“Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.”
~Frank Lloyd Wright
I am always excited to make connections and converse with a variety of people, especially gardeners and bloggers. So you might guess, that one of my favorite posts is the blogger interviews. Over the past few years, I have had the pleasure of interviewing a number of bloggers, learning so much about them. If you would like to read some of these interviews, you can find them on a new page at the top of this blog. And today I have another wonderful blogger and gardener for you to meet up close.
I met Karin@SouthernMeadows when I started blogging in early 2011. She was one of the first bloggers who came regularly to visit my new blog and comment. One of a number of early supporters, I have always enjoyed my connection with Karin. Our mutual love of wildlife, native plants and gardening has cemented our connection, and continued our journey. And Karin shares these loves with her family, many young folks in her area and loads of gardeners and lovers of nature.
So let’s take a trip down south to Georgia, and meet Karin……..
Karin, for those who don’t know you, please tell us a bit about yourself.
I am a habitat gardener, avid photographer, writer, and native plant advocate. I enjoy cooking and baking, traveling and college football. I am passionate about nature and wildlife and fascinated with insects, snakes, birds, and amphibians. I garden in the Piedmont area of Northeast Georgia (Ecoregion 231, hardiness zone 8a) on 10 acres of red clay with my husband who shares my passion for plants. We have 4 children, 2 grown and making their way in the world and two teens whom we homeschool, three dogs, two golden retrievers and a German Shepherd.
I am a Georgia Master Gardener, Master Naturalist and hold a certificate in Native Plants.
1. I am always interested in how folks got started blogging. So Karin why did you start your blog?
I started Southern Meadows on a whim. I began blogging shortly after we moved back to Georgia (for the 3rd time) to document our trials and tribulations but mostly triumphs growing plants, attracting pollinators and other beneficial insects. However, the blog quickly became more than that. It was a reprieve from the struggle of adapting to small town, rural life as well as a creative outlet and break from my teens and toddlers. Little did I know that the blog would introduce me to gardening friends around the world, who were fellow plant nerds and as crazy about digging in the dirt as I was. It was fulfilling and inspiring.
2. I really enjoy my visits to your blog. What is the significance of your blog’s title?
When it came time to name the blog my first thoughts were of fields of wispy grasses and wild, brightly colored flowers. Meadows are one of my favorite things in nature because they celebrate the abundance and diversity of plant life and support pollinators, birds and beneficial insects. Most wildflowers do best in full sun and directionally that is a south-facing situation. It also reflects where we landed physically for our forever home, in the South. So Southern Meadows was born.
3. Karin, what keeps you blogging, after so many years?
Blogging has certainly had its ups and downs over the past nine years. Some years I blogged more than others. As my life got crazy, homeschooling our youngest boys and keeping up with our ever-expanding gardening space, the blog didn’t always get as much attention as I would have liked. I have so many posts that are waiting to be completed.
As my creative outlet, the interaction with readers, be it on the blog, other social media outlets or in person is incredibly special. I delight in the exchange of thoughts and ideas and without feedback or comments, it’s much like lecturing instead of having meaningful dialog. Since the blog focuses on sharing our experiences and discoveries in the garden it’s exciting to hear from others regarding their similar or not so similar finds. Blogs are just a fantastic way to share knowledge and passions.
4. Oh I couldn’t agree more. So what are some of your creative endeavors or hobbies? And what is your creative process?
Observing wildlife of all kinds be it insects, arachnids, snakes and birds is a favorite pastime. I love getting in their world so I’m often crawling about the garden photographing creatures as they go about their day. It’s another way to see all the details.
The stillness in nature clears my head and gets my creative juices flowing. Sometimes it’s simply going for a walk and getting away from my busy world or pulling weeds in the garden that starts the process of developing a story, a new perspective or artistic angle. Then it’s just a matter of execution.
5. Nature definitely inspires. What projects would you like to pursue next?
For a few years I have be playing around with the idea of developing workshops to complement tours that we do of our garden, maybe a gathering of gardeners interested in a lecture series or roundtable discussions on garden related topics. We are in the process of designing a space on our property to do this, so this dream may soon become a reality.
6. Wow that sounds incredible. I know you enjoy touring gardens and nature preserves. What are some of your favorite spots?
Indeed! Where ever I travel, I always like to spend some time in the natural spaces. One of my favorite places is De Hoge Veluwe National Park outside of Amsterdam, The Netherlands. It is one of the largest nature reserves in the country with heaths and grasslands, forest and sand dunes. What I love about this grand place is that it unites nature and art. It has an amazing diversity of flora and fauna and in the center of the park is the Kroeller Mueller Museum, second home to Vincent Van Gogh.
In the States, one of my favorite public gardens is the Fredrik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I visit every time I return to Michigan to see family. The sculptures that sit in meadows teaming with wildflowers is pure inspiration.
7. Those sound like places I would love to visit. Karin, with your love of travel, what’s one of your favorite destinations? Where would you like to travel next?
Some of my best summer memories are from time spent in the Tuscany and Umbria regions of Italy. The colors and light playing off the rolling hills of the countryside dotted with quaint villages and farms is magical. And the food is some of my favorite. Did I mention the gelato?
