The Leaf

06 June 2012


1. Red Oak Leaf Lettuce and Broccoli; June 2011; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2012

2. Arugula, June 2012; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2012

3. Japanese Maple, June 2012; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2012

4. Early Meadow Rue, June 2012; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2012

5. Cardinal Flower, June 2012; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2012

6. Yarrow, June 2012; © Sally W. Donatello and Lens and Pens by Sally, 2012

Let me know which is your favorite.


My fascination with leaves is longstanding. My first post on this blog features a glorious leaf (click here to view “Autumn Spirit”) that I serendipitously found in my backyard. A single leaf can be lost forever in the forest of its competition or in a fraction of a second woo your affection. It’s a dazzling experience to realize its power over our sensibilities.

There is an abundance of charm and splendor in what is in plain sight, and the discovery of that beauty can suddenly become an adventure in artistry. Surely, leaves fit into this category.

Mostly, we are drawn to the flowerhead, petals or congregation of varieties of flowers, plants and trees. The leaf is usually forgotten, unseen and unappreciated. Furthermore, it is underrated for its critical role in the sustenance of life.

There is a deceptive aspect to a leaf; you cannot comprehend its hard labor from its outward appearance. It’s role in nature and human nature is so monumental that you’d think it would be continuously feted. Of course the sun certainly got her acclaim and accolades, and still does.

The partnership (photosynthesis) between leaves and the sun is genius. As with most relationships, their interdependence is both simple and complicated. But the real irony is that the leaf is not made by the tree. In reality it is the tree that is fed by leaves, and grows because of their serious work ethic.

Some of my favorite quotes about foliage:

“I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars.” Walt Whitman

“Never say there is nothing beautiful in the world anymore. There is always something to make you wonder in the shape of a tree, the trembling of a leaf.” Albert Schweitzer

In the Lens section there are six leaves that easily display a distinct quality and substantial calling card. They demonstrate that each leaf is unique, and carries its own character. They may have the same duty and purpose, but their designs, colors and shapes are determined by their botanical families.

1. Red Oak Leaf Lettuce and Broccoli: This photograph is the only one of the six taken at the peak of last Spring. These two vegetables symbolize the cool weather crops. They complement each other in the garden, on the plate and as companions for a still image. It was early morning and the dew had not evaporated, which  made for an interesting touch. The tiny greenish fly was strolling toward a droplet, giving another dimension to the image.

2. Arugula: Has become my top-tier green. During our mild winter I harvested it  throughout the cold months. Its heavenly pungency has that burst-in-your-mouth flavor. This leaf is the wild roquette variety, which requires attention to keep it from flowering.  These plants are from late autumn’s sowing and are still going strong, allowing this season’s crops of various varieties to grow from their seedling stages.

3. Japanese Maple: This eloquent tree has unusual seven-palmed leaves, which are delicate in texture but bold in maroon-red colorations. Their known for their curb appeal and often found in suburban front gardens. Still, they have a melodramatic appearance, coaxing the viewer closer. The reward is many fold: the light can move straight through the leaves and gives definition of a different sort to the one’s that overlap.

4. Early Meadow Rue: A few year ago I found this lovely plant at Winterthur Museum and Garden’s plant sale. Each year I await its tiny delicate purple flowers to sun themselves. But that will be weeks away. Now I simple enjoy the leaves, which are different from any other in my treasure trove of foliage (excluding the Japanese maple that is on a neighbor’s front yard).

5. Cardinal Flower: Many of the flowers in my garden are natives that lure hummingbirds, and the cardinal flower is the perfect example. Its bright-red and trumpet-shaped flowers do their job exceptional well, but they will not appear until early summer. Their leaves of lightly-tinted lime to deeply-saturated greens with veins of red astound. Yes, Lobelia Cardinalis is a joy to behold in flowering or foliage.

6. Yarrow: The yarrow is part of the carrot family, and there is no mistaken that kinship. The leaves are familiar as the tops of the edible carrot. Yarrow comes in various colors, and mine will be white. It’s in a container because it spreads easily. As a perennial it has become a sort of bonsai–small and lithe and sweetly showing off its feathery leaves.

Even as each leaf is a wellspring for our own survival and the planet’s, their ubiquity is not a reason to disregard the singular beauty that each displays. I am conducting my own mini campaign to love each one for their individuality. One view of a leaf up close and personal or (even better) under a magnifying glass could convert any skeptic.

Note: As always I welcome any comment about this post or any part of this blog.

This entry was posted in Gardens and Gardening, Human Nature, Photography and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to The Leaf

  1. Amy says:

    Well said. Leaves are normally under appreciated and forgotten. Thanks for reminding us! I like the Japanese maple leaves.

  2. The green on green of the metallic fly makes the picture.

    Steve Schwartzman

  3. Nancy Gray says:

    See your last photo – Who knew that the world of nature had eye lashes! How fun. I like how you appreciate the hard work the leaves do. You have found the refreshing, rejuvenating bond between you and your garden. Lynne McTaggart in The Bond writes how all works together, and you help us see this too. Nancy

  4. What a beautiful set of photos. My favourite is the leaves with the coordinating green insect.

  5. niki says:

    Each leaf is different and unique. I like them all 🙂 but my favorite would be the third one.

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