Botanical Gardens

Birmingham botanical gardens

Replanting after last year’s drought

by Birmingham Botanical Gardens Plant Adventures Coordinator Brooke McMinn

Last year’s late season drought is still fresh on the minds of many. Let us take this opportunity to learn from its effects and plan now to avoid possible disaster later in the year. If you were hit hard, here are a few tips to consider for a more resilient garden this year.

  • Prior to planting, add organic matter, such as compost, to soil for optimum water holding capacity.
  • When selecting new plants, be sure to look for those marked as “drought tolerant”, “low water” or something along those lines. Many of our native southeastern plants are well adapted to our unpredictable rainfall amounts.
  • Don’t wait until it’s hot and dry to plant. Plant early and give new plants plenty of time to establish their root systems before the stress of summer heat and dry spells is a serious threat.
  • Place plants needing more moisture in areas of the landscape which tend to stay wetter or even where water pools after heavy rainfall.
  • Cover garden beds and areas within the drip line of trees and shrubs with mulch (no more than 1″ deep for new plantings, 2-3 inches deep for established plants). Be sure to keep the mulch several inches from the bases of plants. Proper mulching helps retain moisture as well as reduce weeds, which can steal water from other plants.
  • Installing a system to capture rainwater when it’s abundant, such a rain barrel. You can buy them premade or make your own. Learn more here.
  • When watering, remember the ideal amount for most plants is just 2 inches of water per week, including rainfall. Water only where and when needed, ideally between 4-8 am to reduce water lost to evaporation during hotter times of day.
  • When it does get dry, use drip irrigation instead of overhead sprinklers to water only at the roots of plants, where it’s really need, conserving water and reducing the risk of foliar disease. Purchase specialty soaker hoses at garden stores or make your own by reusing an old garden hose, poking small holes in the hose every few inches, capping the end and running low pressure water through.

For more information on how to conserve resources in your home garden or landscape, check out the Alabama Smart Yards publication from our partners at the Alabama Cooperative Extension System here.

Forge Breast Cancer Survivor Center and Birmingham Botanical Gardens form partnership

On May 6, Forge Breast Cancer Survivor Center launched its first gardening event at The Gardens. In creating this event, Forge partnered with Birmingham Botanical Gardens and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. Dr. Wendy Demark, Associate Director for Cancer Prevention and Control at UAB’s Comprehensive Cancer Center, presented “The Benefits of Gardening Throughout Life” and shared exercise and nutrition tips. Following the event, Dr. Demark remarked, “This has been the most rewarding intervention we have ever undertaken in cancer survivors.”

Master Gardeners taught participants how to build a container garden and each participant potted herbs to begin their garden at home. Bethany O’Rear, Regional Extension Agent of ACES stated, “Alabama Extension and Jefferson County Master Gardeners were thrilled to be part of this wonderful event. It was so much fun interacting with all of the participants! We had a great day of laughing, learning, and getting our hands dirty!”

Participants included breast cancer survivors and their friends and family. One participant shared: “I learned so much about how my diet affects my survivorship and how I can keep myself healthy by exercising in the garden while making my yard beautiful or growing herbs to cook with. And I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time!”

Who is Forge?

Forge Breast Cancer Survivor Center provides free supportive services to breast cancer survivors, their loved ones, and the health professionals that serve them. Forge is a partnership between the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham, Brookwood Baptist Health, Grandview Medical Center, St. Vincent’s Health System and UAB Medicine. In addition to gardening programs, Forge provides resources for breast cancer survivors and their loved ones, individualized goals to help survivors improve their journey, survivor to survivor mentor match, advocates that help survivors navigate their health care system and community resources, after hours support through the Forge Support Line (800.811.8925), support groups and so much more.

To learn more about Forge Breast Cancer Survivor Center, visit

What happens next?

This event is the first of an ongoing monthly program that will provide additional educational and interactive topics on the benefits of gardening for breast cancer survivors and their loved ones. Future topics will include “Vegetable Gardening, ” “Flower Arranging, ” “Water Conservation” and many more. “In creating these events, Forge hopes to educate, empower and support survivors and their families and friends on the ongoing benefits of gardening to survivorship, ” stated Megan Sisk, Forge Program and Volunteer Coordinator. Forge encourages all those interested in attending any or all future gardening events to sign up early. The next monthly event will be on June 27 at 10 a.m. at The Gardens. To register, go to

Explore the Harrell Station paleontological site on Saturday

On Saturday from 8:30-4:30 p.m., the Certificate in Native Plant Studies series at Birmingham Botanical Gardens will take a field trip to Harrell Station Paleontological Site, a 140-acre research site for the Alabama Museum of Natural History. The site offers exposed Mooreville Chalk and remnant Black Belt prairie. The area contains three major plant communities: open prairie, chalk outcrop and forest; these habitats are home to several rare species of plants and insects. Many of species are disjunct from the Great Plains, suggesting that a grassland corridor connected the two in the past. Made up of a series of 23 expansive chalk gullies, the site has produced over 80 different Late Cretaceous marine vertebrate species including sharks, fishes, mosasaurs and turtles, as well as occasional terrestrial remains such as birds and dinosaurs.