Aldridge Gardens is a 30-acre public garden located in Hoover, Jefferson County. Best known for its multitude of hydrangea varieties, the facility was founded by property owners Eddie and Kay Aldridge with the intent of preserving the natural beauty of their estate for the public.
In 1966, Eddie Aldridge first became aware of the property that now makes up Aldridge Gardens when he and his father were hired to plant three magnolia trees on what was then the estate of John Coxe. When the estate came up for sale in 1977, Aldridge bought the property, which he long had thought should be developed and preserved as a community resource.
Aldridge and his wife Kay made the property their home until 1994. That same year, the Aldridges conveyed the estate to the city of Hoover to be dedicated as a public garden in perpetuity. In the summer of 2002, the first section of Aldridge Gardens opened to the public; in addition to a new entrance and landscaped parking, this initial phase included renovations to the Aldridge House for use as offices and meeting spaces, an arbor, a shade garden, footbridges and benches, a woodland stream that flows into a five-acre lake, and a half-mile walking path around the lake.
Aldridge Gardens is probably best known for the numerous native oak-leaf hydrangea shrubs on the grounds. These plants include a unique variety known as "Snowflake," discovered by Aldridge and his father in 1969. The two men patented the variety in 1971 and began shipping it to nurseries and garden centers around the world. Through their efforts, the plant, which was once rare, is now found in gardens on almost every continent.
Since the initial development phase of the gardens, a 2,500-square-foot pavilion and a new entrance plaza and camellia garden have been added. Aldridge Gardens has become a popular wedding venue and attracts more than 80,000 visitors each year, who attend seminars, concerts, and a variety of events including Paws-in-the-Gardens (a dog festival), Hooks-in-the-Gardens (a week-long fishing event for children in spring), an annual art show, a garden gala fundraiser, plant sales, and a Native American festival.
In 2011, the Board of Directors approved a resolution to add more sculpture and artwork to the grounds and buildings. The site, already home to three sculptures by Alabama artist Frank Fleming, became a major art venue when local businessman Ken Jackson donated his private collection of Fleming bronzes, bringing the total number of Fleming sculptures to 19. The Bluff Park Association also has commissioned artist Ted Metz to create a sculpture that will be installed in the Entrance Plaza in the fall of 2011. In addition, the former Aldridge home has been renamed the Kay and Eddie Aldridge Art and Historical Museum in honor of the contributions of the Aldridges to the nursery and horticulture world. Their former home will serve as a venue for permanent and visiting art collections as well as a library housing the archives of Aldridge Nursery and Aldridge Gardens history.
Aldridge Gardens is owned by the city of Hoover, and its operations are overseen by a board of directors; a staff of eight runs the day-to-day operations of the public garden. The facility is open daily, except Christmas and New Year's Days. The Kay and Eddie Aldridge Art and Historical Collections Museum is open daily except during private events.