On September 3, I visited the Mount Cuba Center in northern Delaware for the first time since early July. Quite a lot has changed since then. Two weeks ago, my wife Rachel and I welcomed the arrival of our daughter Dana. (Preparations made for a busy August during which I did very little writing.) This would be Dana’s first nature walk, though she spent most of the time dozing contentedly against my chest. Dana is remarkably docile out in the world; if only she were that way at night too!
As for changes at Mount Cuba—which specializes in flowers native to eastern North America—there were far fewer flowers blooming at the gardens than two months ago. The bee baum, false indigo, trillium and coneflower blossoms were dried out or gone entirely. I might not have invested in a season pass if so little had been in bloom during my first visit in April!
On the plus side, there were a lot more butterflies visiting what flowers remained in bloom; in July I hadn’t spotted any here. Now there were plenty of tiger swallowtails, and—I am not making this name up—a great spangled fritillary. I always marvel at the wings of butterflies. Up close, they look like someone printed them out on paper using an old inkjet printer! They were rather difficult to photograph. Not only is their small size a factor, but most of the flowers wouldn’t support their weight and forced them to beat their wings continuously. A lens with a greater telephoto capacity might also have helped.
I quickly learned that I had to adjust some techniques when shooting with an infant strapped to my chest. In particular, Dana didn’t like when I bent over to get a closer look at a flower; maybe it seemed to her like she was falling. Instead, I began to do a sort of squat and shoot quickly while down low.
There were a few treats among the flowers now in bloom. Perhaps the most impressive was the cleverly named flower known as the woodland spider-lily. There was also the closed bottle gentian, which originally I had mistaken for flower that had simply not yet bloomed.
Photographically, the most pleasing subjects were the cardinal flowers blooming down by the pond. The bright red blossoms caught the afternoon sunlight and stood out sharply against the dark background of shadowy pond water.
Our visit lasted around two hours, including plenty of time spent transitioning between car seat and carrier, feeding, and diaper changes. It was certainly a preview about what the outdoors will be like for the next few years. I may never hike quickly again…
Series on the Mount Cuba Center
Late Summer Flowers at the Mount Cuba Center