Plant Conference Honoree
BIRMINGHAM BOTANICAL GARDENS
A SPECIAL TRIBUTE TO
JAN ALLETA WINDMILLER MIDGLEY
2015 CENTRAL SOUTH NATIVE PLANT CONFERENCE
This year we offer a special tribute to Jan Alleta Windmiller Midgley, a dedicated native plant and conservation advocate; a native plant propagator extraordinaire; a talented writer of accessible field guides and comprehensive, experience-based plant propagation manuals; a capable photographer; a nursery owner who probably gave away as many plants as were sold; a self-taught botanist and skilled instructor; and a true friend and enthusiastic mentor to native plant devotees and all of those who wish to be.
Jan Alleta Windmiller Midgley was born in St. Paul, Minnesota to Elizabeth Douglass Windmiller and Myrl Eugene Windmiller. Both her parents were graduates of the University of Missouri, with Elizabeth having earned a degree in textiles and fashion and Myrl an undergraduate degree in chemistry. This was quickly followed by a medical degree from the University of Kentucky, and Army service in the European theater of World War II. Shortly thereafter, Jan arrived, helping to kick off the Baby Boom, and joining two older sisters in the growing family. Dr. M. Eugene Windmiller, as he became known, was then in a surgical residency at Anchor Hospital in St. Paul. Later, he would later receive a law degree and become one of the few medical professionals in the US to do so, underscoring the family’s belief in and commitment to higher education.
When Jan was two years old, Dr. Windmiller started a solo practice in surgery after the family moved to Columbia, MO. Their home for several years was a small house on a country property adjacent to her mother’s ancestral home, with a one-room school house next door. If today Jan’s candor and lack of squeamishness are defining parts of her charming demeanor, consider the rural setting for the play of the siblings: three young girls chasing each other around the yard with the fresh head of a chicken on a stick; the same three with noses pressed to the screen of the back door, watching mother killing a rabid skunk in the hen house, admonishing them to stay put; the brother born during an ice storm with mother crawling on the road on the way to the hospital. One can imagine the relief of the parents, if not the disappointment of the children, when the family soon took up residence in town.
Up until the end of her sophomore year in high school, Jan attended local public schools. For her last two years, it was off to Troy, NY, for college prep at the Emma Willard School. Founded in 1814 by Emma Hart Willard, this all-girls school was the first of its kind in the country, providing girls with a curriculum equal to what was available to their brothers, and role models and instruction to encourage independent thought, which it does to this day. Social change was in the air during Jan’s time there, with the struggle for civil rights burgeoning throughout the country, but especially in the south. Jan recalls wanting to go register voters in Mississippi, but being dissuaded by her father who questioned whether the rather limited skill set of a high school senior would be useful for such an important cause.
Practicality was at the root of Jan’s higher education. With two married sisters barely able to support husbands in graduate school, Jan heeded their advice and steered herself into one of the few well-paying career paths that were then available to women: nursing. A degree from the University of Missouri, her parents’ alma mater, resulted after 3.5 years of broad liberal arts studies at Duke University. Marriage, two children and a masters’ degree in nursing from the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor, quickly followed, even as the Vietnam War raged and the turbulent 60s gave way to the Watergate Era. Her then-husband’s career had the young family spending a year in London before returning stateside to the Washington, DC, area where Jan worked one 10-hour shift every Monday at Georgetown University Hospital for the next fourteen years. Nevertheless, the outdoors beckoned; she missed her little garden in Ann Arbor.
ORIGINS OF THE PLANT BUG
Jan Midgley’s maiden name “Windmiller” is from the German “Windmüller,” a name that describes the ancient trade of harnessing wind power to mill grain. Is there a genetic explanation for Jan’s interest in plants and food? If you ask her, there’s no mystery – the answer is an unqualified “Yes!” In the Missouri of her youth, all her relatives were farmers, or gardeners, tending to various food and flowering plants. She recalls that in her home, “we canned more food than a family of six could ever consume.” But even deeply-seated traits often need external stimuli to come forth, and Jan was in the right situation to get some.
