The Garden Path

And as we walked down the garden path, she sang to us, beautifully.

Her voice was a clear, high soprano.  The notes flowed like liquid, each warble and trill inviting the next.  It wasn’t clear, at first, from where her song came or what the melody was. Then, at last, discovery.

We were at the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden, just outside of Charlotte, North Carolina. It was our first stop in a visit to the Carolinas, wrapped around an October visit with a nephew and his wife.


Although Charlotte was not initially a target destination, it was the most convenient airport to fly into.  We figured we’re here, let’s check it out. But after a red-eye flight from Portland, it was time for an unexpected culture shock.  Who says you need to go to a foreign country?

It started with breakfast.  Our waitress, while friendly and helpful, had a drawl so thick we had to recalibrate our ears for an entirely new version of English. Then it was off to the gardens.

On second thought, the initial shock was at the airport. Once free of its air-conditioned confines we encountered something foreign and unusual for someone coming from Oregon in October.


Even at eight in the morning, it was pushing 90F (32C).  Once we’d finished breakfast and the gardens opened at 10, it was well into the 90s.  The garden staff, being savvy on the heat, had already done their watering – now they could hunker down in the A/C.  This watering had the side effect of pushing an already high humidity well into the 90 percent plus neighborhood.

So, imagine if you will, while we wandered around the grounds of the gardens and surrounding fields, we were sweltering, sweating, and swearing at the fates for slamming our cool weather acclamation with heat and humidity that would give a tropical island second thoughts.

At least we had the forethought to change into shorts.

You’ve actually seen the gardens before, if you’ve followed this blog for a while.


Remember this guy, from This May Bug You?  This big, fat, furry flyer was one of the first things we saw upon entering the gardens.  He’d be a bouncer at the bee’s nightclub for any of our local bees.

Wandering further afield, we felt like a fish out of water.


Speaking of wandering afield, we opted to wander across one.  The site’s map showed a lake at the far end and we opted to check it out, crossing fields and woods, paths and…

Once we arrived at what appeared to be the end of the trail, the lake still wasn’t in view.  I was determined to get a picture and opted to go cross-country.  Stumbling through weeds, vines, spider webs, fallen trees, brush, mushrooms, and gulches, I finally found the lake.


It was a bit anticlimactic.


My wife, being the more sensible of our pair, had opted not to join me on my cross-country scramble.  However, when I returned to my point of departure from the real trail, she was nowhere to be seen.

Heck of a way to start a vacation.

We did, eventually, cross paths again, and headed back to the main grounds of the gardens.  By this time the heat had ratcheted up another notch or three, turning hot into damn hot. It was tempting to jump into a fountain.


Still, it was a botanical garden.  There were flowers, even in October.




It wasn’t just flowers. Sculpture dotted the grounds.


While this black beauty bathes in the colors of the deepest night, in life it stood in broad daylight, light gray and black, chiseled into granite.  But in my head, I saw her this way.

Another lass stood in a clearing, breathing in nature and letting it fly.


Was this the source of that beautiful song?  Was this the soprano trilling away, enchanting us with her melodies?

Not likely.  While by this time the heat, humidity, and exertion had my head spinning, I wasn’t so bad off as to hallucinate an opera by a copper soprano.

But music was in the air.  We followed it, our ears watching that liquid stream of cheery notes, until it seemed we found its source.

Looking up into a thicket growing on a trellis, we noted our nondescript singer.

A Northern Mockingbird

And what were the lyrics behind its glorious melody?

A garden walk past plants of lace
Sweating buckets, red of face
Will he faint and plant his head
In the nearest flowerbed?

Hey, it’s a mocking bird.  What did you expect?


Author: Dave Ply


78 thoughts on “The Garden Path”

  1. My brother lives in North Carolina…like, me, he’s a midwestern transplant, so there’s no drawl to deal with, but the heat (and humidity) can be brutal. He enjoys rubbing it in during the winter, but I’ll stick with a little cold for the dry, cool climate here in Colorado.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. In truth, the waitress was the only person we encountered with that strong a drawl. Maybe she was from somewhere else. It seemed like a lot of the folks we encountered were from somewhere else. I’ve heard stories about the weather in that region, and how folks call Atlanta “Hotlanta”.


