It’s the Small Things

Mon., May. 10, 2021

By Mary Lineberger, HF&G Gardener

I love miniatures. Similarly, I love to notice the small bits of nature. There is something intriguing about imagining tiny worlds — real ones as well as make-believe ones. All the minute goings-on in our vast environment, much happening unbeknownst to us, maybe even secret, make me think of doll houses, dioramas and models of all sorts – buildings, boats, bridges, and trains, Fabergé jeweled flowers or The Borrowers and Thumbelina.

When our Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum) above begins to emerge, I see a miniature, picnic umbrella tightly secured, then slowly opening to shelter a pocket-sized al fresco meal.
As bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) above begins to unfurl its leaves and flower petals, it becomes a white-haired, Lilliputian wrapped up in a tender, veiny rain cloak.
Have you ever looked at a red maple tree (Acer rubrum) blossom up close? Or a witch-hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) flower? These diminutive beauties could appear in a tiny, tropical, fantasy forest. Our native, striped wintergreen wildflower (Chimaphila maculata) above is petite, fairy foliage for sure.
Above: Ms. Indigo frolicking amongst the Miniature Trumpet Daffodil (Narcissus ‘Little Gem’) and the Dwarf Iris (Iris ‘Harmony’) in front of Corning Visitor Center.
Part of the immense and varied, beauty and magic of nature is in the minute and the details. The closed buds of our beautiful trout lily (Erythronium Americanum) above are perfect, yellow lanterns in a compact Oz. Or consider the colors inside the catalpa tree (Catalpa bignonioides) flower—they appear to be created with tiny spray paints on bits of white silk.
I find it calming and somewhat cozy to reduce the world to just a few inches of natural, intricate beauty. It is fun to wonder what could be happening in that mossy, mini cave at the base of a great oak tree.

So, next time you are out in nature, at any time of year, take a closer look at the diminutive world: the delightful detail of buds, a pinecone or the cap of an acorn; the complex design of tree bark, a spider web jeweled with beads of water, or a miniscule mossy lane leading to a fairy house. Give a closer look to the small things in your natural environment. Take your time, see what you can observe in the micro. Change your perspective and let your imagination take hold.

Speaking of fairy houses, stay tuned for information about our Fairy Doors exhibit, opening July 6, 2021 at the Holden Arboretum and Cleveland Botanical Garden!

Mary Lineberger

Mary Lineberger


Mary Lineberger is a Gardener in the Helen S. Layer Rhododendron Garden. Previously she was Garden Manager at The Cleveland Museum of Natural History as well as a seasonal hire at Holden in 2015 and 2016. She is pictured here with Norman, who before joining Mary’s family, was a scrawny stray wandering the woods surrounding Holden Arboretum.


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