Blue Poppies and Pandas: Separated at Birth

I went to the Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden yesterday to photograph the blue poppies and other lovely flowers in bloom.  My visit happened to coincide with their official “Blue Poppy Day,” which included free entrance and vendors.  To me that meant get there early and focus on the goal.  Unfortunately, they open at 10 (not exactly early), but I was undeterred.  It was somewhat reminiscent of a day spent at the San Diego Zoo a few years ago.

Four years ago the husband and I spent a week in San Diego.  It was our first visit and we promptly fell in love.  Warm days, beautiful beaches, lots to see.  While there, we decided that we would visit the San Diego Zoo.  Now, we are not huge zoo people.  They just don’t register when we’re thinking of things to do when visiting an area.  However, we had heard that it was an amazing zoo…and I really wanted to see panda bears.

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I did my research and learned that they only allow so many people into the panda habitat at the time.  And, that as the day wears on the wait can be upwards of 45 minutes.  The recommendation?  Enter the zoo right when it opens and hit the pandas first.  Will do!

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The zoo opened at 9 am.  Lucky for us, the condo we were staying in was less than 10 minutes from there.  We were loitering outside the gates by 8:45 and sprinted for the pandas the moment we were allowed entrance.  Okay, “sprinted” may be a bit dramatic.  It was more like a hurried walk.  And the husband kept getting distracted by other animals and I kept saying, “We’ll look at those later….c’mon….c’mon!”  He was particularly taken by Scout and Montana, two grizzly bears from, well, Montana.  I almost lost him, but we finally reached our goal and were amongst the first of the day to see the pandas.  It was worth it.


How on earth is that like going to see blue poppies?  Okay, well, you probably wouldn’t have to wait 45 minutes to see the poppies.  They’re in a section of the garden that is easily accessible by all.  But, have you ever tried to take photos when there is a whole lot of people cluttering an area?  It can be tough.  Now, realistically I knew that I intended to focus on macro shots.  But, still…clutter.

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Thus, I was on the road by a little after 9 am to ensure that I would be amongst the first to access the gardens.  I may have sped a little as I fell behind a bit after stopping for an iced chai.  Ahhhh…who are we kiddin’…I speed a little most of the time.

It was a perfect morning of mixed sun and clouds.  As a photographer I have come to love those weather conditions.  Too sunny and the lighting conditions are too harsh.  Too cloudy and, well, who wants too cloudy?

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I arrived at the garden at 9:55 and was surprised by the number of cars already in the lot.  The gates opened right at 10 and I headed towards the poppies, which are quite deep in the gardens.  Lucky for me, I knew right where they were.  Kind of.  I may have gotten a little turned around, but I eventually found them.  After-the-fact I noticed that they had small blue surveyor flags marking the route to the poppies.  Note to self for next year.

Then….there they were.  And I was the first to step amongst them that morning.  I unpacked my tripod and got myself set up.  Bliss.

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Blue poppies are like no other flower.  Don’t get me wrong, I love a lot of flowers.  Perhaps it’s more appropriate to say that the color is like no other natural flower.  Right?  That blue to blue-ish purple is simply exquisite.  Sure, we’ve all seen blue daisies, carnations and orchids being peddled at the grocery store, but those weren’t born that way.  Blue poppies are naturally that luscious blue.  Perfection.

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I told myself that I didn’t need to take a hundred photos of blue poppies, but I did.  Need to, that is.  They’ve actually cultivated a second poppy bed over the last couple of years, so after taking 70 or so shots at the first bed I finished things off at the second.  Afterwards, I wandered the garden drinking in the rest of the sights.  Many of their rhodies have already bloomed, but there were still a fair number in bloom…along with a lot of other stuff.  It’s just a beautiful garden…one of my favorites in the area.

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After making a big loop around the grounds, with some zig-zags along the way, I happened past the main poppy bed.  It was now around 11:30.  Yes, I had spent an hour and a half in the garden.  They have that kind of hold on me.  It’s like I enter this vortex.  The hoards I managed to avoid earlier had landed and that section of the garden was teaming with people.  I mentally patted myself on the back and wound my way back towards the entrance, getting distracted by flowers for another 30 minutes or so.

If I could whistle I would have whistled as I walked back to my car.  I know I had a stupid smile on my face.  Flowers.  Flowers.  Blue poppies.  More flowers.  It doesn’t get much better than that.  I headed home to plant my own flowers, as that was the theme for the day.



2 thoughts on “Blue Poppies and Pandas: Separated at Birth

    1. Thanks, Gretchen! It’s truly a passion. I can photograph steadily for an hour or two at a time and when I finally breath it’s like coming up from deep water…sounds return, the world comes back into focus. Love it!!


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