Posts Tagged ‘Fred Spicer’

47th Annual Members Celebration at Birmingham Botanical Gardens

Friday, January 20th, 2012

(L to R: Alfreda Kincaid, Bernard Kincaid, Fred Spicer)

The 47th Annual Members Celebration was held at Birmingham Botanical Gardens on Thursday, January 19. Over 200 people attended the sold-out event, formerly known as the Annual Member Dinner. Catering was provided by Kathy G., whose newly renovated The Gardens Cafe is expected to open on February 1. Magic City Harvest Executive Director Paulette Van Matre spoke to the group in the Linn-Henley Lecture Hall about her organization’s long relationship with The Gardens. Each year, The Gardens donates more than 3,000 pounds of food from the Bruno Vegetable Garden to help feed Birmingham’s hungriest. To learn more about how you can become a member at The Gardens and help support its educational goals, visit

(Tyler Richards, Kate McCalla)

(Allen Weatherford, Diane Weatherford)

(Andy Grimsley, Lynn Grimsley)

(Ann Harvey, Fletcher Harvey)


(Bill Satterfield, Louis Montgomery)

(Bitsy Williams, Babs Simpson)

(Bobby Boone, Kelly Boone)

(Chris Boles, Mimi Boston, Win Shepard)

(Claude White, Sallie Aman)

(Coquette Barnes, Bill Barnes)

(Eleanor Cheatham, Martha Norville)

(Frances Wheelock, Isabel Maynard, David Jackson)

(Glenn Davis, Chris Davis)

(Janice Williams, Mel Cleveland, Mary Carolyn Cleveland, Fred Murray)

(Karla Vevle, Dick Vevle)

(Katherine Bishop, Billy Bishop)

(Lex Williamson, Mary Williamson)

(Linda Sanders, Carl Sanders)

(Marvin Snydey, Gail Snyder)

(Nicholas McLaughlin, Jessica Smith)

(Scott Walton, Kelley Walton)

(Teri Bossard, Rikesha Foster)

(Tom Broughton, Elizabeth Broughton)

(Valerie Harper, Jane Killian, Tom Killian, Robert Holmes)

“Good Things Growing” – The Garden Dirt (Jan./Feb. 2012 Ed.)

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

Good Things Growing

The latest edition of the Garden Dirt is in your mailbox and available at The Gardens now! Below is Executive Director Fred Spicer’s “Good Things Growing” column for the January/February 2012 edition.

Few plants evoke an Asian aesthetic like bamboo. However, running (monopodial) species can be very aggressive spreaders. Understandably, many people consider them invasive exotic plants, although river cane, Arundinaria gigantea, and its relatives are important plants in their SE US native ecosystem.

Clumping, or sympodial, bamboo species offer a guarantee of self-restraint. Despite the ability of their basal clump to reach 5-6′ wide and more over time, have no fear, the plants are genetically incapable of running. However, they have not been widely used in our area, perhaps because some clumpers exhibit borderline cold or heat tolerance, or because runners are easier to propagate. Maybe it’s disbelief – those who have experienced the tenacity of the monopodial species mistakenly think that all bamboos ate noxious pests.

We grow several types of sympodial bamboo at The Gardens, primarily cultivars of Bambusa multiplex, hedge bamboo, from China. As the name suggests, its growth habit lends to clipping as a hedge. Over the past 8 years, our earliest plant-outs of “Rivieriorum,” considered the hardiest form, have formed well-behaved, dense, graceful, finely-textured and fountain-like evergreen clumps ~ 10′ tall and wide (left); the basal clumps of emergent shoots are ~ 36″ wide. They have withstood heat, humidity and drought with total aplumb, as well as a brief flirtation with single-digit lows with minimal aboveground injury.

On hedge bamboo, new culms (individual grass stalks) arise through the growing season, primarily late spring-early summer. Height increases gradually (up to 18′ in our area) as the clump matures; growth is slowed compared to monopodial species. Leaves (secondary growth) are produced after maximum culm height is reached each year but late-season culms may not produce secondary growth until the following year. After leaves are produced individual culms cease all growth, and live 3-7 years. Clumps can be attractively thinned by removing individual culms, or completely renewed to the ground in late winter before new growth ensues.

“Alphonse Karr” sports attractive gold culms streaked with green. Leaves are larger than “Rivieriorum” but suffer complete injury at ~15 degrees F (above), necessitating renewal pruning. “Fernleaf,” as supplied to us, appears very similar to “Rivieriorum,” perhaps with slightly less stem hardiness. We’re also growing Borinda boleana and Fargesia spp.; time will tell if these clumping species also have potential.

