- Nov -
25

Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens takes its first look at Conservatory renovations

Executive Director & CEO Fred Spicer leads Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens on Conservatory tour

As the Conservatory renovations near completion at Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Executive Director & CEO Fred Spicer led staff members on their first tour of the Birmingham landmark since renovations began earlier this year. The interior looked much different on Friday than it did earlier in 2013, and we captured a few photos to share until it is opened to the public.

- Nov -
19

Parker High School students take part in work training program at The Gardens

Parker High School students take part in work training program at The Gardens

These three young men are from Parker High School, and participate in the Birmingham City Schools Community-Based Work Training Program. On Tuesday, they planted cool season greens in straw bales as part of a interpretive gardening exhibit outside The Library at The Gardens. Each week they will work on various gardening task to learn more about public gardens, landscaping and horiticulture as a possible career choice.

- Nov -
19

Holiday Wreaths

Holiday Wreaths

On Friday, Casey Thomas led a class at The Gardens in the creation of holiday wreaths. Students learned how to with a little mesh, wire hangers and a few ornaments. Check out the photos!

- Nov -
18

Community Garden Coalition presents Birmingham Bike Tour

Community Garden Coalition presents Birmingham Bike Tour

by Gail Harper Yeilding, Community Garden Coalition for Birmingham

On October 26, the Community Garden Coalition in partnership with Birmingham Botanical Gardens and Alabama Bike Coalition collaborated to celebrate National Food Day by a bike tour of Birmingham’s Community Gardens. 

Armed with dahlia decorated helmets and bikes, CGC members made their way through the streets of Birmingham.  Starting and ending at Freshfully, the tour included MPower Community Garden, South Avondale Community Garden, Jones Valley Teaching Garden, Norwood Orchard and Norwood Teaching Gardens.  At each stop, a representative farmer from each garden gave a tour and various treats including: dahlias, cider, basil and Lenell’s now famous rosemary bourbon cider. 

With a crisp, Fall morning, it was the perfect way to see just some of the many community gardens popping up in Birmingham. 

Many thanks to all who participated as well as each community garden that contributed a little something from their garden.

- Nov -
13

The Gardens plants trees in North Smithfield

The Gardens plants trees in North Smithfield

On Veteran’s Day, The Gardens continued longterm reforestation efforts across Birmingham with a tree planting in North Smithfield. These efforts have largely focuses on areas devastated by the storms of April 27, 2011.

North Smithfield is an often overlooked, storm-damaged area because it is an unincorporated neighborhood. Because they are unincorporated it’s been hard for them to recover. They came together to rebuild their fire station and and now maintain a volunteer station. They also rebuilt their neighborhood park so that the kids would have somewhere to play. The restored park, which is where the community holds a majority of its events, didn’t have shade trees. So the neighborhood along with The Storm Water Management department of Jefferson county, Hana Burwinkle, approached Birmingham Botanical Gardens to donate trees to help rebuild and shade the park. The neighborhood consists of mostly military veterans so the trees were planted on Veteran’s Day. The park and the main road next to it are in the process of being changed to reflect the veterans of the neighborhood.

The Gardens donated 60 trees for the park, 100 trees for homeowners to plant in their yards and 1 ceremonial tree that was placed near their welcome sign. It was a collaboration between the Storm Water Management Department, Birmingham Botanical Gardens, The Alabama Forestry Commission, The North Smithfield neighborhood committee, Veterans who live in North Smithfield and the volunteer firefighters.

- Oct -
30

Students from Arlingon School spend time in the Bruno Vegetable Garden

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.

- Oct -
17

Native plant preview hosted on Wednesday

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.

- Oct -
16

Fall Gardening with Straw Bales: Innovative Way to Grow Your Fall Garden Plants

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.

- Sep -
30

2013 Fall Plant Sale: Get to Know the Native Ornamental Grasses

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.

- Sep -
11

A Weed Worth Extra Effort

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.