"The many great gardens of the world, of literature and poetry, of painting and music, or religion and architecture, all make the point as clear as possible: The soul cannot thrive in the absence of a garden. If you don't want paradise, you are not human; and if you are not human, you don't have a soul." -Thomas Moore, author
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Prior to 1960, a Birmingham Botanical Garden was only an idea. That year Birmingham Mayor James W. Morgan spearheaded the movement to establish The Gardens on 69 acres east of the city's zoo in Lane Park, on the south side of Red Mountain. "Morgan was interested in developing the city he loved, and the city would not have developed the same way without him," explained James A. Head, former chairman of the campaign to locate the zoo at Lane Park. Despite objections from the Park & Recreation Board, Mayor Morgan went to Montreal to inspect the greenhouses at the Montreal Botanical Gardens and ask their curator, Dr. Henry E. Teuscher, to design a master plan for Birmingham. Morgan envisioned Birmingham's Gardens as "the biggest attraction of this type in the Southeast."
In 1964, The Birmingham Botanical Society, Inc., a non-profit corporation, was founded as a "membership organization to support and improve The Gardens." From that day forward the society's volunteers, fundraising efforts and support staff helped maintain and develop The Gardens. Today both the City of Birmingham and Birmingham Botanical Society are committed to the continuing growth of The Gardens. This public/private partnership began in October of 1964, one year after the official opening of The Gardens. The City of Birmingham provides Birmingham Botanical Gardens with financial and operational commitments on an annual basis. Currently, The Gardens is part of the Birmingham Parks & Recreation Board under the auspices of Director Melvin Miller. Birmingham Botanical Society dba Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation. The Friends is a member and donor based organization that supports and improves The Gardens. In November 2001 Friends hired its first paid Executive Director, Mr. Frederick R. Spicer, Jr. The executive director links the City and Friends of The Gardens by working with both the Birmingham Parks & Recreation Board and the non-profit Board of Directors.
The history of the Birmingham Botanical Society is truly a lively, colorful story full of people who quickly recognized the enormous potential of the young Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Over the years thousands of volunteers have donated their time, talents, funds, energy, enthusiasm, and vision. Members of the Federated Garden Clubs of District Three, neighborhood garden clubs, plant societies, local civic and related industry groups, master gardeners, and individuals from all walks of life have contributed richly to this story. Today Birmingham Botanical Gardens stands as one of America's premier gardens, a true credit to the thousands of people who in 1960 had a vision of greatness for our city and state.
Excerpts were taken from Carolyn Green Satterfield's book The Birmingham Botanical Society - A Brief History published in 1999. For a copy of this publication please visit our Gift Shop or contact our office at 205.414.3950.