Some people say, “ You can’t see the forest for the trees”. I think, “ you can’t see the trees for the grass.” Or at least that’s how I felt a week ago when I had toured the Arnold Arboretum in Boston. I guess I’ve been living a little myopically since I “discovered” the grasses a few weeks ago. I’ve had a hard time keeping focused on the bigger picture, which at the Arnold is some very impressive old specimen trees. As I scrolled through my photos when I returned, I’m working on an article for the Washington Park Arboretum Bulletin, I was surprised how many photos included grasses.
Now it would be hard to exclude grasses from almost any arboretum photos. Grasses make the perfect under story for trees, a soft hardscape for strolling among them. As I wandered the Arnold looking for specific trees I found I was often walking through grasses, wading at times, after a deluge of thunderstorms passed through the area saturating the park, as I went deep into the collection where there was little foot traffic. The park is crisscrossed by black top roads, and sidewalks, gravel paths, muddy paths and mown paths. There is a constant stream of dog walkers, stroller joggers, kids and work vehicles on the move there. There were even amblers, and a few questers like me looking for a specific trees, or the perfect shot for photographing.
I took each of these ways through the park at one point or another, but mostly I stuck to the grassiest ways, which conjured words I’ve only read and never written like sward, glade, turf, and green. Certainly it was green. The lawns stretched across the 265 acre park varied greatly from the finely manicured lawns near the Hunnewell building which housed the visitor center and offices of the arboretum, to glades beneath the stands of tall oaks, and meadows in open areas between collections.
I was surprised how much I was captivated by the grassy areas; I came for the trees. But if it weren’t for the grasses I would have only seen a forest and probably not the trees.
Walk with me and you might see what I mean.
Many choices. many directions to choose from.
Expansive well groom lawns read like architecture.
Kentucky coffee tree off the main drag.
Gravel leads deeper into the collections.
Grass captures shadows.
Deeper still on a path less travelled.
Shadows pool on the meadow on a hot afternoon.
The path becomes obscured as it penetrates the conifer collection...
until I'm knee deep in the sward.