Return to the Bonsai

We went to the Hidden Lake Garden in the Irish Hills section of lower Michigan with two primary intentions; to visit the bonsai display behind the Observatories and to have a picnic lunch. Thursday was the best day for us (no doctor/dentist appointment that day) and what a lucky choice that was as it is the day that the volunteers come in to prune and care for the bonsai trees.

The gentleman above was shortening/pruning the “candles” from this evergreen to slow growth and maintain shape. We made a quick duck behind some fencing to take a look at the plants they hold in reserve for rotation to the display. There were a couple of specimens that showed me what they look like before pruning.

My last post was of photos taken of this bonsai exhibit back in 2017 and I posted this next photo stating I didn’t have any information but thought it is an apple tree.

It is an apple tree, first potted in 1969 and at that time it was estimated to be 11 years old and a volunteer provided me the “rest of the story.” It was started by a farmer who potted it from his orchard and it bears apples about the size of a golf ball. If you look close you can see the fruit forming on the plant that was just past blooming at this visit.

There were at least six volunteers working, moving smaller plants into their work garage for trimming. They worked with great concentration, taking each snip very seriously although they were very eager to chat and answer questions.

Besides getting an inside look at operations, I also focused on taking photographs of trees I hadn’t previously seen because of the rotation of exhibits and collecting identifying information in anticipation of writing this post.

The above gallery of photos are the ones I found most interesting on this visit. You can see bigger photos and get information by clicking on any of the photos.

I think this post is a good one for the Lens-Artist Challenge #149: Cool Colours – Blue & Green. Not only is the foliage of most of these bonsai plants green (or mostly green) but I think this would be a really “Cool” hobby for someone a bit younger than I am. My part in bonsai growing will be as the appreciative spectator.


I have so many files of photographs that need to be culled of “just-bad-photos” and the remaining photos tagged so they don’t get lost forever. This morning I decided to do just one file and post a photo or two from that file. That’s all. I can do it.

I didn’t go way back to where I used a different filing system (Lightroom catalogs took a long time to figure out), I went to 2017 to pick up where I left off when I was last in file-cleaning mood. That file was from Hidden Lake Garden in southern Michigan but I didn’t want to post spring woodland photos from there from 2017 because Jim and I have planned a picnic trip there tomorrow. But I went ahead and cleaned out the file that had a surprise at the very end – photos of their bonsai collection.

The one above is a Shimpaku Juniper and is over 100 years old. I love pruning shrubs but it would stress my mental well-being to make me wait 100 years to enjoy the fruits of my labor. I wonder how many owners this has had.

I didn’t photograph information about his one but I vaguely remember that this is a flowering apple. I found it quite amazing – maybe I will be able to get information about it tomorrow.

These are American Larch that were first planted in 2003 and were 3 years old at that time. I took photos from different perspectives but really love this one because I feel like I’m looking into a mountain forest.

This is a Cameo Flowering Quince that was potted in 2001 when it was 4 years old.

I think this is amazing – and I hope I’ll be able to find information tomorrow.

This is a Cotoneaster in bud, potted in 2003 when it was 26 years old.

I think Jim would enjoy visiting the bonsai display and I would love to get information on the ones I hadn’t back then and take photos of some of the ones I passed by back in 2017. Back then I used my 55-200 mm with photos taken at 55mm – tomorrow I’ll use my 50 mm lens.

Watching for More Spring



Dateline: Hidden Lake Garden, M-50 in southern Michigan.

There was no mistaking that we were still in an early spring woods, but our spirits were full of anticipation, fueled by glimpses of the ethereal haze of pale green or red buds on the occasional tree in the distance. It was warmer this week – I was comfortable in crop pants and a short-sleeved tee.


There were more daffodils out this week, especially in the woodland areas – but we saw large beds in the meadows that were still all green. Maybe they will be out in the next couple of weeks.


Spring Beauty – Claytonia Virginica

Julie & I talked about how fragile the early spring wildflowers seem – but then realized that they are really tough to survive the unpredictable transition from winter to spring. In my early career as a mental health therapist and even as a professor and mentor to college students, I met so many people who seemed fragile, who came from less than nurturing environments but were making it. They had the same beauty and toughness as the early spring wildflowers. It was so rewarding for me to watch them as they bloomed – in all their glory.


Yellow Trout Lily – Erythronium Americanum

Now, many years later, I was thoroughly enjoying my camera time, working from different heights and angles, with different setting, working to capture the delicate beauty of these early wildflowers. Our first stop is at the hosta garden that slopes down a steep hill to the Hidden Lake. A few hostas are just beginning to push through the ground. They are all marked with black tags as wildflowers and summer bulbs are allowed to grow and bloom before the hostas spread their leaves to cover the ground.

The garden also has a vast area of woodlands where the natural ecosystem is allowed to run its course, with hiking trails and a single lane drive. There isn’t much traffic during the week in early spring so we stop frequently to admire and photograph the flowers flourishing in the sun – before the trees leaf out making a shady canopy.



I was excited to see a few Vinca blossoms because the floor of this woods sloping up above these stone walls is covered with Vinca and in a couple of weeks should be covered in blue.


