Tomatopalooza 2017!

*If you missed the pickup for tomato orders on February 25th, you may pickup at the main office on Monday, February 27th between noon and 3pm. Please call the office when you arrive – 251-342-0555
Tomato Facts and Tips

  • Grow them in sun – 6-8 hours a day is a must!
  • They need good rich composted soil with a pH from 6.2 to 6.8 – and a time release or organic fertilizer helps them through the season
  • Applying a  2-4 inch layer of mulch in April, after the soil has warmed up, will help keep down weeds and keep the soil evenly moist.
  • The number of days given is the average time between planting out and the maturing of the first fruit.
  • Determinate – The plants reach a certain height and then stop growing. The majority of their fruit matures within a few weeks of each other. Great for those who like to can, make sauce, or freeze their crops.
  • Indeterminate – These plants continue to grow and produce tomatoes throughout the season. They need support (mostly 5ft ) They throw out a lot of shoots, and some like to prune those for optimum-size fruit, or to train them on trellises, but pruning the side shoots is not essential.
  • There are some varieties that are semi-determinate because they are somewhere in between – they are best if supported.
  • Heirloom tomatoes have been around for a while, and are not hybrids
  • Hybrid tomatoes are crosses of different varieties, and offer better disease resistance, higher yield and other improvements.

Curator’s Corner: Getting back in the swing of things
Amanda Wilkins

 I found this leaf-shaped variegation on a Camellia x vernalis ‘Egao Shibori’. Oh the wonders of Nature!

I found this leaf-shaped variegation on a Camellia x vernalis ‘Egao Shibori’. Oh the wonders of Nature!

Dear MBG Community,

Oh, it’s so good to be back in Mobile and back out at the Mobile Botanical Gardens. There have been so many needed and worthwhile improvements at the gardens while I was gone. Thank you so much for your continued support. Your support allows me to do my job better!

So, what have I been up to since I got back on Monday, January 2? It seems a little bit of everything, but the new year has offered a lot of opportunities for change and moving forward. I’m really looking forward to what we’ll do this year.

One of my favorite parts of my job is learning the stories about the plants at the garden. This is Camellia japonica ‘TDN-0091’, which is probably an unnamed seedling from Tom Dodd Nursery out in Semmes. Goodness knows how it came to be at MBG (and that will be the next step!), but we’re certainly glad it’s here. It’s made of stunningly perfect layers of pink.

Camellia japonica ‘TDN-0091’

Plant Curation
One of my major projects as curator of collections is to make sure the plants at the gardens are documented and studied through time. I keep the stories about where plants come from, who’s touched their past, and how they relate to the grand scheme of horticulture. The Camellia japonica cultivars in the Kosaku Sawada WinterGarden are just now beginning to come into their own, even with the latest deep freeze! I’m currently working to update our plant records in this area to align with the industry standard for records in botanic gardens. It’s a daunting task, but little by little, and with a lot of help from volunteers, we’re set to get it done by February 14th, when the ICS committee will arrive for a review of our collection! If you’re interested in getting involved in the recording project, please feel free to drop me a line at

Camellia japonica ‘TDN-0091’: One of my favorite parts of my job is learning the stories about the plants at the garden. This is Camellia japonica ‘TDN-0091’, which is probably an unnamed seedling from Tom Dodd Nursery out in Semmes. Goodness knows how it came to be at MBG (and that will be the next step!), but we’re certainly glad it’s here. It’s made of stunningly perfect layers of pink.

A view from the front line. It was a lot of fun being on the drip torch (I was the one setting the fires!)

A view from the front line. It was a lot of fun being on the drip torch (I was the one setting the fires!)

Longleaf Treasure Forest Burn
You may notice one section of our Longleaf Treasure Forest has recently been burned. Our tireless Longleaf volunteers, mostly consisting of dedicated members of the neighboring community and forestry professionals, successfully cleared water oaks (which are bad for controlled burns) in the last patch on the south side of the forest and so our forestry management team pulled the trigger on a burn on Wednesday, January 11. It was a small but mighty crew out there for a few hours, dripping fire, raking fuel and putting out burning stumps. It’s looking good post-burn, so look out for little seedlings making an appearance soon!

