Boasting more than 900 different species, the Kaul Wildflower Garden celebrates the diverse flora of Alabama and demonstrates the variety of roles native plants can play in our gardens. The garden was established in the early 1960s by a group of passionate wildflower advocates led by the gusto of Mrs. Bobbe Kaul. Landscape architect Zenon Schreiber of New York created the garden from the rubble of a former rock quarry, establishing a lush collection that continues to inspire stewardship of Alabama’s native treasures.
The first sign of spring’s arrival are those first bloodroots appearing at the tail end of winter. This sets into motion a whole chorus of glorious spring blooms, from trout lilies and trilliums cascading down the sides of the creek, to wild geraniums billowing against the coarse rocks, dogwood blooms reaching out from the edge of the forest, woodland phlox rippling along the edge of paths, and craggy mountain laurels bursting into blooming clusters.
As summer heats up the garden hums with life. In the entry meadow, bees and butterflies along with other local pollinators visit the pink faces of coneflower that are mixed with the spikey blue blooms of blazing star. The warm colors of early summer give way to the glowing yellow black-eyed Susans and bright red pops of Turk’s cap mallow, which blanket the entry garden by season’s end. Along the stream you might catch a hummingbird visiting the red flowers of Indian pinks or a mink hiding from you beneath the delicate foliage of northern maidenhair ferns. If a summer storm catches you out in the garden, the gazebo is a peaceful spot to escape the rain.
By fall, the purple haze of mistflower covers the garden with intermingled pops of heath asters and bursts of yellow swamp sunflowers. Just as the rudbeckia sings its last autumnal chorus and the blue spikes of lobelia begin to fade, the foliage above begins to turn its brilliant hues of red, orange, and yellow. If you are lucky you might even catch goldfinches descending on seed heads, a favorite snack.
As the quiet of winter descends, the herbaceous layer retreats and the structural beauty of the garden is revealed with rock outcroppings taking center stage. On particularly cold winter days you can warm up at the sight of Alabama crotons glowing fiery orange, and possibly catch glistening icicles hanging from the rock glade wall. Meanwhile, the soft yellow blooms of golden Alexander and leatherwood remind us that spring is on the horizon.
Fun Facts: Kaul Wildflower Garden
You will discover several beautiful examples of longleaf pine, Alabama’s state tree, in this garden space. This tree, which used to cover much of the Southeast, has the longest needles of any pine native to North America.
The Kaul Wildflower Garden is home to the rare Boynton oak, a relatively small form of oak tree that is now considered endemic to six counties in central Alabama.
Explore an adjacent area that replicates the Bibb County Glades. Located on the Little Cahaba River and managed by the Nature Conservancy of Alabama, this “botanical lost world” is home to 61 rare plant species such as sticky rosinweed.
In spring, pitcher plants put on a show in the garden’s bog area. These carnivorous plants attract insects that fall into their tubular leaves, where they are trapped and digested. The southeastern U.S. has more species of them than anywhere else in the world.
In early summer, look for woodland spider lilies in bloom along the creek. These fragrant plants, which are easy to grow in a garden setting, resemble the famed Cahaba lilies that bloom only in moving water.