Walk in Avondale Park: a Great Blue Heron Takes Flight

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden Blog, Avondale Park, Birmingham, Alabama, blue heron

A great blue heron is a fairly common sight at Avondale Park, a 40-acre public park in Birmingham, Alabama.

There are tasty little fish for a heron to eat in the spring water-fed pond. A small island at the pond’s center provides a human-free respite in this urban park. The natural spring has attracted locals and travelers to the area since pre-Civil War days (and Native Americans long before that).

Birmingham, Alabama, Avondale Park
Vintage postcard showing Avondale Park c. 1911 via Bhamwiki

In the 1930s, the city added a stone amphitheater designed by landscape architect Rubee Pearse. The spring flows from the depths of a cave, but unfortunately for any spelunkers out there, the city’s 1930s improvements included blocking the cave entrance. In 2012, the park installed baseball diamonds and restrooms along with other renovations. 

After a recent lunch at Avondale’s Taco Morro Loco (so good!), a friend and I took a stroll around the pond. There were lots of ducks and one solitary blue heron. I approached him slowly, snapping photos with each step. Then he took off.

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden Blog, Avondale Park, Birmingham, Alabama, blue heron

Check out the water trail as he lifts himself from the water.

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden Blog, Avondale Park, Birmingham, Alabama, blue heronJust one more big lift…

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden Blog, Avondale Park, Birmingham, Alabama, blue heron

And then he sails. How beautiful nature is.

In a Vase on Monday: Sweet Gardenias

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018

The guest room smells amazing today thanks to the small vase of gardenias clipped for today’s In a Vase on Monday post.

Frostproof gardenias (Gardenia jasminoides)

I’ve written before about the drought that claimed quite a few of my plants and shrubs in 2016-17. I dragged my feet about replanting shrubs in the largest front bed, but I finally got the job done this year. I opted for a frostproof variety of gardenias, which are full sun and drought tolerant. The bushes started flowering last week, and they smell ever so nice. Gardenias have a heavy, sweet scent, but it’s not overpowering.

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
A gardenia in bloom. Ahhhh, breathe it in.

Colorwheel, aka Stokes’ Aster (Stokesia laevis)

The colorwheel bloom in last week’s post got a couple of comments, so this time I’m including a photo of new versus old blooms. The palest bloom opened most recently; the others have darkened with age.

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Colorwheel, aka Stoke’s aster, blooms deepen in color with age.

“Hot Lips” sage (Salvia x jamensis) 

The small white flowers tipped in red are “Hot Lips” sage or saliva. A couple of varieties of perennial salvia are shown in the photo below. I’ve caught a glimpse of a ruby throated hummingbird a few times this spring—apparently they love salvia!

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Salvia = hummingbird magnet

Thanks to Cathy and her blog, Rambling in the Garden, for hosting the IAVOM meme. It’s helped me connect to other garden bloggers and makes blogging much more enjoyable. Be sure to visit her blog and the comments section to see what she and other gardeners around the world have put in a vase on Monday.

 

In a Vase on Monday: Kangaroo Colorwheel

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018

Last week, I noticed a few garden bloggers chose fun animal vases for In a Vase on Monday. This week, I follow suit.

Kangaroo Vase

This vintage Fitz & Floyd piece is actually a toothbrush holder. As a vase, the holes meant for toothbrush handles function like a flower frog, helping stems stay in place. This is not the first time this estate-sale find has appeared on my blog, but it is its first appearance since I began posting for IAVOM, hosted by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.

Colorwheel, aka Stokes’ Aster (Stokesia laevis)

The pastel, almost white bloom by the kangaroo face is the very first offering from my Stoke’s Aster this season. This perennial, full-sun plant is native to the Southeastern United States. It earns the nickname Colorwheel from the changing color of its blooms, which begin as the palest pink-purple and age to a deep mauve.

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
An overhead view offers a closer look at the Stoke’s Aster bloom (bottom left).

Rounding out the colorwheel: repeat bloomers

The rest of the blooms in this vase have already appeared in various posts this year, and you will probably continue to see them in my vases through the summer.

