Word for Wednesday – Evolution and Evolve

Evolution, now this is a hard one. But don’t let that dissuade you from joining. This word leads me to much thought and much history. But we start with the dawn over the Niagara River in images. A beginning of another day of evolution to start.

evolution |ˌevəˈloō sh ən|

1 the process by which different kinds of living organisms are thought to have developed and diversified from earlier forms during the history of the earth.
2 the gradual development of something, esp. from a simple to a more complex form.
3 Chemistry the giving off of a gaseous product, or of heat.
4 a pattern of movements or maneuvers.

Talking about the garden evolving over time seems like a given, because many gardens do change. Changes in lifestyle, change how we approach maintenance and care. We may decide to do entertaining and the original patio, too small for the needs, grows. Yet, the original concrete must remain. We adapt to change.

It can be the busy life of a growing family, or it can be the loss of physical abilities by an aging gardener. In the case of the design being shown, the one owner was resigned to a wheelchair and still wanted to enjoy the property, it was designed to accommodate his needs. Gardens change, but do they evolve?

Below is the detail used to marry the unlike materials. This project truly evolved, but not in the length of time necessary to fit the definition.

But the before and after images, (prior to planting that is), really do go from simple to complex if you look at each against the other.

Interests change over time or mature to include a whole new genre of plants. Change is deliberate, or inevitable. It can be accidental and fortuitous if we are given plants to start anew. We can create and change. We also preserve. The Magnolia below was saved and became a focal point to the circulation route. The brick was re-used and added for accent.

Weather conditions change and create dynamic interactions in the garden. This is not under our control to evolve the garden. We can adapt and change, but not change the force precipitating change.

Weather changes terrain and wears on the landscape. This is the weathering process. Weathering can inhibit or instigate progress. And inherent in process and progress, is evolution. But notice in my garden descriptions it is not evolve, but change. Change over time, not evolve over time. Change seems more deliberate, whereas evolve seems more innate. Evolve by definition, requires lots of time and happens via processes. Unless we are talking natural landscape, change seems more fitting to our home gardens. So let’s go long in time and natural in process.

No where better for time and process to be seen than in that of a river. The river channel provides a clear and concise cumulative history of the past flows.  History is carved in the banks and walls and is evident in the river beds.

The Niagara District sedimentary deposits which were laid down during the Silurian period 430 – 390 million years ago give us a view into this past. The three major deposits giving the clues are:

  • sandstone
  • shale
  • marine limestone

The image to the top right is Grimsby Sandstone

Throughout the ages, nature has worked in conjunction with the wind, water and ice to create stratified layers of rock and earth in the Niagara region. The Niagara Gorge provides a snapshot of those layers which would otherwise go unseen.

The image in the middle is Lockport Dolostone.

Approximately 425 million years ago, Niagara was the bottom of an ancient tropical sea. Today fossils from that era can be found deep in the layers of rock of Niagara.

The image to the bottom right is Whirlpool Sandstone.

Because of the depth of the Niagara Gorge, many of these fossils have been exposed along the walls of the gorge. Not only does the river record its past, but it constrains the river’s future as well. It is dynamic system, constantly changing the river flow, all the while, the deepening gorge walls are constraining the path it takes. The river is constantly changing its banks and deepening its channel.

Below is a Trilobite from the Cambrian or Paleozoic era. It is from my collection, not from the Niagara Gorge, although they have been found here since they lasted until the mass die off 250 million years ago.

Yet, like the small garden affected by man, humans work on a larger scale and are a major factor in fashioning this world in change. So our rivers can be diverted, slowed or made uninhabitable. They can be cleaned, protected and favorably engineered. People play in the process of change and affect how change exhibits over time.

The Niagara Falls region spans a deep and long history. Whirlpool State Park, which I have been showing lately, exhibits a number of geological features. It features post-glacial river terraces of the Niagara River on top of the escarpment.  It exposes the buried St. David’s Gorge on the Canadian side, which was a channel of an ancient river.

The exposed Ordovician – Silurian rock succession with tectonic faulting in the Whirlpool Sandstone at the bottom of the gorge gives indications of the variability of the amount of water flowing through the gorge and carving it out.

