Brookside Gardens – June 2019

The plants at Brookside Gardens are lush this time of year. I took pictures before every shift with the butterflies…and sometimes afterward as well.

The gardeners that maintain the north conservatory succeeded in getting a lotus to bloom in the pool there. When I photographed it, there was a tiny insect on the flower….a little pollinator?

Now for the outdoors - Some days it was raining and I focused on water on the plants; some days I worked with lighting to get the background dark; other days I was intent on filling the frame with a single flower or the unfurling of a single frond. Some plants are still in bud and others are already making seeds. I find myself being pleased with how many I can easily identify but even happier to just savor the shapes and colors…remember the smells. June is a great month for gardens here in Maryland.

Brookside Gardens – Butterflies and more

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Brookside Gardens’ Wings of Fancy exhibit was one of the places I volunteered in June – one of my happy places. One of my shifts was so cloud-covered and rainy that butterflies were still roosting in the fiscus at mid-morning.

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There were more clearwing butterflies in the conservatory that earlier in the season – enough that I saw one or two during most of my shifts.

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There aren’t as many paper kite butterflies this year…but they are still one of my favorites.

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The overall favorite for most people is the blue morpho; it’s one of mine too although for more than the blue color…I like the orange markings on the underside and body too. I manage to get some quick pictures during times when there are very few or no visitors in the exhibit.

And there were many other kinds of butterflies that posed for a picture at handy times.

And then there is the caterpillar house. Most of the caterpillars that were in the house during June were Julia Longwing or Zebra Longwing; both use passion flower as the host plant for their caterpillars.

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Toward the end of the month the eggs of the Palamedes swallowtail hatched….and the very small caterpillars begin to make their visible mark on the leaves. When they get bigger, they’ll have ‘eye spots’ to keep the predators away.

There were butterflies outside in the gardens too – mostly tiger swallowtails and skippers.

The bees enjoy the flowers too.

Sometimes a dragonfly would sit for long enough to be photographed.

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Birds like the gardens. A goldfinch and cardinal were near the conservatory one morning before my shift. I also saw a catbird that same morning but it flew away before I could get a photograph.

But the high point of the animals at Brookside was a box turtle! I had just exited my car and saw it emerge from a bed at the side of the conservatory and walk across the concrete in front of the service door to the north conservatory.

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It continued until it was close to the seal between the two doors then looked up like it expected the door to open. I wondered if it had – sometime in its life – spent some time inside the conservatory.

Roses at Brookside Gardens

May and June are the best time for roses at Brookside Gardens. It’s a feast of sights and smells…and a great place to photograph all stages of rose development and different lighting. I prefer to use my zoom rather than getting close…not tempted to step into a rose bed that way.

There are all kinds of roses – different colors, different petal density, climbers and bushes. The day I took most of these pictures, I overheard a gardener talking about the daily care that it requires to keep the garden looking so beautiful. Kudos to the staff and volunteers of Brookside!

Brookside – May 2019

I’m just now getting around to posting some pictures I took at Brookside Gardens in May: the butterfly exhibit, the conservatory – and everything blooming outdoors. So many subject to photograph – flowers, immature seed pods, seeds, leaves, garden furniture and fountains….peonies, poppies, magnolias, alliums, maples, dogwood…what’s not to like. Enjoy the big slideshow!

The side of the conservatory not used for the butterfly exhibit always has interesting plants in bloom – or photo worthy in other ways (like giant water droplets on green leaves).

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The door that volunteers and staff use is surrounded by greenery. Somehow it seems bigger this year.

I arrive 15 minutes before my shift in the butterfly exhibit. Sometimes I have a few minutes between the orientation and the arrival of the first visitors arriving to photograph butterflies.

May is a big month in the gardens. I have a series of Brookside Gardens rose pictures that I’m saving for another post.

Zooming – May 2019

It’s the end of the month – and time to select some images that I utilized the zoom on my camera to capture. I took over 2,000 images in May and at least half of them used that feature – so I had a lot to choose from.

