A conversation with Jennifer Purcell, Botanical Garden Registrar at The Living Desert
A few weeks ago I arose after a scant three hours sleep to catch an early morning flight to Palm Springs for the delicious opportunity to spend several days on day-trip wildflower safaris with my eighty-something folks in the deserts of Southern California. This is an annual affair for us, and one that we carefully time according to unfolding temperatures and rainfall, and the ways these variable elements necessarily affect the emergence of the region’s springtime desert wildflowers. Our methodology may seem nearly as quaint to some as trying to read the tea leaves in the bottom of a cup, or the scatter of charred bones within the cooled ashes of a shaman’s campfire, but it is one that we have nearly perfected for our needs over several years now. It gives us things to talk about and research, to ponder and speculate over for months ahead of time, and I am quite happy to report that this year’s sleep deprivation and airfare monies feel very, very well spent.
One of the bonuses this year’s trip afforded was a morning at The Living Desert with the plant-wise, life-passionate and absolutely delightful, Botanical Garden Registrar, Jennifer Purcell. She and my Dad, who volunteers at The Living Desert as a greeter and docent, (and as their unofficial/official ant photographer), are good friends. He first introduced me to Jennifer when we were walking around The Living Desert one hot, sunny afternoon, maybe five years ago, but her name and guiding influence predated that initial meeting by at least a year, and they have reappeared many times since in scouting reports of wildflower sightings, in suggestions for great walks we might consider and in generous notes occasionally left in response to pictures and essays I’ve posted over on my more personal, A Photographers Garden Blog.
Imagine my delight when Jennifer consented to add her insightful voice to this project by way of a casual, in-garden interview.
Below: Balanced upon the patinaed ivories of my parent’s piano is the sweet little desert flower bouquet (Autumn Sage and Desert Marigold), that Jennifer was gathering during our interview, which she then sent home to my mom as a gift. As you can see, I’ve played with the image a bit to give it a bit more character, a bit more of a timeless, dreamlike quality because that is the way I hope you will see it, the way I, personally would like to remember it.
Bouquets are so utterly variable in nature, from those immense, grand, bold statements designed to set the mood for an entire public space, to tiny, fragrant mementos of an outdoor adventure with friends or loved ones. Flowers are by their very nature, fleeting, but beautiful, connected human moments may stay with us, may transform us for a lifetime. And the way these two etherial worlds sometimes meet and enhance, and dance with one another is the stuff of magic.
Imagine that, bouquets as one more way we humans regularly find to dabble and play with magic. Big, big magic.