Monday, April 19, 2010

Native woodland flowers

This is my favourite part of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Tucked behind a tall fence on one side and Flatbush Avenue with its roaring traffic on the other, here is a little woodland refuge that feels a lot bigger than it is.

I felt quite giddy when I looked down and saw the perfectly poised petals of the unassuming trout lilies catching the westerning sun through the new green leaves overhead. I have loved this flower ever since I first read about it, and had never seen it in bloom here. There are so many of them. Proper colonies...They are very subtle and quite exquisite. Erythronium americanum.

The Erythronium on the forest floor lower down looked duskier in the shade, suggesting a camouflage against last season's fallen leaves.

I have planted hybrid trout lilies successfully in two woodland gardens, one in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn. Their season is fleeting, and that is what is magical about them. Ephemeral seems a word made just for them. Soft, light, open. Gone.

Another flower I'd never seen here (this is why it's wise to return often, every week in spring), was this white dicentra. Dicentra cucullaria.

A closer view. It's stunning. Isn't it perfect? Brilliant design and flawless construction.

Many violets amongst new ferns.

Dicentra eximia, fringed bleeding heart, with friend.

Virginia bluebells, Mertensia virginica. Edible leaves. And the definition of blue. My school uniform was this blue, and consequently I think I have avoided the colour all my life. Rustenburg High School for Girls. Thank goodness that's over. But then I see a flower like this and remember what blue can be, and do.

Uvullaria sessilifolia -  a bare patch on the ground in summer. Dormant. Zzzzzzz. They are tall and soft-leafed, and growing en masse right now.

Flower like an anemone, leaf like thalictrum? Why, it's Anemonella thalictroides...

Pinxter azalea, I think. Rhododendron canescens? Completely different from the fat hybrids we know, this has a claw-like clasped flower head in bud which opens to horizontal sprays of delicate bloom.

And finally, Hmmm:

I nearly fell into the pond trying to photograph this aquatic plant. Anyone?

They do look kind of edible, don't they?

Speaking of which...Dinner revolved around some delicious, fat field garlic that we found growing in the woods at the northern tip of Manhattan. It was completely different from the small bulbs we found last year in Prospect Park in the fall. Obviously now is the right time for harvesting. We'll definitely return for some more.

So there you have it. From the bowels of New York City.
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