Knobby Knees

19 March 2018 – And hairy naked ones too, but I haven’t come to the VanDusen Botanical Garden to admire human knees.

I want these guys.

Whole great marching platoons of cypress knees!

Proof I am indeed circumnavigating (with protracted time-outs on every pond-side bench) the R. Roy Forster Cypress Pond.

The Garden as a whole is very busy, on this warm, sunny weekend day —  bursting with new blossoms, excited children, and keen photographers staggering under their telephoto lenses.

The Pond, tucked away to one side, is a quiet haven. I slide off to join it.

The approach is part of the pleasure.

First, the serene warm presence of the Confidence couple, Michael Dennis’ 2012 creation in Western red cedar …

then silver sunlight glinting off Southern Magnolia leaves (their native habitat, the south-eastern USA, proving what a benign climate I now call home).

I sink onto a first bench, its wooden planks warmed and made redolent by the springtime sun. It gives me a good view of the floating bridge that zigzags its way across the Pond.

I sit there quite a while, happy to let the day come to me, feeling my muscles expand again after their two weeks’ contraction in the Toronto chill. (For all that we are a special animal, we are animal. Our bodies tell us so.)

Then I rise, turn away from the main paved path leading to the bridge, and instead walk a bark-chip path around a far pond edge.

Cypress knees delineate shoreline, neatly encircle the mini-island opposite.

I look away from the Pond, eyes right-not-left, and admire blossoms floating in a bowl of water on the other side of the path. There are several of these bowls, each placed on an upturned log, filled with blossoms currently on offer in nearby shrubs.

What could be simpler? Or prettier?

Eyes pond-side once again, but lazily so,  my mind slightly ahead of my eyes, already anticipating the next bench.

Then a double-take. I freeze. Did I see … ? Was that … ? No, couldn’t be … !

Look again.

Silly me. Of course it’s not real.

Slightly shame-faced, I walk around the far end of the floating bridge and sink onto another bench, giving me a fine view from the far side.

Another month or two, the surface will be thick with water lilies.

Two Days Earlier …

I know. Chronology shot to pieces. And no thematic link at all. (Except that, yes, I am back in Vancouver.)

But you don’t mind, do you.

Barely back in town, greeted with sunshine and double-digit temperatures, I head for favourite places. The VanDusen, above, is one — but so is the Main Street / False Creek area, and that’s where I take myself just a day or so after returning to town.

Where I meet:

Backpack Woman, scampering for safety in the Main & E. 7th parking lot …

and Bookworm Woman, soaking up sunshine and the printed word by False Creek …

and Exercise Man, digging in that paddle as he flashes under the Cambie Street bridge.

Truth is, I’d stopped to admire the flamingoes — or whatever they are — somebody has added to the acrylic stripes on this bridge piling, one element of this art installation showing the 5-metre rise in sea levels that climate change could cause.

And then racer-guy joined the scene.

Very Vancouver.

 

Ready … Set …

5 February 2018 – And, already, the occasional “Go!” Nature is bursting out from the starting gate, here in Vancouver.

“The witch-hazels are in bloom,” says the ticket-taker, as we enter VanDusen Botanical Garden. “All over the place.”

Indeed they are.

Tawny golden tassels everywhere we look, taking pride of place even though we are in the Rhododendron Walk. Not a spectacular tree, once the leaves take over, but, oh, just look at those blooms.

So loveable. Perhaps because they are such an early harbinger of spring?

The rhodos are not going to take a back seat much longer. All around, big, healthy shrubs, laden with fat buds.

That lot, still closed. Others, much closer to open. This Rhododendron Ririei (Great Bell), for example:

And the smallest species we happen to notice, the Rhododendron ledebourii, in full bloom.

These last two examples are native to Russia’s Altai Mountains and to Mongolia respectively. That may explain their jump-start in Nature’s great spring race.

Then there are sights that have nothing to do with spring. They are just part of what makes Vancouver such a visually striking Rain City.

Moss on bare branches …

and Hart’s Tongue fern gleaming by a mossy rock, in the Fern Dell.

We pass the Maze, guarded from on high by its huge Monkey Puzzle tree …

and a great gnarl of tree boll in a copse.

Finally, as we cross the little zigzag bridge over Livingstone Lake, another mossy tree branch, this one hanging green-angled over its black reflection in the lake below.

Then it’s a peaceful downhill walk to Max’s Deli & Bakery at Oak St. & West 16th Avenue.

Where I have …

oh, go ahead, take a wild guess …

Of course.

Humans, Birds, Food

We already knew, didn’t we, not to feed wild birds? Or we are at least now willing to take the BC SPCA warning seriously?

I was sufficiently taken by that message on the Granville Island ferry dock to include it in my previous post.

What it doesn’t point out is that — along with protecting the birds from our food — we must sometimes protect our food from the birds.

Presumably the Vancouver Art Gallery café grew tired of patrons stomping back inside, muttering rude things about feathered thieves.

 

 

Legs & A Twofer

27 January 2018 – It’s the grin that stops me. As if this Borealis knows it is one hot-damn velomobile.

It’s posed outside this bike shop because it is for sale, but I am impervious. I have leg power.

And those legs are about to carry me through a big rectangular loop that will deliver — or so the plan goes — a botanical twofer.