MBG Cavalry: Volunteering at the Gardens
MBG Cavalry, assemble! Volunteering is a huge part of how the gardens continues to exist and service the community. Whether you are interested in getting involved on the grounds doing horticultural projects or are better suited to easy activities involved with records-keeping, please get in touch with me at I would love to work with you! Volunteering at the garden gets you out of the house and into the garden, where you can learn more about plants and horticulture just by spending some time at MBG!

Upcoming Pruning Workshop
Finally, I will be running a pruning workshop at 10 a.m. on Friday, January 20. We’ll cover topics, such as pruning techniques, timing, and pruning tools. The session will finish up with a hands-on pruning project in the Japanese Maple Garden. Whether you know nothing at all or need a refresher on the techniques, this class is for you. Feel free to bring your own tools and any burning horticulture questions with you. Registration required. Please call the office at

251-342-0555 or email Free for members, $10 non-members.

I appreciate your continued support and look forward to seeing you at the garden. Stay tuned for more news from the garden, and future posts about cool plants and interesting horticultural topics!

Most sincerely,

~Amanda Wilkins

Curator of Collections

A view of the private hills of a hunting estate in Corour, Scotland. I’d got up to help a friend on collection for her Master’s thesis. It was tough work, but someone has to look at those Rhododendrons in the Scottish Highlands when they’re in full bloom!)

A view of the private hills of a hunting estate in Corour, Scotland.

P.S. Curious about where I’ve been since August 2015? Check out my blog to see photos from my time in Scotland, where I did my Masters in the Biodiversity and Taxonomy of Plants at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.

A view of the private hills of a hunting estate in Corour, Scotland. I’d got up to help a friend on collection for her Master’s thesis. It was tough work, but someone has to look at those Rhododendrons in the Scottish Highlands when they’re in full bloom!)

Pruning 101 Workshop

Friday, January 20th, 10am- noon
Pruning 101 Workshop with Amanda Wilkins, curator of collections – Limited space!

It’s that time of year again! Are your trees and shrubs looking a little scraggly? Are you wondering when to prune those Japanese Maples and Hydrangeas? Want to know how to make a proper pruning cut? Come out on Friday, January 20, 2017 at 10 a.m. to learn the ins-and-outs of pruning your trees and shrubs, and other top tips for pruning. Feel free to bring your own pruners and horticultural/gardening questions for a workshop with Amanda. There will be a brief overview of the science of plants and pruning, a discussion about pruning tools, and then a hands-on pruning portion in the Japanese Maple Garden.

Additionally, Amanda is looking for volunteers in the future to help with pruning projects. If you are interested in this, please look into attending this class!

Registration is required. Please email Amanda or call 251-342-0555 to register.
Cost: Free for MBG Members, $10 Non-Members – Pay day of

Volunteer in WinterGarden!

Saturday, January 28th
9am – 2pm

The Mobile Botanical Gardens is reviving the MBG Cavalry Volunteer program! Amanda Wilkins, curator of collections, would like to invite you out for a volunteer workday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on January 28 to help clean up the Kosaku Sawada WinterGarden. Tasks will include weeding, raking, cleaning pine needles out of the shrubs and trees, and some pruning. MBG is hosting an afternoon tour with the International Camellia Society folks on Valentine’s Day and we would love to represent the best of Mobile’s Camellias to our visitors. Any help you can give would be most appreciated. Please contact Amanda if you would like to help. We will meet at the Piff Courtyard, near the office.

Additionally, if you are not able to make it out for the workday or you are more able to help with Camellia-related office work, please still feel free to contact Amanda, as she is updating the records and labels for the Camellias in the garden and would love any help!

Look out for future volunteer announcements! If you would like to come out to the garden to help any other time, please let us know.

Saturday, January 14th,  9am-4pm

We are very excited to be hosting a workshop lead by Denise Walser-Kolar, one of America’s finest botanical artists!

Spend a day learning how to draw and paint leaves with Denise Walser-Kolar. We will start with some exercises observing and drawing leaves and spend the rest of the day painting a single leaf. We will also cover mixing greens and dark shadow colors. Denise will demonstrate painting a leaf on vellum and one on paper to show the difference. This class combines demonstrations, discussion of materials and techniques, hands-on time for developing skills, and lots of individual attention and feedback.

