‘If The Garden Could Talk’
Name: Red Ridge Park
Location: Red Mountain in Birmingham, Alabama.
Who do you belong to? Technically the earth (the garden chuckles,) I belong to Brooke and Daniel Coleman.
How did you come to be? I was formed and created originally by William Kessler in 1928. Over the decades I have been edited here and there until the most recent owners took a special interest in me and gave me a major overhaul. The owners hired Zachary Westall to design and implement a series of predominately native plant based strolling gardens.
What is your most fruitful time of year? I am able to provide fresh cut flowers for the home year around – but my most abundant would be late spring/early summer before the southern heat sets in.
What are your lifelong goals? To attract as much wildlife as possible. I like to think of myself as a bit of a sanctuary from the city for song birds, small mammals and insects.
What grows best in your soil? Natives, natives, natives. I am a tough location being at the top of Red Mountain. I am comprised of dense, sloping red clay, which stays wet and slick with prolonged rains, sheds water with our quick thunderstorms and bakes, something akin to concrete, in the south’s heat.
What is your biggest achievement? That I am able and allowed to create my own nutrients.
Interesting, what do you mean? Well, every autumn when the leaves fall they aren’t bagged or blown away by leaf blowers. They are allowed to rest on the forest floor. That goes for fallen branches, logs and perennial clippings as well. They are left on the grounds to decompose, giving me a natural layer of useful, healthy mulch. I heard from the birds its all the rage at England’s famed Highgrove House and Royal Gardens.
Do you have any prized possessions? Numerous – from the collection of native azaleas to the winter blooms of our state flower, the Camellia. But if I had to pick one, it would be Frank Flemming’s bronze chess set. Westall designed gardens around it extenuating the masterpiece with a tightly clipped, low native hedge. It sits on a garden terrace that overlooks the city. The space has a certain air of whimsy about it that allows you to escape reality, even if just for a minute. It is a wonderland within a wonderland. (I believe the photo shown is a glimpse of it.)
Favorite pastime: Observing the owners and/or guests conversing on their strolls along my pathways while they discover something new that is blooming, a fruit that is ripening or even the garden spider’s (Argiope auranti) freshly spun web.
Do you have a favorite plant that thrives? Oh yes! The Bottlebrush Buckeye. It is a wonderful native shrub that produces white showy cylindrical panicles of tubular white flowers in summer. I’m always telling the other gardens about it at our little parties. (The garden smirks.)
Last words… I hope one day that all gardens are treated as fairly and with as much care as I am. I feel so lucky to have such an understanding, thoughtful family look after me and enjoy every living thing.