Saturday was garden day in Vancouver. Meeg and Kris were off dragon-boating, so I took the opportunity to visit some of my favourite places: Vandusen Gardens, Southlands Nursery, and a new one for me, UBC Botanical Gardens.
Vandusen was looking a little like the day after a big party — this is a place best visited in April and May for its wondrous collection of rhododendrons, azaleas, and its fabulous laburnum walk. Laburnum are trees with long racemes of yellow flowers, very much like wisteria, and at Van Dusen they’ve been bent over trellis’ to form a long cave of yellow flowers hanging down, complemented by the big round purple blooms of giant allium (otherwise known as…onions) coming up from the ground all along the path. But the show was over. Drats.
I’ve driven by UBC Botanical Gardens many, many times in my life, but this time, I decided to stop. Saturday was hot and sunny, and I needed a place to to hide out from the choking hordes of people and cars milling on beaches, sidewalks, and streets. Apparently, a lot of other people drive by this place too, because there were only a handful of visitors, who soon left this wonderful treasure all to me, me, me. What a great garden!! Roses climbing 40 feet into the old Douglas Firs and Cedar were in full bloom, and the flowering Japanese dogwood trees (cornus Kousa) were so loaded with flowers, the leaves were barely visible. There are some magnificent old trees here, along with a large collection of unusual and interesting plants.
Over in the Alpine Garden, I came across a Rufous Hummingbird flitting around a large shrub with long arching sprays of red flowers. I stopped and stood quietly to watch him, and in doing so acquired a whole new perspective on hummingbirds. My image of them as industrious little pollinators is shattered. This one was completely unperturbed by my presence, and spent most of his time lounging on a flower stem not more than 4 feet away from me, watching the world go by. Every once in a while he’d buzz around for a quick sip from the flowers, then land back on the same stem. Then, to my great amusement, he got lazy. He’d reach up to try to sip the red bloom over his head, and when he couldn’t…quite…reach…, he’d buzz his wings to get just enough lift to poke his beak in, without actually letting go of the perch. Then he’d settle back down. Once in a while he’d give the buds next to him a poke to see if he could get a snack without actually having to move. I was afraid that if I laughed I’d scare him, but he seemed more interested in food, and the other birds around him, than me. Twice he let out a loud and scatchy kind of cheep, and took off in a grand huff to chase other hummingbirds; then he’d land back on the same branch and poke around for another lazy snack from the nearby blooms. Dragonflies bigger than him would whizz by and stop, moving on once they decided he wasn’t another dragongfly invading their territory. It was quite a scene.
My final close encounter of the day with birds came at the ladies’ washroom entrance. As I approached, I looked up to see two swallows comfortably perched along the top of the propped-open door. I got closer, and they just looked at me blithely, with a kind of “whatchu looking at?” expression on their faces. By the time I stood at the door, I was right under them and was so close I could have touched them both. Neither moved, and I blinked first. I made a dash through the doorway, sure they were planning to poop on my head. They were still there when I came out.