It was during graduate work that, in her own words, she “got a bit nuts” and sought some diversion. This took the form of an adult education class in April 1972 at the Matthaei Botanical Garden at the University of Michigan. The instructor was Warren H. (“Herb”) Wagner, esteemed Professor of Biology and recent director of the garden. Jan remembers that he encouraged his students to “jump up and down on bogs and to tramp right on through the fields of rose pogonia.” This seems quite disrespectful by today’s enlightened standards but Wagner’s point was that you learned best about plants by seeing them where they lived naturally – and he advised immersion, or at least getting your feet wet. Also, the behavior of many people with a conservation mindset was simply clouded by what passed – at that time – for superabundance. People, a good number of whom were scientists, dug up plants from the wild, in many places, all the time. When trilliums can be found growing naturally throughout the yards of your suburban neighbors, as Jan saw in Ann Arbor, they aren’t really special until you learn why they are. And by working with her plants in the peat-black Michigan soil, Jan gradually did.
The burgeoning interest in native plants she had nurtured continued to take root in the small, suburban lot in Rockville, MD, that Jan was now gardening in. These initial plants were found at an annual spring fundraising sale supporting scholarships at the Landon School for boys in nearby Bethesda. Soon, around 1982, the volunteer Wildflower Group that orchestrated the native plants section for the school sales was approached by Jan with a question about how one might join in their efforts. Expecting an attendance requirement or similar hurdle, Jan was delighted when the question was greeted with laughter and an encouraging “roll up your sleeves.” Within two years she was the co-leader of the group, under the experienced direction of the late Gretchen Minners. She, along with Ann Kramer, another member of the group, became Jan’s fast friends, among the first of what would be the legion of people that connected to Jan Midgley through native plants.
By this time, Professor Wagner’s conservation ethic had begun to inform Jan’s life and the new leaders of the Wildflower Group laid down their only law: they would grow and sell only plants that were propagated sustainably – no more would they buy, grow or sell wild-collected stock. However, bona fide plant rescues were an exception, and Jan made contacts with local builders and organized posses of wildflower enthusiasts to come in ahead of development, and transplant whatever could be moved before it was summarily bulldozed under. “It was hard work,” Ann muses warmly, “but we were young!”
This kind of work hardly produced sufficient plants for the sales, so learning how to propagate was required, given the “no wild harvesting” mandate. When the school allowed the group the use of an old glass greenhouse they were off and running. So divisions were carefully made and seeds were conscientiously collected in many of the group’s home gardens, and Jan began to learn the nuances of native plant propagation and container culture, including the simple things such as mixing potting soil and how much to irrigate. With her science education providing context and her nursing experience grounding her in the profound art of caring, she quickly became a mine of horticultural knowledge for the group, who were all keen to learn. Whether she understood at the time, Jan had capably and enthusiastically stepped into the role of instructor, a role which she would ably fulfill countless times in the future as her expertise (pardon the puns) grew and blossomed.
Gretchen was a stickler for using botanical names and those would be handwritten on the tags of hundreds upon hundreds of plants the group sold. But for gardeners, names are not enough for successful gardening and the two spent many hours preparing cultural information sheets for everything the group sold. These were initially distributed free to paying customers, but after a short time the variety of plants grown increased and the information provided deepened and the decision was made to sell them. No customers complained about forking over 25¢ for the two-page, doubled-sided handout, densely packed with information.
A key step in her propagation education was learning to germinate seeds in plug trays (and it is for her broad knowledge of seed propagation that Jan is best known). Jan’s good habits of note-making and record-keeping were essential. More and more, her endeavors were trials-and-errors on the path to unlocking the individual puzzles of what each particular plant seed needed to germinate and to grow beyond that. For many species, information was scant, if it existed at all. Successful experiments resulted in the numbers of plants being raised swelling, so it seemed logical to start charging a modest fee for the plugs. What developed naturally and gradually was a small native plant nursery that Jan ran out of her home; she named it Wildflower.
BIGGER THINGS – WARTS AND ALL
When you have a passion for native plants and you operate a native plant nursery called Wildflower, you can be satisfied for a little while by selling them in local plant sales and farmers markets, but eventually you want to meet more fellow enthusiasts (and maybe even attract a few new customers). In 1984 the most popular vehicle to accomplish this goal in the southeastern US was launched: the Cullowhee Native Plant Conference. Western Carolina University, where the annual conference has always been held, and Cullowhee, its namesake town, lie between the Great Smokey and Blue Ridge Mountains, in one of the richest temperate floral zones in the world. Jan Midgley would attend for the first time in 1986 and participate in numerous ways for the next 25 years. She had found her place of comfort and had discovered what many gardeners and others in the world of all things green eventually do. That is that most “plant people” accept all similar devotees, warts and all.
