HORT travels

Exploring the horticultural beauty in every adventure.

Oakleaf Hydrangea

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Oakleaf Hydrangea Flowers

Oakleaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) Flowers

One of my favorite plants is flowering in my yard right now. I love this plant. It is bold, in your face and it passes the multiple seasons of interest test.  Every time I see this bloom I am taken back to a forest in Mississippi. My sister and I were on our way back from a road trip to Louisiana, camping the whole time. We stopped in a state park along the Natchez Trace Parkway to take in the sights and stretch our legs following a short hiking trail that seemed made for just such a purpose. We stuck our heads through holes in large trees taking ‘selfies’ before it was the thing to do, watched new-to-us very large spiders make their way along handrails we dared not touch. Suddenly I stop and utter a “do you see that?!” from under the hand clasped over my mouth. I am that person. I get so excited when I see plants I have only known in landscapes thriving in the wild, where they have not been planted where they just ARE because they belong there. Sort of like the experience I had in Greece with the Bear’s Breeches.

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The Sweet Smell of Strangulation

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Japanese Honeysuckle Flowers

Japanese Honeysuckle Flowers

Seems no matter where I go these just-before-summer days I smell the sweet fragrance of warm days spent playing in my backyard. One of our favorite spots was a rose thicket with an opening just large enough for my sister and me to get through and just small enough for my parents NOT to be able to get through. Our thorny fortress was a quiet place of shared secrets, thoughtful conversations, and resting on our backs, hands clasped over stomachs, gazing through the leaves, planning the future. Giggling as our parents looked for us, yelling our names, walking past our private get-away, not stooping down to peer into the prickly wilds of our secret place. For a couple of weeks our castle was engulfed in fragrance. Two scents dominated these early summer days… rose and honeysuckle. When our timing was just right we would carefully pick honeysuckle flowers by the handful, tuck them into the folds of our t-shirts and crawl into our white-flower covered fort. Once inside, we would carefully remove the inner workings of each honeysuckle flower for the one tiny drop of sweetness it provided. Repeating this again and again until our stock of flowers was a tattered pile on our rose-fort floor and our mouths coated in the nectar of this wild vine.

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Nature’s Toilet Paper

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Common Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)

Common Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) in the wilds of a fallow agricultural field.

Whenever I am headed out on an extended hike to experience primitive conditions (read no electric, no running water, lucky if there is an outhouse… but usually we aren’t so lucky) I look longingly at these plants before heading out into the wild, knowing that once I am in the woods, I won’t be seeing them again. Those soft velvety leaves sure look like they’ll come in handy once the inevitable occurs on a multi-day hike.

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Waterfalls and Wildflowers

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When I was young nearly EVERY vacation we went on had to involve a Scenic Railroad in order to happen. In other words, no train- we weren’t going there. I think the only reason we went to Disney (AKA “Ratland” by my train-loving dad) was because of the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. (This incident left me in tears and fearful of roller coasters until my senior year in high school when we HAD to ride roller coasters in order to complete physics experiments at Great Adventure’s Physics Day. My so-called friends convinced me to not only get on a roller coaster, but to get on the one that had a loop and went backwards. Now I’ll ride nearly any roller-coaster. I guess they were good friends after all.) As my dad feels about trains, I feel about waterfalls. Wherever my adventures take me I seek out the waterfalls nearby. Over the past couple of weekends I was lucky enough to be near quite a few falls, and the timing was perfect to see a great variety of wildflowers as well.

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