Friday, December 31, 2010

Our Top 10 of 2010

How original, right? A countdown of the year's top moments! Don't run away though, there's some good stuff in here, some that you may not know about. Things that make a real impact on real people in Birmingham and beyond! So without further adieu, here are my top 10 moments in 2010...

10) Another Record-Breaking Fall Plant Sale

After a two-day trial run in 2009 (which set the sales record for the event), we decided to stick with the new Saturday/Sunday schedule and boy did it pay off! This past Fall Plant Sale was the biggest yet with over 3,700 shoppers helping us raise more than $36,000. And props to all of the volunteers who helped us with setup, growing, selling, cashiering, loading and any other task you can imagine!

9) John Manion Named Curator of the Kaul Wildflower Garden

Ok, so when we hired John as our new curator of the Kaul Wildflower Garden earlier this year, we had no clue what we were in store for! John has turned out to be a fantastic asset for The Gardens! He actively recruits new volunteers for his workdays, he writes his own newsletter, Botanically Speaking, on natives, and he's even a big help to the development team developing relationships with donors.

8) Bridge of Accomplishment Restored

Our Japanese Gardens got a bit of a makeover in the spring with the painting and restoration of the Bridge of Accomplishment, better known as the "zig zag bridge," over Long Life Lake. If you haven't seen it, I suggest taking a stroll in mid- to late-March or anytime in the spring to see the cherry blossoms!

7) Garden Dirt Wins Platinum Creative Award, Again

Birmingham Botanical Gardens once again represented Alabama quite well in AMCP's (Association of Marketing and Communications Professionals) Hermes Creative Awards. We brought home Platinum in the newsletter category for Garden Dirt and gold in the e-newsletter category for Dirt E-lert. Birmingham Botanical Gardens was the only botanical garden or arboretum to win a Platinum Hermes Creative Award; The University of Alabama was the only other Alabama institution to win a platinum award in 2010.

6) Junior Board Launched

The inaugural Junior Board of Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens met on February 23 at Jackson's Bar & Bistro in Homewood. At this first meeting the Junior Board named officers (Miller Allen, president; Ashley Gassner, vice-president; and Dionne Burks, secretary) and began planning for their future. So far this year the group has hosted a Family & Friends Mixer at the home of Cathy Adams on top of Red Mountain and is now planning for a very exciting event in the Japanese Gardens. (Shh, that's all I can tell you for now...I've already said too much!)

5) Volunteers of the Year Honored

The Friends hosts the annual Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon every December to pay tribute to the hundreds of volunteers who give their time and talent to make us successful each and every year. During the luncheon we also dole out the Volunteer of the Year awards; we added a fifth award to the slate this year: the A. Brand Walton Unsung Hero award for outstanding service behind the scenes. The 2010 Volunteers of the Year are Fox 6 (Community Partner); Carol Hinshaw (Educator); Dr. Ed Fineberg (Plantsperson); Plant Sale Treasurers Cathy Canant, Terri DiMuro, Jeanon Massien, and the late Teresa Neal (A. Brand Walton Unsung Hero); and Dr. John A. Floyd (Ida C. Burns Volunteer of the Year).

4) Antiques at The Gardens Turns Five

This past October we celebrated the fifth anniversary of Antiques at The Gardens by rolling out the red carpet at the Sterne Agee First Look Party. Lecturers Miles Redd and DeJuan Stroud provided opportunities to learn and laugh and dozens of dealers provided hordes of goodies for homeowners, decorators and architects. All told the event raised more than $290,000 to support educational programs at The Gardens, bringing the five year total to over $1.6 million.

3) Spring Plant Sale Smashes Attendance Record

More than 7,400 folks came out to Colonial Brookwood Village for the Spring Plant Sale, making it the most attended plant sale in the history of The Gardens. The 2010 Spring Plant Sale did not disappoint in fundraising either, raising over $262,000!

2) New Master Plan Unveiled to Public

On March 25, 2010, Executive Director Fred Spicer and Scott Scarfone of Oasis Design Group revealed The Gardens' new Master Plan. The new vision for Birmingham Botanical Gardens includes new gardens (like a Persian-themed garden), creation of event and education spaces (such as completion of the Arrington Plant Adventure Zone), and long-term fixes to facility issues (accessibility, stormwater drainage and parking). Stay tuned for projects as they get underway!

And now, the moment you've been waiting for...#1!

1) YOU!

