ORDER AND CHAOS

Gardeners may create order briefly out of chaos, but nature always gets the last word, and what it says is usually untidy by human standards. But I find all states of nature beautiful, and because I want to delight in my garden, not rule it, I just accept my yen to tame the chaos on one day and let the Japanese beetles run riot on the next.       Diane Ackerman

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An early Spring spell of very warm weather followed by weeks of cool, overcast skies and misty rains has encouraged riotous growth here. I’ve never seen so many wildflowers, and gardens brim over with joyful color.

The vine-covered old willow above graces a public park nearby that is really more nature reserve than park. Bald eagles, herons, hummingbirds, rabbits, turtles and many others find homes within its bounds. This year’s weather resulted in extra lush growth of ferns, vines, and all manner of greenery.

For years volunteers have been at work slowly eradicating the non-natives here, bringing the land closer to what it might have been before white people imposed their own chaos. I wonder if they’re working overtime?

Taming the overgrowth is best left for the iron-willed and long-suffering among us. I used to spend hours taming my garden – on warm summer evenings I would plop down and painstakingly pull bits of grass out of a huge moss garden I had. It was great after-work therapy. I’d be out there pulling weeds now if I had a garden, but these days I’m limited to a little deck. That does allow a certain freedom to marvel and gawk in wonder at this lush, bountiful season.

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Drive back up in the Cascades and it’s the same thing – layer upon layer of green among the old forest giants.

Spring was good to the flower growers out in the valley, too. These photos were taken during our long string of overcast days in May. Rows and rows of delphiniums, ready for the picking, stretch comfortably back towards misty hills.

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When you stop and look closely, there is pleasing structure amidst the growing chaos.

The Large-leaved lupine (Lupinus polyphyllus), is a Pacific northwest native. Lupines are very familiar to gardeners – this species, taken to England almost two hundred years ago, formed the foundation of the hybrid garden lupines you see today, in multiple shades of purples, blues and pinks.

What happens when a flower becomes popular with gardeners and is grown all over the world? It escapes. Now this lupine is considered invasive in countries as far apart as New Zealand and Finland. But not here.

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Here’s another northwest native (Tolmiea menziesii, or Piggyback plant) sometimes sold as a house plant for its foliage. The tiny flowers warrant bending down for a close look:

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Another bonus of prime growing conditions is watching all the wildlife, which can also be rewarding close up. A Goldenrod Crab spider is stashing the catch of the day in the flower cluster of an Oceanspray (Holodiscus discolor) shrub, another native plant sold in nurseries.

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A Tiger Swallowtail works the mud for minerals at a Seattle wetland. The need must have been keen because it let me inch the camera quite close. I was happy I could hold the camera with one hand with the LCD screen tilted up so I could see what I was doing (sort of). Not perfect, but getting down at the butterfly’s level provides a feeling of immediacy that’s lacking in shots from above.

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Below, a lovely Spring azure – those are the sweet little blue butterflies that flit among the grasses at your feet, whether you live in the east or west (or Britain and elsewhere, I believe).

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In a public garden a sea of irises floats across a low-lying wetland.

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Not only are there abundant subjects to choose from these days, but there are many choices that can be made for processing.  Color, sepia, black and white? Vintage maybe?

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Back to the first photo – the overgrown willow at the park. I like it in color, I like in black and white.

Abundance. Order. Chaos. I’ll take them all.

 

 


32 comments

    • That spider was strange looking – when I got home I found it was easy to identify. I’m glad you liked the B&W daisies – that one gets kind of buried amidst the others, and I thought it came out pretty well.

    • It’s such a world apart from the Pride Parade! But either place, yes, there’s a lot going on, and it’s all colorful. Can’t wait to see what you find on the Fourth – I can promise that on my end, I probably won’t go looking for red, white and blue flowers… 😉

  1. From the quote, delighting in a garden rather than trying to rule it – absolutely right! Beautiful pictures, Lynn – and I see you’re using your tilting screen. Love the top image, wow what lush abundance! And the blue butterfly. And also those 4 monos / changed colour shots at the end – the overgrown willow in particular. Adrian

  2. Beautiful pictures. It would be very difficult to choose which out of the above is the best. Loved the goldenrod crab spider and butterfly. Thanks for sharing the pictures.

