Summer afternoons can evoke a certain dreamy nostalgia.

I was feeling it recently, and remembering a public garden I used to haunt. Snug Harbor Botanical Garden, in the New York City borough of Staten Island, is a somewhat forgotten place, being overshadowed by major institutions like the Brooklyn Botanical Garden and the New York Botanical Garden.

It’s a gem though.

Never crowded, it sits on the grounds of an old sailor’s home and contains a wide variety of gardens – a rose garden, perennial borders, fish ponds with tropical plants set around them in the summer, a greenhouse and wonderful old trees, an herb garden, a white garden enclosed by old trellis, a pleached hornbeam allee…and that’s not to mention the impressive Chinese Scholar’s Garden and an Italianate garden.

Here is a selection of images from a landscape I came to love, taken from 2008- 2011.

I’ll save the Chinese Scholar’s Garden, Italianate Gardens and glass house for another time…



So many photographs. And there are many more. I spent many hours with my camera at Snug Harbor.

For those who like naming things, here are some names:

1) A clematis in the White Garden

2) Can’t remember the name of this pretty white flower

3) Rose

4) One of the old homes on the grounds, now sometimes used for photo shoots

5) Hosta, Hakone grass and other foliage plants make one of many wonderful compositions in the perennial garden

6) Cotinus, or Smoke tree, with leaf shadows in late afternoon sunlight

7) Crinum asiaticum, a tropical spider lily grown each year and set in containers outside the greenhouse

8) Walkway after heavy rain, planted with annuals and tropicals

9) Praying mantis with Joe

10) Praying mantis with asters

11) Japanese anemone in the White Garden

12) Hakone grass

13) Hakone grass going to seed

14) Spider lily (Crinum asiaticum)

15) Brugmansia – also called Angel’s trumpets, they provide a spectacular display in large containers each summer.

16) Clematis gone to seed in the White Garden

17) Poppy pods!

18) Peonies after a storm

19) Peony

20) Water lily – Nymphaea sp.

21) Fall color in the garden

22) Brugmansias – how I love them!

23) Fallen petals

24) Late summer border composition – Smoke tree, Perovskia (Russian sage), Yarrow, Bergamot

25) The Rose Garden, early September

26) Clematis on the trellis

27) Grasses in fall

28) Fallen petals in spring

29) The peached allee of hornbeam, a repsite on hot days

30) Quarter moon under a crooked tree

31) A resident Mallard pair


A small escape – to a local garden at the height of spring – can also be a return.  A return to your senses and a grounded feeling of being-in-world.

It’s not really necessary to travel far in order to escape, is it?  What’s important is that your escape nudges you back towards the primordial ground of existence and returns you to a body-mind that allows wonder at the vastness of this world.



















These photographs were taken a few days ago at Bellevue Botanical Garden in Bellevue, Washington.

My brief  escape did the job. I returned to my senses and left my worries behind.


In order, the plants are:

Allium ‘Globemaster’ (two photos)

Iris laevigata ‘Variegata’

Iris sibirica ‘Viel Schnee’

Iris confusa

Peony; unknown cultivar (two photos)

Papaver orientale; unknown cultivar  (Oriental Poppy)

Iris ‘Rosario’

Iris x hollandica ‘Symphoy’

Allium ‘Globemaster’ and Berberis thunbergii ‘Aurea’   (Ornamental Onion and Japanese Barberry)

Polygonatum; unknown cultivar and (?)  (Solomon’s Seal and ?)

Iris sibirica; unknown cultivar

Meconopsis ‘Lingholm’ (Himalayan Blue Poppy)

Hakonechloa and Hosta; unknown cultivars (Japanese Forest Grass and Hosta)

Iris sibirica ‘Penny’s Worth’

Hosta; unknown cultivar

Allium christophii  (Star of Persia Ornamental Onion)

Iris sibirica ‘Blue King’

Peony; unknown cultivar


A plethora of other notions of what escape means can be found here.


I’ve been away for a week, back in New York for the first time since I moved last winter.  The trip was crowded with family events, so I had limited time to walk Manhattan streets and visit favorite places (ah, the pizza, oh, the pastries). My brain has been overflowing with impressions. Ten months ago I left New York for a very different part of the world, and going back provided an opportunity to examine the differences. Then last night, coming “home” to the Pacific northwest presented additional opportunities to compare and contrast. My mind spins. Somehow this image of a clutch of tiny cyclamen, taken in August at Kubota Gardens in Seattle, feels like a balm for my tumultuous mind.

So I’m starting here with an intermission of sorts, and then I will begin the task of sorting through the photographs and impressions of my trip and see what to post next.

Stark Silhouettes

This week’s Photo Challenge from WordPress:  Silhouettes.  “The proper definition of a silhouette is ‘the outline of a body viewed as circumscribing a mass.’ In photography, often we achieve that effect by putting light behind the object whose silhouette we want to capture, effectively darkening out the features of the subject instead of highlighting them.”

In my mind, a silhouette is not necessarily a “body” and not always a dark object against a lighter background.

You might agree after you scroll through to the end…

In Philadelphia, a statue of a Civil War hero (Union side, of course) points the way amidst a jumble of architectural styles.

In New York City, the Prince Street Station has wonderful public art on a MUCH smaller scale – a series of silhouettes of  people going about daily life, exactly like you see in the neighborhood.

Here, a homeless person, a yoga student and a musician –

And here, a workman and a smoker – an activity now practiced only outdoors, but be careful, not everywhere!–thank-you-for-not-smoking

A biker snaps the sunset in New York’s Battery Park.

In another borough,

a look up at dusk reveals the beautifully twisted structure of a tree:

Near the west coast,

fog and rain are

closing in

on Hurricane Ridge

in Olympic State Park:

And back in New York, in the forgotten borough of Staten Island, a reverse silhouette –

a Brugmansia blossom hangs

in perfect balance

at Snug Harbor Botanical Garden.

More bloggers have posted their silhouettes here:

The Kubota Garden, Seattle

“Fujitaro Kubota was born in 1879, in Kochi Prefecture on the island of Shikoku, Japan. He immigrated to America in 1907 and established his home. In 1927 he acquired this land in order to make a large garden. With his own hands he cleared the land, dug several ponds and cut the trees to build the garden. Mr. Kubota studied landscaping, suffered hard work and put great effort into this project. The garden was finally completed in 1962 and in that year this memorial stone was erected. It was the eighty-third year of Fujitaro Kubota.”

…from an inscription at the garden.

Unusual pines are a special feature of  the  garden.

Small ponds and streams are everywhere.

A Japanese Maple catches late afternoon light beside a pond.

An aster blossom was plucked from its stem and dropped into a puddle of water in a depression on one of the many stones in the garden. They’re said to be left by the last glacier, 12,000 years ago.

– this water, of  indeterminate age, rests on ancient rock and holds a blossom only days old. Time stretches across eons…

…miniature cyclamens are hidden along the paths, and a bride walks by…it’s a beautiful day for pictures.