· Thanks!

· Fall Foliage

· Autumn All-stars

· Volunteer Activities

· Manion's Musings



We have just finished one of our two busiest times of the year, the other being April. Our heartfelt thanks to all of you who gave so generously of your time and talents to make our recent events incredibly successful!

Fall Foliage and Poison

The cashew family – Anacardiaceae, of which this plant is a member, includes dozens of species. The most commonly known are Anacardium occidentale, cashew, Pistacia spp., pistachio, Mangifera spp., mango, Cotinus coggygria and C. obovatus, smoke bush/smoke tree, and Rhus spp., all the sumacs. But perhaps the genus in this family that is most notable is our infamous Toxicodendron radicans, poison ivy, with which I have become acquainted with this summer! A component found in varying degrees in members of this family is urishiol, which can cause contact dermatitis. I’ve met people whose lips swell when eating a mango.

Regarding botanical names, you may recognize the cashew genus – Anacardium, as the type genus for this family (Anacardiaceae); in other words, the genus for which this family was named.

Pictured above are the leaflets of Rhus typhina, staghorn sumac, a favorite of mine. The fall color on the leaves of this plant and several other species of sumac sometimes look like someone went at them with a can of fluorescent orange spray paint! Just last night I used ground sumac in a Persian-influenced dish I made. In the Middle East, it is a popular condiment that lends slightly sour/citrusy taste.


Two Champions of the Autumn Garden

Symphyotrichum oblongifolium,
Kaul Wildflower Garden
Conoclinium coelestinum,
Kaul Wildflower Garden

Right now when there is a paucity of showy plants in bloom, there are two tough-as-nails plants that are strutting their stuff in the Kaul Wildflower Garden. Interestingly, they both are very close in color. The two plants, Symphyotrichum oblongifolium, aromatic aster (syn. Aster oblongifolius), above, and Conoclinium coelestinum, hardy ageratum (syn. Eupatorium coelestinum), on the left. I’ve never studied color theory formally, but many years ago noticed a special characteristic of this range of colors…which is somewhere between blue and purple. One person referred to it as "periwinkle blue," whatever that is.

I was once sitting on my back porch viewing my rather abundant flower garden just before dark. All of the colors (and there were many!) were muted, except Phlox paniculata ‘Blue Boy’ garden phlox cultivar, which appeared as if someone were shining a light on it. Since that time I have noticed that many other plants in this color range have a luminescent quality in low light – dawn, dusk, deep shade. I’ve observed this in phlox, petunias, etc. Stop by to see the plants pictured.

Volunteer Activities – Some Changes

Beginning now, through the remainder of fall and winter, all of my volunteer sessions will be from 9 a.m. to noon.

Two New Sessions!
Due to the resounding success of my volunteer program, I have decided to add two more sessions each month, one in the Barber Alabama Woodlands and one in the Bog Garden. These are both fascinating areas in which we can learn a lot about our native flora in two distinctly different habitats.

Beginning Thursday, December 2, and the first Thursday of each month thereafter, we will meet to work at the Bog Garden.

Beginning Thursday, November 18, and thereafter the third Thursday of each month, we will meet at the entrance to the Barber Alabama Woodlands near Blount Plaza.

If you are interested in either, or both, of these projects, please let me and/or our wonderful Volunteer Coordinator, Mary-Bestor Grant, know by emailing her at mgrant@bbgardens.org.

Our Existing Kaul Wildflower Garden Sessions
We will continue meeting at the Gazebo to work in the KWG on the second and fourth Thursday of each month, as well as the third Saturday. Note: because our regular third Thursday this month falls on Thanksgiving, we will instead meet the day before, that is – Wednesday, November 24.

Now that cooler weather is here, we can FINALLY start planting. I look forward to showing you all the plants we will be adding to the collections.

So, in case I have totally confused you, here is the schedule for November. Mark the dates on your calendar!

  • Thursday, November 11 - KWG
  • Thursday, November 18 - Alabama Woodlands
  • Saturday, November 20 - KWG
  • Wednesday, November 24* - KWG

*KWG Note: Our regular KWG session would normally be the following day, but it’s Thanksgiving, so we will meet the day before.

For each session, we meet at the entrance to the Garden in which we will be working. Please bring sun protection, insect repellent, something to drink and any favorite tools you like to use. Some people also like to bring paper and a writing utensil. Since we begin each session with a brief orientation, please try to arrive on time.

You don’t have to commit to attending sessions on a regular basis…you can come whenever possible, but please let me know you intend to attend. And…you don’t need to know anything about horticulture!

Helping in the Gardens offers many opportunities in addition to the altruistic aspect of supporting such an important community organization, among them: the opportunity to learn about native plants and horticulture in general from someone who is knowledgeable and passionate about these topics; getting to work alongside interesting people in a beautiful setting; a chance to get exercise while having fun; and the occasional opportunity to take plants home!

Manion's Musings

People often ask me what they can do to become better gardeners, or how they can improve their gardens. Always, at the top of my list of recommendations is to compost, compost, compost…and to use it in your gardens. I can think of no other action you may take that will improve your garden in so many ways.

"In any given region of the United States, 40 shrubs and trees make up 90% + of the landscape plantings."
- J.C. Raulston’s "Second Law of Landscape Plant Diversity"


Please forward this newsletter to any individuals or groups you think might be interested.

Likewise, if you prefer not to receive it, simply let me know and I’ll remove your name.

Thanks for your interest and support!


John T. Manion
Kaul Wildflower Garden Curator
Birmingham Botanical Gardens
205.414.3985 | jmanion@bbgardens.org
www.bbgardens.org | birminghambotanicalgardens.blogspot.com