We found large patches of wildflowers growing along the road where the trees thin out close to the upland meadow. These blue ones captivated me and I took several photos trying to capture how I experienced this patch through the integration of eye and heart.



I couldn’t find them in my reference books, nor could I find a useful on-line flower identification site – but I’m sure one (or more) of my readers will be able to tell me their name(s).


Here are two more wildflowers we found at stops along the drive through the wooded areas. They are very familiar, in fact the blue one has found its way into my front garden bringing a bit of early spring serendipity and color into a garden I am trying to keep under control. But I can’t recall ever knowing their names and my reference books haven’t been any help.

We received a couple days of rain and spring is really popping in our neighborhood so I’m looking forward to returning again to this woodland garden.

Very Early Spring


I was having a conversation, about us leaving for the north, with someone who lives year around in Naples, Florida and we talked about changing seasons, the coming of spring. He said he enjoys watching spring come to Naples. My brain couldn’t understand this statement because I frequently slip and say something about spending the summer in Naples because it sure looks like summer in January, February and March. And October, November and April. We finally reached a two-person consensus that seasonal changes in southern Florida are very subtle. The biggest change is the number of cars on the roads and how long you have to wait for a table at your favorite restaurant in season compared to out of season.

Change of seasons are very obvious in Michigan. I have a lifetime of experiencing the movement from winter to late winter to early spring to spring to late spring to summer to late summer to early fall… you get the picture. I have so many northern season because I have visceral knowledge of the subtle changes that lead to the real change. The most eagerly awaited for me, when I constantly scan the woods and tips of shrubs is that transition between late winter and early spring.

Friend Julie and I went on our first photo outing of the year, deciding to go to Hidden Lake Gardens to photograph the signs in nature of very early spring. The day started out more like late winter with heavy cloud cover and a very brisk cold wind. As we were driving down the woodland lane the sun came out and it began to feel more like early spring – until we stopped at an open parking lot and felt that bone-chilling wind. All a part of early spring.


The most exciting sign of early spring is the faint coloring that comes to woodland areas, that first faint pale green on the underbrush and the haze of color at the front of the tree line.


Our first visit is earlier this year than previous years, so we were excited about seeing the first wildflowers to emerge. Lower Michigan had snow two weeks ago. It was cool on this morning, somewhere in the 40’s, and the white hellebore didn’t seem to want to face the day. The pink ones seemed a bit braver.


I was surprised at the number of different wildflowers that were blooming. One of the staples of moving from early spring to spring is the blooming daffodils. They were just beginning to come out so we figure the meadows and woodlands will be carpeted in yellow and white within a week or two.


We made the decision to do our weekly photo shoot at this same place for the next three week so we can document spring unfolding in this woodland setting. Stay tuned to this space.



Branches Bringing Solace and Direction


I’ve been in a slump for the past couple of months – what feels like political fatigue. Tears have taken up residence at the back of my eyes – clouding my vision with the slightest provocation. I am fatigued from the constant barrage of news stories of suffering caused by increased hate and divisiveness, from political policies aimed at self-preservation more than preserving and strengthening the common good. I am fatigued by those people who have put aside their integrity and common sense to follow false promises and lies for a better life when it is really about giving more to those who already have too much power and wealth. I am fatigued by having so much I want to say but not enough energy to put it into words – I am physically fatigued by my mental fatigue.


My last photography outing with friend Julie before JB and I left Michigan in the middle of October was to the Hidden Lake Gardens in the Irish Hills of southeast Michigan. This is a garden that is cultivated and maintained by Michigan State University to preserve the natural wooded ecology of southern Michigan. As we began our drive down the single lane past the small lake and into the woods I could feel nature soothing to my battered psyche.


We stopped frequently, even if there wasn’t a pull-off, and we lingered. My plan was to document all that is fall in Michigan to take with me to Florida where about the only changes in season is rainfall, temperature and humidity. On this last outing in Michigan I took many photos of fall but what pulled at me were branches. It was a perfect day in the season of early fall color to capture the grace of branches of fall color that stand out against the fading green of summer.


I didn’t want to leave, I didn’t want to breath because each breath would mean I was closer to leaving this haven. I caught glimpses of the promise of a brighter and more gracious future even though so much of the world currently feels like a web of darkness, with greed, lying, disregard of truth, and ethno-centricity being accepted as being normal.


It was during this outing that I started to realize that I needed to focus on all that is good, all that is beautiful in order to balance my need to be aware of what is going wrong. I need to surround myself with friends with integrity and who care about others as much as they care about themselves. I need to nurture my soul and maintain my mooring through my faith in my God who I know is full of truth, love and mercy and expects the same from me. DSC_0050

And I realized that I need to work harder at sending out branches of gentle love, truth and caring so I can be a part of the solution and not the problem. I need to remain engaged but not let the boogiemen in the forest pull me down and fill me with hate.

Ailsa posted the Travel Theme: Branches and it fit nicely with these photos and stimulated my thinking about how the branches impacted my life. Thanks, Ailsa.