There is something nearly Supernatural about this splendid forest, located about 25 miles outside of Louisville, Kentucky, bearing south on I-65. Bernheim Forest can give you its own set of facts and figures and detail its own history from its website right here: Bernheim(in its own words). But I can tell you from first hand experience, what they have done in terms of preservation as well as in experimentation is truly remarkable.
The structure below is their “Canopy Walk” – a bridge to nowhere – which exists to allow a person to admire a truly “bird’s eye view” from high among the tops of the local trees in the middle of the forest. The picture below that one is the view in its current early, raw Springtime form. One can readily see that this is a country ripe with rainfall and plump fat trees and plants, all set into sustaining soils – a richness which has that rare and intriguing quality of just seeming incredibly fortunate and uncommonly beautiful as a result. This is what “Pampered” means in Nature!: 😉
(left click any image to enlarge, click again for detail)
Kentucky’s forests, especially in this central state view, are a typical riot of deciduous hardwoods, comprising endless species from native Kentucky Coffee Trees (yes, lol) to the Hickory Trees shown here – and onward, to Maples, Oaks, ‘Gums’ of all sorts, Elms and then – wow! – to the SpringTime wonders of the local world – Dogwood Trees and the Native Red Buds. All are just getting underway in the deepst sections of the forest and Bernheim provides drives and alleyways which one can explore either on foot via the well-kept and fabulous trails or even by just plain old car. Here are a couple of “road views” my Mom and I took while coursing through there yesterday:
There is a somehow “innocent” appeal in the picture below. The simplicity and the big fat lush background of this volunteer Dogwood tree, all scraggly but proud, shows Nature’s best qualities. Survival and beauty coexist in a riot of simple floral beauty, spackling the environment with simplicity but remarkable – nearly Japanese Garden/Zen-like – gorgeousness of form and function.
Moving along from literary license, we encounter other wonders in this Natural Paradise. Isn’t this pretty?:
And this? Disgusting, isn’t it? We had a laugh as I named some of these groupings and trees. I called this one, for example “Hot Shot”. He’s totally in his element, man.
But of even greater impact to many, and I have to include myself to a degree, is the work Bernheim has done in cultivating a captivating environment not just for the Natural side of things – but as a “Garden”. They have featured Kentucky’s greatest products – (no, NOT Bourbon! That’s later.) – these “great” items being natural Bluegrass and these wonderful trees and plants, together in ways which clear the mind and soul with devastating vistas of glorious color and, really, totally extravagant beauty:
And in this regard they feature the ‘Margins’ of natural forest and cultivation.
This beautiful grove at the back end of Bernheim’s cultivated park area is exceptionally special to me. It is the location where we spread my Father’s ashes following his passing in 1983, spread far to the left of the statue and among his favorite spots on Earth. He has a headstone of course, at my Mom’s family plot in Illinois, representing his military service and occupying the space among so many of his friends from those days. They are no doubt delighted by yet more of his fun-loving foolishness and charm. But it is here in Bernheim where I find him in my heart. Yeah, Bernheim is special to me for this reason. He was just a terrific guy and I miss him. Pardon the interruption. But you have to admit it’s a cool spot, eh?
This meandering road leads up to the Statue Garden above. The placidity and lushness of all these forms and colors provide the utter uniqueness of this wonderful place, designed by this marvelous combination of Nature and rigorous planning. The split rail fences are of the type which were commonest for farms and properties back when Kentucky was settled. Those modern lines never seem to get old – in spite of their simplicity. Nice Sycamore to the left, as well.
I’m closing it down for now – I have 100 or so pictures and have really just begun. Tomorrow – or next post – I will deal with a most revelatory discovery – an absolutely unique grove of Magnolia Soulangiana cultivars and hybrids – the range of blossoms was stunning – with colors from brilliant purple and white to yellow and even to – I kid you not – green blooms. Here’s one now.