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Gardeners Find Gold in Cobb County

A search for botanical riches may yield discoveries in your own back yard.

A historical marker on County Services Parkway serves as a reminder of how the 1828 discovery of gold in Georgia affected Cobb County.

Four years after the ensuing gold rush, Cobb parceled out 40-acre gold lots as part of the 1832 Georgia Land Lottery. Although miners are long gone, county gardeners have found another source of gold—one that brightens their landscapes.

Since 1994, Georgia Gold Medal Plants have rewarded gardeners with botanical riches instead of mineral riches. Plant winners are selected because of their superior performance in our climate and soil. Many nursery and garden-center plants have instant eye appeal, but they leave many gardeners disappointed with their rapid decline after planting.

For easy-to-grow plants that require minimal maintenance with improved survivability benefits, Cobb gardeners strike it rich with these gold standards:

  • A tree that epitomizes old-South charm is the large and stately Southern Magnolia. Unfortunately, not all Cobb residents have sweeping expanses of lawn that can accommodate the size of a mature magnolia. A 2000 Gold Medal winner provides us with a beautiful alternative—the Little Gem magnolia. Magnolia grandiflora ‘Little Gem’ offers all the beauty of its larger cousin in a smaller package, reaching a mature height of only 20 feet.
  • Many perennials that are native to Cobb County, such as swamp hibiscus (Hibiscus coccineus) and bottlebrush buckeye (Aeschulus parviflora), give unique touches to otherwise cookie-cutter landscape designs. Contrary to its name, swamp hibiscus does not require bog cultivation although it thrives on poorly draining sites where other plants cannot survive. Brilliant red pinwheel-shaped flowers grow on stems that reach heights of 5 to 6 feet in a single season.
  • In Cobb County, white flower spikes of bottlebrush buckeye start blooming when baby ruby-throated hummingbirds leave the nest. Nectar-laden flowers provide a food source for baby hummers and butterflies. Shady yards are perfect habitats for this understory shrub.
  • Improved cultivars of other native plants, such as purple beautyberry (Callicarpa dichotoma) and Amethyst Falls wisteria (Wisteria frutescens ‘Amethyst Falls’), paint colorful splashes in landscapes. Purple beautyberry is aptly named. Mid-summer flowers give rise to late-season vivid purple berries that cover the arching stems of this shrub.
  • Most people don’t know Cobb County has a native wisteria vine. Plant a Japanese or Chinese wisteria and it will take over your landscape, choking everything in its path. Amethyst Falls wisteria, a cultivar of our native wisteria, exhibits a more polite growth habit and bears fragrant lavender flower clusters.

Gold Medal winners include plants in different categories, such as annuals, perennials, shrubs, trees, vines, groundcovers and natives. You can choose from a rainbow of color choices and a variety of plant types to customize your Cobb County landscape. You’ll also find many solutions to the plant selection choices that have failed you in the past.

As a 2004-2005 Cobb County member of the Georgia Gold Medal Plant Selections Committee, I was elected to chair the Committee in 2005-2006. Please visit the Georgia Gold Medal website for a complete listing of all the winners since 1994, along with color photos and compute cultural requirements of the plants. The Cobb County gold rush continues.

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