2011 Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon

Monday, December 12th, 2011

(L to R: Barbara Burton, Frances Blount, Shannon Blount)

2012 Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon

On Thursday, December 8, Birmingham Botanical Gardens hosted its annual Volunteer Appreciaton Luncheon, recognizing some of its most gracious individuals that have given time to The Gardens in the last year that has allowed prosperity. A crowd of nearly 150 gathered in the Ruth B. Strange Auditorium for a potluck luncheon. Entertainment was provided by The Crestwood Trio, featuring Melanie Rodgers, Chris Griffin and Niamh Clarke. Director of Education Henry Hughes presented Kathy Rostand with the Educator of the Year award. Special Events Coordinator Shelly McCarty presented Carol Beard with the Plantsperson of the Year award. Executive Director Fred Spicer presented the Herb Army with the Volunteer Partner of the Year award. Director of Library Services Hope Long presented Virginia McLean with the A. Brand Walton, Jr. Volunteer of the Year award, and Director of Development Olivia Alison presented Frances Blount with the Ida C. Burns Volunteer of the Year award. Blount served The Gardens as honorary chair for Antiques at The Gardens in 2011, raising over $390,000 to fund educational programs like Discovery Field Trips, the flagship program that has served over 85,000 students in the metro Birmingham area at no cost.

Educator of the Year: Kathy Rostand

Plantsperson of the Year: Carol Beard

Volunteer Partner of the Year: The Herb Army (L to R: Marian Van Voast, Donna Taylor, Chris Boles, Joyce Dean, Maria Kearny, Donna Musgrave, Ann Garrett, Mimi Boston, Robin George, Winyss Shepard, Suzanne Hovater)

A. Brand Walton, Jr. Volunteer of the Year: Virginia McLean

International Services Council of Alabama Recognizes The Gardens

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

International Services Council of Alabama Recognizes Birmingham Botanical Gardens as Cultural Partner

Pictured above, Education Director Henry Hughes accepts recognition from the International Services Council of Alabama as a Cultural Partner. The luncheon was held on Monday, December 5 at the Harbert Center in Birmingham. Standing with Henry is ISC Board President Rena Anderson. Below is a release from ISC, which offers more about the partnership with The Gardens and other cultural attractions also recognized.


Birmingham, Ala. – Diplomacy begins with a smile, a word or two, and a shared experience. Citizen diplomacy, one handshake at a time, has been practiced by the International Services Council of Alabama (ISC) for more than 40 years.

A U.S. State Department affiliate, ISC sponsored its Annual Citizen Diplomacy Luncheon on Monday, December 5, 2011, at the Harbert Center, 2019 Fourth Avenue North.

The keynote speaker was Sherry Mueller, Ph.D., President Emerita of the National Council for International Visitors (NCIV) which operates under the auspices of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, U.S. Department of State. Before coming to NCIV, she worked for eighteen years for the Institute of International Education (IIE), first as a program officer and then as Director of the Professional Exchange Programs staff. Prior to joining IIE, Dr. Mueller served as an Experiment Leader to the former Soviet Union, an English Language Officer for the U.S. Department of State, and a lecturer at the University of Rhode Island.

The luncheon’s Honorary Chair was Terry Oden, Mayor of Mountain Brook and former U.S. Attaché to France. He is also a former Secret Service Agent who guarded the Kennedy and Johnson families. Mayor Oden presented to the audience a proclamation from the Jefferson County City Council and Mayor William Bell declaring December 5 as Citizen Diplomacy Day in Birmingham.

The luncheon program included the recognition of Alabamians who have dedicated themselves as citizen diplomats while promoting international understanding. The honorees include Rena Anderson, Attorney Orrin Ford, Imam Abdul-Hakeen Nabeeh Um’Rani, Alston Fitts, Paul Daymond of the FBI, H. Pennington Whiteside of UAB, Carolyn Foster of the Alabama Faith Council, Richie Jean Sherrod Jackson, Cindy Dawson of Global Women, Rev. Wanda Gail Campbell, Honorable Oscar L. Crawley, Sr., Betty Morrison, Verna Gates, Henry Hughes of the Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Hampton Inn East Chase, Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, Rosa Parks Museum, National Voting Rights Museum & Institute, Alabama State University Center for the Study of Civil Rights and African-American Culture, Birmingham International Center, CATCH Coalition, The Friendship Force of Montgomery, and Southern Poverty Law Center.

ISC is proud to be an active participant in the U.S. Department of State International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), which brings leaders from around the globe to the U.S. to broaden their professional horizons through contact with American professionals. Through this program, Alabamians engage in citizen diplomacy, “the concept that every citizen has the right, even the responsibility, to help shape U.S. foreign policy one handshake at a time.” Jacquelyn Shipe is the Executive Director of ISC. 

Fred Spicer Celebrates Ten Years at The Gardens

Friday, November 18th, 2011

On November 17, Executive Director Fred Spicer celebrated his tenth year with The Gardens. Below, Fred reflects on that time in our most recent edition of The Garden Dirt.

