Saturday, September 9, 2017

Summer bouquet: area parks alive with flowers

Black-eyed Susans, Hoyt Park, Wauwatosa
Is it my imagination or are there more flowers this year? When a friend asked me that recently I agreed it seemed to be true. The couple of experts I asked for corroboration differed in their judgments. The point remains mysterious. And yet, I’ve come to believe it. Now and then over the course of the summer I have been startled and amazed at the abundance.

Comfrey, West Bank Trail, Milwaukee River Greenway
I didn’t set out in June to photograph flowers all summer. Flowers are lovely, of course, like flags commemorating nature. But they haven’t especially appealed to me as a subject before. As the summer progressed, however, I noticed them more and more. Everywhere I went the parks—as well as roadsides, yards, and random fields—were resplendent in colorful blossoms. “Earth laughs in flowers,” wrote Emerson, and we smile along with them, enchanted. I began to be more deliberate about finding and photographing them.

Sweet wild clover, Barloga Woods, Oak Creek
And so, as is my custom, I sought out the parks—familiar ones and some I’ve never been to before—with the best floral displays. Here I present to you, dear reader, a summer bouquet gleaned from my wanderings: A photo essay and personal award ceremony for flowers from parks all over the metropolitan region, from the Kettle Moraine to the Lakeshore and many points in between.

Menomonee River Parkway, Wauwatosa

Like Edward Abbey I am drawn especially to wildflowers. "For myself I hold no preferences among flowers, so long as they are wild, free, spontaneous,” said Abbey. But unlike him, I am far from a purist. That quote is followed by this characteristically caustic proclamation: “Bricks to all greenhouses!” As for me, after a month or so of park-hopping to find wildflowers I decided I also needed to visit a few gardens. Thankfully, Milwaukee County has several.

Lobster Claw, The Domes, Mitchell Park, Milwaukee
Photographing flowers in a conservatory is like shooting ducks in a barrel. But I seldom pass up an opportunity to revisit the Domes! Despite the closure in 2014 due to structural instability attendance at the iconic and unique structures has rebounded. I had to jostle among almost 2,200 other visitors the day I went.

Partridge pea, Three Bridges Park, Milwaukee

After a while my task shifted from discovery to selectivity. For this essay I’ve tried to narrow my choices to those places and flowers for which my descriptions ran to superlatives. Hence the awards in a number of logical and quirky categories. Forgive me if I missed your favorite park or summer bloom. I hope you’ll leave a comment and tell me your picks.

An edited version of this story was published at Milwaukee Magazine. Click here to continue reading

You can also click here to see more photos and additional parks at Flickr.

Washington Park, Milwaukee

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