Students from Arlingon School spend time in the Bruno Vegetable Garden
Gardener Amanda Clark taught Arlington School students about high density planting or companion planting today. The students helped planting in the Bruno Vegetable Garden.
Executive Director Fred Spicer and Kaul Wildflower Garden Curator John Manion lead native plant preview
On Wednesday, Executive Director Fred Spicer and Kaul Wildflower Garden Curator John Manion led plant enthusiasts on a native plant preview through the lath houses at The Gardens. Fall Plant Sale customers were treated to an opportunity to see many of the things that will be available for purchase at this weekend’s sale.
Fall Plant Sale is the second largest plant sale of the year at The Gardens. This Saturday and Sunday, Blount Plaza will host an array of natives, annuals, perrienials, vegetables, trees, shrubs, herbs, irises, daylilies, ferns, camellias and more. Saturday, the sale will open to the public from 9 – 5 p.m. and on Sunday, from noon – 4 p.m. Admission is free.
Proceeds from plant sales at The Gardens benefit its educational programs including the flagship, Discovery Field Trips. Over the last decade, Discovery Field Trips has provided a free, curriculum-based science education to nearly 100,000 Birmingham schoolchildren.
For more information about Fall Plant Sale, including a partial list of inventory available, visit www.bbgardens.org/fallplantsale.
Fall Gardening with Straw Bales: Innovative Way to Grow Your Fall Garden Plants
Last Saturday, Master Gardener Su Reid-St. John and her daughter Zoie demonstrated the fun and innovative way to grow your fall vegetables. Straw bale gardening is a fun and productive way to grow your greens that will have you the talk of the neighborhood (in good fashion of course).
Straw bale gardening has a number of benefits and a few restrictions. Straw bales provide a convenient method to raise the grade of your growing area and reduce the loss of plants to excessive water due to wet areas and/or poor soil. Straw bales also provide a near disease free growing media for your plants if you have difficulty with soil borne diseases. In addition, straw bales are also great for limited spaces in your landscape.
The downside to straw hay bale gardening is the constant need to monitor your plants for moisture content. If you plan a holiday more than a few days, you will need someone to water your plants. With such a large exposed surface area, straw bales will dry out quickly as weather warms and precipitation decreases. You will also need to anchor the bales well or stake
tall growing plants as they grow to prevent them from falling over.
Straw bale gardening is an interesting experiment and worth the investment for those who have difficulty growing in wet areas, poor soils or lack of natural space. However, proper preparation and routine watering is essential for success
Check out Su Ried’s video demonstration from Bonnie Plant http://bonnieplants.com/library/how-to-condition-and-plant-a-straw-bale/
Please join us on Saturday, November 9th for another Get into The Gardens Innovative Gardening demonstration. Check the website and follow us on Facebook for more information.
A Weed Worth Extra Effort
guest blogger: Betsy Fleenor, Native Plant Group
Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberose) is one of the most important butterfly plants you can have in your garden. Not only do their bright orange flowers attract a wide variety of butterflies, but milkweeds are the only host plants for the Monarch butterfly. Upon hatching, Monarch caterpillars must eat the leaves of milkweed plants or starve to death.
Milkweeds used to be abundant in fields and along roadsides. But the increasing loss of their habitat – coupled with herbicide spraying along roadsides, has caused numbers to decline just when Monarchs are really struggling.
According to Monarch Watch*, the three lowest overwintering populations of Eastern Monarchs on record have been recorded in the last 10 years.
How can we help? By planting milkweeds in our yards. Their presence gives the remaining Monarchs a chance to successfully complete their life cycle while brightening and beautifying our gardens.
This is where the Birmingham Botanical Gardens Native Plant Group comes into play. As the volunteer group growing the native plants offered at the plant sales, this is a plant we need to feature. We always have some to sell, but only in limited numbers. This is because butterfly milkweed loves summer.
At the April sale, the plants haven’t emerged from the ground. In order to hurry them along they must be forced in the greenhouse. But we have had limited success with this method. To get them looking good in April is quite problematic. Milkweeds don’t like to be rushed. They also have a tendency to rot over the winter when in pots.
No problem – we’ll sell them at the fall sale. Unfortunately, by October, the plants are likely to already be dying back for the winter. This means that some years they have dropped all of their leaves by sale time. It is hard to sell a pot of dirt with a bare stick in it. Other times the leaves they do have are beginning to yellow which makes them look unattractive or diseased to many plant sale shoppers.
