foods of the Deep South. One of our favorite blogs “Eat the Weeds” has an article on Hawthorns here .  Colonists used haws, both Marshallii and uniflora are species recorded as being used as food by colonists and Native Americans.

The Hawthorn is closely related to the rose and apple, the flowers of hawthorns reminiscent of plum or apple blossoms and the fruits often resembling rose hips.  The scarlet berries are so prolific on our Parsley Hawthorn that the winter resident birds can never finish the fruit during the winter, it often takes a flock of famished Cedar Waxwings to polish them off.  Flower quantity and berry set are greater if planted in the sun.


Fruit of the Dwarf Hawthorn, Crataegus uniflora, smells like an apple.

The Hawthorn species that we grow are Crataegus marshallii and Crataegus uniflora.  Both of these species are tough, preferring well drained sites.  They can easily handle full sun to dappled or open shade.  Right now Crataegus marshallii is blooming now in front of our location in Scottdale GA.  The flowers are gorgeous; marshallii has plentiful flower clusters that hold about a dozen inch wide blooms.

We now have Crataegus uniflora germinating; hoping it will be a good size in two years.  But this species will never get beyond shrub sized. The common name for this species is Dwarf Hawthorne; its height ranges from 3-6 feet tall. The Dwarf Hawthorne has flowers that are singular, about quarter-sized, and matt white.   The fruits are nickel sized pomes that smell like apple and have the color of a really ripe golden delicious apple with a pink blush when fully ripe.

Welcome to our Sunny Beeches!

2017 BHF web poster

Learn about Native Bees, Butterflies and Native Plants at Beech Hollow Farm.  We now have presentations about bees and butterflies and how to support them in your gardens (free) on Saturday mornings.  We also have mid-day projects, classes in Nature Journaling with writing, spore prints, and art, that get you into our forest.  And if I don’t say so myself, it sure is pretty down there in the hollow.

Please take a look at our spring offerings:


The Marvelous Monarch Migration (Part 1)

Female Monarch Butterfly laying egg on Asclepias tuberosa.

Female Monarch Butterfly laying egg on Asclepias tuberosa.

Why marvelous? Monarch Butterflies (Danaus plexippus) travel thousands of miles every year, following the seasons.  These amazing butterflies overwinter on large trees in the mysterious forests of the mountains of Michoacán and the State of Mexico.   With the arrival of spring, these seemingly delicate creatures fly thousands of miles northward into the southern United States.

Monarch egg on underside of Asclepias incarnata (Swamp Milkweed) leaf.

Monarch egg on underside of Asclepias incarnata (Swamp Milkweed) leaf.

There the female Monarch butterfly lays her eggs on Milkweed plants, ONLY on Milkweed plants. Her caterpillars feed on the Milkweed, grow, pupate, and hatch, as the second generation of butterflies to take up the generational relay.

This second generation of Monarchs flies northward into the northern United States and Southern Canada in late spring. When they arrive, the females lay the eggs of generation number three on Milkweed plants.

Very immature Monarch caterpillar on underside of Asclepias incarnata (Swamp Milkweed) leaf.

Very immature Monarch caterpillar on underside of Asclepias incarnata (Swamp Milkweed) leaf.

In August and September, Monarch generations three and four start flying southward, retracing their flights back to the mountains in Michoacán and the State of Mexico. When the butterflies arrive, they overwinter in large trees to wait for the return of spring.  There is more information at this Forest Service website.

How to help the Monarchs on their journey:

Feed your Monarchs (Part 2):  A Garden with Native Plants which provide nectar for the adult butterflies is important. Even MORE important for Monarch Butterflies is the availability of their larval host plant: Milkweed. Supporting their full life cycle by providing host plants for their caterpillars will ensure the return of these intriguing insects year after year.

Monarch caterpillars munching on Asclepias incarnata, Swamp Milkweed.

Monarch caterpillars munching on Asclepias incarnata, Swamp Milkweed.

Monarch Home Sweet Habitat (Part 3): everyone needs clean water, even insects. A ceramic plant saucer with large pebbles or a sand ramp in it will allow butterflies to approach the water without being drowned.

Minimize use of toxic chemicals, such as pesticides, which can sicken or kill unintended, or “non-target,” wildlife. If you must use a pesticide, be aware of your larval host plants and other pollinators, apply pesticides carefully to avoid destroying your beneficial insects.