  2. I know it was a temperature shock to you coming from the Northwest, but don’t you love that feeling of heat and summer in a botanical garden? We used to sometimes go to a conservatory all covered in glass in Chicago in the winter and just soak up all that heat and humidity as a balm to our cold, dry skin! Climatic surprise aside, you got some lovely shots of birds and bees and other bits of nature – really pretty!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. This place had a conservatory too, that’ll be the next post. I liked it better in there. While it was very humid, it wasn’t as hot. I wish we had a good greenhouse conservatory around here.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Excellent poem, Dave! And excellent album – every shot is a keeper. 90 & humid in October I can definitely do without, but the gardens look absolutely beautiful.
    Did you eat grits at breakfast? I remember a waitress in Carolina asking me “Do you want, sweetie?” and thinking, “Do I want what?” but she was saying “Sweet tea”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We passed on the grits, we’re only so-so on them. Maybe we haven’t had a really good preparation. We did have the sweetie/sweet tea confusion for a bit.
      The poem, or a couple of lines occurred to me when trying to sleep. Then, a few days later when it was time to write the post I’d mostly forgotten it and had to dredge it up again. I thought it was apt.
      Botanic gardens are great. I wish we had one like that around here.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I haven’t spent enough time in the south to have a strong opinion. I know in the southwest it’s a dry heat, which is merely damn hot rather than unbearable. I’ve spent time in humid climates (tropical islands for diving) but they’re not usually super hot – just upper 80s. But maybe that’s just due to when I travel.

      We didn’t get exotic for breakfast. It seemed like they overcooked the meats, but the hash browns were good. It was a breakfast chain, nothing fancy.


  4. I’ve never been further into the south than Washington, D.C. unless Texas counts. Just once. We were flying to visit my brother and his family near San Francisco by way of Dallas. Stepping out of the comfortable environment of the plane into a literal wall of heat almost knocked us northerners out. It didn’t last long however as our connecting flight was a mere 15 minute wait. We always say one can add another layer in the cold but you can only remove so much in the heat.
    That’s a lovely botanical garden and you shared some nice views. Me being me, if you’ve seen anything from before this winter, was most interested in that ‘shroom which I think might be an Amanita, as in “don’t eat a Amanita”.
    That mockingbird has a way with words.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s always a wise move. Even experts are sometimes mistaken. I don’t forage for anything preferring to leave the nuts and berries for the wildlife that relies on them. That said, there are some delicious mushrooms out there.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I can take heat, and I can take humidity, but both at the same time gets to be a bit much. Actually, this time of year in the Pacific NW, it’s often humid and chilly. (Damp and chilly?)

      Liked by 1 person

  5. That’s a lovely photo of the mockingbird, which just happens to be the state bird of Texas. I’d always thought of both South and North Carolina as a little more bearable than Texas, weather-wise, but a friend in Charleston says it’s not so. She advises coming to visit in April and May, or November, and your experience confirms that.

    I especially enjoyed the photo of the green-eyed bee. I’ve seen exactly one of those; it was on a native milkweed. The good folks at BugGuide identified mine as Anthophora californica, but without a look at this one’s abdomen, I can’t be sure it’s exactly the same. Still — those eyes!

    I’m not really fond of grits or sweet tea, either, but I’ll bet I would have loved that gal’s accent.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think the 95 degree days were unusually hot even for them – in October. We’ll see heat like that too from time to time, usually in August. But generally not with humidity.

      Those bees were humdingers! Makes me glad to have a macro lens.

      That gal was really the only one to have a thick accent. Most everyone else we encountered had only a light accent or none at all (from my baseline perspective.)

