Native plants should be used for streamside restoration

Credit: Walter Reeves

Credit: Walter Reeves

Q: I am Stormwater Coordinator for the city of Doraville. We are planning a restoration along a stream in Bernard Halpern Park. Your “Shrubs for Damp Soil” webpage says that we should only use plants native to the region. Why? Aazia Taylor, email

A: Georgia’s beaches, rivers, creeks and lakes are critical for preserving biodiversity. Native plants, as opposed to nonnative plants, support pollination, nectar gathering, seed dispersal, feeding, and many other activities that are vital to local fauna. Nonnative plants might supply some of these things, but it is not guaranteed. Nonnative plants might be so vigorous that they overrun the natives. Restoring a patch of native plant habitat, like you’re doing, means that it becomes part of a larger living landscape for local birds and other animals. I have a good list of native plants that tolerate damp soil at

Q: Having visited Italy several times, my wife and I wonder if their lovely stone pine trees would be compatible with the climate here. Tim Bailey, email

A: Your question immediately brought a memory of sitting with friends enjoying a beer at a small outdoor cafe in Positano. There were six lovely stone pines, Pinus pinea, lined up about 50 yards in front of us, perfectly outlined against the waters of the Tyrrhenian Sea beyond. “Walter,” I said to myself, “you are one lucky guy. You could be a 60-year-old bachelor chicken farmer if things had happened differently.” The stone pine is a prominent part of our travel memories, but I’m afraid that is where they must stay. They tolerate temperatures common to Zone 8 (South Georgia), but chilly, wet winters are absolutely lethal. This is a Mediterranean plant; it wants dry, cold weather in winter. My recommendation? Buy a bag of pine nuts, point your feet toward a toasty fire, pour yourself a beverage of your choice, close your eyes, and dream.

Q: It appears that my zoysia sod is coming out of dormancy too soon. If we get a few consecutive days of freezing weather, will it kill or damage the established grass? Michael Hoffman, Fulton County

A: Low temperatures after a spring warm spell might cause grass tips to turn brown, but they certainly wouldn’t kill the grass. Zoysia is very fickle about when it turns green. Much depends on soil temperatures, but slow greenup might also be caused by applying nitrogen too early (soil temps need to be 65 degrees or higher). It could be previous year misapplications of fertilizer or herbicides. And yes, unpredictable and irregular weather patterns can wreak havoc with greenup. In some years, zoysia grass won’t be completely green until June.

Email Walter at Listen to his occasional garden comments on “Green and Growing with Ashley Frasca” Saturday mornings on 95.5 WSB. Visit his website,, or join his Facebook page at for his latest tips.