IN THE FIELD: Suburban Oasis


Last week I visited another arboretum here in southeastern Pennsylvania. The lush gardens are tucked away in a heavily populated area, but once inside the gates, the hustle bustle of the urban area is easily forgotten.

The botanical gardens consist of roughly 20 acres of native trees, shrubs, flowers, and ferns.  Along with the native plants, there are also rhododendrons and azaleas from around the world, planted in gardens under the old growth trees. The abundance of shade provided by the trees, maintain optimum conditions for the understory plants do exceptionally well.

Bog gardens flank the banks of a pond, and native wildflower gardens are planted in full sun. I took this photo of a prickly pear cactus, Opuntia humifusa, which was situated in dappled shade from a nearby honey locust tree.

It was quite warm in the sun that day, so I made my way back to the paved pathways that meander through the woods. The deep shade was a welcome relief from the early summer heat. And that’s when I came across this swamp azalea, Rhododendron viscosum ‘oblongifolium’. The blooming season was finished for the azaleas, but this one shrub was persevering to give one last show before the hot summer temperatures are in full swing.



ISO 200

cloudy WB




ISO 200

cloudy WB

  1. June 27, 2013 at 1:55 pm

    The cactus bloom is beautiful, David. I also like how your lighting emphasized the bloom. Love it!

    • June 29, 2013 at 12:44 pm

      Thanks Gracie, there were others in the blazing noon time sun, but this little guy was happy being somewhat shaded. I was too!

  2. June 27, 2013 at 2:29 pm

    I was about to say when did you get out to Arizona 😉 Good going here!

    • June 29, 2013 at 12:46 pm

      I flew out there for breakfast and then back the same morning LOL. I admit, it is odd seeing cactus plants back east. I suppose they are used to the climate extremes.

  3. June 27, 2013 at 4:24 pm

    Beautiful, David. I love the light on that cactus flower.

    • June 29, 2013 at 12:47 pm

      Thanks Lee, the shade from the tree had a nice effect…subtle shadows and cooling!

  4. June 27, 2013 at 10:24 pm

    That’s an exquisite photo of the cactus blossom, David! THe azalea is gorgeous too!

    • June 29, 2013 at 12:51 pm

      Thanks Montucky, the cactus found the perfect place to grow…just the right amount of sun and shade. The azalea was quite large…probably about six feet in diameter and still had many flowers. I’ve never seen this variety in all my days of fishing and canoeing.

  5. June 28, 2013 at 4:38 am

    How beautiful they are… Thank you dear David, love, nia

    • June 29, 2013 at 12:51 pm

      Yes, they sure were a treat for the eyes that day!

  6. June 28, 2013 at 7:47 am

    Beautiful, David. I really like the yellow bloom. It is almost luminous!

    • June 29, 2013 at 12:52 pm

      Thank you Ted, and luminous is a perfect way to describe the bloom!

  7. June 28, 2013 at 10:13 am

    Lovely photos, especially the cactus which looks as if it has its own lighting. The rhododendron is gorgeous – don’t think I have seen that variety before.

    • June 29, 2013 at 12:59 pm

      Thanks Jo, glad the flashlight behind the flower isn’t visible…just kidding. I would imagine as the sun travelled across the sky, the light would have been different a few minutes before or after I took the shot. Got lucky with this one! I’ve never seen this variety of azalea/rhododendron either. I would love to have the right growing conditions in the garden for one.

  8. June 29, 2013 at 9:43 am

    Yellow has always been my favorite. And this flower is so pretty. Pretty yellow.

    • June 29, 2013 at 1:01 pm

      Sure was a pretty specimen. One of our neighbors had these growing on a small hillside near their driveway, but they never bloomed. This was a real treat!

  9. June 29, 2013 at 2:35 pm

    I know cacti grow throughout the United States, but I don’t recall ever seeing any in the wild when I was growing up on Long Island. Now I’m so used to Opuntias in Texas that it strikes me as stange to hear of one in Pennsylvania, but I’m glad you got to photograph it. Cactus flowers are among the best.

    • June 30, 2013 at 11:00 am

      I’ve only seen them in the wild a few times…usually on a south facing hillside where not much else could get a foothold. You are so right…cactus flowers are among the best…it’s a super rarity around here to see one bloom outside!

  10. June 29, 2013 at 6:24 pm

    That white azalea is gorgeous and I have never seen a cactus flower like that – it is very beautiful amongst all its prickles. 🙂

    • June 30, 2013 at 11:02 am

      It was a nice surprise to find the azalea after getting back in the shade. It was so much cooler! The cactus bloom was a treat for me…I’ve only ever seen cactus blooms in a greenhouse.

  11. June 29, 2013 at 11:44 pm

    great lighting on the cactus flower, well done david

    • June 30, 2013 at 11:04 am

      Thanks Gerry, I was at the right place at the right time. Originally I wasn’t going to follow the path where I found these growing. I was going to turn back and head back to the woods the short way. glad I kept going!

  12. July 3, 2013 at 3:31 pm

    I like the light in BOTH shots.

  13. July 4, 2013 at 8:59 am

    The dappled shade effect in the first photo was a complete surprise considering how hot sunny it was just a few feet away. I also like the filtered sunlight on the dried leaves in the background although it was difficult to find a composition where the background wasn’t so distracting.

  14. July 8, 2013 at 1:38 am

    Lovely shots, I’d love to walk around in that garden, sounds like a happy place 🙂

  15. July 8, 2013 at 2:56 pm

    Oh it is! The trees are enormous and most of the gardens are nicely shaded. The pathways meander all through the woods and wildflowers bloom at various times of the year so there is almost always something in bloom.

  16. July 12, 2013 at 4:03 pm

    Absolutely love the lighting in that first image. Awesome capture…

    • July 13, 2013 at 11:16 am

      Thanks Marcus, it was hot and humid in the sun where most of the cactus were, but I got a small reprieve when I took this shot. I was able to stand in the shade. Ahhhhh

  17. July 14, 2013 at 4:31 am

    Beautiful shots! I especially like the cactus bloom!

    • July 14, 2013 at 10:43 am

      Thanks Fergie, Sometimes I surprise myself. Up until just now, I never noticed the contrast between these two shots…the prickly cactus and the soft azalea. Honestly it wasn’t done on purpose.

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