Amanda Wilkins, Curator of Plant Collections

MBG has received a plethora of calls all wondering the same things: ‘Should I be cutting back my dead foliage?’  or ‘When should I be pruning [insert plant here]?’

Okay, dead foliage first:

I have been hesitant to encourage people to cut back their dead foliage on their citrus, perennials and woody plants. This week is looking quite “spring-like”, but because of the weird especially cold winter we’ve experience I have been warning caution. The reason being the dead foliage protects the plants from biting wind and bitter cold that can get at the living crown of the plant and desiccate the living tissue. If we get one more cold snap before the end of “winter”, especially after this upcoming week of warm weather, you may have more damage in your garden.

If you have already cut it back, don’t worry! Plants are surprisingly resilient. We also have a plant sale coming up, so you can use it as an opportunity to fill in those new dead spots!

Citrus

Many people have reported their satsumas and kumquats have dead foliage and tips on them after the cold. This is normal, given the crazy weather we’ve had. Your plants will grow new leaves in good time, so don’t worry. To properly cut back the dead tips on any citrus:

  • Identify the where the bark on the tips goes from brown to green
  • Count down four to six buds
  • Make the cut just above one of the buds, making sure it is facing away from the center of the plant!

Sago Palms and Palmettos

Most of the sago palms, Cycas taitungensis and C. revoluta, around Mobile have turned a golden, crispy looking color that certainly stands out as a glaring wound from winter. I know a lot of you are chomping at the bit to get the seemingly standing dead out of your landscape, but I encourage you to be patient with those clippers! Your plants are most likely just fine and they need that foliage to protect their central growing bud from harm (you know, that crazy looking fuzzy swirl in the middle)!

If you are not sure if your plant is still alive, sago or palmetto, look at the foliage. Even if it is brown, if most of the fronds are still standing erectly then your plant is fine. If the foliage is hanging down and starting to fall off, the plant is dead and should be removed. If you’re still not sure, email me at the Gardens (awilkins@mbgardens.org) with a picture of the whole plant.

The best time to cut the dead-looking foliage off is once the center bud starts to elongate. If you can’t wait until then, then wait until you feel confident spring has arrived.

Timing Your Pruning

I wish it was as easy as giving some quick advice when it comes to pruning. I really do. Unfortunately, it is a fairly complicated business and if not understood properly can forever sentence you to a life without flowers in your garden. Who out there has a mophead or lacecap Hydrangea that “never blooms”? Yep, I thought so.

A few tips though:

  • Timing is everything! Make sure(!) you know what species of plant you have before you go after it with the shears. Get to know when it flowers and other habits it has so that way you are not cutting it back at the wrong time. For example, there are three types of Hydrangea we commonly grow on the Gulf Coast. Two of them flower on old wood (Hydrangea macrophylla) and one of them flowers on new wood (Hydrangea paniculata). You can cut back the one that blooms on new wood in the winter without issue, but if you cut back one that blooms on old wood you cut next season’s flowers off!
  • Make sure to keep your tools clean! Spray the blades with isopropyl alcohol in-between plants in your garden. Think about it this way: would you want your doctor going at you with a recycled needle? I think not! Make sure to scrub off debris before storing your tools.
  • There are times when you don’t need to worry about timing: When a plant is getting in the way of your walkway (clearance) or is growing into another plant; and when there is dying, dead or diseased wood (make sure to remove the material completely from your garden!).
  • “Pruning Winter” ends at the end of February/early March. Anything after that you run the risk of

Okay, I will try to give you the quick and dirty on the more common plants you might be going after this time of year.

Crape Myrtles

Winter is the time to prune these back. We won’t talk about “crape murder”. You prune your plants the way you want (or visit the Gardens to see what crape myrtles can really look like)!

Figs

Winter is the time to prune these back as well. I understand a lot of folks are dealing with plant behemoths they may have let go too long. We may have to deal with that at a later date.

Azaleas

“Azaleas after” is all you have to remember. Prune them after they have finished flowering, whatever cultivar you have. Evergreen azaleas are very forgiving with pruning, but if you have any deciduous/native/Aromi azaleas, don’t prune them too harshly. Only prune them if their branches are crossing or if they are growing in the wrong direction.

