The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden

Geophysicist and petroleum geologist Everette Lee DeGolyer (1886–1956) put oil exploration on a more scientific footing in the early 20th century. I’ve read about him and his work, but do not understand the details. Maybe I could if I read more about it, but life is short.

“In May 1925 DeGolyer organized a subsidiary of Amerada, the Geophysical Research Corporation, which located a record eleven Gulf Coast salt domes in nine crew months and perfected a reflection seismograph that has become the principal tool for geophysical oil exploration worldwide,” says the Handbook of Texas Online. “This technology inaugurated the modern age of oil exploration with the 1930 discovery of the Edwards oilfield in Oklahoma by reflection survey.”

Enough to say here that DeGolyer was an oilman among oilmen, and later in life, he and his wife Nell DeGolyer (1886–1972) lived on an estate on White Rock Lake, as the city of Dallas grew around them.

The Handbook entry on Nell takes it from there: “Another abiding interest for her in Dallas was the family’s forty-four-acre estate known as Rancho Encinal, which she and her husband built and decorated. The thirteen-room Spanish Colonial Revival structure on White Rock Lake in East Dallas, completed in 1940, reflected the DeGolyers’ world travels, Everette’s outstanding book collection, and Nell’s expertise in gardening.

“Until her death Mrs. DeGolyer lived in this home; it was willed to Southern Methodist University after her death and several years later became the property of the city of Dallas. Into the 1990s the city used it, as the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Society, to showcase the gardens planned and maintained by Nell DeGolyer.”

The DeGolyer estate, plus the adjoining Alex and Roberta Coke Camp estate, form the modern Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden, open since 1984. We spent a pleasant May afternoon there. It’s hard to go wrong at a place with lily pads and koi.

The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical GardenAnd babbling brooks. Or maybe they murmur, since babbling implies a negative incoherence.

Dallas Arboretum and Botanical GardenAnd other water features, some within view of White Rock Lake.

Dallas Arboretum and Botanical GardenA lot of flowers, in various arrays.

Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden

Dallas Arboretum and Botanical GardenDallas Arboretum and Botanical GardenPlenty of bushes and trees.
Dallas Arboretum and Botanical GardenOpen spaces for children to be children.

Dallas Arboretum and Botanical GardenSpaces for formal pictures. Could be a quinceañera participant.
Formal spaces.
Dallas Arboretum and Botanical GardenWiki nails it with this line: “A horticultural masterpiece in North Texas.”

The Mizumoto Japanese Stroll Garden

There are a surprising number of Japanese gardens in the United States, as illustrated by this Wiki list of them, though it’s probably incomplete. It had never occurred to me that there might be one in Springfield, Mo., until I spied it on a map: the Mizumoto Japanese Stroll Garden.

The garden is part of the larger Springfield-Greene County Botanical Center, which also includes an azelea garden, dogwood garden, iris garden, butterfly garden, hosta garden, dwarf conifer garden, and more. All that sounds nice, but on the road sometimes you have to focus. The stroll garden it was.

It had everything you’d expect, trees and shrubs and flowers and lanterns and other structures along a winding path, along with water features.

Mizumoto Japanese Stroll GardenA zigzag bridge.

Mizumoto Japanese Stroll GardenAccording to one web site anyway, the notion such bridges were designed to prevent dimwitted evil spirits from being able to cross them is baloney.

THE MYTH: Some misguided Westerners claim that evil spirits can only travel in straight lines and that Japanese gardens have zig-zag bridges to prevent evil spirits from moving through them.

THE FACT: Japanese gardens do sometimes feature zig-zag bridges, but the evil spirit story is complete nonsense. Zig-zag bridges are featured in Japanese gardens partially because they are attractive and because they are interesting to walk over. There is also a charming story that links zig-zag bridges to Japanese literature and culture. [?] The zig-zag bridge motif is a natural fit for many of the Japanese arts including gardening.

A moon bridge.
Mizumoto Japanese Stroll GardenExpanses of lawn.
Mizumoto Japanese Stroll GardenNot all the foliage is green in the spring.
Mizumoto Japanese Stroll GardenA trellis.