Knowing the plants were too important not to get their due, the Natives Group came up a daring idea last spring. Milkweed is in its glory in the summer, the hotter the better. So we bought 400 starter plants in May and nurtured them through the summer. At the end of July, we put out the word.
We offered them to a relatively small group of Birmingham Botanical Gardens volunteers to gauge their interest. Plants were to be ordered ahead of time. Would this trial balloon fly?
Within just two days our 400 plants were snapped up and many more had to be told we had sold out. Running out of plants is a happy problem, but for the sake of the Monarchs, we wish we would have had enough for everyone interested.
As we talked to those who ordered the plants, our local butterfly experts and Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens staff, we were struck by how much people care about the plight of butterflies and how eager they are to do what they can to help. We have also realized anew that butterfly weed can be quite hard to find at local nurseries and when present, it is often in small quantities.
Based on this year’s extremely successful sale, we will plan to repeat the summer butterfly milkweed sale next year, with hopes to have an even larger number of plants available to an even larger target group.
*Monarch Watch – http://www.monarchwatch.org/
To learn more about this year’s Fall Plant Sale, visit www.bbgardens.org/fallplantsale. Proceeds from all plant sales at The Gardens benefits its educational mission, including Discovery Field Trips, which has provided free, science-based programming to Birmingham city schoolchildren for over a decade.
Children’s Summer Camps: Southern Summer Chefs
Southern Summer Chefs at The Gardens, part of our Children’s Summer Camps, planted chives, mint, parsley and rosemary, to name a few, in kitchen gardens to take home so they can continue to enjoy cooking using fresh ingredients as they have discovered at The Gardens!
Children’s Summer Camps visits The Archives and Rare Book Room at The Library at The Gardens
During “Passport to Imagination Station” in July, campers visited one of The Gardens’ hidden treasures – The Archives and Rare Book Room. Check out photos of their visit, and visit http://www.bbgardens.org/library-rare.php to learn more! To set up your own visit, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
YouthServe of Birmingham assists urban forestry project at Birmingham Botanical Gardens
On July 24, several Birmingham media outlets the YouthServe Urban Service Camp Worksite at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Campers participated in an important urban forestry project involving the care of young trees. Campers helped transfer viable trees into larger containers. Gathered first as acorns from the oaks of George Ward Park, the trees, once mature, will be planted throughout the city, especially in the tornado-devastated areas of Smithfield and Pratt City.
Learn more about YouthServe by visiting their website. All applications and sign-up opportunities are available at www.youthservebham.org.
About YouthServe, Inc
YouthServe, Inc. is a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering youth leadership through community service. Throughout the year, YouthServe programs include monthly service learning opportunities featuring community work days with the YWCA, Habitat for Humanity, Urban Ministries, Jones Valley Teaching Farm, and many others. Youth leadership programs include the Youth Action Council, which allows young people to organize community work events and the Youth Philanthropy Council, which allows them to create and organize an actual grant program providing $20,000 to deserving local non- profits. In the summer, the YouthServe Urban Service Camps offer several weeks of residential camping in partnership with the YWCA of Central Alabama. Six hundred young people from eighty schools across the metro area participate with over five thousand service hours annually.
About Birmingham Botanical Gardens
The Birmingham Botanical Gardens is Alabama’s largest living museum, with more than 12,000 different plants in its living collection. The Garden’s 67.5 acres contains more than 25 unique gardens and 30+ works of original outdoor sculpture and miles of serene paths. The Gardens feature the largest public horticulture library in the U.S., conservatories, a wildflower garden, two rose gardens, the Southern Living Garden, and Japanese gardens with a traditionally crafted tea house. Education programs run year-round and more than 10,000 school children enjoy free science-curriculum based field trips annually. The Gardens is open daily offering free admission to more than 350,000 yearly visitors.
For over a century, the YWCA Central Alabama has been responding to the needs of women, children and families. The YW’s programs serve women, children and families by providing: affordable child care for low-income families; child care and after-school enrichment programs for homeless children; affordable housing for families and seniors and a full array of domestic violence services; and social justice programming.
