67-County Alabama Garden Party: Franklin County


The Alabama honeysuckle border was inspired by an 18th century, Southern applique quilt.

The Cullman Tribune is celebrating the Alabama Bicentennial (1819-2019) with statewide field reporting by Alabama Master Gardener/Botanical Artist Ben Johnson South. This year-long feature, "The 67-County Alabama Garden Party," will spotlight different counties each week. Each county will get its own "quilt block," along with a historical profile, and we'll share a recipe specific to the area. At the end of the year, all 67 counties will be put in a book to commemorate the Bicentennial.

Franklin County

This part of Alabama is known for being inventive and fun. The county was perfectly named to honor the American inventor, ambassador and 24/7 fun lover, Benjamin Franklin.

Alabama’s first railroad was started here with crossties cut from the native forests. Thanks to rich soil, talented growers and lots of sunshine, the main cargo was the area’s prized cotton headed to textile mills. The locals learned this maxim Ben Franklin wrote in “Poor Richard’s Almanack”: “Hide not your talents, they for use were made, what's a sundial in the shade?”

And, the fun part is underscored each year with the state’s favorite watermelon festival made juicily competitive with the annual seed-spitting contest. Though far from solemn, these seed spitters are serious. Don’t get between them and their targets.  They could put your eye out.

Franklin County was established on Feb. 6, 1818 as part of the Alabama Territory. Even the old, farming community names like Spruce Pine, Seven Pines, Belgreen and Vina tell you Franklin County is a place where people love plants.

Here are more examples of the positive and pleasurable ways PLANTS + PEOPLE come together in Franklin County:

*FRANKLIN COUNTY FARMERS’ MARKETS—Downtown Russellville at 202 Green Ave. SW and downtown Red Bay at 652 Second St. NE

*FRANKLIN COUNTY FARM STANDS—Jimmy Manning and Susie Baker, both in Russellville

*BANKHEAD NATIONAL FOREST (part)—One of Alabama’s four,national forests, this green wonderland is known as “Land of a Thousand Waterfalls.”

*OVERTON FARM—A fine example of a vernacular, “Alabama Dogtrot” house, with two rooms built of native lumber separated by an open breezeway, it was built in 1817 and has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1975. Demonstrations of tobacco farming and corn farming; restored by the Northwest Alabama State Junior College

*DISMAL CANYON—(Phil Campbell) It’s a privately-owned park, perfect for picnickers amid a plethora of plants, and after dark there’s a real-live magic show of rare, luminous insects affectionately called “the Franklin County Glowworms.”

*WATERMELON FESTIVAL—In Russellville every August; watermelons are members of the gourd family, Cucurbitaceae, which includes cantaloupes, squash, cucumbers and honeydew melons, all of which thrive in Franklin County; antique tractor and car show, bike and running contests and FREE, COLD WATERMELON SLICES!

PLANTING AN IDEA—A Benjamin Franklin Kite Park celebrating a Southern plant discovered by American Colonial plantsmen, John and William Bartram, and named for their good friend, Ben Franklin; the plant is the “Franklinia alatamaha,” which is commercially available and relatively inexpensive for a large shrub or a small tree. This deciduous member of the “tea family” has white, lightly fragrant blossoms similar to an Alabama camellia.

Y’ALL COME to Franklin County on your 67-County, Alabama Garden Party tour. Even though it’s north Alabama, it gets hotter than all “git out” in the summers, so you may find some inspiration from this Benjamin Franklin, PLANTS + PEOPLE quote: “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”



  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. fresh, lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • Ground black pepper; to taste
  • 4 cups Franklin County lettuces
  • 4 cups seedless, Franklin County watermelon, diced
  • 2 oz. Alabama goat cheese, crumbled
  • ½ cup Alabama pecans, chopped


  1. Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, salt and pepper.
  2. In a large bowl, gently toss the lettuce greens and diced watermelon together with the vinaigrette.
  3. Top with goat cheese and pecans to serve.

Also, check out Alabama Bicentennial: 200 ways to save Alabama for the next 200 years.

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