Mizumoto Stroll Garden 2017A zen garden. But of course.
Mizumoto Stroll Garden 2017And some droopy pines, the likes of which I once saw in Rockford.
Mizumoto Stroll Garden 2017According to, the 7.5-acre Stroll Garden is the oldest attraction at the Springfield-Greene County Botanical Center, now a little more than 30 years old. “The plan was inspired by a Fort Worth, Texas copy of the Garden of the Abbot’s Quarters in Kyoto,” it says. Probably that means Tofukuji Temple, which is indeed stunning.

“The garden was initiated by the superintendent of park operations, Bill Payne, in the early 1980s and supported with partnerships from the Springfield Sister Cities Association, The Southwest District of Federated Garden Clubs, The Botanical Society of Southwest Missouri and the Friends of the Garden.

“The garden was given the name Mizumoto in 2004, in honor of Yuriko Mizumoto Scott. She generously acts as a bridge between her native Japan and her home in the Ozarks. As the first Japanese War bride brought back to the United States, her insight has the breadth of a bi-cultural history.” First war bride brought to the Ozarks? Not to be pedantic, but I think they mean postwar bride. Or occupation bride.

“Mrs. Mizumoto Scott spent many years as a volunteer in garden maintenance and hosting tour groups. She has also conducted hundreds of tea ceremonies and explained the customs of Japan. The gardens are maintained by the Friends of the Garden Japanese Gardening Group and Park staff. Gardens are supported by the Springfield Sister Cities Association Isesaki Committee.”

Well worth the stop in Springfield, a town I’d only ever known before as the turn off to Branson.

More Charleston Scenes

The Nathaniel Russell House on Meeting St. in Charleston, SC, completed in 1808, was originally home of one of the wealthiest men in the city at the time, Nathaniel Russell. In our time, it’s an historic property open for tours.

I didn’t have time to take a tour. I did have time to wander around its picturesque garden, which is open to the public. More remarkably, in mid-February this year, the garden looked like spring already.

Nathaniel Russell House gardenNathaniel Russell House gardenLocal sources told me that the weather lately had been unusually warm, even for Charleston. Flowers and other plants responded to the warmth in the only way they know how.
Nathaniel Russell House gardenSignage sometimes has its charms in Charleston.
Tellis Pharmacy, Charleston SC 2017That’s what more drug stores need, mortar-and-pestle symbology. Alas, it’s only a relic now, since the drug store on this site apparently closed a few years ago. Looks like an antique shop occupies the building, which is on King St. At least the new owners decided to keep the sign; or maybe it’s protected.

Unlike St. Philip’s graveyards, which were locked away behind imposing iron fences (though I could see the stone of Vice President Calhoun in the distance), the Circular Congregational Church’s graveyard is open to all during the day.

 Circular Congregational ChurchThe cemetery included some stones, pre-Revolution in vintage, that reminded me very much of the old stones in Boston’s downtown graveyards.
 Circular Congregational Church cemeteryPlus plenty of later 18th- and 19th-century stones.
 Circular Congregational Church cemeteryAnd some nice views of the back of Circular Church.
 Circular Congregational Church cemeteryOne of the best known tourist attractions in Charleston is City Market, which has been the site of a public market for more than two centuries. I’ve never been one to eschew tourist destinations just because they’re popular among tourists, so I popped it for a look. Not bad, but not nearly as interesting as the Pike Place Market in Seattle.
City Market, Charleston 2017One more structure: Charleston City Hall.
Charleston City HallDiscover South Carolina says: “On the site of a Colonial marketplace, this handsomely proportioned 1801 building first housed the Bank of the United States and then became Charleston’s City Hall in 1818. The design is attributed to Charlestonian Gabriel Manigault, a gentleman architect credited with introducing the Adamesque style to the city after studying in Europe.”

Also worth knowing: the building has some of the few public restrooms in downtown Charleston that are open on the weekend.

