Tag Archive | photography

San Antonio Botanical Garden

You somehow get the feeling, as soon as you walk through the entrance to the San Antonio Botanical Garden, that you’re in for a treat. Despite it probably being the hottest day of our trip to Texas, we couldn’t pass up the chance to see this magnificent display of plants and flowers, especially since it was on our Chicago Botanic Garden membership reciprocal list.


Just the sheer novelty of seeing cacti growing outside rather than in a greenhouse was well worth braving the scorching temperatures.  The Garden covers some 40 plus acres and was first opened to the public in 1980.

The Garden is a remarkable place to see nature in all its diverse splendor and makes a wonderful living classroom in which to learn about the conservation of these magnificent plants and their natural habitat in what can sometimes be a harsh and unforgiving climate.


Every turn in the path provided a new and awesome landscape, so strange to our eyes, accustomed as we are to our usual bill of fare here in the Midwest. “Look but don’t touch” was definitely the order of the day when it came to many of these prickly characters.

 

We took in this view overlooking the city of San Antonio on our way down the path to even more garden delights that I look forward to sharing with you in the next post.

I add this interesting little footnote regarding wildlife; I had hoped to see lots of lizards and suchlike running around the Garden, especially in the more natural areas, but surprisingly we didn’t come across anything which was a bit of a disappointment.  The only lizard we saw during our trip to Texas was this one, I suppose you could call him a lounge lizard, basking on a chair by the pool back in Houston.

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Distracted

Very often, when I visit the Chicago Botanic Garden, I tell myself that this time I’ll concentrate my photography on one particular area of the garden, not go wandering about willy-nilly snapping random pictures as I go.  It never works! It’s impossible to stick to the plan when there are so many things to distract me.  To give an example, this is how things went when I visited there last week.

“Okay, I’m going to head straight to the English Walled Garden this morning and I’m going to photograph the living daylights out of it!  Every flower, every shrub from every conceivable angle! But while I’m here I might as well get a few shots of the Esplanade and I have to go through the Heritage Garden anyway so I’ll take a few shots there too.”

“I’ll just get a closer look at these flowers, and ooh, look, there’s a chipmunk under here!”


“Right! Now! Straight to the English Garden! But we have to go past the Rose Garden. Oh, what the heck! I’ll only be a few minutes.”

“Now, right turn here.  No, that’s wrong. I should have turned left! Never mind. I’ll just have a quick look in the Circle Garden.”

 

“Now to get back on track, if I go down here past the Enabling Garden…..”

“What’s this sign say?  Corpse Flower! Well, I’ll have to see that while I’m down this way.”

“Mmm. Interesting! Okay, well it seems a pity to come this far out of our way and not see the Sensory Garden and if we take the path along there we’ll come out by Evening Island and ….”

“If we sit here for a while we’ll hear the bells.”

“Now, over the bridge and …… oooh look! Here comes the dredger! I’ll just follow its progress for a little way, past the Waterfall Garden….”



“Now how on earth did we manage to end up back in the Rose Garden?  Oh well, it won’t hurt to take this way back to the English Garden. Almost there!”


“See! I told you! Here we are at the English Walled Garden!  Good gracious! Is that the time already? Well I’ll just take a few shots while we’re here.”

 

 


“Next time I’ll concentrate on the Circle Garden for sure! No wandering around!”

And that’s how it goes.

McGovern Centennial Gardens


One of the great things about traveling, especially if you go any great distance from home, is that you get to see something different in the way of plants and flowers. Whenever we find ourselves somewhere that is new to us, one of the first things we do is look for any kind of public gardens and, when we visited Houston recently, McGovern Centennial Gardens was one of the places on our itinerary.  It was quite a novel experience for us to see plants growing outside that we would normally only see in a greenhouse here in Chicago.



The flowers were just gorgeous despite the lack of any recent rain and the scorching temperatures!


And even the flowers that were familiar to us seemed so much bigger in Texas, naturally!


From the Cherie Flores Garden Pavilion you get a good view of the Centennial Green and, in the distance, the Mount.  If you take the path to the top of the Mount you get an even better view of the Gardens.

From this vantage point you can see The Rose Garden, Pergola Walk, The Arid and Celebration Gardens and The Family Garden as well as Hawkins Sculpture Walk and The Tudor Family Pine Hill Walk.


The birds are definitely noisier here! They’re bolder too; landing on parked car roofs and strutting about with a very self-confident air. We saw a lot of these white winged doves in the Gardens.

Speaking of parked cars, even the parking lot looked very decorative with these beautiful trees. I would welcome any input as to what they are called. I don’t think I’ve seen anything like them in this neck of the woods.

On The Beach – In Galveston

When it’s 95 degrees in the shade, where else would you go but the beach, right! They say “Mad dogs and Englishmen (women) go out in the midday sun,” and perhaps they’re right.

For the first 25 years of my life, in England, we went to the coast every year for our holidays; nothing fancy, just a week at the seaside.  Since I came to the USA some 45 years ago I’ve been to the coast on only one occasion; a brief stay in Virginia Beach, and I’ve really missed that whole ‘holiday’ experience.  So when it was suggested that we go on a day trip to Galveston, while visiting family in Houston, I was all for it! Never mind that the heat index had reached 101 degrees at times that week.  I wanted to go to the beach!

