Bernheim Forest – Spring 2011

We made it!

The busted hose notwithstanding – now all fixed and working properly –  I made the journey with My Own Mom out to her favorite place on Earth, Bernheim Woods, 15 miles South of Louisville, on a gorgeous, slightly hazy but satisfyingly warm day. We kept the crimes to a minimum on our way out.

(click on images to enlarge them)

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The unusual Spring we’re experiencing – complete with these flirtations with warmth and then ice cold periods following – have acted to preserve a few blooms and fade others. Of all blooms I enjoyed most, the Chinese Pears had a wonderful show this Spring – not buckled by the heat which often sends the blooms cascading down in sheets, but, rather, keeping them fresh for just a bit longer.

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It did put the Dogwoods off a week or so, although they are now pretty much at their height again, providing what I see as a unique Kentucky feast for the eyes. The native Dogwood and Redbud blooms sprinkle local forests like pixie dust, highlighting the fresh lime-green leaves of the Oaks and Walnuts, the Hickories and Maples and making a tableau which is somewhere at an “Urbanite’s Lunatic Fringe of Freshness”, if such a thing could be said. It’s a true Spring scene.

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Spackled throughout the forests here, like the best tourist brochure pictures, native Spring-blooming trees provide a warm and pretty picture which every native Kentuckian misses when they get transplanted – to a man. The fragrance and visual delight of Spring Kentucky forests is special, making Spring an entire phenomenon all of its own and comprising 0ne of the purest and most compelling reasons for loving this lush and gorgeous geography.

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The completeness of Spring seems to round itself off with the dogwoods while less native plants still give out hefty efforts at being as beautiful as genetics can make possible, such as this nice Soulangiana Magnolia.

Picture 202But, still and all, Bernheim shines yet again with absolutely pristine local character, some by design, other by the strict cooperation with Nature.

Picture 331Here we have the somewhat rare Vasey’s Trillium, a native with an unusual brown flower and the tiniest of flowering periods. We felt extremely fortunate to be able to catch this one at its prettiest phase. While other trees and shrubs had bloomed already and dropped, these little gems seemed to have waited for us as we tromped over the where we had observed them a year ago. “Voila!” – there they were!

Picture 336I attached a completely anthropomorphic activity to the entire scene in the picture above:  a classic look at a pretty ballet soloist, using her grace and natural ability to achieve an act of rare beauty. I was struck by this scene’s simplicity and its restful but sensual color and form.

I was getting into it.  😉

Picture 355Bernheim, like my other favorite parks, Hidden Hill Nursery (Bob Hill) and Yew Dell Gardens, features human creations other than the landscaped grounds.  Nothing focuses the mind like a riveting sculpture, perfectly situated in its own grove.

And then, of course, I also like the Supernatural part of the park – among others, the Magnolia’s. I realize there has been some die-off recently from the severity of Winter Storms in recent years, but the remaining supple suckers still put on an impressive show. Magnolias are ridiculously photogenic, for one thing.

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I have a real thing for the yellow-blooming Magnolias. I planted two large trees here in Louisville last Fall and they should be happening now. I just think they may be the only plant I ever saw that looks “lit up” at daytime.

Anyway, the plant is new to me and it’s a current rave. It may be old hat to a lot of people, but for someone still somewhat new here, it’s another dimension.

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Last picture of the Yellow Magnolia’s. Promise!

Picture 342The yet more photogenic Magnolia’s make their bold little splash below:

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Enlarged is how this picture needs to be seen. It’s pretty busy!

Picture 345Eventually, we went and walked along a small creek that courses through the grounds. This one is where Mother had spotted Siberian Iris plants hard by the banks of the creek bed in year’s past. Sure enough, they were busting out.

Picture 350And the creek is more “Kentucky” than Kentucky is.

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Yes, that is My Own Mom, looking fresh after a small crime spree we went on. (It involved a bazooka and an Eggplant….long story. 😉  oh, and an Anteater.

And here’s that creek:

Picture 349Louisville has some of the greatest creeks. All that limestone and the tough cuts made by water over incredible lengths of time. As a child here, I vividly recall hunting for arrowheads and Civil War relics. Fossils were very much in the mix as well. Many was the time I traveled with a pocket full of rocks which – come to think of it – says more than I care to say about how I ended up.

Looking down the other way –

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On the way home, that Anteater got loose in the bank we went to and made a real mess. We’ve used that scam quite a few times and it has paid off handsomely.

We’ll get over to Audubon Park in the next couple of days. It’s always dogwood crazy.


