Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Wednesday Vignette: Capturing a Dragon

I attended a meeting at South Coast Botanic Garden earlier this week and afterwards walked around the garden awhile, snapping random photos, as I looked for the art pieces on loan from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art as part of the new "Hide and Seek" exhibit.  My search was impeded by my failure to consult the map, as well as the fact that part of the main road was temporarily closed due to an ongoing pipe installation project directed by the local water service company.

Cloudless sulphur butterflies (Phoebis sennae) were flitting throughout the garden and I spent several frustrating minutes trying to capture a decent photo of one.

This was the best shot I managed.  Even for butterflies, this species seems especially manic to me.

Host plants, like these Senna bicapsularis, are plentiful in the garden at the moment


I found one of the 6 newly installed sculptures tucked in an area many of the garden's volunteers refer to as the "back forty" (acres).

This is Teha, constructed of painted and unpainted steel in 1971 by Mark di Suvero.  I understand that the area surrounding this and other sculptures may change at intervals during the term of the installation at SCBG.


It was getting warmer by this point and growing closer to lunchtime so I abandoned the effort to locate the rest of the sculptures and meandered back in the general direction of garden's entrance.  On my way I snapped a few more photos of plants that grabbed my attention.

I couldn't find a tag for this plant but both the foliage and flower forms reminded me of my Bauhinia x blakeana and I was gratified when a subsequent on-line search suggested that it's Bauhinia galpinii (aka red orchid bush)

This tree literally stopped me in my tracks.  Even from a distance, I could see it was blanketed in large, dark blue berries.  It was labeled and I was surprised to discover that it's the Chinese Fringe tree (Chionanthus retusus), which I'd admired in bloom back in April (photo at lower right).


I stopped at the Mediterranean Garden to appreciate a group of Salvias in full bloom.

This is Salvia mexicana 'Limelight', which I previously had difficultly growing in my own garden due to its water requirements

As I bent closer to get a better photo of the Salvia's flowers, this fellow showed up.  I believe he's a flame skimmer dragonfly (Libellula saturata).

I was able to get 4 shots of him, growing closer and closer with each


Capturing the dragonfly with my camera was an achievement in my view.  I seldom see dragonflies in my area to begin with and my ability to catch photos of insects and birds when they appear is poor to say the least.  To be honest, this was one exceptionally cooperative dragonfly.  He didn't move no matter how close I got to him, while most butterflies speed away when I even think of shifting my stance to improve my shot.

As I again turned toward the garden's exit, I saw a squirrel alternately burying nuts and conducting a Don Quixotesque battle with a stick.  Encouraged by my luck in getting photos of the dragonfly, I aimed my camera at him, only to have my battery die.  I followed the scampering squirrel while fumbling to change the battery, ending up in the Garden of the Senses where I ran into my docent friend Kay.  We chatted about her most recent changes to the area and I snapped more photos before we both headed out and home.

Thanks largely to Kay's efforts, the Garden of the Senses is looking better and better with each visit.  Signs have been moved to match up with the plants they describe; new plants have been added, along with appropriate labels; weeds have been yanked; and the beds have been mulched.

New Salvias (S. leucantha and S. elegans) have been added next to the existing lemon verbena (Aloysia citrodora), prompting nearly continuous visits by hummingbirds (which of course I was unable to photograph).  Kay's also added more chocolate daisies (Berlandiera lyrata) and new chocolate cosmos (Cosmos atrosanguineus, which I neglected to photograph) to entice visitors to sniff.

Bed featuring black-eyed susans (Rudbackia hirta) and an assortment of herbs


All in all, a pleasant way to spend a morning following a business meeting.  For more Wednesday Vignettes, visit Anna at Flutter & Hum.


All material © 2012-2019 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

24 comments:

  1. That looks like a wonderful morning, Kris! Nice shot of the dragonfly too. It's really hard to photograph wildlife of all kinds - having had only occasional successes, I'm in awe of anyone who consistently produce stunning shots of these constantly moving jewels. Thank heavens for that cropping tool, I say! Also, I had no idea Fringe trees produced berries! Very cool!

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    1. I usually rely heavily on cropping for wildlife pictures of any kind, Anna. This was the rare occasion in which it wasn't necessary!

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  2. What a wonderful way to spend a morning! I could almost feel the warmth. We are now entrenched in autumn weather here, cold and wet. I've often had better luck with dragonflies than butterflies. Good shot! The sensory garden does look very pleasant.

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    1. Yes, we're definitely far from cold and wet down this way, Alison. We're enjoying a brief span of very comfortable temperatures at the moment. The air quality isn't great but, hey, you can't have everything.

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  3. Good job on the flame skimmer! The really tricky photo is to capture them in flight.

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    1. I haven't anything on the order of your skills in photography, Eric.

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  4. What a lovely place! That garden of the senses looks fabulous. You got great photos of the butterfly and the dragonfly! They're hard to capture!

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    1. I was lucky that the dragonfly was cooperative - or just tired. I got so frustrated with the cloudless sulphurs refusal to settle for more than a nanosecond that I just started snapping photos one after another and just got lucky with one solitary shot.

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  5. That was fun. The close up of the dragonfly is superb - a real winner of a shot. Congratulations.

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    1. I was stoked just to see a dragonfly, Barbara, but those photos made the walk through the garden for me on this visit.

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  6. I had forgotten about that Limelight Salvia...so pretty in blue. May have to try it here!

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  7. The gardens are looking great, changing with every season. Yay for volunteers! ;)
    Following butterflies can be so frustrating, eh? Even with a long lens, it is a challenge. Glad the dragonfly cooperated!

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    1. Volunteers vastly outnumber the paid garden staff, Eliza. I may follow Kay's example and add some maintenance activities to my visits once I get my own garden back in order following our remodel.

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  8. Your dragonfly capture is better than any garden art, in my opinion.

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    1. I know and respect your feelings about garden art, Loree.

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  9. Such an attractive place. The sculpture looks good in the back 40. I love dragons. They are migrating now too. Everyone talks about the Monarchs migrating but dragons do too.

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    1. I wish dragonflies were more common in my own neighborhood, Lisa. We've got too little water to attract them maybe.

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  10. Why is it the battery always dies just before an incredible potential shot? A real treat to see all the plants I am unable to grow. Thanks for the tour.

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    1. Well, the battery light did warn me in advance that I needed to change it, Elaine. I should have paid heed - one never knows when one will encounter a gymnastic squirrel ;)

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  11. I thoroughly appreciate when gardens label the plants - no matter the garden, there are always a few (or more!) plants that catch my eye and it's so nice when there is a clear label with that information (which I take a picture of, along with the plant).

    I know what you mean about capturing photos of insects and other critters - it takes patience and always having your camera at the ready.

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    1. Labels are a big deal for me too, Margaret, as I'm always on the look-out for new options to try in my own garden.

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  12. Wonderful pictures of the butterfly and the dragonfly. That’s an exotic looking dragonfly. I photographed a butterfly very similar to yours this week and have been trying to identify it. Thanks.

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    1. I'm glad the post was of help with your ID, Susie.

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