Picture This – Best of 2014

Greenhouse during snowstorm

Greenhouse during snowstorm

Many garden bloggers will recall that Gardening Gone Wild used to run a regular photo contest where people shared there images from the garden.   It was fun activity which encouraged one to take on certain challenges in photographing the garden.  Well, Saxon Holt, at Gardening Gone Wild has restarted the Picture This activity.  As a first challenge he has asked that we post our favorite photos from 2014 and select one for submission to the Picture This photography contest.  This actually struck a chord with something that I had been meaning to do anyway in response to the annual suggestion from Les at A Tidewater Gardener.  I post so many pictures in a year that it is somewhat of a task to go back through the years images and choose the best, but that being said here goes…

The picture of the Greenhouse is not so much a picture of high technical quality but one which captures a moment that sets forth the whole year.  We had a difficult winter that ended up making every flower that survived that much more of a special gift.  The other pictures are mainly of flowers that track the progress of the year.


Ferraria ferrariola

Ferraria ferrariola

It was the first year I grew ferrarias.  They are spectacular in every respect.

Oxalis compressa double

Oxalis compressa double

Nearby and almost at the same time as  the ferraias was a delicate oxalis that was especially charming seen from the side and rear.


Adonis amurensis 'Fukujukai' in the snow

Adonis amurensis ‘Fukujukai’ in the snow

The adonis are so wonderful at combatting the snow, even as early as they come into flower.


Scilla siberica 'Spring Beauty'

Scilla siberica ‘Spring Beauty’

You have to kneel down to see those blue stamens, but wow are they ever spectacular.

Erythronium tuolumnense

Erythronium tuolumnense

This is a Sierra Nevada endemic that is one of the parents of the commercially successful ‘Pagoda’ erythronium.  It has an almost ethereal purity.


Paeonia lactiflora 'Krinkled White'

Paeonia lactiflora ‘Krinkled White’

Speaking of purity, it is hard to exceed the golden stamens on white petals featured on this peony.


Tausendschon rose

Tausendschon rose

Sometimes the profile of a flower is more effective than the full on in your face shot.  I wish that this were actually my rose, when in fact I took the shot while touring Maryland gardens in June with the Four Seasons Garden Club.

Arisaema candidissimum

Arisaema candidissimum

Then there are the flowers that are not strictly flowers that stick in your memory.  This is my favorite arisaema.

British Soldiers

British Soldiers

Finding the British Soldier Lichen on our garden fence post was one of the treats of the year.  Not only are they useful, but they are exceedingly beautiful if you look closely.


Queen of the Night (Epiphyllum oxypetalum)

Queen of the Night (Epiphyllum oxypetalum)

I think it was about 10pm when I photographed this Epiphyllum in bloom.  It was busy extending an invitation to the local bats.


Hoverfly (Allograpta obliqua?)

Hoverfly (Allograpta obliqua?)

What I especially like about this picture is the way the colors overlap between the fly and flower…


Anemone × hybrida 'Whirlwind'

Anemone × hybrida ‘Whirlwind’


There are so many of these perfectly formed anemones in September that you wonder that more people don’t given them space in the garden.

One of the constraints of the Picture This photo contest is that I now have to select one of the above for my entry.  I like so many of these, but if I have to choose one it will be the Peony ‘Krinkled White’ as it appeared in June.

Paeonia lactiflora 'Krinkled White'

Paeonia lactiflora ‘Krinkled White’

A Chanticleer Workshop

Bee on Dahlia

I spent last weekend at a garden photography workshop at Chanticleer Garden outside of Philadelphia.  The weather was intermittently mixed clouds and sunshine but we got enough good lighting for some interesting photo opportunities on Saturday.  The workshop was conducted by Alan Detrick and Roger Foley with a small group of enthusiast photographers who were really pleased to get early morning access to the gardens (with good lighting and before the public showed up).  Roger and Alan gave regular and helpful advice as we tried to isolate our own respective visions of what was worth photographing in these early fall scenes.  Both of them have extensive garden photography experience and have previously been judges for the Gardening Gone Wild photo contests.

Chanticleer is truly a pleasure garden in every sense for a gardener.  They have seven horticulturalists who specialize in different sections of the garden and the attention to detail really shows throughout the garden.  A weekend of photography might sound like a lot, but it barely scratches the surface of what is possible at Chanticleer.  By the time you set up your shots the light is already moving on, not to mention the bees and butterflies.

One of the benefits of a small workshop like this one is that you get to share and comment on the other visions that people bring to their photography.  I’ve seen time and again that different people will always bring different photos away from the same scene.  And it only takes a few times of people pointing out the annoying branch you left in the composition before you start to think about it before you click the shutter.