Our first stop was the beach near Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier. The current pier, opened to the public in 2012, replaced the original pier that was destroyed in 1961 by Hurricane Carla.


There weren’t too many people about, although footprints in the sand indicated that we weren’t the first folks to visit the beach that morning.

But for that moment in time it was just me and this laughing gull – at least I think that’s what it was; he seemed fairly amused about something –  standing, gazing out over the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

Bearing in mind that we were only in Galveston for a short period, I said goodbye to the gull and we went our separate ways, he to look for something to eat while we ventured further along Seawall Boulevard to East Beach.  Having found a parking spot that didn’t involve the car sinking mid-wheel into the sand, we made our way across a wide expanse of beach before reaching the water’s edge.

From a distance it looked very much as though the passing cargo ships had come aground but upon closer inspection it was apparent that all was well and the flow of sea-going traffic was progressing smoothly.

There were a few more people around by this time but there were no takers for the chair rentals.  At $30 a day, most seasoned visitors had the foresight to bring their own seats and umbrellas.

One of the things I always loved about walking on the beach was looking for shells or bits of seaweed and although there wasn’t quite the variety of items that once graced my childhood nature table, there were some interesting finds among the bottle caps and broken glass.

Despite the heat, there was the occasional breeze blowing which made being on the beach tolerable and I could have cheerfully stayed there all day, but apparently that wasn’t the plan so, reluctantly, I trekked back to the car, taking in one last glimpse of the waves as they washed ashore. I hope I won’t have to wait quite so long for another trip to the seaside. Sitting on the beach in Chicago on the shores of Lake Michigan somehow just isn’t the same.

The Sweetest Flower of All

We recently took a road trip to Texas to celebrate the birth of our youngest granddaughter and I thought that it would be interesting to take pictures of our garden prior to leaving and compare them to how the garden looked when we returned two weeks later.

The beginning of June is the most colorful time of year in our garden and I knew we would probably miss seeing some of the flowers that were on the brink of blooming, but there were enough of them out to wish us a cheery farewell. The peonies were in full bloom and irises of all types and varieties were looking quite spectacular despite losing many to iris borers this year.


Blues and pinks and purples were well represented, with flax flowers, bluebells, salvia Caradonna, Baptisia australis, pinks, weigela, heuchera Coral Bells, Johnson’s Blue cranesbill and aquilegia all making a fine show.


The poppies, including my favorite Turkenlouis, were continuing to burst open but I figured I’d probably miss the pink Carneums.

A lot can happen in two weeks!  Apparently we had quite a bit of rain while we were gone and the weeds had taken over. There were still a few remnants of the flowers that had been blooming when we left and some that had come and gone while we were away. However, the garden was not without some fresh color.

Apart from all the weeds that have invaded every part of the garden, some of the plants that are supposed to be here have run rampant and there is also quite a bit of deadheading to be done; a lot of work ahead of us, no doubt. But all the toil will have been well worth it as we got to see the sweetest flower of all, our little Texas treasure.


 

 

Our Garden – So Far

So far this year we’ve had a colorful show of flowers in our garden, with a couple of nice surprises and only one or two disappointments. The early spring bulbs in the rock garden did very well and the daffodils made a fine display.



The tulips, however, were a different story. I don’t know if it was because of the cold winter weather or if the bulbs are just getting past their best but most of the plants were stunted or just didn’t flower at all. I noticed in a couple of public gardens that they hadn’t seemed to do so well this year, so I didn’t feel too bad.  The ones that did manage to flower made up for the ones that didn’t.



Meanwhile, the lilac was a very pleasant surprise.  The shrub itself was starting to get very tall and ragged so at the end of last year I cut it right down to the ground, leaving just a couple of offshoots that I hoped might survive.  I hadn’t expected it to bloom again for at least another year or two but it put out some beautiful, fragrant blossoms.

Back in the rock garden, things continued to flower, the cushion spurge, dwarf iris Lil’ Red Devil and Japanese anemones providing a nice show.

I tried eradicating the chives from the garden last year as they were coming up everywhere, but I have to admit I was rather pleased that this bunch by the back doorstep managed to survive. I think I would have missed seeing these colorful flowers and the butterflies that they attract.

As I discovered the other day, this seemingly innocuous clump of pinks hides a massive ant hill. I must take care not to disturb it when I’m weeding this particular flower bed. I had enough trouble getting stung by the hornets last year, without getting bitten by ants!

We had a spell of very wet weather last week which produced a bumper crop of mushrooms – or whatever they are – in the lawn.

Things are drying out now and the sun, accompanied by warmer temperatures, has prompted the first iris (Lacy Snowflake) and the first poppy to bloom, while the queen of the garden, the pink Japanese tree peony continues to dazzle passersby with her beauty and fragrance.


Weekly Photo Challenge – Twisted in the Wood

There is something incredibly beautiful and dramatic about trees unadorned by their leaves, especially when they are gnarled and twisted with age.  Twisted in Arches National Park, Utah.

Twisted driftwood on the sands at Whitefish Point in Michigan.

Twisted in springtime at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois.


Twisted in autumn at Spring Valley Nature Center in Schaumburg, Illinois.  The clouds seem to mirror the contortions of the branches.


For more on The Weekly Photo Challenge at The Daily Post go to Twisted