COLUMN: Celebrating in the Wundergarten – Cultivate Cullman


CULTIVATE CULLMAN: The Countywide Arts & Gardening Celebration, which includes “Culinary Cullman” and musicians with Cullman County roots, grew from a seed of an idea to a big, beautiful, flowering thing faster than kudzu after an Alabama summer rainstorm.   (Date for the 2024 CULTIVATE CULLMAN Arts & Gardening Show will be announced in August 2023)

Last month, Cullman County Master Gardeners hosted the first “Arts in Bloom” show—NOT SALE—at the Sportsman Lake Park Arboretum/Wildflower Garden. This FREE, OPEN TO ALL event was well-received and sprouted the idea for a bigger celebration of “arts & gardening.”

CULTIVATE CULLMAN highlights arts and gardening throughout Cullman County in all nine major communities.  This ongoing celebration and annual show could include all the arts with selections such as these: BERLIN farmers, COLD SPRINGS potters, CULLMAN writers/storytellers, FAIRVIEW painters, GOOD HOPE wood artisans, HANCEVILLE quilters, HOLLY POND bakers, VINEMONT musicians and WEST POINT photographer/filmmakers.

CULTIVATE CULLMAN will showcase great gardening in every part of Cullman County, “Alabama’s no. 1 Agriculture County:” BERLIN Farmers’ Market, COLD SPRINGS lakeside plantings, CULLMAN urban oasis, FAIRVIEW wildflowers at Randall Shedd Park, GOOD HOPE container gardening at city hall, HANCEVILLE hanging baskets at picturesque shops, HOLLY POND gardening for birders in the nature trails, VINEMONT grape vineyard, and WEST POINT apple trees (Steele Orchard).  

Cultivating gardens and cultivating art was the theme of two separate conversations I had recently with Cullman retailers. Both businesses sell works by Cullman-area artists and artisans.

Wayne Cook is the owner of Finders Keepers “antiques, gifts and treasures.” Leldon Maxcy is the owner of Leldon’s “locally curated goods.” The “cultivating plants” part came up when I was sharing my enthusiasm for Cullman County Master Gardeners working with Cullman County Parks and Recreation to create a “living tree museum” arboretum at Sportsman Lake Park.

Just this week, Cullman County “arboretum ambassadors,” led by popular plantsman Arnold Caylor and B.J. Morgan of the Cullman Tree Commission, identified 67 unique trees and woody plants at Sportsman Lake Park in the Wildflower Garden area. You don’t have to wait for the 2024 “CULTIVATE CULLMAN” Arts & Gardening Show to stroll the arboretum in cool shade. This popular public park is open 365 days a year, from dawn until dusk.

Here are some of the trees and woody plants we proudly rostered this week as we prepare to file for “accredited arboretum” status: Flowering Dogwood, Native American Filbert, Tulip Poplar, Southern Red Oak, Florida Anise, Red Maple, Persimmon, Black Cherry, Shagbark Hickory, Yellowwood Ash, Big Leaf Magnolia, Loblolly Pine, Hawthorn, Autumn Olive, Eastern Hemlock, Hornbeam, Southern Magnolia, Black Walnut and scores more.

The winner for the Cullman County arboretum’s “Most Beautiful Tree of This Week (June 2023),” is the Bottlebrush Buckeye. (Let me lead you directly to this gorgeous plant which is loaded with white plumes that look like long brushes one uses to swab tall bottles. DIRECTIONS: When you enter Sportsman Lake Park, turn right so the children’s playground and putt-putt golf are on your left. Look for the bright red “Welcome Arbor” of the Wildflower Garden. Before you enter the arbor, look for the “service road” on your right next to the wildflower bed. About 30 feet northward up the “service road” is the Bottlebrush Buckeye. Whether it grew wild or was cultivated is irrelevant, it’s as pretty as a Monet painting.

This arboretum is a cooperative effort of Cullman County Parks and Recreation with Cullman County Master Gardeners. This spring, all five Cullman County commissioners voted to support establishing this “living tree museum.”

CULTIVATE CULLMAN salutes all kinds of trees and plants grown in Cullman County—both the natives and those cultivated by gardeners. The artistry of woody plants can be excruciatingly intentional like bonsai and topiary, or it can be the wild, admirable determination of small, understudy performers in a supporting role like Alabama’s “official state wildflower,” the Oakleaf Hydrangea, and honeysuckle-scented Alabama azalea.

FINDERS KEEPERS shopkeeper Wayne Cook sells lots of things which come from trees, be it an antique, primitive pine cupboard, or a vintage walnut salad bowl. Finders Keepers also has wagonloads of things antiques emporiums call “smalls,” which people purchase as wedding, birthday, Christmas, “thinking of you” gifts.

LELDON’S inventory focuses more on crafts, art and gifts. The artists and artisans Leldon’s represents are woven across Cullman County: COLD SPRINGS (Cotton Pickin’ Pottery), CULLMAN (Emily Bussman), FAIRVIEW (painter, Krell Buckalew, grew up in Baileyton), GOOD HOPE (Howard King), HANCEVILLE (Gladys Veigl), HOLLY POND (Bo Johnson), VINEMONT (Renee Hoffman), and WEST POINT (mother-and-daughter artists Pam Willingham and Laura Willingham Walker).

“CULTIVATE CULLMAN,” the arts and gardening initiative, underscores the creativity that thrives in our, north Alabama county. The two shopkeepers I’ve cited are both high-profile creatives. Wayne Cook creates “must-see” musicals and theatre, and Leldon Maxcy creates and sells hundreds of laser-engraved things.

Arts and gardens and people, naturally go and grow together as we—CULTIVATE CULLMAN.

CELEBRATING IN THE WUNDERGARTEN This culinary storytelling series, imagines recipes Frau Ruehl, the gardening heroine of the folktale, “WUNDERGARTEN,” would have created in 1870s Cullman County. This easy entrée salutes the bounty from gardeners across Cullman County.  


(Source: “Alabama Small Towns & Downtowns” 2023 Magazine)


  • 6-7 HOLLY POND eggs (the number of eggs depends on the size of your skillet)
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 cup COLD SPRINGS onion, diced small
  • 1/2cup VINEMONT red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup BERLIN green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 medium GOOD HOPE potato
  • 1 FAIRVIEW tomato diced or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup WEST POINT cheese, grated (with a bit more grated for the top)
  • HANCEVILLE pork sausage (cooked)
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. fresh CULLMAN thyme, chopped fine
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper


  1. Preheat oven to broil
  2. Beat the eggs until frothy. Set aside. Heat up the oil over medium-high heat in a cast iron or oven-proof skillet. (Check out the semi-annual Cullman countywide yard sales at Sportsman Lake Park for a used skillet. Locally owned Mary Carter Store in downtown Cullman carries Lodge brand cast iron skillets.) Add the onion, veggies, and sauté until golden brown. Add the potatoes if you’ve roasted them or had leftovers. Add the eggs. Swirl the eggs around the pan to make sure they evenly cover the other ingredients.
  3. As the edges start to cook, loosen them with a spatula or butter knife to disperse the liquid In the center. After the eggs start to firm, put the pan into the oven and broil 3 minutes or so until the eggs are almost completely set. Remove the frittata and add a bit of cheese on top. Return to the oven until it’s golden brown, about 1 minute or less.
  4. Remove and slice into wedges. Garnish with bacon crumbles or scallion.


Find all columns in this series at