In the early years, the Cullowhee conference was the only native plant conference in the southeast or mid-Atlantic regions with, at times, over twenty-five states being represented by attendees. It was almost immediately successful, such was the demand of the growing community of native plant aficionados and those who wished to be a part of it. The early attendance limit of 350 was boosted to 500 in a relatively short time. Jan was at the heart of its success, along with others including Dick Bir, Leo Collins, Dr. Richard Lighty, Ed McDowell, Ken Moore, Darryl Morrison, Mary Painter and, a bit later, Sandra Sandefur. Officially, Jan would serve on the steering committee for roughly ten years, as program chair for two years and overall chair of the conference for two years. Unofficially, those involved from the start give her broad credit for creating five-star quality programs that quickly set the high bar the conference became (and still is) known for. Her main tools were an enormous notebook and stacks of files with information and feedback on prospective speakers, workshop leaders and field trip guides. It was readily-accessible vetting and the resource grew from year to year. Not to be overlooked was Jan’s vital role in managing the conference and its team of organizers: during her term as director, the event made a tidy profit, which was essential to keeping the fledgling endeavor afloat.
Not limiting herself to behind-the-scenes roles at Cullowhee, Jan was also a presenter. A bit tentatively at first, perhaps, but her skills as a native plant propagator grew along with her confidence in teaching and, soon, she was leading day-long programs that combined verbal instruction, slides and hands-on activities. She tackled field trips as well, a little later on, and of course in most years her fine selection of home-grown stock from Wildflower was offered for sale – complete with all the information Jan had learned about growing it. (The latter was offered enthusiastically, for no extra charge!) The Cullowhee conference stimulated deep and passionate interest in native plants, and attendees often returned home as acolytes. Jan worked alongside these new leaders and was instrumental in establishing satellite conferences at Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Birmingham, AL; Millersville University, Lancaster, PA; and Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacogdoches, TX.
Among the many people who came to admire Jan Midgley and her work at Cullowhee was Dean Clark. His interest – and hers – deepened and a relationship that began “horticultural” became life-changing. Since Dean’s children were still in school, Jan decided to relocate to his home in Alabama, in 1994. With his humorous outlook, his patient knack for getting things done, and his unqualified support for all she did, Dean was just what Jan wanted and needed. And although she didn’t know it at the time, the rich and diverse flora of her new home state would soon offer a big, beautiful bonus.
SHARING PLANTS, KNOWLEDGE & WISDOM
With the move south to Alabama and a larger property, it was time to expand Wildflower – expand being a relative term. As Jan says, “It was always a one-wheelbarrow nursery.” A number of stock plants made the trip from Maryland, but Jan learned quickly what takes many native plant gardeners years to realize: provenance matters. That is, there are regional adaptations within the populations of many plant species across their native ranges. So from early on, more local seed sources were sought for the plants to be grown and offered. Jan utilized and deepened her network of native plant mavens to find them, developing a quick intimacy with many spectacular, unique and unusual local habitats. She also had a keen eye that allowed her to focus on those habitats that were more mundane as well, such as the shoulders of rural roads in south-central Alabama, which provided countless surprises.
Louise “Weesie” Smith (who received Birmingham Botanical Gardens’ tribute in 2013) became a fast friend. Known for her vast native plant knowledge, Weesie’s Mountain Brook, AL, garden was as legendary as her willingness to share plants and the locations of sites where they could be found naturally. Eventually, Wildflower’s stock of choice, shade-loving natives largely came from Weesie, the result of seven years of careful “weeding” every Wednesday morning. None of the plants were weeds in the sense that many people have of that term, but the accepted definition for “weeds” is “plants growing where they are not wanted,” and Weesie had those. So Jan, using Weesie’s tiny dibble, did a lot of path clearing. So heavy was the take at times that one week’s haul would barely be potted up and watered in before the calendar turned and it was Wednesday again. Weesie always advised Jan to inquire before buying a plant or planting it out, saying, “I’ve probably killed two or three of them” so learn from my mistakes. Jan considers herself very lucky to have had Weesie Smith as a mentor and, for all of Jan’s vast knowledge of herbaceous plants, she always aspired to reach Weesie’s expertise with ferns and woody plants as well.