Anyway, despite the weather being less than ideal, I had a great time and I’d like to do it again.  If the thought appeals to you they are likely to run this workshop again next year.

Here are some selected photos from the weekend.

Bee on Dahlia - Version 2

Grasshopper on Celosia

One of the points that Alan emphasized was the way the early morning light can delicately light the edges of a subject like the grasshopper in this image.  And if it’s cold enough, they don’t run from the camera.

Celosia sans grasshopper

Backlit Celosia

Bee on Celosia

Toad Lilies ( Tricyrtis hirta 'Miyazaki')

The Toad lilies are almost shrub-like and completely line the path through the Minder Woods.  They are flagrantly in flower at this season, shaming all those spring blooming flowers that have long gone by now.


I’m generally not a big fan of the Cochicum which flop all over the hillsides at Chanticleer, but they do have their moments.  Mostly I prefer the less gaudy fall crocus which are just now showing up in our lawn.

Perennial Gotta Pea (Amicia zigomeris) detail

Sulpher Butterfly with Proboscis unfurled

Clitoria ternatea

This is tropical vine that was up on the terrace in the house garden.  I think it has to be started from seed each year.

Poppy Mallow (Callirhoe involucrata)

I really liked the detail on the Callirhoe — it would be well worth adding to our hillside garden.

It’s also time for another Gardening Gone Wild Photo contest.  Saxon Holt has selected a theme of filling the frame.  I’m going to take this opportunity to enter a photo that I think truly fills the frame, though perhaps not in the way that Saxon Holt originally conceived.

Aibika (Abelmoschus manihot) detail

This close-up image of the Aibika, a relative of okra, will be my entry for the October Picture This Contest.

Late Summer Garden

New England Aster

Gardening Gone Wild is once again hosting it’s Picture This Photo Contest, this time on the theme “Late Summer Garden”.  Christa Neu of Organic Gardening will be the judge.  For us, I am only too happy to move to the end of this gardening summer.  The weather has been to all extremes and far from conducive to poking about in the garden.  However, as of today, there is sunshine coming through the trees and the benefits of last nights drenching rainfall percolating through the soil.

There are some striking end of season flowers to be seen around the hill today.  I had lamented about not planting a cardinal flower this year and then found this scarlet sage coming up in the wild flower garden in the triangular field.

Salvia coccinea

In the same little patch of wild flowers I find a very pretty Cosmos as well.


Does it count as gardening if all you do is toss the seed out and then come back two years later to see what is prospering?

At the back of the garage a single St. John’s Wort flower is in evidence.  Even with insect damage it still looks exotic.

St John's Wort

And the loropetalum (a witch hazel relative) has come fully into flower.  I think it was supposed to bloom in the spring but at that point it was on death’s door, having barely survived the winter.  Now, however, it’s covered with beautiful fuchsia-colored straps that are striking against the purple foliage.


Another very positive find for this time of year was on one of the rosemary plants that we put out this year.  Ever since we saw the rosemary in bloom out in Sedona we have been watching our’s (mostly Tuscan Blue) for some more of those gorgeous blue flowers.  We have some we winter over in the garden and some we’ve taken inside.  In no case have we had any blooms until finally this year on a single little plant that I put in the garden after torturing in a tiny pot most of the year.  And now I don’t even remember which variety it is.

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) in flower

Another flower with orchid-like shape for this time of year is the toad wort.  We have a particularly nice one with gold margins on the leaves which is very well behaved (some of the trycyrtis grow rampantly).

Trycyrtis (Toad Lily

For the GGW contest I was originally thinking of using an image of the sweet autumn clematis which has been really dramatic for us this year.

Sweet autumn clematis (Clematis terniflora)

The swath of clematis is the first thing you see at the back garden now.

A little closer view of Sweet autumn clematis (Clematis terniflora)

I realize that for some people this clematis is a bit aggressive.  We have yet to see any seedlings here.  Yet when I drove to Cape May last week this very same clematis was everywhere, draping all the roadsides and fields.

Clematis in understory at Cape May

Yellow warbler astounded by clematis flowers

In the end, I’ve decide to enter a photo of the New England Asters that are just coming out right now.  New England Asters are a native flower found widely across the U.S.  Though mine are undoubtably a cultivated variety the shared characteristic of all these asters is a brilliant purple daisy-like flower with yellow centers.  They are particularly striking representatives of the late summer garden.

