A fusion of art and ecology describes the new Nature Photography Garden at the Memphis Botanic Garden, according to Chris Cosby, Senior Manager of Gardens. For the past two years, Cosby, Japanese Garden curator Nick Esthus, and Horticulture Manager Jeff Reynolds have been laying out the design for this one of a kind Garden that encompasses about an acre on the grounds. “We had to choose the right site configuring backlighting, food plants, and pathways,” said Cosby. “This is the only one in the country that we know of,” he added.
Dr. David Sloas, an avid bird photographer, approached Executive Director Jim Duncan about the possibility of this unique Garden. Since then, it has been an ongoing, well-thought out plan that has incorporated the mimicking of natural habitats in offering the three staples of life: food, water and shelter. “We looked at different plants and which plants provided food at different times of the year for different animals,” said Cosby. Water features throughout the Garden are designed for wildlife, such as insects and birds. The plants also had to “be enjoyed all year round,” added Esthus. This Garden is truly a model on natural systems.
“It’s such an informal and naturalistic garden with more than 300 different species of plants from many different habitats,” said Esthus. The area is divided into specific niches – woodland edge, meadow, pitcher plant bog, old field, and rain garden. Within these niches are wide paths that are easily accessible and open as well as intimate footpaths that are more private. “Composition was very important. These paths will enable visitors different ways to photograph, whether it be macro or wide angled shots,” said Cosby.
Though each niche has its unique aspects, such as the rain garden using the naturally damp lowland and working with this run-off water instead of fighting it, the meadow is already thriving and attracting an array of dragonflies. “This is the first meadow planted by seed that I know of here in the area,” said Cosby. As the Garden develops, other species will grow in. “This is the fun part – figuring out how the species interact,” said Esthus. “We will have to learn what species require within the constraints of the Garden,” added Esthus.
As people visit this new Garden, the staff will watch how visitors are interacting with this space. “It will be a conversation between the Garden and visitors, since we will create footpaths where they are needed,” said Cosby.
“The Nature Photography Garden is another example of how the Memphis Botanic Garden is creating new areas that broaden the interest base of our visitors. The Photography Garden is very unique in its concept and design and will be recognized for its exclusivity, creativity and for increasing the number of visitors at the Memphis Botanic Garden.,” said Duncan. There will be no signs in the Garden in order to maintain a natural background for photography. Not only will visitors enjoy the beauty of the relationship between plants and animals, but “visitors can also recreate elements of this Garden and get a good plant list,” said Cosby.
There will be a ribbon cutting to celebrate the grand opening of the Nature Photography Garden on September 13 at 5:00 p.m.