Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

Native Plants Group celebrates Larry Michalove’s birthday

Monday, March 4th, 2013

Native Plants Group celebrates Larry Michalove’s birthday

On February 13, the Native Plants Group celebrated the 80th birthday of one of their long-time members. Larry Michalove is a dedicated volunteer whose cheerful nature and optimistic outlook make him a joy to have as part of the group. Native Plants group leader Betsy Fleenor said, “Larry is one of those people who always makes you feel good. He’s ready with a hug or a corny joke that makes you groan, and is willing to help in any way.” Larry is pictured with his wife, Sybil, who dropped by for the party. 
Larry took a few moments to tell about his life, including the circumstances that resulted in his popular children’s book, “The Four Little Children.” The imaginative stories were originally mailed home as bedtime stories for Larry’s children while he served in the Viet Nam War. From the book jacket, “Larry didn’t write about the war or the 114 combat missions he flew, earning him the Distinguished Flying Cross and 8 air medals. Instead, he wrote tales about Martians and moon people and mermaids and the sea.”
Thanks to Larry for his service to America, his creative writing and humor, dedication to family and his years of service to The Birmingham Botanical Gardens. True to form, he refused to take home his left-over cake, instead leaving it for the gardening staff to enjoy.

Bush Hills Academy visits The Gardens

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

Bush Hills Academy visits The Gardens

Recently, 2nd grade students from Bush Hills Academy in Birmingham visited The Gardens to take part in the Garden Gates Discovery Field Trip and Treasure Map activity outdoors. Docent Alana Maxey of Junior League of Birmingham’s “Can You Dig It?” led the students, along with Education Program Coordinator Ellen Hardy.

Volunteers from Arlington School, UAB and Master Gardeners ready for Spring Plant Sale

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

 Volunteers Spring into Action for our upcoming BBG Spring Plant Sale!
The Gardens held a volunteer seeding and potting workday last Saturday. Over 50 volunteers helped us gear up for the Birmingham Botanical Gardens Spring Plant Sale in April. Our volunteer group consisted of Jefferson County Master Gardeners, students from Arlington School and the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The tasks for the day included planting over 3800 tomato seeds into cellpacks and potting up more than 600 hosta varieties into one gallon trade pots. If you are interested in helping The Gardens bring spring back sooner, please let us know!
If you are interested in helping us another Saturday before the April sale, or would like to volunteer for our spring plant sale, contact Taylor Steele, Volunteer  Coordiantor, 205.414.6962, or
Thanks again to all who participated in our workday, we hope to see you back for the sale!

Rite of Spring

Monday, February 4th, 2013

Rite of Spring

By: Betsy Fleenor, volunteer 

It happens every spring. The new year dawns, and the new seeds are sown. Always with this goal: grow plants that will be large enough and interesting enough to catch your eye at the spring plant sale. No tender seedlings will do come April. We are looking for robust, healthy plants with a good root system, lots of leaves and we wouldn’t argue about a flower bud or two.

For the volunteers who work with the volunteer propagation groups at The Gardens, work goes on year round preparing the plants for your buying pleasure. But things really start to heat up once the new year arrives. For those growing native plants, it’s time to delve into the rich storehouse of seeds collected from the Kaul Wildflower Garden and pre-treated in various ways. Some are sprinkled, others carefully placed in their soil-filled trays topped with a thin layer of granite chicken grit to improve their chances.

Weeks spent on the mist tables located in the plant sale greenhouse eventually provide the perfect environment for the green miracle. The lifeless, brown seeds are touched with the vital moisture, warmth and light that cause them to germinate.

 At first the specks of green are nearly microscopic. Was that a dot of green I saw or not? Soon eyes adjust to the microenvironment and indeed, that dot was just one of hundreds of barely perceptible green dots. They’re off and running!

As the weeks wear on, first leaves give way to true leaves, and roots start to explore the soil. Soon it’s time to rudely tease them from their seed trays into their first individual pots. Volunteers carefully prick out the most tender, pull apart the more robust, and take them to the next step on their journey from seed to sale.

Birmingham Botanical Gardens Joins Reforestation Effort at George Ward Park

Monday, October 29th, 2012

Birmingham Botanical Gardens Joins Reforestation Effort at George Ward Park

On Saturday, October 27, Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens staff members joined the Glen Iris Neighborhood Association and volunteers from Impact Alabama in an effort to replant George Ward Park. Over time, many of the trees in the park have vanished due to mowing. With the support of Little Garden Club and Red Mountain Garden Club, this five-year project continued on Saturday.

Botanical Bonanza at the Talladega National Forest

Monday, July 16th, 2012

Photographing Phlox sp. and Rudbeckia sp.

Botanical Bonanza at the Talladega National Forest

by: Hunter McBrayer

I was recently invited to visit the Oakmulgee District of the Talladega National Forest on a botanizing trip with Birmingham Botanical Gardens Executive Director Fred Spicer and Kaul Wildflower Garden curator John Manion. Being a plant nerd, I jump at any opportunity to join two knowledgeabe plantsmen whenever invited.  

The Oakmulgee District is an expanse of land spanning 157,544 acres from Southeast Tuscaloosa County to Northeast Dallas County, Alabama.  Within this region there is a high degree of biodiversity, and it is predominantly covered in large savannas of Pinus palustris, longleaf pine.  The area is managed by the United States Forestry Service, who utilizes frequent prescribed burns to control encroachment of non-native invasive plant species, and to create the ideal habitat for proper growth and development of longleaf pine.  The Oakmulgee District is public land that can be used for hiking, hunting, bird watching and other forms of recreation.  

