Savannah Lakes Village resident Yvonne Morris is focusing on the significance of native plants in her role as president of the Garden Club of South Carolina.
The president’s project is called “Native Plants: Sustaining Our Wildlife Habitats from the Backyard to the Botanical Garden.”
The project has a catchy slogan: Plant N.I.C.E. (Natives Instead of Common Exotics).
“Gardeners have become important players in the management of our nation’s wildlife and must realize the importance of native plants in our yards and gardens,” said Yvonne, who is a retired South Carolina public school educator. “We can no longer relegate nature to our parks and preserves. We can no longer replace native vegetation and trees with foreign or exotic plants.”
Yvonne learned quickly that deer do not prefer the native plants she has in her yard.
“Before, I used to buy those lovely exotic ornamentals from the local plant supply stores,” she said. “The deer would feast on my daylilies and hydrangeas. Now they walk by my native azaleas and native perennials. I have many bees and butterflies thriving in the yard. I even see earthworms and ladybugs. The Japanese beetles do not even visit anymore.”
Yvonne said North American native plants are disappearing because of development, agribusiness and chemical application – and the centuries-old love affair with alien or exotic plants. This results in loss of wildlife habitat, erosion, reduced genetic diversity, and a disconnection of people to the land, she said. When native plants are replaced with nonnatives (exotics or aliens), this produces a landscape susceptible to pests and diseases. Beneficial insects, birds, butterflies, and bees cannot feed off nonnatives because their leaf chemistry differs from the native plants they need to make proteins, Yvonne explained.
“Greatly reducing the lawn or by planting natives grasses, the homeowner can conserve water,” Yvonne said. “In fact, it is not necessary to have an irrigation system with native plants.”
She said to choose species based on soil, light, and water conditions of your site – and use mulch around plants. The critical watering needs of newly planted species are two to three weeks after planting.
“Seek native species in nurseries and ones that grow together naturally,” Yvonne said. “Ask your local nurseries to stock native plants.”
A native plant is any plant that historically grew in North America. A plant can only function as a true native when it is interacting with the community that helped shape it.
“We need native plants for biodiversity,” Yvonne notes. “We need native plants to sustain our wildlife habitats from the backyard to the botanical garden.”
Yvonne said it is biodiversity that generates oxygen and clean water, creates topsoil out of rock, buffers extreme weather, pollinates our crops and recycles the garbage we create.
“Native plants are all around us,” she said. “When I see bulldozers striping our lots of every tree and vegetation, I just cry.”
Homeowners should not cut down all trees on their property, Yvonne cautions. They should reduce their lawns and include more natural areas. If they have done this, then they can reestablish native plant communities on their property. A native landscape not only reduces water consumption, but it provides a home for beneficial insects, birds, butterflies, and bees. Yvonne said homeowners need to assess their property’s environmental conditions and match native species to site condition, as well as personal preference.
“Keep in mind that a landscape complements the house,” she said. “You want the landscape to enhance your home.”
Native plants in the SLV area can include: flowering dogwood, purple coneflower, American wisteria, coreopsis, black-eyed Susan, eastern columbine, butterfly milkweed, narrow leaf sunflower, rosemallow, wild hydrangea, phlox, wild azaleas, lemon beebalm, bergamot, red maples, sugar maple, pines, birch, hickory magnolia, white fringe tree, wax myrtles, trumpet creeper vine, and Carolina jessamine.
For a complete list of native plants for South Carolina, see:
Yvonne’s presidential project goals are to:
- Educate members and the public of the importance of native plants in our ecosystems and their restoration to our gardens
- Increase the popularity of growing native plants
- Create awareness of the impact of individual gardeners
- Develop partnerships with the South Carolina native Plant Society (SCNPS) and the State Botanical Garden (SCBG) to promote public understanding of our state’s heritage plants; to sustain our native wildlife habitats from the backyard to the botanical garden; and to host with the SCNPS a GCSC Native Plant Symposium in 2016 at our SCBG
- Partner with Riverbanks Botanical Garden, our GCSC Headquarters, in contribution for the GCSC Native Plant Garden in the Interactive Youth Garden (currently under construction with completion date of winter 2015) and to hold 2016 and 2017 Youth Symposiums there
- Engage a GCSC Botanical Advisor/Native Plant Expert
- Develop criteria for naming a “SC Native Plant of the Year” in 2016 and 2017 and have GCSC clubs complete nomination application. (Winning club will receive $250. Plant will be featured on our website and will be planted in the GCSC Native Plant Garden at Riverbanks Botanical Garden.)
- Establish distinguished honorary memberships for noted South Carolina botanists, naturalists, writers, artists, and philanthropists who support our love of gardening
After years of public school service, Yvonne tried to play golf in retirement but her heart wasn’t in it. She always loved gardening, so she joined the McCormick Garden Club in 2008.
After serving as president of the McCormick Garden Club from 2009-11, she became co-director for West Piedmont District from 2011-13. There are seven districts in the Garden Club of South Carolina (GCSC). District directors and co-directors are GCSC board members. She has served in a variety of roles with the GCSC, including first vice president. This past September she became president-elect; and, in December she ascended to the office of president for the remainder of this term. She is the incoming president for the 2015-17 term.
Yvonne said she’s always had a love for flowers. She recalls that, as a child, while living in Germany, she spent a great deal of time with her grandparents, who had flower gardens and vegetable gardens. Her grandfather grew roses and sunflowers, and her grandmother grew radishes, lettuces, and tomatoes. There were cheery trees and apple trees, and there was “nothing better than fresh-picked cherries!” she said.
When Yvonne grew up in Conway, S.C., her mother grew roses and azaleas. They visited Brookgreen Gardens frequently. When Yvonne was grown and lived in Summerville, S.C., she volunteered for the Middleton Place Foundation for seven years as a garden interpreter.
“That was one of the best experiences I ever had,” she said. “My husband and I have travelled extensively in Canada, the Caribbean, and Europe throughout our 28 years of marriage and, somehow, we always managed to include a visit to a botanical garden.”
Of all the gardens she has visited, she loves Monet’s garden in Giverny, France the most.
“I want to visit the famous gardens of England and still many more in Germany, France, and Italy,” Yvonne said.
She loves gardening so much that she even paints flowers and landscapes. She will be working on painting flowers and native plant scapes from the South Carolina Botanical Garden in Clemson. She also wants to paint some flowering and natural Savannah Lakes Village scapes in the coming years.
As we think about the native landscape in our own back yards, we are grateful for the natural, authentic lands that encompass and surround Savannah Lakes Village, from the Easter red cedar to the Palmetto azalea to centuries-old oak trees to the Southern loblolly pines. There is great beauty in everything we see around the Village.
Yvonne provided a list of resources for those who wish to learn more about native plants and gardening:
South Carolina Native Plant Nurseries: http://scnps.org/education/links/
South Carolina Native Plant Society http://scnps.org/
Links to other native plant websites: http://scnps.org/education/links/
Clemson University Extension Service
A Guide to the Wildflowers of South Carolina by Richard Dwight Porcher and Douglas Alan Rayner
Bringing Nature Home by Douglas W. Tallamy