  • The spindly brown stems bearing tiny white flowers are heuchera ‘Mocha’ also known as coral bells.
  • The clusters of small purple flowers are lavender (Lavandula angustiflolia).
  • With a truly ice-like shimmer, the neon violet flowers are ice plant (Delosperma cooperi).
  • The violet, cone-shaped clusters are butterfly bush (Buddleja), and speaking of …

The butterfly bush below our kitchen window went from one single bloom last week to full-blast flowering this week. Bring on the butterflies!

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Butterfly bush

More animal vases

Last week, posts from these bloggers inspired my kangaroo creation.

  • Wild Daffodil, hailing from the other side of the Atlantic on England’s south coast, featured zebra and giraffe vases.
  • In Florida, the Shrub Queen arranged native wildflowers in a cow vase and introduced us to a sweet real-life pup.
  • Bonney Lassie, of Washington state, has a fish vase that I adore.

More In a Vase on Monday

Visit Rambling in the Garden to see what Cathy and gardeners around the world have put in a vase this Monday. Thank you for stopping by!

 

In a Vase on Monday: Welcome May

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Red hot poker (yellow flower), butterfly bush, ice plant and Carolina snailseed

This week, vibrant new blooms join the spring party and the Carolina snailseed is being super clingy.

Today’s post is part of “In a Vase on Monday,” a weekly meme hosted by Cathy on her blog Rambling in the Garden. Give her a visit to see what she and other gardeners around the world have put in a vase today. But first, here’s what’s in my vase on Monday, May 7, 2018, in Birmingham, Alabama.

Red hot poker (Kniphofia uvaria ‘Grandiflora’)

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Red hot poker

Also known as torch lily, this perennial is another purchase from the Birmingham Botanical Gardens fall plant sale in 2017. This is its first (and only) bloom, so I hope more blooms are on the way. It’s a native of Southern Africa, and from what I read, its blooms are often bi-colored in combinations of yellow, orange and red. I’m not sure if my plant will offer only yellow blooms, or it’s going to surprise me.

Butterfly bush (Buddleja)

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Butterfly bush

We planted a butterfly bush under our kitchen window last year. True to its name, it attracts lots of butterflies. It’s covered in green buds this week, which will soon turn into dark violet-purple blooms. Although not fully bloomed, this one was far enough along to demonstrate its color.

Ice plant (Delosperma cooperi)

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Ice plant

I also featured this succulent ground cover in my IAVOM post on April 23.  It’s really doing well this year, so you will probably see it in my arrangements throughout the summer. Look how the petals shimmer in the sun.

Carolina snailseed (Cocculus carolinus)

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Carolina snailseed

When looking for vase ideas today, I was taken by how these young shoots of Carolina snailseed twisted together to achieve verticality. It reminds me of Jack and the Bean Stalk.

Thanks for dropping by my blog today, and don’t forget to visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for more IAVOM posts.

Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly identified the Carolina snailseed as English ivy (Hedera).

 

In the Garden with Betty

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018

This week, I sipped lemonade with my friend Betty in her garden. She has some lovely things in bloom this April in Alabama.

Betty wore a wide-brimmed hat and greeted me in the driveway. We used to work together, and she advised me when I began gardening and landscaping in earnest. I’ve mentioned her before in this blog, though not by name. She’s the friend who suggested loropetalum as a privacy border and who told me that dogwoods in bloom should look like floating clouds.

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Lemonade with Betty on the back porch after the garden tour

When I asked if I could write about her garden, she suggested timing our visit with one of her showiest April displays: purple irises blooming in front of a Crimson Queen Japanese maple.

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Crimson Queen Japanese maple and purple irises

When she bought this tree, it was small enough to carry home in the backseat of her four-door sedan. She’s nursed it through two droughts. “Only in the past couple of years has it really taken off so that this time of year it is really gorgeous,” she said.

The irises are passalong plants from her younger sister, a master gardener. Her sister helped teach Betty about gardening when she first moved into her house. Now Betty is passing along her knowledge to me–what a nice way for things to come full circle.

Here are a few other highlights from my visit.

“Souvenir de la Malmaison” Rose

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
“Souvenir de la Malmaison” rose in bloom

Betty purchased this rose from the Antique Rose Emporium in Texas. Its name comes from the Paris home, “Malmaison,” of French empress Josephine Bonaparte. “The Russian emperor came to Paris to visit, and he saw this rose in her garden and named it,” said Betty.

