By Greg Lecker
Remarkable changes have taken place since my last visit. Abundant spring and early summer rains have brought so much growth to a woodland that had previously showed just hints of green.
Marking the entry to the Grace Dayton Wildflower Garden, exuberantly tall and flowering wildflowers accent the path edge. With shiny waxy balloons, yellow lady’s slipper clumps spill over the border.
To quote Robert Frost, “the woods are lovely, dark, and deep”. Though the morning is bright, it is shadowy here is the mixed woodland. Spring ephemerals have come and gone. One of the last remaining flowers from spring, wild geranium blooms here and there. Tall alumroot towers over the flowerless foliage of multiple ground covers.
A small movement below catches my attention. A young American toad crosses the path and hides – very still – under foliage.
Everywhere this past week, flying seed fuzz enveloped me. A spindly columbine flower stem has caught spun cotton.
On the roadside edge of the Bennett Johnson Prairie, two standout flowers are false white indigo and spiderwort.
In and around the Capen prairie display garden, there is no evidence of the controlled burn of late April. The flush of green growth has completely covered the then black and nearly smoldering earth. Appropriately, a large clump of prairie smoke flowers is transitioning from flower heads to their signature seed heads.
In hues slightly more pinkish-purple, tall spikes of large flowered beardtongue (penstemon) tower over little prickly pear.
As I leave the prairie, two young gardeners arrive with surprisingly quiet leaf blowers. With their back pack mounted equipment, they turn towards the Garden for Wildlife, clearing the path as they go.
Just at the edge of the woodland wildflower garden, bright patches of white draw my attention to high bush cranberry. Dozens of umbels of sterile and fertile white flowers form an arbor through which I can barely make out the iris garden in the distance.
Walking back to my car, I see that hundreds of annual bedding plants have replaced the tulips that have bloomed. One stage of life has passed and another one begins.
Greg Lecker is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.