By Greg Lecker
Driving to the Sensory Garden parking lot, I see that ginkgo trees are stubbornly holding onto their clear yellow autumn leaves. Spectacular! The woodland is largely bare, however; and it allows clear understanding of the ravine around which the Meadowlark Trail winds. This ravine separates the prairie and woodland wildflower garden from the rolling hills of the three collections that border the sculpture garden at the High Point.
Shadows cast by the low morning sun crawl over the undulating landforms of the ravine. The outstretched fingers of the ravine carve into the earth and collect rain and spring water into the small brook that flows through the woodland wildflower garden on its way via the Iris Garden wetland into Green Heron Pond.
Walking back through the woodland, I pass one of the pools along the brook. Floating oak leaves float on reflections of barren woodland boughs. A bright sky shines between the woodland trunks.
Nothing is blooming in the woodland wildflower garden; so I continue onward through the shade tree collection. There, I’m struck by the colorful yellow ginkgo but also by the magnolias – among the first trees to bloom in the spring; and now, among the last trees to relinquish leaves.
Within the Bennett Johnson Prairie and the Capen Display Garden, scattered yellow flowers brighten the tawny landscape. These Hairy Golden Asters (Heterotheca villosa) bear both flower and seed heads – the latter are fuzzy spheres with seeds hidden within.
Prairie Dock remains towering amidst prairie grasses. Its colors are muted to dried brown; but its texture continues to delight. From a mass of rippled leaves, dry flower stems stretch skyward to end in dots of seed heads.
Looping back through the Meadowlark Trail I’m warmed by the struck by the orange, scarlet, maroon, and crimson,hues of a stand of Allegheny Blackberry. Its trail-side foliage is a mass of glowing embers – a lingering reminder of the brilliant growing season that is slowly cooling.
Greg Lecker is a Minnesota Master Naturalist Volunteer.