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.
Get to Know the Native Ornamental Grasses
guest blogger: Betsy Fleenor
Landscaping with ornamental grasses is a popular trend. They offer nesting sites and cover for wildlife, excellent erosion control, unusual texture, and four-season interest.
A darker side to this trend is the growing realization that the grasses that are the easiest to purchase are rarely native and can be harmfully invasive. This would include pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana), maiden grass (Miscanthus spp.), ribbon grass (Phalaris arundinacea), and fountain grass (Pennisetum spp.). Maiden grass and fountain grass have made it to the top of some state’s invasive plant lists.
The alternative is to use native grasses which serve the same function in the landscape, are less invasive and extremely drought resistant.
Please note that natives grasses, like all plants, need to be sited and used correctly: River oats (Chasmathium latifolium) are well behaved in the shade with average to dry soil. But give it moisture, enriched soil and a bit of sun and it will soon spread beyond its bounds. In a few years Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans) can seed around.
For the last couple of years, the Native Plant booth has featured a variety of native grasses at the Fall Sale. Since they are often hard to find, our offering serves as a sampler to introduce them to you. Though our quantities are small, if customers are interested in a large planting of native grasses, we can put them in touch with sources that can readily supply them.
This year we will have the following grasses at our booth:
Andropogon ternarius – Splitbeard Bluestem
Chasmanthium latifolium – River Oats
Chasmanthium sessiliflorum – Longleaf Wood Oats
Eragrostis elliottii – Elliot’s Lovegrass
Muhlenbergia capillaris – Muhly Grass
Panicum virgatum – Switchgrass
Panicum virgatum ‘Shenandoah’ – Shenandoah Switchgrass
Schizachyrium scoparium – Little Bluestem
Sorghastrum elliottii – Weeping Indian Grass
Sporobolus junceus – Pineywoods Dropseed
All are in limited quantities so we hope you will shop for them as early in the sale as possible.
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.
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.
Docent Appreciation Luncheon
Arlington School students assist gardeners in the Bruno Vegetable Garden
Students from the Arlington School of Birmingham assisted gardeners Amanda Clark and Jason Parrish with prepping and planting the Spring vegetable garden in the Bruno Demonstration garden on Thursday, May 2. Arlington School has been instrumental, volunteering with The Gardens on many large planting projects including potting plants for Spring Plant Sale and the Centennial Tree Planting Project that focuses on reforestation of the urban canopy. Part of their volunteer experience with The Gardens is to combine their work with hands-on science activities that support their curriculum at school.
W.J. Christian School visits the Bruno Vegetable Garden
Students from W.J. Christian School visited The Gardens recently, focusing on themes like family, determination and love. The students recently read Flutter by Erin Moulton, the story of three sisters and their effort to save their fourth after she is born.
Volunteer Coordinator Taylor Steele led these students on an educational walk through The Gardens.
Volunteers prepare for middle school Discovery Field Trips
On Tuesday, April 16, docents began training for new educational programming that will be offered to middle school students in Birmingham this Fall. Over the last decade, Discovery Field Trips has provided a free, curriculum based science education to nearly 100,000 Birmingham elementary students, and now, the program will begin expanding to include appropriate material for an older group.
If you are interested in becoming a docent and guiding these groups, please contact Volunteer Coordinator Taylor Steele at 205.414.3962 or firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to know more about Discovery Field Trips and how your class can participate, contact Education Program Coordinator Ellen Hardy at 205.414.3953 or email@example.com.
Get Into The Gardens: Tomato Container Gardening
Master Gardener Su Reid-St. John and her daughter, Zoe, led visitors to The Gardens in a demonstration of tomato container gardening in Blount Plaza on Saturday, April 13. Volunteer Katelyn Stansberry also assisted with the event. The next demonstration taking place in the Get Into The Gardens series will take place on April 27 at 1 p.m. as part of Earth Day at The Gardens. Get Into The Gardens is a FREE series of educational weekend programming which includes demonstrations, Hikes for Tykes and The Sunday Scene.
Earth Day at The Gardens is also FREE and is Alabama’s longest-running Earth Day celebration. This year’s event will focus on community gardening and will include live music in the Formal Garden. The event will be held 11 – 4 p.m.