Dear Friends:

As the saying goes, “I wasn’t born in the South, but I got here as fast as I could.” Later this month I will mark 10 years as Executive Director of your Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Far from being a farewell address, I’d like to tell you why I’ve found the last decade so rewarding and why I look forward to many more years in the Magic City.

Change is Good: Since 2001 we’ve re-branded our organization: revamped our print and web publications, effectively branched out into social media, increased our professional staff threefold, increased education program participation by 254%, added 3,800 items to the Botanical Gardens Library’s collection and achieved goals set in two strategic plans (we adopted a third one last month).

A Garden is Never Finished: Since 2001, we’ve completed a new education and sustainability focused site-wide master plan (and a renovation plan for the Conservatory and Japanese Gardens), dedicated four new gardens (with another under construction), renovated 10 existing gardens (with plans for three more on the board), rebuilt 24 garden structures, conserved 90% of our outdoor art and sculpture (while adding seven new pieces) and added more than 7,000 new woody plants to the living collections.

You Are Beautiful: Since 2001, I have become smitten with the natural beauty in Birmingham and the rich biodiversity throughout Alabama. But it is the inner beauty of our supporters that has won my heart. Without the collective commitment of our passionate and generous donors, members, volunteers and partners, none of the this would have been possible. We are many things to many people – it’s part of our nature. And we have a long way to go to fully realize our potential. The citizens of Birmingham and our visitors deserve that.

It’s been my pleasure and privilege to build on The Gardens’ solid past and, with your help, contribute to its future. Here’s to ten more years (at least)!

See you in The Gardens,


PHOTOS: Annual Donor Appreciation Event

Friday, November 18th, 2011

(L to R): Lucy Thompson, Executive Director Fred Spicer, Peggy Balliet, Michael Balliet, Fay Ireland

On November 17, Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens held its annual Donor Appreciation soiree at the home of Lydia and Taylor Pursell. Approximately 100 donors enjoyed the cocktail party, enjoying a wide array of hor d’oeuvres provided by Whole Foods. Among guests in attendance were current board members: Tommy Amason and his wife, Yates, Lou Willie and his wife, Cindy Comford, Sheryl Kimerling and her husband, Jon, Tricia Noble and her mother, Janie Meadows, Board President Henry Ray and his wife, Carolyn, Scott Walton and his wife, Kelley, Mary Williamson and her husband, Lex, Laurie Allen, and Louise Wrinkle and her husband, John. The board also toasted its new members in attendance, who will assume their new roles in 2012: Cathy Adams, Brian Barr, Tricia Holbrook and Barbara Burton.

(L to R): Kim McBride, Lydia Pursell

(L to R): Mary Williamson, Director of Marketing and Membership Andrew Krebbs, Laurie Allen

(L to R): Laurie Allen, Barbara Burton, Philippe Lathrop, Judy Crittenden

(L to R): Executive Director Fred Spicer, Nancy Latimer, Lamar Latimer

(L to R): Ogden Deaton, Helen Harmon, Chris Harmon, Francie Deaton

(L to R): Joy Kloess, Price Kloess, Lex Williamson

(L to R): Bob de Buys, Holly de Buys

(L to R): Scott Walton, Kelley Walton

(L to R): Tricia Holbrook, Board President Henry Ray, Leah Taylor

(L to R): Ann Katholi, Bill Warren, Michael Balliet

(L to R): Don Cosper, Pat Cosper, Phillip Morris

(L to R): Sheryl Kimerling, Leah Taylor, John Roberts, Tricia Holbrook

(L to R): Charles Katholi, Ann Katholi

(L to R): Mary Evelyn McKee, Taylor Pursell

(L to R): Mary Williamson, John Forney, Ann Forney

Good Things Growing – Garden Dirt (Nov./Dec. 2011)

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

Alabama has four native species of “sugar” maples. Acer nigrum, black maple, is the least common, occurring sporadically in three Alabama counties in the northeast. Acer saccharum, sugar maple, occurs primarily in the northwestern half of the state and can be found in relatively significant numbers there. Both are large trees and will yield maple sugar, but require a climate much colder than ours to do so.

The sugar maples most typically encountered in Alabama are Florida sugar maple, Acer floridanum (incorrectly, A. barbatum), and chalk maple, Acer leucoderme, whose specific epithet literally means “white bark.” Their cheerful, eye-popping red/orange/yellow fall color can be seen lighting up the understories of forests and woodland edges throughout the state. Mid to late November seems to be the peak around Birmingham. Both show good adaptability for general landscape use as small to medium-sized trees and are adapted to acid and alkaline pH in soils rocky, loamy and clayey. Both tolerate sunny and shady sites and show good to excellent drought tolerance once established.

