J Is For Joie de Vivre, Which Is French for Birds Feeding

Okay, it’s not really French for birds feeding; please my French speaking readers, don’t converge on me. And if you don’t speak French, joie de vivre is translated to English as, keen enjoyment of life, as in, “they were filled with joie de vivre.”

Well, here: you watch.

I couldn’t get them to come back to the seed, because I was standing too close, but I didn’t want to step back or I would have been in the street. But I think they’re adorable. I have such mixed feelings about feeding wild birds; everything I’ve read from a conservation point of view advises against it because it interferes with their natural food-gathering and/or hunting habits. But I confess, I love watching them when there’s a feeder to hand.

And more on the “J” theme, even though it’s not AT the botanical gardens, here is a very lovely rhodi, “Just because:”

Isn’t she lovely? The centers are a deep, blushing pink, but the blooms are a warm, creamy white.

Here’s another one where you can see mostly the blooms; I’m astounded that such a deep reddish pink turns white when they open!

I Is For Ivy, That Covers and Hides; The Groundcover of All Things, It Moves Like the Tides…

I have a confession to make: I adore ivy. When I lived in Chicago, I moved into a brick “three-flat,” which is Chicagoan for a brownstone with four apartments. No, that doesn’t make sense; this is because the basement apartment was added in the 1960’s or so in an illegally-made addition done with, get this, plywood. But no matter; I called that little tiny place home for nearly 15 years. In front of our building lay a bedraggled mess that, I’m sure, the former owners intended to be a lawn, but due to the two enormous, stately Norway maples in front of it, ended up as a sun-choked home for weeds and the occasional beetle.

My landlady and I were friends, and I lived in that building for one year shy of two decades. In that time, one of my first projects and what ended up as my longest-lasting one was to install a garden. We called them “The Beehive Gardens,” named for the building (the Beehive) and the gardens (plural because there was more than one tiny weed patch). Besides. The Beehive Gardens sounds so much better than “that little tiny garden that you stuffed in between the concrete sidewalks.” And when you put your mind to it, you can get quite a bit of gardening done in a very small space.

So into that front yard that had been a sad attempt at a village green went three things: English ground ivy, vinca vine (variegated and plain), and Creeping Charlie. “But those are weeds!” you might exclaim and, Dear Reader, you’d be right: but what is a weed but simply a plant growing where you don’t want it to? And one thing all three of those so-called weeds do is spread.

Unlike the grass, you understand.

Now this challenge is for the Bellevue Botanical Garden’s A to Z, but as I mentioned in my “N” post, I’ve got a cold – so I’m actually writing this “I” post on the 16th of April and back-dating it, thanks to the wonders of modern technology. But this further means that these photos weren’t snapped at the Bellevue Gardens but along my walk today at lunch (“today” being Tuesday and not last Wednesday). There is plenty of ivy on my walk, and ivy gets everywhere – including under this juniper bush! – ooh, lookatthat. A “J” picture. Maybe I’ll post that tomorrow… which is to say, for last Thursday.

And now that I’ve totally lost you, and just at that point in my walk where I was wondering if I’d really need all these pictures of ivy, I came across this lovely spot:

I wonder who is living in that little shady abode, eh? Spiders and moles, voles and mice, maybe the odd raccoon or duck? Looks like a good place for a nap, but that might just be the cold medicine talking.

And just as I was thinking enough is enough, I saw this:

Now I don’t know about you, Dear Reader, but I watch quite a bit of British murder mystery fiction. And I’ve watched American and Swedish ones for good measure, and even the odd French and Norwegian one thrown into the mix.

Does this not, Dear Reader, look like the owner of this apartment complex might have buried an unhelpful tenant under a bed of ground ivy?

I shall run back to my nice, warm desk and hide for the rest of the day, because after all, one can never spot a serial killer because they could look like everyone else.

I don’t know that I like that ivy all that much now… ~shudder~

H Is For Horticulture, the Science of Plants

This is a long view, just down from the Tateuchi Viewing Pavilion, toward the Ravine Experience. The piece in the distance looks like a high-backed faerie throne. The water goes under the walkway; I stood on a pathway bridge to take this shot.