This is a Monarch Butterfly chrysalis at Beech Hollow Farm.







Adult Monarch, generation three or four, southward bound to the mountain forests of Michoacan. The flower the butterfly is nectaring on is the Georgia Aster.

Adult Monarch, generation three or four, southward bound to the mountain forests of Michoacan. The flower the butterfly is nectaring on is Symphyotrichum georgianum, the Georgia Aster.

Gentle Native Bee? Or aggressive ground nesting wasp?

Spring has indeed sprung, and early this year.  And with the lovely weather, the buds are blooming, and the native bees have started buzzing.

One thing we gardeners should make ourselves more aware of is the difference between yellow jackets, an aggressive ground nesting wasp, and soil nesting bees. We want to have our gentle native bees, who are excellent pollinators, healthy and happy in our gardens.  But what is the difference between a yellow jacket wasp and a ground nesting bee?

There are many species of ground nesting bees in North America.  They are gentle, mostly solitary bees (rarely live in groups), and only sting if you smack them.  We have native ground nesting bees who specialize in squash pollination, and there are ground nesting bees who pollinate our tomatoes and blueberries more efficiently than honey bees.  All we have to do to encourage their excellent services is a.) give them a little room to nest in (they are tiny and don’t take up much space) and b.) don’t poison them! 

Here is a link to a video I took of a very large yellow jacket colony in an Atlanta Park:

Yellow jackets are predatory wasps, and an important member of the checks and balances that exists in nature’s food web. Without predatory wasps, we would be over run with devastating insect damage to every living plant on the planet.  But they are aggressive, so none of us wants a huge yellow jacket nest near our house.  More info at this wikipedia link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eastern_yellowjacket

For comparison, here are a couple of ground nesting bee nest entrances on the website Bugguide:



And here is a Wikipedia article on the ground nesting bee family:


In the photos of the bee nests, notice how there is one teensy hole, about 3/8’s of an inch across?  With one little bee head peering out?  She is guarding her eggs, her babies.  It’s actually very touching.  The ground dwelling bee won’t come out and lance you all over with horrid stinging welts if you are mowing your grass.  She is just going to mind her own business.  Give her some respect and some space, she’ll give you tomatoes and squash in return.  Not a bad deal, eh?



Spring’s Ephemeral Flowers

Bloodroots are blooming now.

Bloodroots in bloom.













What is it with the spring ephemerals? Its early March and the weather is still nippy; the trees haven’t unfurled their leaves. No other self-respecting flower is blooming yet. Most plants are going to wait for warmer weather and bountiful buzzing bees and other myriad pollinators.

The trees haven’t unfurled their leaves. That’s the thing. Late winter and early spring sunlight is pouring all over the forest floor. It would be a shame to waste all that available energy. That is where spring ephemerals fit in. The Trilliums, the Bloodroots, the Jacob’s Ladder, the Troutlilies: all of them are grabbing sunrays and photosynthesizing food.


Forest flowers like Bloodroot, Sanguinaria Canadensis, are blooming now. Bloodroot flowers are with us very briefly – they only last a day or two – but the beautiful leaves will often stay up until August.   These plants have already started setting seeds.

By the end of May, the tree leaves are out and stretching for the sun, and forest canopy closes overhead. Its shady, not as much sunlight is available for photosynthesis. Spring ephemerals will be done with flowering and will have moved on to making seeds.


Best Butterfly Bargain EVER!

Native wildflowers are the Best Butterfly Bargain…EVER!  You want butterfly beauty floating on fragile wings through your garden?  You can plant (*safe*) nectar plants for the adults, but the butterfly larvae need native plants to eat.  (Yes, the caterpillars will eat some leaves, but they will grow back after a short time.)  It is a small price to pay, after all, watching butterflies is priceless.

Two fat Monarch caterpillars on Asclepias incarnata, Swamp Milkweed.

Two fat Monarch caterpillars on Ascleias incarnata, Swamp Milkweed.

A Monarch during oviposit on Asclepias tuberosa, Butterflyweed.

Monarchs are pretty darned picky about larval host plants.  The only plants that their caterpillars are able to feed on are the various species of Milkweed (Asclepias spp.).  Its great that folks are planting Milkweed for the Monarchs;  please plant as much Milkweed as you can. It’s a beautiful plant, the caterpillars are fun to watch, and the butterflies are bound on an amazing voyage.  Its wonderful to have them use your yard for one leg of their thousands-mile journey.