Garden docents learn about plant families and taxonomy
On Tuesday morning, garden docents participated in a presentation on plant families and taxonomy. Gardens of study were Dunn Formal Rose, McReynolds and Southern Living Gardens. Melanie Johns, Birmingham Botanical Gardens plant taxonomist, enlightened our docents about some of the changes in taxonomy regarding some species found in The Gardens.
Gardeners, horticulturists and plant nurseries are mainly affected by taxonomic name changes which occur as a result of advances in botanical knowledge leading to a reclassification of plants. The great majority of cases happen when a plant is transferred from one higher taxon to another, e.g. a species to another genus, due to the reassessment of its position in a particular classification.
The only thing consistent in the plant world is change. Today the majority of botanists and taxonomists are working towards an objectively argued classification system. Many existing classification schemes are somewhat artificial because they reflect the viewpoints of individual taxonomists, rather than attempting to show the patterns in the way plants actually have evloved or how they are related to one another.
The adoption of such an improved system would benefit not only the plant breeder, but also all those looking for plant products and sources of beneficial characteristics, which may be found in closely related species. Name changes will therefore be inevitable as taxonomist move in this direct. A consensus of views should be encourage in order to find which names would be most widely accepted by the botanical community.
Bibb County Glades
guest post by intern Ian Hazelhoff
On June 1, I was fortunate to attend the annual Bibb County Glades field trip for the Certificate in Native Plant Studies program. Fred Spicer and John Manion led the charge on a spectacularly overcast day prime for botanizing. Several other enthusiastic individuals, ranging from Master Gardeners to The Gardens’ Director of Library Services, Hope Long, filled in the ranks of our troop. Insect repellant was applied, wide-brimmed hats adjusted, and introductions were shared. In total, the fieldtrip itinerary listed three glade sites and concluded with a tour of the Cahaba River’s largest lily site. Ambitious and driven by a unanimous desire to see some of the nation’s rarest plant species in habitats as unique as separate planets, we entered the glades.
To comprehend fully how this beautiful suite of rare plants can exist in such obscurity takes an understanding of this unique landscape. The Bibb County Glades sit perched on small veins of a rock named Ketona dolomite, which possess higher concentrations of magnesium than more regionally common formations of limestone. Species that thrive in magnesium rich soils are prevalent. The glades are also an “ecotone” region, where full forest environments gradually transition to more open, grassy areas. Nestled within this gradient are species specialized to thrive with exposure to more light and wind. Without a complete tree canopy, the glades represent an assemblage of highly specialized succession species existing in near total isolation.
In areas with Ketona dolomite based substrate, magnesium and often aluminum levels are so high as to be toxic to many more common species found in the region. As a historical note, Fred Spicer pointed out that seams of Ketona dolomite were once found scattered throughout Jefferson County, AL, however, these were the first to be mined during Birmingham’s steel boom. Dolomitic limestone is a precursor material for steel production, and to think that it also supports the livelihood of some of the rarest plants on Earth! With visions of steel furnaces and open pit mines at the helm, I quickly became aware of the true importance and special nature of the Bibb County Glades.
As the fieldtrip came to a close, I found myself traveling the winding waterside road to see one of my home state’s secret treasures: Cahaba lilies blooming in their prime. Pockets of lilies, with proud green stalks and exuberant white flowers, dotted the river’s center. John Manion was quick to point out that the heaviness of the lily’s seed allows it to sink and become lodged between rocks on the river’s bed. Cool water, sand, and fields of aquatic botanical wonder - not bad for a day at the office.
To learn more about the Certificate in Native Plant Studies series, and to register for any of its core classes, electives or field trips online, visit www.bbgardens.org/plantstudies.
Photos: Beth Maynor Young
Dan Jones brings “Native Ferns and Their Relatives” to the Certificate in Native Plant Studies series
Do you have an interest in ferns, yet find learning about them daunting? Would you like a to gain an understanding of where they fall in the world of plants, how to distinguish one from another, which ones are native and how to use them in your landscape? If your answer to any of these questions is yes, then THIS this is the class for you! Dan “The Fern Man” Jones, Ph.D. and his wife Karen are two of the principle players in the ongoing development of The Gardens’ Fern Glade – one of the most comprehensive collections of its type in the country. Dan is a wonderful instructor that this will be the third time we have invited him to teach this class!
The class will be held on Saturday, July 13, 8:30 – 12:30 p.m. To learn more about this and everything that the Certificate in Native Plant Studies series has to offer, and to register online, visit www.bbgardens.org/plantstudies.