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.


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


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!


It was a productive 10-minute photo shoot!

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.


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.


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 – December 2018

It’s been somewhat cold this month – but no snow yet. I’ve enjoyed photographing our transition to winter using the zoom on my camera to set the frame of the scene and/or to enable me to stay out of the mud (we’ve had lots of rain) or indoors and warm. There is still a little green left…and the sky sometimes seems brighter when its clear and cold. Enjoy the December 2018 Zoom slideshow!

Zooming – October 2018

The fall foliage had not been as colorful as usual this fall…but there has still been a lot to see outdoors – aided my the zoom on my camera: Canadian geese, a common buckeye butterfly, webs of funnel spiders on a root ball of an overturned tree, colorful ferns, milkweed seeds spilling out, tiny mushrooms in mulch, a spider web highlighted by water droplets, and a female cardinal with fluffed feathers. Enjoy the slide show!

Ferns under the Deck


Our deck is over a story off the ground and it always in deep shade. I planted some Christmas fern a few years ago and it is almost overwhelmed with the splash from between the decking above. I think this is the first place I will put compost (as mulch) when it is ‘done’.

I thought he shade would be ideal for the fern and that it would propagate itself. But the muddy mess is not good for anything growing there unless I can find a way to improve the situation. Having mulch instead of mud should be an improvement.


On the other end of the space under the deck there is some moss growing and maybe some little ferns. I’m not sure. I’ll spread some around them when I disperse my compost. The deer don’t seem to be bothering them so far.

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!

Longwood Gardens – Part II

My favorite plants to photograph in the Longwood Gardens Conservatory are orchids, fiddleheads, and hibiscus.


The only time I used my clip-on macro lens for my phone was to attempt to capture some very tiny orchids. This was good practice for photographing native orchids which are very small in our part of North America.

Then I noticed the different kinds of slipper orchids. They are probably my favorites. There was a couple in the room with us that had been growing orchids for years and they told me that the slippers are often the easiest ones to grow…good to know if I ever get the yen to grow orchids. They warned me that the hobby can be addictive.

Another bit of orchid-lore from them: some orchids have a butterfly mark in their center!

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Fiddleheads are always fascinating to look at closely. They are always spirals – sometimes spirals within spirals - that will eventually unfurl into the fronds of ferns. Often there is a fuzz covering the spirals that will be green – maybe shiny – when they are totally unfurled. The fuzz in white

Or brown (tree ferns). I am always surprised at how large the primitive plants can be – realized that earlier in earth’s history, ferns were the ‘big trees.’

There were some that were unfurled enough that the ‘fidddle’ was more of a ball of green.

I managed to see and photography several that were the spirals within spirals. Maybe these are ideas for a Zentangle tile!

Finally – hibiscus. I like their huge petals, the blends of color, the gentle curves, and the complex centers.

Tomorrow – I’ll post about the Longwood water lilies.

Smithsonian Environmental Research Center - Part I

I spent last Friday at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (SERC) near Edgewater MD. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources had organized the day and announced it to Master Naturalists. It was a day well spent! When we were not hiking, we were in a classroom in the Mathias Lab Building, a LEED platinum facility complete with solar panels and geothermal wells.

The first lecture of the day was about spiders (and other creepy crawly critters) that sometimes are unappreciated or frightening to some people. I find myself being more interested in looking closely at spiders – although when one crawled across the ceiling of my bathroom there was still a cringe.


The first critter we saw as we gathered for our hike after the lecture was a spider almost hidden by a funnel shaped web. There were others along our route as well but they are notoriously hard to photograph.

Some of the high points of the hike for me were: Indian pipes (a non-photosynthetic flowering plant),

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Wintergreen (a plant that I’ve probably seen before but didn’t know what it was),

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The summer version of the jack-in-the-pulpit (the seeds have not turned red – yet),

A click beetle,

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Several kinds of ferns (some with spores), and

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Then out on the boardwalk to Hog Island where the phragmites is surrounding a shrinking area of cattails.

I’ll continue this post about my day at SERC tomorrow….

Hot in Texas

Coming from Maryland to Texas has been a shock in terms of temperature. It is hot. Most of the time I’ve been indoors – staying with my mom at the hospital and rehab and now home. Every time I venture outside, I move as fast as I can to get to the next air-conditioned place. And this is only June. It will be even hotter in Texas as the summer progresses. At this point the plants are still flourishing if they are watered regularly. I took a few pictures of the plants at the rehab facility when I walked around the place when my mother’s room overflowed with other visitors.

I wondered how well the fern would last as the summer progressed. In Maryland they seem to do best in shady moist places. This plant was in partial shade…and it would take a lot to keep it moist on a 100-degree day.


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.