I was up before dawn to catch the ferry for an early-morning teenager-delivery errand. There’s always a pang after dropping a kidlet off at school, or in this case, his Sea Cadets duty. That moment of ungroundedness wondering what to do next, a fleeting moment of being without direction or a reason to be. A childless mother.
I shook off my melancholy and continued East to the Bellevue Botanic Garden, arriving as the rain began to break up and the sun push its way above the horizon. Keeping my camera dry was a challenge, so I had to think about each composition before lifting the camera to my eye. It’s a good lesson in mindfulness that we tend to forget in this digital age where pixels are cheaper than film, and photos can be viewed in the field without waiting for processing at the lab.
Freshly out of the car, I admired the deep purple Callicarpa, dripping with raindrops as big as the berries, the tight-knit groundcovers shedding rain, the ivy crawling up a grey wall. I took the outside path to enter the garden and found myself in the rock-garden, grey and glum in the early morning light.
Ahead of me, a grey rock stood out, nearly glowing, surrounded by dancing grasses, and I recognized an old friend, the buff-colored Bouteloua gracilis. Newly married many years ago, I left the ever-damp of the Pacific Northwest and embraced the drought-tolerant plants of the high steppe in Denver CO. It was here and from garden writing by Panayoti Kelaidis and Lauren Springer, that I learned the value of sculptural grasses and turned today to greet one of my favorites.
Like tears on eyelashes, raindrops clung to the wispy seed-heads of the tawny, tufted grass. This clump-forming grass is nondescript in spring, but forms the most beautiful, dancing blooms in summer, lasting well into fall, before finally blinking away. Native to prairies and plains, it’s an essential element of the dry short-grass prairies you can also see at Chatfield. I’ve only found one cultivar of this plant, ‘Blonde Ambition’, but the related Bouteloua dactyloides, buffalo grass, is a good substitute for a summer-dry turf grass.
I am between gardens right now, but know I need one with a sunny exposure and free-draining soil, so I can grow my old friends again.
[Note: This post was written with the encouragement of fellow Garden Writers – nothing like being accountable to others!]