A website from UGA Cooperative Extension

by Jane Walsh, Fulton County Master Gardener Extension Volunteer

This article is part of Garden Buzz, a series from Appen Media and the North Fulton Master Gardeners, where rotating columnists explore horticulture topics like herbs, insects, and wildlife conservation. Find all Garden Buzz articles here.

Tucked away in the lush woodlands of historic Roswell, Georgia, lies an elegant home with a rich history, built by the Smiths, one of Roswell’s founding families. In 1838, the Smith family, along with 30 of their enslaved individuals, left behind two struggling plantations on the Georgia coast to start anew with 300 acres of cotton farmland north of the Roswell Square. Their home, crafted by the hands of enslaved labor in 1845, has been preserved through three generations of the Smith family and now stands as a museum open to the public.

Over the span of 160 years, the Archibald Smith Plantation weathered the passage of time, remaining steadfast as the once-small mill village of Roswell transformed into a thriving metropolitan suburb. The Smiths’ two-story farmhouse, meticulously preserved, stands alongside various outbuildings, including servants’ quarters, a cookhouse, a smokehouse, a corn crib, a barn, a carriage house, a well, and a spring house.

Top left: Master gardeners working at the Smith Plantation; Top middle: Path down to the stream with stone benches; Top right: Eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly with Asclepias tuberosa; Middle: Red cardinal flowers and ferns; Bottom left: A goldfinch with echinacea and rudbeckia; Bottom middle: The Archibald Smith Plantation Home, a historic house in Roswell, Georgia; Bottom right: A common button bush with an Eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly on it.

Since August 14, 2001, the Archibald Smith Plantation Home has been an official demonstration project of the North Fulton Master Gardeners and UGA Extension Fulton County. Located in the heart of Roswell at 935 Alpharetta Street, this eight-acre former terraced cotton plantation, with the Smith Home and its surrounding grounds, stands as an exceptional example of architectural, cultural, and historical interpretation in the region. The primary focus of the Master Gardener project has been the restoration and maintenance of approximately two acres of native woodland adjacent to the main house. This area encompasses a spring, the original stone Spring House, and two streams. NFMG volunteers have been dedicated to replanting and preserving this woodland.

Over time, non-native trees, shrubs, bulbs, and flowering plants had either invaded or been intentionally introduced to the woodland. Consequently, the project’s ultimate goal is to have the woodland certified by the Georgia Native Plant Society, earning the Gold Native Plant Habitat Award. To date, the site has achieved the Silver Native Plant Habitat Award from GNPS.

After more than twenty years of devoted work, the area now features well-maintained stone-lined pathways, a labyrinth, and an array of native plants, shrubs, and ferns. Several stone benches provide peaceful spots for reflection. Volunteer activities span a wide spectrum, from planting new native species to weeding, watering, and tending to existing plantings. The project also involves the cleaning and upgrading of the stream banks, the rejuvenation/restoration of stream bridges, and the monitoring of the historical stone wall on the far side of the Spring, which was initially restored by a Master Gardener.

Be sure to keep an eye out for the changing landscape at the Smith Plantation Home. Season by season, you can expect to encounter a delightful array of native plants and flowers that grace the woodland with their natural beauty. Our goal is to reduce the number of exotic plants at Smith Plantation Home. Exotic plants are plants native to other regions and countries, and not native to the southeastern United States. Their introduction can be inconsequential/pretty at best and devastating at worst. Privet and kudzu are just two of many examples of how exotics can crowd out beneficial native plants. Exotic plants can be food for our native fauna but are a poor substitute for the wildlife’s normal nutritional needs. 

The primary goal for the work at Archibald Smith Plantation is to reintroduce and restore native flora to the site. Bringing in native southeastern U.S. plants to this lovely, relaxing spot in downtown Roswell helps educate visitors of the importance of native plants and their crucial role in sustaining native flora and fauna.  This endeavor supports migrating birds and pollinators on their journey through our area. Many birds and butterflies need high calorie plants and berries native to our area to make the long journey.  

At Smith Plantation, our commitment to preserving the natural ecosystem is evident in our extensive collection of native trees and perennial plants. Among our carefully chosen selections are various trees, shrubs, ferns, and a diverse array of forbs. Notably, forbs, defined as herbaceous flowering plants excluding grasses, sedges, and rushes, play a crucial role in enhancing the biodiversity of our landscape.

Our tree varieties include big leaf magnolias, red buckeyes, bottlebrush buckeyes, and painted buckeyes. Additionally, we have incorporated a range of viburnums, beautyberries, buttonbushes, native azaleas, Itea virginica, and sweet shrubs into our plantation woodland garden.

Fostering a rich fern population, we have introduced native species such as Christmas fern, pink lady fern, Northern maidenhair fern, royal fern, cinnamon fern, Southern chain fern, and marginal wood fern. Complementing these, our forb selection encompasses blue-eyed grass, Monarda, Chelone, Iris virginica, Iris cristata, mountain mint, Rudbeckia hirta, Echinacea purpurea, Lobelia cardinalis, Asclepias tuberosa, and Asclepias incarnata.

We are delighted to report numerous successes in our efforts to cultivate a thriving and diverse plant community that reflects the beauty and resilience of native flora. Visitors are welcome to explore the grounds and gardens at their leisure during daylight hours. The Archibald Smith Plantation Home and its outbuildings are open on the following schedule: Wednesday – Saturday: 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM and Sunday: 1:00 – 4:00 PM. Please note that the site is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. For additional details, please visit Roswell’s Historic House Museums webpage.

Happy native plant gardening!

About the Author

This week’s guest Master Gardener “Garden Buzz” columnist is Roswell resident Jane Walsh, a Master Gardener since 2012. She is a licensed RN and certified Massage therapist practicing Craniosacral therapy, Neural Reset therapy, and massage therapy. Her hobbies are staying healthy with Pilates, bicycling, hiking in North Georgia and encouraging the planting of native plants in Roswell’s parks, government green spaces, and private homes.

North Fulton Master Gardeners, Inc. is a Georgia nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization whose purpose is to educate its members and the public in the areas of horticulture and ecology in order to promote and foster community enrichment.  Master Gardener Volunteers are trained and certified by The University of Georgia Cooperative Extension. Learn more at nfmg.net

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