Non-Plants in the Chicago Botanic Garden

I thought of “Manmade Things in the Chicago Botanic Garden” as a title, but in a real sense everything in a highly cultivated garden is manmade, even if the raw materials of the displays are descended from naturally occurring plants. Artificial selection invented the tea rose, after all.

The Chicago Botanic Garden includes many things besides plants. Such as this sculpture in the Heritage Garden.

Chicago Botanic Garden - Carolus Linnæus - Robert BerksIt’s instantly recognizable as a Robert Berks bubble-gum statue, in this case dating from 1982. Based on a casual search, his statues seem to be esteemed these days, especially now that he’s dead, but I’m with the art critics who were upset about the Einstein statue in DC when it was new. They’re ugly. That’s my two-word critique.

Anyway, the subject is fitting for a garden, since it’s Carolus Linnæus. In fact, I’ve seen his carved face before in such a place, but a long way from metro Chicago.
Carolus Linnæus - Adelaide Botanic Garden - South AustraliaThat’s Linnæus at the Adelaide Botanic Garden in 1991. A much more conventional bust, certainly, and maybe not that interesting. But at least it isn’t ugly. More about the Chicago-area Linnæus statue is at the always delightful Public Art in Chicago.

This is “Boy Gardener” in the Rose Garden.

Chicago Botanic Garden - Boy Gardener - Margot McmahonBy an Oak Park sculptor, Margot Mcmahon. Straightforward, unpretentious.

In the Japanese Garden, a yukimi lantern.

Chicago Botanic Garden - Japanese Garden - yurimi lanternSupposedly it looks elegant covered with snow, and I’ll bet it does. I don’t think I’ll visit the gardens in winter to confirm that, though.

Also in the Japanese Garden, the Zigzag Bridge, with a selfie in progress, and a woman taking pictures of carp.

Chicago Botanic Garden - Japanese Garden -zigzig bridgeThe explanation for its shape is that evil spirits can only travel in straight lines, and thus can’t follow you onto the island. What is it about evil spirits? They’re scared of noise, can’t follow a slight zigzag, and seem to have a lot of other handicaps to keep them from their malevolent work.

Here’s one of the bridges between the main part of the garden and Evening Island. Not so distinctive by itself, but it is shaded by enormous willows.
Chicago Botanic Garden - bridge to Evening IslandThe other bridge to Evening Island has a name, the Serpentine, for obvious reasons. With more willows.
Chicago Botanic Garden - Serpentine BrdigeOn Evening Island itself, there’s this structure rising from the flora.

Chicago Botanic Garden - Theodore C. Butz Memorial CarillonThe Theodore C. Butz Memorial Carillon, to give its formal name, installed in 1986. A sign at the base of the structure says, “Crafted in Holland, the Garden’s carillon is one of a few hand-played carillons in the United States. The cast bronze bells have a range of four octaves, and are played using a large keyboard. The smallest of the 48 bells weighs 24 pounds, and the largest weighs two and a half tons.”

No carillonneur seemed to be on duty, but we did hear it ring the hour, so I guess it can be set for automatic as well as manual.

The Chicago Botanic Garden

The Chicago Botanic Garden is actually in Glenco, Illinois, but it would be nitpicky to insist that it be called the Greater Chicago Botanic Garden, or even the Chicagoland Botanic Garden, though that has a ring to it. Glenco is a northern suburb, as far north as you can get in Cook County. The road that leads to the garden’s entrance is in fact Lake-Cook Road, more or less the border between Lake and Cook counties.

All of the gardens’ 385 acres are south of that road, and are property of the Forest Preserve District of Cook County (just like Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery, but far away geographically and otherwise). On Saturday, Yuriko and I went to the garden because we’ve long been fond of it, because it was a warm, pleasant day, and because we couldn’t remember the last time we went. So long ago, I think, that we pushed Ann around in a stroller (later than 2004, maybe, but not much). This time Ann stayed home.

It’s a large garden, offering a multitude of plants in a variety of settings, including 27 display gardens, such as the Crescent Garden.

And the three-acre Rose Garden, whose flowers surround a popular lawn.
Chicago Botanic Garden - Rose Garden“The Rose Garden — one of the most popular spots at the Chicago Botanic Garden — also gives context and history to the storied flowers, while celebrating the best among them,” the garden’s web site asserts. “Consider the old garden roses (also called antique or heirloom roses), which were cultivated before 1867… The History of Roses Bed, which tracks the development of the rose from the earliest wild rose to the modern hybrids, also provides context. And, for inspiration, the Rose Garden features All-America Rose Selections winners, along with the best rose varieties for Midwest gardens.”

Is 1867 particularly important in the history of roses? Turns out it is. Again, I quote from the Chicago Botanic Garden, which has a brief history of roses on its site. “To bring order to the wild world of roses, the American Rose Society has classified all roses into two major categories: old garden roses (sometimes called antique or heirloom roses) and modern roses. The old roses are those that were cultivated in distinct classes prior to 1867, and the modern roses are those that followed. The year 1867 is an important one in rose history, since it marks the debut of the hybrid tea rose.” Ah. Just another thing we inherited from the corybantic 19th century.

Among the many blooms evident even in September at the Chicago Botanic Garden:

Bourbon RoseRosa Champlain
Chicago Botanic Garden - Rose GardenAnd one of those thoroughly modern hybrid tea roses (Rosa Medallion) Chicago Botanic Gardens - Rose GardenElsewhere in the garden is the shady Waterfall Garden, whose centerpiece is a 45-foot cascade.
Chicago Botanic Garden - Waterfall GardenThe Japanese Garden could stand alone as a destination. Part of it is an inaccessible island (at least to casual visitors) called Horaijima, or the Island of Everlasting Happiness. It’s fitting that no one can go there.
Chicago Botanic Garden - Japanese GardenAnother part of the Japanese Garden includes a Shoin (書院) House, patterned after the studies of priests and scholars, with antecedents as far back as the Muromachi era (ca. 1336 to 1573), though this particular house was finished in 1982.
Chicago Botanic Garden - Japanese GardenAmong many other plants, the Evening Island sports enormous grass.

Chicago Botanic Garden - Evening Island“Evening Island is an example of the New American Garden style of landscape design, which features vast naturalistic sweeps of low-maintenance grasses, perennials, and roses to create a living tapestry,” the garden says. “The garden is sited, appropriately, between the formality of the English Walled Garden and the wildness of the native Prairie.”

The English Walled Garden was the site of a wedding on the afternoon of September 3, so it was closed to other visitors. I remember that it’s a lovely place, though.

We wandered through a number of other sites at the garden as well, such as the Sensory Garden, Spider Island, the Circle Garden, and bonsai collection and the greenhouses. We didn’t see many other places. It’s like a major art museum in that way: too much for any single visit.

I did start taking notes of some of the plant names that interested me. With a digital camera and a lot of signs identifying plants, that was easy. Some examples of common names, not scientific names, just to keep things simpler: Siberian Bugloss, Virginia Waterleaf, Mountain Bluet, Columbine Meadowrue, Southern Blue Monkshood, Fairy Bells, Chocolate Dragon Smartweed [sounds like something you can buy in a shop in Seattle], Black Adder Hyssop, Cranberry Cotoneaster, Venice Masterwort, Purple Rain Jacob’s Ladder, Floss Flower, and Art Deco Zinnia.

I have to publish a picture of that last one.

Chicago Botanic Garden - Art Deco ZenniaWish I had a memory for plant names and characteristics.

A Little More Rockford

The gardens outside the Nicholas Conservatory in Rockford would be worth a trip back in a month or two, when they’re in full flower. On Saturday, the floral exuberance of spring was just beginning. Even so, there were a few other things to see, such as a statue of a man taking a picture.

"Sight Seeing"And, at that moment, an actual man taking pictures.

Nicholas Conservatory & GardenThe statue, by the way, is by Seward Johnson, whose work I’ve seen elsewhere. This one is called “Sight Seeing,” and dates from 1991. The camera depicted would have been old fashioned even then. I have an inkling that Johnson isn’t popular among art theory specialists, for being shockingly derivative, or not smashing any paradigms, or something.

After the conservatory, we repaired to the Stockholm Inn, an enormous restaurant in Rockford. Word is — relayed by the Internet — that it too is very popular, though its offering of superb yet standard Swedish food at reasonable prices might put off some foodies.
Stockholm Inn, RockfordAfter all, the place doesn’t offer farm-to-table fair-traded locally sourced artisanal Swede-tastic regional cuisine, guaranteed to be authentic, massaged and sublimated to gastro-perfection. Try the Nordic fusion gravlax tacos; they’re to die for.

No, the thing to order — the thing that I ordered — are the Swedish pancakes, a close cousin of the humble crêpe, infused with butter, vivified by syrup. Thin, smooth, sweet, wonderful. What they had for breakfast in the mead halls of yore, since one has to eat as well as drink.

Rockford Flora

Like any good conservatory, the Nicholas Conservatory near the banks of the Rock River in Rockford, Ill., is lush with greenery, and complete with winding paths and a water feature.

Nicholas Conservatory RockfordSome of the greenery vaults toward the glass ceiling.

Nicholas Conservatory RockfordThat tall specimen, incidentally, is a Carpoxylon Palm (Carpoxylon macrospermum), which is indigenous to the Vanuatu archipelago. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anything native to Vanuatu before.

Other palms reach out in all directions with their enormous ears.

Nicholas Conservatory RockfordNaturally, there are also plenty of flowing plants.

Nicholas Conservatory RockfordNicholas Conservatory RockfordNicholas Conservatory RockfordThe conservatory featured a wall of orchids that was a particularly popular place to take people’s pictures.

Nicholas Conservatory RockfordI took a few myself.

Nicholas Conservatory Rockford

The Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens

As a destination from the northwestern suburbs of Chicago, Rockford has a number of advantages. For one thing, it isn’t that far. It’s easy to drive there, visit one place at least, maybe eat a meal, and then come home. But it’s far enough not to be in the northwestern suburbs. There are still wide-open farm fields between here and there, and some smaller towns. Someday metro Chicago and metro Rockford might well conurb, to make up a verb, but that hasn’t happened yet.

None of that would matter if there weren’t a few interesting places to see in Rockford, but there are. Such as the Klehm Arboretum, a fine warm-weather destination, or the Anderson Gardens. The Rock River is also worth a look, with its various pedestrian-oriented amenities.

I wrote in 2003 about our visit to the riverside, “We drove a short ways north of downtown, looking for a more expansive park at which to finish off the afternoon. We found it on the other (west) bank of the Rock River, at the Sinnissippi Gardens and Park, which had a greenhouse that was already closed…”

These days, the greenhouse is permanently closed. It was replaced by the Nicholas Conservatory, which opened in 2011. I’d read about its development and opening, but didn’t get around to taking a look at it until Saturday, when we drove to Rockford exactly for that reason. Saturday, April 16, 2016 here in northern Illinois was as warm and pleasant as a spring day can be, the complete opposite of only a week earlier, the miserable cold April 9. That was an impetus to go.

We weren’t disappointed by views of the Rock River (more lyrically, the Sinnissippi River) from near the new conservatory. Rock River in Rockford, April 16, 2016 People were out along the riverside trail, but not a throng of them.

Rock River in Rockford, April 16, 2016 Waterfowl were out too.
Rock River in Rockford, April 16, 2016A stone’s throw from the river — if you’re inclined toward that kind of mischief — is the conservatory.
Nicholas Conservatory, Rockford, Illinois 2016The facility’s web site is a little thin on facts, but it does say that it’s “the third largest conservatory in Illinois, offering an 11,000-square-foot plant exhibition area complete with water features, seating areas, and sculptures, all in a tropical plant setting.”

I’d guess that the Lincoln Park Conservatory and the Garfield Park Conservatory, both in Chicago, are both larger — I’m fairly certain of that — but whatever its relative size, the Nicholas Conservatory is an elegant construction, and LEED Gold besides. More about its creation here.

Lan Su Chinese Garden

At the Lan Su Chinese Garden in Portland, I wondered: How true to the original connotations are the inevitably flowery translations of some Chinese phrases into English? Put into English, various parts of the garden come out as “Tower of Cosmic Reflections,” ‘Flowers Bathing in Spring Rain,” and “Knowing the Fish Pavilion.”

I’ll never have an answer to that. Maybe that’s because the “original connotations” would cover a wide range of meaning, even among native speakers of whatever Chinese dialect is represented. Never mind. Lan Su’s a beautiful place.

Lan Su Chinese Garden, Aug 2015According to the garden’s web site, it’s “a result of a collaboration between the cities of Portland and Suzhou, our sister city in China’s Jiangsu province that’s famous for its beautiful Ming Dynasty gardens. Lan Su was built by Chinese artisans from our [sic] Suzhou and is the most authentic Chinese garden outside of China.”

Quite a claim. But I was intrigued that the garden was patterned after ones in Suzhou. I’ve seen some of those gardens. Now I’ve seen this one.

Lan SuLan SuThe web site again: “The garden’s name represents this relationship: sounds from both Portland and Suzhou are combined to form Lan Su. Lan (蘭) is also the Chinese word for Orchid and Su (蘇) is the word for Arise or Awaken, so the garden’s name can also be interpreted poetically as ‘Garden of Awakening Orchids.’ (蘭蘇園).” More of that flowery translation again. In this case, literally flowery.

Lan SuLan SuSomething about the place brings out the flowery, even in English. From Travel Portland: “Since the garden’s opening in 2000, its covered walkways, bridges, open colonnades, pavilions and richly planted landscape framing the man-made Zither Lake have created an urban oasis of tranquil beauty and harmony. It’s an inspiring, serene setting for meditation, quiet thought and tea served at The Tao of Tea in the Tower of Cosmic Reflections, as well as public tours of the grounds led by expert horticulturalists.”

Zither Lake? After the class of stringed instruments? Anyway, this is it, complete with the reflections of surrounding buildings. Lan Su takes up a city block, but it is still only one block among other city blocks.
Zither LakeWhat I remember best from Suzhou were the rocks, and Lan Su has those too.
Lan SuLan SuThe place also inspires romance. I saw a group of people planning a wedding at the garden, a couple necking among the greenery, and more than one person exercising a bit of self-love by taking selfies.

The Lincoln Park Conservatory

The Lincoln Park Conservatory dates from the 1890s, when Gilded Age Chicago wanted a splashy new Crystal Palace-like conservatory. Architect Joseph Lyman Silsbee designed the structure in collaboration with architect M.E. Bell, and their work still stands in the early 21st century.

Lincoln Park Conservatory 2015It’s one of the city’s two great conservatories, with the other in Garfield Park. Somehow I feel that Garfield Park’s the greater of the two, though not by much. I can’t argue that position very thoroughly, since I’m no authority on plant diversity or glass-and-iron construction or conservatory aesthetics, but never mind. I’m always glad to stroll through the Lincoln Park Conservatory, as we did on Easter Saturday. It’s luxuriant.

Lincoln Park Conservatory 2015It also sports some odd plants. How is it that I visit conservatories periodically and always manage to see plants I’m certain I’ve never seen nor even heard of?  For instance, the aptly named Sausage Tree (Kigelia africana), native of tropical Africa. Granted, it’s been a few years since I was at the Lincoln Park Conservatory, but you’d think I’d remember the Sausage Tree. But no.

Lincoln Park Conservatory 2015The plants have also made themselves at home even on the conservatory structure.

Lincoln Park Conservatory 2015There’s also a fern room. Ever conservatory worth its salt has one of those.

Lincoln Park Conservatory 2015And a place for orchids. A Vanda orchid (Vanda orchidaceae).

Lincoln Park Conservatory 2015One more thing. We took a 151 Sheridan bus from Lincoln Park to Union Station for our return home, and at a Michigan Ave. bus shelter, I saw this from the bus window.
Michigan Ave., April 4, 2015Anti-Rahm bills plastered on an ad. He won the runoff election on Tuesday, but at least the electorate made him work for it, by obliging him to win a runoff. No Daley ever had to do that.