Wildflower was never a typical retail operation, or a mail order source, or a place with internet presence. But if you knew Jan, if you asked, you’d likely get an invitation for a retail-by-appointment visit and so could stop by, get the full tour, and buy as much you could load in your vehicle. Otherwise, to obtain her plants you’d have to attend a conference she was attending (such as Cullowhee, or Macon State College’s (now Middle Georgia State University) annual spring symposium), or buy from one of the select retail outlets Jan supplied (such as Billy Angel’s Oak Street Garden Shop, Mountain Brook, AL). Plant sales at Aldridge Botanical Gardens, Hoover, AL, and Ruffner Mountain Nature Center, Birmingham, AL, also featured Wildflower plants. For as many years as she’s been in Alabama, a broad selection of her stock could be found in the “Natives Booth” at Birmingham Botanical Gardens’ Spring Fiesta, later re-named Spring Plant Sale, and Fall Plant Sale. Innumerable local gardeners will remember getting assistance from Jan – who, with Dean, always volunteered at the sales as well – plant-in-hand, as she easily explained how to be successful with it. Of course she knew: she had grown it.
Once you have figured out how to propagate and grow plants that lie outside the mainstream of horticulture (which, during much of this time, many native plants were); and you’ve managed to obtain hearty, local provenance, collected sustainably; and you’ve amassed mountains of data about all of it, the natural next step is to share your knowledge – and your plants – widely. And if you’ve got a huge, willing and gracious, sharing heart as Jan does, you do this without the expectation of more than token remuneration, if any at all. It is not possible to list all of the presentations, lectures, slide shows, PowerPoint talks, workshops, field trips and other classes and programs that Jan Midgley has given. Nor is it possible to describe more than generically the range of her topics (garden-worthy natives, underused natives, spring wildflowers, fall wildflowers, natives to accompany ferns, natives for wildlife habitats, the Asteraceae, medicinal plants, plant communities, and of course, propagation of all types). Nor is it possible to list all of the plant species Wildflower has sold (there was never a formal catalog, to provide even a snapshot). Nor can a roll call be given of all of the places where Jan has presented, been a program consultant, sold plants, given away plants, and offered consultations. So it will have to suffice to say that if you wanted her advice, or asked her to teach a class, or needed her to sell plants to draw attendees to your event, her station wagon (later, a mini-van) would arrive, often full of first-rate goodies to sell, and you’d get far more value than you paid for – again, if you paid at all. Indeed, the native plant areas at Birmingham Botanical Gardens, including the Barber Alabama Woodlands and, especially, the Kaul Wildflower Garden, now contain many thousands of Wildflower wildflowers, a great many of which were donated.
At the State Botanical Garden of Georgia, interest in native plants began to reach a groundswell in 2000, and Jan Midgley helped to solidify the programmatic piece and hone the propagation angle. For a while, the “commute” from rural Wilsonville, AL, to Athens, GA, was almost automatic for Jan. There she not only taught specific seed- and cutting propagation techniques for specific plants, but conveyed her message in a much broader, yet keener, sense. Jennifer Ceska, Conservation Coordinator, remembers how Jan taught “us how to study propagation through intelligent tinkering and careful notation of what we observed.” Too often, propagation manuals and textbooks fall back on generic procedures, with advice such as: sow seeds outdoors in the fall and seeds will germinate in the spring. In stark contrast, Jan dug into the finer points: when to collect the seeds, what the fruit looks like for this species when it’s ripe, how to harvest the seed, how to store it, when to sow it, and how to treat seeds, the seedlings, and growing-out plants. Jennifer’s admiration continues, “I totally borrowed her language for teaching and have since shared her words with hundreds of adult learners, conservation professionals, college students, and children. Jan has always shared her knowledge and experience freely and joyfully.” She was a conservation biologist ahead of her time, and learned about native plants and their ecological communities through doing in many cases, and some years before universities turned towards similar work. Jennifer considers Jan more than just a leader, teacher, and muse, and casts her alongside a well-known preservation proponent. “Jan is one of our ‘Ladybirds,’ instrumental changing plant conservation in the southeast.”
The gardens of Jan Midgley’s friends and fellow native plant enthusiasts offer additional testaments to her generosity of spirit and plants. Before moving to Alabama, much of the Wildflower inventory was given to friend Sally Kurtz, owner of Waterways Nursery, Lovettsville, VA, to continue the production of natives in addition to her own line of aquatic plants. Dick Bir, retired Extension Horticultural Specialist with North Carolina State University, recalls the time he was speaking at a workshop on a hillside in north Georgia and Jan walked up to say “I have something for you.” It was an Alabama snow wreath (Neviusia alabamensis), which still grows in his garden. “I had no memory of ever mentioning my desire to have the plant – Jan not only remembered but brought me a gift of that plant from Birmingham.”
