A little magic right here in the city—autumn in Birmingham Botanical Gardens

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autumn in Birmingham Botanical Gardens
The gorgeous ginkgo. Photo via Birmingham Botanical Gardens

This time of the year is full of all kinds of magic in Birmingham. From watching the tree lightings around town to crunching on ginkgo leaves, there’s something beautiful around every corner. There’s no place in town more magical than Birmingham Botanical Gardens—and we went to go check it out.

Spots Not to Miss

Botanical Gardens
Stunning colors in Blount Plaza welcome you. Photo via Beth Cunningham for Bham Now

If you’re anything like me, you could spend hours and hours wandering through Birmingham Botanical Gardens’ 67.5 acres. We picked out a few of the stops that you can’t miss this time of year—but really, you’re going to want to carve out enough time to take it all in.

Hill Garden

Hill Garden is your first stop of the day. Hill Garden plays home to Kayser Lily Pool and Cochran Water Wall in addition to other sculptures and features, as well as some fantastic fall colors.

The stylish garden acts as an architectural extension of the Garden Center. As a common activities area in the Gardens, there’s plenty of spots to grab a seat and enjoy these gorgeous fall days.

Ginkgo Trees

Birmingham is known for its iconic ginkgo trees, and there are several locations within the Gardens where you can spot them. These beauties turn a brilliant shade of yellow in mid-to-late fall.

As the trees drop their leaves, the entirety of the ground surrounding the trees will be blanketed in a layer of the ginkgo’s distinctly shaped golden leaves. The tree pictured above is located at the corner of Blount Plaza and Dunn Formal Rose Garden.

Japanese Garden

Officially opened by the Japanese Ambassador to the United States in 1967, this 7.5-acre site is actually an interwoven collection of gardens built in the Japanese style, replete with traditional architectural and garden elements. 

One of the most recognizable features in the Garden is the torii (which translates to “gate to heaven”), marking the entrance to the Japanese Garden. The central watercourse consists of seven waterfalls and seven pools along its course before it empties into Long Life Lake. 

Barber Alabama Woodlands

Strolling through Barber Alabama Woodlands will make you forget you’re in the middle of town. The 6-acre remnant forest contains the Gardens’ oldest native trees, which sport all the gorgeous colors this time of year.

It’s also a great place to learn, with a self-guided interpretive trail created by the Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens to allow you to explore topics in Alabama woodland ecology.

Rose Gardens

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Be sure to go check out the roses before the first frost. Photo via Beth Cunningham for Bham Now

Dunn Formal Rose Garden and Ireland Old-Fashioned Rose Garden are as classic as they are beautiful.

Dunn Formal Rose Garden is displayed in a classic cross-axial style. The collection in this garden consists of over 115 types of hybrid roses and has been a mainstay attraction in the Gardens since it opened.

Ireland Old-Fashioned Rose Garden is arranged in three distinct garden rooms. The “Old-Fashioned” part isn’t an exaggeration—all roses here were in cultivation prior to 1867, when the first hybrid tea roses were introduced in France.

Kayser Lily Pool

Birmingham Botanical Gardens
I could look at this all day. Photo via Beth Cunningham for Bham Now

On your way out, don’t forget to stop by Kayser Lily Pool in the Hill Garden. It’s one of my personal favorite spots in the Gardens, and it’s one of the last things you see if you leave through the main entrance.

The feature acts as a mirror to the Cochran Water Wall and is planted seasonally with fragrant tropical water lilies and other aquatic plants.

Be a Part of the Magic

Did I mention that all of this beauty is free for the public to visit and admire? The nonprofit Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens works tirelessly to ensure the stewardship and enhancement of this community treasure, playing a critical role in the Gardens’ operational needs and creating educational programs that inform, inspire, and enrich our community.

If you’re interested in showing your support, it’s easy to become a Friend. In fact, now is a great time to join: you can enjoy 10% off any membership level with code FRIENDS.

Membership with the Friends gives you access to all kinds of other benefits, including exclusive classes and events; discounts at participating local nurseries, garden centers, and flower shops; and free or discounted admission to botanical gardens across the country.

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  • A Birmingham transplant who can usually be found hitting a new hiking trail or restaurant opening when she's not writing stories and snapping photos for Bham Now.