Monday, June 13, 2011

Pictures of Paradise

June 2nd and 3rd, 2011
Framingham, Massachusetts

Painters are wont, in their pictures of Paradise,
to strew the ground too thickly with flowers.
There should be moderation in all things.
Though we love flowers,
we do not want them so thick under our feet
that we cannot walk without treading on them.

HDT Journal, June 15, 1853

Thoreau would have had a hard time of it, then, at the Garden in the Woods, which is just a short distance from Walden. It’s a fantastic place for anyone remotely interested in native plants, and it’s chock full of botanical wonders.

I had never been there, and it was my great fortune to be invited on this field trip by Jackie and several of the Thursday Naturalists.

We all ended up staying at the B&B in Lincoln, where I usually stay when visiting Walden. Ed, Ruth and Nan would be staying only one night, but Jackie and I stayed a little longer. All were charmed by the house and by our host Barbara, who makes everyone feel right at home.

We spent the better part of 2 days at the Garden, and did not get to all the trails. Plants are labeled (huzzah!) and arranged by habitat. There were guided tours available, but I had the best guides possible in my knowledgeable companions.

To say we were like kids in a candy store, is an understatement!

The first stop was to the Rare Plants section. Since I am relatively new at this, I don’t know enough to even know if a plant is rare or not. And it was a little confusing in this section, since many of the plants, listed as rare in New England, were fairly common in upstate New York. Which, I suppose, is good news for us.

Still, I was seeing plants I never expected to see – I lost count at how many were new to me.

We were not the only flower afficionados here, either.

My companions were calling out to one another at each new discovery. They huddled frequently, their quiet discussions peppered with Latin. It was fun to watch them parse out an unfamiliar plant.

They were very patient in answering my endless questions.

A high point for me was that at one section of a trail, Ed called me over to look at something that was well-hidden along a shady path, something he knew I was looking for: Lygodium palmatum, Thoreau's Climbing Fern !

For an interesting article about Thoreau and those who successfully re-discovered this fern in Concord, click here
Mostly what I learned is that even folks who know an AWFUL lot about plants can still see new and exciting things, in any walk. Their enthusiasm is certainly contagious.

As I followed along the paths, seeing all the labels, I wondered, what sort of plants would each of US be?

Well, let’s see,
there’s Jackie: loves poor soils (for therein lie riches), likes bright open canopies, not showy

Ed: a perennial, evergreen in all seasons, slightly spicey 


Nan:  grows on the “wild side,” known to favor mountain slopes

 Ruth: low-growing, tenacious and hardy

ALL of them would be listed as rare treasures in my book.

And me, I’m just a water-lily, floating along.
I like bogs and frogs and turtles.

Which was my favorite habitat section of the Garden.

While standing in the sun, watching the dragonflies, I saw a school group coming along the boardwalk. One teacher was reading a sort of scavenger-hunt list to the kids; I heard her say, “… and find something beautiful.”

A little boy by her side eagerly pointed here and there,
repeating each time:
“ I found something beautiful,
I found something beautiful …”


  1. Oh, what a wonderful digest of our trip! Your people photos are so great. You captured the essence of everyone perfectly. Thanks for this.

  2. I just stumbled on to your blog, it is like a trip home! I have lived in the Black Hills of South Dakota for 40 years, but the Adirondacks and the eastern woodlands are the home of childhood. My parents could be the folks you were "wildflowering" with, in their late 80s, they are still active birders and plant conservationists.

  3. Jackie, I think people are the most challenging subject for a photographer - I hope to have many more chances to "capture" you all !

    Caroline, feel free to travel with me anytime on the blog - I took a peek at yours, & have already learned something new (chokecherry jelly!) - but, how do I "follow" it? I don't know how to do that, if there is no Follow button on the page...

  4. Sue, your prose makes your wonderful photography even more enjoyable. That little boy who finds so much beauty already has the most important trait to develop into a true naturalist. For the sake of the Earth, let's hope he continues to be encouraged!