First up — and I do mean up, as I climb my way south on Cambie Street — is the delightful Bloedel Conservatory. It sits atop Queen Elizabeth Park, which is also the highest point in the City of Vancouver. But despite today’s brilliantly clear sky, I’m not ogling the mountains, I’m looking across the gardens to the Conservatory’s iconic dome.

Inside that dome, says the literature, more than 120 free-flying exotic birds, in a universe of some 500 exotic plants and flowers.

No mention of the koi, but they’re there too, darting about in the ecosystem’s clear-running streams.

Outside — and why have I never noticed this before? — a Henry Moore sculpture. It’s called Knife Edge, but for me, its lines are more flowing than edged, and beautifully reflect the lines of the dome and the mountain range that serve as its backdrop.

Giddy with sunshine, I walk west, heading for number two on my list, the VanDusen Botanical Garden.

Two bonus attractions along the way.

I indulge my fascination with the textures & tones of  tree bark, rich with moss and lichen.

 

A passing couple pause, try to figure out what I’m staring at, exchange a couple of tentative comments about the way some branches have been pruned … maybe? … and move on.

I move on too, and don’t stop again for a couple of blocks.

Then I discover Vancouver’s Nectar Trail. Well, first I discover the Insect Hotel — which, if you look closely, you will recognize as a repurposed telephone booth.

The idea is to provide additional habitat for pollinators, with naturalized, pollinator-friendly plantings and “hotels” for their long winter sleep. First stage of the trail: the stretch between the sister institutions, VanDusen and Bloedel.  First stop on the trail: right here in Oak Meadows Park.

No flowers visible, in mid-winter, but this cheerful wooden curtain, the work of local grade-8 students, brightens the day year-round.

(Honesty demands I add that the project links are years old, and some are non-operative. It is possible that the project never got beyond this first installation. I hope I’m wrong.)

On to the VanDusen. I love this place, any season, and it feels alive and growing, any season. Fountains jet their water high in the air; the spray turns into a pointillist painting as it falls back to the lake.

And mossy trees gleam emerald-edged in the afternoon sunshine.

Eventually I head for home. As happy as that grinning velomobile.

 

 

The New & the Known

18 September 2017 – And the becoming-known as well, all courtesy of my latest visit to Vancouver’s 22-Ha VanDusen Botanical Garden.

For example, I know the quote etched onto the Visitor Centre doors, the words of American naturalist John Muir: “When one tugs at a single thing in nature / he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”

But I hadn’t noticed, or had forgotten, the handsome trekking-poles that serve as door handles.

(Let’s all take a moment to honour the polite visitor on the other side, waiting for me to lower my camera before he approaches the doors.)

It’s a pretty fall day, I’m out for a walk, the VanDusen is half an hour or so from my place — off I go!

And on into the gardens, with one appreciative backward glance at the patio side, starting point for exploration, before I launch.

It’s to be a random walk, how can I lose?

I head through something Known, or at least familiar, i.e. the Eastern North America section. Then on to the relatively New, first via the wooden boardwalk over the Cypress Pond …

later through a grove of Giant Sequoias (so exotic to my eastern eyes) …

and in among Windmill Palms, seemingly scattered quite freely around.

Palms are not New. But seeing them right here in Canada, lying around outdoors and unprotected? Distinctly New.

Then into the Fern Dell, under a canopy of Douglas Fir, and full of both Known & New.

At the back, the Tasmanian Fern Tree — definitely New! Then lots of hedge fern, which maybe are New but look well-Known. And then, in front, all those Painted Lady Ferns. So very Known! And loved. I had lots in my Toronto garden, I am delighted to see my old friends.

Somewhere on the edge of one of the lawns, a bit of Vancouver / BC / VanDusen history — the Swedish Fountain.

So-named because a gift from the city’s Swedish Folk Society on the VanDusen’s opening day in 1975, with its bronze panels designed to reflect both BC’s pioneering industry and the Swedish homeland of the project’s prime mover. The panels now enclose a European ash tree, not a fountain, but the Swedish reference is not lost: in Norse mythology, the ash is Yggdrasil, the tree of life.

And life abounds, all around — in nature, and in that family in the background, the adults playing hide-and-seek with their squealing toddlers.

In the vicinity of the Cherry Grove, I pass the monument carved with winning entries for several years’-worth of the Haiku Invitational, associated with the yearly Cherry Blossom Festival.

Blurred by time, and hard to read! Visit the website, and read at leisure…

Along the edge of the Stone Garden, once the local reservoir (just as the VanDusen as a whole was once a golf course) …

and on past the Maze, guarded — and what could be more appropriate — by a Monkey Puzzle Tree. (Something else my eastern eyes still find wonderfully New and exotic.)

I, and many giddy bees, admire the flowering artichokes in a near-by bed …

I retreat, happily unstung, to sit on the bench in the Azalea Trail.

All this definitely in the Known category, from style of bench to azaleas & rhodos, to the call of chickadees in the trees.

And my final retreat, as by now you will have predicted, for a latte in the VanDusen’s café.

This post began with an inspiring quote, let it end with another inspiring quote — this one written in magic marker on the café mirror.

Oh all right, maybe “inspiring” is not the right word.

Choose your own adjective.

  • WALKING… & SEEING

    "Traveller, there is no path. Paths are made by walking" -- Antonio Machado (1875-1939)

    "The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes" -- Marcel Proust (1871-1922)

    "A city is a language, a repository of possibilities, and walking is the act of speaking that language, of selecting from those possibilities" -- Rebecca Solnit, "Wanderlust: A History of Walking"

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