I have been trained to look up as I’m wandering around the Naples Botanical Garden – something that is hard to remember when there are so many delightful things to see at eye level and lower. We were by the front entrance when I noticed what looked like a vanilla orchid vine growing up a tree so I asked the help of the person standing at his podium with the assigned task of helping visitors. He said yes it was a vanilla orchid and it was blooming up high but probably wouldn’t be pollinated because it needs a special bee. The garden is growing vanilla orchids on trellises and will be hand pollinating them in the future when they become mature enough to bloom. It took me a long time to find the blooms on this vine growing up the tree because they were on an adjacent tree where the same vine was climbing even higher. I finally saw them – wilted and drooping because they bloom sequentially, opening at night, and then only lasting a few hours in the day. I would have needed a 400 mm lens to capture those blooms.
You can imagine my excitement this week when I was leaving the water lilies in the Brazilian Garden and saw another vanilla vine growing up a tree. Upon looking up I saw a blossom within “shooting range.” What a perfect close-up to see the beauty of the orchid and understand the blooming cycle. We can see yesterday’s blossom and the one from the day before – and of course there are more buds waiting to open. These won’t produce the seed pods that hold that wonderful vanilla bean that makes the vanilla that we love so much. They aren’t being hand pollinated (click here to go to the Naples Botanical Garden web site to learn more about the pollination of the vanilla orchids).
Getting the orchid pollinated is just the beginning of a very long, labor intensive process of having beans ready for making vanilla extract. According to the latest garden post on the vanilla orchids:
If the orchid is successfully pollinated, it’ll produce string bean-looking seed pods that grow for eight to nine months. The pods are harvested, exposed to heat to kill the plant cells; placed in plastic bags and “sweated” at elevated temperatures for 24 to 48 hours; exposed to sunlight a few hours a day for 12 to 15 days; dried on trays for another 70 days; and conditioned over one to two months.
I am looking forward to following the saga of the vanilla orchid and bean for several years. Stay tuned!
This post was brought to you as my response to the Len-Artist Photography Challenge: Close and Closer. I had so much fun thinking about the tension between photographing to capture context and photographing closer to capture detail as I wandered around the Naples Botanical Garden this week. Thanks, Anne, for your creative challenge.
Jim and I were strolling along the service path by the Deep Lake on a Tuesday early morning visit to the Naples Botanical Garden. I was watching for the sun and clouds to do their dance so an interesting illumination would fall on the palms across the lake or the grasses along the edge on our side.
Then I remembered to look up, toward the other side of the path where the more formal gardens are. Looking up means looking up into trees, but also looking up the side of a hill. Southern Florida is flat, so flat that the only hills are the Interstate overpasses – and a couple of hills in the Botanical Garden. They aren’t natural hills, however. A master plan for the Naples Botanical Garden was drawn up by a very talented team and construction on the first phase of the 170 acres future garden began in 2008 with the digging of Deep Lake and Lake Tupke. This resulted in 250,000 yards of fill for the sculpting of the site creating hills for water falls and raising the “formal” part out of the swampy Everglades landscape. That seems like a whole lot of fill, and I know that a couple of places are higher but not high enough to get my heart pumping as I walk to the highest elevations.
But that was a little (up-hill) digression. When I looked away from the lake I saw these orchids perfectly spotlighted by the morning sun. They are in a fairly large tree.
The tree is a Bottlebrush (Callistemon spp.) and obviously older than the garden, growing quite tall and sprawling along the incline of the hill that forms the Florida Garden. Trees in Florida are usually home to lots of plants – If you look closely you will see Resurrection Fern (looking quite dead) by the orchid and there is Spanish Moss hanging. I recently learned that Spanish Moss isn’t actually a moss, but is a bromeliad with tiny, yellow-green flowers in summer.
We were headed for the Florida Garden and when we reached the walk up onto the hill, I saw more of the orchids and realized that this was the end of Bottlebrush tree – you can see the red bloom. Probably the orchids were propagated in the orchid nursery and attached to the tree because I read that pollination of orchids in the wild is tricky if they aren’t native. We went about half way up the hill (not a high hill by hilly standards, maybe only considered a hill in really flat environments) and when I looked over at the tree I saw orchids planted all along a long horizontal trunk.
Even more surprising is that the trunk is supported by a very large rock. This is a landscape that doesn’t have an abundance of large rocks for landscapes so I would guess that this one was trucked in for this purpose. One of the missions of the Garden is conservation and preservation. I feel fortunate that this tree is growing and being preserved. Many of the old trees were lost in 2017 when Hurricane Erma hit Naples with wind gusts of up to 140 mph.
