Garden Outing

Chinese Witch Hazel

We visited the gardens for the first time in a year. We have gone to the gardens’ Shaw Nature Reserve several times in this last year. It is less populated and wider open and felt safer. As it turns out on a weekday in February even the gardens are pretty empty. A lot had changed at the gardens. First off, the Ridgeway visitor’s center has been torn down. Although relatively new, it was deemed obsolete and unable to handle the expected greater visitor flow. So, the first thing to greet us on our visit was the sound of jackhammers. A new, smaller building is now serving as the garden’s temporary visitor’s center. It looks permanent though. So, I’m unsure what its eventual role will be. The new entrance fronts onto the Linnean House, a Henry Shaw era greenhouse that has been emptied out, except for some construction debris. Likewise, with the adjacent fountains, one of them had been boarded over. The Climatron was open, but we had decided to stay out of the buildings, as best we could. Besides with wearing masks our glasses were already fogging up. The home gardening center was closed due to another construction project, as were many of the smaller trails throughout the gardens, probably because of Covid. Even the fish food dispensers for the koi in the Japanese garden were boarded up. Amazingly, there were a few flowers out, Winter Aconite, Snowdrops and Witch Hazel, lots of Witch Hazel. To think that only a week ago the highs were in single digits.

Under the Sycamore Tree

American Sycamore Grove

Sycamore trees have those stark white limbs that on a late fall day, bereft of leaves and with a brilliant blue sky background, look like they are reaching up to heaven. Their roots penetrate deep into the soil, making them difficult to knock over in a storm. I am just religious, superstitious and mystical enough to grant these ghost trees properties of protection, divinity, eternity and strength. Especially while standing beneath a grove of them during a red-flag warning wind storm.

Among all of the vigorous tree swaying, we heard a rather audible deadfall while in the woods. This begs the question, does a tree really make any sound in the woods, when it falls and no one is around to hear it? What? Huh? What did you say? I didn’t say anything. Apparently it does, but it is doesn’t mean anything.

We drove out to Shaw Nature Preserve, checked-in and then drove up to the hilltop pavilion. There were people there, but once we set out, we didn’t see another soul until we returned. We did our walk of usual duration, but very soon Anne’s nature fix meter was pegging into the green. It was eerie at times being alone together in the woods, but this is one of most protected green spaces around. We got lost, found our way again, set off and explored new corners of the map. We made it down to the Merrimac, but then had trouble finding our way back. It was nothing more serious than a few bug bites for me, past mid-November yet! I was warm enough attired in shorts and a t-shirt, but Anne was overdressed to the nines. She wore her facemask continually, but not for virus protection, we never saw anyone, but as sunscreen. We eventually made it back.

On the way out, I had Anne check for traffic jams using her phone. There were none then, but on the way back there was a huge one where I had envisioned one. This is hardly a paranormal feat. The I-44/I-255 interchange is undergoing major construction. Accidents are foreordained. I think that most of the work is done at night, but most of the infrastructure is there all of the time. It was those crazy construction turns that probably led to the accident and the huge resultant backup that I had originally feared, but then only faced going the other way.