Which got me thinking: what is horticulture? How is it different from gardening?

My husband and I, as geeks often do, talked about it yesterday and ruminated on the Latin origins of the word, “horticulture.” It’s composed of two Latinate words, “horto,” for garden, and “culture,” for… something. Probably culture, one would assume; but we already know from other studies that sound-based etymology is bad linguistics. We also know that the motto of the city of Chicago is “Urbs in horto,” or “City in a garden.” So we know horto and garden are connected. But where does “culture” fit in? Does it refer to the culture of gardening? Probably not, since vermiculture is the cultivation and care of worms, and agriculture is the cultivation and science of agri-stuffs, or crops. Which are growing things, just like hortos.

Aside from the pleasant mental gymnastics of our conversation, we decided that alas, to Auntie Google we must go. “Google, what is horticulture?”

“The word horticulture comes from two Latin words which mean ‘garden’ and ‘culture.’ Horticulture is the art and science of growing and handling fruits, nuts, vegetables, herbs, flowers, foliage plants, woody ornamentals, and turf.” From Extension: Issues, Innovation, Impact; “What Is Horticulture?” accessed from the following link, here.

What’s the difference between horticulture and gardening? Ian Graham, self-identified “Craft Gardener,” has this to say on Quora: “Horticulture is the production of plants for a purpose – food, ornamental, forestry, medicines, fuel etc. Horticulture is a science, using scientific research and the scientific method to produce ‘better’ and more productive plants. Gardening is a personal or community pursuit to produce environments (personal or public) of beauty and functionality, using plants (ornamental and food), water, and ‘stone’. Gardening also includes personal food production, ie veggie patches.” Accessed from the following link, here.

I like Mr. Graham’s distinction, “production of plants for a purpose:” aside from the pleasing alliteration, which, less face it, I’m all for that, I think it defines the science a little more. But “science,” in the old days, simply meant applying the scientific method: create a hypothesis, try it, record the results, try again. In gardening, that could be “I’ll try planting tomatoes in this pot.” Then record the results. “Well, that worked, but they need more sun so I’ll try that spot over there in Spring.” Lather, rinse, repeat.

So in some ways, I think horticulture is just a fancy way of saying gardening, a way to legitimize and sciencify something we humans have been doing for generations. But I’ll note this: they’re called Botanical Gardens, not Horticultural Exhibits. Though now that I say that, I suspect there probably are horticultural exhibits. This is one of the things that makes English so difficult, is its propensity for stealing from other languages and calling it English. 🙂 I think, on balance, that shall remain, as did Galadriel, myself; a gardener.

Next up is the Letter I like Iowa. But there aren’t any plants like Iowa, are there?

You’ll have to check back, Dear Reader; you’ll have to check back. Cheers!

G Is For Gators, Gardeners’ Friends; and G Is For Glens, Full of Rhododendrons; and G Is For Goldfish, Swimming in Ponds – Yes, It’s An A to Z Challenge Post! Welcome, Good Friend!

As I wandered onto the Botanical Garden grounds today, I mulled over my choices for “G.” I mean, Garden seemed too easy. Right?

I came around a corner in the path and seriously, THIS was sitting there.

Waiting for me.

Dear Reader, it was hard.

But I didn’t get in and drive it around.

Though I was tempted, Dear Reader; sorely tempted.

Besides. Dude was around there somewhere, with a loud machine, blowing botanical materials around.

Now, I confess, I don’t really grok the meaning behind using a leaf blower in a botanical garden. I mean, what are you planning to do, blow the leaves all the way out of the gardens? And then what? Your neighbors will get tired of a dirty great pile of blown leaves in front of the gardens.

But oddly, there weren’t any piles of leaves.

Maybe he was just dusting?

Gosh, this garden, for the letter G or not, sure is gorgeous, isn’t it?

