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.


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.


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.


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

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

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.

Longwood Gardens – Part I

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Last weekend we made the day trip up to Longwood Gardens. We got there shortly after they opened at 9 and headed for the Conservatory since they only allow tripods before noon and we’re always interested in photography in the gardens.

I had my new camera on a monopod and was experimenting to get the perfect height to use the viewfinder…and not hunch over the camera. There were plenty of flowers to practice with the monopod and the additional zoom capability of the new camera.

The Childrens’ Garden is another reason to get to the Conservatory early….to walk through the confined place before the children arrive. Years ago when my daughter was small there were fountains that she loved to hold her hands under but nothing as fancy as the mosaic bottomed fountain there today.

The area is quite a bit larger than it was 20 years go but full of nooks and cranes for children to enjoy: a metal spider web sculpture near the floor, shells on the low arches of an entrance (adults need to duck!) and several bird/animal sculptures that are water features – at a good height for little hands.

There was a collection of cycads in a tropical forest room with a walkway at canopy level. I was fascinate by one of the ripening cones.

My daughter was intrigued by the leaves of the Swiss Cheese plant.

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We were all remined of Hawaii by the Torch Ginger.

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The ‘new to me’ plant was a Cocoon Plan in the desert. Somehow, I had not noticed it before. It is a succulent.

Brookside Gardens – April 2018

The day after we were at Arlington Cemetery, we walked around Brookside Gardens. It is one of my favorite places to take visitors to our area. We decided to walk around outdoors first.

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 There were several kinds of deciduous magnolias blooming. Last year many of them were caught in a late frost so I was glad to see them.

The crocus and snowdrops were done for the year but there were other bulbs providing color and there will be tulips soon; they are just beginning to send up their buds.

I saw a stump that I hadn’t noticed before beside one of the paths I use frequently. It’s rotting from the outside in!

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Now sprouting plants draw are colorful…draw attention with their textures as well.

When we went inside the conservatory, the warm moist air felt good after being out in the cold. There was a lot of work going on in the building. The room where the butterfly exhibit will be by the end of the month was completely closed and the other room was getting some new plantings. I noticed that the large white bird-of-paradise plant had a lot of dried flowers and a few that were still fresh. We warmed up – made a quick stop at the gift shop – and were on our way – pleased with our morning out and about.

Brookside Conservatories – March 2018

After my walk around the outdoor parts of Brookside Gardens, the warmth of the conservatories was much appreciated. Both are currently open although one will close to prepare for the Wings of Fancy Butterfly exhibit in early April. There were not many people about so I had the luxury of moving myself to the best location to capture the photos I wanted. There was lots of color from flowers like poppies, begonias, and orchids as well as the foliage of variegated croton (and they were blooming too!). Of course the greens were well as well since outside we are still mostly brown. I like the shapes of papyrus, water droplets on big leaves, and the unfurling ferns. I like conservatories in general but appreciate them the most on visits in the depths of winter.

San Antonio Botanical Garden – Part 1

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We took advantage of having a morning in San Antonio, Texas before our late afternoon flight home to walk around the San Antonio Botanical Garden. The first thing we noticed is that the garden is still being actively developed with some areas barricaded either for updating or new building. We headed to the conservatories forest. These are very different structures than the glass houses of the 1800s/early 1900s. They rise from concrete peers – high shards into the sky surrounding a courtyard. The climate in San Antonio is mild enough that even the courtyard looked lush and green at the beginning of winter!

There were sculptures in the gardens within the conservatories and the courtyard. My favorite was the ‘owl.’

The conservatories were divided by climate types: desert,

Primitive plants like cycads (l loved the color of the fresh cones)

And Screw pines (I saw the mature fruit in Hawaii and got a better look at the Phipps Conservatory, but this is the first time I saw the fruit at this stage of development).

I can’t resist the unfurling of ferns

Or the tropical flowering plants and trees.

And that was just the first part of our walk around the San Antonio Botanical Garden. There’ll be another post about the place tomorrow.