COLUMN: Celebrating in the Wundergarten – Arts in the Garden


ARTS IN THE GARDEN is a new way to enjoy the natural beauty of Sportsman Lake, the 70-year old,  Cullman County Parks and Recreation, multiuse, fresh air refuge. The Woodlands & Wildflower Garden of the park will be an outdoor arts center, FREE and OPEN TO ALL on Saturday, May 13, from 10 a.m.-1 p.m.

The inaugural public arts event, created by community volunteers working with direction from the Cullman County Master Gardeners, is an awareness effort to share the newly revitalizing Woodlands & Wildflower Garden. The site is proposed for an accredited arboretum, a fancy name for a living tree museum.

“A huge classroom without walls” is what a Cullman-area homeschooling mom called the Woodlands & Wildflower Garden, as a local group was being led by Alabama forester Mary Claire Smith on a March 13, 2023, tree identification exercise.  This exploration with students ranging in ages 5-75 was a step in achieving accredited arboretum status. The goal was to identify 25 tree species, and the group surpassed that with 32, even in early March prior to the trees leafing.

ARTS IN THE GARDEN underscores that the Woodlands & Wildflower Garden is also a huge museum without walls. In the glorious space this spring, even before enhancements, Vincent van Gogh could carry his canvases to paint fruit trees with white and pink blossoms against an azure sky, and Claude Monet could paint the water streams and swaying stands of lilies.

“Plein air” painting is “art speak” for an artist, escaping the four walls of a studio and painting in nature. Eventgoers at ARTS IN THE GARDEN on May 13 will find local artist JOHN LAMBERT capturing the charming landscape vista of a bright red, Asian-inspired bridge, giant trees and blue (fingers crossed) skies.

ARTS IN THE GARDEN is a relaxed expression of various kinds of creativity, an “arts happening,” NOT AN ARTS SALE. Nothing in the Woodlands & Wildflowers Garden is on sale Saturday, May 13—well, the parks volunteers do hope you’ll get sold on returning time and again to this beautiful, FREE, OPEN TO ALL outdoor museum. You will be on a self-guided exploration of the garden, the area planned for the accredited arboretum, and encouraged to chat with the artists and learn more about their artistic vision and creative process.

ARTS IN THE GARDEN (May 13, 2023) roster of arts and artists

  • SCULPTURE (wood assemblage) DAKOTA McDANIEL and Cullman Area Technology Academy have created a large “bas relief” wood sculpture titled “WELCOME TO CULLMAN COUNTY.” This art is destined to be a crowd favorite. McDaniel and the CATA applied arts collective have carved the world “WELCOME” on wooden blocks in many languages. Event goers will be invited to add to the work by placing “WILLKOMMEN” or “BIENVENUE” and many other “WELCOME TO CULLMAN COUNTY” wood pieces directly onto the sculpture.
  • DANCE (with butterflies) SANDY SMITH, Cullman County’s passionate enthusiast for protecting Monarch butterflies and other wildlife found in the Woodlands & Wildflower Garden, will engage all with how you can make simple changes in your home or public environment to enhance the environment and add beauty.  (NOTE: Last month, the Woodlands & Wildflower Garden was officially added to the Rosalynn Carter National Butterfly Trail)
  • NATURE PHOTOGRAPHY—JAKE CALLOWAY Expect to be “WOW-ed!” This young fellow’s photographs, many taken at Sportsman Lake and in the Woodlands & Wildflower Garden illustrate how “painterly” photography can be. Jake will set up in the potting shed at the top of the garden. If you enjoy photographing birds and blooms with the camera in your smartphone, Jake will share some of his tips for better images. Here are some questions for you to explore with this talented artist: How can I best focus on a central image while keeping some of the context of the background? Your nature photography almost has a “tactile quality one can touch,” how do you capture the textures? Do you come to gardens and woods with an idea of what you want to photograph, or is it more spontaneous? Any advice on lens and equipment for better nature photography? What is the best time of day to photograph outdoors? How do you manage sunlight and moonlight in your work? I can tell you appreciate birds and wildlife, what are ways to photograph them while respecting their need to feel safe and not threatened?
  • CHILDREN’S BOOK WALK—DELLA BRAMLEY To highlight literature for the “IN THE GARDEN ARTS SHOW,” we asked this gifted educator with the Cullman County office of Alabama Cooperative Extension System, for an outdoor experience of storytelling.  We were thinking of sitting in a circle hearing a folktale, but Della has made this a more “moving experience.” She has created a perfect way for young learners to enjoy words, gorgeous illustrations and use their active energy.
  • MOSAIC ART—FELICIA ROBERTS Cullman County creatives have repurposed shards of broken pottery and other “found objects” into fine art since the early days of the European founders. Felicia visited the Woodlands & Wildflowers Garden this spring for inspiration from sunshine, trees, water and plants. Children of all ages will enjoy adding pieces to create a fresh, new work of art.