But that brings me to my favorite discovery since moving to the PNW, or to those of us who aren’t yet in on the native lingo, “The Pacific Northwest:” rhododendrons! The place is lousy with them! Locals are, get this, even tired of them! (???)

Not me. This, then, without further gilding the lily (another G word, lookatthat!), is the Rhododendron Glen:

These are just the early bloomers, too! They bloom from early, early Spring (one of the ones in my apartment complex bloomed mid-March!) clear through June.

I know it’s not the same thing, but you know how when a cat is showing you their foot pads and you say, “What cute toe beans!”? Well, I had that exact same instinct when I saw these flowers!

Not actually a hundred percent sure this is a rhodi, but it’s in the glen, so I snapped its picture.

Same here. I must have walked around this one four times before I satisfied myself I was actually IN the rhododendron glen. So I guess this is a rhodi too? It’s sure pretty – the leaf ends are colored, AND there are flowers. LOFF!

I call this one “Potential.”

(Does this mean I’m a ‘budding photographer’? ~hides~)

Sadly, the lighting was even worse this morning than the last time I went, and it makes photographing the fish next to impossible – which is a shame, as I adore koi. Or, as they’re known today, Goldfish.

They’re all congregating together. If they were mammals, I’d say it was to stay warm on an overcast, rainy day. But they’re fish. So I’m not sure. Maybe just gabbing together? Gathering? Garnering support? ~grin~

All right, Dear Reader, all right; enough of G. Next up is H – which will be less about the pictures and more about the philosophy and science of gardening.

If you’re participating in the challenge, please leave me a link to your blog in the comments so I can come visit you! And if you’ve already commented but I’ve been absent, please forgive me, I’m a bit behind in my visiting but I will catch up between now and the weekend. Real Life has a way of getting in the way.

But hey – we can always visit a garden to relax, yes?

F Is For Frog: Me-Deep, Me-Deep

And so, Dear Reader, we come to the granddaddy of all frogs, the mammoth of Bellevue, the wart-encrusted bronze of doom, the ohmygoshwhatisthat of my morning stroll: this, then, would be the frog.

Or toad, but today’s the F day, and therefore, it’s a frog. Besides. No placard announced its identity, not even an artist attribution – of course, that could be more due to my state of shock as this monstrosity is sitting right there, out in front of dog and everybody, on a corner of a patio-like structure that I don’t think is really meant to be a patio since there is a distinct lack of seating there.

And so, my lonely frog and I confront the solitary condition of man after coffee but before work in his search for meaning.

Dude. I have a Humanities degree. I take these little digressions from time to time. They make me happy.

And it postpones the inevitable, which is this: I chose a topic for the A to Z Challenge, a challenge based on the beginning letter of words and words have specific meanings, and my topic is a topic about which I know few topic-specific words.

It’s like this, Dear Reader: there are two kinds of lady gardeners, according to the inestimable Sarah Ban Breathnach, of Simple Abundance: the first kind is the one with the pretty floppy hat and lovely gardening attire, gardening gloves and neat, well-oiled shears, who goes into her garden to maintain it and knows the Latin binomial of every plant and weed that dares step root in her loam. And then, there’s the second kind, the kind to which I owe my allegiance, the ones with dirt speckling the sweat on our face and the leaves in our hair who proclaim exuberantly, “I like that purple flower over there! No, not that one, that other one! The purply speckled one!”

Which makes it awfully hard, Dear Reader, without a lot of research, to post Garden posts past F is for Flower because one, by necessity, much know the proper name of said flower so that one can allot it to its proper day. Not unlike that lofty first club of Lady Gardeners to which, one day, I may claim some small allegiance but for today, whom I must displease with my exuberant shout of, “Ooh! Pretty! Look, flowers!”

Flowers!

But wait, one more precinct heard from… As I was driving off to work, I saw my two duck friends (well, it may not be the two that live at my complex, but I like to think they joined me at the Garden today with convivial neighborliness) and I’m pleased to say, they are environmentally Friendly (F is for Friendly) parkers! Look!

