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Giving Nature: Clearing the Way

Around the Gardens Blog

Across the Gardens, volunteers give back to help Birmingham Park & Recreation and Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens staffs meet needs and enhance garden spaces.

By Molly Hendry

This is the final post in an eight-part series highlighting some of the many ways that dedicated volunteers—both longtime and new—give of their time and talents to support the Gardens and all that it makes possible. We invite you to enjoy additional stories from this series through the links at the end of this post, then sign up to learn more about volunteering with the Friends.

Every Tuesday and Thursday morning at the entrance to the Kaul Wildflower Garden you will be greeted by a bright yellow trailer draped in a blue tarp piled high with thuggish, or aggressive, plants freshly ripped from planting beds. Native plant enthusiasts understand how thrilling it is to see invasive plants loaded up to be hauled off to the compost pile. It’s truly a delight, because each plant thug cleared leaves room for a treasured native plant to flourish.

 Volunteer Jim St. John clears the way for future plantings.

For years, a committed group of volunteers has shown up ready to tackle whatever this special garden needs. It often means completing some not-so-glamorous tasks such as pulling invasive species like honeysuckle, privet, and stiltgrass; digging smilax tubers wedged up under rocks; killing poison ivy or hauling off large tree debris. Working in the Kaul Wildflower Garden is not for the faint of heart. A fierce camaraderie knits the group together. 

What keeps the volunteers returning is not solely the joy that comes from holding a freshly dug smilax tuber in the palms of their hands, but also the collective forward vision of what the garden will be. The future of the Kaul Wildflower Garden is guided by a development plan created in spring 2019 by internationally acclaimed landscape architect Thomas Rainer of Phyto Studio. Each week as we forge on, I often hear the words “I can’t wait.” It is a mutual understanding of where we are headed and the anticipation of what is yet to come that keeps us piling that yellow trailer high.

Interested in volunteering at the Gardens? Learn more about volunteer opportunities by visiting

Giving Nature: An Eight-Part Series about the Impact of Volunteers at the Gardens

Part One: Giving Nature

Part Two: Feeding Mind, Body, and Soul

Part Three: No Time to Waste

Part Four: Show of (Helping) Hands

Part Five: Bridge of Accomplishment

Part Six: Seasonal Sketches

Part Seven: Sitting Pretty 

Part Eight: Clearing the Way