But why stop at milkweed when there are lots of other butterflies and wildlife that would also benefit from you having host plants in your garden?


Spicebush Swallowtails (Papilio troilus) (adult above nectaring on Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa)) will not lay eggs on milkweed, but instead use Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) for their larvae as well as a few other species such as Poplar and Sassafrass.  Perhaps they are not as picky as the Monarchs, but they are very selective.


Above is the Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillar on Spicebush.  More info here.

Below is a Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia) nectaring on Narrowleaf Mountain Mint.  We also find them nectaring on Marshallia species as well as other white and pale pink flowers.

IMG_3210 Junonia on pyc tenn

Common Buckeye larvae are hosted on plants in several families, including Petunias or Ruellia, Plantains or Plantago family, Scrophulariaceae or Snapdragon family, and Veronica or Veronicaceae.  More information about the needs of Buckeyes here.

Cloudless Sulphur (Colias philodice) larvae use Cassia and Senna species in the Pea or Fabiaceae family.  In the photo on the right, a Cloudless Sulphur is nectaring on a Cardinal Flower, Lobelia cardinalis. It is one of the few butterflies with a proboscis long enough to nectar on the long and tubular Cardinal Flower.  Most species of Sulphur butterflies use various other species of the legume family or crucifer family as larval host plants.  Link to Sulphur host plant information here.


IMG_3748 cropped vanessa cardui

American Painted Lady (Vanessa virginiensis) above, is nectaring on Georgia Aster (Symphyotrichum georgianum.)  American Painted Lady and Painted Lady larvae use Antennaria and several other genera as larval host plants.  In fact, the Painted Lady uses 300 different plants as larval host plants.  Below on the left an American Painted Lady (Vanessa virginiensis) is laying eggs on Field Pussytoes (Antennaria neglecta.)  Below right an American Painted Lady caterpillar is chowing down on Pussytoes (Antennaria plantaginifolia) in our nursery.    The Pussytoes came back good as new in a couple of weeks, no harm done.  A link to Red Admiral (Painted Lady) Butterfly information is here. 







Create a space and place for wonder in your backyard by planting butterfly and wildlife habitat.  Planting a diverse collection of butterfly host species ensures that your garden is graced with the flutter of bright wings, and diversity generally helps provide a welcoming space for other wildlife such as native birds and bees.

More detailed larval host information can be found at the HOST database.  You must use the Latin binomial of the butterfly or plant you are investigating in the search fields.


*safe = no neonicotinoids.  Please note plants treated with neonicotinoid pesticides will kill caterpillars; caterpillars are one of the targets of these pesticides.  Neonics have been implicated in butterfly population declines, songbird population declines and bee population declines. Please see our blog post “Dear Gardener” for links to articles by the science community.  There are also a lot of good articles at the Xerces website.

Please read labels.  Some common commercial names of these chemicals  are: imidacloprid, acetamiprid, clothianidin, dinotefuran, nithiazine, thiacloprid and thiamethoxam.



Dear Gardeners

Please Plant Safe Plants! 

Please note plants treated with neonicotinoid pesticides will kill caterpillars; caterpillars are one of the targets of these pesticides.  Be sure to check the label to see if the plants you are buying are treated with these pesticides.  Please read labels.  Some common commercial names of these chemicals  are: imidacloprid, acetamiprid, clothianidin, dinotefuran, nithiazine, thiacloprid and thiamethoxam.  There are a lot of good articles about the effects of these chemicals at www.xerces.org .  I have linked to a few very solid, well researched, scientific articles below.

2 Articles about butterfly impact:

New Research Links Neonicotinoid Pesticides to Monarch Butterfly Declines

Butterfly declines linked to pesticides

These pesticides have also been determined by several researchers to be one of the contributing factors that causes Colony Collapse Disorder.

2 Articles about bee impact: 

Study strengthens link between neonicotinoids and collapse of honey bee colonies

Are Neonicotinoids Killing Bees Xerces Society

These pesticides have also been determined to be toxic to songbirds:

2 Articles about impacts on birds:

Risks of Neonicotinoids Pesticides on Birds

Declines in Insectivorous Birds Associated with High Neonicotinoid Concentrations

Again, dear gardeners, please read labels.  Some common commercial names of these chemicals  are: imidacloprid, acetamiprid, clothianidin, dinotefuran, nithiazine, thiacloprid and thiamethoxam.