New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae)


A Moving Experience

Dusk on the Hill

The latest Gardening Gone Wild Photo Challenge involves motion of various sorts in the garden.  The specific theme “Show the Motion” discusses how you can set out to use motion to enhance your normal photos in the garden.  Following the judge’s suggestions I set out at dusk one evening to see if the camera, tripod and I could capture the fireflies that dance around the garden in the evening.  One of the by-products of wandering around the hillside in the evening with a tripod is that you get a wonderful light on the flowers just as the sun is going down.  The colors are exceptionally strong without being blown out as they would be in mid-day.

Rock Garden at Dusk

Rose Garden at Dusk with Luxor Lilies

It turns out that the time period during which you can shoot with a long exposure, still get the garden elements, and let the fireflies dance is fairly limited — about 1/2 an hour.  I tried various exposures, zoom levels, ISO’s, etc. but the difficulty is you can’t really see and appreciate the arcing tracks of the fireflies until you return to the computer.  In the end it’s a very random thing as to whether the fireflies will actually choose to light up in sync with your camera, but it’s fun to try!  For example here is a shot from the front rock garden in which you can see three streaks of golden light.

Fireflies in Rock Garden

Another was on the hillside with clear arcs of color.

Fireflies above Coreopsis

In the end my favorite shot of the night came on the side of the hill with the pasture as backdrop and the False Sunflowers  in the foreground.  This picture was taken in the near-dark and it’s only by the magic of digital photography that fireflies appear as golden streaks of fairy dust in what looks like daylight.   This will be my submission for the GGW photo contest.

Fireflies and Hillside Garden

I also need to give some praise to the Luxor lilies which are flowering on six foot stems right now.

Asiatic Lily 'Luxor'

And I’m becoming a fan of the Walcroy Crocosmia which is an outstanding gold color to match the daylillies in the front yard.

Crocosmia 'Walcroy'

I should mention in passing that this is harvest time for the garlic.  I’ve strung several large bundles from the rafters in the garage.

Garlic (Kettle River Giant) hung to dry

And the blueberries are doing their annual thing.  I always look at them in the spring thinking that there really aren’t very many blossoms and maybe it will be an off year.  Then, come harvest time, the bushes yield abundantly and there are more to pick than we really have time for.  Beth has made a couple of full-size blueberry tarts that have been delicious.  It looks like we will be freezing berries again…

Blueberries picked last night from one of seven bushes

Maximum May Slugfest

A Catmint/Baptesia/Coral Bells Rose Garden

There is a lot going on in the gardens right now.  Everyday a new flower emerges and Beth rearranges what is showing in the house as well.  Even as things change there is one constant theme for May and that is a struggle for our attention between the Iris and the Peonies.  This is the first year for the Itoh Peonies to bloom for us.  They are a wonderful combination of the best of the foliage and form of the Tree Peonies and the fullness of the normal herbaceous lactiflora varieties.  And, unlike the full-flowered lactifloras, they do not flop.  Not that I would complain about any of the Peonies — they are all wonderful — but we are really liking the Itohs, especially Julie Rose.

Itoh Peony 'Julie Rose'

Itoh Peony 'Singing in the Rain'

Last flower from the Yellow Tree Peony

Paonia lactiflora 'Honey Gold'

We often bring the Peonies inside for closer enjoyment.  They last fairly well and many have a nice fragrance (especially Festiva Maxima).  But it is hard to compete with the eye-stopping display that the Bearded Iris provide.

Bearded Iris

They need constant attention — the buds in flower change daily and the dead flowers have powerful dyes when they drop.  But the colors are superb and the fragrance grabs your attention when you walk by.  In the garden they pull you toward their sentinel flowers from a distance seem to be impervious (like the Peonies) to deer predation.  This purely cranberry colored Iris is one of my favorites.

Cranberry colored Bearded Iris

In addition to their fragrance and color the Iris are also so very distinctive in the architecture of the flowers.  They have exquisite detail that rewards close examination.

Iris 'Ginger Snap' profile

Iris Beard

Orange Iris Beard

Even with all the attention given to the Iris and Peonies, I would be not be serving by constituent flowers fairly if I didn’t mention a couple of other star performers right now.  The Baptisia are looking better than ever and the variety ‘Twilight’ makes a lovely photo subject.

Bapteisia 'Twilight'

And for an ex-California I was delighted to see that the California Poppies that I planted last spring have decided to come up this year.

Calif Poppy in bud

I should also mention the creatures that have been visiting.  The first hummingbird of the year has come zooming past with it’s motorboat-sounding wings.  There have also been a lot more clearwing moths than I remember previously.

Clearwing Moth

I enjoy their high tech sunglasses and long proboscis.

And then there was the Black Snake that we noticed while eating dinner on the deck last night.