Article by Denise about working on vellum
Be sure to take a look at her beautiful work on her website

About our Instructor:

Denise Walser-Kolar earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design and Commercial Illustration from the College of Visual Arts in Saint Paul, Minnesota. She is currently a botanical artist, Annual Meeting & Program Coordinator for the ASBA, and teaches Botanical Art workshops across the country.
Denise’s work has been exhibited at Annual International Juried Botanical Art Exhibitions presented by The American Society of Botanical Artists and The Horticultural Society of New York. In 2011, she was awarded a Silver-Gilt Medal by the Royal Horticultural Society in London for her series of paintings of The Hybrid Hazelnuts of Badgersett Research Farm. In 2015, she was awarded the ASBA Diane Bouchier Artist Award for Excellence in Botanical Art. Her work is held in the permanent collection of the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation at Carnegie Mellon University and she is represented by Susan Frei Nathan Fine Works on Paper.Denise lives and paints in Rochester, Minnesota.


I view our growth almost like climbing a ladder and the step that we just took was infrastructure- our next step is building our programing. As a note of interest and a statement of tremendous growth – we’ve added over $314,000 in assets since October 1, 2015.

  • Newly rebuilt and expanded MarketPlace with new Techné shade house, benches, state-of-the-art irrigation, and level and easy to walk on ground. We will continue working into February with the addition of an open air retail structure.
  • Split-rail perimeter fence and new automated entry gate for added security and beauty.
  • Beautiful Gazebo which serves as an entry point for visitors and a place to tell the story of what will come next!
  • Well-lit sidewalks connecting the MarketPlace and both parking lots to the new entrance.
  • Renovated Larkins Classroom with added carpet, lighting, cypress wood trims, blinds, and fresh paint.
  • Completion of the Pollinator Garden surrounding the Larsen sculpture, ‘Transformation’.
  • Installation and opening of the Aromi Hybrid Azalea Garden in April
  • Major improvements to our Greenhouse complex where our volunteers work to propagate plants- New plastic top and sides, shade cloth, plant benches, irrigation upgrade, and ground cover.
  • Drainage system for parking lot, MarketPlace, and the top of hill to prevent runoff and flooding
  • Improved paths, and new signage and benches throughout Longleaf and the Rhododendron Garden.

Some of you may already know that in September, Maarten van der Giessen became our new MBG Board President. Maarten is a well known and respected local nurseryman who has long been associated with MBG, having served as President twice in the past. He was responsible for initiating the Aromi Hybid Azalea Garden project, which we opened earlier this year, and also for donating his collection of Dr.Aromi’s unique azaleas. For those of you who do not know Maarten, you only have to read his words spoken at the April opening of the Aromi Garden to understand his love of the Gardens –

Think about Mobile Botanical Gardens as a refuge. Let’s say you want to collect all of Sawada’s camellias. You do your homework, buy the camellias, plant them in your garden. What happens when you pass away? The greatest collection of camellias in the last generation was at the corner of Broad and Government, now a Greer’s Grocery. Down the road at Catherine and Government Blacklawn Gardens is now an Office Depot. Rubel’s magnificent Longview Gardens with its roaring lions and giant Buddah is now Mobile waterworks. The lions sit silently in a museum. Even the garden of Dr. Aromi, where all these wonderful hybrids were created, is now a lawn.

Mobile Botanical Garden allows us to hand down what we value to our children, and to their children. It is an enduring home. It is our enduring home.

– Maarten van der Giessen

As a snapshot, there are 3 programs in particular which are central in our focus going forward:

  • Increased income through increased marketing of plants made possible through investment in upgrades to our MBG MarketPlace and our own greenhouse facilities. And, through a significant staff addition to lead our propagation, sales and marketing efforts.
  • Increased income through investments toward enhancement of facilities and marketing programs for facilities rentals. In particular, we have had great success related to wedding rentals in our Botanical Center.
  • Increased income and public education participation in our new Botanical Art instruction programs. Conducted by a professional botanical artist, Derek Norman, formally associated with the Chicago Botanic Gardens, these programs are popular and growing.


In addition to creating and sharing their Bloomin’ Wild series, Derek Norman and Fred Nation have been working to create an interesting array of speakers for MBG in 2017.

Dates TBA

“Paleobotanical Discoveries in Alabama” – Dr. Brian Axsmith – Head of Botany, USA

“Wildlife of the Longleaf Pine Forest” – Roger Clay – Alabama Dept. of Conservation

“Invasive Exotics” – Fred Nation – Botanist & Author

“Landscape Design” – Terry Plauché – Landscape Architect & Designer


Amanda Wilkins will be returning to MBG in January after finishing her Masters in Horticulture at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. She will be working with the care of our special collections to keep us in tip top shape (especially our WinterGarden, which will be visited in February by the ICS Garden of Excellence Committee)!



