Thursday, March 30, 2017


My annual trip to Fredrick Meijer Gardens Butterflies Are Blooming event was hosted by my mom this year.  She took her sister Toni, my niece Chanelle and myself, all who have birthdays in March.

I have a very color coordinated and beautiful family.

My Aunt Toni is also a plant person and we had a blast.  While my mom is a good gardener and has instilled in me my love for plants as well as always having plants around, she isn’t as fascinated by every little thing like I can be.  My aunt is a bit more like me.  At one point, she and I crossed paths in the big greenhouse both holding cameras and I glanced around to see where my mom and Chanelle were.  I asked my aunt if she knew where my mom was and she replied no.  With a grin I asked her, “Do we care?”  She laughed and said, “Not really.”  We then both returned to taking pictures and watching butterflies.  Least you think I am a completely ungrateful daughter, I did find her soon after sitting on a bench with Chanelle who was desperately wanting a butterfly to land on her.  She was so adorable!

Patiently waiting for the crazy butterfly person to be done…. Just one more picture!

Despite the fact that this trip really doesn’t change from year to year, mostly the same butterflies, usually the same family members, same garden and greenhouse, I still love it.  I think it is because at this point in the year, I have a serious case of needing some warmth and green.  I was watching a food garden tour video a week or two ago with Timothy and I commented how much I liked the particular garden we were watching.  T looked at me with a bit of skepticism and pointed out that normally the untidiness of said garden would bother me.  I thought about it for a second and realized that he was right.  I guess I was just so ready to have a garden, everything looked good.  Thus the WHY I need to go see the butterflies every early spring, my garden soul needs it.

It was a beautiful day, sunny and mild outside, humid and 80 degrees inside the big greenhouse.  Many people were melting but I loved it!  In fact it was probably the first time this year I have actually been warm.  I wake up in bed cold and rarely are my hands ever warm so I am grateful when I am approaching hot.  My apologies to those who are going through menopause, I will generously offer my ice pack hands for your comfort.  Maybe we can find a balance between the two extremes.

Hanging in the narthex were large bamboo and silk creatures created by the activist artist Al Weiwei who is from China and has endured, survived and admirably thrived despite governmental suppression of art, freedom of speech and thought and multiple stints of prison and house arrest.  These kite like fantastic creatures were huge and delicate, very simple but complex in design.

Flying four headed Koi dragon fish creature constructed of bamboo and silk like traditional Chinese kites.

In the Holton Arid Garden were several cobalt blue shapes.  I love the color of cobalt and would gladly take one home to display in my garden.  Maybe I could make a replica of one in honor of his fight for the freedom to create.

I do not know if these were named but they delighted me.

Patterns  The leaves unfurl out of the middle and are imprinted with the shape of fellow leaves
around which they had been wrapped.
I enjoy pretty much all plants so I find equal measures of joy in the spare desert plants as I do in the tropical lushness.  All the lines and symmetry are beautiful and fascinating.

This makes a perfectionist artist happy.

This little guy is one of my favorite in the collection of small deserty type plants.  I love the pattern on it and it is not poky and actually small enough to live at my house.  I have never seen a baby of it for sale though.

Onward to the Jarecki Seasonal Display House where they have monarch larva eating tropical milkweed plants among all the spring bulbs and foliage.  Here little kids hunt for the caterpillars while adults range between those who search just as hard with great awe to ones who are oblivious to the life around them.

Hunting for the caterpillars..

Monarch caterpillar found!  There are actually two in the picture; can you see the other one?
The plant is a tropical milkweed that I do not have…yet.  I need seeds!

This was overflowing with bright cheerful daffodils and variegated yellow and green cannas.
I love the mirrored pedestals reflecting back all the colors.  So pretty and fun.

I was admiring the scene in the earlier picture and discovered that the pots of tropical milkweed on the mirrored pedestals had chrysalis pinned onto sticks inserted in the pots of tropical milk weed.  Ohhh…  cool!
Sadly these butterflies will not leave the greenhouse as it is still too cold outside.
The large Wardian Case that lives in the Holton Victorian Garden.  I want one of course but it would need a greenhouse to go with it.  (Confession – I just got distracted by looking at all the pictures of Wardian cases that came up when I checked the spelling on google for about 20 minutes.  T wonders why it takes me so long to write blogs.)

Ah YES!!  On to the Lena Meijer Tropical Conservatory and BUTTERFLIES!!!  I am not excited at all, there is not a big silly grin on my face and I do not have my camera clutched in my hands awaiting a shot of a beautiful fluttering flower.  Nope, not at all….  Ha!  I am not ashamed to say that I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of my visit and everyone I smiled at seemed to as well.


This year there was a new system of releasing butterflies into the garden.  The process of a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis is called eclosion and takes place in the butterfly bungalow.  In the past the butterflies complete the emergence process which includes the hardening of their wings in the bungalow and then were caught and transported out into the garden in a plastic shoe box by a docent.  I have watched them open the box and let them all fly out.  This year I noticed an empty glass box sitting on a beautiful wood pedestal but didn’t explore it as I was distracted by a passing Morpho.  Then THIS happened.