One of my more recent travels took me to Utah to the Mighty 5 and I was mesmerized by the rock formations and plant life that grows in that part of Utah. These National Parks are a breathtaking place to meditate and bring perspective to life.
My next travels may take me to Iceland, a tour along the Irish coast or back to the French wine region.
8. I might have to stowaway with you, Karin. Now let me switch gears and ask, what famous person or not so famous person would you like to meet?
I’d love to meet Beatrix Potter. I was raised on her tales of Peter Rabbit and the flopsy bunnies. She was such a trail blazer supporting wildlife in the garden and I admire her pioneering effort preserving farms and land in the Lake District. That part of England just wouldn’t be the same had it not been for her foresight and ambition.
9. She is one of my all time favorite authors too! Karin, what is or would have been your dream career or job?
Had you asked me that thirty years ago, I was living my dream using languages in my career as an editor and translator. Isn’t it amazing how one’s passion can change and grow?
Today, I’m living my dream in the garden. I can’t imagine my life any differently, but if I had to choose another occupation I’d probably own a book/coffee shop. Of course, in today’s world this is a romantic notion as small independent bookshops are vanishing quickly.
10. Indeed they are becoming a thing of the past, sadly. If it is possible to pick a favorite book or song, what would you choose?
Books are much like plants, a constantly growing collection. Most of what I read today is educational or garden related literature. Recently, I enjoyed the horticultural and historic journey in Andrea Wulf’s Founding Gardeners and The Brothers Gardeners. One of my go to non-fiction authors is Peter Mayle who writes on life in Provence, France.
11. I loved Peter Mayle too, and was sad to hear of his recent passing.
Gardening for wildlife is a great passion of yours. Can you tell us how you got started and what inspired you?
When we bought our current home, I planted our first garden to attract butterflies. This soon expanded to supporting other pollinators and insects. I found myself focusing more and more on the lifecycles of insects, needs of birds, spiders, snakes and other critters and creating a sustainable ecosystem. We spent a few years removing ‘builder’ plants from the landscape and replacing them with mostly native plants. We had the opportunity to purchase the adjacent lot and snatched it up. This was an entirely different animal as it was a wooded lot mostly hidden under privet, Japanese honeysuckle and other invasive plants. We began restoring the woods and creating habitat for birds and local wildlife. It was very fulfilling watching this land come alive.
Two years ago, another adjoining lot became available for purchase which included a foundation from construction that was never completed, a large open field as well as a creek from storm water runoff. The combination of these three lots gives us almost 10 acres of shade and sunshine to play on in a rural residential setting. My husband and I joke that we are saving our neighborhood (from invasive plants and impact of construction) one lot at a time. This work has had a profound impact on my outlook toward gardening and sustainable living.
12. As you continue to clear your woods of invasive plants, update us on your progress?
Yes, we continue to constantly clear invasive plants from our property. Sometimes it feels like the work will never end because progress is slow. Basically, we start with an area and just begin working the space pulling, cutting and sawing down these thugs. It’s a lot of manual labor since we want to preserve all the native plants we find and maintain the integrity of the soil and terrain. We really must stay on top of maintaining woodlands and waterways to keep them manageable.
13. Karin, I know I read Youth Gardening is near and dear to your heart. How did you get started?
I have been actively involved in YG for almost 10 years. I first got involved when I became a Georgia Master Gardener. For several years I volunteered at an educational garden where I established a pollinator garden.
Going on eight years now, I have volunteered at a local elementary school, where I established a school garden with raised beds for growing vegetables and pollinator plants. Currently I lead an after-school garden club for 4th and 5th graders. I also teach homeschool classes, Boy Scout gardening merit badge and various other special classes for youth. I think it is critical to get kids interested in the gardening and learn how food grows and what is required to bring in a harvest. There are so many opportunities to teach math, science, and art related subjects in the garden. The wonderful thing about working with youth is that they have such inquisitive minds, are eager to learn and get so excited when they explore gardens.
14. That is incredible, Karin. I would have loved volunteers like you when I was teaching. Is there anything further you want to tell us about, perhaps what might be next for you?
My husband and I have some exciting upcoming projects. We are in the planning stages of a ‘barn’ (more like a workshop and storage space), and greenhouse [on that old foundation]. We’re working at expanding our kitchen garden and establishing an orchard. We’d love to grow enough food to supply some local chefs/restaurants with fresh produce as well as sell at our Southern Meadows market when we get it up and running.
My goodness I am so excited by all of Karin’s projects. She definitely has always inspired and motivated me. I continue to learn from Karin especially about native plants and habitat gardening. And the stewardship of her land is an inspiration. I agree with her that blogs are a great way to ‘share knowledge and passions.’ One of the main reasons, I look forward to these interviews is the connections I make on such a deeper level with amazing, gifted, talented and visionary folks. I hope you enjoyed getting to know Karin a bit more….I know I did!
Please make sure you visit Karin in all the amazing places she hangs out:
- Southern Meadows her amazing blog
- Facebook for latest post links
- Instagram where you can see more of her amazing pictures
- Pinterest to see some amazing pins and boards of her gardens
All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Gardens Eye View, 2010-2018. Photos are the sole property of Karen@Southern Meadows, and their use in this post is by permission of the photographer.