Archive for the ‘Library’ Category

A Week of Field Trips

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

A Week of Field Trips

[Guest Blog Post by Intern Sanitra Lawrence]

On Sunday, June 1, I had the opportunity to canoe down the Cahaba River with friends from Birmingham Botanical Gardens to the largest population of the Cahaba lily (Hymenocallis coronaria) on earth. The Cahaba lily is an aquatic, white flowering perennial found growing nestled in between shoals in the Cahaba River. The Cahaba lilies are very specialized in their habitat and the type of rock they grow in, which makes them so rare. The rocks are pliable enough to allow the roots to penetrate through them for easy establishment.  Dr. Randy Haddock, field director of the Cahaba River Society, demonstrated how to extract nectar from the Cahaba lily using a small, plastic capillary tube.  He instructed us to place the tube deep into the corolla of the flower. Once the tube was inserted, we gently placed the bloom upside down and pressed the nectar into capillary tube. The nectar was somewhat sweet, followed by a strange aftertaste. Everyone except me seemed to enjoy the taste  because I expected a honeysuckle-like taste.  Randy also showed us different organisms found in the river, such as crayfish and common aquatic insect larvae. This was my first canoe trip; traveling downstream was a lot easier than traveling upstream, but I will look forward to experiencing canoeing again.

The following Monday, June 2, Mitchell Vaughan, Alex Dumont and I were given a great tour of The Archives and Rare Book Room at The Library at The Gardens by Archivist Jason Kirby and Director of Library Services Hope Long. It was interesting to see actual historical and botanical documentation dating back to the sixteenth century. Included in the collection were also rare maps, gardens plans and antique seed catalogs. Jason and Hope were very knowledgeable of the library and offered help if we needed guidance on future projects.

On Tuesday, June 3, I went to visit Southern Organics in Columbiana, Alabama, which company specializes in aquaponics, the process of recycling fish waste for fertilizing vegetables.  It was great to witness them experimenting with aquaponics in the early stages of their business. The warehouse consisted of tanks where they produced tilapia. The staff explained how they converted fish waste into useful sources of nitrogen for the plants. Next to the tanks were experimental stations, where different vegetables were tested before being grown in the production greenhouse.  Above the stations were artificial light sources for the plants to use in photosynthesis.  The plants were transplanted into Styrofoam blocks, where the roots grew though holes into a liquid base medium. For biological control of insect pests, beneficial ladybugs were used. Southern Organics not only produces fish, but also vegetables. Their plan is to expand in supplying organic vegetables to stores.

Our last field trip for the week consisted of going to Hale County, Alabama on June 4 where we traveled through the woods to view a rare fern population.  Kaul Wildflower Garden Curator John Manion returned a fern back to its habitat where he had been growing it on a petri dish in the micro-propagation lab at The Gardens. It was also the first time that he brought a rare fern back to its native habitat in hopes of increasing the population.  Preserving the ferns and their habitat is vital to their survival.

On Thursday, June 5, I enjoyed working with Amanda Clark in the vegetable garden. I never had much hands-on experience with vegetable gardening at Mississippi State, but Amanda is very knowledgeable about cultural practices. She showed me how to prune, sucker and train tomato plants on a trellis system properly. In addition, she explained the importance of composting and how one should turn the pile every other day in order to speed up the process of decomposition.  

Although I have experienced a lot of things this week, it only covered a small portion of this internship. I am very excited to participate in many other activities this summer.

Children’s Summer Camps visits The Archives and Rare Book Room at The Library at The Gardens

Friday, July 26th, 2013

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 to learn more! To set up your own visit, email

PHOTOS: Loveman’s Department Store artifacts displayed at The Gardens

Friday, May 10th, 2013

Loveman’s Department Store Display at Southern Tales

On Sunday, the Birmingham History Museum loaned pieces from Loveman’s Department Stores to The Gardens for display during Southern Tales presents: In Her Own Fashion by Dolores Hydock. The one-woman play tells the story of Ninette Griffith, one-time Fashion Coordinator at the Birmingham store. If you missed it, here are some photos of the items that were displayed.

Loveman’s Department Store artifcats on display at The Gardens

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013

Loveman’s Department Store artifcats on display at The Gardens

Southern Tales presents: “In Her Own Fashion,” a one-woman play performed by Dolores Hydock will be featured at The Gardens on Sunday, May 5. The play is the true story of Ninette Griffith, the one-time Fashion Coordinator for Loveman’s Department Stores. The original location, shown above, was at the corner of 19th Street and 3rd Avenue North in the space now filled by the McWane Science Center.