Camellias

Valentine’s Day is the beginning of pruning season for Camellias. If your Camellias haven’t bloomed by Feb. 14, then hold off until after they do! June is a good time to stop pruning.

Roses

Valentine’s Day is the beginning of the pruning season for roses too. Roses bloom on new growth, so you can cut them back fairly heavily, if your taste dictates. Many rose cultivars will also continue to bloom if you cut off them spent blossoms. Drift® and Knockout® roses are two such types!

~

If you have any other questions or concerns, feel free to email them to me at awilkins@mbgardens.org. I always appreciate accompanying photos!

I look forward to seeing you around the Gardens!

 

Written by Amanda Wilkins

 

Camellia grijsii flowering in the Kosaku Sawada WinterGarden, with display label.

I gave a tour to a group of visiting botanists a couple weeks ago. These were people who dealt mainly with the natural world, but can still appreciate gardens. One of the ladies was reading a Camellia label in the WinterGarden and exclaimed, “Hey! That’s where I’m from in Georgia!” She beamed as one of the other scientists took her photo with the beautiful pink flowers.

Visitors take a picture of the display label of Osmanthus heterophylla ‘Kaori Hime’ to remember the name of the plant they saw.

 

 

 

Knowing and understanding the “origin” of a particular plant or cultivar helps put the plant into the wider context of the plant kingdom and of cultivation around the world. Think about it: looking at a tree and thinking ‘it’s just a tree,’ but suddenly you see it is from a specific region in China or was a cultivar developed in a town near where your family was from? That plant has just taken on a whole new meaning to you.

One of the most important things that sets a botanical garden apart from any other garden is the presence of labels telling you what plant you are looking at. To have that, you need knowledgeable staff members who know plants, how to research them, and how to properly communicate that information to a broad audience, from laypeople to scientists.

We are fortunate at the Mobile Botanical Gardens that we have a staff who can! In the past, diligent volunteers did their best to make sure each plant was labeled with a metal tag and a label that could be seen from the path; however, this was not consistent throughout the Gardens. One of my jobs as curator of plant collections is to come back behind them, record the names in our master plant database, and then make sure the name is correct. After all of that, a newly formatted label is made.

Dissecting the flowers of Camellia grijsii to determine whether it was properly identified.

The new labels contain several pieces of information: the scientific name; the cultivar name (if it has one); a common name (if it is not a repeat of the scientific name); the plant family it is in; the accession number, which corresponds to its entry in the database; and then we’ll call it the “origin” information.

What is the “origin” of a plant? We define it many ways at the Gardens. For species that can be found in the wild, it is where they are native to. For the azaleas and Camellias, the origin is the breeder or registrar of the particular cultivar. We do this because these are significant collections at the Gardens. For other plants that are cultivars (we’ll table this term for another time), it will generally say “Garden Origin.”

Camellia sasanqua ‘Sakura’ was collected during a trip to Japan a few years ago. It was in cultivation there, but no one knows the details of its origin.

