By Greg Lecker
Before setting out on the trails, I stop inside the visitor center to investigate the art exhibits. First, the Arboretum Photographers Society presents the best images of the seasons (Restaurant Gallery through April 5) – putting my best efforts to shame. Next, the Society of Minnesota Sculptors show includes many nature themed pieces (Oswald Great Hall through April 12). Finally, the Reedy Gallery showcases luminous botanical art from around the world (through May 17). An illustration of the dried leaves and flowers of a white bird of paradise reminds one that there is interest beyond green plant forms alone.
Barely a week separates my recent entries; and many changes are taking place.Dark watery scallops nibble at the edges of lake ice, which itself is changing from a white cameo to pale jade and darker emerald and sapphire. With the color change, greater light (and heat) absorption speeds the melting process. Outside the Arboretum, I’ve been hearing calls of male red-winged blackbirds that have returned to stake their territorial claims at lake edges.
Next to the sunny foundation of the Snyder Building, tulip and daffodil foliage have returned as well. Elsewhere in the perennial gardens, bearded iris pokes its spears through warming earth. Several holes have been dug within the hyacinth bed; and one bulb lies partially pealed on the patio. Is this evidence of spring fever on the part of an impatient squirrel? The broad leaf forms of coral bells and Lenten rose attract with their purple and gray-green leaves, respectively. Forsythia and lilac buds are swelling.
Turkeys circle the fenced enclosure outside the former tea room. Chickadees mob the feeders. Just below the patio, I admire the curlicues of unknown leaves.
A pair of Canada Geese rest next to the Sensory Garden parking lot. Have I really never noticed that the eyelid is white? I learn that this coloration is purposeful – a disguise of the eyelid to possibly act as a defense against predators.
In Grace Dayton Wildflower Garden, the path edges are cleared – by the hands of wind or gardeners, I don’t know. Replacing leaf litter and forest duff, there is the spreading of basal leaves of foam flower and prairie smoke. There are no flowers besides the subtle immature blooms of witch hazel. But there is much appeal in the spiral form of large unknown leaves that dangle from their plant stem.
The formerly erect spires of goat’s beard flowers now dangle not unpleasantly from the plant’s drooping flower stalk.
Yes, there is much to appreciate before the spring show arrives over the next few weeks.
Greg Lecker is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.