The See-Through Season

By Greg Lecker

 Sheltered within the protection of my Subaru, I watch the orange orb sparkle behind the trees that shield the wetland from the surrounding encroachment of homes.  Slowly, but certainly perceptibly, the sun rises.  The star nears the top of the tree canopy, and the fluffy goldenrod seed heads glow in the backlit glow. 

Frozen Wetland Sunrise
Frozen Wetland Sunrise

Reflected star-like points of light whirl around the grand timber-framed space.  The result of the low angle early morning sun and hanging mirrors, this short-lived phenomenon is visible at 8:45 am, but not an hour later.  This is one of the many prizes a visitor earns for an early morning winter visit to the Oswald Visitor Center.

Don’t let cold, shorter days, snow and lack of outdoor flowers discourage you from visiting the Arboretum during the winter months!  Quiet, solitude, and a different world await you!  Exercise, a deeper appreciation of evergreens, clear blue skies, and cozy lodge-like facilities are open to the visitor.  Add an ever-changing art program – what more could one want?  The Restaurant Gallery’s botanical illustration show closes January 5, 2014.  Reedy Gallery’s “Colors of the Season” show runs through January 15, 2014.  Nature Prints are displayed at the horticultural library through March 31, 2014. 

Under construction during my last visit, the deer fence now encircles the inner gardens nearest the Snyder and Oswald Buildings.  Wind-swept into a thicket of woody stems and branches, leaves appear to magically transform into the house sparrows upwelling within a shrub hedge.

Ice Ballet Japanese Sedge
Ice Ballet Japanese Sedge

Ice crystals formed during last night’s near-zero degree temperatures decorate the appropriately named Ice Ballet Japanese Sedge.  Nearby, a more intricate frost highlights Moonshine Yarrow.

Frosted Yarrow
Frosted Yarrow

Rocks, structures, and landscape forms offer winter interest that extends beyond he ephemeral flowers and leaves.

Scotch Pine & Lantern
Scotch Pine & Lantern

Do dress warmly if you are venturing around Three-Mile Drive, which is now closed to private vehicles.  The wide-open spaces of the outer grounds are often whipped by winds.  Frequent visitors know the secret short cut paths that can dramatically shorten one’s walk.  Ask at the Oswald Visitor Center or consult the Arboretum maps for more information.

Greg Lecker is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.



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