We are starting to think about going back to Michigan for the summer. This year I’m especially excited about going back because I will get to see and hug kids and grandkids for the first time in over a year. And I am really looking forward to having vaccinated friends over for supper and maybe cards and game playing. As I am thinking about these things, I am also thinking about all the things we will want to do a few more times before leaving Florida. I probably have three more visits to the Botanical Garden so I better make the most of my visit tomorrow morning.
This past week we were walking into the Naples Botanical Garden, past the Orchid Garden, when a work truck filled with orchids grabbed my attention. I asked if they were taking orchids out of the garden or bringing new ones in – they said they were taking them out but would be bring new ones in soon. As they drove away I raised my camera and took some shots – thinking that this is a story. Jim chuckled about my taking this photo and I asked him when he had last seen a truck going down a sidewalk filled with orchids. He understood.
The orchid garden is outdoors, in a protected area enclosed by three single-story buildings. The Garden has a collection of over 1,600 species and hybrid orchids that are displayed depending on blooming season but also researched for conservation purposes. There are more orchid species (28,000) than any other flowering plant and there are species found from the artic tundra to the hot and arid deserts of the Arabian Peninsula – a temperature span from -4 F (-20 C) to 100 F (38 C). The Garden is invested in studying them because they are very are extremely susceptible to habitat changes and loss, an increasing concern with climate warming. That explains why people who live in cooler climates have to work hard to create inside environments to grow the tropical species while I have about 10 different ones that bloom outside on trees (with very little care) around my home. The only rule I have to follow is to make sure they don’t get too much sun.
Some of the orchids have been attached to trees so the orchid roots attach to and grow on the trunk, taking in moisture and nutrients when it rains while other orchids are growing in pots and wooden hanging baskets. All are strategically placed, like in the photo above at the entrance to the orchid garden. I think there are around seven different colors but all quite common. They make a splash when first seen and make a great backdrop for a quick selfie, but people don’t stop long to admire them blocking others from entering. Those attached to the trees aren’t blooming continuously, but because so many are in movable pots, there are orchids continuously blooming. The orchids in the trees around my home are either fall or winter/early spring blooming when I am here to enjoy them.
As visitors move into the garden they can find orchids to delight any taste, from very small (not much bigger than a finger nail) to big ones, and in multiple colors. Here is a sampling from a recent visits.
I have another orchid post brewing on lady slippers (or is it lady’s slipper, or ladies slippers???) Anyway, stay tuned.
I went looking for “soft” in my recent photo files for this week’s Lens-Artist Challenge and found that my mind just couldn’t find anything that could be considered soft. The alligator I posted last didn’t have anything soft about it so I posted it under a different title. It truly was longer than it was soft. Finally it occurred to me as I looked at the photos I thought of when I contemplated “soft” that my mind wanted to “process” photos that looked soft because of characteristics like lighting, color, focus, and involved water in some way.
The above photo of grass and raindrops was taken early morning after a nighttime rain. I used a very short depth of field and there was a breeze that moved the grass ever so gently. I always stop when I reach this photo in my files because it so perfectly captures the softness of that morning.
I took the next photo because of the softness of the curved stems and gentle colors. Once again the short depth of focus creates a blur both in front and behind the main focus, the orchids with drops of water. This photo was taken at my favorite time of day, in the softness of morning light – no harsh shadows here.
I feel fortunate that I was able to grow up close to water – Michigan’s inland lakes and the Great Lakes that border the state – Michigan, Superior, Huron and Erie. Even as a child I enjoyed how surface ripples would soften and play with plants, stones, and sand beneath. I find it fascinating to watch how currents and waves change reflections on the water’s surface and change the looks .
The next photo was taken in the Everglades, as the shallow water gently and slowly flows from Lake Okeechobee (south of Orlando) fanning out in a broad river until it mixes with the salt water of the ocean – the Atlantic to the east, the Florida Bay to the south, and the Gulf of Mexico to the west. Sometimes the only way the current can be observed is with the movement of a floating leaf, sometimes through the movement of the water plants.
Often I find softness when walking on the beach just after the sun has dropped below the horizon and everything is bathed in soft blues with a touch of orange and pink.
Where and how do you find “soft” with your camera? You can share your thoughts and images by joining Ann-Christine for this weeks Len-Artist Challenge.
Last week I spent a lot of time in the Orchid Garden at Naples Botanical Garden. It was 8 in the morning and in most places there wasn’t strong sunlight so I had lots of fun and ended up with lots of photos to filter through, delete or keep, and process. And I found lots of yellow orchids to post in response to Jude’s monthly challenge “Life in Colour: Yellow.” Use the link to join in the fun as many times as you like during the month of February.