Posts Tagged ‘John Manion’

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.

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.

BSC Student Kate LeCroy Begins Project at The Gardens

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

On Tuesday, Birmingham-Southern Biology major, Kate LeCroy, dropped by The Gardens to begin a project. Kate is trying to learn more about moth pollination. She placed a trap here here to attract moths. When she collects the moths, she will look at their tongues for pollen. “That way, I hope to make a moth visitation network,” she said.

LeCroy is currently looking at grad schools, but she has already put her stamp on the field. Recently, she discovered the Symphyotrichum laeve var concinnum at Ruffner Mountain Quarry, the first such occurence in Jefferson County.  LeCroy hopes to learn more about her findings from this project in the next few weeks.

Certificate in Native Plant Studies

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

Sample of Previous Classes offered in Certificate in Native Plant Studies

- Introduction to the Study of Native Plants (core)

- Non-Native Invasive Plants Workshop (elective)

- Native Woody Plants in Summer (elective)

- Introduction to Botany (core)

- Native Ferns and Their Relatives (elective)

- Introduction to Soil Science (elective)

- Introduction to Plant Taxonomy/Plant Classification (core)

- Native Plants for Pollinators (elective)

- Medicinal and Edible Plants (elective)

- Ecology of Alabama Native Plants (core)

- Nighttime on the Cahaba – by Canoe! (field trip): What better way to escape the heat of summer than participating in a leisurely moonlight paddle on the Cahaba River? This unique and relaxing way of enjoying a flat water portion of the Cahaba River will allow us to experience the Cahaba in a different light; we will see some familiar plants not normally viewed at night, as well as see and hear a variety of wildlife (imagine: beaver tails slapping water and the calls of night birds.), including hundreds of glowing firefly larvae. (The majority of proceeds will benefit the Cahaba River Society.) 

- Bats and Plants (field trip): After visiting some distinctive botanical sites en route to our destination, we will gather at the 264 acre Sauta Cave National Wildlife Refuge, whose cave is home to federally endangered gray and Indiana bats. After a briefing on bats – we will witness what may be the most significant evening bat flights in the Southeast. Recent estimates of bats emerging were 300,000-400,000! After viewing this spectacle, we hope to conclude the evening by observing a resident colony of glow worms. Participants are invited to bring a picnic dinner to enjoy on the cave’s observation just before dark.

- Movable Plants: Creating Beautiful Container Gardens with Native Plants: Gardening in various types of containers can offer many advantages, especially for those who live in apartments, condominiums, or for those who don’t have space to garden in the ground. Gardening in movable vessels also enables one to use containers as accents in varied locations. This class will show you how to plant a variety of themed containers: for sun, shade, bog, winter, butterflies, hummingbirds and other forms of wildlife. Lists of recommended plants for each type of planting will be distributed.

- Spring Identification of Native Woody Plants (elective): Using The Gardens’ extensive living collections as a hands-on resource, we will focus on attributes and identification features of species found naturally or in cultivation in Alabama. Attendees will examine and learn to identify ~20 plants whose key traits are evident in spring, as well as learn which of these plants make good sense to use in your landscapes. This is largely a walking class, held outdoors; please dress appropriately for the weather.

- What’s That Plant? A Workshop for Learning How to Identify Plants (elective): Identifying plants can be challenging and perplexing, but is an important skill to possess. This full-day workshop will begin at a very basic level and progress to the use of more complex methods and tools used for learning a plant’s identity. Basic terminology will be presented, followed by instruction on the use of a variety of tools, primarily taxonomic keys used as “roadmaps” that lead to plant identification. Ample time will be spent doing hands-on exercises and corroborating material learned while examining plants in The Gardens. Recommended reference:  Plant Identification Terminology: An Illustrated Glossary, by James G. Harris and Melinda Woolf Harris (Jan 1, 2001)

- Summer Identification of Native Woody Plants (elective): Using The Gardens’ extensive living collections as a hands-on resource, we will focus on attributes and identification features of species found naturally or in cultivation in Alabama. Attendees will examine and learn to identify ~20 plants whose key traits are evident in summer, as well as learn which of these plants make good sense to use in your landscapes. This is largely a walking class, held outdoors; please dress appropriately for the weather.

- The Fascinating World of Carnivorous Plants (elective): The southeastern United States is a hotspot of diversity for carnivorous plants, which obtain their nutrients by attracting, capturing, and digesting living animals. They inhabit some of our most unique and imperiled wetland habitats. This course will examine their life history and explore some of the plant communities that support them. Our instructor will cover the identification, cultivation, and propagation of several species of carnivorous plants. He will also profile conservation efforts being taken to conserve many of these species, as well as their endangered and species-rich habitats. In addition to visiting the bog in the Kaul Wildflower Garden, each participant will have the opportunity to create a “bog in a bowl” to take home.

Photos: Mint Mixology

Friday, August 19th, 2011