With the onset of warm weather, the collection care team has been busier than ever! We are still working in a reduced staffing mode so the Garden is a little less groomed than usual but, overall, it is as healthy and beautiful as ever. This is a testament to our horticultural and curatorial staff, both during and prior to closure.
The plants have also been busy and every day there are fresh flushes of foliage and bloom. The spring show is nearing its peak, particularly in Asia and Eastern North America. Deciduous trees and shrubs have burst into life and drifts of white flowers brighten these temperate canopies. Among the highlights: flowering dogwood (Cornus florida), fringe tree (Chionanthus retusus), snowbell (Styrax obassia) and Sikkim crabapple (Malus sikkimensis). In the understory, colorful azaleas and primulas are current highlights and in the Japanese Pool a new generation of newts is thriving. The egg clusters of last month have been replaced by quickly growing larvae and a robust population of adults is also present. As always, the soothing sound of trickling water accentuates this peaceful spot. You can enjoy this background music in the short soundscape clip below.
In the Mexican/Central American Area, delicate Maianthemum flexuosum nods in the shade, and in sunny clearings, fat stalks of flowers emerge from clumps of Beschorneria. Here too the dogwoods are in bloom, in this case, the Mexican dogwood (Cornus florida var. urbiniana). It is distinguished by its delightful clasped bracts, the showy white structures that are easily mistaken for petals. A very different and much rarer sight: the blanket of leaves on the main trail. Typically, our trails are raked, but during closure we are dedicating our limited hours to more pressing tasks. So, some carpets of leaves have accumulated…I must admit, I love the look and feel of the dry leaves crunching underfoot.
The desert displays are showier by the day with cacti in both Deserts of the Americas and the California Areacloaked in flowers. In California, the buckeyes (Aesculus californica) are also poised to flower and along sun-dappled paths, irises, poppies and California-lilac (Ceanothus spp.) sparkle. A second short soundscape (below) will take you to one such spot.
In South America, one of my favorite trees is now bedecked in bloom: Drimys winteri. The spidery flowers form bouquet-like bunches, a perfect contrast to the leathery foliage. Not far from this lovely specimen, a thicket of the magic flower of the Incas (Cantua buxifolia) is dripping with Day-Glo blooms and prehistoric Gunnera tinctoria looms larger every day.
Down the hill in Australasia, foliage, like that of hacksaw fern (Doodia aspera), steals the show. As the sun dips, the backlit textures create a beautiful tapestry.
Until next time, stay safe and be well!
Vanessa Handley, Director of Research & Collections