Although the area is abundent with longleaf pines, there are numerous fascinating micro-ecotones, transition areas between habitats.  These transition areas provide rich habitat for countless species of plants and animals, most of which are native to Alabama and the Southeast United States.  Among these are the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker,  Picoides borealis (a species associated with longleaf pine); a host of orchids,  and five different species of magnolia, including the less-than-common Magnolia acuminata, cucumber magnolia, and Magnolia pyramidata, pyramid magnolia. 

While there we explored a large, active beaver pond that showcased many aquatic plants, including Peltandra virginica, green arrow arum, Nuphar advena (syn. N. lutea), spatterdock, Nymphaea odorata, white water lily, Utricularia cornuta, horned bladderwort, as well as numerous species of Carax, sedges. 

Aside from providing a plethora of native plants and animals, the region possesses abundent areas of interest for nature lovers and photographers.   This was not the first time I had the opportunity to visit this area, and surely it will not be the last.

Examining Utricularia cornuta,horned bladderwort

Pinus palustris, longleaf pine

Platanthera ciliaris, yellow fringed orchid

Brown Bag: Lunch and Learn

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

Brown Bag: Lunch and Learn

The Gardens Lunch and Learn series continues to grow! The second seminar in this FREE series welcomed even more people to the Hodges Room. Kaul Wildflower Garden Curator John Manion led a discussion titled “Using native plants in your landscape garden design.” The free series will continue throughout the summer, continuing on July 11 with “Collecting rainwater for reuse in your landscape and inside your home” with Jefferson County Extension Agent Sallie Lee of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System and Scott Kubiszyn of Nature’s Tap. 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!

To learn more about the Certificate in Native Plant Studies Program, which has just completed its first full year, and how you can participate, visit

Member’s Day Trip Travels to Lake Martin

Friday, June 1st, 2012

Member’s Day Trip Travels to Lake Martin

On May 11, members of Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens traveled to Jim Scott’s private garden at Lake Martin in Dadeville, Ala. Nearly 60 people traveled by bus from Birmingham to the sprawling lakefront property, stopping at SpringHouse restaurant to dine and completing the day with a tour of Morgan Creek Vineyards. The annual trip is offered to members of Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens to fulfill The Gardens’ mission of educating the public about plants and as gratitude for the loyal support received by members in accomplishing this mission.

(Sue Ellen Lucas, Jeannie Curtis)

(Tina Johnson, Ellen Johnson, Carolyn Johnson, Shirley Johnson, Merilyn Hughes)

(Sallie Johnson, Elna Brendel)

(Liz Alosi, Martha Alosi)

Lydia Pursell of Leaf & Petal Talks About Glorious Gardens

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

Lydia Pursell of Leaf & Petal Talks Glorious Gardens

The 2012 edition of Glorious Gardens is presented by Leaf & Petal, a Birmingham collection of award-winning garden stores, including one home at Birmingham Botanical Gardens. I spoke to owner, buyer and style designer Lydia Pursell about the unique Magic City event coming June 2 – 3 and Leaf & Petal’s involvement.

Blake Ells for Birmingham Botanical Gardens: Why did Leaf & Petal decide to come on board?

Lydia Pursell: We understood there was a need. Fred and Olivia talked to us, and we know what Birmingham Botanical Gardens contributes to our society and our town. So we stepped in.

BE: Why do you think this is such a unique Birmingham event?

LP: Most if not all of the proceeds go to educational programs at The Gardens. I’ve been a docent for years, but until the first time I saw a school bus pulling up outside the shop was the first time I had a chance to fully understand the impact the programs have on dozens and dozens of precious, rowdy children. And all of our schools are underfunded now. And this garden is free for these children. It’s their garden. People take it for granted until they walk around with these kids for a couple of hours and see them light up.

My own daughter takes part in the summer programs and we know that it’s a wonderful thing.

BE: Have you visited any of the gardens on the tour?

LP: What I have noticed most is the range – high end gardens that are inspirational, not always achievable. Even if you can glean one thing from a garden like that, you can be inspired to do something new and interesting and urban and funky. You can find inspiration in each of these gardens. If you find one little thing that inspires you, that’s wonderful. And you can do that on this tour.

BE: Why is it important to support events like this at The Gardens?

LP: There aren’t many gardens left in this country that are still free. That number is dwindling rapidly. Anytime anyone can open up 67 acres to people that can’t afford to spend $10 or $12 on it, as they charge in other cities, it’s worth supporting. Those people may not have a green space of their own. This is their green space. It’s free. And I’m happy to be a part of it.

Leaf & Petal at The Gardens is open Monday – Saturday 9:30 – 5:30 p.m. and on Sunday 1 – 4 p.m. Visit their website for other locations in the Birmingham area and hours of operation.

The Gardens Teaches Pratt City Children to Plant

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

(Director of Education Henry Hughes takes a moment to pose for a photograph with children from South Hampton Elementary School)

The Gardens Teaches Pratt City Children to Plant

On Thursday, May 3, Director of Eductaion Henry Hughes and Volunteer Coordinator Taylor Steele traveled to Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in Pratt City to teach children how to plant, providing pots and plants to the group. The effort was part of a day in which Junior League of Birmingham and KABOOM built a new playground for children at the church. Rebuilding efforts continue in Pratt City, a Birmingham community devastated by the storms of April 27, 2011.