The Cullman Tribune celebrated 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,” spotlighted different counties each week. Here, South wraps up the series with an original poem.
The Alabama Garden Party Trail
by Ben Johnson South
We’re a state within a garden so come join us for a spell
On The 67-County, Alabama Garden Party Trail.
Alabama’s Gulf Coast is a seaside garden each season
And our northern border’s an awe-inspiring arboretum.
First, we’re off to Autauga where rare botanicals get so fresh,
They’re carnivorous pitcher plants who want to eat your flesh.
Swaying sea oats and daylilies dot the white sand
And, Baldwin garden-to-glass coolers in a hotel that’s Grand.
From Barbour a textile artist sewed Jackie Kennedy’s wedding gown
And a culinary artist baked up Lane Cake renown.
Bibb lettuce gives us a lesson in growing hydroponic,
And, could grow greens for the West Blocton Turnip Fest, while they’re on it.
Blount has the most covered bridges thanks to local timber.
And hikes up hills and down gullies keep the locals quite limber.
Bullock stretches out meadowland for miles and miles
Which is a reason they host National Birddogging Trials.
There’s a guitar on a picnic blanket, the initials are Hank Williams’.
Hits from Butler County and all of Alabama, there’s gotta be gazillions.
Over in Calhoun County, we made syrup out of pine needles.
And, up in the tall, tall trees there’s a nest of American eagles.
We’ll stop and smell the roses and calm down the busyness
Swooning in Chambers County from the heady fragrant dizziness.
The hills of Alabama are a wonderland to see Fall foliage
Where nature’s the right tonic and Cherokee County, the right dosage.
Alabama is a fruitful land with orchards all can reach.
For sweet and juicy in Chilton County, please “Meet us at the peach.”
Down in Choctaw County we’ll relish rustic beauty in a swamp,
But be careful where you romp and stomp cause the gators like to chomp.
Two-hundred years ago we had lumberjacks and jills yellin’ “Timber,”
In Clarke County, they’re still logging today so it’s a snap to remember.
Colorful gardens in Clay County had us saluting the color purple,
And, garden party desserts as sweet as sorghum soppin’ syruple.
In romantic Cleburne County we lifted a glass of wine to skies above,
Where scenic beauty turns Mt. Cheaha to a “Mountain of Love.”
The sugarcane in Coffee County is a mighty sweet treat
But the art of making cane syrup is no small feat.
Helen Keller’s fragrant gardens at Ivy Green are sure to give your throat a lump.
As will the outdoor drama in Colbert County and “The World’s Most-Famous Water Pump.”
Conecuh is known for sausage and sage
And in this new age, grillin’ local there is all the rage.
Even before statehood, Coosa County was known for textiles;
The Native Creeks traded furs for European clothing styles.
Covington mills once spun yarn, oodles and oodles;
We saluted this past with yarn-like, veggie noodles.
Alabamians are resilient, we prevail through weather extremes,
Crenshaw County overcomes obstacles and grow gardens of dreams.
Prayer gardens offer sanctuary and allow faith to grow.
Alabama’s most-visited is in Cullman at Ave Maria Grotto.
Dale County birthed blues belter, Big Mama Thornton and her sass.
And, there’s fishin’ from grassy banks for a prized, Big Mouth Bass.
Selma is “Alabama’s Butterfly Capital” with hearts all aflutter.
And, a Dallas County riverwalk, barefootin’ in the mudder.
Our party gets groovin’ with the band, ALABAMA,
DeKalb’s favorite sons against a Ft. Payne panorama.
Jasmine Hill in Elmore is worldly, we confirmed it.
Relax among the ruins, you’ve Grecian urned it.
Escambia County has a church all covered in vines
Where people enter and exit in two, straight lines.
Hard-working Etowah County has gardens plain and foncy;
Emma Samson, Lily Ledbetter and the dad of Beyonce’.
Fayette County is corny and has proudly been two-hundred years.
But, it’s not a good place to gossip cause the corn has big ears.
Franklin County is known for watermelons some of the sweetest on the vine.
Our garden party here has watermelon in the salad and also in the wine.
Down in Geneva County early settlers grew sugar on nearly every acre.
Today, they make real “little layer cakes,” no one here’s a baker faker.
Our next stop has blueberries and blackberries and colors in between,
Some of the state’s reddest strawberries but the county is Greene.
Next, the mound-dwelling natives grew sunflowers for nutritional bounty.
Eight centuries of farming are celebrated here in Hale County.
