doc w/ Pen

journalist + medical student + artist

Tag: garden

Home-grown exotics

A few days before leaving for rural Uganda, I had an exotic adventure right in my own backyard. I trekked out to the Bronx to visit the New York Botanical Garden, one of my favorite places in the city. It’s always a fun trip, and I walked through some of my favorite haunts, like the ornamental conifer garden. But I made this particular visit to see the annual orchid show, which would conclude while I was out of the country. This week was my last chance.

The show didn’t disappoint. I ooooohed and aaaaahed as I made my way through the greenhouse, stunned by the magnificent and many colors, shapes, and sizes. Some blooms hung in clusters from trees; some strutted in giant pots on the ground; others wound their way like strands of delicate glass beads around a gigantic frame of green bamboo-like rods, a structure which reached up for the ceiling, and for the sun.

My photos don’t do these beautiful blooms justice. But they give you a glimpse at what the show was like:

Outside, the Japanese apricot trees (below) were blooming, as were the azaleas. It was early April, too early for many of the spring bulbs, but some precocious daffodils (also below) and even a few tulips had popped up to say their spring “hello.”

All this green (and pink, orange, yellow, purple, and so on …) was so refreshing to see. It was a pleasant respite from all the concrete and steel that surrounds me on a daily basis. It was also a lovely reminder that someday, I want to have a house again, with a backyard, and my own garden.

japanese apricots



A refreshing spring break

Last week was my much-welcomed spring break. I spent a few days of it in Chicago visiting my much-missed family. As usual, we talked, laughed, played games, watched movies, ate wonderful food, and drank beer and sparkling wine (not simultaneously, of course).

I also made a trek back to the Garfield Park Conservatory. I’ve been visiting this gigantic, tropical greenhouse since before I can remember, and posted about my time there at Christmas. One reason I love Garfield Park is that every time I go, I discover something new. Sometimes, it’s at a seasonal flower show. Other times, I come across something that’s always been there and I simply see it in a new way. Both happened during this most recent visit.

When I went last Friday, the spring flower show was underway. I’ve never seen such vibrant azaleas or Persian buttercups.

Brilliant azaleas at the Garfield Park Conservatory’s spring flower show.

In the fern room, a childhood favorite for games of hide-and-seek, I noticed unusual patterns of fern spores. Usually, fern spores aggregate in little round, brown balls that line the underside of the leaves. But I discovered that they arrange themselves in other beautiful ways — in straight lines and in zig-zags, for example.

Schismatoglottis — parasite or plant?

Part of how you see things depends on your perspective. And I was looking at the plants as a medical student. So when I saw a plant called Schismatoglottis (pictured at left), I immediately thought the placard read “Schistosomiasis” — a nasty parasitic worm you contract by exposure to infected water.

And looking at the miniature silver nerve plant, I had flashbacks to our brain and behavior unit last fall. The veins in the leaves do bear resemblance to axons and dendrites.

Miniature silver nerve plant

I found unexpected humor at the conservatory too. In the same room where my sisters and I had run amok as kids, I saw this gardener’s bin. I’m glad to see childhood playfulness is still welcomed — even encouraged.

And now, after such a refreshing spring break, it’s time to get ready for my next clerkship: primary care.

Exploring NYC: New York Botanical Garden


Posing in the rose garden.

New York City is a massive concrete jungle. But you don’t have to go far to get a taste of nature. Aside from Central Park (a short walk from my apartment), New York has not one but TWO botanical gardens. I visited the Bronx version yesterday, the New York Botanical Garden. I’d visited here last fall with a couple of classmates, but one of the collections I really wanted to see, the rose garden, was past its prime then. I promised myself I’d return in the summer, and so that’s exactly what I did.


This rose bush, which sports both peach and pink blossoms on the same plant, was one of my favorites.

The Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden, according to the garden’s website, has more than 650 varieties of blooming roses at its peak. It was funded by the philanthropist David Rockefeller and named after his wife, Peggy. On the day I went, Mr. Rockefeller himself happened to be touring the rose garden—not a place I expected for a celebrity sighting, but there you have it. Just walking through the entrance gate of the rose garden is an experience, both olfactory and visual. So many varieties, all different colors, sizes, and shapes. I’d forgotten how different roses can look from each other.

The top of the conifer

The top of an odd conifer.

The bottom of the conifer

The bottom of an odd conifer.

Another highlight of my trip to the botanical garden was the ornamental conifers collection. I grew up frequently visiting my grandparents’ cabin in the mountains of Colorado, so the smell of pine and the rustle of wind through the branches are among my favorite memories. The conifers here, though, were unlike any I’d ever seen. Strange shapes (like the photos here) and unusual colors abounded. I also learned something new—that some conifers lose their needles. Who knew?

It was a wonderful adventure, and all just an hour’s train + bus ride away. That’s one of the great things about New York—it has a little bit of everything.


One of the garden’s lovely waterfalls.