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Apples & Peaches

Our forlorn apple tree still stands despite my constant plans for removing it. Since the trunk of it is the size of a small house, taking it out is something to think about. And heaven forbid hiring someone to trample over my plants. So it remains. Every year, in the dead of winter, I cut it back although several of the limbs are difficult to reach and some always remain. This year, I cut more than I usually do and only two or three large branches still stood, reaching straight up into the sky.  Judging from the apples this year, maybe I'm doing something right - However, it is hard to find a good apple unless it is picked from the tree (hard to reach). The ones on the ground always have bad spots on them. We've never treated the tree for disease or insects and the thought of doing that doesn't appeal to me.  I usually make at least one pie or cake every year from the unblemished apples I am able to retrieve.  My go-to apple recipe is the French Apple Tart f rom Ina Garten.

Birmingham Botanical Gardens

A container planting near the main building
I'm recouping from a serious case of poison ivy (again!) I came in contact with some while cleaning out a fence row on my mother's property on Saturday. I knew this would be bad when I woke up Sunday morning with my arms and legs covered with an ugly rash. I got a shot and the usual Prednisone pills which leave me irritable, groggy and restless. I'm feeling better this afternoon and wanted to share some photos of the Birmingham Botanical Gardens.

Last Thursday and Friday, I attended an Archivist conference there for my job, but I've been to the gardens many times before. I lived in Birmingham briefly right after my college graduation and visited often. It was a great place to take photographs, to relax and just get away from it all.

It was just as beautiful as I'd remembered it although many areas had changed somewhat and there were new things to see. Apparently the drought has been worse there than in Florence because the Japanese garden looked really bad with numerous dead trees and the pond looked nasty.

It was the only disappointing area though as the other gardens were beautiful. One of my favorites was the Fern Glade -

Beautyberry (Callicarpa) growing alongside the stream  
One of my favorite areas was always the Iris Garden. I did actually see some Iris blooming along with other perennials. This is really spectacular in the Spring of course.
Woodland garden
One of my favorite roses, "Mrs. B.R. Cant" was blooming over a rock wall
Check out the size of these castor beans
The BBG also has a fine rose garden. The hybrid teas were bursting with bloom. Behind the pergola is another rose garden with older varieties.
The Herb Garden -
This small formal area was enclosed by brick and featured ferns, evergreens and caladiums.
A beautiful water feature
This pergola is exactly the type I want to build if we move to the country.

A large raised bed with tropical plants

If you are in Birmingham, do visit the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. There is no admission price and the gardens are beautifully maintained. And after that, you can head across the street and visit the zoo.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy


  1. Thank you for the beautiful/informative tour, Phillip. A shade lover, I was especially smitten with the Fern Glade. Sorry 'bout the poison ivy :(

  2. All that stonework is really awesome...and the shady gardens are truly lovely. I adore those huge castor beans...I've decided I'm definitely going to have those in my garden next year! I was going to guess the mystery plant was a Persicaria (maybe Painter's Palette), but it looks like they are growing on a central stem...which seems unlike any of the Persicarias that I've seen.

  3. The variegated plant at the end looks to me like a Acalypha wikesiana cultivar. I've seen one like that called 'Tropical Tempest' but there are so many different varieties these days (they are by way of becoming the next coleus) it is hard to be sure.

  4. Have not been to this garden in a few years. It was great to see it through your lens. Hope for a quick recovery from the poison ivy. I've battled it all my life and just within the last 5 years or so realize I am becoming more resistant to it. Wish this for you too!!

  5. I absolutely adore the Birmingham Botanical Garden. We have the Atlanta Botanical Garden here, which is great, but there is something very special about the garden in Birmingham.

    I'm not 100% sure, but the mystery plant you photographed looks like Fallopia japonica to me. It is supposed to be very invasive, but I've had it for three years, and still have the same two stems coming up. Ultimately it can become a small tree (8 feet tall, perhaps). Mine gets knocked back a lot in winter, but comes back bigger and stronger each year.

    John Manion, who was the gardens curator at the Atlanta History Center, moved to BBG earlier this year....a huge loss for Atlanta. He is a delight to interact with, and I'm sure if you called him he would tell you for certain.

  6. Thanks for the great pictures! It reminds me of Kanapaha botanical gardens in Gainesville FL.

  7. Wow, Phillip,so gorgeous ! Thanks for the tour. That beautiful variegated plant, I'm guessing, must be Japanese Knotweed.

  8. Acalypha is the plant you like. There are many different varieties. I've grown it the past 2 summers. Loves the HEAT.

  9. I hate to hear that you are fighting the poison ivy rash again. Must avoid this devil in the future. The tour of the BBG is inspiring indeed. I love the way that waterfall looks to be falling right behind that wall. It would draw me over there to see where all that water was collecting. The plant in question looks like Japanese Knotweed to me too. I am surprised they are using it if it is though because it is becoming invasive in many places. It is a devil to eradicate once it becomes established. Needless to say it is beautiful and a ruthless spreader.

  10. Nice tour! I like how that waterfall almost feels part of the landscape, well, more so than most waterfalls in artifical landscapes.
    That mystery plant looks familiar to me, something like what I have, but not exactly. Obviously, I can't remember the name of wha tI have.... :)

  11. When I first moved to NE Alabama I kept getting a recurring rash - now I know it was poison ivy. The dermatologist prescribed xyzal which I believe is for allergies but is also good for hives of unknown origin. Of course, now I know poison ivy blankets my woods, but the xyzal seems to do the trick. It takes about 5 days to really kick in if I haven't been taking it all along. It might be something to consider taking during the summer and fall months. I hate taking the steroids, though they sure can make life better when they are needed.

    Barbara H.

  12. This is my second attempt to leave a comment. Wish me luck! I need to go back to the BBG. I'm so sorry about your poison ivy Phillip. I hope you are feeling better.

  13. I read what you are saying about the drought, but it is not evident in your pictures. Currently we have gotten close to 5" since Sunday, and another 5-10" due tomorrow.

    Good luck with your poison ivy, I have been around it all my life, but have never had a bad case of it, but don't get me started on chiggers.

  14. I enjoyed the photo tour of one of my favorite gardens. I haven't been to BBG since the spring, and I was wondering how it came through the summer. I will have to visit soon to get my BBG fix! I hate to hear the japanese garden looks bad. It was gorgeous during the spring.

  15. it's a wonderful garden~i've been meaning to visit there and now i really want to go! I do hope you're feeling better~ We still havem't had rain~over 42 dsys.


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