Okra, the pods of the gods, was on our Henry County menu.
This African plant is a favorite at nearly every Alabama venue.
Houston County peanuts can keep you fit as a fiddle.
Health nuts like ‘em raw but more of us opt for brittle.
Looking for peppers, Alabama farmers markets mark the spot.
Jackson County’s top cause when you want hot, hon, they’re hot.
People are happier, see biophilia, when they are connected to plants.
Let’s party in densely populated Jefferson and write plant-centric, urban grants.
Gourmet chefs have kept Alabama’s niche farms booming.
In Lamar County we suggested growers consider ‘shrooming.
The coolest county is northernmost Lauderdale which saves heated passion
For cool things like rock music and Vogue Award-winning fashion.
I’ve been a pie judge in Lawrence and want to again, doggone it.
Fruit pies are deelish but the best are like my hand, it’s got meringue on it.
In Lee County, we’ll explore brain food with the plant scientists of Auburn U.
Soon campus vending machines will have SmartWater and “smart junk food” too.
The green hills are alive with bluegrass music up in Limestone.
And, the harvest-time storytellers will tickle your funny bone.
Pecan trees are grown in every Alabama county, no ifs, ands nor buts.
But, if you don’t cotton to Lowndes County pecans you’re certifiably nuts.
Alabama has the best food in the world thanks to diverse cultural pursuits.
Like superb, Macon County collards which have Mediterranean roots.
Our state’s first Constitution was signed in the county that sent a rocket to the moon.
Madison timeweavers find pleasure in the past, the present, the future, whenever it’s opportune.
Marengo set out to be an olive and wine colony by the French,
But the Alabama rainfall throwed them Frogs a monkey wrench.
Winfield up in Marion County salutes stubborn, plowin’ mules
With a day of celebration for the farmers who are certainly no fools.
“Gardening is Alabama’s popular art,” and tomatoes our masterpieces.
Marshall County wins “Best Of Show” but the contest never ceases.
Wine-fueled feasts is what Ancient Romans called bacchanalias.
In Mobile the Mardi Gras beads decorate the Azaleas.
A Monroe County garden has a mockingbird trill,
The Alabama writers’ nest is sure to fill the bill.
The Governor’s Mansion gardens in Montgomery are graced by camellias.
It’s “the people’s house” but home to Governors and their beloved familias.
In Morgan County we discovered a “Lost Garden of The Old South.”
Before The 67-County, Alabama Garden Party it was mostly word-of-mouth.
In Perry we pondered peas, Lady Peas, Black-eyed Peas, Snow Peas, Snap Peas;
Our state’s perfectly prolific potpourri of these.
There’s a crepe myrtle festival over in Pickens
With outdoor games for all the kids, those little dickens.
We engineered the ultimate club sandwich at Troy University
And, shared ideas for sustainable golf courses and biodiversity.
Dried foods Randolph pioneers made like apricots and persimmon leather
Would be healthy and light as a feather in backpacks wherever.
Ferdinand Fig from Russell County could be our Johnny Appleseed,
Promoting a fig tree in every Alabama yard for sweet goodness, indeed.
Few things calm us like a leisurely sunset boat ride.
St. Clair’s Logan Martin fills the lakers with local pride.
Faces are carved on knotty trees down in Shelby
By a sculptor who’s part arborist and part Dr. Marcus Welby.
There are christenings and cemeteries, womb to tomb on the garden party trail;
In Sumter County, we honored a famous coffin-maker and his last coffin nail.
It’s fun to go fast as we learned in Talladega;
Then slow down on a tire swing with our Hot Wheels Pizza.
Tallapoosa County is the home of successful Wickles Pickles,
A plant-based business that nudges growers to make more nickels.
The grassy flatlands of Tuscaloosa have been playing fields for an eon.
For many, the stadium’s the place to be on, though the riverside is calmer to have tea on.
Plants and people who seek shade beckon us to a Walker County fernery,
There are trilliums and hostas and less risk of sunburn-ery.
Washington earns the buzz as Alabama’s first county.
Like first settlers, beekeepers there today sweeten life with beehive bounty.
In Wilcox, a hand-stitched, colorful, world-famous Gee’s Bend quilt
Was recreated with roasted veggies for the recipe we built.
Winston County has one of America’s oldest jails made of local logs;
And, an array of natural beauty from forests, lakes and wetland bogs.
This is your invitation to join us on The Alabama Garden Party Trail,
Enjoy sixty-seven counties of pleasurable plant stories to share and tell.
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