Friday, October 17, 2014

In the Arboretum gardens

What a difference a day makes. 

Yesterday we reached 70 degrees. Today was windy, gray and cool.

November establishes outposts long before it arrives. Today is a reminder of that. Today’s weather is not untypical for this time of year.

Seventy degrees like yesterday happens in our part of the Midwest. It’s not a common October temperature. We certainly don’t take warm days given us now for granted.

One October reading in the 70s is about normal for us. There have been three this month. Rather a marvel to make it to three. Cool and windy has defined a good portion of the fall.

We were at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum yesterday. Bright foliage and blue sky made for a treat. Aware of the imminent dip in temperatures we wanted to capitalize on the phenomenal Thursday. Evidently, so did everyone else.

Schools were out Thursday and Friday. It was because of the state teachers conference. It's held annually this week in October. 

We used to call it MEA weekend. There's been a name change since our kids were in school. My family looked forward to this weekend which comes six weeks after the start of school. We used it for visiting the grandparents. 

For me MEA sticks better than the new name which I don't hear often enough to put into mind. It remains a special weekend separating the start of fall from the settled-in later parts of it

The Arboretum was packed when we arrived. It was mid-morning and parking space was at a premium. Car lines through the gates continued all day.

Students home from school were there with parents and grandparents. These intergenerational groups made up a large number of the visitors.

It was like a giant field day to see so many school-age visitors. The only element missing was the yellow school buses parked to the side waiting for their student loads.

This isn’t the first blog that has told about the Arboretum. Seeking harmony in nature it comes naturally to want to share this spot. This inviting space makes many happy to the core. It rejuvenates with each visit.

The rolling grounds not far from the Twin Cities are beautiful at all seasons. It can be hard to choose one favorite time. Plenty of us come as often as we can.

Winter brings a hush to the white hills. The cold season offers trails to hike or ski when the planting beds are covered with snow and areas are fenced to keep out deer.

Spring with its myriads of ornamental tree blossoms, and stunning arrays of tulips and other first flowers, is easily considered prime visit time. 

Others opt for the next phase, when the roses and their scents spill down their terraces and vivid shades describe the late summer blooms.

Then we come to fall. Fall holds particular sway, from the gorgeous sugar maples firing up the countryside to the last quiet colors before killing frost.

In October, borrowing from nature, the Arboretum creates its own take on the season with a harvest theme exhibition called “Scarecrows in the Gardens.”

The entrance to the planted areas this month introduces the display of fanciful scarecrows and folk art. 

The scarecrows are decorated or outfitted in vegetable garb. They’re put together with gourds, pumpkins and squash. Straw, berries, fronds and other whimsical touches add to their features.

The scarecrows delight all ages. You can gauge their effect by the clumps of folks who gather around each artwork, smile broadly, comment spontaneously and then move on. 

As well as fun the scarecrows are fabulous photo-ops. Parents (and grandparents) were snapping away yesterday.

Enjoyment was palpable. The kids present ensured a kinetic energy. Meanwhile, with an energy level also to be admired, a group of volunteers (probably volunteers) was planting tulips.

The promise of spring was in each tulip bulb being planted. The autumn sun wasn’t a promise but a reality. It nicely warmed the backs of those who worked in the annual beds.

With camera along, and scouting for pictures to take, Al came upon the tulip planters. I didn’t see them.

Perhaps this when I was finding the sunglasses. They were a brand name pair of sunglasses. They looked expensive and modern. They had pink frames. 

The sunglasses lay, quite incongruously, in a flower bed. The frames, which if you hurried by you might have interpreted as a pretty pastel bloom in the greenery, caught my eye. 

The sunglasses must have tumbled from a pocket or slipped off the top of someone’s head. I took them to the front counter. Someone maybe missed them before they left and thought to go to Lost and Found.

Both of us noticed that many beds have been cleared for the season. Fall has a tidying-up look that speaks of endings and change.

There are flowers still in bloom. The leggy dahlias are the drawing card on the trail that leads up and past the peony row. I check on the peonies, loyal to the magnificence they bring to their walkway in early June.   

I notice the berries on  the Arboretum shrubs and trees. Berries are among the details I’ve begun to note as more time is spent at the Arboretum. 

It's become a hobby with me to observe the small things. Much of beauty is in the minor notes.

Wildlife is noticing the berries too. They’ll come to feast on them. It assures a continual buffet for the season ahead.  

Ro Giencke – October 17, 2014


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