Posts Tagged ‘Native Plant Group’

A Weed Worth Extra Effort

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

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 –

To learn more about this year’s Fall Plant Sale, visit 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.

Janice Williams Helps Native Plant Group Ready for Spring Plant Sale

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

Janice Williams Helps Native Plant Group Ready for Spring Plant Sale

Janice Williams began volunteering at The Gardens in, approximately, 1986. “I went on strolls through The Gardens with (old friends) Rebecca and LouAnn,” said Williams. “I told them I wanted to work there, too, and they invited me to join them on a Wednesday at the potting shed. I’ve been working there ever since.”

Williams eased her way into The Gardens when Bobbie Kaul invited her and her friend Pat to dig some flowers out of Kaul’s yard and plant them in the wildflower garden. It was during this time she had spent time working in the wildflower garden with Pat, Weesie and Ann.

Since, Williams has missed just one plant sale, one that fell when she was out of the country. She spends her time today with the Native Plant Group, hard at work on April’s Spring Plant Sale.

If you would like to learn more about this year’s Spring Plant Sale, and all of the special events that coincide, we encourage you to visit To learn more about how you can volunteer at The Gardens, visit

Native Plant Group Seeks Volunteers

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

Pictured, Left to Right: Peggy Horne, Nancy Nash, Jan Holliday, Betsy Fleenor, Larry Michaelove, Biddy Osbun, Anne Parrish, Bill Burnham, Linda Widner

Native Plants Group Volunteers – WE WANT YOU!

Meeting on Wednesday mornings at 9 am, this group works to produce the thousands of native plants sold at The Gardens’ plant sales. These sales (held in the Spring and Fall) serve as two of the year’s largest fundraisers at The Gardens.

Sessions usually last from 1 ½  to 2 hours. Along the way, we become familiar with a large number of natives and their growing requirements, and enjoy the camaraderie of our fellow gardeners. We meet in the “potting shed” located immediately behind the Conservatory. Our duties change throughout the year, with seed starting, taking cuttings, potting up seedlings and nursery-bought “plugs” and maintaining the plants being our concentration at various times. Other duties include data entry of records, participation in the plant sales, and use of organizational skills. Please wear clothes that are comfortable and that you don’t mind getting dirty. The potting shed tends to be hot in the summer and cool in the winter, so dress accordingly. Volunteers need to be reasonably physically fit to work with this group.

For more information on how you can get involved with The Native Plant Group here at The Gardens, contact Mary-Bestor Grant at 205.414.3962 or

Come go native with us!