Black Snake Planter

Think of this as a new design for planters…

This is also the time for the monthly photo contest at Gardening Gone Wild and the focus this month is on lighting with Macro Images.  I looked at using one of the images above but I’m going to return instead to a favorite closeup shot of a backlit Tulip where the light just seemed to emanate from the base of the flower.

Tulip 'Flaming Purissima'

Easter Morning Mist

Easter Morning Mist

I awoke this morning to a lovely morning mist overhanging the hills.  I grabbed my camera and wandered down through the yard in the direction of the woods.  Photography always presents that challenge of preserving some vision as the light is changing.  In this case the ground was wet and the leaves all sparkling from an overnight rain seemed to promise opportunities.

Easter Morning in the front yard

The daffodils all provided tempting targets for my camera.

Daffodils in the morning

But I had in mind the taking advantage of the woods at first light.

Woods at first light

Woodland Trail

And where I ended up was at the Fairy Circle, a clearing in the woods that we have frequented since my kids were, well kids (they are very grown now).

Bench in the Fairy Circle

This will be my entry into the April Gardening Gone Wild Picture This Contest with it’s theme of Let’s Talk About Light.

The Special Atmosphere of a Place

This month’s Picture This challenge from Gardening Gone Wild is to illustrate the Genius Loci — The Special Atmosphere of a Place.  The judge, Andrea Jones, asks that we share our special place in a photograph that illustrates why it’s special.

We’ve been fortunate to see many of the great garden scenes that she illustrates with her pictures.  And while I have pictures from our tours in the U.S. and abroad, I thought it would be more appropriate to stick closer to home.  When we moved here the pasture that we inherited had no trees at all.  There was a small patch of woods that were entirely Scotch Pines that have long since died off.  All the landscape that we have was created slowly over 36 years and so there are a lot of aspects of our hill on Ball Rd that our special to me.  But I notice in reviewing our photos that one area stands out in recent years.  Behind the garage is a hillside that drops off into pasture in front of a line of tall White Pines that were planted during our first spring here.

Daffodils on Hillside

This is where we see the Daffodils in the springtime.  It’s also where the wildflowers are planted for the summertime.

Hillside Wildflowers

It’s where we have put two bright red adirondack chairs as a place to have a glass of wine as the day winds down.  Often there is a sunset to be seen from this hillside.

Red Chairs at Sunset

The pasture provides extended interest with the various grasses that grow up over the season interlaced with wildflowers.

Orchard Grass

But this special place also creates it’s own atmosphere come wintertime.  The Red Chairs against the snow with the White Pines in the background presents a holiday atmosphere that shows that gardens are not limited to the time of flowers.

The photo that seemed to me to best capture this special place came after a snowstorm just as the light was fading from the day and this is my submission for the February Gardening Gone Wild Challenge.

Late Afternoon Light

Autumn Harvest

Fall Fest at Wilson Farms

The theme for Gardening Gone Wild photo contest for September is Autumn Harvest.  I was not inspired by our own drought-thirsted crops as considered what photo to enter.  The above photo is from Wilson Farms near Boston.  They make a fall tradition of gathering in some of the biggest pumpkins, squash, and gourds that you will ever see.  They also have apples, cider, and a generally inspiring collection of wonderfully diverse market garden produce and flowers.  If you have the opportunity it is well worth a visit.

However, I think for my entry I’m going to go with last year’s visit to Turkey.  As we drove across the country we went from the fruit orchards of the coast to the equivalent of our midwest where the big crop is sugar beets.

Harvesting sugar beets

We saw tractor after tractor towing in wagons of sugar beets.  They drove them up a near vertical ramp to dump them out (see the red tractor in the upper left of the picture).  Then the enormous piles of sugar beets were loaded onto big trucks for traveling across the country.

Trucking sugar beets

The source of the sweetness for some of those delicious baked goods is probably the molasses derived from sugar beets. The sugar beets are also used for one version of Raki, a distinctive turkish alcoholic beverage.  But wait, the quest for an Autumn Harvest image goes further.

The small farm that we stopped at for an overnight stay operated with more of a traditional mixed crop approach.  We were hosted by a multi-generational family that provided a wonderful meal for us.  They offered that those who wanted to get up early could witness the milking the next morning.  So I got up, along with several others, and toured the barn to see the milking (the whole farm reminded me of my grandfather’s place in Canada).  Then we took an morning walk into the fields. .  The early morning light fell on the stacks of reed-like plants that were as tall as the old traditional haystacks that you may have seen in the U.S..  In honor of the many hours that were required to create those twelve foot stacks I decided to submit this image as representative of Autumn Harvest.

Reedstack at Akburun village