The Gardens Blog

Learn the role of fire in Alabama's ecology on Saturday

published: 03/16/2017

Learn the role of fire in Alabama's ecology on Saturday

At Westervelt Ecological Services, John McGuire manages wetlands, streams and endangered species - mitigation areas. Those areas are generally set aside in perpetuity to serve a specific function; whether as a wetland or a habitat for a rare species. Prescribed burns are one of the many tools that the group uses to manage these areas, especially in the Florida panhandle and South Mississippi. The lands that they work to preserve cover nearly 10,000 acres in the Southeast alone.

On Saturday, McGuire and his colleague Rachel Conley will explore the benefits of fire in Alabama's ecology with a group from Birmingham Botanical Gardens. The class and field trip will take place from 8-5 p.m. and registration can be completed online.

McGuire recently talked more about the role of fire in nature.

Where will we be visiting on the field trip portion of Saturday's class?

We're hoping to visit Oak Mountain State Park. There's some mountain longleaf in that area that they've tried to reintroduce fire to; and get an idea of fires effects Oak Mountain State Park.

How often do they do burns at Oak Mountain?

Oak Mountain is in a deficit in burning because they've been dealing with stands that have been fire suppressed for decades. My understanding from the managers there is that over the past 15 years, they've burned three times, so that's a five year rotation, approximately, on these sites. Because we're in a deficit, getting fire reintroduced to these sites is a pretty delicate thing. One would assume that eventually, they'll move to about a three year rotation until they can get fire fully restored into that site. They probably have two or three more burns they'll need before that can move to a three year rotation.

How can fire be beneficial to wildlife? 

The primary way is habitat modification. It can restore desired habitat structure for animals. It can stimulate specific food sources. Sometimes, for example, with wild turkey or quail, it can create blackened areas with bugs on it that they can go out and feed on. I've seen animals feeding on the flame front itself, where grasshoppers or what not may be flushing from the fire and hawks can feed off of the fire itself.

How did we learn to control the beneficial side of fire and how long have we been practicing that?

About 10,000 years.

I mean, I can't be certain that it's 10,000 years, but humans have had a mastery of fire since they came over the Bering Strait and understood its value in habitat modification as tools, just like we understand it today. That was an understanding that was passed from generation to generation; from family to family. People came from different countries from immigration and brought with them their own ideals, whether those were Celtic herding practices where they used fire to maintain rain or African ways of maintaining savanna habitat; ways of sweeping up around the house to keep your house from burning up from frequent fires.

We had a mastery of fire; we've always known the role of fire in these areas, and it's really only been the last 70 years that through a concerted effort that we have kind of lost our understanding of fire and nature.

In the 1930s, Alabama pushed hard to get what they called the "fire menace" under control in the state. State foresters made it public enemy number one in the 1930s and in the 1940s, set up a system of fire towers and they did a pretty good job of what they called "uncontrolled or unwanted" fire. Alabama has been a little bit more progressive than other parts of the country because there's always been elements that have burned the woods. There are elements in Birmingham or Montgomery that may not be as used to seeing smoke flumes as, say, somewhere down in Covington County, but there's always an element in Alabama that understood fire. But it's been in the last 15-20 years that, as a forestry management tool, we tried to make a concerted effort to get more of it back on the landscape.



About Birmingham Botanical Gardens

A facility of the Birmingham Park and Recreation Board, the beauty and value of Birmingham Botanical Gardens are the result of a successful public/private partnership between the City of Birmingham and the nonprofit Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens. In 2016, Birmingham Botanical Gardens was named as one of the top three free attractions in America by USA Today. Education programs run year round and more than 10,000 school children on average enjoy free science-curriculum based field trips annually. The Gardens is open daily, offering free admission to more than 350,000 yearly visitors.

Rosy planting tips from the Birmingham Rose Society

published: 03/13/2017

Rosy planting tips from the Birmingham Rose Society

by: Chris VanCleave, Birmingham Rose Society.

Roses come to life at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens Spring Plant Sale. In partnership with the Birmingham Rose Society, The Gardens will once again offer an incredible selection of roses for shoppers to enjoy. Local rosarian Clayton Richard and a team from the Birmingham Rose Society selected varieties for this year's sale. "Today's gardeners are looking for disease resistant/easy care roses. In addition to popular Knockout and Home Run varieties, the Rose Society will offer Hybrid Teas, Floribundas and shrubs from Kordes Roses. Kordes, a rose breeder from Germany has lead the charge on disease resistant roses and if you grow one, you'll see the difference.

There will also be a large assortment of Drift Roses, some great climbers and miniatures. For those who love the romance of the cottage garden, we'll have a selection of Old Garden Roses and a good supply of roses designated Earth Kind. Earth Kind roses have been field tested for disease resistance, drought and pest tolerance and will provide a big color display in your landscape.