There are quite a few birds in the slideshow this month. Can you find: red-winged blackbird displaying its colors, oystercatcher on the beach, laughing gull, least tern on a barrel, osprey on their nest, peregrine falcon with chicks, and several crowds of shorebirds. The bird feet are those of a mockingbird.

There is a painted turtle, ghost crab and horseshoe crab in the mix as well.

Enjoy the May slideshow!

Ten Little Celebrations – May 2019

May has been a busy month with travel and prep for more travel…lots of volunteer gigs and home maintenance too. As usual – it was easy to identify something to celebrate each and every day. Here are 10 that I’m highlighting for the month.

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Plantain chips. I made my own plantain chips using a plantain from the conservatory at Brookside Gardens. It was a spring celebration of Thanksgiving – good food from a local harvest.

Caterpillar on the hickory. I was hiking with second graders looking at habitats…and what lives in them (paricularly insects). When we came to a young hickory tree that had been planted on earth day, it had some holes in the leaves. It was a small enough tree that we could carefully look under the leaves…and we found a caterpillar! It was one of those serendipity momets…the children were pleased with their find and I celebrated sharing their experience.

Clean car mats. My husband and I both took the mats out of our cars and hosed them off – no more salt and mud that had accumulated over the winter! We picked a sunny day so they could mostly dry out in the driveway after we hosed them off. I am celebrating a cleaner car interior.

Good weather for 4th grade field trip. Earlier in May we were having a lot of rain…and I wondered how the back to back field trips were going to dodge the deluge. At this point I am celebrating not having a single rainy day field trip (even thouh I am prepared with a super rain poncho). The 4th grade field trip was a close call….it didn’t rain and we managed to step around the mud puddles.

A whole day at home. Between volunteer gigs and travel, there were very few days that I could just be at home. When it happened – I celebrated the day to recouperate.

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Horseshoe Crabs. I had never seen horse shoe crabs in action like I saw in Cape May. They are recovering after overharvesting….an ancient creature filling its niche in the web of life. Something to celebrate.

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Light on flowers. I missed most of the azaleas blooming this spring…but managed to get some spotlighted in the dappled light along the path near the stream at Brookside Gardens. I celebrated the photographic experience.

Pre-schoolers are Belmont. I’ve only managed to do one field trip with pre-schools so far this season. What fun they are! I talked to them about trees. We pretended to start out as seeds and grow into a forest…then have the breeze ruffle out leaves (fingers)…and then we talked about trees and wind. Some groups fell down in a heap when the really strong winds came! It’s easy to celebrate the outdoors with pre-schoolers.

Rainy day with butterflies – Mother’s Day. It rained on Mother’s Day and the morning started slow in the Wings of Fancy conservatory – the butterflies weren’t very active and there were not early visitors. I celebrated by taking some butterfly pictures with my phone. And then the ramp up of activity began. It became a busy morning.

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White morpho butterflies. The brilliant irridescent blue morphs are probably the most popluarl butterflies in the Wings of Fancy exhibit. I celebrated the butterflies that are new or not quite as common. The white morphos are one of the special ones I’m celebrating this year.

Spotlights at Brookside Gardens

On a sunny day before one of my Wings of Fancy volunteer shifts at Brookside Gardens, I took the path down along the stream away from the conservatories. It didn’t take long before I noticed the spotlights made by the sunshine through the trees and decided to use the spotlighting as the theme for my photography that day. I like to zoom in and photograph whatever plants are in the spotlight. It has the effect of darkening the background. Some of the flowers were past prime but the spotlighting rejuvenates them as ‘interesting’ photographic subjects. I collected quite a few images in about 15 minutes and a very short walk. Azaleas, ferns, beeches - oh my!

I had been so engrossed in taking spotlighted plants that I almost missed the squirrel that was watching me from a little further along the path. I retraced my steps to not interfere with the squirrel’s morning routine. It was a good day for us all in the garden.

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Plantains!

During one of my volunteer shifts at Brookside Gardens Wings of Fancy Exhibit, I noticed that the big banana tree was gone (there were several little ones in the bed) and the green and yellow fruit was still on the pod laying in one of the beds. I had seen it blooming last summer (see the pictures here) and was thrilled to see that the fruit had ripened.