It seems every time I walk through the Gardens with visitors, the question arises: “what does ‘Garden Origin’ mean?” The long and short of it is that it comes from a garden. It is just that simple, yet here is a lot of meaning packed into that little term. Really, it means that at one point in the history of horticulture, man came along and selected it from the wild or selectively bred it for the purpose of growing it in a garden. Which garden? How long ago? Where did it come from? Who selected it? Sometimes it is easy to know if there is a lot of literature about that particular group of plants or if it is a relatively recent development; but sometimes time has shrouded the origins in mystery and we may never know. For the sake of consistency and sanity, we choose to roll all of this simply into “Garden Origin”.

~~~

Come visit us at the Gardens from Wednesday through Sunday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Last entry is at 3 p.m., so come early! The Gardens are a private non-profit and rely on donations and entrance fees to survive. It is $5 for non-members, and free members and for children under 12. Join me for the monthly Walk with the Curator every second Thursday. The next walk is Thursday, January 11 at 10 a.m.

by Amanda Wilkins

If you are curious about other plants associated with Christmas, join us for “The Botany of Christmas” with Fried Nation on Friday, December 15, from 2-4 p.m. Learn more here

Nothing says the Christmas season like a brilliant, red Poinsettia. All the big box stores seem to have had just a few of them available before Thanksgiving for those eager beavers who just love starting Christmas early (those folks have probably been enjoying the trickling stream of holiday tunes on some of the radio stations too…). But, what is it about these incredible plants that makes us associate them with the Christmas season?

Most folks would probably say it’s the beautiful red color of the poinsettias that complete the classic Christmas look. Nowadays there are more than 100 different cultivars (“cultivated varieties”) that come in varying shades of white, pink, red and everything in between. Even still, red is still the number one seller, which makes sense because it blends in with most Christmas color schemes!

Poinsettia “flowers”

Bringing the botany back in: One of the coolest parts of this plant is that the red (or white or pink, if that’s your style) “petals” are really colored leaves called bracts. The true flowers are actually those weird yellow things in the middle. If you got out your handy-dandy hand lens and took a closer look, you’d really see how alien those flower look! Anyway, so the “petals” are colored leaves in poinsettias, and this is a common characteristic in the family Euphorbiaceae that stems from the loss of true petals due to adaptations to harsh environmental conditions and other evolutionary factors. Many other species in the genus Euphorbia have been able to bring their “petals” back too. Isn’t botany fun?

The scientific name of poinsettias might also help us answer our question though. Scientists would call them Euphorbia pulcherrima Willd. ex Klotzsch, meaning “very beautiful Euphorbia” in Latin. It’s important to note that there are more than two thousand species in the genus Euphorbia, so it’s good to know we picked the “very beautiful” one!

The other answer to what makes us associate poinsettias with the Christmas season is that they naturally bloom this time of year; and what botanists mean by “this time of year” is short days and long nights. Poinsettias are particularly sensitive to light and the length of the night. You may have heard the old wives’ tale of “putting your poinsettia in the dark will make it flower”. Now don’t go sticking your poor plant in a closet to make it flower again! What the tale speaks to is the importance of long “nights” to inspire flowering in poinsettias. I remember listening to the painstaking lectures in university talking about short day, long night plants; and how the presence of any light during those “long nights” could actually break the “night” and make the plant’s internal clock start over. For a poinsettia grower, this is critical to understand because if you don’t you can have a house full of beautiful plants with no color!

Kula, Maui

 Modern horticultural science has taken the humble poinsettia to the next level though. Poinsettias in the wild are tall, spindly shrubs native to Mexico. Native plants possess red bracts, but they tend to be in a sparse whorl around the yellow flowers, and are thin and not nearly as brightly colored. Through modern breeding techniques and meticulously-controlled greenhouse production, growers are able to bring bushy, dwarf, uniform, brightly-colored plants to a shelf near you (although, heaven forbid when they’re covered in glitter!). Poinsettia production starts all the way back in March when most growers order their plugs from seed companies, and the growing really gets going in October with very specific light, fertilizer and plant-growth-regulator regimes. If you want a sneak peek, check out a grower guide here: https://www.ballseed.com/PlantInfo/?phid=050005990004054.

 

~~~

Toxic Plants?

I get asked a lot about whether poinsettias are poisonous or not. The short answer is ‘Yes, they are, if any part of the plant is ingested.’ Poinsettias are in the family Euphorbiaceae, the spurge family, which explains why you’ll see white “milk” dripping when you accidentally brush by the plant and break off one of the leaves. It’s this sap that is full of alkaloids, and it can cause some mild skin irritation in sensitive people and nausea and vomiting in pets and humans if ingested. That being said, you’d have to eat hundreds of leaves to actually die from poinsettias. You’d probably stop eating after the first bite though, because those alkaloids make the plant’s parts so bitter it deters most animals from munching. But, if Fido takes a bite he’ll probably just be pretty ill. The best you can do is make sure the plant is out of reach of pets, and children are not at risk of brushing by it and damaging the plant. If you do break a part off, just wash the sap off with a mild soap. Trust me, there are some nastier members of the family!

