Photos | Jenni Krchak

The entrance to Mobile Botanical Garden’s Aromi Garden is pictured with a native azalea in foreground. Also, a nymphaea “Star of Siam” is among the extensive plant collection.

By Greer Wilhelm, Mobile Master Gardener | CoastalAlabamaGardening@gmail.com

Nestled against the shoulder of Spring Hill, just above the lake in Municipal Park, lies a portal to opportunity. The 100-acre parcel of ground, located five minutes from both the University of South Alabama and Interstate 65, remains unknown to many of its neighbors — more often visited by out-of-towners — and finds itself frequently confused with a large home and garden located in south Mobile County on Fowl River. Let us pull back the veil and reintroduce the extraordinary Mobile Botanical Gardens (MBG).

Because Mobile rests in the middle of the most biologically diverse part of North America, people from around the world have been drawn here for hundreds of years to explore and work. As progress paved its way across the landscape, MBG has recognized its unique position and, through persistent resourcefulness and foresight, took on the challenge of collecting and making accessible a wealth of resources.

Plant collections composing the various gardens within MBG form a living museum and contain some specimens found nowhere else on earth. Executive Director Robin Krchak announced Seth Allen, former curator at historic Magnolia Plantation & Garden in Charleston, South Carolina, will join the MBG staff as horticultural curator this month.

The Sawada Winter Garden, one of seven gardens in the United States designated a Garden of Excellence by the International Camellia Society, stuns with bountiful blossoms in the dead of winter.

The McConnell Rhododendron Garden contains more than a thousand evergreen azaleas — the most comprehensive collection along the Gulf Coast — and the largest collection of Satsuki azaleas in the U.S.

The recently installed Aromi Hybrid Azalea Garden houses a rare and beautiful portion of the nationally recognized work of Dr. Eugene Aromi, some of which is also found in the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C.

The John Allen Smith Japanese Maple Garden showcases the stunning architecture of individual trees and a jaw-dropping riot of color in late autumn.

Herbs often encountered as dried bits in glass jars flourish in their fresh state in the Sybil Burnett Herb Garden. Butterflies and hummingbirds merrily make their way to the Pollinator Garden.

Guests in strollers and wheelchairs will find easy access to many parts of the gardens along paved pathways.

Annual fall and spring plant sales as well as Gallery of Gardens tours are recognized favorite events.

Plants sold in the MBG MarketPlace or online catalog allow anyone to achieve the unique ReBloom “look of Mobile” with garden color all year long, instilling a true sense of place.

A new gift shop, The Artful Garden, focuses on items made in the U.S. and available locally only at MBG, including kitchen tools, jewelry, fine art, melodic wind chimes and edibles.

Opportunities abound to meet, learn from and engage with critically acclaimed artists, authors and experts.

Renowned botanical artist Derek Norman leads botanical art classes in his delightfully civilized British way.

Alabama’s Poet Laureate Emerita Sue Walker and award-winning writer Gail Gehlken inspire and encourage during Writers in Nature classes.

The new Marion Deane Drummond lecture series is designed to bring in some of the best minds from across the country and help us all learn more about gardening. A festive inaugural event Sept. 22 will feature two speakers, delicious food, libations, dessert and a silent auction of special plants.

On Oct. 9, internationally acclaimed author Andrea Wulf will discuss her New York Times best seller, “The Invention of Nature,” a biography of Alexander Von Humboldt. Widely praised as engaging, funny, intellectually exhilarating and not to be missed, Wulf’s visit is highly anticipated

It’s all here. For you. Dig in!

Gardeners, check this out:

For more info on MBG events and opportunities, including:

• Botanical art and writing classes
• Season or individual tickets to Marion Deane Drummond lecture series
• Special events, such as Poetry by Moonlight on Oct. 24
• Membership information, plant sales and other events

Visit MobileBotanicalGardens.org or call 251-342-0555.

What: Lunch & Learn with Mobile Master Gardeners (free)
When: Monday, Sept. 17, noon to 1 p.m.
Where: Jon Archer Ag Center, 1070 N. Schillinger Road, Mobile
Topic: Sustainable Hydroponic Farming
Speaker: Dale Speetjans

Master Gardener Helpline: 877-252-4769, or send gardening questions to coastalalabamagardening@gmail.com.