And that’s all for this week, Dear Reader. Sundays are off for the A to Z, but rest assured, I shall return on Monday with G is for…

Oh, come now. Would I be as banal as to say G Is For Garden?

You’d better come on back to find out, now, hadn’t you?

Cheers!

E Is For Entrance, and Comings and Goings – and, a Poem for David Bridger

Welcome to the Bellevue Botanical Garden and today’s letter for the A to Z Challenge, E Is For Entrance! Believe it or not, the Garden is host to a variety of majestic entrance points. In Asian garden philosophy, and in particular the ones with which I’m most familiar, that of Japan and that of Guangzhou, China, doorways and entrance points are given much thought. So, too, are windows and other vantage points from which to view something the garden designer wishes you to see.

This is deceptive, as it’s actually a view of the exit: I merely walked in and turned around, to show you the sunrise and the parking lot. The car entrance to the Garden is circuitous: first you arrive at the passenger drop-off, then you swing around to the left to the first row of parking places. Then around to the right, then again to the left, then up and around to get off the Garden’s demesnes.

Oh, come on. I just had to use demesnes in a sentence.

Moving right along then…

I love water features: fountains, bird baths, fish and koi points, rivers, streams, waterfalls – you know, water featured in a water feature.

And this, Dear Reader, is a water wall. It’s sort of a fountain, with a little pond at the bottom, fed by a stream at the top that’s in a channel created by an artist that, in turn, comes from a fountain.

In short, this sucker pushes ALL my buttons.

And it’s a nice place at which to meet other people in order to tour the Garden, if you’re an extrovert.

Like me, say.

But I digress.

Apparently, I’m not the only one on a Friday morning before work who wants to gain entrance into the garden. All forward movement counts, my friends; all forward movement counts.

To My Friend, David Bridger

I thought of you in the dawn
My friend, like the sun setting
Fire to the world.
The burdens you carry are not
Ones I can take from you
And you are, like the sun,
Untouchable. Your words warm
Me, like that selfsame sun
Because I know you long
For Fenrir to catch you and
Take you into the West.
I grieve that day just as I
Watch the dawn of this
For I know the cycle turns
Whether we will it or not.
And so, like Orpheus, I stare
Into the sun and let its
radiance hide that my tears
Are not due to its radiance, but yours.

D Is For the Scariest Predator of the Garden


The life of an amateur photographer is fraught with difficulties: not getting hit by a car when taking pictures of the trees along a lane (nevermind that the lane is one of four on a major thoroughfare) or chased by the neighbor dog when trying to snap a shot of a particular flower (which really shouldn’t be called trespass, don’t you agree?).

And then there’s this. We wandered down around the waterfall and I saw him – the terror of the terrace, the devil of the developed garden, the predator of … something beginning with a p. He stood up tall and fixed me with a dour eye (a word also beginning with a d, as luck would have it) and I put my camera up to take the lovely shot of Mr. Duck Surveying the Fish.

I didn’t realize until just now, as I’m doing my posting, that the slippery bugger ducked down (pun intended) behind a rock and left me naught but a picture of his ample duck body and orange feet.

And so, Dear Reader, I give to you two more pictures of birds, though they match yesterday’s post better since they start with C for Crane:

Tomorrow, Dear Reader, check back to see what I’ve chosen for E. I have a lovely G, and a terrific R, but E… E. What shall I pick for E?

Your guess is as good as mine, Dear Reader; your guess is as good as mine.

Carpe Carp! And Other C Words for the Letter C – on the A to Z Blog Challenge

Okay, technically this is from an earlier post where I shared what the QR code looks like. I had some delays getting my camera downloaded, and did so tonight. This is what the little QR codes look like, scattered around the grounds. What a lovely, unobtrusive way to share information for those of us who want to know what plant is which.

And this, Dear Reader, is a bench.

Yes, I know. B was yesterday. Tough. I just unloaded my camera and found it – and isn’t it a lovely bench? I love the design of these.

Okay, let’s Carpe those Carp!

But first, a side note: Carpe diem, which is Latin for Seize the day, was popularized by what movie?

