Walk in the Kaul Wildflower Garden

Take an evening stroll with me through the 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 the 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 Cousine Itt, or is it just me?

There’s lots of lush greenery to admire. I especially love the shady areas, 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 the 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 rare 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!

In a Vase on Monday: Sense and Sensibility

 

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Purple bearded iris, dalmatian bellflower, “Hot Lips” salvia, lavender, ice plant and thyme arranged in a Waterford posey vase.

I began this post with the most sensical intentions. Then my sensibilities took over.

It’s been a while since I’ve read Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility (or watched Emma Thompson’s movie adaptation), but my takeaway from the story is that we need to embrace a balance of both qualities in our lives. I relearned that lesson this week.

In a Vase on Monday is hosted each week by Cathy on her blog Rambling in the Garden. I missed it last week, and I was determined to be “sensical” and work ahead so my post would be ready first thing this Monday. However, I got distracted by my sensibilities. It was warm and sunny. The birds were singing, and the breeze was rustling in the trees. I decided to do my arranging outside.

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden Blog, 2018
Dappled shade on the patio gets me every time.

Just when I was about happy with my arrangement, the breeze shifted all the stems. I moved inside. Once again, I had everything photo-ready, and I made a snap decision to go outside for more bellflowers. I was outside no more than 30 seconds when I heard the crash inside. So much for being sensical.

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Chester the Tailless Wonder is quite possibly an evil genius, but we love him.

One of our cats, Chester, had taken down the small table I use when photographing flower arrangements. The vase was in pieces on the floor. The irony was not lost on me that just two weeks ago I wrote about exercising caution when it comes to cats and plants. I suppose I had it coming.

I cleaned up the broken pieces of pottery, salvaged the flowers from floor and started again. Without further ado, here’s what’s in a vase on Monday April 22, 2018.

Purple Bearded Iris (Iris germanica)

I thought my purple irises were not coming up this year, but it turns out they were just on a different timetable than the white irises. Snipping the stems released an aroma like slicing green onion tops for a salad.

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Purple bearded iris–don’t miss the ladybug!

“Hot Lips” Salvia (Salvia x jamensis)

The leaves of this evergreen herbaceous perennial offer a heavenly, lightly sweet scent year round. It’s just beginning to flower and will continue through the year until first freeze. You may also see this plant labeled as autumn sage. I purchased mine last year at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens fall plant sale. 

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
“Hot Lips” salvia

Dalmatian Bellflower (Campanula portenschlagiana)

I planted bellflower last fall as a perennial ground cover in a terraced area of the backyard, where it gets part shade. It’s just now beginning to take off, and I love its tiny blue-violet blooms.

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

Ice Plant (Delosperma cooperi)

On the opposite end of the spectrum, hardy ice plant is a succulent ground cover that can take the sun on full blast in the front yard. The blooms shimmer in the sun, giving the plant an “icy” look. This is another Birmingham Botanical Gardens plant sale purchase.

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

Lavender (Lavandula angustiflolia)

I planted lavender in my sunny front yard last year, and it has done well. I’ve divided it successfully and now have two plants.

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

English Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)

Thyme and I have a checkered past. I’ve killed it as a houseplant on several occasions. Most recently I killed lemon thyme in an outdoor pot (I’m not sure why but most likely because I left it out to overwinter). Elfin thyme looked terrific between the patio stones, but the environment was ultimately too harsh in the summer, even with lots of shade. I have, however, had success with regular garden thyme outside year round. It might not be the obvious choice for a flower arrangement, but I like effect of tucking in a couple of wild, graceful sprigs.

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Garden thyme, also known as English thyme

Vase

The vase that survived this post is a Waterford posey vase (a gift from my parents on some birthday past).

Thank you for stopping by. To see what other gardeners around the world have put in a vase on Monday, please visit Cathy’s IAVOM post and don’t miss the comments below it.

 

Native Woodland Garden (Part 1)

I love the urban wilderness of our backyard, but the truth is it’s filled with non-native, invasive plants that have been left to their own devices for decades.

DSC00285
My woodland garden against the backdrop of an urban wilderness

Close to the city, shaded by trees, private. There are many reasons I am fond of our little chunk of paradise. Thickets of Chinese privet, blankets of English ivy and roving wisteria vines are not among them. (These plants are pretty, of course; they’re just not so great in a foreign land where they compete fiercely and choke out everything else.)

The journey to restoring the back section of our property to something resembling a native Alabama woodland will be a long one. I have a lot to learn and even more to do. For the time being, I am doing the only thing I can—starting small. The tiny patch you see in the photo at the top of this post has been one year in the making. It’s a humble beginning, but I hope it will be the first of many chapters in this story.

Before I tell you about the plants, I’d like to point out two events where you can purchase native plants, for shade or sun, if you live in or near Birmingham, Alabama.

To date, I’ve planted the following native Alabama perennials in my woodland garden.

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum biflorum)

Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum biflorum): This was my first purchase for the woodland garden last spring, and I’m happy to see it back and thriving this year. You can see flower buds hanging from the largest stem. I can’t wait to show it again when it’s in bloom.

  • Light requirements: shade/part shade
  • Soil requirements: moist
  • Size: 1-3 feet
  • Flowers: white, April-May
  • Rhizomes
  • Attracts birds and butterflies
(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Purple trillium (Trillium cuneatum)

Purple trillium (Trillium cuneatum): I have long observed and admired this plant along nature trails, and I’m a little giddy about having one. Plus, it has cute nicknames, including little sweet Betsy, toadshade and whip-poor-will flower. I just purchased it, so I missed bloom season this year.

  • Light requirements: shade
  • Soil requirements: moist, woodsy humus
  • Size: 10 inches
  • Flowers: maroon, March
  • Rhizomes

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Bleeding heart (Dicentra eximia)The blooms are small, but so pretty. The foliage is delicate and feathery. I accidentally broke off a stem during planting, and I am now attempting to root it.

  • Light requirements: shade
  • Soil requirements: moist, rich woodlands humus
  • Size: 18 inches
  • Flowers: pink, spring-summer
(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Alabama phlox (Phlox pulchra)

Alabama phlox (Phlox pulchra): I purchased three of these when I found out they are rare in the wild. This species will have a little haven in my yard.

  • Light requirements: shade
  • Soil requirements: average
  • Size: 12 to 14 inches
  • Flowers: pink, April-May
  • Rare in wild
(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Bottlebrush buckeye (Aesculus parviflora)

Bottlebrush buckeye (Aesculus parviflora): I planted this shrub off to the side of the garden since it will grow quite large in the years to come. It’s in the sun at the moment, but won’t be once the oak tree above it leafs out.

  • Light requirements: part/full shade
  • Soil requirements: average, humus rich
  • Size: 8-10 feet
  • Flowers: white
  • Deciduous multistem shrub
  • Attracts butterflies
(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Suggested ID: Resurrection Fern (Pleopeltis polypodioides)

Resurrection fern (Pleopeltis polypodioides): This is the one plant I did not buy. It fell, along with the branch, from an oak tree in the yard about a year ago. I actually have a few such branches, and I placed the two largest on either side of the woodland garden as a border. This fern shrivels in dry weather and bounces back after a good rain. I feel pretty confident about this ID, but I will update this post if the iNaturalist community produces another ID.

I hope the plants I’ve introduced to my woodland garden thrive and multiply as I continue to clear invasive species and bring in more native plants little by little. What native plants do you have in your gardens at home?