A Busted Hose And Springtime In Louisville

I was squiring my very own Mother out to one of our favorite destinations – Bernheim Forest – for this year’s Spring Orgy Of  Bloomage when we were rudely sabotaged by a radiator hose which sent the heat levels in the car to Code Red conditions. It was panic time until the problem was analyzed and I realized that the hose was an easy fix – but it had to occur at home, at best. At the time of this writing, I am looking out onto the vehicle, sending some mental daggers and hoping that Santa will bring the correctly-sized hose soon. 😉

I’ll fix it when I finish this. Unless I take a nap. Mother is all social with her buddies at the moment, and plans on more of the same tomorrow, so the urgency is less, although the discomfort is unchanged.

At any rate, what we saw last year, in scenes such as this one below, will have to wait a couple of days:

(click any image to enlarge, some twice)


Below are two of my all-time favorite pictures of Bernheim, to this day – today just gives me an excuse to show it again:

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Love this one:

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Anyway, our car troubles notwithstanding, it’s not as if I did not rally with many fine – more local – experiences, camera in hand. There is nothing not to like about Spring Time. I will argue in favor of this point for pretty much ever. So here’s some local pictorial news, around the “hood”.

This gorgeous combination of Flowering Quince blends exceptionally well with the Flowering Plums on either side. I love this design by a local family. As it develops, it will provide absolutely momentous Springs for them and their neighborhood. “Sumptuous”comes to mind as a description.

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Another well-dressed Springtime subject is yet another “bias” completely on my bent mentality. I have always liked trees which were hybridized to grow as a “Columnar” type. These Columnar Chinese Pears are a special treat especially in my experience inasmuch as I have established these and Columnar Cherries alongside many long driveways. Their horizontal nature and the lushness of their blooms offer a possibility in design few other plants can offer.

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In Louisville, many of the gorgeous Columnar Pears are used in boulevard placements. That’s pretty peachy:

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The truth is, even the animals are thrilled – check out the teeth on this smile……….

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Sure – I hang out where kids do. I like excitement – I’m not dead, ya know.  😉

Anyway, it’s still just a teensy bit early. This Dogwood has a week, anyway, until he pops out in full living glory.

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Heck, even over by Freddy’s house, even he has cherries popping out and T Bird’s growing. And he hates gardens!

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My ‘Hood And Mucho Marvelous Magnolia Mania

This sudden outpouring of uncharacteristic hot weather locally has urged local Spring blossoms to pretty much a “kick butt and take names” modality. While it makes for an unbelievably luscious floral environment, the trees and early-blooming shrubs will close out a bit quicker than is normal. Alas, that’s also fine because the trade-off is this smorgasbord of rioting color and texture which is undoubtedly rare enough to warrant recording.

Here’s a look at stuff around the suburban blocks and neighborhood where I do most of my daily walking:

(click any image to enlarge)

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It’s cool the Dogwoods and Redbuds come at the same time as all these Chinese Pears. It mixes texture and colors into these deep dimensions and palettes suitable for painting, like some Impressionist Holiday.

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I like that these are normal neighborhood views. The issues of landscape architecture become so much more obvious this way. I finished a great book, recently: “Devil in the White City”, by Eric Larson, a really good writer and a riveting and special book, where Frederick Olmstead was featured, speaking of landscaping at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1892. He was in his 70’s at the time and in poor health, but he did the yeoman’s share of the planning and even the overseeing of this mammoth project. To make a long story short, Olmstead was in the midst of his adamant lifetime declaration that Landscape Architecture be considered on of the classical great “Arts”. His advocacy for the field made many believers, of which I am also one, myself. I have often called landscaping the “Ultimate Cosmetic” – painting structure, form and color into the out of doors in unique and absolutely uplifting ways. It gives humans the right to enjoy Nature, but more so, it gives them the experience, at 360 degrees, of Nature, arranged in human ways to highlight beauty – simply put. This unassuming neighborhood, hard by Middletown in Louisville, fulfills every single possible aspect of that goal.

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I really adore this neighborhood. The curving streets, the lack of curbing and sidewalks present this lush green basis from which the rest stems. The streets are nice and wide in this very middle class ‘hood and kids and Moms and Dads are always out at the park or riding bikes, destined to enjoy their days. I suppose it is easy to take for granted, living among it all. Yet, it’s also why guys like me are allowed to remind us that it is special. So, what the heck – it’s a living!

The park always looms central to this neighborhood, here in Douglas Hills. It has a public swimming pool, some tennis courts (no softball fields!! Morans!), and acres of expansive and succulent lawn space – just grass, as much as you want. It is also studded with these gorgeous Redbuds, set between the Chinese Pears, which add color and fun, accompanying a cool walking path.

