Ultimate Guide to Birmingham Botanical Gardens

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birmingham botanical gardensI love the Birmingham Botanical Gardens (BBG)! My parents took me there often as a child, and I love taking my own children there, too. Some of my favorite days of motherhood have been spent there wandering around, pushing the stroller while taking in the spring flowers, or spreading a blanket and reading books among the vibrant autumn leaves. 

There’s truly something to do, explore, and see at BBG no matter the season, especially since it’s free and open to the public every day of the year. Chances are, you’ve strolled around there yourself at some point, but there are many hidden gems, and Birmingham Mom Collective is here to help point them out to you!

The Library and Storytime

Did you know BBG has its own on-site library that’s part of the Jefferson County Library Cooperative (JCLC)? That’s right-just bring your library card along to your next visit and you can check out children’s books, teaching resources, gardening books, and even participate in the library’s seed exchange.

One of my favorite new activities at BBG is the children’s storytime on Friday mornings at 10:00 a.m. The Southern Living Garden offers the perfect backdrop for a peaceful nature story and craft for preschoolers.

Yoga in the Gardens

If you’re wanting to feel even more zen while you’re at BBG, check out one of the many yoga classes offered there, including special family yoga sessions like this one.

My oldest has just started yoga this year and really enjoys it. It’s always fun finding something physical (and relaxing!) that families can do together.

Birmingham Botanical Gardens

Discovery Backpacks 

Did you know BBG offers discovery backpacks for check out so you can take self-guided field trips with your family? I remember going on a school field trip to BBG when I was in second grade (many, many years ago), but I still remember some things I learned and saw—like the moon tree grown from a seed flown on Apollo 14.

Your kids don’t have to rely on their schools to take them on a field trip there; you can take your own family field trip on your own time and choose your own discovery backpack theme to aid in your exploration of BBG.

There are several backpacks to choose from, but since my youngest especially loves the Japanese Garden, I adore the special summer theme backpack for that garden. This particular backpack invites you to “become inspired to paint like French Impressionist Claude Monet. Discover water lilies and identify key structures including leaves, stems, and flowers. Read The Magical Garden of Claude Monet by Laurence Anholt to discover Monet’s style of Impressionism and his famous subjects, water lilies, and Japanese bridges. Create your own art in Monet’s style using watercolor pencils in cool colors.” How fun is that?! And before you leave the Japanese Garden, don’t forget to explore the wonderfully shaded Bamboo Grove!

There are also preschool discovery backpacks, pollination observation discovery backpacks, and high school discovery backpacks.

Stay for Lunch

You’ve probably smelled delicious food cooking as you’ve walked past the entrance gates and wondered where it was coming from. Why, it’s coming from the Garden Cafe by Kathy G! It’s open for lunch Tuesday through Friday 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., and it’s delicious.

When I’m with my kids, we normally just sit on our blanket and eat a picnic lunch under the weeping willow trees in front of the Conservatory Greenhouse. But, once kids are in school, you can plan a fun moms’ lunch at the Garden Cafe to celebrate surviving summer!

The Conservatory Greenhouse

I can’t mention the Conservatory Greenhouse without telling you how much my daughters and I love exploring it! We spent many toddler mornings during cold winter days hanging out in there, enjoying fresh green plants and dreaming of spring! I also have vivid memories of one of those toddlers reaching out and touching a cactus plant (oops!) 

In addition to the “Desert House” room (where you’ll see various cacti), be sure to check out the “Citrus House” room. We love seeing the teeny limes and oranges grow to maturity over time!

The large “Tropical House” room features a relaxing waterfall and benches. Try to see if you can spy bananas growing on the banana trees!

Vegetables!

My personal favorite spot of BBG is the Bruno Vegetable Garden. We’ve made so many fun discoveries in there, from ripe tomatoes to swallowtail butterfly caterpillars munching on fresh parsley in the herb garden.

But don’t pick anything! Did you know that more than 2,000 pounds of fresh produce are harvested each year from this garden and given directly to the Harvest for the Hungry program?

If you’re interested in learning gardening tips for your own home garden, be sure to check out the Grow Greener class series or sign up to volunteer to help maintain the vegetable garden (and other parts of BBG)!

Roses and Camellias

I can’t leave out the Dunn Formal Rose Garden or the Hess Camellia Garden (where, incidentally, my husband and I got married)! The rose garden is perfect for exploring on warmer days, and the camellias are in full bloom during the winter months.

We love taking our time smelling each flower and picking our favorite. We agree that the “Mr. Lincoln” rose and the “Pink Perfection” camellia are our two favorites!

Birmingham Botanical Gardens

Always More to Explore

No matter how many times we’ve gone to BBG, there’s always more to explore! My best advice? Just get a garden map, take your time, breathe deeply, and explore aimlessly!