The river basin is a mere 12,000 years old, yet the gorge walls, created by erosion, have fossils dating back millions of year. And when I say millions, it is like 425 million as mentioned above, older than the time that the dinosaurs roamed, (source of much of this info). Can you imagine what evolution occurred in that period of time?

Devil’s Hole in the State Park, was an outlet for the ancient Lake Tonawanda, and shows evidence that it was a falls, similar to that of Niagara Falls.

At Devil's Hole entrance, large rock falls.

Eons ago our area was at the bottom of an ancient tropical salt water sea. Ancient specimens are being found deep under the soils of Niagara that are still today found at the bottom of our oceans. This is amazing to think how and what precipitated these changes. But there is evidence of this in the rock strata.

The Niagara Escarpment was covered with a sheet of ice 2 – 3 kilometers thick or around 1.8 miles of the Wisconsin Glacier 23,000 – 12,000 years ago. Glacial Lake Tonawanda was created with the retreat of the last Wisconsin Glacier. The lake was located east of the Niagara River and covered most of the western New York area to Rochester. As the Glacier retreated, the upper Lakes began draining into the lower lakes at five to six locations across the Niagara Escarpment.

Twelve thousand years ago, the Niagara River ultimately became the main water outlet over the Niagara Escarpment. The waters of a much larger Lake Erie began to flow over the escarpment into a larger Lake Iroquois (Lake Ontario). As the water flowed over the escarpment to the water below, the water began eroding through the glacial material and the limestone rock of the Niagara Escarpment to begin the formation of the Niagara Gorge. This really is evolution of an area. Weathering and time creating and recreating.

Only a mere two thousand years ago, the brink of the Falls was located just north of the Rainbow Bridge. This is quite amazing because it is quite a distance away from where the brink is today.

Four thousand – five hundred years ago, the crest line of the Falls was located north of the Whirlpool Bridge. I am not sure how this was determined, but this area is one of the most studied areas by a multitude of professionals, from archeologists, geologists, engineers, paleontologists, historians, and the list goes on.

And engineers have been especially interested in the erosion and movement of the Falls.

Today, through increased water diversion and anti-erosion remedial steps, the rate of recession at the Horseshoe Falls has been reduced to a fraction of what it used to be historically. Through continued remedial efforts and further water diversion, it is projected that the amount of erosion at Horseshoe Falls will be reduced to approximately 1 foot every 10 years.

Today, erosion of the American Falls is estimated at 3 – 4 inches every 10 years. The water flow which is regulated and is currently insufficient to cause major erosion. This is a remarkable reduction in the effects of water, weather and time. Erosion is the largest factor which will alter its appearance in the future.

The most realistic outlook is that the Falls will continue to erode southward for the next 8,000 years at which time it would reach the limits of Lake Erie. The Falls of Niagara could once again become one if the Horseshoe Falls, once it has eroded far enough south, cuts off the water flow to the American Falls.

But the greatest effect of change comes with what can not be completely predicted. This is rock slides, like that which have occurred at the American Falls, shown here, collecting at the base of the falls. Although this was addressed by the Army Core of Engineers, it is still in chance of occurrence. If it continues, the height of the Falls will diminish by the amount of talus collected at the bottom.

If you want to see some pretty winter shots from the Falls, here are a few posts with some pretty winter images of the Niagara Gorge and critters that inhabit it.

Frozen For a Time

Devils Hole State Park

The Cave

Snowy Dunes

Meet the Boys

Enter your post in the meme for Evolution below. Join our fun. The word this week was provided by Experiments With Plants. Our thanks for this challenge goes out to b_a_g.

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And our next word for November 2 will be…. Ephemeral. So put on your thinking caps. And Lingering will move on in the next poll. Get in those words you want to see in Photos folks. I want to start the poll for the Nov 16, W4W.



About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at: http://gardenwalkgardentalk.com
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33 Responses to Word for Wednesday – Evolution and Evolve

  1. Donna says:

    Such an informative post regarding evolution. It is amazing that you live in an area hundreds of millions of years old. To imagine it as tropical is what I love about history, archeology, geology. It seems man has truly been instrumental in changing recent history or evolution by diverting water, shoring up rocks and such to preserve as long as we can that which we admire and love-the Falls. Inevitably time marches on and nature reclaims or changes things that we can no longer control–that is evolution. I love learning about the area you live in Donna…thx for this wonderful post and b-a-g for our W4W.

