How It Started!

After attending the Native Plant Symposium in Athens in 2000, Merlyn Harris, Camellia District Arboreta Chair, was talking with Camellia District members at their district meeting. The discussion turned to the long drive from her home in Enigma to Athens. Those garden club friends either didnít want to hear her complaints, or felt like offering a challenge. They suggested that Harris do something about it: start a South Georgia version of the symposium. Harris visited the University of Georgia Tifton Campus, met with Amy Carter, and the rest is history.

Every year the committee, made up of three Camellia District Garden Club members, Chairman Merlyn Harris, Patty Parrish and Mary Phillips, and three UGA staff (Amy Carter, Dana Cheek, and Glenda Gibbs), promotes the symposium through Garden Club events, South Georgia newspapers and television, Georgia Botanical Society, Georgia Native Plant Society, and nearby colleges. In 2008, Georgia Organics and Georgia Certified Landscape Professionals were added in an effort to reach contractors and growers throughout the state. The first South Georgia Native Plant & Wildflower Symposium was planned with great anticipation and anxiety: if we have it, will they come? The answer in 2001, and every year since, has been a resounding Yes!

Eight of the nine years the symposium was held at NESPAL, the meeting room was filled to the 100 seat capacity, with a few late registrants being turned away. (One year there were 90 attendees.) In 2009, the decision was made to take a large leap of faith - move to the Tifton Campus Conference Center for the 2010 event... A wise decision: no one has had to be turned away since!

March 27, 2013 the thirteenth annual symposium was held. The symposium is co-sponsored by the University of Georgia College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences and has been held on the Tifton Campus, home of the Coastal Plain Research Arboretum and National Environmentally Sound Agriculture Laboratory. Over 280 native plant species are growing in the gardens of the Arboretum and the NESPAL landscape. An ideal place for a native plant symposium!

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