Sandra Sandefur, owner of the native-friendly Dogwood Knoll Design studio, received a gift of spring beauty (Claytonia virginica) years ago. “That leftover flat has become huge drifts in my garden and meadow.” Sandra also points out a purple-stemmed Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) originally from MD; a mature yellowwood (Cladrastis kentuckea) and Ashe magnolia (Magnolia ashei), both originally from 1’ tall seedlings; and a veritable carpet of Canadian ginger (Asarum canadense), the result of a few divisions Jan liberated from Weesie Smith’s paths.
Kris Blevons, manager at Oak Street Garden Shop, has always admired Jan and her incredible knowledge of plants and propagation methods. As she has gotten to know her better “over the years, initial feelings of awe have changed to admiration and deep respect.” Kris practically worships the black cohosh (Actaea racemosa) in her garden from Wildflower, and has collected seed from it for Jan, to preserve its provenance. At the start, this was not without some trepidation in the shadow of the expert that Jan is. “I had never been so anxious to do something right! I even texted her pictures of it in various stages.” The reply, sent as an aside while Jan and Dean were on vacation out West, was a step-by-step, how-to manual for treating the seed of that species.
Arnie Rutkis, owner of Stoneshovel, formerly in Birmingham, AL, was a loyal customer and avid student. “Jan was always generous with her time and knowledge, and her craft with plants is top-notch while being rooted in the ethics of conservation and sustainable propagation. She inspired me to learn more and go beyond my basic knowledge of natives.” Jan supplied – and donated – many native plants that were used in public plantings called Ecoscapes that Arnie helped build around Birmingham.
The home garden of Fred Spicer, Executive Director and CEO of Birmingham Botanical Gardens, and partner interior designer Kim McBride, is populated with a number of Wildflower selections. Among their favorites are a superb dwarf seedling strain of red columbine (Aquilegia canadensis), from MD provenance; Mohr’s Barbara’s buttons (Marshallia mohrii); and the stately and beautiful Alabama delphinium (Delphinium alabamicum). Fred readily admits to taking Kim on a plant-buying date to Wildflower soon after they met.
Another way of sharing is of course by writing and Jan Midgley is the author of a number of go-to publications about the southeast’s native herbaceous plants, and their ecology, culture, care and propagation. The first impetus to write for larger audiences was perhaps Jan’s good friend Carole Ottesen, a popular author who has written broadly about horticulture, ornamental grasses, and other plants. (Many consider The Native Plant Primer: Trees, Shrubs, and Wildflowers for Natural Gardens, Carole’s 1995 book, an early seminal work in the genre.). Jan would travel with Carole on her visits around the southeast collecting information for her books and Carole suggested that Jan might compile a source book of nurseries that specialized in natives. Since their travels seemed to always include nursery visits, Jan took her advice and self-published one until the internet eclipsed the need for a written guide. For about a dozen years, Leo Collins, one of the founders of the Cullowhee conference, edited and published a quarterly newsletter called Native Notes; for most of the issues an article by Jan on a specific species of native plant was featured. After that publication wound down, similar articles were produced for about five years for Woodland Gardener, a small publication compiled in Potomac, MD.
In 1996, Jan was approached about writing a small book about southeastern wildflowers. Having the previous writing experience, she felt she had the chutzpah – not to mention the reams of records, kept faithfully over the years – to do it. Any species featured had to occur in seven southeastern states, as the publisher planned to market the book separately in each. The original plant information, gleaned from experience, turned out to be the easy part; harder was the eight-page requirement on each state’s physical geography, which required significant research sometimes obtained from unreliable sources. One effort included the description of a certain natural area that readers might visit to observe a particular habitat. The information had come from a popular hiking book but was promptly red-penned by the editor with the note, “... a good example but not in this state.” At that point Jan recalled thinking, “Just shoot me now before this gets more painful!”
