Tag Archives: plants

Collecting Gardens

My first and favorite subject for photography was flowers. Early on, I struggled with composition, what to include in a wide-angle shot and what to exclude, and how to do this. Flowers were simple subjects; I knew immediately what I wanted my image to look like. This love of flowers has drawn me to many botanical gardens over the years, even as I learned to see more than just the individual flowers. So today, I rooted through my photos and found 10 favorite images from gardens in eight states. Maybe later this summer, I’ll share my own garden!

1. Marie Selby Garden in Sarasota, Florida

Marie Selby specializes in tropical epiphytes, or plants that grow on other plants. Orchids are epiphytes, and the greenhouse is stuffed with them. With no tripods allowed, the lighting conditions are a challenge, but I love seeing the insane variety of orchids.

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Marie Selby Gardens in Sarasota, Florida, specializing in orchids

2. Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, MO

The Missouri Botanical Garden is one of the oldest in the country, and still a center for research. This is the garden that I wandered through as a child.

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The Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis.

3. The Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, VA

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The Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond.

4. The Denver Botanical Garden

High elevation gardening, but with more water than my New Mexico. The Denver Botanical Garden highlights water efficient plants, but it was still mind-blowingly green compared to the high desert.

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5. The Japanese Garden in Portland, Oregon

Humid and covered in moss, Portland’s Japanese Garden feels authentic. It’s beautiful and detailed.

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The Japanese Garden in Portland, Oregon.

6. The Sonoran Desert Museum in Tucson, AZ.

A combined zoo/botanical garden next to Saguaro National Park, the Sonoran Desert Museum is a great place to check out bizarre succulents.

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The Sonoran Desert Museum in Tucson, AZ.

7. The Albuquerque Biopark

My local botanical garden. Living in a desert, you learn to treasure the green spaces. More often than not, I go just to stroll, not to photograph. For me, that’s very rare. I also really enjoy the Japanese Garden, which is definitely not as authentic as Portland’s (we are just not going to grow moss here), but shows how style can be interpreted with a local flavor.

The shrine at the Japanese Garden

8. Chile’s Peach Orchard in Crozet, VA

This view isn’t open to the public, but seeing an orchard in bloom is a beautiful thing.

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Chile’s Peach Orchard in Crozet, Virginia.

9. The Organic Tulip Festival in Madison County, VA

Another garden that you can’t visit anymore. They only sell their bulbs now.

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The Organic Tulip Festival in Madison County, Virginia.

10. Phipp’s Conservatory in Pittsburgh, PA

I’ve been to Pittsburgh about 5 times in the last decade, always in late March or early April. Apparently, it’s not a great time, weatherwise. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the sun there. So I can see how an indoor conservatory like Phipp’s is essential. It’s gorgeous, and right next door to Carnegie Mellon University.

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Phipp’s Conservatory in Pittsburgh, PA.

Western survivors

On my first western trip, I visited Moab in July. We went hiking in 105 degree heat, the sun pounding the ground and anything above it. We learned to respect the desert, because the desert will win.

I always stop and admire the brave stalwarts of the desert—that scraggly tree growing from a forbidding rock face or that little flower, full of color if only briefly. They can never move. They survive or die.

In an ancient landscape shaped by wind and water on continents that no longer exist, the desert plants are ephemeral. Like the ruins of the southwest and our cities, the landscape will outlast them. But they, like us, can be beautiful for their time.

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Scrub at Canyon de Chelly National Monument

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Wildflower in Capitol Reef National Park

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A lone tree at Bryce Canyon National Park

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Wildflower at Zion National Park

May Flowers and the Richmond Botanical Garden

 

 

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One of the great pleasures of spring is enjoying all the plants that welcome spring too. I recently had the pleasure of traveling to the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, Virginia, to enjoy the simultaneous blooming of azaleas, irises, and peonies. The Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden was recently voted the second best botanical garden in the country; it’s definitely worth a visit.

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Some images of spring

Because I am still very sore and cranky from my polo tournament (played every minute but those I was kicked out for), here are some pictures of spring. Soon enough the colors will be all around us! My brain will come around by Wednesday for some more thoughtful content. Tulips and dogwoods!

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Valentine’s Thoughts

I never understood the fuss about Valentine’s Day. In elementary school, it was a day that ostracizing the odd kid was officially approved of in the form of who didn’t get valentines. As the kid who claimed to be a cat (and later an alien), that kid was me. It didn’t get me down. It instilled a sense that I was in charge of my own happiness every day of the year. Just as every day, I’d try to bear the knocks and celebrate the compliments. I try to do my best every day of the year. Some times I’m going to have a bad day. Perhaps as a practical pessimist, I don’t have use for a day that is awful unless it’s wonderful.

But let me celebrate what I do like about Valentine’s:

  • Chocolate: Seasonal candy makes every holiday better. Cadbury eggs and candy corn and Valentine’s truffle boxes on sale after the holidays are awesome. As a kid I used to go to the chocolate shop the day after every major holiday and score some 75% off candy. 
  • Flowers: Not so much purchasing them, because they get kind of ragged and expensive this time of year. More that they are popping out of the ground. Here the crocuses are erupting by the hundreds now. The daffodil greens are up. The lenten roses are blooming. The little spring snowflakes are out. The world is at last offering up its bouquets after the winter.
  • Hand-made valentines: I feel like a genius when I make valentines out of doilies and construction paper. I always think they look awesome, and they definitely look more awesome than the pre made ones. Years ago a good friend made me one and I think it made my decade.

Also, it’s finally February! Today the sun sets at 5:50 PM. Every day has an extra hour of better sunshine than this day last month. The world teases with little flowers. Soon the sun will come out and all the trees will bloom. Baseball returns! Soon we shall be wearing short sleeves again. 

Cheer to your Monday and Valentine’s Week!SONY DSC   SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC

Fractals in Life: photos

Fractals are a branch of math that better describes nature. Before fractals, there was Euclidean geometry, the geometry of lines, planes, and spaces. Euclidean geometry cannot give the length of a rough coastline; neither can it give the surface area of shaggy tree bark. The answer you arrive at in Euclidean geometry depends upon the scale at which you examine an object– intuitively the distance an ant travels over rough terrain is different from the distance we cover walking. The ant interacts with the terrain at a different length scale than we do. Fractal geometry is designed to handle objects with multiple meaningful length scales.

Fractal objects are sometimes called “scale-free“. This means that the object looks roughly the same even if examined at very different zooms. Many natural objects look similar at multiple zooms. Below, I include a few. The craters on the moon are scale-free. If you keep zooming in, you could not tell the scale of the image.

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Terrain is often scale-free in appearance– a few years ago there was a joke photo with a penny for scale. The owners of the photo subsequently revealed that the “penny” was actually 3 feet across. I couldn’t find the photo, but you cannot tell the difference. The reveal was startling. Below is a picture of Mount St Helens. The top of this mountain is five miles (3.2ish km) away. Streams carry silt away from the mountain, as you can see more towards the foreground. They look like tiny streams. These are full-sized rivers. Mount St. Helens lacks much of the vegetation and features we would usually use to determine scale. The result is amazingly disorienting, and demonstrates scale invariance.

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Plants are often scale free too. Small branches are very similar in appearance to large branches. Ferns look very fractal. Below is a picture of Huperzia phlegmaria. Each time this plant branches, there are exactly two branches. Along its length, it branches many times. It is a physical realization of a binary tree.

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For more about fractals, read my posts about fractal measurement and the mandelbrot set.