Community Spotlight: Eva Tackett
This past April, Carl (AKA Lindy) and Eva Tackett graciously hosted guests of the Smyrna Art & Garden Tour in their yard to experience firsthand the beauty and benefits of native plants. At the tour, Eva Tackett shared printed copies of her story, which has been adapted for this blog in hopes that it will prove a useful resource for others who want to make better choices to support our natural world.
My Garden Story
by Eva Tackett, published 6.8.2022
My husband and I married in 1987 and, in his words, he turned me into a gardening “monster.” We outgrew our tiny, in-town Atlanta yard and moved to Smyrna, his hometown, in 2000.
Our garden evolution has been in three parts.
In the first part, we planted anything that looked pretty. I joked about native plants and called them “native weeds.” However, I am a devoted bird-watcher and I realized there was a connection between birds and the landscape.
The second part began in earnest in 2000 with our new garden in Smyrna. I was in charge of the garden plan for the pasture where we built our house. Planting native trees and shrubs made sense to me since they had evolved with the land and birds to make the landscape that existed here for thousands of years. We planted mostly native trees and shrubs to make shelter and food (nuts and berries, in my mind) for the birds. My husband and I learned a lot from planting over 200 trees and shrubs in that garden to attract birds, bees, and butterflies.
We moved to our current garden in 2015, but the third phase of our garden really began in 2018 when I read an article about the “insect apocalypse” that resonated with me. I remember traveling by car when I was a child and the smashed insects would be so thick on the windshield that it HAD to be cleaned every time the car stopped, but now, a dead bug on the windshield is a rare event. Somewhere in here I had come to understand that almost all birds depended on insect larvae to raise their babies, even when the adult birds are not primarily insect eaters, but I didn’t understand the relationship between native plants and larvae for the birds. The insect loss has been tied to habitat loss, especially in human habitats. This realization caused me to plant more native plants in our third garden.
Fortunately, we were blessed with a small patch of mature woodland behind the house as a great base. We do not have all native plants in my garden (who could have a garden without daylilies and cheerful daisies?), but I am working on replacing the non-native plants that spread rapidly and other non-natives as they die or do not work in the garden. Fortunately, the interest in native plants has grown tremendously in the last 20 years and it is much easier to find them.
How You Can Get Started
So how can you get started? There is a tremendous wealth of information about native plants online and I have listed a few below.
- Ellen Honeycutt’s blog, Using Georgia Native Plants is my number one go to and the blog link below is a great one for briefly explaining why native plants are essential for our ecosystem.
- Another blog from Ellen Honeycutt on getting started with native plants
- The State of Georgia Extension Service has a wealth of information. A great place to start is by reading pages 3 to 5 of this document.
- There are 2 more documents in this series:
- The Georgia Native Plant Society is a great resource and has links to nurseries selling native plants and plant rescue opportunities to take home native plants with sweat equity.
- GNPS has a printable brochure with suggestions for native plants.
So what if you can’t plant a bunch of plants right now? Change some of your garden practices.
- Forgo pesticide use in your yard.
- Remove invasive plants.
- Don’t be a tidy gardener. Leave leaves in your beds, under trees and anywhere else you can – a speaker at a Georgia Native Plant symposium said “they are called leaves because you are supposed to leave them on the ground.” Make piles of dead brush, twigs, fallen tree limbs, and other non-weedy garden waste in an inconspicuous spot to provide homes for overwintering bees and insects.
This book is incredibly insightful, inspirational, helpful, and hopeful: Nature’s Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation that Starts in Your Yard, by Douglas Tallamay
One last thing, if you have room in your garden, plant a native oak. They support hundreds of species (534 known) of native moths and butterflies.