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A Brookside staff member explained that the fruit was so heavy that it was pulling the tree over, so the tree was cut down to make room for the younger trees. The big bunches of fruit were left in one of vacant areas of the bed. The fruit often ripens after it is cut from the tree and it happened in this case. The tree is a plantain – like bananas but without the sweetness. The fruit was a little different shape as well. The staff member used pruners to cut the plantains for people who wanted to them. I took a yellow one.

The recipes for plantain chips I found on the web seemed easy enough. They advised a green plaintain since the fruit would be firmer – easier to slice. On the downside, the green ones are harder to peel. I had a yellow one so making a few shallow cuts along the ridges of the fruit was enough to peel it (although still more difficult that a banana). I put parchment paper on a cookie sheet and sprayed it with cooking spray. I cut the plantain into slices with a knife and put the slices on the prepared parchment paper…sprayed them with cooking spray…and sprinkled on some garlic salt. I cooked them in a 350-degree oven until they began to turn brown. I hadn’t cut them evenly, so I took the thin ones out and then let the rest cook a little longer.

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Yum! I ate all the plantain chips in one sitting!

Yum! I ate all the plantain chips in one sitting!

A Few Minutes Observing…Brookside in the Rain

Photography in the rain is always a challenge….and best done quickly before the camera gets raindrops on the lens! I had two rainy days that I was at Brookside Gardens before my Wings of Fancy shift and took a few minutes to photograph a few things near the conservatory.

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On the first morning – I photographed the stream as I crossed the entrance bridge. The rain was light, so the water was not high…but the color of the rocks normally dry above the surface of the water is more vivid since they were wet from the rain.

There were flowers in pots along the way.

I turned to take a picture of the rain garden area near the conservatory entrance before I went inside.

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On the second morning, the two buckeye trees that are at the edge of the parking lot were shedding their flowers. The flowers retained their color on the pavement as the water rippled and moved them into clusters.

It was raining a bit harder this second day and the water droplets were accumulating on the flowers…and rolling off. I was juggling my umbrella while I took the photos!





Brookside Wildflowers

I enjoy the boardwalk between Brookside Gardens and Brookside Nature Center in the spring. Earlier this week the boardwalk was my short walk before by shift in the Wings of Fancy exhibit. There are many native plants in this area that are looking good this spring. The plants are growing luxuriantly at this point – many in bloom.

Clumps of columbine

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Jack-in-the-pulpit (but they are green…sometimes hard to see)

Mayapples (the flower is sometimes hidden under the umbrella of leaves)

Skunk cabbage (with cypress knees poking up among the leaves)

Several kinds of ferns

Forest azaleas

And others.

Of course there are birds too….red-winged blackbirds are calling everywhere and robins are searching leaf mulch for a tasty worm!

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It was a productive 10-minute photo shoot!

Brookside Gardens Wings of Fancy – April 2019

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The Wings of Fancy live Butterfly Exhibit at Brookside Gardens opened in April. I am volunteering there again this season and my first shifts were toward the end of the month.

The Wings of Fancy live Butterfly Exhibit at Brookside Gardens opened in April. I am volunteering there again this season and my first shifts were toward the end of the month.

On the first morning there was a little rain as I arrived, and the outdoor temperature was cool. The sun came out and it warmed up a little as the day went on. The heaters were on in the conservatory to make a comfortable environment for the butterflies. I went in to do some photography before the exhibit opened for the day. The golden-edged owl is new this year and it tends to open and show its colors more than some of the other owls.

The Julia Longwing is around this year. There were a lot emerging from chrysalis during my 1st shift.

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The White Peacock had a lot emerging my second shift and I had groups of pre-schoolers observing! They were very excited and full of questions.

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The Malachites are available from two vendors this year – one in US which means that the chrysalises from that vendor can be in the emergence case in the exhibit.

The zebra longwings are always striking.

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And there are lots of other species too.

The big favorite of most visitors is the Blue Morpho. I like it for more than the metallic blue. The markings around the edges and ‘eye’ spots are interesting too. The orange color is supporting too.

