For me, finding splashes of real color as winter settles in to stay for a while (maybe) involves a road trip. Visiting Longwood Gardens on the first Friday of February is becoming something of a habit for me.
Or a ritual...
I'm sure the Today's Horticultural Symposium is specifically scheduled for that particular date. We've usually had enough winter by then that people are getting a bit antsy and cabin-feverish--especially gardeners, I'd imagine! Despite February's odd weather (crazy cold to snowy to 70 degree days and everything in between), red-winged blackbirds warming up the pipes ("No, not yet, you idiots!"), maple trees half way to blooming ("No, stop that, you stupid tree!" Hmm, on the other hand, that's less seedlings to eliminate from everywhere they aren't wanted...), I too find February a bit rough to navigate.
On my first trip to the symposium in 2011, there was a foot of snow outside of the conservatories (our South Jersey accumulations had already melted). 2012 proved to be a mild winter, but no matter how warm it is, winter is not green and certainly not anything near lush. I thought 2013 would hit somewhere in between, but I actually drove into a snowstorm. Or rather, out of, as it was a "clipper" and hit hard and fast across the lower Delmarva and Cape May peninsulas… The Gardens were clear but I came home to ankle-deep drifts of cold white stuff on my front porch. *hmph*
This year's symposium had a number of topics that interested me, so I splurged and decided to make the trip again this year even though I didn't know anyone attending. (The previous two had the primary attraction of being able to meet online friends in person.) I have a new camera lens this year, so I figured some photography would be in the offing, even as I wondered what shots I could pick up this time around that I hadn't managed to get before. (The conservatory displays don't change all that much.)
Note to Self: Learn How to Operate Camera. The new macro (close-up) lens is delicious, but I really, really need to learn how to manipulate aperture and "film" speed and such in order to use it well enough to justify the purchase… And remember to make sure the vibration control is on. And to grab the monopod even if I am late due to a forty-minute traffic jam I only allowed twenty minutes for…
I only passed up one talk, but combined with a long lunch break (the food is no small part of the attraction of this event!) it was enough to take a quick spin through the conservatories. The snowy season of 2010-11 had done some damage even in the heated houses, especially around the outer edges where plants were too close to the glass. Last year's warm winter had the plants responding well. But apparently the one truly cold snap we have had so far this year hit the plants hard. Else more was going on that was not evident, for there was quite a bit of subtle damage throughout the conservatories. And they felt a few degrees cooler than "usual". (I really need to find someone who can answer "What does it take to heat this place?!")
But this is Longwood Gardens we're talking about, so there is always enough greenery and blooms to make up for whatever is happening on the other side of the glass walls.
Notes on Photos:
If I were to start obsessing on particular families of plants, one could easily be hibiscus. Hibiscii? Funny though, I don't like the "fancy" varieties, even though most of the plants I own have, in some cases, highly multiple-petal blooms. (Apparently that's the marketable version these days.) Love these flat, simple forms. What a palette for playing with color…
Neoregelia sp., a bromeliad that grabs the eye, even--or perhaps especially--when displayed at shin level.
Yellow is far from a favorite color of mine, yet I kept finding myself drawn to the yellow orchids. Granted, they seemed to be the primary color for the display this year, but still…
Close up of a sundew. The little (couple of inches) leaf refused to come into focus, so this is a lower resolution photo with more tweaking.
Might be an aloe in bloom. Leaves looked like an aloe. Couldn't find its name tag...
A sure winner when it comes to color: bird of paradise.
The colors of this bromeliad's bracts (Aechmea sp.) never get dull.
(Sure wish I could figure out why Blogger double-spaces some paragraphs and not others when the font looks to me like it is formatted the same way throughout... *sigh*)