Normally, I'm drawn to the kinds of flowers that bloom in full sun: roses, rudbeckias, all the usual suspects, but today I want to praise shade gardens, which have their own quieter kind of beauty, one that calls to us on warm summer afternoons. When heat and ultraviolet rays remind us that we can indeed have too much of a good thing (and after this past winter, who would have thought that?), I head for places cool and green and shady.
Today's post, then, involves some of the shady characters of the Toledo Botanical Gardens.
I've never been much of a fan of astilbe, but the astilbe walks are, literally breath-taking; I'd not known that astilbe had scent.
Well-grown ferns and hydrangeas (not the sort that manage to limp along in my yard)make wonderful companions to the varieties of astilbe.
A companion of a different sort: the height of a happy ostrich fern measured against a six-foot spouse.
The delights of changing light on impressive tree bark.
A different window today: one in downtown Louisville, Kentucky, and one that affords very little green and few birds, except for the canaries in the conservatory bar’s aviary. I did hear something singing as I walked back to my hotel this evening after the day’s scoring of Advanced Placement essays, but I couldn’t see what it was—no doubt some sort of LBB. This is not my usual sort of environment, but I am having a great time and encountering a different sort of diversity, that involving humans.
Imagine, if you will, over a thousand college and high school English faculty from all over the United States, all in the same two hotels for eight days to read over a million Advanced Placement essays in language and literature. It’s a wild scene, with an inordinate number of faculty who look to me like high school students along with a fair number of grizzled veterans, in probably every possible human shape and color. Any time you sit down with anyone, a wide-ranging and energizing conversation is likely to result. I’ve met a California retiree inspired to visit the mountains of West Virginia after running across a copy of a Denise Giardina novel in a rented cabin, a Minnesota high school teacher who invited our table to visit her cabin at Leech Lake some February for the annual International Eelpout Festival (which seems to involve a lot of drunken icefishing), a smalltown North Carolina teacher doing work in modernism with her rural students, and (in the elevator) my dissertation director, whom I’d not seen in more than a decade. Yes, the variety of homo sapiens facultus is quite something.
Visiting AP faculty are of course not the only Louisvillians. Taking a walk along the riverfront this evening, I struck up a conversation with one of a group of elderly gentlemen fishing from the wharf. Asked, “What are you catching?” he responded, “The blues.”
We can't seem to get enough of fledglings around here; my other half and I have taken to spending a good bit of time on the screened porch to see which avian adolescents are resisting their parents' attempts to teach them self-sufficiency. The finches and sparrows are still around in great numbers, but this week's amusement has been caused by juvenile cardinals.
The juveniles resemble adult females with their handsome rosy brown feathers, though they've yet to develop the pink beak, and they're nearly as large as the adult birds. This near-indistinguishability from Mama Bird makes the baby behavior all the more amusing as these ungainly creatures perch on the feeder pole or the sunflower feeder, lean over, waggle their tails and flutter their wing feathers, all the while making pitiful "I'm starving--feed me now" sounds.
Sometimes there were two hungry juveniles.
For some reason, only the male was feeding the babies. We don't know if the female was on the nest again or what, but the poor guy was busy, and the finch wasn't helping him.