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Our daughter and her husband lived in Charlotte for a while, Dave, so we were in and out of there several times. He was overseeing the laying of fiberoptic cables for Google in the city. As usual, I am really impressed with your flower shots. Boy do you have that one down. The bee is out of this world. Literally! –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That bee does look like it might be a furry little alien with those big bug eyes. I’ve taken a lot of flower pictures; they’re like photographic low hanging fruit. Sometimes I wonder if folks get tired of them, so I try to go for the more impressive ones.


  7. I imagine the heat of North Carolina would be a shock to someone who lives in Oregon! It’s certainly something you have to get used to. But I’m glad you were still able to enjoy the garden, and get those terrific photos of it.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Your photography and words blend perfectly. I couldn’t help but smile at the part where you and your wife seem to have got separated for a bit. 🙂 We’ve been on so many trips like that! Can a trip be called a success without the mandatory separation? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Every place has its pluses and minuses. Be happy your visit was short. Where we live in Florida, it rarely gets above 95, but it is often in the 90s from mid-May to Mid October and this year went into November. Around August, Alie gets what I call a “tropical depression” and we have to get out of town. But then, I hated the cold rain we often got in D.C. where we lived many years. January here was beautiful.
    Perhaps the best option is to be a “snowbird” and live in a cooler clime in the summer and warmer in the winter.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t care for overcast and rain enough to move to Seattle – but then we just put and offer on a house in Columbus, Ohio, also known for its overcast days. One goes where one must – or the pluses exceed the minuses.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Exceptionally beautiful photos, Dave! You said it perfectly about not needing to go to a foreign country. Canada also has areas with many contrasts. Many years ago, my husband and I almost needed a translator in Newfoundland. Wonderful people, yet could not understand all that was being said. The lass with the bird is a unique sculpture. Amazing how emotions are captured on her face and in her stance. Is this your poem? Too funny. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sometimes I wonder, with as much international and Pacific NW travel as we’ve done in the last 20 years, why we haven’t spent more time checking out the USA. Yep, the poem is mine, it seemed to fit. I’m not really poetically minded, one stanza was all I could manage.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Dave
      Must admit cities are not on my list but this one is a bit different. I travel for history and scenery. Most fires now out thank goodness due to torrential storms, thanks for asking.
      It is nice seeing your photos of birds and plants that we don’t have.

      Liked by 2 people

  11. I really loved how American sounds over in Charlotte. It’s a nice city, one of the most livable I’ve seen in the US… Though I’ll agree with you Dave, you really sweat professionally over there.

    As always, love your macros. Worthy of a magazine.


    Liked by 1 person

  12. I am glad that you found your (very sensible) wife after your extended odyssey to the lake. Even though I’ve spent many years in the tropics, nothing wilts me quite like the climate of the American South. Apparently, your creativity was not affected by the heat and humidity. Your visuals are gorgeous, and your sense of humor remained intact.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Fortunately, the main building at the gardens was air-conditioned. That, and a cold bottle of water helped sooth my fevered head. Of course, one might argue the poem came from a fevered delirium. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Damn, you’re a poet too?

    I can take the Phoenix heat and (so far) Minnesota cold, but I ain’t never gonna move down South. Even the occasional humid summer day here doesn’t compare to that – and in October? 😥

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Another great post Dave with fabulous photos.
    When you are looking for a destination some time, Singapore has the most amazing “Gardens by the Bay” with 2 huge indoor gardens, Dry and Rainforest. The buildings alone are engineering marvels. It is a photographers dream.
    Look forward to your posts but time off is essential.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Gay! I have to admit I’m not usually drawn to big cities, but it does sound like Singapore has some interesting things to see.

      Did you and yours get through the fire season ok?


  15. Beautiful garden! How was the weather in October? We went to Savannah the first weekend of May and it was so hot. They were having a heat wave. It was 90 degrees with 90 humidity just pure torture.

    The water shot caught me eye and the one with the flower arch (post after this). The arch made me imagine myself walking in the garden. We’ve been craving green but won’t be outdoors until April 😦 It’s always hard to choose fav pics because they are always beautiful!

    Liked by 1 person

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