To honor the event, the Birmingham History Museum has loaned Archivist Jason Kirby a collection of hats, hat boxes, hat stands, credit cards, receipts and women’s apparel from the original store that will be on display this weekend at The Gardens. [photos courtesy of Birmingham History Museum, Executive Director Jerry Desmond]

To purchase tickets online, visit


Brown Bag: Lunch and Learn

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

Brown Bag: Lunch and Learn at The Gardens

The Gardens is overwhelmed with the response to the first Lunch and Learn! On Wednesday, a packed house filed into the Hodges Room for a seminar led by Andy Portera of Portera Landscape Design, LLC. The group learned how to create a sustainable landscape design for lawns and gardens. The FREE series will continue throughout the summer, with the next educational opportunity coming on June 27. Kaul Wildflower Garden Curator John Manion will lead a discussion on “Using native plants in your garden landscape design.” All Lunch and Learn seminars are 11:30 – 12:30 p.m. Drinks and dessert are provided. To learn about all of the Brown Bag: Lunch and Learn opportunities this summer, visit  Join us!

New Display in Archives and Rare Book Room

Friday, December 30th, 2011

Here are images of a fascinating display mounted by Jason Kirby, whom oversees our Archives and Rare Book Room in The Library at Birmingham Botanical Gardens. This was on display during our recent Central South Native Plant Conference and illustrated the history of plant collecting. Some of the items displayed included: some rare early florae (books listing all the plants in a given area), press boards (used to press and dry specimens), vascular (tin containers in which to carry live specimens), old herbarium voucher specimens (pressed dried plants kept long-term), and a old lithograph of Karl Linnaeus – “the father of modern taxonomy.” Jason even included a modern microscope through which visitors could examine some of the old pressed specimens.

Cathy Adams Talks to Dolores Hydock

Monday, November 28th, 2011

To read Cathy Adams’ most recent feature on both Three on a String’s Bobby Horton and Dolores Hydock, click here. The feature below originally appear in the May 2007 issue of the now defunct Portico magazine.

Portico: Dolores Hydock

Story performer Dolores Hydock spins tales based on topics from the mundane to Medieval literature before spellbound audiences at concerts, festivals, and special events.  Beginning her acting career playing the Statue of Liberty in a Fourth of July pageant, her varied experience has included being a house mother at a halfway house for juvenile delinquents, selling computers, copy editing cookbooks, and teaching acting at Birmingham-Southern.

A master at blending of humor, poignancy and joy, Hydock spoke to Portico about her love of life and language.

Portico:  How does a girl from Reading, Pennsylvania wind up a professional Southern storyteller in Birmingham, Alabama?

Dolores:  I don’t think of myself as a “Southern” storyteller in the traditional sense of sitting on the porch, rocking and lying, making the story up as you go along.  I am a storyteller who is fortunate to live in the South.  My background is more theatrical, my style more kinetic.  Southerners are slower in telling stories as a result of generations sitting around in the heat on the front porch.

I moved to Birmingham 33 years ago via Connecticut. As an American Studies folklore major at Yale I did field studies on Chandler Mountain.  Elderly mountain women took a Yankee college girl under their wings and taught me everything from quilt patterns to recipes to folklore.

Portico:  What aspects of life in the South persuaded you to stay?

Dolores:  Southerners have such a great sense of place.  Northerners are always trying to figure out where they’re going next.  This culture has an openness to connection between people, and that’s what storytelling is all about.  Southerners say “doan go,” in a Selma accent, inviting you to stay and stay connected.

Portico:  What has the transition to life in the South been like for your 86 year old mother?

Dolores: She has considered it an adventure, although sampling Southern food at Nikki’s West terrified her.  She made the comment that there is nothing slow about Southerners moving down a food line.

Portico:  Many of your stories focus on something as simple as an iron skillet or Jungle Gardenia perfume.  Do you have a “seeing the world in a grain of sand” approach to life?

Dolores:  The older I get the more I realize that life is made up of a lot of little things done in the maintenance of life.  It’s good to learn to love the maintenance rather than waiting for the big dramatic moments.  Cultivate both joy and gratitude, focus and put a frame around the little things that bring joy.

Portico:  How have you translated Medieval literature, such as the 14th century epic poem Gawain and the Green Knight and the 13th century tale Silence into understandable interpretations for modern audiences?