Because of you, our readers, Facebook fans, donors, members, volunteers, visitors and other supporters, we have not laid off a single person or cut a single program! 2010 wasn't the year that we smashed all fundraising records, but we succeeded in so many big ways (see above!) during an otherwise very difficult year, and it was because of you. We gave free, science-based field trips to 10,000 schoolchildren again, and provided educational opportunities to tens of thousands of adults and children. We may not be fending off takeovers by Google like some companies, but we feel good about what we've accomplished over the past 12 months, and we could not have done it without each and every one of you. Thank you, and happy new year!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Now, the Featured Presentation...

As promised in our post earlier this week (Volunteers: Our Shining Stars), here is your follow-up story with our Volunteer of the Year award winners and pictures! Again, let's give a round of applause to our stars for making all of our work possible! We sincerely appreciate everything you do to make The Gardens stand out. With your help we educate nearly 40,000 people every year, including 10,000 schoolchildren. We are Alabama's most visited free attraction with more than 350,000 visitors each year. We make a great team! Let's keep up the good work in 2011!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Winter Gardening

Ok, so it's the middle of December and it was all of one degree outside when you woke up today. (Or at least that's what it felt like to me!) Many folks just assume now's the time to stay out of the garden and let nature do its thing over the winter. Nay! To quote gardener and writer Marie Hutson, "The gardening season officially begins on January 1st, and ends on December 31." I think you get my drift.

Here are some pointers from the Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES) here at The Gardens. Of course, if you have a specific question you can always visit their website, call the Plant Hotline at 1-800-644-4458, or just stop by and see if somebody here can help you! So without further adieu...
If you haven't started growing and planting your lettuces,
now is a good time to start. Just don't do it when it's 1°!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Volunteers: Our Shining Stars

There are so many contributors that make Birmingham Botanical Gardens a success. And we like to thank those individuals, community partners, and businesses as often as we can. The bottom line is, however, that even if we had buckets of money -- which we don't -- we wouldn't be able to do a fraction of what we do without our loyal and savvy army of volunteers. We thought we'd have a little fun with the theme this year: Hollywood. We're literally rolling out the red carpet for our shining stars.

This Thursday, December 16, we pay homage to these many wonderful people who give back to their community here at The Gardens. The annual Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon is a tradition started years ago, and is still going strong today. You would think that at an event honoring our volunteers, they would want to take the day off and kick back. But true to the volunteer spirit, these givers of time and talent insist on doing a potluck, perhaps to show off their culinary prowess. The reality is it's just in their nature to give, and if that means making a mean green bean casserole to honor their fellow volunteers, well, by golly, that's what they're gonna do!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Education: An Investment in the Future

Today's world is a fast-paced and ever-changing one in which information flies at us from a myriad of media at all hours of the day. Balance, serenity and know-how are musts to survive and succeed in this atmosphere. The old adage "knowledge is power" is even more relevant now than it has ever been. For this reason, and many others, we're very proud of the work we do here at The Gardens. Education is our mission, but it's more than just something we put on a website or a plaque, it's a lifestyle for us. You can help us continue this tradition in several ways such as making a donation, giving a gift membership, or volunteering your time and talent.

Consider that Discovery Field Trips help impart knowledge on schoolchildren from kindergarten through 6th grades, led by our education team's loyal volunteer docents. These fun adventures aren't just an escape from the schoolhouse. Discovery Field Trips are based on National Science Education Standards and Alabama Course of Study, and truly bring the classroom to life. For example, one one of the six field trip options, children learn about Dr. George Washington Carver's life and contributions to science and agriculture. The nitrogen cycle is no longer something in a text book, but rather is animated when kids harvest peanuts, sweet potatoes and cotton. More than 10,000 schoolchildren get a head start on critical science education, laying the foundation for future generations of scientists, activists, botanists, doctors and inventors.

Discovery Field Trips is just the tip of the educational iceberg here at The Gardens. Don't forget about Horticultural Therapy, which helps mentally, physically or emotionally disadvantaged clients from age four to 98 learn crucial life skills, using plants and gardening as a therapeutic and instructional tool. Our classes offer opportunities to learn just everything from botanical history to floral design and cooking to crafts. HollyDay Magic teaches children ways to make gifts, ornaments and decorations using natural materials.

The list goes on and on with other ways we seek to give the most valuable gift there is, the gift of knowledge, to children and adults across the region. And for those already in the know, we strive to inspire them to give back by volunteering as a field trip docent, or a horticultural therapy aid, or a Library assistant, or a class instructor or in any way they can.

This holiday season, we'd like to share our gratitude to all those who make it possible for us to "walk the walk" and not just "talk the talk." Thank you for investing in the future of Birmingham by helping us bring educational experiences to life. We will all be rewarded as a new generation of knowledgeable leaders use their new-found power to make and impact on our community and our environment for years to come.