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018

From bud to gracefully aged bloom, the flowers of this antique rose look pretty at every stage.

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018

Betty noted the blackspot, a fungal disease, on the leaves. (She said she forgot to spray the rose with anti-fungal solution before it leafed out.) The blooms are so pretty, I barely noticed.

Blue Pin Flower or Pincushion Flower (Scabiosa)

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Blue pin flower

“I like things that are perennials that will come back another year and I don’t have to replant them” said Betty, whose goal is to have something in bloom at all times, spring through fall.

This cheerful blue pin flower is a prime example of a hard-working spring perennial. I also like how the creeping Jenny in the background fills in the bare spots between plants.

Clematis

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Clematis buds

Seeing clematis thrive in this sunny location at Betty’s house confirmed for me that the clematis I planted at the base of my fence does not get enough sun. I must find a new spot for mine because these flowers are lovely.

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Clematis flower

After the garden tour, Betty invited me to stay for lemonade. We chatted on the back porch enjoying the view and soft light of early evening.

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
A lovely backyard view

When I left, she sent me home with a pot of pink muhly grass (an extra patch dug up from her yard) and two of her favorite gardening books, Founding Gardeners and The Brother Gardeners by Andrea Wulf, on loan. I will find a sunny spot for the pink muhly grass, and I hope to show off its blooms late summer or fall.

Thank you for stopping by, and I hope you enjoyed this post. I’ll close with one more photo of the irises and Japanese maple–because, frankly, I could not choose a favorite.

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Purple irises and Crimson Queen Japanese maple

Walk in Kaul Wildflower Garden

Take an evening stroll with me through Kaul Wildflower Garden, one of more than two dozen gardens at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens.

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden Blog, 2018
Red columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) stands almost as tall as the longleaf pine sapling behind it.

Alabama’s state tree is the longleaf pine (Pinus palustris), and many young specimens grow along Kaul Wildflower Garden’s trails. This strong native tree is resistant to both disease and hurricane-force storms compared to other pines in the Southeastern US. I must also say that the young trees look a bit like Cousin Itt from The Addams Family.

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
A young longleaf pine–does it look like Cousin Itt, or is it just me?

I especially love the shady areas of this garden, where ferns and bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), with its distinctive leaf shape, thrive. 

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
A new fern frond unfurls.
(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Look for bloodroot growing along the path–and sometimes on the path!

A special mid-April treat for me was the mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) on the cusp of full bloom. The light was a bit low for a photo, but the end result looks like a pink firework against a night sky.

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Mountain laurel about to bloom

If you have an opportunity to visit Kaul Wildflower Garden, you’ll find many plants growing in abundance, but I encourage you to keep an eye out for the oddballs, such as the drawf crested iris (Iris cristata) below. You won’t have any trouble recognizing it as an iris; it’s just smaller. It’s endemic to the eastern United States, which means you won’t find it anywhere else.

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Dwarf crested iris is truly petite!

Another sighting on my walk was the red flower below, which I believe is a scarlet catchfly (Silene subciliata). I spotted this plant only once in the garden, but it was close to the trail.

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Suggested ID: scarlet catchfly (Silene subciliata)

There are also habitat-specific plants, such as the statuesque pitcher plants and stonecrop in the next two photos. Stonecrop is so named for good reason. Here it makes a home on a small boulder.

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Suggested ID: White pitcher plant (Sarracenia leucophyll)
(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Stonecrop, also known as sedum (unidentified species)

I’ve only scratched the surface of what there is to see at Kaul Wildflower Garden, much less the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. And of course, its offerings depend on the time of year. For now I will close with the masses of yellow flowers blooming in the bog and surrounding area.  Based on the leaf shape, I believe the plants are butterweed (Packera glabella), but I am not positive.

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Fallen tree in the bog
(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Suggested ID: Butterweed (Packera glabella)

As usual, I used inaturalist.org software to help me identify plants to the best of my ability. If the iNaturalist community of citizen scientists corrects any of these IDs, I will update this post.

Thanks for stopping by!