Planting & Growing Tips from the Birmingham Rose Society:

Planting Roses

Location Location Location

* Roses need a sunny location (6-8 hrs. of sun daily) and well-draining nutrient rich soil

Plant Well

* Dig a hole as large as the container plus two inches' around.

* Add a mix of garden soil and composted manure.

* Plant covering up to the base of the plant.

* Top dress with mulch.

* Water in.

Rose Care

Roses Are Thirsty

* Water roses deeply once a week if no rain.

An Ounce of Prevention

* Remove diseased leaves and keep rose beds free of fallen debris

* A 2 - 3" layer of mulch will keep down weeds and aid moisture retention

Pruning:

* Prune roses in early spring. Usually around March 1st.

* Prune repeat blooming roses low to encourage new growth and a healthy can structure. We recommend pruning down to 18-24" high.

* Prune once blooming and climbing roses after they have bloomed each spring.

Promote New Blooms

* Deadhead spent blooms on repeat blooming roses throughout the season

* Fertilize after each bloom cycle until September Advocate Good Rose Culture

* Become a member of the Birmingham Rose Society and the American Rose Society With a little care, your roses will bring you great joy for many years to come.

To shop this year's selection, visit the Birmingham Rose Society at Spring Plant Sale. The Sale returns to Brookwood Village April 7-9. On Friday, April 7, public sale hours at 9-7 p.m. On Saturday, April 8, public sale hours are 9-5 p.m. And on Sunday, April 9, public sale hours are 11-3 p.m.



About Birmingham Botanical Gardens

Birmingham Botanical Gardens is Alabama's largest living museum with more than 12,000 different plants in its living collections. The Gardens' 67.5 acres contains more than 25 unique gardens, 30+ works of original outdoor sculpture and miles of serene paths. The Gardens features the largest public horticulture library in the U.S., conservatories, a wildflower garden, two rose gardens, the Southern Living garden, and Japanese Gardens with a traditionally crafted tea house. Education programs run year round and more than 11,000 school children enjoy free science-curriculum based field trips annually. The Gardens is open daily, offering free admission to more than 350,000 yearly visitors.

Spring planting tips from John Floyd

published: 03/10/2017

Spring planting tips from John Floyd

by: John Floyd, Birmingham Botanical Gardens trustee.

Sitting at the desk looking out the window on this bright sunny day, I wonder when our spring garden will occur. Daffodils and Saucer Magnolias were blooming in January, and temperatures were fluctuating from the low teens into the seventies. Quince in full bloom can last for weeks, even with the high/low temperature effect. On the other hand, planted tulips are not so happy with these temperatures, because cold helps buds set on these spring beauties. The landmark of spring is azaleas, and because of our temperatures, I suspect they will bloom early and be subject to being frozen except for the late flowering varieties. Camellias could be into their best season of bloom ever because some selections that started blooming in early January will be followed by the later selections. So we could literally have camellias in bloom for up to five months. Is there anything gardeners can do to ensure theirplants stay healthy and growing in these unusual times? Here are a few tips:

  • Fertilize annuals that are flowering with a water-soluble liquid fertilizer to promote more growth and flowering. Do this every other week at half the recommended strength.
  • Replace damaged annuals with new ones. Pansies, ornamental kales andcabbages are often hurt so much by a quick hard freeze that those planted last fall will not recover. Add new ones where needed or pull the whole planting and replace it.
  • For trees and shrubs that look stressed, check for insects and diseases. Because of a mild winter, many of our insect type friends over wintered. If you are unsure of how to control the problem, visit the Hanna Center on the second floor of the Garden Center building and they can help you.
  • Cut out all dead and unhealthy stems on trees and shrubs that were a result of last fall's drought, many of which are just now showing up. If the pruning of the dead material ruins the look of the tree or shrub, cut it down and remove it from the garden, and plant a new one. A good place to purchase new plants is at Spring Plant Sale April 7-9 at Brookwood Village.

The Sale is open on Friday, April 7 from 9-7 p.m., Saturday, April 8 from 9-5 p.m. and on Sunday, April 9 from 11-3 p.m. Admission is free to the public. Enjoy the warmth of our early spring, but remember the official last frost date for the metro Birmingham area is April 15.



About Birmingham Botanical Gardens

Birmingham Botanical Gardens is Alabama's largest living museum with more than 12,000 different plants in its living collections. The Gardens' 67.5 acres contains more than 25 unique gardens, 30+ works of original outdoor sculpture and miles of serene paths. The Gardens features the largest public horticulture library in the U.S., conservatories, a wildflower garden, two rose gardens, the Southern Living garden, and Japanese Gardens with a traditionally crafted tea house. Education programs run year round and more than 11,000 school children enjoy free science-curriculum based field trips annually. The Gardens is open daily, offering free admission to more than 350,000 yearly visitors.

