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Giving Nature: Seasonal Sketches

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 post is the sixth 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.

It’s 7:15 a.m. when I see Holly Carlisle exploring in the Southern Living Garden, loppers in hand. Although the rest of the volunteers won’t be arriving until 8 a.m., Holly relishes a head start, time to observe and soak in the garden before working.

While she is a part of the volunteer team that works in this garden every Wednesday morning, she is always gardening with her eye toward the clipped bits that are traditionally destined for the compost pile. Holly, a florist by trade and an artist at heart, loves the challenge of taking what some would see as waste and giving it new life in one of her arrangements.

In the lobby of the Garden Center, just to the left of the stairs leading to the second floor, is an urn on a pedestal that typically sits empty except for special events. Holly saw an opportunity to use this urn to bring a bit of the Gardens inside, creating what she calls “seasonal sketches” that serve as a snapshot of the Gardens that particular week, often using the discarded branches from our work in the Southern Living Garden.

“The interesting thing is that you never know what you’re going to have, and then you have to bring it all together,” says Holly as she tucks a branch brimming with pink beautyberry into the urn. “I’m feeling it,” she adds, stepping back to take in her progress. The urn now displays a taste of the glories found just outside. What was garden waste is now a floral artist’s invitation to celebrate the wonders of these beloved Gardens in new ways. 

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