POETRY & MUSIC will be fine arts elements of future ARTS IN THE GARDEN events. A Sunday afternoon of hymns and sweet tea is proposed for summer 2023. As we look forward to such an event in the Woodlands & Wildflowers Garden, please ponder some beautiful, poetic lyrics from Christian songwriter C. Austin Miles.

The song was written in a windowless basement in 1912, yet through the magic of art, we are transported to a garden fragranced with dewy roses. The lyrical poetry was inspired by scripture from John 20:14 in one of the best-selling works of literary art of all time, “The Holy Bible.”


I come to the garden alone

While the dew is still on the roses

And the voice I hear, falling on my ear

The Son of God discloses

And He walks with me

And He talks with me

And He tells me I am His own

And the joy we share as we tarry there

None other has ever known.

He speaks and the sound of His voice

Is so sweet the birds hush their singing

And the melody that He gave to me

Within my heart is ringing.


I stayed in the garden with Him

Though the night around me is falling

But He bids me go, through the voice of woe

His voice to me is calling.


And the joy we share as we tarry there

None other has ever known.

ARTS IN THE GARDEN reminds us the purpose of art is to view and experience things from new perspectives. This is an ARTS SHOW—NOT AN ARTS SALE. Save your money for the popular $4 Sportsman Lake hot dog/chips/soft drink lunch.

ARTS IN THE GARDEN SHOW: Saturday, May 13, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. in the Woodlands & Wildflowers Garden at Sportsman Lake (look for the bright red “Welcome Arbor” on the road to the picnic pavilions).

DIG ART? The Cullman County Master Gardeners welcome you to come enjoy and help create works of natural art with the WEEKLY WEEDERS group in the Woodlands & Wildflowers Garden, EVERY TUESDAY 10 a.m.-noon. No special skill or training needed to join. You will be guided by a Master Gardener. Just bring your garden gloves, hand tools, a bottle of water and a joyful, spirit of community.

CELEBRATING IN THE WUNDERGARTEN combines two arts: culinary and storytelling. This week, Frau Ruehl, the heroine of the folktale, “WUNDERGARTEN,” creates an artistic dessert from the flourishing fruits on her Cullman County strawberry farm.



Artist Claude Monet  was a devoted gardener. If you hanker to be transported to Heaven on Earth, I encourage you to consider adding a visit to Monet’s garden in Giverny, France, to your bucket list. At this house museum and garden, you’ll thrill to see the waterlilies and irises in the family garden, and also thrill to be in his home kitchen, where he loved to cook and entertain.

Oscar-Claude Monet lived from 1840 to 1926. His long, creative life overlaps with the time setting of our folktale, “WUNDERGARTEN.” During his lifetime, Monet was world famous as the creator of French Impressionism. Colonel Cullman, the worldly and well-read German American founder of Cullman County, Alabama, would have been familiar with Monet’s art and must have admired the fellow innovator. They were two “bon vivant” changing the world for the better.


  • 1 1/2 cups strawberries
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. superfine sugar
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 tbsp. butter for greasing the dish
  • Salt

(Serves 4)


  1. Preheat oven to 300F.
  2. Mash strawberries into a puree and pass through sieve. Sweeten strained puree to taste: You will need more, or less, sugar depending on the sweetness of the strawberries.
  3. Whip the egg whites into stiff peaks with a pinch of salt, then carefully fold in the strawberry puree.
  4. Pour the mixture into a greased dish and bake for 10 minutes. Serve immediately.


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