Tomatopalooza – Saturday, Feb. 25th

Get the best tomato plants for your Gulf Coast garden. For the first time, we will be growing some of the tomato varieties in own recently updated Greenhouse! The list of available varieties will open on our Catalog on Feb. 1

Plantasia Spring Plant Sale – Fri. – Sun., March 17th-19th, Preview Party on Thursday

Big changes this coming year! We will be holding Spring Plant sale in our newly rebuilt and expanded MarketPlace with open air retail building. No more difficult terrain or muddy puddles when it rains – and we can open MarketPlace right after Spring Plant Sale! Preview night will still be held on Thursday and will be catered by Georgia Roussos. In addition to our usual purchasing of plants, Maarten will be working with some of the local growers to bring select plants in on consignment. You will, as always, have a unique selection of plants.

Festival of Flowers at Providence Hospital – Fri. – Sun., March 24th-26th

With a theme like ‘Wildly Whimsical’, this will no doubt be a fun one!

One Enchanted Evening – Thursday, April 6th

The 2017 One Enchanted Evening, sponsored by the Hearin-Chandler Foundation, will be a night that celebrates the beauty of the Gardens. Brenda Huddle and her OEE Committee will be creating a magical night like none other.

Gallery of Gardens – Friday, May 19th

Back by popular demand! Donna Camp and several of our great MBG volunteers have been working to bring together the historic districts for this revamped Gallery of Gardens. We will partner with Oakleigh, Church Street East, and DeTonti Square and will feature unique gardens, all within walking distance.

Friday, December 2nd, 9am to 4pm AND Saturday, December 3rd, 9am -1pm at the Botanical Center

Get your Holiday shopping done and buy local products with “A Tale to Tell”!

  • Camellias – pre-order with our online catalog and pick up at the sale!
  • Unique Poinsettias
  • MBG Greenhouse Plants
  • Wonderful Herbs
  • Delicious citrus from Torrey Revel’s Farm- Sign up for the Day Trip to Torrey’s Farm on Nov. 17th!
  • Classy Bee Honey from Danny Bryan
  • Bayou Cora Grits and Cornmeal
  • Vipervill Garlic
  • Fairhope Tea
  • Botanical Art Bazaar featuring works by the MBG Sketch Club
  • New MBG merchandise

And of course…

Mobile County Master Gardener Greenery!
When it’s FRESH, When it’s NATURAL, When it’s BEAUTIFUL, It’s from MASTER GARDENERS.

They will have beautiful wreaths, mail box toppers, center pieces, and more!
To pre-order, visit their website

Citrus Day Field Trip

Catered Bus Trip to Torrey Revel’s Citrus Farm
Thursday, November 17th, 10am – 4pm

Find out all you need to know about citrus on this day trip to Torrey Revel’s Citrus Farm. Learn from the experts how citrus is grown and what you can do to have luck with your own. Enjoy a boxed lunch from Georgia Roussos and taste test the different varieties of citrus grown at Torrey’s farm. There will also be an opportunity to purchase fruit before you return to the Gardens.

Bus departs from MBG at 10am and returns at 4pm

Members $50 / Nonmembers $65

Friday, September 23rd, 11am-1pm

Back by popular demand!

Derek Norman has been working with the MBG Friday Sketch Club as well as teaching classes. The current focus of the artists is on native trees throughout the Gardens and the development of a florilegium to serve as a record of the plant collections here at the Gardens. What began as a tour for this botanical artists group has now grown into what we are calling the first of the SEED Celebration series – a Special Expert Education Day. Throughout the year we will be announcing special presentations given by experts traveling through the area or, as with this occasion, programs that developed naturally. For our very first SEED Celebration, Fred Nation and Bobby Green will lead a walking tour of the Gardens to highlight the many native trees that can be found on the grounds. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes and clothes as we will be traversing various types of terrain. We will have bottled water and bug spray available for those who are registered to attend. REGISTRATION REQUIRED
Free to MBG members / $5 NonMembers

Please contact the office to register for this walk and talk. Limited space!
251-342-0555 or email us.