What’s Bloomin’ at MBG?
Second Thursday of each month at 10AM

Join Amanda for monthly presentations on the second Thursday of each month. Amanda will present on topics and/or lead groups on collection tours around the grounds and discuss the plants we have in bloom right now. She will share her best growing tips and if anyone can stump her on ‘Name That Plant’ — we will award a free plant to the stumper! Should be fun!

MBG Members – Free
Non-members – $10 at the door


DATES:
June 8
July 13
August 10
September 14
Wednesday, October 11
November 9
December 14

 

Amanda Wilkins, Curator of Collections

It’s been awhile since spring plant sale, but now we’re moving into the time when we’re seeing out beloved bees and butterflies return to the region. With that, we’re reminded we have the botanical tools to lure them to our gardens and lend them a hand as they complete their life cycles.

The MarketPlace at the Mobile Botanical Gardens has a host of lovely nectar plants that we know and love, such as Salvias, Coneflowers (Rubeckia ssp. and Echinacea ssp.), and Coreopsis. But we also have many of the plants some species of butterfly need to have to feed their caterpillars.

Well, we’ve got a deal for you!

We’ve developed a wagon of the last few native pollinator plants left from Plantasia, and they’re going to be for sale for $65, more than 10 percent off!

The cart consists of:

  • 1- Alabama ox-eye daisy- Heliopsis helianthoides– Small butterflies, like skippers, love to get nectar form these. They are one of the first things to come up with the spring and the last to go down in the winter. This one likes more sun than most, but can tolerate some shade during a part of the day. Definitely prefers well-drained soils.
  • 1- Indian Blanket- Gaillardia sp.– The red and yellow flowers on this sunflower-relative really get the little butterflies going.
  • 1- Hammock Snakeroot- Ageratina jucunda– I have seen all sorts of bees and butterflies on this plant. Pale blue/purple flowers make a great accent in a naturalistic garden.
  • 1- Stiff Bluestar- Amsonia rigida– The feathery habit of this plant paired with the blue star-shaped flowers will have those butterflies coming back for more. Make sure the site is moist, but well-drained.
  • 2- Golden Alexander- Zizia aurea– HOST FOR: black swallowtails. Ever had black swallowtail caterpillars eat your fennel? Well try this native relative to see if you can get a piece of that licorice action this year. This plant has dainty yellow flowers and ours have been blooming in the nursery since February!
  • 1- Small-flower Pawpaw- Asimina parviflora– HOST FOR: Zebra swallowtails. When you don’t have room for the pawpaw we love to eat (Asimina triloba), you can make some for this shrubby (to 6-8 ft.) one. The rusty, golden hairs on the obovate leaves add an interesting texture to a garden, but it is the bizarre fruits that’ll have you scratching your head.
  • 1- Starry Rosinweed- Silphium asteriscus – The Longleaf Pine Forest at MBG is graced with this plant in the summer time and there are few things lovelier than going out to watch the bees go to town on the disk florets. They love them! The flowers get to a good height (3-4 ft.) so they can be planted behind something for an airy effect.
  • 1- Coreopsis– An all-time favorite of bees and butterflies of all types.

~

If those don’t trip your trigger, consider adding these to your butterfly hospitality suite:

Hop Wafer, or Wafer Ash – Ptelea trifoliate
Host for: Giant and Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
The common name comes from the wafer-like fruits this plant makes in April and May. It is deceptive, but it is related to lemons and limes (in the family Rutaceae!). It flowers in large, terminal heads and little flies and bees like to collect the oils for their hives. The larva (caterpillars) of two species of swallowtail like to munch on the leaves, so don’t be afraid if you see something eating the leaves.

Sweet Gum – Liquidambar styraciflua
Host for: Luna Moth
The sap from this tree used to be used for making candy. I’ve never tried it, but who knows, maybe it was tasty! We do know, however, that this is one of the host plants for luna moths, those gorgeous, large, green moths we sometimes see in the summertime outside on the porch. If you’ve got a well-drained spot in your yard and a spot in your heart for the lovely rainbow of fall foliage this tree creates, this is the one for you.

