Hit the road this month for garden visits across Alabama
By Katie Jackson
Summer is drawing to an end and vacation time is running short, but there’s still time for a last-minute garden getaway.
Need a day trip just to get you and the kids out of the house and home garden? Visit one of the many botanical gardens or arboretums that are located throughout the state and are as educational as they are beautiful. Typically, botanical gardens contain a wide range of plants, from trees and shrubs to herbaceous perennials and annuals, while arboretums tend to focus more on trees and shrubs. Both types of gardens are meant to be teaching and research sites, so the plants there will be labeled and admission fees are affordable—sometimes even free.
Another garden-related outing that also provides a glimpse of history is to visit one of Alabama’s gorgeous estate gardens, such as Arlington Antebellum Home and Gardens in Birmingham, Jasmine Hill between Montgomery and Wetumpka or Bellingrath Gardens and Home in Theodore. These and other similar gardens often offer home and museum tours along with garden visits, so you can enjoy them indoors and out.
A more hands-on garden outing is to visit one of Alabama’s many u-pick operations. While some fruits and vegetables are out of season by this time in the summer, many others are at their height and new ones are coming in. In fact, the year’s first apples are available this month at Mountain View Orchards in Chilton County (more on them in the October issue).
If you’re looking for a romantic, grown-up getaway, take a trip along Alabama’s Wine Trail (www.alabamawinetrail.net), which features vineyards and wineries throughout the state offering tours and tastings of everything from blueberry and muscadine wines to pinot noirs and cabernets. (You’ll remember the Wine Trail was the cover story in June’s Alabama Living.)
Even if you don’t want to plan an entire trip around gardens, keep in mind that lovely gardens can be found almost any place you visit, from municipal parks to church grounds to native plantings in state parks, so you can enjoy a garden-related getaway wherever you go.
A great list of Alabama public gardens can be found at www.ilovegardens.com/Alabama%20Gardens.htm or search the Alabama Tourism Department’s site at http://alabama.travel for garden destinations and events. A map of many Alabama u-pick farms is available at www.fma.alabama.gov/UpickCounty.aspx and others can be found with a basic Web search.
Don’t neglect plants while you’re away
As you set out to explore, though, don’t neglect those plants back at home. If you’re going to be gone for several days or longer, protect your turf by mowing the lawn, then deeply watering it and your landscape plants just before you leave. If you don’t have an automatic sprinkler system, ask or hire a friend or neighbor to water for you every few days.
For container plants—whether they are on the porch and patio or in the house—try using watering globes or water spikes, which are available at most nursery centers. These devices allow you to fill a bottle or the globe reservoir with water that will gradually seep into the soil during your absence. Or set plants on risers in a tray or bathtub filled with an inch or two of water so they can benefit as the water evaporates.
And make sure you harvest any ripe vegetables or arrange for a friend to pick the garden in your absence.
*Plant fall vegetables, such as cabbage, collards and broccoli, and fall-bearing beans and peas.
*Plant a winter cover crop in your garden as it finishes its growing season.
*Keep an eye out for insects and disease on all ornamental and vegetable plants and treat for problems before they get out of hand.
*Prune blackberry canes.
*Keep an eye out for seed catalogues, which should be arriving in your mailbox soon.
*Continue to mow and water lawns as needed.
*Divide irises and other perennials that have become overcrowded.
*Keep fresh water in birdbaths.
*Plant seeds of cool-season flowers such as snapdragons, dianthus, pansies, calendulas and other cool-season flowers in flats or in the garden for mid-to-late fall bloom.
*Order fall bulbs.
*Use mosquito repellant and sunscreen when you’re out in the yard or garden.