Magic in the Garden

There is a magic in the garden. One can see the cycle of life, plants emerging, others flowering, some healing wounds, and still others dropping leaves and flowers in preparation for their next stage. By nature some are expanding, competing for air and water and space, while others live in cooperation providing benefits to their neighbors and partners. And of course, there is the rich diversity of nature.

Each time I visit it seems different. Not just different plants in bloom, but the magic and wonder of it has somehow shifted. Or maybe it is me that has changed, and I just notice different things. Here are a few I noticed during one of my recent visits.

Palm Flower

Palm Flower


An Old Wound


Bat Flower


Leaf’s End






Bromeliad Beauties

Pink with inflorescence

Pink with Inflorescence - 2011

These are two of over 3,000 species of bromeliads, a family that includes plants as diverse as spanish moss, the air plant well known by indoor gardeners, and the pineapple. Many, such as the spanish moss, are epiphytes that can subsist on nutrients in the air, rain and debris that fall around them, and do not need to be rooted to the ground. Others, like the pineapple are more terrestrial and do better rooted to the earth.

The variety of shapes and colors in these tropical plants is a dazzling reminder of the beauty around us — beauty that can bring balance into our lives if only we choose to look.

It's a gold one!

Golden - 2011

Leaves, but not of Grass

vegetal dancers

Vegetal Dancers - 2011

Despite the extended drought in Florida, the diversity and beauty of the plant life is stunning. The Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota, where these original images were taken, is a wonderful place to see some of these plants.

A light rain had just ended, providing an extra sheen to the already shiny leaves. The top image is of a plant I cannot name. But as I worked with it, the texture and colors of its large leathery leaf began to look like the arms and legs of dancers hidden in a wet translucent mass. The second image is a much more straightforward presentation of one of the many varieties of large philodendron that thrive here, some of which have leaves that are dream-like in their own right.


Philodendream - 2011

Smooth Banana and a Barbed Wire Bath

Smooth banana

A Smooth Banana - 2010

In the filtered light after a brief summer shower some things like these aging banana leaves take on a silken smoothness. Their texture, colors and folds give the illusion of fabric hanging from the stalk. However, most plants in the dry tropical bush are prickly and sharp, not smooth and silky. A little way along this same path there was an old bathtub draped with barbed wire — a still life of manmade objects emulating the thorny bush.

The illusion is of softness, while man made thorns block access to a symbol of the comfort and security of home.

Barbed wire and bath tub in the woods

Barbed Wire Bath - 2010

Under the Casuarina Tree

Breeze blowing through the Casuarina tree

Breeze through the Casuarina - 2010

The casuarina tree is not a native to the island, and some consider it an invasive. They are tolerant of windswept places and this large example stands along a windswept beach. Its leaves/needles are long, so when the wind blows there is a gentle soothing sound and the small branches sway like little grass skirts. When the needles fall, they form a barrier to other plants, so there is no understory of brush or other plants where these trees stand.

This barren blanket of casuarina leaves overlaid with several large decaying branches became the setting for the picture below. It was not a conscious intention that caused the palettes of the two images to be so similar. Instead, it was the feeling of each and what seemed to work best to communicate what appealed to me about each scene. It’s odd how that works…

Skeletal Remains - 2010

Bromeliad Beauty

Bromeliad Beauty -- 2009

Bromeliad Beauty -- 2009

This bromeliad was growing in a friend’s garden. It’s not a perfect specimen, but the colors, the bit of water still held in the center, and the curve of the leaves all drew my attention as an illustration of the imperfect beauty available at our feet every day, if we only take time to look.

A Flower in the Magic Forest

Cannonball tree flower -2009

Cannonball tree flower -2009

The cannonball tree is named for its heavy round fruit that grows on gnarled stems attached to the tree’s trunk (see photo below). The flowers are beautifully complex and colorful, with hues of red, orange, yellow and white – almost a world unto themselves. You can see a second interpretation of this flower on my web site.

This tree is a specimen at the St. George Village Botanical Garden on St. Croix, home to many strange and wonderful tropical plants. And no, the fruits are not edible. In fact they stink when they fall and crack open.

Cannonball tree fruit

Cannonball tree fruit

Rooted in the Magic Forest

Rooted in the Magic Forest

Rooted in the Magic Forest

Buttress roots form at the base of many old shade trees in the thin tropical soils. These roots curve around and reach out to support the massive trees above. This was an old silk cotton, or kapok, tree whose buttress roots seemed to be actively searching for what they needed from the earth.

Flaming Hibiscus

Flaming Hibiscus - 2009

Flaming Hibiscus - 2009

I saw this beautiful yellow hibiscus while walking in the neighborhood. It seemed to be just crackling and sizzling with energy, a physical manifestation of the sunshine we get here each day.

Sea Grape

When they take the form of a tree, sea grapes have a distinctive shape and silhouette, and an interesting texture with their large round flat red-veined leaves. This one had taken up a traditional position along the shore. The early morning light gave even the green leaves a reddish glow. I eliminated some of the distracting detail to focus on the colors, the light and the simple composition of the original scene.

Sea Grape by the Shore - 2009

Sea Grape by the Shore - 2009

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