And carp is…

Well, c’mon and take a look!

Fishy!

According to Auntie Google, a carp is “a deep-bodied freshwater fish, typically with barbels around the mouth. Carp are farmed for food in some parts of the world and are widely kept in large ponds.” Commonly seen in garden ponds, they look like large goldfish. In some Japanese gardens, these fish live over 75 years!

The pond is just lovely. And tomorrow, we’ll get to see what is waiting with baited breath to carpe those carp, when we see D is for…

But that would be telling! See you tomorrow, Dear Reader!

B Is For… the Bellevue Botanical Garden – with a Twist!

As we really get going on the A to Z Challenge, I wanted to share what it’s like to visit the actual garden. And since it’s the Bellevue Botanical Garden, I get two “B’s” for the price of one!

The Bellevue Botanical Garden

The Garden is located outside of the city of Seattle, Washington State, USA. Bellevue used to be a sleepy bedroom community, but in the last couple decades the population has exploded and major companies have hubs here: Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, to name just a few.

The Garden has a great website, located here, with information on featured plants and their cultivation, rich photographs, and a robust calendar of events. It’s just 53 acres, but once you’re there it feels like you’re not in a city the size of Bellevue. It’s truly a refuge worth coming to.

What I like as a garden visitor is that scattered throughout the Garden are stakes with QR codes that patrons can use to access information about particular exhibits and the featured plants. If you haven’t encountered a QR code, according to Wikipedia: “QR code is the trademark for a type of matrix barcode first designed in 1994 for the automotive industry in Japan. A barcode is a machine-readable optical label that contains information about the item to which it is attached.”

Most modern smartphones can interpret these, and if you don’t already have that capability, navigate to your phone’s app store and look for a free “QR Code Reader.” Then, when you find a code you’d like to read, open your phone’s reader and position the phone’s camera over the code. Wait a moment and your phone will ask you if you’d like to launch the reader – in the case of the Garden’s codes, my phone asks if I want it to open the Garden’s web page. I took a screenshot of one of the results, so you can get an idea of the wealth of information:

Tomorrow we continue our A to Z tour with the letter C. Since I found some birds that will satisfy my letter D, I’m not quite sure what I’ll do for C; so I’ll be just as surprised as you are. See you tomorrow!

If you are participating in the A to Z Challenge, please leave me a note in the comments so I can come visit you back. Happy reading!

Welcome to the A to Z Blog Challenge Day One – The Letter A!

Welcome to April, and the A to Z Blogging Challenge! This month, I’ll be blogging each day, Monday through Saturday, and the day’s post will be related to the corresponding letter of the alphabet for the day – Day One is for A, Day Two is for B, and so on, all the way through the letter Z. We don’t blog for the Challenge on Sundays, which gives us 26 days in April, corresponding to the 26 letters in the English alphabet.

My theme this year is the A to Z of the Bellevue Botanical Garden. I’ll take you with me as I journey throughout the garden, exploring the gardens, the Copper Kettle Coffee Bar, Trillium Store, and everything in between. There will be a suspension bridge, a Japanese walled garden, a meditation building, native species cultivars… in short, everything an urban nature lover could ask for. I might avoid all the garden bugs, because I don’t really get excited about them, but since the garden is talking about them this month, you might get a glimpse into the creepy, crawly world around us.

But today, I’m going to talk about A is for Alphabet, and thus, writing, which leads me to journaling. Specifically, journaling suited for a journey through an urban garden. In her class, Expressive Pages: Journaling the Everyday, Judith Cassel-Mamet shows us how to use simple manila tags and a binder ring to create something she has dubbed a “tag journal.” Pictured above is one of my tag journals, in this case with a gesture drawing of a dandelion drawn with a brush pen. Tag journals are perfect for wandering around in a garden, because you can write, draw, even staple in ephemera and it all stays in one place, courtesy of the binder ring.

I hope you’ll join me tomorrow as I visit the garden and look for the letter B – B is for Bellevue Botanical Garden!