Sunday, April 10, 2011

Flowers at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden

My mission was simple: Find the bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) in the BBG's Native Garden and photograph it for a (very short) story I am writing. My favourite, cloaked bloodroot picture dates back several years (6 April 2008!) and I wanted to catch the flowers open this time. For the last week I have been preoccupied with terrace gardens, so was unaware that the magnolias were in full bloom, here. They are slower, on the street. The air was vibrating with an undercurrent of scent. Put your nose right into a Magnolia stellata and breathe in.

It was a beautiful day. There were  a lot of people.

Below, Anemonella thalictroides. Small fingernail-sized flowers. I do a lot of leopard-crawling...

In the Shakespeare garden, violets. A grey-haired mother asked her two little boys, Now what is the difference between a tragedy and a comedy? They gave a satisfactory answer, but I felt like saying, One's point of view? (I was photographing a nearby tulip.) Then she said, And tell me the name of a Shakespeare tragedy. To Kill a Mocking Turtle! piped one boy. 

Above the lilac garden and below the overlook is a beautiful, steep terrace of periwinkle, muscari and small yellow daffodils. I had never noticed it before, and one forgets that periwinkle really is very pretty for this week or two.

Then the native garden.

Dicentra cucullaria, Dutchman's breeches, the most exquisite little things. Soon the hill will be full of them. The sense of urgency is now upon me. Every week, every day, brings something new. I feel like that rabbit: I'm late! I'm late! Actually, spring may be late. Last year I photographed the golden club in bloom a week from now. No sign of it this time, nor any water in the kettle pond. The dog tooth violets (Erythronium) are just spotted leaves. Last year, a delicate yellow carpet. But all the little spring things have begun. If I am very clever. I may catch them all.

A trillium and I forget which, but prehistorically stunning before it opens.

My bloodroot. I think I got the photos I wanted. They are heartbreakingly lovely. I get very tense and overexcited taking pictures of plants like this. It seems of paramount importance to get it right, and one feels that that in itself is impossible, because they are so right.

What's this? Clue: Tree. What wonderful buds! Is it a chestnut? 

The private metamorphosis of May apples. I have never seen them emerge and had no idea that it is this covert. Each stem is usualy just one leaf, and this is how it unfolds. Impeccable design.

I also saw ramps, which I refrained from pulling up, spidery black cohosh, Confederate violets, skunk cabbage (no blooms) and abundantly flowering spicebush. No scent of spice, though.

Yep, I had a good time. More to come.


  1. It's like one can't take photos fast enough - there's something new popping out every hour. Love the violet photo and the bloodroot. My macros tend to be out of focus - old eyes and tiny view finder?

    Keep them coming - spring may be late this year, but it seems to be coming on strong.... now.

  2. Beautiful. Thanks for going, because I am too tied up in representing landscape with paint to actually show up to the experience!

    Consider a trip to the blood root valley, where I can only suppose there is some bloodroot.,-74.130034&spn=0.013314,0.024483&z=16

  3. Lovely pictures! We are way behind up here... only things out are crocus, snowdrops and siberian squill. They are so bright against the brown of early spring.. no green yet...although I have been playing in the dirt. When it does start it's so fast you can almost watch the growth happen before your eyes. SOON!

  4. Your photos are incredible. Very enjoyable for this west coast girl to see what's blooming in Brooklyn.

  5. How lovely! It brought back some wonderful memories when we saw the magnolias in the Park when we were there in 2009.

  6. Yes, bud of horse-chestnut, the most spectacular of the winter buds in my opinion. When Linnaeus separated the horse-chestnuts from the sweet chestnuts taxonomically, he changed the old name Castanea equina to Aesculus hippocastanum. Evidently “Castanea” had come from the Sicilian town Castania, famed for its sweet chestnuts; “equina” from horse, because the Turks used horse-chestnut seeds as medicine for their horses. Linnaeus commemorated both names in “hippocastanum”.

  7. webb - indeed. Does your macro feature have a little frame that turns green, and beeps when it has focused? It may be a feature you can enable, and is very helpful. I cheated with the violets and used a telephoto :-)

    Frank - thank you:-) Bloodroot Valley??? Gots ta go. Thanks for the link!

    Val thank you - yes, it's good to know all this is coming your way. A flower tidal wave.

    Thanks, Jenni - I wouldn't mind seeing a West Coast spring...

    Helen - ja, it really is.

    Anne - good! You will have to come back.

    Thanks, Janet! You're hired :-) I will have to go back in a week or so to see what has happened...

  8. Wow - beautiful pics that captured the day - I was there trying out a new camera, but your shots put mine to shame (say nothing of your incredible botanical knowledge!) I'll be back for more!

  9. You've taken some great shots there.

    The Magnolias are a sight to behold, I can smell the air from here.

    Spring's a little early in SW France, following a relatively mild late winter.

  10. Oh! My heart feels like it catches in my throat looking at your photos - especially of the bloodroot and what you said about wanting to do it justice and how they are so right...I believe you have.

    Such a gorgeous site you have...

    Obviously it is high time I get myself over the BBG! I plan to hit up Greenwood Cemetery as well this weekend to see the lovely magnolias there, but BBG is a must.

    Thanks for the reminder!

  11. I am heading to the BBG this weekend - the magnolias are certainly long past down there (peaking up where I am) but your photo tour (and to some of my favorite gardens - like Shakespeare) make me wish all the more that I could get there more often.

    Alas, I missed the magnificent magnolias.... just grateful I can be there for Rose Night!

    Thanks for sharing!

    Cathy in MA


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