By Holly Einess
A lone turkey forages in the leaf litter in the parking area on this chilly morning, bronze-green feathers iridescent in the dappled sunlight. A robin calls from high in a tree. An eastern phoebe poses for a time on the back of a bench in the Sensory Garden, then takes flight.
The path to the Wildflower Garden is a-bloom with Canada anemone, wild geranium, Virginia waterleaf, and yellow lady’s slipper. This yellow cousin of our state flower (like all lady’s slippers, members of the orchid family) comes in two varieties—greater and small—and blooms in May, before the showy lady’s slipper shows up in June with its pink-and-white blossoms.
In the Wildflower Garden, twinleaf is fruiting, as are the mayapples. Wild blue phlox is abundant, its lavender blossoms a lovely contrast against all the green. Trillium blooms are definitely on their way out, with only a few plants hanging on to droopy, spent petals. The largest jack-in-the-pulpit I’ve ever seen stands tall beside its identifying sign. (Fun fact: jack-in-the-pulpit plants are either male or female, but they can change gender from year to year, apparently in response to successful or failed reproduction the prior year.)
The Iris Garden is in full bloom, and multiple admirers ooh and ahh over the colorful abundance. Water lilies are blooming on the pond. The goose family that occupied the little island just a few weeks ago has moved elsewhere. Three Canada geese, honking noisily, fly overhead.
Now that trees are fully leafed out and birds are harder to spot, it’s once again the season of birding by ear. I hear (but don’t see) eastern wood pee-wees (“pee-weee”), red-eyed vireos (short, robin-like phrases), common yellow-throats (“witchity witchity”), and a red-bellied woodpecker (a loud, repeated “churr”). A song sparrow sings three notes followed by a varied trill, over and over, from atop a dead tree (no leaves! therefore easy to see).
In the woods by Green Heron pond, columbine is in bloom. These native plants are versatile, able to grow in both shade and sun. The little nodules at the ends of the flowers’ trailing red spurs contain nectar, sought out by pollinators and children alike! (As a child, my friends and I would pluck columbine blossoms and chew on the tips, delighting in the small hit of sweetness they provided.)
In the little pond below the Snyder Building a painted turtle, shell covered in duckweed, suns itself on a log. A ruby-throated hummingbird visits the yellow blossoms of an iris. Multiple goose families mill about on the green lawn, the fast-growing goslings looking relaxed as the adults warn away with hisses any humans who get too close.
Every time I visit the Arb I encounter some new delight, even as I remember the now-altered highlights of my prior visit. I marvel at how quickly things change, as life makes the most of this season of warmth and growth.
Visiting the Arboretum: All members and visitors need to make a reservation in advance of their visit to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. We hope to see you soon!