Coolest use for a Wardian case yet!

The bottom of the box opens up and allows the butterflies to finish eclosion and fly away on their own schedule.

Box of butterflies!

Blue Morpho butterflies – the much sought after inside wing side and the more commonly seen outside

This palm is spectacular, I love the leave shapes

One of the butterfly shots I really liked.  A Tiger Longwing resting on the glass “ceiling” of the box.

There were many tillandsias (air plants) fixed in the trees where they would naturally live.
I have become the proud owner of one earlier this year.
There were several people who I would call “serious” photographers there.  Their very expensive cameras had zoom lens about a foot long and they seemed very grim.  I struck up a conversation with one of them and he was lamenting to me how hard it was to get a blue morpho with the wings open.  About a half an hour earlier, I just happened to be in the right place at exactly the right time taking pictures of a closed blue morpho that was in a perfect position and in the sun.  It opened up for me and I got 15 shots of its open wings before it flew off.  Yes, I was patient and had really looked for promising events but I still consider it such a gift to “get” the picture.  When I joyfully shared a picture with him, he looked so disgruntled that I, a not serious photographer, had gotten that shot, made a face at me and walked off.

My immediate response was surprise and wondered why he didn’t like my picture.   Then I thought how sad for him that he couldn’t enjoy another person’s accomplishment.  Mentally reviewing the incident later, I looked for the character lesson I could learn.  How many times have I not rejoiced in another’s success?  Do I encourage others even when they are “winning” and I may not be?  The idea of being a good sport applies to more than just a volleyball court or diamond.   Also, am I careful to not rub in my accomplishment in the face of another’s frustration?  I have been blessed to get many good shots of the morpho almost every year I go, that poor guy hasn’t apparently ever gotten one.

Hey there… wanna open your wings for me?

Yes!  So amazing….. Thank you Heavenly Father for creating this gorgeous creature

I took many, many pictures of butterflies and a few of orchids as well.  We spotted the little quail birds that live in the conservatory too.  They were hard to track because they never stood still.  Of the 10 or so shots I took, this one was the best and I wouldn’t call it great.  However, this was the first time I have actually gotten pictures of them.

These little guys move fast.
Lady’s Slippers, our North American native orchid are aptly named.
I would love to create the environment in my yard to attract these beauties

When I was a child, we had little purple lady’s slippers growing in the “woods” behind our house.  These woods were state planted white pines in neat tidy rows that were many decades old.  I remember the first spring I discovered them and being in awe of several hundred square feet of delicate purple flowers.  We brought one home to my mom who came out and looked at them.  She explained that they were protected and we wanted to save them and to not pick them.  Every year we would go look at them blooming.  I wonder if they are still there.  I live about 5 miles away from that house, and according to google maps, the woods are still there.  Bike trip!

Ah… beautiful!

Same orchid, different angle

My poor camera has been through a lot.  The flash no longer works.  Auto zoom is sketchy at best, and if the light is poor, it refuses to focus despite manual finagling.  I am so grateful for its use these past 10 years or so.  I have learned a lot about light and shutter speed and the understanding there is so much more I could learn if I wanted to devote some time and energy to it.  For every few fuzzy photos, I can usually get a good one.  It has made me get creative and plan out shots better knowing that I am working around limitations.  However, it is getting to the point where I really do need a new camera.  I have the money, I just have to figure out what would be the best fit for me.  WAY too many choices.  Somebody please just put a camera in my hands.

I love the contrast between the colors and sizes of these varieties

Take us to your leader….

I don’t appreciate orange as a color as much as blue, teal and purple, but flowers like this remind me that it too is beautiful.

These were a deep rich velvet maroon purple that I just could not get my camera to replicate.
The eye is incredible in its discernment of color, regardless, these are still beautiful.

The butterflies did visit the orchids, in fact I have a picture of this orchid with several other butterflies,
but they cannot get nectar from them.
We were greeted by several groupings of identical orchids upon entering the conservatory. 

Last year many of these orchids were planted into incredible massive balls of sphagnum moss to create orchid balls. My understanding was that there were more than twenty plants in each ball.  They were awe inspiring and delightful.  It was also the most orchids I have ever seen in one area in my life.

The horticultural staff has changed up a bit since last year due to people leaving to be mothers or moving onto other things.  The new staff or staff that has taken on different responsibilities in the garden are still settling into their roles and it takes time to organize the displays in unique ways like that.  It is interesting to me to see the different personalities of the gardeners in the displays.  I have enjoyed meeting and talking to many of them and taking classes from them.  Learning and change is constantly going on when you work with the garden.  I need to remember that nothing stays the same and if that is truly what I want, well then, I should go invest in some silk plants.

Or porcelain flowers, another display from the Ai Weiwei art show. 

Each one of these life sized flowers is individually handmade, glazed, fired and assembled into a grouping that I estimate to be about 5 feet wide by 10 feet long.  I know I can’t really appreciate the amount of time and skill this required to create thousands of flowers.   I found this to be amazingly gorgeous and fascinating.  However, I will still prefer the living despite the constant change and imperfections.  There is a joy in appreciating the fleeting.

1 comment: