This April, I purchased a season pass to the Mount Cuba Center, a horticultural center in the hills of northern Delaware. To recap from my earlier article, Photographing Spring Flowers at the Mount Cuba Center, Mount Cuba is one of many gardens in the area located on estates that once belonged to members of the du Pont family. Unlike the other, better known estates such as Winterthur, Mount Cuba’s focus is primarily on growing and researching plants native to eastern North America. A regular visitor finds the gardens in constant change, as blooms of one species give way to completely different ones the following month. Here are my favorite images from my visits in May, June, and July.
May 20, 2016
The highlight of our May visit was the beautiful ball-shaped turkeybeard bloom. A volunteer told Rachel and I that the plant blooms only very briefly, and for dedicated botanical enthusiasts this alone would warrant a trip to the garden.
F/10 gave a pleasing depth of field on the flower above, with the top in sharp focus and the rest blurred.
A well camouflaged frog sat keeping watch over a pond filled with tadpoles.
White flowers are challenging to photograph; it’s easy to overexpose them and end up with clipped highlights, while underexposing them leaves them gray. Shooting RAW makes it possible to get the exposure perfectly balanced in the digital darkroom.
During my visit in April, there wasn’t anything blooming yet in the Trial Garden, but that had changed by the following month. The center is running a long-term Baptisia (false indigo) research project to determine such things as disease resistance in different varieties.
June 8, 2016
During a visit by my parents, I treated them to a visit to Mount Cuba using two of the guest passes that are included with the season pass (individual membership get four passes and a family membership receives eight).
A variety of Monarda plants were blooming in the Trial Garden. A member of the mint family, one of its common names, bee balm, references Monarda‘s history as a medicinal plant; treating bee stings is one of many uses.
We retreated to the shelter of Mount Cuba’s mansion when a brief thunderstorm blew through. Fortunately, the storm departed within fifteen minutes and the rain that collected on the flowers added a nice touch to photos.
July 10, 2016
The Indian pink flowers from my previous visit were still blooming, but there was no sign of the irises. There were also many new wildflowers blooming in the hillside field, while squadrons of dragonflies darted through the air around the pond. The staff sent me home with a complimentary tickseed plant for my own garden.
I admired the butterfly weed, a kind of milktweed, blooming in the field. The name reminded me of a sad development in the local ecology. It seems the once-familiar tiger swallowtails, monarchs, and painted lady populations have drastically declined in Delaware and Maryland during the past few years. Maybe it’s my imagination, since nobody I’ve mentioned it to has noticed. Disappointingly, despite Mount Cuba’s gardens being a veritable buffet for butterflies, I only saw two or three during my entire visit.
Series on the Mount Cuba Center
Flowers at the Mount Cuba Center: May to July