Annual Member Celebration at The Gardens is Thursday

published: 03/07/2017

Annual Member Celebration at The Gardens is Thursday

On Thursday, Members at Birmingham Botanical Gardens will have an opportunity to greet new Executive Director Tom Underwood. The Annual Member Celebration will take place from 5-7 p.m. The casual event is free to Members, but registration is requested. That can be completed online here.

Several Members-Only classes are also on the schedule for 2017, including the Walking Lecture of the Japanese Gardens with Dr. Bob Wendorf on March 17. That lecture will be Dr. Wendorf's final lecture at The Gardens.

New members and renewals can also take advantage of the Members-Only Sale at Spring Plant Sale on April 6. Membership allows guests to shop the largest Sale of the year before it opens to the public. Spring Plant Sale returns to Brookwood Village and it open to the public April 7-9.



About Birmingham Botanical Gardens

Birmingham Botanical Gardens is Alabama's largest living museum with more than 12,000 different plants in its living collections. The Gardens' 67.5 acres contains more than 25 unique gardens, 30+ works of original outdoor sculpture and miles of serene paths. The Gardens features the largest public horticulture library in the U.S., conservatories, a wildflower garden, two rose gardens, the Southern Living garden, and Japanese Gardens with a traditionally crafted tea house. Education programs run year round and more than 11,000 school children enjoy free science-curriculum based field trips annually. The Gardens is open daily, offering free admission to more than 350,000 yearly visitors.

Birmingham Botanical Gardens and Birmingham Audubon working together for a better Birmingham

published: 03/02/2017

Birmingham Botanical Gardens and Birmingham Audubon working together for a better Birmingham

Created in 1946, Birmingham Audubon's mission is to conserve and restore natural ecosystems focusing on birds, other wildlife and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth's biological diversity. Through collaborative programming, Audubon also helps Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens achieve its mission to promote public knowledge and appreciation of plants, gardens and the environment through an avian lens. This dynamic partnership includes collaborative field trips, a seasonal birding guide for Birmingham Botanical Gardens, and collaborative conservation efforts for native birding habitats.

Since 2010, Birmingham Audubon Society has partnered with the Barber Alabama Woodlands Discovery Field Trip to introduce thousands of students to the joy of bird watching. Experienced naturalists prep students for the field as each learn how to properly use binoculars. Ready for a bird walk, docents guide an exploration through many bird habitats of The Gardens. Students discover how to identify birds by physical characteristics and sound. They are able to talk about their habitats and gain understanding of just how much plants and animals need one another.

But the collaborations don't stop there. Birmingham Botanical Gardens has partnered with Audubon to co-host a summer day program for Get Outside Alabama, a children's summer camp for Highlands Day School students as well as weekend family programs in The Gardens. The Library at the Gardens carries official Audubon publications and resources including a Birding at the Gardens list that was a collaboration between Greg Harber, a member of Birmingham Audubon Society, and Director of Library Services at Birmingham Botanical Gardens Hope Long. The project, which started in January of 2016 and completed in September of the same year, lists the common and scientific names of birds observed in Birmingham Botanical Gardens and the seasons in which these birds can be found on site.

The collaboration between the two organizations also extends past The Gardens' gates. Multiple staff members attend and lead workshops at the annual Birmingham Audubon Mountain Workshop in Mentone. The workshop is one of the Southeast's largest and oldest events dedicated to the natural history of the southern Appalachians. A broad overview of the region's natural and cultural history is presented through classes on animal ecology, stream biology, beginning and advanced bird identification, mammal identification among other classes. For the past 15 years, Birmingham Botanical Gardens Vice President of Education Henry Hughes, has lead programs on urban forestry and flowers, fruits and seeds for both children and adults at the workshop. Kaul Wildflower Curator John Manion has also been a Mentone workshop regular during his tenure as well as advised Birmingham Audubon Society on native plantings for their birding habitat project at Avondale park. In return, Audubon has served as a sponsor for the annual Central South Native Plant Conference and an invaluable collaborator at Limestone Park work days.



About Birmingham Botanical Gardens

Birmingham Botanical Gardens is Alabama's largest living museum with more than 12,000 different plants in its living collections. The Gardens' 67.5 acres contains more than 25 unique gardens, 30+ works of original outdoor sculpture and miles of serene paths. The Gardens features the largest public horticulture library in the U.S., conservatories, a wildflower garden, two rose gardens, the Southern Living garden, and Japanese Gardens with a traditionally crafted tea house. Education programs run year round and more than 11,000 school children enjoy free science-curriculum based field trips annually. The Gardens is open daily, offering free admission to more than 350,000 yearly visitors.

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