Fortunately, there were many friends in the pertinent states, mostly Cullowhee connections, and their heavy editing made the final products much more well-rounded, not to mention factually accurate. Southeastern Wildflowers, crafted in a friendly-to-use and easy-to-read field guide format for Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Mississippi, and Louisiana, made Jan Midgley’s name much more widely known. It has since become a standard reference, a perfect introduction to some of the southeast’s most common, beautiful and relatively undemanding-in-the-garden favorites. Jan also supplied most of the excellent photographs found within. But when the same publisher suggested several years later that she tackle Florida, Jan mused, “With with all those tropical species...no way!”
Native Plant Propagation, was self-published by Jan Midgley in July 2006, and has been updated in two subsequent editions. This is the culmination of roughly twenty years of personal experience (and boxes of notes that were produced along the way) with seed collection, storage, cleaning, pre-treatment and germination, and methods for successfully making stem and root cuttings. The work represents what Jan has found to be the most successful methods of reproducing various species of native plants; it is exhaustively focused on, but not limited to, herbaceous species. Jan explains her approach this way: “When I think I have improved a technique, when I germinate a new species, when I prove myself wrong, I make a note in green ink in my working copy of the manual so I can improve the next edition. Nothing lights my fire more than playing with the seeds of a species I have never tried to germinate previously.”
Such a niche publication is hardly the great American novel. Nevertheless its impact has been profound among its audience, and its influence meaningful. Dick Bir relates the following: “A few months ago while talking with a friend in Pennsylvania, who is a Fellow in the International Plant Propagators Society, he mentioned something and referred to Jan’s book...how many authors of propagation texts include original information that you trust? I trust Jan and so do those who know her. She questions information and draws logical conclusions based on what she considers sound.” Rick Lewandowski, Director of Shangri La Botanical Gardens and Nature Center, Orange, TX, adds, “One of my most treasured references remains Jan’s self-published book, Native Plant Propagation. Jan has a keen, almost intuitive understanding of how to propagate and grow native plants. Her counsel and advice over the years has ensured my success with some of the most difficult-to-grow species.”
WHAT YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW (TIDBITS FROM VARIOUS ANONYMOUS CONTRIBUTORS)
- Jan Midgley is my guru to tap for information about plants, seeds, and cuttings of native plants, particularly in Alabama.
- On one of my first “field trips” Jan led a small group to the Bibb County Glades [in Alabama]. I was not only astounded by the diversity there, but of her intimate knowledge of it. She also admonished us to be extremely careful about where we stepped, as most of our subjects were quite small. I was immediately taken by her strong conservation ethic...and was really careful! Now I always am.
- I assumed from her neat, almost studious appearance that she was extremely serious and fastidious. While that is slightly true, it doesn’t begin to take into account her great sense of humor and fun. She has the rare ability to laugh at herself.
- Despite not having any formal taxonomic training, Jan can work a plant key better than many Ph.D.s that I know.
- In spite of her vast knowledge, she has never lost a sense of discovery (as anyone who has heard her blood-curdling shriek upon the discovery of a rare species on a plant walk will attest).
- I remember and cherish many moments with Jan, but not all are suitable for public consumption. You can quote me on that.
- Jan is simply one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. And, be careful, her wit is as sharp as a razor, too!
- She is the most knowledgeable plant person we know. She is kind, smart, funny, sweet, loving, caring, and quiet-spoken. Jan is a person we feel most fortunate to be able to call a friend.
- Jan’s reputation as a knowledgeable field trip leader is exemplary. She seems to know the locations of most rare plant species in the southeast.
- One time, on a collection trip deep in the woods, Jan needed to relieve herself. She did so in a place where a male person in our party might easily have observed her. When I chided her, she said, "I'd rather moon the whole world than get poison ivy on my backside."
A FINAL NOTE FROM JAN
As I wind down my nursery business, I am finally able to garden on my own property...I hesitate to say we have gardens. Dean says I am re-wilding the property. I do a lot of seedling tree removal, leaving the individuals I think will be good as a next generation. I gradually add the understory layer, which was sorely lacking on our property. Historically, this land was used to produce charcoal for the steel industry, and hogs roamed the woods freely rooting out every tasty rhizome. I note that our bird population is getting larger and more diverse so I think I am headed in the right direction.
Thanks to the following for providing information: Dick Bir, Kris Blevons, Jennifer Ceska, Ann Kramer, Rick Lewandowski, Ed McDowell, Jan Midgley, The Natives Group (at Birmingham Botanical Gardens), Carole Ottesen, Arnie Rutkis, Sandra J. Sandefur, Fred Spicer.
American Gardener feature on Weesie Smith from 2016