    • I agree with you. The imagining is the fun part. Many people are living in places as old or older, but do not have the ability to see and touch it like here, because here, it is exposed. When I am in the gorge, I run my hand over the walls and let my imagination soar. Every year weathering deepens and widens these wall a tiny bit, exposing much more to see. Sometimes, rock slides change it immeasurably. Fossils are found rather easily, although my walk did not produce any good enough to show. Most would only be identified or even noticed by an expert, of which I am not. I like just collecting fossils and have many locally. I DO NOT collect them from the parks property though, as this is a fineable offense. I did find two the size of a dime, but returned them after finding out I could go to jail. I found this out this fact after researching one of them. It was some kind of tiny worm fossil. Back it went, more because of the idea of preserving the area. There are creature fossils there over a foot long. That is amazing to see depressed in the wall surface.

  2. Your view of the topic is in-depth and informative. You certainly gave us alot to think about when posting about “evolve”. I’m rethinking my post to better reflect the importance of the word. Actually enjoying having to stretch a bit.

    • b_a_g was our kind word contributor. I knew when it was submitted that this one would be a brain teaser. We are so ingrained to think of evolution linearly regarding the evolution of species, that it was hard to expand and think of other things to evolve. But I see other are doing that, and doing it creatively.

  3. One says:

    Donna, Your post is beautiful, wonderful and informative. You even have fossils.

    I won’t even attempt on ‘Evolution’. ‘Evolve’ is not easy for me either. I had to seek Clifford’s help. I am quite sure I didn’t use the word correctly. Nevertheless, I hope you find it enjoyable. It was supposed to be entitled; ‘Evolution – From Wolf to Woof’ but it ended up with Woof to Woof.

    • Evolve was a easier word to illustrate, yet still was hard for me. The landscapes shown were done in one season, and that does not seem much of an evolution. The plants were installed the next year and that occurred in a matter of a week. The river is evolving every day, but so minutely it can not be shown, only written about. But the gorge walls are a visible timeline. A tactile and perceptible look through history.

  4. HolleyGarden says:

    It really makes you wonder – nature will win, but when? We fight her constantly, but the erosion will be inevitable. Great post on evolution.

  5. Andrea says:

    This is a very grand presentation of the word evolve. This post has given justice to the greatness of Niagara, and I am awed by the information as well as its very old age! At the start i thought of posting rocks because i have photos of different rocks; e.g. limestone walls evolving from living corals when they are still submerged in the sea. I am glad i didn’t do that because our country is young compared to the old continents. I also thought of putting the coloseum of ancient Turkey or Coloseum of Rome evolving into the amphitheater these days. Then i shelved that and left contented with showing our own, also to inform others of what we have in this country.

  6. Erin says:

    That is one of the most beautiful postings I’ve ever seen. Thank you.

  7. b-a-g says:

    Donna – Wow! You have more than succeeded at the challenge!
    I like the way your analysis of “evolution” in words and pictures, started in the garden then led you to the Falls. I honestly never thought of Niagara Falls when I proposed the word. I also didn’t know about the efforts to stop it eroding, so I guess it wont be evolving so much in future.

    • Thank you for submitting the word. This one really makes the blogger think. I thought too on doing it on zoo animals, showing traits retained from long ago. Especially birds and reptiles. But somehow, I was determined not just to do gardens and time, but look a little deeper.

  8. Donna, I am really enjoying your W4W posts and the posts of others who link. I always enjoy your photos and information about Niagara Falls–such a gorgeous area. The fall color on the hillside is spectacular. We are just beginning to have a little color. Evolve is a good choice and I look forward to the results.

  9. Autumn Belle says:

    This is an awesome post, information as well as photos. Evolve really got me thinking long and deep.

  10. Cathy says:

    Thoughtful and evocative….. next to yours, my post (which is scheduled to publish right after midnight) seems overly simplistic.

