Gift #1097: Garden Whimsy

Hello again!  I’m hoping by August to become a bit more consistent with my blog posts.  There’s not much hope for the rest of July though.  I’ve been thinking about what to write for the next post and had been tossing around several ideas.  And then I read a passage in my book at lunch and I knew I had to include it in my next blog.  I am reading Orchid – A Cultural History, by Jim Endersby of Kew Botanic Gardens.  It’s a journey through time, culture, and science about orchids.  It is the second of three books I received for my birthday about orchids.  Remember earlier in the year when I said I’d finally made the transition and started loving orchids?  Well, I’ve been reading about them ever since.  The first book I read was Orchid Fever by Eric Hansen and it was one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.  The author has a mischievous engaging style of writing and is blessed with the ability to phrase complex ideas succinctly and simply.  Plus the personalities and situations he described as people go to all lengths to collect and care for their beloved orchids makes for great reading.

But back to my current book.  Being by a Kew botanist, it is a bit more scholarly in tone and subject matter.  I’m now reading about the Victorian craze for orchids that put all of Europe in an uproar.  It was also a fascinating time because botany was a popular interest and many periodicals, papers, and books were focused on bringing plant biology and gardening to the masses.  Public nurseries were established as the number of species exported from all over the world funneled into England.  Orchids were touted as a practical plant with a touch of aristocracy about them because they were a reliable and long-lasting flower.  An owner’s growing manual had the following to say in praise of orchids:

“An orchid-flower means what it says.  It does not fall to pieces like a lily; there is no shedding of petals; no dropping away from the peduncle; no self-decapitation, like that of a fuchsia; no collapsing and dissolving, like a spiderwort; – no, there is never any of this; the orchid-flower is neither superficial, nor fugitive, nor insincere…. If we mistake not, orchid-flowers have a grand future before them.” 

That paragraph just made me giggle.  I love the way Victorians were not afraid to anthropomorphize plants and animals and imbue them with personalities.  Orchids were stout, reliable, sturdy plants – remarkably like the British themselves.  The description is ideal to be sure, and almost absurd given that at the time, most botanists were still working out how to grow the myriad orchid species coming in from tropics around the world.  Many years of patient effort were required to get some species to flower.

The unexpected bit of whimsy in my book reminded me of a recent trip to the White River Gardens.  I hadn’t been there in a long time and decided to visit a couple of weekends ago. It’s not nearly as large as my Botanic Gardens in Denver, but it has several pleasant stroll through shade, sun, water, and meditation gardens.  It’s strong point however are the sweet touches of playful statues scattered throughout the gardens.

For example, there’s the forgetful turtle, who’s quite sure he had something important in his hand a few minutes ago… if only he could remember what it was and where he put it.  Perhaps he should ask a more observant neighbor.

But Mr. Squirrel is far too enamored of his love, the acorn, to take notice of anyone else.  Just look at that gaze of utter adoration.  Sigh… to be an acorn in the arms of an amorous squirrel…  and in a garden too!

And here’s a self-satisfied sort.  Mr. Rabbit lives in the back of the garden, conveniently near the vegetable patch.  You can see he’s helped himself to some of the gardener’s bounty and is congratulating himself on his fine catch.  They’ll be no living with him after this – you can be sure he’ll be bragging about his skills to any unfortunate passerby that gets tangled in conversation.

Mr. Frog however is a thoughtful soul, given to quietness and introspection, and not likely to venture beyond his lily pad.  Here he finds more than enough to ponder – why both the sky and water are blue, who tells the lily blossoms when to open and close each day, how the dragonfly dances on the water, and when will the fireflies sprinkle magic in the twilight.

Oh good, it seems Mr. Turtle has found his misplaced treasure.  It appears to be a lovely Allium flower.  And he’s invited all the other turtles to a dance to celebrate!  Spying on a turtle dance is a rare treat – they clap and whirl and twirl to riotous music from the tree frogs.  How fortunate we were able to visit the neighborhood today!

I hope you enjoyed the tour through the garden and may you find magic in the ordinary miracles today.

Blessings to you,


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1 Response to Gift #1097: Garden Whimsy

  1. Adam says:

    Thank you for sharing! Your fascination with orchids and England, as well as writing about a botanist author in this post, reminds me of a long time favorite episode of mine of a certain popular time travel show which originally aired on BBC in the early eighties. In it, the scientifically minded traveling companion, played by British actress Sarah Sutton (who kind of looks like you by the way) goes to a costume party in England during the 1920s where a strange orchid brought back from South America by a famous botanist is found. He also authored an orchid book. Enjoy the rest of your summer!

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