  3. This post brought calm and beauty into an anxious day, thankyou! That field of delphiniums, so beautiful..love the quote too – gardening really does help you see that nature finds a way, no matter how we try to control it!

    • Your work can bring beauty and calm into my anxious days, don’t you know?? I have to go back to those field and see what’s up now. It’s really cool to see these small, rather loosely kept fields of flowers that are sent off to Pike’s Market for the bouquets everyone loves. The rows of delphs were full of weeds, but there was a real balance.

    • 🙂 Probably not! There are lots of different lupines species, but I think the pretty ones you see are invasive. I was awestruck when I saw a stand of pure yellow ones on an island cliff in this area – then I learned they were introduced from California.
      Check this out – from Wiki – “In New Zealand, where it is known as the Russell lupin, Lupinus polyphyllus is classed as an invasive species[7][8] and covers large areas next to roadsides, pastures and riverbeds, especially in the Canterbury region. It is documented as being first naturalised in 1958 and it has been suggested that tour bus drivers deliberately spread seeds of the plant to promote colourful roadside vegetation in areas which some tourists may consider to be rather drab. The plant threatens indigenous species especially when it invades the braided river beds in the South Island.[8]”
      And check this out — http://www.dangerous-business.com/2014/12/lupin-spotting-new-zealand/
      I bet your roadsides are gorgeous though!

  4. Great post! It is as if I was invited to join for a long walk, not rushing and with regular stops to really observe. Beautiful images, as always. And yes, I remember the first time I had a garden of my own, a tiny one. It was a huge surprise to me that there is so much taming involved (if you want it to look as in the garden books, that is).

  5. A lovely start to my Tuesday morning Lynn. A real pleasure to read and a feast for the eyes this really is a lovely post. I’m a little sceptical about this obsession with native plants only. My own view is that if seeds are dispersed by nature and nature is happy to let those seeds and plants thrive, there’s not a problem. There are problems when things like Japanese knotweed obliterate natives of course so I’m not entirely unsympathetic to some control. Lupins are considered invasive in Iceland where vast swathes of black volcanic lava and rock are covered in purple in the spring. Despite being loathed by some because they are not native, they are doing a brilliant job of helping to create the soil that will eventually support all kinds of other plants and they really are very beautiful en mass.

  6. I’m just catching up on some of your past posts, Lynn, and what a gorgeous one this is. The first photo, of the dreamy green willow and ferns, looks like the beginning of a fairy tale story, the marker for the edge of magic ground. And the lupines and delphiniums in the mist – breathtaking! I love the Ackerman quote; it is a tension that seems to exist between gardeners and Mother Nature. My most important question is “how far to the edge of chaos can I let the garden go while still keeping it looking like a garden?” I also often think of Mirabel Osler’s book “A Gentle Plea for Chaos” – perhaps you have read it? She wrestles with the same dilemma for an entire book.

    Thank you for sharing such visual and philosophical beauty; it is always such a pleasure to stop by.

    • Thank you, Lynn, for such a thoughtful comment. I loved that first photo, too, but your notion of a marker for the edge of magic ground is rich and evocative – love it. Edges in themselves are interesting, but that’s another subject…
      I’m not familiar with the book and I’ll take a look –
      As for the order/chaos dialectic in the garden, I guess we both come down somewhere between French chateaus and unruly, weed-filled messes!

  7. So many wonderful photos here, Lynn. I love your misty delphiniums and the close up of the lupine and the delicate piggyback plant. The Goldenrod crab spider on the Ocean Spray is a great capture. I also love the Spring azure butterfly – what a pretty blue – and that whimsical vintage photo. 🙂


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