The second day, I didn’t go in early or take my better camera - I still got two decent pictures with my cell phone. It was a little cool, so the butterflies were sitting around more…always good to go at 10 (when the exhibit opens) while it’s still cool!

Brookside Gardens Conservatory– February 2019

The Brookside Gardens conservatory was much warmer than outside – one of the immediate pleasures of stepping inside on a winter’s day. And then all the beautiful flowers that are all around draw attention. I did some quick photography using the zoom rather than taking the time to get closer to the flowers. I find that it’s faster and I like the results of the blurry or dark backgrounds. My favorite picture of the morning was shades of purple against a black background…curves and creases.

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The flowers in the conservatory are always colorful and even more appreciated in winter when the outside is so brown and black. In the conservatory there are always pinks and oranges and yellows and reds…with green framing.

I couldn’t resist documenting the cycads near the door back toward the gift store as we were leaving. There wasn’t as much vegetation around the plants, so the structures were more visible than usual. When I see cycads, I always think of dinosaurs since this type of plant was around that long ago…and somehow survived whatever killed off the dinosaurs.

Brookside Gardens – February 2019

My husband and I opted to walk the outside part of Brookside Gardens first on a cold day in February – planning to warm up in the conservatory before we headed back home. We didn’t make it all the way around the gardens (too cold) but there was plenty to see in the part we did manage.

There were dried flower heads from last summer – wonderful texture in their light browns. There is a fragility to their beauty too.

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There were several kinds of witch hazel – probably the most colorful deciduous tree this time of year.

The cold damaged ferns often look more artsy to me than all green ferns. Their color is more varied.

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And then there are the small bulbs of spring blooming. I was surprised I didn’t see any crocus.

And then we headed into the warm conservatory; that’s the topic for tomorrow’s post.

Zooming – January 2019

I have a bigger than usual group of images for the zooming post this month – primarily from a trip from Florida last week. They’ll be more details in posts coming out over the next few weeks. So sit back and enjoy the slide show. It only includes one snow picture!

Brookside Lights

Last week, we managed to get over to see the holiday lights at Brookside Gardens. They are worth at least one evening walkabout between Thanksgiving and the end of the year. It’s a family tradition for many people in our area of Maryland. There are things that stay the say…some things that are new...every time we go. This year there was another frog sculpture (with a butter fly and little frog) in the visitor’s center; I hadn’t noticed it before.

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The caterpillar tunnel was the same near the entrance to the gardens just outside the visitor center.

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The spider web and rainbow with lightning and clouds with raindrops were also repeats from previous years.

I always like the dragon (mom and baby). In previous years they spewed smoke.

Another new display: saguaro cactus light shapes.

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The butterfly and lights on a water feature (lights instead of water for the winter) were oldies but goodies.

I also like the spotlight on the sphere sculpture that I like so well during the day. The irregularities in the rock are more visible with the shadows. This might be my favorite picture from the whole evening!

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I created a slideshow with my other favorites. I like the nature theme for the lights -  flowers and moon and trees shapes, insects, tall stalks, a snake and ants and a fox, mushrooms. Sometimes I am not sure what it’s supposed to be…but it’s always fun to guess.

It’s also fun to listen to parents interacting with their young children. I noticed a toddler almost in front of us walking across the sidewalk; his father said “Don’t sit in the mulch” and the child promptly took a few more steps, turned around, and sat down in the mulch. He was helped up…dusted off in the back (it was cold so he was well bundled up). Everyone laughed…a good time!

Brookside Gardens at end of September – part II

Yesterday I posted about plants…today is about birds and butterflies. We’d gone to Brookside Gardens to photograph hummingbirds – realizing that it was near the end of the season for them. The garden area full of salvias was still full of flowers.

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There were a few birds, but they did not stay long. The only image I managed was a hummingbird in a tree….using the zoom to advantage. The bird looked very rounded and in good shape to continue south.

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I also photographed a male and female monarch (the male has a black node on each hind wing). They too were probably heading south and stopping at the garden to refuel.

