Prior to 1960, a Birmingham Botanical Garden was only an idea. That year Birmingham Mayor James W. Morgan spearheaded the movement to establish The Gardens on 69 acres east of the city’s zoo in Lane Park, on the south side of Red Mountain. “Morgan was interested in developing the city he loved, and the city would not have developed the same way without him,” explained James A. Head, former chairman of the campaign to locate the zoo at Lane Park. Despite objections from the Park & Recreation Board, Mayor Morgan went to Montreal to inspect the greenhouses at the Montreal Botanical Gardens and ask their curator, Dr. Henry E. Teuscher, to design a master plan for Birmingham. Morgan envisioned Birmingham’s Gardens as “the biggest attraction of this type in the Southeast.”
In 1964, The Birmingham Botanical Society, Inc., a non-profit corporation, was founded as a “membership organization to support and improve The Gardens.” From that day forward the society’s volunteers, fundraising efforts and support staff helped maintain and develop The Gardens. Today both the City of Birmingham and Birmingham Botanical Society are committed to the continuing growth of The Gardens. This public/private partnership began in October of 1964, one year after the official opening of The Gardens. The City of Birmingham provides Birmingham Botanical Gardens with financial and operational commitments on an annual basis. Currently, The Gardens is part of the Birmingham Parks & Recreation Board under the auspices of Director Melvin Miller. Birmingham Botanical Society dba Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation. The Friends is a member and donor based organization that supports and improves The Gardens. In November 2001 Friends hired its first paid Executive Director and CEO, Mr. Frederick R. Spicer, Jr. The executive director links the City and Friends of The Gardens by working with both the Birmingham Parks & Recreation Board and the non-profit Board of Directors.
The history of the Birmingham Botanical Society is truly a lively, colorful story full of people who quickly recognized the enormous potential of the young Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Over the years thousands of volunteers have donated their time, talents, funds, energy, enthusiasm, and vision. Members of the Federated Garden Clubs of District Three, neighborhood garden clubs, plant societies, local civic and related industry groups, master gardeners, and individuals from all walks of life have contributed richly to this story. Today Birmingham Botanical Gardens stands as one of America’s premier gardens, a true credit to the thousands of people who in 1960 had a vision of greatness for our city and state.
Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens seeks to protect, nurture, and share the wonders of Birmingham Botanical Gardens. We are dedicated to serving the Gardens, serving the community, serving our visitors, and inspiring a passion for plants, gardens, and the environment.
Birmingham Botanical Gardens is Alabama’s largest living museum with more than 12,000 different plants in its living collections. The Gardens’ 67.5 acres contains 25+ unique gardens, 30+ works of original outdoor sculpture and miles of serene paths.
The Gardens features the largest public horticulture library in the U.S., conservatories, a wildflower garden, two rose gardens, the Southern Living garden, and Japanese Gardens with a traditionally crafted tea house. Education programs run year round and over 10,000 school children enjoy free science-curriculum based field trips annually.
Birmingham Botanical Gardens, the most visited free attraction in Alabama, is open daily, offering free admission to more than 350,000 yearly visitors.
The Gardens is a partnership between the City of Birmingham and Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens, an organization of 2,800 family and individual members who support The Gardens. Through funding and advocacy, The Friends further restoration, preservation and development of The Gardens as a resource for everyone in the community. The Friends promote knowledge and appreciation of plants and the environment with educational offering.
Happily, admission to The Gardens continues to be free to all visitors. Public funds do support general maintenance; however, public funding does not address the effects of increased usage and changing visitor needs. Therefore, The Friends must seek additional funding sources to sustain its mission. With your help, Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens will continue to expand educational programming, environmental awareness, facilities maintenance and development as well as horticultural health and diversity. Our Gardens constitute a valuable resource for our community which must be maintained and enhanced for present and future visitors.