Of the two, Florida sugar maple is the larger-growing: well-studied individuals in the northern part of its range, near Jamestown, VA, are simply massive, while individuals in Alabama can reach 60’, developing gray bark that is broken into large plates (like A. saccharum), frequently with black stains, a result of mold that grows on sap oozing out from sapsucker holes. These birds eat both the sap and insects that feed on it. Chalk maple is smaller (~30’), with smooth, pale gray bark. It is sometimes shrubby in appearance, with multiple trunks. While these two species are variable, there is more to separate them than size and stems.

Look at the leaves, always checking several to get an “average.” On Florida sugar maple the edges of the center lobe are parallel or taper inward toward the leaf base. On chalk maple, they taper outward, sometimes making the center lobe appear broadly triangular. Leaves of both are densely hairy (pubescent) beneath, but the former is pale green to gray (silvery); the latter green to pale brown (yellowish). The latter also holds some crispy, tawny-colored leaves, like Fagus sylvatica, American beech, through the winter.

Planting at George Ward Park

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

Executive Director, Fred Spicer, Director of Education, Henry Hughes, and Kaul Wildflower Garden curator John Manion recently made their annual trip to George Ward Park off Greensprings Avenue to plant trees.  Each year, The Gardens makes an effort to help plant, an effort that is being taken to another level this year as we are currently growing new trees to help replant areas affected by April’s tornado damage.

Do you Have Nature at Home with you?

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

Do you Have Nature at Home with you?

KWG Curator, John Manion

I’d like to bring to your attention something about which I am very excited, have worked very hard on and that is near-and-dear to my heart. It’s Birmingham Botanical Gardens’ Central South Native Plant Conference on Friday and Saturday, November 4 and 5. This year for the first time, we have as our co-sponsors Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve, Jefferson County Master Gardeners, Shelby County Master Gardeners, Alabama Wildflower Society and the Blanche Dean Chapter of the Alabama Wildflower Society. Members of all these organizations receive our member discount on registration.

About a year ago, I was invited to be program director for this event which is only held every three years. Because it is an infrequent event, and because it was my first whack at developing programs, my goal was to make the event so wonderful that participants would eagerly await the next conference.

I wanted to lay the foundation for the conference by selecting a heavy hitter for our keynote speaker. That was an easy decision for me, and if you are attending the conference, you will see why. This individual’s work and writings are so influential, that once I was able to engage him as a presenter, I chose to develop the entire conference theme around his philosophies.

Doug Tallamy, with his very influential book Bringing Nature Home, has prompted a significant paradigm shift in the way people view and understand our world of nature. If there were ever a book that I thought should be required (not just recommended) for anyone interested in nature, this book would be my top choice. I divide my own years of being involved with plants into “pre-Tallamy” and “post-Tallamy” stages.  Some of the comments I receive from people who have read his book are amusing, with an almost religious fervor about them…comments such as “he changed my life!” or “I’ll never see the world the same again!” Anyone that has read the book will completely understand these sentiments.

An example of my pre-and post-Tallamy stages: before reading Doug’s book, if I found something munching some of my plants, my knee-jerk reaction would have been to quickly figure out how to halt the process. Now, when I see this process in motion, I celebrate, realizing that it is a sign that “the system is intact.”

The overarching theme of the two-day event is: Native Plants: The Bigger Picture – How Native Plants Complete the Puzzle.” In addition to discussing many native plants and their related topics, this conference will focus on the numerous important roles they play in our ecosystems and how we can help keep those systems intact. We will address the interrelationships of native plants to the myriad of life forms…birds, bees, butterflies, bugs – and humans!

In addition to Tallamy, we will have 26(!) other presenters ranging from speakers to workshop and field trip leaders. We are excited that Gil Nelson, noted author of the recently published Best Native Plants for Southern Gardens will also speak, as will Rick Lewandowski, the director of one of the pre-eminent native plant gardens worldwide, the stunning Mt. Cuba Center in Delaware. Two other plenary speakers will be our own director of education, Henry Hughes, who will speak about the legacy of native trees in public parks, and Dan Long, the very popular nurseryman who studies, speaks about, grows and sells vines, numerous among them, native species.

To read the full line-up of lectures, break-out sessions, workshops and field trips, see: Four of our speakers who have authored popular books will have them for sale and will be available for signings.

Please forward this announcement to any individuals or groups you think might be interested.

PHOTOS: Fall Plant Sale a Huge Success!

Monday, October 24th, 2011

Thanks to everyone who made our annual Fall Plant Sale a huge success! Hundreds of people spent time at The Gardens this weekend, taking advantage of one of our two biggest sales of the year. We hope our experts were able to give you the tips you need to help replant Alabama. Your proceeds help benefit The Gardens educational goals.