    I enjoyed reading your take on this…. so much history (Steve and I are insatiable history buffs). I especially loved the image of the striations formed by the sedimentary deposits… such an amazing natural feature. And it’s not lost on me that your foliage is looking quite vivid and colorful!

  11. Pingback: Evolution – The English Garden | The Patient Gardener’s Weblog

  12. Karen says:

    Donna, I will see Niagara Falls one day, I simply must! Your blog and photos have brought it to life for me in a way I’ve never seen before. As always you inspire me. The evolution of the Falls is truly wondrous.

  13. patientgardener says:

    I have done my post, my first time doing this meme and I really enjoyed doing it so thanks for the idea. Looking forward to seeing what our next challenge is. I will read your post over my lunch later but it looks very interesting.

  14. Very interesting reading today. My version isn’t quite so in depth as yours … watching a zinnia evolve.

  15. Indie says:

    Wow, the Falls are so interesting and have uncovered so much history and information in her depths! It’s on the list of places I want to see someday. Thank you for sharing so much about it, and thanks for hosting this Word for Wednesday!

  16. barbarapc says:

    I found you through Crafty’s blog. I was able to see the towers of Niagara Falls this a.m. from my side of Lake Ontario – am delighted to read your blog. A really good pictorial of the evolution of Niagara Falls.

  17. You were able to capture so many aspects of evolution. It is something that is happening every day all around us in so many ways and so many forms. And even though that is true, I found it challenging to find something that I felt would be right for this post. I have not been consciously documenting each and every evolving moment in my garden, but I finally discovered one area that had captured my attention. Thanks, again, for hosting such a wonderful meme.

  18. TufaGirl says:

    I loved reading about the geology of the region. When I was researching info for our trip north this summer, I was reading about the Door County region of Wisconsin which is the western edge of your Niagra Escarpment. That got me into viewing overhead photos of the escarpment all along the way to your falls. I am easily distracted. I found it very interesting, though.

  19. Lynn Rogers says:

    Loved all of the pix, especially the trilobite and fossil fish. See my take on Evolve at

    Pandora Sphinx’s evolution.

  20. Masha says:

    A very interesting post, thank you. The landscaping project turned out great, tasteful and elegant. It was fun to read about the Niagara Falls, I know so little about all that. Amazing sunrise picture, the light on the water is really very special.

  21. Incredible, Donna! I keep meaning to join in the weekly Word for Wednesday meme, but I had to post about the Plant of the Month — Sumac — before it faded entirely. I hope to join the fun next time. Ceers!

  22. Certainly a big word, and lot to chew on. I studied paleontology, and archaeology in college, and never ceased to be amazed at what the Earth could tell us about her past, and her future. Evolution just seemed inevitable, and the perception of permanence, of no change, seemed to be a false concept. We only see permanence because our window, our view, is so small, and finite. It does make one realize that gardens, in the grand scheme, are fleeting. It really does give one a lot to think about.

  23. Lovely lovely trilobite.

  24. Marguerite says:

    Evolution is a great word for gardens. Nature is all about change isn’t it?

  25. Nell Jean says:

    Thank you for hosting this meme with such a fine introduction to evolution. I just showed how one section of my garden evolved and did not think to speak of the fossils in the limestone that I used. That’s a whole story in itself as this part of the State of Georgia south of the fall line was under water eons ago. My stones were dug from the ground on the property.

  26. Jennifer says:

    Hi Donna, I am well behind in visiting other blogs and returning visits, but I did not want to miss out on the opportunity of seeing how you handled the word evolve. You touched on a great many things, but I was particularly interested in your discussion about the difference between change and evolve. Thanks for playing host. I like the challenges.

  27. Rosie Gan says:

    Hi Donna, I really liked the word you assigned us, and although I was so busy the whole of last week, I managed to get this in before the linked closed. I think it is a good idea for you to run this fortnightly, and not weekly.
    Your post is awesome, and the photos excellent as usual. I won’t be able to do the ephemeral post as I will be away in China doing a scenic tour of mountains, lakes and rivers in Jiuzhaigou. But don’t be surprised that I’ll manage to put in something at the veru last minute, because ephemeral is another challenging word I would love to do.

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