Hercules’ Club, or Toothache Tree – Zanthoxylum clava-herculis
Host for: Giant Swallowtail
This gnarly plant is a show-stopper: it has shiny, compound leaves with thorns (well, really botanically prickles) down the trunk. The leaves can be used as a temporary numbing agent, due to oil in the plant. It’s also a reason why the larva of the giant swallowtail likes to chew on it (or maybe they have a toothache too!).The reason the plant has this oil is that it is in the citrus family, as well (family Rutaceae).

by Amanda Wilkins

I was Louisiana-bound the last weekend of March for the 2017 National Azalea Conference in Hammond, Louisiana. The Azalea Society of America met for their annual conference in Cajun Country, and rolled out the best food and hospitality for visitors from all over the country. It was only my second time to Louisiana in my life and I was so glad to get a chance to see the state with the locals. Dr. Allen Owings, Jason Stagg and Gina Herbert were excellent hosts (and Gina totally decked MBG out with lots of cool plants to try!!), and were understanding of my probing questions about Louisiana horticulture. To say the least, I was the youngest person there, though.

Hammond Research Station, Hammond, LA


The conference was based at the research station. The terrible weather thankfully moved out just as I was driving over to Louisiana, and showed how incredible the property is. I hope I get to go back over there during the summer to see all of the plant trials! See more photos here: https://goo.gl/photos/th8dNDxVBMRB7M859

Imahara’s Botanical Gardens, St. Francisville, LA


Mr. Imahara has an amazing story to tell, and he is certainly honoring his family’s complex and amazing horticultural and cultural legacy through building this young botanical garden. His father’s haiku wood carvings alone are worth the trip out there! It is only open by appointment, but I am so glad we were able to go as part of the conference. Mr. Imahara had many stories to tell about the plants he chose and the way the land is sculpted. It was a beautiful trip! See more photos here: https://goo.gl/photos/AiaDqEydLNxbQhA28

Rosedown Plantation State Historic Site, St. Francisville, LA


Gosh, nothing says the Deep South like an alleé of live oaks (Quercus virginicus), and Rosedown has a really special one. It was a stately home with a beautiful formal garden with an old cold frame and yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria) hedges. I especially enjoyed the lower pond. It would be great to come back when the azalea hedges are in bloom though! See more photos here: https://goo.gl/photos/btsaMqoN6CQ5Eavp6

Transcend Nursery and Buddy and Dixie Lee’s Home, Independence, LA

Goodness, the famous Buddy Lee, of Encore Azalea fame, opened his trial nursery and home to us to potter and nose about. Buddy’s trial nursery is on an old nursery property, and Buddy has some really interesting plants out there. Exciting to see broadleaf evergreen Rhododendron trials going on. Then, we went over to Buddy’s home and got to see his seed lots of possible future Encore azaleas (as well as get wooed by Cajun music and food). See more photos here: https://goo.gl/photos/e7xXfmgpgnoLB4Kh6

Bracy’s Nursery, Wilmer, LA

I first visited Bracy’s back in February, as this one of the nurseries we source plants from for MBG’s plant sales. We were given the VIP driving tour of the 200 acre nursery with the owners and then were treated to a generous fish fry lunch at their home across the street. Ms. Regina is a planter genius. See more photos here: https://goo.gl/photos/2KKU2FhvHEWvvFSk7

Plant Show and Tell with Margie Jenkins, Jenkins Plant Farm and Nursery, Amite, LA


Finally, the nursery tours ended with a stop at Ms. Margie’s nursery in Amite (am-eet). My goodness, the lady is a legendary plantswoman, and her passion and love for sharing plants are inspirational. Asking various folks to hold up 3-gallons so she could talk about them, Ms. Margie gave us an overview of what azaleas she had available for sale and told us stories from her 94-years of life. Really, what we all wanted to see was the nursery lots of 30 year old seedlings of native deciduous azaleas, many of which were in flower. Giving Ms. Margie a hug around the neck was a wonderful way to end the trip. See more photos here: https://goo.gl/photos/5kibZu3gc7VpvwYA9