Dolores:  PanHarmonic, a trio of musicians who perform music from the 12th-16th centuries on reproduction instruments, and I took Sir Gawain and the Green Knight to six rural Alabama high schools as a touring project of the Alabama Humanities Foundation.  I enjoy telling stories that have lasted for centuries, stories about the journeys of heroes, stories that ask kids who have never seen a hurdy gurdy or heard a harp or songs sung in Middle English or Latin if they can “walk the walk.”  The themes of the music and the stories are timeless, blues songs that speak to life being hard and the bliss of the world being fleeting. 

Portico: Tell us about your special affection for “holidays that aren’t on the calendar.”

Dolores:  I like holidays such as Arbor Day for which there are no greeting cards.  Easter has special significance for me because my first paying job was putting eyes on chocolate bunnies in the Luden’s Candy factory.  Seeing those bunnies staring with their little beady eyes on the drugstore shelves people don’t think about how the eyes got there.  I wrote a story about “back to school day,” comparing my experiences as a five year old to my mother going back to school for a lecture series in her eighties.

Portico:  As a teacher and fan of Cajun dancing, do you consider yourself a musician as well as an actress?

Dolores:  I like to dance, but I don’t sing or play an instrument well enough that anyone would pay to hear me.  I do sing beautifully in the shower and in my car, and I love holiday sing-a-longs where I can perform with others around me singing loudly enough that no one really hears me.

Portico:  You have a strong sense of family.  How did your parents influence you?

Dolores: Both of my parents fostered a love of language and a sense of the power of language.  We always had a lot of books in our home, and my mother read to me.  For us the library was a palace, a sacred place, and the women behind the check out desk were high priestesses.  Getting a library card was an honor and a privilege. 

Through the power of language you can create worlds and make connections.  If you have words you don’t need material things.  Words augment and enlarge your world and allow you to laugh and cry and share your world while experiencing the worlds of other people. 

My father gave us a sense of really caring about what we did no matter how trivial it might seem in the eyes of the rest of the world.  The fathers of my generation had a work ethic and taught respect for yourself and your work.  My father did his duties nobly.

To learn more and hear clips from Dolores performances visit her website at  CDs are available from local bookstores.

To reserve your spot at December 4’s Southern Tales event, featuring Hydock, visit

“Nature’s Gifts” Now on Display in Art Gallery

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

On Friday, the Library at The Gardens welcomed its newest art gallery, “Nature’s Gifts.” Presented by The Committee, this gallery will be featured for the remainder of 2011. Artists whose work is currently on display and available for purchase include Shirley Barnes, Heike Covell, Sallie Estes, Mary Ellen Davidson, Dee Burt Holmes, Marcia Leonard, Joyce Lowery, Terri Shows, Carolyn Wheeling and Maria West. See some of the work below and come out to The Gardens to pick up a piece that will be a stunning accent to your room!

And our Gallery continues to be the home for work by Laura Brookhart. Stop by to pick up her pieces as well!

Book Review: Bringing Nature Home

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011


Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants

By Douglas Tallamy

Have you ever had a book completely change the way you think about something?  When John Manion, Kaul Wildflower Garden Curator, suggested this book for The Library book group because it changed his life, I couldn’t imagine a book about gardening/nature changing someone’s life.  So I picked it up and read it (this is a big challenge for me since I listen to most books on CD).  And I have to say that it changed my life too, well at least my gardening life.  Doug Tallamy states in his book, “All plants are not created equal, particularly in their ability to support wildlife.”  Most of our native plant-eaters are not able to eat alien plants, and we are replacing native plants with alien species at an alarming rate, especially in the suburban gardens on which our wildlife increasingly depends.  If our native insect fauna can not, or will not, use alien plants for food, then insect populations in areas with many alien plants will be smaller than insect populations in areas with all natives.  This many sound like a gardener’s dream – a land without insects! But because so many animals depend partially or entirely on insect protein for food, a land without insects is a land without most forms of higher life (Wilson 1987).  I have to say that this scared me at first, I was thinking I would have to get rid of all the non-native plants in my yard but then I realized I just needed to add natives in with all of the other ornamentals that I already have. This book is worth reading, or better yet, join us for the Central South Native Plant Conference where Doug Tallamy will be speaking and hear it straight from him.

Art Gallery Opening: November 4

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

Art Gallery Opening: November 4

On Friday, November 4, The Library at The Gardens will host an art gallery opening from 5:30-7:30. “Nature’s Gifts” artists moving their work into The Gardens include: Shirley Barnes, Heike Covell, Sallie Estes, Mary Ellen Davidson, Dee Burt Holmes, Marcia Leonard, Joyce Lowery, Terri Shows, Carolyn Wheeling and Maria West (shown above). Drinks and hor d’oeurves will be served.