Growing with the Garden (1)

Early in the morning as I sip at the coffee warming my hands, I wonder what the day is going to bring me and I come up with a list in my head of things that I should be doing on a Sunday. Usually this involves cleaning the house, the car, my closet that is overflowing with clothes (I swear they are trying to escape by making it across the room and out the door), or it’s grocery shopping and doing laundry.  Every weekend I think about these things but I never actually do any of them on Sunday, and that is because there is a better option.

The flower garden?” you might ask in a tone indicating that I am the lamest person you know.  Seriously, who goes to hang out in a flower garden every weekend?

That would be me.  After coffee I grab my camera and head about a mile from my home to one of my favorite places in all of the world.  I walk, because that is part of the experience.  This time is used to clear my head, physically move my body, and work on my observation skills.

This place is no small scale operation.  The garden is 2.9 acres and has 20,000 square feet of planting space ( It is also an experimental garden where flowering plants are grown to see how well they survive our climate of extremes.  One can spend many hours wandering through here, and even longer if stopping to photograph as I do.

In this garden, I observe many things.  In the early morning I watch insects barely moving until their bodies warm enough to fly from flower to flower.  I see frost lining petals and highlighting the veins of leaves, creating artwork that is not created by man.  I see the beginning of life as plants grow up, producing perfect and imperfect flowers which become fruit and seeds that drop to the ground or get carried away.   I see the end of life when the plants have no more to give, wilting, drying up, and decomposing into new soil.

In the garden I observe people who have come to observe, to connect, and to enjoy the beauty of the garden.  There are couples young and old holding hands, moms and their daughters with a photographer taking senior pictures, brides and grooms with their party who have chosen here, among the great bursts of color, as the setting of the biggest day of their lives.  Intimate moments happen in this garden.

As I wander slowly through the wood-chipped paths and crouch between rows of plants, I am searching for moments in time to capture that will give the opportunity to connect not only myself, but to those who view my photos, to the phenomenal life of and among plants.  My mission is to show the viewer the wonder and beauty of plants, to give you the experience of appreciation and connectedness to living things.  After all, plants are one of the most important things on this planet, and without them, neither you or I would be.

Fire Frenzy! (part 2 of 2)

The High Park Fire burn area is one of the most fascinating places I have been to!  While I was very fortunate to see the forest fire in action, the fire as we know it burned out of control for about a month and was finally 100% contained in early September.  It was captivating to watch entire trees torch up from base to meristem (the very top point of growth for those non-plant nerds) and to witness flames consuming the dead and fallen leaf litter that had accumulated on top of the soil for many years.  This all happened relatively quickly.  Fire is this crazy thing that ignites, runs like crazy, and dies out.  It’s “life” is actually very short.

But what about the actual life that returns to an area that is burned?  Doesn’t that take a long time to come back?  And just how long is a long time?

Here are my observations to help answer that question.

2.5 months post-fire. Moderately burned area meaning the grasses, litter, and most of the tree burned. Note all of the grasses and forbs growing.
2.5 months post-fire. Moderately burned area.  Everything on the ground and trunks of the trees burned. These trees are not likely to survive.
2.5 months post-fire. Moderate burn area. Paintbrush thriving in nutrient rich soil among grass species that have come in fairly dense.
3 months post-burn. Moderate burn area. Mullein and sedge are abundant and throughout this burn site.
3 months post-fire. Severely burned slope. Note lack of green (vegetation).
3 months post-burn. Severely burned area where everything burned. Note the spotty vegetation (a forb) growing here.
3 months post-burn. Severely burned area. Forbs are growing next to rocks and fallen burned trees, likely because water collects here.
3 months post-burn. Severely burned area. Sedges have grown from seed.

As you can see from the photos I have taken at various sites within the greater burn area, seeds do not take long to respond and send up shoots.  This is of course dependent on water availability, sunlight, and nutrients.  It is also dependent on how severe the burn was and how deep it impacted the soil and the seeds within it.

It is absolutely breath-taking to wander through a recently burned area and see the changes that are taking place.  I am surprised at how quickly plants and animals have returned to something that from a quick glance with the human eye appears to have nothing to offer.  It is a lesson in pausing to look more closely to observe what is happening around us.  Change constantly happens, always affecting something or someone.  And that is a pretty powerful and phenomenal thing!