Sunday, July 24, 2011

Garden Tour, August 20, 10a-2p

We'll be having our Annual Late Summer Garden Tour on August 20, 2011, 10a-2p.  We'll be featuring the work of Black Cat Pottery, Notable Greetings (floral/botanical notecards and prints), Farmbrook Designs (hypertufa garden enhancements) and Bird Homes by Tim.  We're hoping Chris Hopp of Farmbrook Designs may be able to do a demonstration (we were hoping to do a planting workshop but haven't ben able to pull it together -maybe next year!) and Don Schulte of Notable Greetings will be shooting in the gardens as well.

I wanted to share some of Don's recent work in the garden.  He's quite passionate about his work, showing up here on the hottest day (so far) of the year to get some critical images before plants got blasted by the heat.  We had just missed the Wild Nodding Onion (Allium cernuum) last year so I think he felt particularly compelled to capture it this time 'round.  This lovely wild member of the onion family is particularly delicate in form, although it's got a tough constitution.  I had originally planted it out in the middle of my "Pink and White Bed" but, when I saw it planted under an ornamental tree during one of my winter-time walks through my neighborhood, I decided to move it under my dogwood.  It has done beautifully there, helped along by supplemental water from emptying and refilling a nearby birdbath.  It has beautiful grassy foliage and typical onion-type flowers.  Keep in mind that Don shoots in situ - he can only work with what's available, in terms of the plants themselves and existing lighting conditions.  He does use reflectors and I do sometimes lend a hand holding something for him, but more often than not, he's doing all of this on his own.

We've learned that Don's better images tend to have some context with the subject plant.  You can see in the allium shot a bud in the background, just forming, as well as parts of three efflorescences.  He followed this model in a recent image of Cutleaf Coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata).  This was a tough one for Don - or anyone - as this giant is well over seven feet tall!  Luckily, I have a six-foot ladder, which we carefully placed in the bed.  I offered to spot for him but, when I went out to check on him (I was working in the studio - much cooler in the basement!), he was up on that ladder, camera in one hand (and keep in mind, this is a heavy camera, with a macro lens!) and reflector in the other.  In this case, he had used a handy little twist tie to tame the wind the plants were picking up to get the shot.  He did three superb images but this is my favorite, as I like the tension of the flower emerging from the lower left of the frame.  Notice all four corners, and borders, of the image - Don emphasizes for his audiences (he does presentations on "making" good photos of your garden flowers) the importance of checking these key areas for distractions.  This image captures the main flower (also called "Greenheaded Coneflower" for the green cone of disk flowers), as well as another flower in the background in the upper left corner.

According to Don, the most challenging forms for him to capture are spiky flowers - Verbenas, Lobelias, Culver's Root, etc.  Spiraea tomentosa (Steeplebush) certainly continued the challenge.  In this case, to defeat the wind and keep things in context, Don tied the plant's boughs off onto slim rods I had in my garage for pottery display.  The plant's common name refers to its very upright growth habit, unlike the more popular Spiraea alba (which is not, contrary to popular belief, native to this part of the country).  I had had a Physocarpus opulifolia (Common Ninebark) cultivar growing in this location near my faucet but this plant's smaller footprint and upright habit works better with the hose's interference.  The challenge with the spiky plants has a bit to do with Don's format - they don't lend themselves very well to a square frame.  But, despite these inherent structural conflicts and a dearth of natural light (this plant is still in the shade until about noon, by which time the contrasts are so high, a good photo is all but impossible), Don captured a superb image of a plant which is less common than it should be.

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