Brookside Gardens at end of September – part I

The growing season is waning, but there is still plenty to see at Brookside Gardens when we went last weekend. Some plants have already produced their seeds – the sumac and sunflowers and castor beans among them.

The magnolia pods are as colorful as the seeds. Some of the seeds have already been eaten by birds or squirrels.

But there are still flowers to see too. I spent time photographing asters with tiny water droplets still coating them from the morning dew.

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But there are other things still blooming as well.

There were some lights that were turned on covering the trunks and lower branches of trees around one of the court yards – evidence that the crew putting up lights for the holiday light show has already started.

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Ten Little Celebrations – September 2018

Every month when I look at the notes I’ve made for each day of little celebrations – I enjoy them again. Many times, it’s hard to pick just 10 for this blog post. Here are the picks for September 2018:

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Volunteering on the last day of Brookside Gardens Wings of Fancy exhibit – It was good to be there for the good-bye day…and know that the next exhibit will open again in April. I enjoy being in the butterfly house and interacting with visitors…it’s a happy place.

Window cleaning – I am surprising myself at how satisfying cleaning the windows (taking the panes apart and cleaning all surfaces except the one on the outside) on a rainy day can be. Instead of spring cleaning – I’m doing fall cleaning! I celebrated the difference clean windows make.

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A monarch butterfly emerging – Caterpillars crawled up from our front flower bed to make chrysalises at the top of the window frames. I finally managed to notice one that was still emerged - hanging from the bit of chrysalis still attached – and then crawling up onto the lentil to finish drying. Celebration!

Yummy zucchini bread – I made a double batch of zucchini bread from squash frozen earlier in the summer. We enjoyed it for days. I celebrated the spicy flavor…helped me feel ready for fall.

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Howard County Conservancy volunteers and staff – With the training for fall field trips, we always have a pot luck lunch and this one – for me – was a celebration of those people (and that they are all such foodies)!

Elementary School Butterfly – What a celebration when the first Monarch butterfly emerged from a chrysalis I took to the elementary school! I wasn’t there for the excitement but got the description from the teacher. They even found another chrysalis on the fence around their school garden while they were releasing their butterfly.

Haircut - I told the stylist – with some trepidation - that I wanted it short….and celebrated the results.

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A birthday spent at Longwood - This is a great place to spend celebrating a family birthday…better than a too-sweet cake!

Yard work – Just as the window cleaning – I celebrated the results. It’s good to know that I’m ending the month in relatively good shape when it comes to the yard…before a lot of leaves have fallen.

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Lacewing larvae – Celebrating seeing (and recognizing) a new-to-me organism (looks like lichen since it covers itself with pieces of the stuff)!

Zooming – September 2018

The zoom on my new camera (60 vs 40 optical zoom…and then comes the digital zoom too) makes it even easier to stand well out of the flowerbed, get a good angle, not scare the butterfly or bee. It’s easier to hold myself steady using the viewfinder rather than the screen like I had to previously. Sometimes I use the monopod…but other times I find that I can simple hold myself steady enough that the camera image stabilization does the rest.

The images I selected this month are from several places: Longwood Gardens, home, Brookside Gardens, and Howard Count Conservancy’s Mt. Pleasant Farm. Some of my favorite places to be.

Enjoy my picks of zoomed images for September 2018!

Cloudy Day at Brookside Gardens

Last weekend we went to Brookside Gardens to photograph hummingbirds. The garden area they frequent still had lots of blooms.

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I photographed other parts of the area: some favorite sculptures,

Seed pods,

A rabbit eating breakfast,

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Mushrooms under the roses,

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And at artsy shot of an orange flower with a spiral shaped bud.

The best observations of the morning were bumblebees nectar robbing. The bee makes a hole in the base of the flower and then drinks the nectar. The shape of the flower would be a tight squeeze for these bees. Still – this is a case where the bees are not acting as pollinators since they bypass the flower structures entirely.

But hummingbird photography was disappointing. The lighting was not as good as the previous visits and there were not as many birds coming to the flowers. I only managed 3 pictures worth sharing.

So – the nectar robbing saved the day!