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Once again, the view down a side street, with its colorful street scene boulevard, the Korean Viburnums (Tinus), upright Columnar Chinese Pears, Redbud, Dogwood and the rest. It’s honestly hard to get enough of this view for me. I can’t imagine a more perfect timing for capturing these blooms although I confess I am looking forward to what it has for me today.

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But let’s leave Louisville. Let’s re-check things over at Bernheim Woods, hard by the Jim Beam Distillery. 😉

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Mother and I passed up the chance to go “tasting” – which was unfortunate. The large warehouses, for those new to Bourbon, hold just thousands of large barrels of aging whiskey. If you drank everything they had inside of just one of those warehouses, you would be drunk for probably 1,000 years. Actually, probably more. Maybe even a billion years. Think about it – and you’d be preserved too! You could be like one of those dead Zen guys, but much more famous. 🙂  An icon!

Anyway, this very famous distillery is pretty much across the road from Bernheim Forest. Needless to say, there is a small clear creek running through both places which is where they get all that great water what changes into something more. Well, it does the same at Bernheim, just better. It changes into life-sustaining gorgeousness.

We’re now visiting the “cultivated” parts of Bernheim – dare I even say much of it is the “Experimental” or at least the “Unique” parts of Bernheim. In all its history, managed by a different set of folks at many turns, there has almost always been the delight of offering species for observation over the luxury of Time itself. Patience paid off in many ways, in spite of recent spates of such tough natural events as Ice Storms which cut a nasty swath through the tops of the forest, laden with a literal 3 inch thick layer of ‘ice rain’ for sub-freezing weeks. The odd tornado has coursed through as well as have your standard average wind storms. Inasmuch as so much of the ‘experimental’ areas are out in the open and consist of most-fragile plantings such as azaleas and rhododendrons, much has also been lost, sad to say.

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The picture above has all the promise of future glory as this nice Spirea gets going, I’m guessing in about it’s 3rd year. I just liked the tree behind it so much, I was pleased to be able to include this little guy in the picture.

But now we move to the Magnolias. All of these featured here are Magnolia “Soulangiana” hybrids. Frankly, I have never personally seen such a wild mixture all together in one place – anytime, anywhere. It was stunning running across these as Mother and I picked our way through this virtual small forest and every single turn was yet another revelation to me – “The Virgin of Magnoliana.”

We plunge inside, loins girded, as it were, smiles as wide as the one we see here on an experienced, local  “Magnolia-ette” nymph.

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You could say there were “quite a few blooms!”

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The entry to the grove is this sprawling cacophony of Magnolia Mayhem, probably from the development of plants 50 years in the making. The smells………..Oh My! These dudes smell – a lot! It’s like a Lilac Nasal Massage, only times 20. 😉

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Arranged most interestingly, as we crept through, there were camera-rich opportunities beyond the norm. Each Soulangiana had a certain definite uniqeness, all its own. Some were timed differently as well, opening just slightly earlier or later than the others and each nearly “pure” in its own right, rife with beauty and a luxurious flower, larger than a baseball.

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Typical of me, I was distracted  (Look! A butterfly!!)  by a grove of evergreen shrubbery down the hill, the backdrop to the Magnolia Mayhem. I really liked this look.

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But the Magnolia Love was just beginning – these plants are all about the bloom. Check out this “rather Purple” item:

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Around the corner we were fortunate enough to run into some of the rarest colored blooms in Nature – here’s a practically brown bloom, I kid you not: (enlarge it)

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From a couple of angles. Can you tell this one fascinated me?:

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Well, this was moving us now towards the Yellow species – another stark, revelatory moment for this Magnolia tyro:

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And they were not small, either!

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This brownie looks almost edible!

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Once more, looking back:

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Of course, there’s a “down side” to all this. From here on out, when I see a plant like the one below, from here on out I’ll just go:

“Oh, hey, another small magnolia soulangiana. Listen, I’ve been to the Magnolia Mountain, Bubba. That one is cute, but it ain’t world class. Hahahaha!”…………. “Nice try!!”

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These want to be enlarged – just some random, lacy shots of bloomin’ Magnolias. Don’t get excited: 😉

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Almost forgot! (Hey, look! A Balloon!!”)

We ran across a Vasey’s Trillium in the roads in the park. Traveling with Mom, she has all these spots covered where she and her walking Bernheim buddy, Sharon, used to walk and check out every inch of territory with a fine-toothed mental comb – or brush. These Vasey’s guys are ‘no bigger than a minute’ – about 4 inches from leaf-end to leaf-end, but they have this gorgeous little effect and they are somewhat rare up this far North.

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All this action is enough to make a grown Redbud Weep!

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