Hello, Mobile Botanical Gardens Community! I hope you’ve all been outside enjoying the wonderful weather! My goodness, it’s been so mild and sunny that our plants are really outperforming themselves this season.

magnolia-spmagnolia-annCome See the WinterGarden Camellias and Magnolias!
Now, as in this week, is the time to come see the Camellias and Magnolias blooming in the WinterGarden. The mild, dry, sunny weather has beckoned the flowers to unfurl from the Camellias and Magnolias, and the lack of hard freezes and wet weather have preserved the blossoms. Set against the blush of the Taiwan Cherries (Prunus campanulata, Rosaceae), blossoms of white, red and pink (and sometimes blue/purple!) and dark green foliage really stand out. You’ll primarily see cultivars of Camellia japonica, which makes up a large portion of our collection currently, during this time of year. These usually possess larger, showier blossoms; and we have some show-stoppers here in the collection.

I highly recommend a visit sometime this week, as we may never have such a perfect season again! We’re open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday. Members get in free, and visitors are $5 each.

wintergarden-workday_01_28_17Volunteering Workday a Success!
I directed a volunteer workday in the WinterGarden this past Saturday. From 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., we had about ten folks (including a volunteer as young as 12-years-old!) come prune Camellias and other shrubs, clean pine needles out of the canopies and do other clean-up maintenance in the WinterGarden. It was a whirwind day, but we accomplished so much and tackled years-worth of necessary cleaning. Come and check out the progress we made!

If you are interested in getting involved in horticultural projects, or are involved in a group that needs volunteer hours/projects, please feel free to reach out to me at awilkins@mbgardens.org.

camellia-japonica-tOngoing Records and Label Updating Project in WinterGarden
The plant records and labels are what set the collection in the WinterGarden apart from a park or someone’s backyard. We strive to keep notes about each plant in the garden, which mainly consists of Camellias, but not only. These notes include where the plant came from, how long it’s been in the garden, if there is something significant about the plants, and when it is in bloom. On top of these notes, each plant should have a botanically-accurate label to go with it. I have instituted a new labeling system which includes not only the common and scientific (Latin) name of the plant, but also the family and where it is native to. For our Camellias and Rhododendrons, which are our main collections at MBG, we will strive to include who registered the cultivar name and when. Please look out for these new labels as we get our records updated!

If you are interested in data entry, plant research and verification projects, please feel free to reach out to me at awilkins@mbgardens.org.

plugstuesday-greenhouse-volunteers-sowing-tomato-seeds

 

 

 

 

 

 
Moving Forward at the MBG Greenhouse
Brad Chambers has been busy giving our greenhouse and nursery areas a facelift, and things are really coming together up at the top of the hill. The Tuesday Greenhouse Volunteers of the MBG Cavalry have been busy getting settled into their new space, potting up their cuttings, sowing tomato seeds for Tomatopalooza, and gearing up for more in-house propagation projects. We are trying new strategies for producing more plants, so please stay tuned.

blue-hairstreak-on-porterweed_2015

Plantasia, Spring Plant Sale 2017: Mobile Garden Dreaming….
Ms. Nita and I have been in an ordering frenzy, dreaming about what interesting and beautiful plants you will be able to buy for your home gardens at our spring plant sale. There are already a few repeat favorites, like our four different types of Porterweeds and various citrus, but a few new faces as well. Stay tuned to the email blast and website for the availability list coming soon!

gopher-tortoise_llpf_01_30_17New Longleaf Pine Forest Resident
A team of volunteers and MBG staff got together about three weeks ago to do a controlled burn on a section in the Longleaf Pine Forest. It was a successful burn according to our forestry consultants. I drove my cart around Monday, January 30, to check out if anything had emerged from the ashes, and I found a gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) and a freshly-dug burrow! Just goes to show: build it (or in this case burn it), and they will come!

Curator’s Corner: Getting back in the swing of things
Amanda Wilkins
1/13/17

 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 awilkins@mbgardens.org.

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 awilkins@mbgardens.org. 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 jkrchak@mbgardens.org. 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!)