Monday, July 23, 2007

Botanical Me

So I am not writing about my experience with some new herbal supplement, some bizarre health food encounter or how hemp clothing changed my life ... although, in my limited experience hemp clothing is pretty comfortable. Nope, just want to tell you about something I should have done a while ago but did not get to until this weekend - visiting the New York Botanical Gardens. No simple garden, this 250 acre preserve in the center of the Bronx feels more like a small artistic forest, ... which is really what it is. I have actually been there already this summer, as part of the Einstein Pathology Department retreat. That was actually a pretty good day, good food and good science in a beautiful environment with plenty of AC. Just right ... for what it was. But the I only had an hour in the Gardens that day and I gotta say, just from the glimpse I got of the Gardens that afternoon, they really deserved more.

I only live about a half hours walk from the Gardens, but until Sunday I could never seem to find the time or motivation. And Shauna and I have been talking about going for months, but never gotten our acts together. But Sunday, when I should have been nestled into a comfy armchair finishing Harry Potter like the rest of the world, I met up with my Shauna at the 5 stop near my house and walked over to the gardens. Not to worry, Harry Potter made an appearance ... Shauna carried the book with her the whole afternoon and I saw no less than six people reading it on benches around the gardens.

We entered the Gardens from the back through the 'runners' gate, using the Greenways to walk along and over Bronx River Parkway. To be honest, I was almost as excited about finding this 'secret' route as I was about seeing the Gardens ... but it turned out to be pretty easy. From the 2,5 stop at White Plains and Pelham Parkway you just cross the street and walk along Thwaites street and into the greenway. Then you turn north and walk along the greenway, past the basketball court until Waring is to your right and a small hill is to the left. Go up the hill and cross over Bronx River Parkway and there you are.

The first thing we saw after we walked in was this large, vegetation shrouded insect marking the entrance to the family garden. Look closer, on the right, right in the center, you'll just be able to make it out. Just past that was the Rose Garden, which I missed last time. It was really spectacular. You think you have seen roses, that you know they come in different colors and you are aware of the beauty of this flower. But you aren't. They come in so many colors, colors that belong on painters palettes and huge murals, but not on flowers ...

Out past the rose garden, Shauna took off her shoes and walked barefoot through the lush grass as we walked over to The Benenson Ornamental Conifer Collection. This gorgeous section of the gardens is fairly new and contains over 400 different types of rare conifers from all over the world. I even saw a type of redwood I had never seen before, the Dawn Redwood, that is native to China. Next we past a number of small, dwarf conifers tastefully planted among rocks, kind of like a garden for slightly out of control bonsai. Then we got to my favorite tree in the Gardens, the Snakebranch Spruce. With branches fairly dripping at random off the trunk, this tree looks like a robust conifer that has melted and is now too sad to straighten itself out. We spent a bit of time with this tree, taking pictures and enjoying the tree. I in fact spent a lot of time taking pictures and futzing with my new, tiny tripod and my improved knowledge of digital camera functions ... Shauna simply humored me. Finally, we moved on to a small promontory in the center of the conifer collection, enjoying the view I showed at the start of this blog.

We finished the conifer collection by bonding with another Snakebranch spruce, and then crossed the river that runs through the center of the garden and headed over towards the main entrance. We chased butterflies and walked through thistles, moving along under and shady canopy. I saw some movement off the path and we walked over and saw a small rodent, a field mouse I think. It was surprisingly unafraid of us and so we were able to get pretty close.

We watched the mouse for a minute or two more ... well Shauna watched the mouse and cooed about how cute it was, and then worried about it being alright. Once she got over her fears, we moved on toward the reflecting pool and the gift shop area. On the way we passed this random fire hydrant in the middle of the lawn, which inexplicably reminded me of the Chronicles of Narnia. At the beginning of the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe the Penvensie orphans walk through the wardrobe to find a lamp post standing in the center of a frozen forest. This hydrant kind of reminded me of that, as it was black and beat-up, like it had been placed here long ago and had grown with the trees.

Right next to the hydrant was a nice rock formation where we sat for a while, taking the picture of us I showed above and generally goofing around. We moved on after a bit, past the reflecting pool and wandered into the gift shop. We perused its ridiculous nice and overpriced plants and gardening equipment, tried on hats and puzzled over the uses for a number of beautiful handmade brooms and brushes imported from Germany. Then back out into the sun, finishing our loop of the park by crossing the river and returning to the back entrance. On the way out I forced us to stop one last time to take some pictures, enjoying these last flowers and the process of capturing them before I dropped Shauna at the 2 stop and headed home.

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